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TITLE
My First Trip on the Footplate, by John Mackenzie
EXTERNAL ID
PC_JOHN_MACKENZIE_B
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
John Mackenzie
SOURCE
John Mackenzie
ASSET ID
29169
KEYWORDS
trains
steam trains
locomotives
My First Trip on the Footplate, by John Mackenzie

This photograph is of John Mackenzie seated on the rocks at Sandside Bay, near Reay, in northern Caithness. In the text below, John recalls his first experience of riding on the footplate over the Slochd.

'In the late 1940s I was an apprentice plumber with a firm in Inverness and about 1947/48 was sent, along with two journeymen, to work on the construction of houses in what is now Cairngorm Avenue in Aviemore.

At that time there were no vans to transport us the thirty five miles or so to and from the job, as would be the case today and so we had to stay in 'digs'. We travelled home to Inverness on a Saturday afternoon, by train and back to Aviemore on Monday by the 8.20 am train from Inverness.

The 'digs' was a biggish house in the middle of Railway Terrace, Aviemore, named Ben-y-Gloe where we stayed with a Mr & Mrs Duff. Bill Duff was a passed fireman. The couple and their family later emigrated to Canada, to Labrador, I think. The house was, I believe, meant for an Inspector grade as the P. Way Inspector lived in an almost identical house at the north end of the terrace.

Living in Bill's house and getting to know local railwaymen through him, got me easy access to the steam shed and many happy times were spent there after a day's work on the building site. Some of the people I got to know at that time, mainly loco men, were 'The Miner' MacLennan a driver, his son, 'Tender' MacLennan a fireman, Jock Dallas, a driver, his son Jackie Dallas, a signalman, and 'The Nigger' J. Ross (a term frowned upon today, but was his nickname), the man who had been fireman on the loco involved in the Baddengorm bridge collapse accident. Characters all, and there were many more.

On a Saturday it became the custom to walk along through the sidings to the station to catch the train home, either the local, which started at Kingussie (known as 'The Johnson'), or the express which followed later. On one particular Saturday there was a train of 'Loco' coal standing in the sidings, waiting for the road and on the footplate was my Dad. I climbed up onto the Black 5 to have a yarn and before I realised the time, both the local and the express had passed. No way home, and I had a date that night!

Dad came to the rescue, told me to stay where I was, put my bag in the tender locker and said that I could travel with him! So began my first trip on the footplate of a Black 5 and my education in the method of driving a heavy, loose coupled goods train.

We got a pilot, in the shape of a 'Caley Benny' 4-4-0, and set off for Inverness and the first stop was at Slochd to drop off the pilot. There had not been a problem on the climb to the summit, but it was a different feeling, being pushed downhill by the unbraked train behind us, especially as we had to stop at Tomatin to cross a southbound train. Getting away from Tomatin, we ran to a place just to the south of Daviot, beside a small loch and on almost level track, and here half, or maybe more, of the wagon brakes were pinned down for the long descent to Inverness. At this point it started to rain and this was to make braking more difficult, because the rails were now slippery. It was quite a pull for the loco until we reached the start of the drop down through Daviot and then it was a case of brakes pretty hard on till just before the Culloden viaduct and the short, but steep climb through Culloden Station.

The slow descent from Culloden to Inverness I remember, because of the sparks coming off the engine's brake blocks. The train was dropped in the yard at Millburn and we made our way to the shed for engine disposal. When under the coal hopper Dad gave me his railway issue raincoat and instructions to walk right through the shed and out to Millburn Road. As I was about to leave the footplate, he stopped me, told me to hang on, and then indicated that I climb down on the driver's side of the cab. I climbed down while an Inspector climbed up on the other side!

So ended an exciting Saturday afternoon.'

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My First Trip on the Footplate, by John Mackenzie

2000s

trains; steam trains; locomotives;

John Mackenzie

This photograph is of John Mackenzie seated on the rocks at Sandside Bay, near Reay, in northern Caithness. In the text below, John recalls his first experience of riding on the footplate over the Slochd.<br /> <br /> 'In the late 1940s I was an apprentice plumber with a firm in Inverness and about 1947/48 was sent, along with two journeymen, to work on the construction of houses in what is now Cairngorm Avenue in Aviemore.<br /> <br /> At that time there were no vans to transport us the thirty five miles or so to and from the job, as would be the case today and so we had to stay in 'digs'. We travelled home to Inverness on a Saturday afternoon, by train and back to Aviemore on Monday by the 8.20 am train from Inverness.<br /> <br /> The 'digs' was a biggish house in the middle of Railway Terrace, Aviemore, named Ben-y-Gloe where we stayed with a Mr & Mrs Duff. Bill Duff was a passed fireman. The couple and their family later emigrated to Canada, to Labrador, I think. The house was, I believe, meant for an Inspector grade as the P. Way Inspector lived in an almost identical house at the north end of the terrace.<br /> <br /> Living in Bill's house and getting to know local railwaymen through him, got me easy access to the steam shed and many happy times were spent there after a day's work on the building site. Some of the people I got to know at that time, mainly loco men, were 'The Miner' MacLennan a driver, his son, 'Tender' MacLennan a fireman, Jock Dallas, a driver, his son Jackie Dallas, a signalman, and 'The Nigger' J. Ross (a term frowned upon today, but was his nickname), the man who had been fireman on the loco involved in the Baddengorm bridge collapse accident. Characters all, and there were many more.<br /> <br /> On a Saturday it became the custom to walk along through the sidings to the station to catch the train home, either the local, which started at Kingussie (known as 'The Johnson'), or the express which followed later. On one particular Saturday there was a train of 'Loco' coal standing in the sidings, waiting for the road and on the footplate was my Dad. I climbed up onto the Black 5 to have a yarn and before I realised the time, both the local and the express had passed. No way home, and I had a date that night!<br /> <br /> Dad came to the rescue, told me to stay where I was, put my bag in the tender locker and said that I could travel with him! So began my first trip on the footplate of a Black 5 and my education in the method of driving a heavy, loose coupled goods train.<br /> <br /> We got a pilot, in the shape of a 'Caley Benny' 4-4-0, and set off for Inverness and the first stop was at Slochd to drop off the pilot. There had not been a problem on the climb to the summit, but it was a different feeling, being pushed downhill by the unbraked train behind us, especially as we had to stop at Tomatin to cross a southbound train. Getting away from Tomatin, we ran to a place just to the south of Daviot, beside a small loch and on almost level track, and here half, or maybe more, of the wagon brakes were pinned down for the long descent to Inverness. At this point it started to rain and this was to make braking more difficult, because the rails were now slippery. It was quite a pull for the loco until we reached the start of the drop down through Daviot and then it was a case of brakes pretty hard on till just before the Culloden viaduct and the short, but steep climb through Culloden Station.<br /> <br /> The slow descent from Culloden to Inverness I remember, because of the sparks coming off the engine's brake blocks. The train was dropped in the yard at Millburn and we made our way to the shed for engine disposal. When under the coal hopper Dad gave me his railway issue raincoat and instructions to walk right through the shed and out to Millburn Road. As I was about to leave the footplate, he stopped me, told me to hang on, and then indicated that I climb down on the driver's side of the cab. I climbed down while an Inspector climbed up on the other side!<br /> <br /> So ended an exciting Saturday afternoon.'