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TITLE
Jellicoes & Mine Trains During the War
EXTERNAL ID
PC_JOHN_MACKENZIE_B1
PERIOD
1940s
CREATOR
John Mackenzie
SOURCE
John Mackenzie
ASSET ID
29170
KEYWORDS
trains
steam trains
locomotives
Jellicoes & Mine Trains During the War

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 father's railway experiences during World War II. [The Jellicoes were priority troop trains which ran right up until the end of the war]

'During World War Two my father, on many occasions, drove the Jellicoe north from Inverness to Thurso and return, with an overnight stop in Wick. Presumably the locomotives (the train was double-headed) were serviced at Wick. He also drove the Jellicoe south to Perth and return, not always with a Jellicoe, but with a stop over at Perth.

Another of his wartime jobs was driving trains loaded with mines to Kyle of Lochalsh. I do not know whether the trains had been stored in the sidings at Fodderty or were taken straight from Inverness.

During the winter of 1940/41 or 1941/42, I cannot remember which, Dad set off for Thurso with, as he called it, a Troop Train. All was quite normal until after twenty four hours he didn't come home. Mother sent me to the Railway Station to find out what had happened to him and the only place that I thought of going was to the Steam Shed. Mind you, I was only ten or eleven years old at the time.

I remember being 'collared' by a man in a hat (now I would know him as an Inspector) who asked what I was doing in the shed. I explained that I was looking for news of my father Jack Mackenzie, who had left for Thurso and hadn't come home. I was taken into the office and told that Dad was stuck in a snowdrift, between Kinbrace and Forsinard, and that efforts were being made to free the train. I was also told that Dad was alright and that food was being dropped from aircraft to sustain those on the train. I often wonder when my Mother would have been told of what had happened, if I had not been sent to find out.

Well, Dad finally got home and his story was slightly different. I recall him going over the story many times when in the company of other ex railwaymen, like George Bannerman and 'Barney' Taylor, who were contemporaries of his on the footplate, and who also had lots of stories to tell. How I wish that I had invested in a tape recorder at the time. Opportunities lost! I will write this as I remember him telling the story.

The way he told it:-

'After leaving Inverness, (full load, single engine) all went well until we reached Strathsteven and ran into a blizzard. I said to my mate, 'We're for it tonight, when the snow is as heavy as it is here.' We were following another train and had to wait at Brora and at Golspie for the section ahead to clear. When we got to Helmsdale we had a longer wait but eventually got away.

A very hard pull to Kinbrace in terrible weather took a long, long time but we made it. Another wait, but then right away, but only for three miles or so. We came to a stop, footplate deep in blown snow in a cutting. There was nothing that we could do; we were well and truly stuck! There was nothing to do but wait for help.

Help did arrive in the shape of aeroplanes, which started to drop food for the people on the train. This was in the days before helicopters and the food was landing in the snow about two hundred yards from the train. People tried to reach the food, but as soon as they stepped on to the snow, they disappeared and couldn't get out of the cutting. The food, therefore, was of no use.

People on the train were soldiers, sailors and airmen and there were nurses and medical staff. Whoever was in military charge on the train decided to break open the emergency rations, which consisted of hard tack biscuits, oxo cubes and things like that. Hot water was taken from the boiler of the locomotive, put in enamel buckets, from the medical people on the train, passed over the tender and used to make hot oxo drinks!

Eventually locomotives arrived from Helmsdale and pulled the train from the snow block and back to Kinbrace and then to Helmsdale. We turned our engine and the inspector in charge of the rescue ordered us to set off back to Inverness with our train. I refused to go until the train crew had something to eat as we had been on duty for more than forty-eight hours. We had a meal in the Bridge Hotel in Helmsdale, charged it to 'The Company' and set off home.

That is the story as I remember it being told. I hope that you find it of interest.'

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Jellicoes & Mine Trains During the War

1940s

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 father's railway experiences during World War II. [The Jellicoes were priority troop trains which ran right up until the end of the war]<br /> <br /> 'During World War Two my father, on many occasions, drove the Jellicoe north from Inverness to Thurso and return, with an overnight stop in Wick. Presumably the locomotives (the train was double-headed) were serviced at Wick. He also drove the Jellicoe south to Perth and return, not always with a Jellicoe, but with a stop over at Perth.<br /> <br /> Another of his wartime jobs was driving trains loaded with mines to Kyle of Lochalsh. I do not know whether the trains had been stored in the sidings at Fodderty or were taken straight from Inverness.<br /> <br /> During the winter of 1940/41 or 1941/42, I cannot remember which, Dad set off for Thurso with, as he called it, a Troop Train. All was quite normal until after twenty four hours he didn't come home. Mother sent me to the Railway Station to find out what had happened to him and the only place that I thought of going was to the Steam Shed. Mind you, I was only ten or eleven years old at the time.<br /> <br /> I remember being 'collared' by a man in a hat (now I would know him as an Inspector) who asked what I was doing in the shed. I explained that I was looking for news of my father Jack Mackenzie, who had left for Thurso and hadn't come home. I was taken into the office and told that Dad was stuck in a snowdrift, between Kinbrace and Forsinard, and that efforts were being made to free the train. I was also told that Dad was alright and that food was being dropped from aircraft to sustain those on the train. I often wonder when my Mother would have been told of what had happened, if I had not been sent to find out.<br /> <br /> Well, Dad finally got home and his story was slightly different. I recall him going over the story many times when in the company of other ex railwaymen, like George Bannerman and 'Barney' Taylor, who were contemporaries of his on the footplate, and who also had lots of stories to tell. How I wish that I had invested in a tape recorder at the time. Opportunities lost! I will write this as I remember him telling the story.<br /> <br /> The way he told it:-<br /> <br /> 'After leaving Inverness, (full load, single engine) all went well until we reached Strathsteven and ran into a blizzard. I said to my mate, 'We're for it tonight, when the snow is as heavy as it is here.' We were following another train and had to wait at Brora and at Golspie for the section ahead to clear. When we got to Helmsdale we had a longer wait but eventually got away.<br /> <br /> A very hard pull to Kinbrace in terrible weather took a long, long time but we made it. Another wait, but then right away, but only for three miles or so. We came to a stop, footplate deep in blown snow in a cutting. There was nothing that we could do; we were well and truly stuck! There was nothing to do but wait for help.<br /> <br /> Help did arrive in the shape of aeroplanes, which started to drop food for the people on the train. This was in the days before helicopters and the food was landing in the snow about two hundred yards from the train. People tried to reach the food, but as soon as they stepped on to the snow, they disappeared and couldn't get out of the cutting. The food, therefore, was of no use. <br /> <br /> People on the train were soldiers, sailors and airmen and there were nurses and medical staff. Whoever was in military charge on the train decided to break open the emergency rations, which consisted of hard tack biscuits, oxo cubes and things like that. Hot water was taken from the boiler of the locomotive, put in enamel buckets, from the medical people on the train, passed over the tender and used to make hot oxo drinks!<br /> <br /> Eventually locomotives arrived from Helmsdale and pulled the train from the snow block and back to Kinbrace and then to Helmsdale. We turned our engine and the inspector in charge of the rescue ordered us to set off back to Inverness with our train. I refused to go until the train crew had something to eat as we had been on duty for more than forty-eight hours. We had a meal in the Bridge Hotel in Helmsdale, charged it to 'The Company' and set off home.<br /> <br /> That is the story as I remember it being told. I hope that you find it of interest.'