PETER GRAY: Magnificent architecture hidden by soot
AFTER the excitement of King's Cross terminus, the next door station St Pancras was always very quiet, so it tended to get overlooked.
One could certainly admire the magnificent architecture of the Midland Hotel, and the soaring roofspan of the station itself, but back in 1946 neither was looking at its best, covered in the soot deposited by countless winter 'smogs'.
Six years of war had rather eclipsed the need to clean the brickwork of both. Or indeed of any public buildings.
The largest engine on view at St Pancras that evening was a 4-6-0 5XP class Jubilee, No 5558 Manitoba, which had arrived on an express from Leeds.
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Also seen around the station were a 'Crab' class Fowler 2-6-0 No 2839, a 4-4-0 'Midland' Compound No 1050 from Nottingham and the Stanier version of the 2-6-2T class illustrated last week, No 161 from St Albans.
Meanwhile, back at King's Cross, the doubtless delayed 'express' trains had been arriving, three Pacifics and a V2 class 2-6-2, each depositing up to 1,000 passengers into the very restricted concourse of those days. The Pacifics were two A4s and an A3, No 4485 (later in 1946 to be renumbered 26) Kestrel, No 4487 (soon to be 28) Sea Eagle, A3 No 4478 (soon to be 109) Hermit and V2 class 2-6-2 No 3691 (soon to be 979).
By now it was approaching time to get back to Euston, to join up with the other Torquay lads and find the 11.55pm, which would take us back to Northampton. I see from my letter home a few days later, that on arrival at Northampton we all called in at the Dover Hall YMCA for tea and sandwiches, before I set off on the long walk back to the barracks, arriving at 3.30am, just as it started raining. The others left it until the last minute and must have got rather wet. It was on January 9, 1946, that the end of my primary training came in sight, when a list of 'postings' was displayed, which told each of us where we were going for further specialist training. I was to go to the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) at Cirencester, where there was a school for clerks.
On Saturday I paid my final visit to Rugby, although the most interesting engine seen that day was at Northampton, probably running in on the ex-Midland Railway Line from Wellingborough with a loaded coal train. The engine was LMSR No 9536, one of the 175-strong class of Fowler 0-8-0s introduced in 1929, and not by all accounts a great success. Most were allocated to depots in the north-east.
Early on Wednesday, January 16, 1946, we were paraded ready to move and the three of us going to Cirencester had instructions to catch the 8.05am from Northampton (Castle) and the 1045am from Paddington to Kemble. The LMS train was 15 minutes late into Euston, but we still made it to Paddington with 10 minutes to spare, where the most interesting engine was Saint class 4-6-0 No 2908 Lady of Quality.