If you haven’t already, please read my previous The Extra Hour posts first
“Hold it! Stay where you are” yelled a voice from the embankment. A figure moved forward into the light from the loco – he was carrying some sort of gun. Another man joined him, also armed – Berrow could clearly see he was wearing battledress. “What the…“ “Quiet please Sir” the closest man said. Then, taking charge he ordered the other man to stand guard. “You – back in the cab” he ordered Simms and then climbed up behind him into the lights.
Berrow noted the uniform had Sergeant’s stripes and that the gun was a machine pistol of some sort – “You robbing the train? – I doubt there’s much to take!” he said. “No, we’re not robbing and that’s all you need to know”. “Look… Sergeant, we have to protect the train otherwise there could be an accident!” The Sergeant looked at Berrow and then glanced at Simms – “You don’t have to worry – Signal box in front and the one behind are aware of where you are – they have visitors of their own to keep them informed.” “Now, we’re going to be here for around 20 minutes or so. Are there any trains due on the other line?” Berrow checked his watch… “I’d expect the Manchester parcels in around 10 minutes it she’s running to time” “Right, well that’s ok – They’ll just think you’ve had a failure which, by the way, you have!”
Berrow looked confused – “There’s nothing wrong with this engine or the train!” “Maybe not” said the man in the battledress “But I think a failure story would be a good explanation when you get to Carlisle – it’s what the signalmen will be reporting in their logs.” Berrow noticed that there were no regimental insignia on the battledress – “You’re not really a Sergeant are you?” he asked. “No I’m not and if anyone ever asks I wasn’t here either – now stop asking awkward questions… Haven’t you got a rule book to read or something?”
The trio remained in silence in the cab as the minutes ticked by. The southbound parcels appeared on the horizon about 2 minutes late and flashed past to be lost forever behind Mauretania and her stationary train. Their personal reveries were disturbed by the man outside – “Sir, the car has just arrived… 5 minutes to go and the package will be aboard.” “Noted.” Was all the Sergeant had to say. The wait continued.
“What’s my Guard doing?” Berrow asked… “A bit late with that one Driver” replied the Sergeant – “He’s fine and in the same situation as you.” “Not long now.” He added. Another five minutes or so of silence and then the soldier below called up – “Package on Board – are we clear to go Sir?” A glance round the cab and then “Yes, back out slowly to rendezvous – I have some business to finish here.”
With the squadie gone the Sergeant turned to the enginemen – “Right, Driver – your story is that the locomotive failed here and that you fixed it. I don’t care how you fake that but you need to get it done. The signalmen will corroborate the failure story. Now I need you to get this train to Carlisle so that your relief’s can take it through to Glasgow close to time. Is that understood?” “Yes” said Berrow… “But what was this all about?” “That is a matter of national security and the official secrets act. It’s need to know and you don’t need… is all you need to know!” “Best kept under wraps eh! Driver?” “Now get your train moving and you’ll not see me again” he said and stepped down from the cab.
The final part to conclude in the next post…