·  LMS  ·  GWR  ·  LNER  ·  Misc  ·  Stations  ·  What's New  ·  Video  ·  Guestbook  ·  About

London North Western Railway Engine Sheds

Select a station or subheading to view associated images. Numbers in [brackets] specify the number of photos on each page.

Aston Shed [62]
Coventry Shed [43]
Curzon Street [8]
Monument Lane Shed [15]
Nuneaton Shed [50]
Rugby Shed [140]
Warwick Milverton Shed [24]
Vauxhall Shed [Text only]

The following is an extract from one of Reg Kimber's scrapbooks compiled over 50 years.

Extract from the biography of JM Dunn reflecting on his long career associated with sheds of the LNWR and BR

NUNEATON AND COVENTRY

Nuneaton Shed

My first day at Nuneaton was the 25th April 1939 and I started off with a month's training for the job of Running Shift Foreman which involved getting acquainted with all the goings-on on the three different shifts throughout the 24 hours and endeavouring to acquire the running shift foreman's "outlook". Nuneaton Shed had 8 roads each 250 feet long and had been built in or about 1878 to hold 12 engines. It had been enlarged twice, first in 1888 to hold 24 engines and again in 1897 to hold 34 although an official list of 1904 gave its capacity as 40 based on 50 feet per engine. In 1939 the allocation of engines was as follows:-

7 L.N.W. 5 ft. 6 in. 2-4-2 Tanks - 6636, 6657, 6658, 6660, 6749, 6741, 6680
7 L.M.S. 2-6-2 T.B. Tanks - 201, 204, 205, 206, 144, 203, 208
4 Mid. 0-6-0, 2F - 3084, 3161, 3489, 3649
4 Mid. 0-6-0 3F - 358I, 3679 376o, 3786
3 L.N.W. 0-6-0 18 in. goods - 8333, 8350, 8538
4 L.M.S. 0-6-0 Tanks - 7285, 7286, 7367, 7594
3 L. & Y. 0-6-0 - 12294, 12321, 12397
4 L.N.W. 0-6-2 18 in. Tanks - 6876, 6893, 6894, 6924
7 L.M.S. 2-6-0 - P.B. 2777, 2781, 2783, 2786, 2888 T.B. 2973, 2977
7 L.N.W. 0-8-0 G1 - 8911, 9191, 9344, 9345, 9346, 9350 9351
30 L.N.W. 0-8-0 G2 - 9181, 9264, 9268, 9270, 9271, 9276, 9318, 9342, 9352, 9366, 9397, 9398, 9399, 9400, 9404, 9423, 9428, 9429, 9430, 9431, 9432, 9433, 9434, 9435, 9436, 9437, 9438, 9439, 9450

Of these 80 engines the most interesting was No. 8333, formerly L.N.W.R. No. 2365, which had been built at Crewe in June 1880, Works No. 2379, and was not only the first of the celebrated 18 in. goods engines or "Cauliflowers" but was also the very first locomotive to be fitted with Joy's Valve Gear. It had a third distinction in that it was the first engine to bear the L.N.W. heraldic device which was irreverently supposed to bear a resemblance to the vegetable by whose name these machines were popularly known.

The total staff was 376 which included 111 booked and 34 special sets of enginemen. The shed was equipped with a 60-ft. Mundt type turntable by Ransome and Rapier, a mechanical coaling plant by Henry Lees & Co., an ashfilling plant by R. Dempster & Sons and a Paterson Complete Water Softener. The coaling plant was heavily overworked and had to handle more coal than the plant at Rugby which was of a much larger and more robust design, the average weekly figures for Nuneaton and Rugby being 1,134 tons and 997 tons respectively. The result was that the coaling plant was frequently out of action, though not always through its own fault, as it could scarcely be blamed for loose boards from wagon bottoms- and even wagons themselves-falling into the hopper! As can be imagined when the coaling plant failed and hand-coaling had to be resorted to there was a very great difficulty in finding staff for the job.

There were no machine tools of any description at Nuneaton Shed. Although Nuneaton Shed catered chiefly for mineral traffic there was a yearly event, the Leicester Holidays, in the early part of August for which about fifty special passenger trains were run to Bangor, Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Colwyn Bay, Cromer, Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton, Hunstanton, Lancaster, Llandudno, London, Lowestoft, Morecambe, Paignton, Portsmouth, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Scarborough, Torquay and Yarmouth. For most of these trains, excepting those going to the east coast, Nuneaton had to provide engines and men for at least part of the journey.

I was recalled from holidays on the 25th August 1939 owing to the international situation and took the place, pro-tem, of Mr. W. J. Legg the Running Shed Foreman who had been promoted to Shrewsbury. All sorts of warlike preparations were in hand such as the erection of barricades of sandbags at strategic points and I had to go and buy all the permanganate of potash I could find in Nuneaton to discolour and camouflage the sludge-ponds at the water-softening plants there and at Hademore, between Tam worth and Lichfield. On the 3rd September 1939 war was declared and on the 27th Mr. Clews, the District Locomotive Superintendent at Rugby came over to tell me that my old friend R. F. Tucker had been killed in a motor accident in France on the previous Monday. Everybody was very upset about it and Mr. S. E. Park- house, the Divisional Superintendent of Operation at Crewe, himself had the unpleasant task of breaking the news to Tucker's mother. He was well liked by everybody who came into contact with him.

On the 2nd October 1939 the new Running Shed Foreman, Mr. T. T. Darlington, son of a former Mayor of Crewe, arrived and after a week of showing him round I resumed my duties on the shifts although I relieved him from time to time while he was away. On the 22 nd December following I took over the post of Running Shed Foreman at Coventry vice D. C. I. Reynolds instead of relieving A. E. Fairhead at Northampton as had originally been considered. In the event, the latter was replaced by Shakespeare who had recently been promoted from there to Shrewsbury but had not yet got a house, so he was recalled, one of the most sensible moves I have ever known on the railway. Both Fairhead and Reynolds eventually joined the ranks of the lieutenant-colonels and returned to the railway service undamaged, receiving in due course, the reward of their patriotism.

Coventry Shed

Coventry Shed which had been built in 1865-1866 to provide accommodation for 4 engines, was extended soon after 1896 and had four roads each 100 feet long. It was provided with a 42 ft. turntable

1 - L.M.S. 2-6-2 3 PT Parallel boiler) 103
5 - Mid. 0-6-0 2F 3010, 3518, 3571, 3691. 3726
2 - L.N.W. 0-6-2 18 in. Tanks 6890, 6924
2 - L.N.W. 0-6-0 18 in. Goods 8367, 8513
5 - L.N.W. 0-8-0 G1 8892, 8895, 8926, 9133, 9135, 9340

Later there were slight changes. There were 30 sets of men. Mr. Clews of Rugby was appointed an assistant to the Super-intendent of Motive Power at Watford Headquarters in June 1940 and was succeeded by Mr. S. T. Clayton. In October heavy air-raids on Coventry started and it was the usual all too familiar tale which need not be repeated, though perhaps I may mention my experiences on the morning of Friday, the 15th November 1940 after the heaviest raid of the lot, for all of which we have to thank the internal combustion engine, the flying machine and the clever men who, as is usually the case, were just not quite clever enough. Fortunately for me I had been unable to obtain lodgings in Coventry and was travelling daily from and to my home at Nuneaton.

On this particular morning the train was unable to go beyond Longford owing to the line having been damaged and I had to walk all the way from there to Coventry and through what was left of it to the station, which was on the far side of the town. I got to the engine shed about n.o a.m. and found the place deserted. Two coaches of a passenger train standing on the down Leamington line opposite the shed were blown to pieces, the passengers fortunately having got out a few minutes earlier. There was a string of about half-a-dozen "dead" engines standing on one of the through roads at the station where another bomb had dropped at the Rugby end of the up platform and brought down about 15 yards of the platform roofing.

There was neither water nor electricity and as all the wires had been brought down there was neither telegraphic nor telephonic communication in any direction. A bomb had dropped in the yard at the Birmingham end of the station and blown up about 50 wagons which were piled high. The engine shed had escaped with nothing worse than a few broken windows and I am thankful to be able to record that not a single member of the motive power staff sustained even the slightest scratch.

On Tuesday, the 28th January 1941 I received a telephone message from the Police Station asking my name as "someone" wanted to see me. I gave my name and asked what was the matter but the only answer I got was a chuckle and a remark that I'd soon find out! Not long after one of the staff knocked on my office door and said a lady wanted to see me. My visitor was an elderly- I might say "old"-well-educated but somewhat shabby-looking lady who was very short of breath-so short, in fact, that it was about five minutes before she could talk. I gave her a seat, told her to take her time and waited with considerable curiosity for her to speak. When at last she did so she talked for about ten minutes about her hospital experiences in the War-to-End-Wars and said that her brother had been an Admiral in the Royal Navy. Then she said that she believed the police had spoken to me about her, that she had an "idea" and asked if I would tell her how much space there was underneath a railway engine?! Well, I told her and said that if she liked to take me into her confidence and say what her idea was, I might be able to help her.

To cut a long story short she wanted to turn the steam-"smoke" she called it-from the chimney into a perforated box underneath the engine so that the exhaust would not be visible from enemy aircraft. I told her that what she called "smoke" was 90 per cent steam and tried to explain as well as I could why her idea was impracticable. It took some doing but I think I eventually convinced her and she went away full of thanks and apologies. I never heard any more of her.

Going to Coventry in the train on the 21st March 1941, a man attempted to get out of the carriage on the wrong side at Foleshill and if I hadn't grabbed him he would have landed on the rails in front of an engine going towards Nuneaton. I reported the incident on arrival at Coventry and the next morning the Station Master told me that acting on my information they had caught two men doing the same thing that morning and handed them over to the police.

After another air-raid on the 11 th April 1941 we suspected that an unexploded bomb had fallen in the "six-foot" near the shed signal and had buried itself under the track but there was little sign except that the ballast appeared to have been disturbed. Anyhow it was quite enough for me and as soon as telephonic communication had been restored I reported the matter to the Regional Commissioner's office and asked them to send some bomb-disposers to have a look at it. In a few hours time a couple of policemen came and started prodding the ground with iron rods while I kept well out of the way but they soon gave it up and went off. Nobody else appeared so I once more 'phoned the Commissioner's Office and they replied that as it had been there for 48 hours without exploding they considered it was a "dud" and did not intend taking any further action. I answered that it was bad enough having to work in the place when bombs were falling without having to move engines over the top of possibly "dud" bombs afterwards and that they could give my compliments to the Regional Commissioner in person and tell him that I was not going either to ask or allow any of my staff to take any engine anywhere near the spot until a proper investigation had been made and that he could do what he liked about it. In the meantime no engine was going to leave Coventry Shed.

An hour or so after that a lorry load of soldiers and beer (which latter they well deserved!) arrived and they began to dig. After taking up a section of the permanent way they eventually found the bomb at a depth of about 12 feet right under the "four-foot". After they had successfully performed the tricky feat of removing the fuse they tied a rope round the bomb and fastened the other end to the drawbar of an engine which then moved ahead and so pulled the "find" to the surface. The last I saw of the bomb was a soldier sitting on it on the pavement of Quinton Road drinking a bottle of beer!

On the 15th April 1941 Lord Stamp of Shortlands, the President of the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company, his wife and son were drowned when a dug-out in which they were sheltering at their home in Kent was flooded through a water-main being bombed. Lord Stamp, I think, had the distinction of being almost the only prominent figure in the British railway world after whom no engine was ever named. A railway antiquity at Coventry was the water-column at the Birmingham end of the down platform which had been made by Bury, Curtis & Kennedy. It is now in the Museum of British Transport at Clapham.

Back at Coventry on the 24th September 1941 I received instructions concerning a special train of such a nature that I thought it best to go myself to the homes of the men concerned to give them their instructions instead of sending verbal or written messages. I accordingly set out on the errand walking from one end of the town to the other and as it was a beautiful but very hot day I was a bit footsore before I got back to the shed. The train was W699, due to arrive at Coventry the next night and I had to be there to see to things. The passenger was no other than Winston Churchill who was going to spend the night in the train in a siding at Berkswell before visiting Coventry the next day.

A certain locomotive inspector who shall be nameless had the job of going to Berkswell with the train and seeing that all the arrangements for stabling and heating it were properly carried out and during the time we were awaiting its arrival at Coventry. I had the pleasure of witnessing as fine an exhibition of the antics of what are often called by railwaymen "hard-hatted swine" as one could wish for. First, Mr. Inspector bawled across the station to the driver of an engine whose headlamp he considered was "dim". Then an engine came round the corner from Leamington with a red headlamp and he chased and roared after that. Next an engine arrived from Birmingham and began to "blow-off" whereupon Mr. Inspector did likewise. After that another engine came along en route for Berkswell and he wanted to know the why and the wherefore; in his opinion, expressed at the top of his voice, it was q uite unnecessary and so on. Shortly after that the special, W699, arrived five minutes before time and with only one headlamd alight instead of two which occasioned another outburst of song. I could hold my tongue no longer so told him that I thought he'd had an exceedingly good bag and that when next he went to bed he ought to be able to sleep with a clear conscience!

The train having departed with the vocalist on the footplate I went to bed in "The Crow's Nest", the stone-built platelayers' hut which my fitters had commandeered and made into exceedingly comfortable quarters which I used whenever I had to spend the night at the shed. The following morning in spite of all the "secrecy" and my efforts in that connection, not only the platform but the station approach and streets as far as one could see were packed tight with sightseers. Just before 10.0 a.m. when the train was due to arrive I took up my position, away from the crowd, near the man with the red flag at which point the engine was supposed to come to a stand.

Presently the train came round the corner by No. 3 signal box running, as it seemed to me, rather slowly and with steam shut off and then when the engine was about half-way between Nos. 3 and 1 boxes she was suddenly given steam and after uttering half-a- dozen sonorous puffs came to a dead stand with a sort of dying gasp! The platform, of course, was full of "big-wigs" of one sort or another from the Earl of Dudley down to the Mayor and Mayoress of Coventry together with the local Home Guard and the usual L.M.S. factotums. Everyone's eyes almost came out of their heads and I at once thought to myself-"A vacuum failure!"-I picked up my heels and ran along the platform as fast as I could go, ignoring the questions of "What's the matter?" and down the line to the engine. The vocalist of the previous night was on the footplate and I asked him what was wrong. He didn't know but the vacuum had suddenly gone back ten inches, thus partially applying the brake and he'd told the driver to drag the train into the station. Then they had seen the guard signalling them to stop and they had done so. Having found there was nothing wrong with the engine I walked on at a more leisurely pace along the train until I came to the rear brake van from the window of which a bowler-hatted and blue- mackintoshed individual put out his head and said "It's all right. We're waiting for time. He hasn't finished his breakfast!" At that I said a few things, went back to the engine and rode on it into the station where we arrived ten minutes late. HE had still not finished his breakfast and the train stood for some minutes at the platform before he got out. I suppose it was all part of the Churchillian showmanship and in line with the other instance when, as his train was passing through Nuneaton at a good speed he caused a full application of the brake to be made so that the train stopped dead in almost its own length and he jumped out shouting for a telephone on which, when he was taken to it, he booked two seats for a London theatre!

The grimness of the National Emergency was occasionally relieved by comic or semi-comic interludes, an example of which was provided by one Foskett, a man of aristocratic appearance and demeanour, who was station-master at Bedworth. When airraid warnings were received while trains were in Bedworth station he would walk along the platform calling out- "Bedworth-Air Raid-Bed'urth (in the vernacular)-Pull down the blinds-BEDWORTH (in precise English)-Air-Raid- Bed'urth" and so on.

Mr. Foskett was fond of travelling over the remote railways in Ireland with ordinary full-fare first-class tickets and leading the local railwaymen to believe that he was a senior officer, if not a director! He did not tell them that he was, in so many words, but behaved and passed remarks in such a manner that such a conclusion was nearly inevitable. He never used free or privilege tickets on these expeditions as they would, of course, have given him away. The 21 st November 1941 saw me appointed Running Shed Foreman at Coventry vice Reynolds who had been promoted in his absence to Sutton Oak. In early June 1942 I was advised that I was going back to Nuneaton with the temporary appointment of "chief" as Mr. Darlington was taking up another temporary post at Rugby. Before leaving Coventry I must mention the excellent work performed by the deputy Running Shed Foreman, Driver E. J. Watkin who night after night, week after week, all through the period of the air-raids, was in charge of Coventry engine shed during the dangerous night hours. He never flinched from the job and when I left for Nuneaton I recommended him as my successor. If ever any man earned an appointment he did and I am pleased to say that soon afterwards he was given the post.

Nuneaton Shed

On 15th June 1942 I returned to Nuneaton Shed and the next day Mr. F. W. Abraham, the Assistant Divisional Superintendent of Operation at Crewe and chief of motive power matters on the Western Division came to see me and among other things said that Nuneaton was a big job in ordinary times and especially so now. I was not particularly enthusiastic at the prospects as my appointment was only a temporary one and the man whose place I had taken was only 17 miles away and in a position to criticise my actions. I knew from past experience there were many things I should have to alter. At the end of the month I saw Mr. Seaton of the Crewe Trains Office and he told me that Blaenavon Shed was being closed as from 6th July 1942 the staff being transferred to Chester and Birkenhead. C. H. Tait, the District Goods and Passenger Manager at Swansea had said that this had nearly ruined his life's work which had been to keep the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny line for the L.M.S. Seaton said that J. W. Phillips the District Locomotive Superintendent at Shrewsbury had been the main instigator of the closing.

On 3rd July 1942 I had a trip with Driver W. Brunt on Engine No. 510 working the 5.0 p.m. "Ashby Milk" to have a look over the road. We went via Shackerstone Junction, through Heather, Hugglescote and Charnwood Forest Junction to Coalville and Ashby-de-la- Zouch and then on to Moira, Overseal, Donisthorpe, Measham and Shackerstone back to Nuneaton. It was a continuous run without any "running-round" and we got back to our starting point at 8.0 p.m. after a very pleasant trip chiefly over lines long closed to passenger traffic except for the length between Coalville and Moira.On 21st September 1942 I harangued the Leading Fitter and his staff about the vacuum brake reservoir on Engine No. 9431 having been reported fifty times before it was put right. Engine repairs were not the only problem I had to tackle as all the clerical work was in a hopeless mess, especially that appertaining to stores matters. I generally had to take this home with me.

Just as I was settling down for my Saturday afternoon siesta on 16th January 1943 a messenger from the shed brought me a note saying that a fireman had shot a driver in the foot and was detained in my office! On arrival at the latter I found the police taking a statement to the effect that he, the fireman, had taken a double- barrelled shot-gun with him on the engine with the intention of shooting rabbits on the Ansley Hall branch. Before leaving Stocking- ford he had loaded the gun and then begun to clean it during which operation the gun went off and the driver received the whole charge in his foot at three feet range. His foot was afterwards amputated and he was given a job in the stores.

In January 1943 Mr. D. C. Urie, the Superintendent of Motive Power retired and was succeeded by Lieut. Col. Harold Rudgard, one of the Midland men. It is remarkable how most L.N.W.R. drivers will tackle any strange engine that comes along and a very good example of this occurred on 18th May 1943 when one of the new American 2-8-0 engines arrived at Nuneaton Station on its way to Woodford and Hinton on the G.C.R. I went to have a look at it and accompanied the set of Nuneaton men who were going to re-man it for the next stage of its journey. As soon as we reached the engine the signal came "off", the Crewe men said "There you are. That's the regulator and that's the brake" and got off! The Nuneaton men started away as unconcerned as could be and slowed down opposite the shed for me to get off after which they went off in fine style. Admittedly they had a mechanical inspector riding with them on this occasion and he would have been able to show them a few things about the footplate fittings which differed a good deal from the British fashion, but that did not alter the fact that they had to find out how to work the engine as they went along. This versatility on the part of enginemen is by no means always the rule as, for example, few Holyhead men are "at home" on any engine smaller than a "Royal Scot".

A piece of news was that a certain driver who had risen to fame by lending Winston Churchill his driver's cap when the latter was photographed on his engine at Euston on some ceremonial occasion had recently been appointed an "Inspector" on Col. Rudgard's personal staff. Another interesting item was that R. H. McLean the Assistant District Locomotive Superintendent at Rugby, Gwilim Lloyd George and Goronwy Owen, one of my old schoolmasters, had all married sisters. The 1 ooth anniversary of the opening of Crewe Works was on 3rd September, 1943. Members of the public were then being invited to work on Sundays as engine-cleaners to clean all parts of engines other than the motions and we had about 18 apprentices from different works at Coventry on the job each week-end. They did good work. Mr. Clayton came on 28th September 1943 to say good-bye on his departure to the headquarters of the Northern Division at Glasgow and to introduce his successor, Mr. I. E. Mercer of Toton who, as a District Locomotive Superintendent, was unique in that he would "talk engines" by the hour! A day or two previously the mechanical coaling plant had been taken out of service for three weeks for repairs and Mr. Mercer considered that arrangements should have been made to lift loaded coal wagons with a steam crane and tip the contents into engine tenders and bunkers. He sold the idea to Crewe and thereby brought a hornet's nest about our ears at Nuneaton. We had several attempts at carrying out his ideas and also tried a small 5-ton steam crane and tubs but could not improve upon my method of hand coaling. In any case I con-sidered that the idea of tipping coal from a wagon held in the air by a breakdown crane was an exceedingly dangerous one.

On Sunday, 20th February 1944, I was at the shed all night with Darlington and Woodruffe, the Birmingham locomotive inspector to see what could be done to avoid delays in the morning but as there were no fewer than eighty engines on the shed at midnight and the loco yard was completely blocked the position was very nearly hopeless. On Sunday, 2nd April, there were ninety-five engines on the premises at midnight and things were that much worse. On 5th April 1944 Messrs. J. W. Watkins, J. S. F.lliot, O. E. Kinsman and S. E. Parkhouse, together with Col. Rudgard, attended a meeting at Nuneaton Shed to see what could be done to improve matters with a view to avoiding the chronic delays to engines leaving the shed and it was finally decided to go in for either
1. A new engine shed at Midland Junction.
2. The re-opening of Stockingford Shed on the Midland
3. A connection from the Leicester Loop to the 60-ft. turntable at Nuneaton shed
The latter was chosen and opened on Monday, August 7th following, the first engine to go "off" that way being the one for the 2.30 a.m. to Wellingborough which left the shed at 1.15 a.m.

In March and April 1944 a series of six meetings on various aspects of motive power work were held at the Queen's Hotel, Birmingham and I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. A. H. Whittaker, the District Locomotive Superintendent at Bristol, who was then nearly seventy years of age and son of Alfred Whittaker, at one time Locomotive Superintendent of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, and inventor of the well-known tablet- catcher for single-line working which bears his name. Mr. Whittaker was a very charming man and looked for all the world like an actor. I thoroughly enjoyed my talks with him. At these meetings papers were read by different individuals from Headquarters and they were afterwards open to discussion which on occasion was extremely lively. The paper on The Factory Act and Discipline which was read by Mr. R. T. Clews, late of Rugby, resulted in what could scarcely be described as less than an uproar. For the uninitiated, the railway discipline scheme consists of an exchange of memoranda between the management and the offender with two different opportunities for the latter to have an interview with "the head of the department or his representative" so that a fortnight or more elapses between the offence and the punishment awarded-if any. Generally the result of this procedure is that the offender is told to be a good boy and not to transgress again but in others where the delinquent is of the "awkward" type, he takes advantage of the two opportunities for an interview and more often than not gets two days "off" for the purpose, with nothing more than a caution or a reprimand at the end of it, the net result being that his shortcoming is rewarded by two days absence from work on full pay!

Mr. Whittaker said he had in hand two or three cases where interviews had been requested and that in each case if he visited the defendant he was going to have to spend a night away from home as he could not get to the place concerned and back in the same day. Then Mr. Spencer of Saltley held up a list, about a yard long, of cases where discipline Forms No. i had been issued and so it went on, the general consensus of opinion, with which I concurred, being that it was just a complete waste of time and in many cases an impossibility to try and apply the discipline scheme. When the tumult had subsided Mr. Clews said he knew before he started that he would be getting some comments-and he had certainly had them! On the night of Friday the 13th October 1939 there was a bad smash at Bletchley when a down express running at about 50 m.p.h. collided with an engine, a 0-8-0 superheater "D", which was attaching a van to a train standing in the station. The shunting engine was hit on to the platform and into the refreshment-room, several people being killed. A few days later on the 17th there were heavy floods in Kilsby Tunnel and a bridge was washed out on the Northampton line, so that all London trains had to be diverted at Nuneaton to travel via the South Leicester line, Wigston and the Midland route. This meant that all "Royal Scot" and "Princess" class engines coming south had to be changed at Nuneaton for smaller ones, generally two for one, as the big engines were not allowed over the Midland line. In addition, pilotmen had to be provided to pilot the drivers of the diverted trains over the strange route.

On the 27th July 1943, one of the 2-6-6-2 Beyer-Garratt engines became derailed on the main Coventry line at Hawkesbury Lane owing to the fireman putting down the water-scoop by mistake with the result that the scoop picked up a sleeper from a levelcrossing and carried it along like a battering-ram which struck the stretcher-bar of a pair of points, pulling the switch-blades together and causing all the wheels of the rear engine to run off the rails on to the ground. We got it on in 2 hours 10 minutes which was good going as no one on the Nuneaton Breakdown Gang had tackled a Garratt before and they are not easy to handle. The breakdown gang was one of the few bright spots of Nuneaton Shed. On the 9th August 1941 Engine No. 6741, one of the 5 ft. 6 in. 2-4-2 tank engines, broke down between Hinckley and Midland Junction, Nuneaton. The left hand connecting rod had broken-off at both big and little ends and damaged both the boiler barrel and the firebox. The connecting rod, bent in a circle, and the big and little ends were scattered along the line in the vicinity of Nutt's Lane. A fitter who had neglected to fit properly a little end setscrew a few days previously was lucky in not having to face a charge of manslaughter as the enginemen might easily have been seriously scalded.

Although there were between 80 and 90 engines regularly allocated to Nuneaton the man in charge of the mechanical side of things was graded merely as a leading fitter and on the wages staff. As can be imagined this did not have a good effect on engine maintenance so after a bit of a struggle I got the "idea" of a salaried repairing engines foreman agreed to in principle but could not get it implemented on the ground that the leading fitter, who was unsuitable, would claim the post as his right. One day a Southern Railway man told me that the 4-6-2 "Merchant Navy" engines were not all that could be desired and were frequently being towed home owing to the failure of the Bulleid valve gear which is a weird and wonderful contraption largely dependent on chains and sprocket-wheels. A few days later I heard another piece of valve gear scandal which was to the effect that Gresley's "2 to 1" conjugated valve gear for three-cylinder engines was no good and that as soon as Sir Nigel Gresley was safely out of the way the L.N.E.R.Co. called in another equally famous locomotive engineer from another railway as a consultant and asked his opinion as to whether it would be economical to scrap all the existing sets of this gear? The reply was that although he did not approve of the gear in question, he did not think it would pay to alter all the engines fitted with it.

One morning as I was going through the shed yard I passed a small group of men who were passing some disparaging remarks? about "Hard Hats", the common term applied to persons in railway supervisory and technical grades. I did not know them and took no notice beyond just smiling to myself as I was in total agreement with what I heard them say. However I had not been in my office many minutes when one of the men I had passed came to see me in order to apologise as he thought I "must have overheard the remarks" and wanted to assure me that they had no reference to me personally! I replied that I had not taken the least offence and that I was of exactly the same opinion, in many cases, myself. It was a very pleasing and unexpected display of courtesy which is all too rare these days. On 19th August 1944 Mr. J. S. Elliot asked me on the telephone from Crewe if I would take charge of Bangor Shed as a permanency? He said the war and with it "war-time appointments" were coming to an end and that Mr. Darlington would be wanting to come back to Nuneaton. I was not particularly thrilled at the prospect as Bangor Shed had a terrible reputation but I could not do other than accept as gracefully as I could. In the meantime, pending the return of Mr. Darlington, I was succeeded by Mr. A. C. Black, son of W. F. Black late of Crewe and we had a few days together so that I could show him round. I finished up at Nuneaton on Saturday, September 2nd 1944.