Last Train Home Local Next

A Day in the Life of a Grove Park Guard

by Bill Hayles, England


Contents Contents:


Top Contents


What follows is a description of a typical day's work for me during my time as a guard at Grove Park depot, Network South East, South East Division in about 1987. It's not supposed to be an accurate account of any specific day, just a hypothetical, normal day when nothing major went wrong. It's the bad days that we all remember; we forget that on four days out of five things go more or less as planned. This is one of those four days. To counteract all the whinging and moaning seen in uk.railway (and I'm as guilty as anyone else) I have deliberately chosen a time when I was <gulp> happy in my work.

The day might be hypothetical; the duty isn't. I have chosen to describe this particular duty as it was one that I worked more or less every late turn for two years. Therefore, even after twelve years I can still recall the duty, the times, and all the little practices that made the job easier. Everybody mentioned is a real person, but I have changed their names to preserve their dignity, and also because some of the practices I describe were not exactly according to the rulebook.


Top Contents

Grove Park Guards - Duty 424

Book on1535 
Grove Park Depot16+07Cannon Street16+32
Cannon Street1640Ashford1756
RW Ashford1802RA Dover Priory1828
Prep (siding)1925
Dover Priory Sdg19+15Dover Priory19+20
Dover PrioryNA1925Victoria2052
Victoria20+58Grove Pk Recep21+18
Grove Park Recep21+41via washer
Grove Park Depot22+04
Book off2310 

 Symbols used:
+ECS Prep - prepare unit ready for service
RWRelieve and work
RARelieved on arrival
PNBPersonal Needs Break (30 minutes, must be between 3rd and 5th hour on duty)
NANot advertised



The Day

I arrive at work on time. Some people leave it until the last minute, but I dn't like the rush. On my way in, I have looked at the blackboard outside the hunter's lobby to find out where my train is. It's on no.4 road, and it's ormed of a 2 4CEP units, 1511 and 1523. Good. It's supposed to be 8CEP, but ecently there's been a bit of a stock shortage, and we've had a single 4VEP or worse as it has less capacity) a single 4CEP on occasion.

I sign the book and telephone the TCS at Orpington as Grove Park is an unsupervised depot. He grunts his acknowledgement. I check the depot notice board for anything new posted since yesterday. It's at this point that I'm theoretically supposed to sit down and write the timings for the day into my log book, copying them from the working timetable. In point of fact, timings for the whole week were entered on Sunday when I was doing boring suburban work and needed something to do to pass the time. I don't need a WTT for this duty, I know the times in my head in any case. I look next door to see if my driver, Fred Brown, has arrived yet. Fred, like myself, is someone who frequently changes turns with others to get this duty, which you either love or hate. Like me, he's working it all week. It's good to work with a regular driver, especially one as competent as Fred. You get to know each other's little ways, which makes the job run smoother. Fred has just arrived. He hands me his keys and says "you check it out and I'll make the tea". Although both driver and guard have their own responsibilities when it comes to train preparation, and both are allocated time for their own areas, it makes sense for one person to do all the prep, even if it isn't in the rule book.

I walk to No.4 road and start the preparation. My own responsibilities are to check that the unit numbers tally with those on the board, that externally and internally the train is clean, that all the lights are working, that the toilets flush, that there are fresh antimacassars in the first class and that (if appropriate) the heating is working. In addition, I must check the train is safe to enter service, looking for any signs of damage to doors or windows, and, in particular, for the presence of any green or red cards tacked on to the running board. A green card means a non urgent mechanical fault, which I will note in my log book. A red card (which I'm not expecting to find) means that a fitter has failed the unit and it may not enter service.

An eight car train is quite a length; a twelve car even more so. Therefore the preparation is done in a particular way to minimise walking. Trains berthed at Grove Park are left "cut in" between the peaks, so that's not a consideration. I start outside at the back. I walk along the offside, checking the outside, and find nothing amiss. On arrival at the front, I climb into the cab. What I do in the front cab should be Fred's job, but co-operation makes the job easier! I turn the train on using Fred's key. I hear the familiar sound of the train pumping up. I wait until the pressure in both the main and auxiliary reservoirs is up to level, give a full application of the EP brake to check it goes to 50psi, and then leave it at about 20psi. I then take off the handbrake, a dirty great big wheel on the opposite side of the cab which takes many turns to take off completely. A sensible, universal, but unofficial practice has meant that I found a shoe paddle wedged against the handbrake to indicate it was on ("screwed down"). I open the door to the roller blinds and set them to read <black blank> 7, the headcode from Grove Park to Cannon Street, checking at the same time that they are lit. Now I carry out my own checks, walking slowly through the inside of the train checking as I indicated above. When I get to the first brake, I dump my bag and other stuff - this will be the brake I work the train from Cannon Street. I put my BR No.1 key in the lock, give a test ring on the bell and check announcement on the PA. I check the emergency brake - I "give is a splash" and hear the sound of escaping air. I check the adjacent luggage compartment is unlocked.

As I walk through, I note the unit is acceptably clean, but not impressively so. Signs of long term grime indicate it's due for a heavy cleaning soon. The antimacassars look a few days old (the cleaners are probably short on stock), but none are missing. A couple of fluorescent tubes are dead, but there's nothing that can be done about that at Grove Park. Our stores still only stock the three bayonet tungsten bulbs for unrefurbished stock, despite the first CEP refurbishment being five years previously. I make a note in my log. In any case, the lighting level is acceptable. As I pass between the two units, I make sure access to the intermediate cabs has been blocked, and the headcode shows two white blanks. The second unit is obviously more recently heavy cleaned, and looks quite nice. When I get to the brake, I make sure it's locked both internally and by the outside door, as I do not take kindly to anyone else using a brake on one of my trains. As will come clear later, I use them both. However, I make sure the adjacent luggage van is unlocked, both in and out. Some guards lock remote luggage vans out of use. I'm not one of these, and expect to find at least one bicycle in it later on. I take a special look at the first class compartment adjacent to the brake. Mr. King, a first class annual season ticket holder from London to Tonbridge will be taking his usual corner seat. He's a pleasant man, a bit of a railway buff, and, rightly or wrongly, gets VIP treatment from all (or should that read both) the regular guards on this train. Eventually, I get to the rear cab. I check the handbrake is off - there's no paddle up, but I still make a check. I check the rear headcode is two red blanks, and that it's lit. This is my tail lamp, and my responsibility. Although there isn´t a driver on the division who won't put up the reds for you at the end of a journey, if, for any reason, he forgets, it's the guard that gets the "please explain". Finally, I climb down and walk along the nearside, checking externally. All this has taken about ten minutes, and when I return to the lobby, Fred has the tea made and poured out. Our corner of the railway runs on tea. Many staff need an hourly mug, and I'm no exception!

Just before 1600, we leave the lobby and return to the train. I will go to the rear cab, and Fred to the front. On the way he will speak to the shunter, who will confirm he has set the handpoints for us, and will phone London Bridge signal box to let them know we're ready to go. But before we start, Fred and I have one more important check to carry out, and one that needs two people - the brake test. We go through a well-oiled routine, establishing that, as we expected, there is a continuous working brake through the train. Fred will not wait for any more signals from me. As soon as the shunter gives the tip, he will move slowly off towards Hither Green. This is one move at Grove Park that does not require any propelling, and he knows I will be walking through the train to sit with him in the front cab for the short trip to Cannon Street. Strictly speaking, I should be in the rearmost brake, but riding up front on empties is a fairly common practice, especially where the train crew get on with each other. I have noted that we left Grove Park on time, but signal checks mean that we were two minutes late passing through London Bridge. We come to a halt outside Cannon Street, and our arrival is four minutes late. I put this down in my log to "sigs LB - CS". No time for tea as Fred shuts down and walks smartly to the other end, leaving me to set the reds, just in case we get the road on time. While we're doing this, passengers are boarding. I see many familiar faces, including my first class regulars. I walk back to my brake, ready for the off. We're out of luck. Despite platform staff pressing the trTS plunger at 1639, it's 1645 before we get the road. The platform staff close thebarrier and blow their whistles furiously to encourage the last latecomers to get on. As soon as the last door closes, the senior railman gives me the right away, I give a final quick check up and down the train and I give two rings on the bell.

Unlike some drivers, who seem to go to sleep in their cabs, Fred starts off immediately. As the train pulls out of the station, I lean out checking the train, especially behind me, just in case. Finally, I shut my door and note the late departure in my log. "Sigs, CS". I make my first announcement of the trip, telling everybody what they already know - what train it is and where we stop, as well as my and the driver's names. I was once criticised for not making enough announcements, and I've also been moaned at by passengers on this particular train that I make too many, so I compromise. I always announce the start and end of the trip. What I won't be doing is to announce every intermediate station. It's pointless on a commuter trip, and if there are any confused passengers I can sort them out in the course of my ticket check. I stay in my brake as the train weaves its way sinuously through the complex pointwork between Cannon Street and London Bridge as many passengers are still finding their seats. In any case, it's not unknown for us to be stopped by signals at London Bridge, and it would be embarrassing to have to fight my way back to the brake to give the right away. Tonight, we're OK, and as the train accelerates through London Bridge I pick up my commercial gear (float, BR4407 excess book, prices manual and local fares sheets) and start my ticket check.

I've got about twenty five minutes before our first stop, Sevenoaks, and I doubt I'll get the whole train done in that time, so I put a spare BR1 key in my pocket. I lock my brake when I leave it. I start towards the rear of the train, but I never walk through a section before I check it, as that just helps any potential dodgers work out their strategy. The first block are the first class. All regulars, mainly seasons. Several of them greet me by name. That's one of the pleasanter aspects of the job, a passenger saying "good evening, Bill". No problems in the first. I now work my way through the second class. Mainly regulars. Mostly seasons, at least half of which are annuals. They know they get checked every day, and have their tickets ready. A few folk are still coming to grips with the need to show the newly introduced photocards, and need a gentle reminder. I sell a Sevenoaks to Tonbridge excess, and a London to Sevenoaks single to someone who happily admits they were expecting to catch the next train, saw we hadn't left, and jumped aboard knowing they could get a ticket from me. Now I start working my way towards the front, keeping half an eye (and ear) out for where we are to note passing times at Parks Bridge and (later) Orpington. Nothing untoward in the tickets checks; a couple of tickets to be issued to other latecomers, and several more Sevenoaks to Tonbridge excesses, which makes me idly wonder what's going on there tonight. As I pass the front brake, I notice we are passing Chelsfield. I unlock it and activate the controls with the spare BR1 key I'm carrying. Mr. King is alone in his compartment, so I just walk past with a wave.

In the next first class compartment is a joker I've come across before. He only has a standard season, but I've caught him in first class more than once. He has always quietly paid the excess, so there's been nothing I can do, but the rules have changed, and now I can charge him the full first class fare for the journey and, if I wish, withdraw his season. I ask him for his ticket. He's wise. He doesn't show me his season, he just asks for a first class single London to Sevenoaks. I have no choice but to sell it to him with a "thank you sir", but one of these days he'll get his comeuppance, or maybe on train checks will become so frequent that he finds it cheaper to buy the right ticket in the first place. By the time I´ve finished with him, we're pulling into Sevenoaks. We've had a good run and we're only 4 down. Rather than walk all the way down the back, I'll start the train from the front brake. That's why I carry a spare key! I politely blow my whistle to let the platform man know where I am, and after the ritual waving of arms I give the two bells. I've got the ten minutes or so to Tonbridge to finish checking the front two cars, whose occupants are almost all for Tonbridge as the exit is by the front end of the train. I finish the check as we're flashing through Hildenborough and return to the front brake. I start the train from there and return through the half empty carriages to my rightful station in the rear brake. After Tonbridge, the train stops at all stations, and so I remain in my brake until we have left Pluckley. By now there are fewer then twenty passengers left as I walk once more through the train, this time checking for any lost property such as an Evening Standard. I'm in luck, and, paper in hand I return to my brake to announce to the few that we are coming into Ashford and they've got to get off. The timings after Tonbridge are fairly slack, and we arrive at Ashford just one minute down. Since the train forms a return working to Victoria via Maidstone East, I need to do no more than finish the log for the journey, take my key out and cross to the other side of the island platform.

My next train is the heavyweight 1655 Charing Cross - Ramsgate via Dover, a full twelve cars, and which has run fast from Waterloo East. An Ashford guard has worked it down from London. It arrives two minutes late, consisting of CEP - VEP - CEP. Blast! That means that working from the brake of the VEP I will have no PA (which came several years later). The guard I relieve greets me and says "all checked, no short platform problems known". On the desk he has left me a slip of paper with the unit numbers and driver's name, which I note in my log. What his statement to me means is that he has carried out a full ticket check (as I would expect - he has had a full hour to do it, which is long enough even for a 12 car) and that there are no passengers in the rear four cars for those stations where only eight can be accommodated. The next twenty minutes will be where I take it easy. Platform staff at Ashford help me check along the length of the full twelve cars, and we are soon off. I sit back and read the Standard I found earlier. At Sandling, I check the signal, that all doors are shut towards the front, and that nobody is attempting to get off from the rear four which are off the platform. No platform staff so I see myself away. The same at Folkestone West (where all 12 get on). Neither of these stations is particularly busy, so smart work brings us into Folkestone Central on time. It always takes a minute or so here, with many continent bound passengers transferring to the bus down to the harbour. The section of line from Folkestone Central to Dover Priory never ceases to amaze me even though I must have worked it hundreds of time. Sheer cliffs, the warren and the twin portals of Shakespeare Cliff Tunnel. Truly one of the great engineering feats of British railway building. Soon the wheels are screaming as we crawl round the 10mph bend at Hawkesbury Street Junction, and through Harbour Tunnel to come to a stand at platform 2, Dover Priory, bang on time at 1828. The rear two coaches are still in the tunnel, and it's a pity I can't make an announcement just in case there's anybody wanting to get out from them. I am relieved by a Ramsgate guard who will take this train for the last leg of its (for our division) marathon journey. As is convention, I leave him a note of the unit numbers and the driver's name (the driver is booked to take the train all the way).

Now the fun really starts.

What I'm supposed to do is to walk across to the siding, prepare the train sitting there, go to the mess room, have my break, return to the train, shunt it out and then work it, at 1925, to Victoria. The reason why I'm booked to prepare it before my break is that the duty is very tight on PNB time, and I can't take my PNB until I've been on duty three hours, at 1835. My PNB can't finish until 1905, and there's then not enough time to do the prep. Of such minutiae are duties compiled. But the reality is that I probably won't get a break much at all. That's one of the reasons most of my colleagues are happy to give me the duty when it's their turn on the roster. The other is that the 1925 is a boat train, or, to be more precise, a hovercraft train. It's run to provide a through service to the continent via the Dover - Calais Hoverspeed service. It looks attractive, as the hovercraft takes 30 minutes for the crossing as opposed to the 90 minutes of the conventional ferry. The problem is that passengers take a bus shuttle at both ends, and the saving is much less that it seems. Still, the service is a modest success, and our loadings are reasonable. Grove Park as a depot has a particular interest in the success of the service as they, together with Charing Cross, were offered these workings when their LDC complained that all boat work was going to Victoria, and that the other two London main line depots should have some. Because the timings are subject to the whims of the hovercraft, the trip is not advertised in any British Rail timetable except as a through facility from the continent. If the hovercraft is late we have to wait for it. That's why there's plenty of slack at the end of my duty. Dover Priory is a cramped and difficult station to work, and everybody needs to work together to get the thing to work. My first act on arrival has been to check the stock in the siding is CEP. The division has just introduced an experimental trolley catering service after several years without catering of any description. The trolleys are designed to be navigable throughout a CEP, but they won't get through a VEP, and this has been the cause of complaint from the franchisee. Tonight, we have 8CEP waiting for us. Good. I meet up with Fred (who's had a trip on the cushions from Ashford) to visit the Station Supervisor who's expecting us. He will have phoned the hoverport for news on the flight. It's running 15 minutes late. This means we will miss our 1925 path. We have another provisional one at 1945 (and another at 2025, but that's rarely needed). He calls the box to confirm what we expect to hear. The box will let us out of the siding once the 1932 has left, and it's down to us to make the shunt, get everybody on, and leave by 1945. It's tight but achievable. For the moment, there's not a lot to do. There's time for a welcome cuppa or three. I make the tea, and we have a quiet twenty minutes or so putting the world to rights. At about 1900 the trolley operator arrives from London and struggles across the bridge with his trolley. It's Mike, another regular. I tell him we're going at 1945. He has a cup of my tea (it's better than the stuff he sells).

At about 1910 Fred and I walk over to the siding. We prepare the train in the same way as I had done earlier at Grove Park. There are very few facilities at Dover Priory for cleaning - after all, there's only one train lays over, ours, so all that happens is that one of the railmen goes through it collecting rubbish. If a toilet's blocked, it stays blocked. Maybe not the best impression on somebody visiting the UK for the first time, but that's life. Luckily, tonight, all toilets are working and I find nothing to complain about. I dump my stuff in what will be the rear brake, and make sure the front brake is unlocked for the trolley operator (although they all seem to have their own unofficial BR 1 keys). I settle myself in the Ramsgate end cab. Fred has pumped up and done the checks at his end. I call him on the loudaphone and we carry out the brake check. When we're both happy with that, I climb down and pick up the phone by the exit dummy to the siding. I tell the box we're ready when he is. He confirms the 1932 is running on time, and he'll let us out as soon as it's clear. I put up one white and one red blind to show we're shunting and await the road. The 1932 arrives, and almost immediately our dummy comes off. I put my left hand on the brake and move it to the lap position, ready to apply it should it be necessary, and then give three on the loudaphone to Fred at the other end, who sets back. It's a long shunt, nearly a mile. We pass through Priory Tunnel and as we do I see the reassuring yellow light of what we still call the advance starter (even though this area is TCB). If it were to be red, I would have, naturally to stop. As it is, I give a confirmatory three buzzes to Fred and he keeps us coming back steadily. As my end passes over the crossover, I give four and Fred shuts off power. As he passes the crossover, he stops the train ready for the dummy to being us into the platform. I set the blinds to two reds, lock the cab behind me and return to my cab. Fred has moved off, and is slowing down as the home signal is still on, waiting clearance of the 1932. It comes off before he comes to a stop and we draw into the platform.

The station staff at Dover are very good about allowing the passengers through when I´m ready and not before. They respect that part of the rule book that says that it is I, as guard, who is in charge of the train and therefore its loading. Hoverspeed traffic uses a side gate so that continental passengers and locals don't get mixed up. I can see that a couple of buses have already arrived from the Hoverport and the punters are milling around. Meantime, Fred has left his cab to help Mike on with the trolley. As a courtesy to the trolley operators, we let them get settled before they get surrounded by passengers. At my "let them on", the gate opens and a seething mass of continental passengers swarm towards the train. The gate is positioned more or less by my brake, which helps things a bit. Almost immediately the questions start: "which way is the train leaving?", a reasonable question as we can, theoretically, leave in either direction. "Which is first class?" "Where do I put my cases?" "I haven't got a ticket?" ("I'll sell you one" is my reply), and, every third or fourth group "is this the London train?" (as if announcements haven't been made every thirty seconds). Many passengers stream towards the front of the train, where Fred shepherds them into their seats. That's where teamwork counts. Fred has every right just to sit in his cab and leave everything to me, but he's quite happy to help me out. "One more bus to come, 147 total load". This from one of the bus drivers. They always give me the total number of passengers, not that I really need it. Unfortunately, and not unusually, the last bus is several minutes behind the others, having to wait for the last stragglers. We attempt to herd them onto the train as quickly as possible, but they insist on asking questions that could perfectly well wait until I see them on the trip. Fred is encouraging them to the front of the train where there's more room, but many of them ignore him. Never mind. At 1952, the station supervisor can finally give the trTS to the box, and we get the road. I give the two bells at 1954, knowing that this is where Fred is going to show that he's a train and not a tram driver.

We are leaving 29 minutes late over the nominal booked time, and, more significantly, 9 minutes late on our nominal path. It will be very interesting to see what happens at Ashford. I make a long, trilingual announcement and feel a right flash so and so as Barry, the other regular guard, can only manage two. I collect my ticket gear, together with an assortment of main line timetable leaflets, and start to make my way towards the front of the train, hanging on for dear life as Fred liberally interprets the 10mph round Hawkesbury Street and then opens it up. I try not to answer any questions - I leave them until later. Experience has proved that the only way the trolley and the guard can do their jobs without getting in each other's way is to work together, so I make a beeline for Mike in the front brake. We are going to work the train from front to back, with me checking everybody's tickets and then immediately selling them any drinks. We tried it the other way round, and had tea and coffee everywhere, where folk were fumbling for their tickets with drinks in their hands. As we move forward, we reassure people we will be coming back to them. "Good Evening, may I see your tickets please?" "Thank you". "Good evening, any tea, coffee or light refreshments?". Mike is getting into his routine behind me. "What time will we get into London?" Nearly everybody asks me that. I make an educated guess. "About 2120". "What's that in real money?" "Twenty past nine". Some people have onward connections, some realistic, others wildly optimistic even if we were on time. I can work out probable connection times, and just knowing makes many people happier. Quite a few only have tickets to Dover, and need excessing to London or beyond. I take credit cards, cheques, travellers cheques, foreign currency and even British money! Somebody wants to pay in Lira and doesn't like my exchange rate. I don't blame them - it's very biased to benefit the railway, but it's the rate I have to go by. They decide to use their card instead, and I breathe a sigh of relief. None of us likes the paperwork with currency, and avoid it if we can. Several groups are going on to Gatwick Airport. They always are. I've never understood the logic in a journey from somewhere in France to the USA via a Hovercraft sea crossing, two trains and Gatwick rather than from Paris, but that's what they do. It's going slowly tonight. Approaching Ashford, and we've only done three, rather quiet coaches, with five busier ones to go. I must get my skates on.

The only communication Fred has with me is by means of the loudaphone in the two brakes. But a quirk (aka fault) in the wiring on CEPs means that his buzzes are also heard on the train PA. He knows this, and I catch him giving several 3 - 3 signals asking me to contact him. I call him up from the front brake. He tells me he's going to stop at Willesborough and ask to run via Maidstone. This will avoid us getting caught behind the slow from Ashford via Tonbridge (which we would be in front of if we were on time by our path), but will rely on Maidstone East being aware of the diversion and holding their own all stations at Maidstone East for a minute. It's something we've done several times before, and it saves us ten minutes or so. I go back to Mike, who has moved on a few seats and answered a couple of questions for me (although he will never check a ticket). I am aware of us halting outside Ashford and then moving off again. As we pull away from Ashford, I feel a lurch to the right. We're running via Maidstone. I quickly note it in the log. I get back to work. Somebody has a reserved seat on a train from Paddington at 2130. No way are they going to make it. Unfortunately, they are American and expect the train to wait for them. They don't accept that not only can a train not be held for them, but even if it could I have no way of communicating with the outside world except through stopping at a signal phone, which I have no intention of doing. They demand the name and address of my managing director (sic). I hand them one of the cards we carry with our area manager's name and telephone on it, and make a note to let the Orpington office know. It will save them the "please explain". I find them a later train, assure them that they will be allowed on it even without a reservation and leave them still grumbling. My next problem is somebody speaking a language I don't understand trying to tell me something about his ticket (which he hasn't got). I have no option but to leave him at the moment, to come back if I get time. Luckily, the answer is in the next coach. A party ticket for ten - nine in this coach, and our friend in the one before. It's very easy to lose all sense of where you are on the Maidstone East line, and before I know it, I hear (rather than see) that we're crossing the River Medway, just past Maidstone East, and just two coaches to go. Nothing particularly awkward in those, despite their almost being full. I give Mike a hand with a tea or two, so that we can get the trolley back to the front before Victoria. I help him manoeuvre the thing back through the train - it's in my interests to have him ready to get off on arrival at Victoria. We're now in the London area, and Swanley, St. Mary Cray and Bickley all flash past as I finally get back to my brake to prepare for arrival. I note, with curiosity, that we are sent via the Catford Loop. I am also pleased to see that the time is 2110, and that Fred must have been working hard to make up time. I put my commercial gear, and especially the money, safe, and pack up as much of my gear as I can. As we pass Stewart's Lane, I go into my arrival spiel, urging everyone to get off as smartly as possible. Arrival at Victoria is at 2123, not bad, and a lot better than on some recent occasions. Fred helps Mike off with the trolley, while I make sure all passengers and luggage are on the platform and not on the train. To emphasise that the train is out of service, I turn the lights off. At this time of night, platform staff are conspicuous by the absence, so I press the trTS plunger myself, while Fred is on the signal phone to assure the box that they can let us run "straight in". Both of us have been closing doors for all we're worth. In the next fifteen minutes, I'll work harder than I have all day, and to give myself the best chance of being ready at Grove Park, I start the empties by flashing a green light from my Bardic lamp to Fred as soon as all the doors are shut and I'm scrambling aboard the rear cab.

What I've got to do is to prepare the train for the washer whilst we're travelling from Victoria. The booked move is into the reception road, where I'm supposed to close all windows while the train is stationary (including brake and cab windows!), then propel through the washer with the washer off. Finally, the driver drives through the working washer and into the shed. Approaching from Hither Green, as we will be, we can be slipped into the washer road, drive through the washer and into the shed all in one move. But if we do this and the train goes through the washer with open windows, soaking or even damaging seats, then I'll be answerable! So I work as fast I can, closing and checking each window. I get to the front cab just as we're passing Lewisham Road, and let Fred know we're OK. Round the sharp curve at Lewisham, through Hither Green and, joy of joys, the dummy for the washer. Slowly through the washer. Once the front is safely through, I look back to give Fred the tip when the back is clear. We stop by the shunter. Number 4 is the road, the points are set, and we come to a halt at 2204, precisely our booked time! I have one more job to do. Back to the other end, where I screw down the handbrake and put the paddle across the wheel. I gather my stuff, go to the guards' room and put my already completed time ticket in the box, say my farewells and go home.

Tomorrow I shall do it all over again.


Editor's note:

Last Train Contents Home Top Local Next
List of
Top of