The Extra Hour

The stationmaster checked his watch before glancing at the driver leaning an elbow on the sill of the cab window – “Will you be able to keep time tonight John?” “We ought to have a Brush on this run but I reckon thissun’s a good one” replied driver Berrow with a quick glance to his secondman seated on the far side of the cab. “Anyway,” he continued, “We’ve got an extra 60 minutes of recovery time tonight with the clocks going back.”

The ‘Glasgow Parcels’ had arrived at Crewe early from Rugby behind one of the new AC electrics which had promptly uncoupled, her driver probably looking forward to a quick return to the shed and clocking off early for a change. With the electric gone, Berrow had drifted his English Electric diesel in along the platform road, passing two men in raincoats at the end of the platform. Spotters, he thought, out for an all-nighter at Crewe and good luck to them too. He thought one had said something like “She’s a Cunarder”. Quite right too – D211 Mauretania, named after the winner of the Blue Riband for the Transatlantic crossing. He had gently patted the power handle at that thought before refocussing on judging his braking to make the calmly controlled collision with the buffers of the leading van that allowed the coupler to do his job at the first attempt.

“Might see you tomorrow then John.” Said the stationmaster, scratching his beard as he turned away to walk back down the platform. “Not if I see you first” affirmed Berrow and he turned to grin at Simms in the secondman’s seat.

The red signal glowered… “When are we due away” asked Berrow – a test for his young secondman. “5-Past” replied Simms, “But the bobby’s leaving it a bit late” – he added and glanced at his watch. “I’ll bet he’s letting a freight cross us from the Chester lines.” “A good guess Marc, and here she comes now”… They watched a pair of Derby type 2’s rattle slowly across the points ahead, the ‘bucket of bolts’ sound of their Sulzer engines briefly interrupting the whistling warble of the type 4 as they passed along the centre through road… “Why’s he done that, delaying an express?” asked Simms. “Perverse people are signalmen, now we’ll be a couple of minutes down before we even get rolling – we might need those extra minutes tonight!”

The signal flickered to green, reflecting brightly off the rails. “That’s us” said Berrow and looked back along his train. The guard waved his hand lamp and a whistle blew from one of the station staff – Berrow checked back in front and the RA was lit. Time to go. Brakes released, he eased on the power and Mauretania inched forwards. A gentle acceleration into the dark beyond the spotters and the platform lights before coasting over the points at the station throat, watching the speed carefully. Then, with Crewe falling behind them it was time to wake up the neighbours and crack on some speed to make up the lost minutes…

Part 2 to follow…


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