PETER GRAY: A departing express train could be explosive
YOU may ask, was it worth it, all that travelling, just for 14 hours at home, half of which would be spent sleeping?
Yes, it was, to sleep in a comfortable bed again was enough.
And I wasn't the only one to think so, as there were four other Torquay lads on the platform at Torre station that Sunday afternoon, all going back to Northampton.
We caught the 2.53pm from Torre, which was a through train to Paddington, and should have given us adequate time to get across the Euston for the 8.50pm, which was a semi-fast train to Birmingham via Northampton.
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However, for some reason, presumably because the GWR train was late into Paddington, we missed the 8.50pm and found the next train was not until 11.55pm — so we had three hours to kill in London.
But first a visit to the RTO (Railway Transport Office) would be necessary, to have our passes extended, since we were not now able to get back to the barracks by midnight.
That done, I was off down the Euston Road to King's Cross and St Pancras, to see what these termini had to offer, on a cold January evening.
King's Cross was not such a busy station then as it is today.
However, when an express train departed, it could be quite explosive.
There were tales of mammoth trains arriving into King's Cross during the war, with from 22 to 26 coaches behind the engine.
How they unloaded them I know not, because a good part of a train this length would still have been in the approach tunnel.
I never saw anything like that, but to watch, and there were usually a few watchers at King's Cross, and A4 and A3 Pacific departing on a heavy train, could be quite exciting.
After first whistling to the NS class 0-6-2T which had brought in he empty stock, and after uncoupling, was now ready to assist, the Pacific's driver gently opens the regulator just enough to get the train on the move.
Meanwhile, a volume of steam and smoke from the depths of the station shows the N2 is doing its bit.
But the Pacific has to do most of the work, and as its driver opens the regulator, everyone watching knows that unless he is very lucky, or extremely competent, at some point adhesion between the Pacific's driving wheels and the rail will be lost, resulting often in a massive slip, with steam, smoke and cinders lifted skywards, while the driving wheels become circles of sparks. Very entertaining, but not good for the engine.
The engines involved that evening were A3 class Pacific No 2554 Woodwinder and A4 class Pacific No 4903 Peregrine, a Grantham engine, ably assisted by N2 class 0-6-0Ts Nos 4765 and 4786.
These numbers may seem strange, but the LNER was about to embark on a much needed renumbering of its locomotive stock.