Our talk today was titled “Old Flames” given by Granville Dobson. Various suggestions were put forward by members ranging from old girlfriends to something to do with the Fire service. It was actually Granville’s take on his job as a fireman working on steam locomotives.
Granville started work in 1952 at Low Moor engine shed in Bradford as an engine cleaner, although a more apt title would have been “Jack of all Trades”. Cleaning and polishing the outside of the engines wasn’t too bad but the worst task was having to get inside the firebox to chip the clinker off the end of the boiler tubes. Of course the fire had been dropped and the engine had been left for a few days but it was still hot and dirty work. However Granville enjoyed the work, but for him the worst time was in the aftermath of the ASLEF strike. People who were best friends with mates who were in the NUR never spoke again because the NUR never called their members to strike. Granville was in ASLEF and he recalled an incident in the Blackpool Railway Club not long after the strike was over. He had fired an engine to Blackpool with an NUR man as driver. He was having a drink at the bar at the end of the journey and had to put up with other ASLEF men in the club openly calling his driver “Scab”.
However he still had several amusing tale to recall. Like the driver who had trouble with his false teeth, but managed to get a better fit by using some of the tools available to him in the engine cab only to find out when he got home he had picked up his wife’s teeth by mistake. And a colleague whose engine arrived at Bradford Exchange with excess boiler pressure. The safety vavles lifted and blew high pressure steam into the station roof, which promptly release years of accumulated soot onto a wedding party that had just stepped off the train.
At the end of the talk there were lots of questions from the many railway enthusiasts amongst our members. Many of course remembered the steam engines mentioned by Granville in his talk.