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    Retired P-Way Engineer.

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  1. Derailing tended to happen naturally without outside assistance when 4 wheel wagons were run over roughly packed track and on rails buried in ballast. Rerailing however we did do, if you still had a 360' machine on site you could lift the end of the wagon by putting the bucket under the end of the wagon or under a buffer. Slewing the wagon round until the wheel was above the rail then lowering it back into place. More usually it was the Cat and Dogfish hopper wagons that derailed after the machines had gone, in which case you would lift the wagon until the wheels were above the rails with a Duff Norton hand Jack under each axle box. You then got some men and pushed the wagon off the jacks in the direction of the rails. This was repeated until the wheels landed back on the rails where they belonged.
  2. On site the Engineering Departments staff would often uncouple odd wagons that needed to be shunted separately, usually with a loco that looked a lot like a JCB or tracked 360' excavator. I think this was a PW thing as I remember arriving on a bridge waterproofing job where I was putting the track back, only to be told that the train had gone to the local station and failed. I said to the member of the Works section technical staff who had been in charge of the middle shift while the water proofing was done. That I would go back to my van and eat my food as I would probably be rather busy once the train came back. On my way back to the van I walked out of the loom of the lights to water a lineside bush, and noticed something shining. Closer investigation revealed it to be the shanks of the buffers on the end wagon of the bottom stone train. It turned out that it was only the loco that had left site to save the poor train crew a walk and the loco had then failed at the local station. I called my works colleague over, put the rear wagons handbrake on and asked him to shine his torch on the couplings, to his amazement I then went under and uncoupled the wagon. I then called up a JCB and explained to its driver that I wanted him to move the wagon onto the bridge, pulling the wagon using his bucket buried in the ballast load, (That way the pull is distributed and you don't have the embarrassment of explaining why a wagon has no end) and that under no circumstance was he to remove the bucket until I told him to. I then went to the handbrake and released it, signalled the JCB to move the wagon and off we went with me holding the brake lever up, and with my works colleague looking on at a procedure that was clearly not in his experience. Once the wagon was in place I applied the hand brake and told the JCB driver to unload the wagon. Once the wagon was empty we pulled it clear of the job bucket resting on the wagon floor and reapplied the hand brake. I did this for about ten wagons, until the bridge was nicely reballasted, at which point a loco turned up to work the train. I did wonder if the guard would say anything about finding his train in ten sections, but he just coupled it up and off they went. But to my point of view the interesting fact was that the PW technical staff, and the Works technical staff despite working for the same boss on adjacent floors in the same office obviously had a totally different experience of what you could do with wagons on site.
  3. So many wet beds, particularly on the south end, I can remember there being a couple of cycles where they cut back on track renewals to save money. Then once the speed boards started popping up like mushrooms, it would be we don't care about the overtime bill work 8 days a week if you have to, but get it fixed. I heard a story at the time about the Crewe remodelling apparently some of the track went in high, and when this was discussed at a project meeting a very senior engineer said "Why not just send in a tamper to lower it?" There then followed a very deep silence, as everybody waited for someone else to tell the great man that tampers can only lift.
  4. One of the panel at my interview asked to be remembered to my father. I was a yes to said question. A driver I knew had first started on the railway at the end of the 1930's economic slump. Word had gone round the town that the local shed was taking on two lads as cleaners. On the appointed day there are about 200 lads queued up waiting for an interview, with each lad just getting a couple of minutes to make a good impression. Eventually it was my driver friends turn to see the Shed Master. "Are you Sammy's lad?" asks the great man (My driver friends father Sam having worked at the shed until his death a few years before.) On saying that yes he was, he was told to go to the office and get a ticket to go for his medical, and the process of choosing the second applicant from the other 199 continued.
  5. I used to work near Milton Keynes Central Station and back then Milton Keynes was really good for wildlife (It may still be so). I remember that as I walked up the path towards the shopping centre from of the station in the morning before the rush hour got started, to get to my office there were rats everywhere.
  6. Is the overtaking facility much used though? May just be a function of when I have been there but the old DF platform seems not to get a lot of use. Could perhaps just some expresses that 'connect' with East - West services stop at Bletchley instead. As once HS2 is up and running we are supposed to be getting more but slightly slower trains with more stops anyway. Surely to get anywhere in Milton Keynes you end up taking a roundabout route anyway.
  7. How about stopping the expresses at Bletchley like they used to, A rear access to the station would provide convenient access to the bus station, and the new East - West platforms. The railway could probably also get some sort of urban improvement grant to pay for the bulldozing of Bletchley high street, which would then create space for parking. The problem of shuttling to and from Milton Keynes Central Station then goes away.
  8. Not sure a Bedford to Milton Keynes service would ever be a runner, as if it is going to reverse at Bletchley you might as well time it to be a good connection and have people change trains. Also is there going to be enough traffic to justify two lines, (or even one)? Could you merge the two flyover lines into one at Denbigh Hall South, do away with the current Denbigh Hall South Junction which is not really in a good place alignment wise, and replace it with a simple cross over Milton Keynes Single to Up Slow just south of Denbigh Hall North Junction so you could then use the existing Up Slow Dn Slow crossover to access the Dn Slow. With the single line continuing to a platform at Milton Keynes as a dead end line. Only making the new line single would save a lot of money on bridges, and halve the amount of digging needed to widen Denbigh Hall Cutting which is deep and given the retaining wall on the up side probably through poor ground, so would need either a new retaining wall or a low angle of batter and hence more land take and digging. Denbigh Hall South to Milton Keynes Central Station is almost exactly two miles.
  9. I am sure I have seen drawings that refer to the bay platform at the south end of Milton Keynes Station as the Bedford Bay. Compared with that running trains from Aylesbury and Oxford is a positively genius idea.
  10. Would be a big waste of a WCML path to just use it between Denbigh Hall South and Milton Keynes. Long term it might save money to free the path for longer distance use by putting in a fifth track from Denbigh Hall south to Milton Keynes. But you would need a lot of Aylesbury - Milton Keynes traffic to make it worth doing, as opposed to making the service change at Bletchley.
  11. My Great, Great Grandfather centre surrounded by his sons in their railway uniforms. Five generations later I retired from an office a couple of miles away from the farm where he grew up. Us LNWR types don't seem to feel the need to move around looking for greener grass in quite the same way the employees of lesser railways do. The nearest I came to meeting a Great Name was at a PWI meeting where the speaker had as a young boy been taken to see an old gaffer living in the Ealing railway village who as a young man had once offered to make IK Brunel a coffee, and apparently been told where to stick it.
  12. He had probably been working more than seven days a week since the day he joined the railway. So his hobby was probably track work. His social life was probably discussing track with his friends. His friends were his work colleagues as they were the only people he ever met. Wife complains about him talking about track in his sleep, guess what he dreams about. (Probably one of those weird surreal dreams where the S&T staff get out of their van emerge blinking into the light and offer to help.) So what point retiring when work is your life, poor chap probably had nothing left to live for?
  13. Also seemed to apply to PW Supervisors into the 1980's running up and down embankments at 64, dead by 66. The P Way also seem to suffer from dodgy knees, to the extent that the condition has acquired the name of ballast knee. Think how your legs feel after a day on a shingle beach then try it for nearly 50 years.
  14. Dehydrated Steam Loco crews I wonder if they have a few vans full of them somewhere behind the strategic reserve steam engines in the Box Hill tunnels?
  15. Just a thought but if you were to put a hydrogen powered train into service and were stupid enough to ask the British public to name it. Is it almost certain that the winning name would be Hindenburg?
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