The Mickey Mousses

Memories by the late Jim Markland

When H G Ivatt succeeded CE Fairburn as CME of the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1945 the need for a modern lightweight freight loco had been established for some time, Ivatt let those around him know that the new engine would be a thoroughly modern affair and would be a 2-6-0. In addition to these 2-6-0s there would be a tank engine variety of 2-6-2 wheel arrangement. Imagine the difference to men in their 60s, men used to squeezing underneath the boilers of the 0-6-0 “A” classes built in L&Y days, in order to oil the valve gear at a time when the cleaning of engines and their motion work was virtually nil.
Knowing at first hand just what its like, as a cleaner to be employed scraping the muck of those connecting rods and their associated ironwork, it was no picnic for drivers coming to the end of their railway career, often men of somewhat large girth. What a breath of fresh air those 2-6-0s must have brought with them. The outside walschaerts valve gear coupled to five foot diameter driving wheels with all the oiling points readily accessible must have been a welcome sight.
A roomy cab provided with wooden tip up seats as good as any other LMS brand and as far as driving them goes a sector plate that you could actually read, unlike the Midland 4F 0-6-0s where they put the drivers seat on top of it. All controls placed nicely to hand.
For the fireman, these gutsy little locos were a dream, good visibility whilst running either forward or tender first, and a rocking grate making engine disposal duties less painful, self cleaning smoke box and best of all, monitor coned injectors which never knocked off. These were extremely tolerant little performers.
As a fireman, I noted that they could be fired so sparingly that the fire was bouncing on the grate, or if you were of that persuasion you could fire them with a much thicker one. Either way they would steam.
When I did my practical driving test on the railway in 1965 I was marked on the daily alteration list, ” J Markland see Inspector Dunne at Rochdale at 8.30am”.
We were to work the 8.40am train to Liverpool as far as Wigan. Imagine my delight when in the bay platform where our train awaited us was 46405 which had been a short while at Bolton having been at Bury shed before that. With inspector Dunne riding on the footplate and in charge of matters whilst I had my practical session, the driver took his seat in the train. With a light load of only three vehicles it was a play job even though at this time the 2-6-0 was not in the best of mechanical condition.
Driving her at fast speed was not required, but being a firm believer in expansive working where possible, 46405 was capable of answering the call.
By a strange twist of fate it was with an Ivatt, 46419 of Newton Heath depot (26A) that I operated a very light load from Horwich Loco works to Blackpool. The only vehicle on the “Mousses” tail was a directors saloon very much like the one to which 46441 is coupled at Ribble steam.
We were conveying some people from “higher authority” from Horwich to Blackpool Central where they were attending a conference the next day. That was the only time in my short railway career that I received a tip. If asked to, they could and did haul seven coaches up Westhoughton bank (1:97) and on favourable gradients, would happily keep up 65 – 70 miles an hour when asked to.
Three cheers for H.G. Ivatt and the Mickey Mousses!