Hardy En­gines

The ‘Bri­tan­nias’ may have been mas­ters of their craft, but their in­tro­duc­tion to the South­ern and Great Eastern wasn’t all plain sail­ing. This is the late DICK HARDY’S ac­count of how Ste­warts Lane and Strat­ford over­came the glitches.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

When the ‘Bri­tan­nias’ ar­rived new in 1951, I was shed­mas­ter at Ip­swich, where I had been from April 1950. I knew per­fectly well that we would lose some of our best work as the ‘Brits’ would be con­cen­trated at Strat­ford and Nor­wich, whereas we had en­joyed a third of the crack jobs with the other two sheds. The op­er­at­ing peo­ple, along with our great chief Mr L.P. Parker, had fought the pow­er­ful Rail­way Ex­ec­u­tive at Maryle­bone for a share of the ‘7MTs’, hav­ing al­ready pro­duced the new timetable they in­tended to in­tro­duce, along with the en­gine and men’s work­ings which in­cluded, as far as Nor­wich (or Lon­don) work was con­cerned, about 460 miles a day for the en­gine over a far-from-easy road via Ip­swich. As for Ip­swich shed, it was es­sen­tial to get some bet­ter work for our ‘B1s’. My friends in the Cen­tral Tim­ing and Di­a­gram­ming sec­tion came to the res­cue and we gained a larger pro­por­tion of the Yar­mouth work, in­clud­ing the ‘Easter­ling’ Down and Up from Liver­pool Street worked by our men with their own nom­i­nated ‘B1s’. De­spite the age of the old Ip­swich shed, where coal­ing was done by hand, we had much to be thank­ful for as we had a full com­ple­ment of staff in all grades. We had the best fit­ters and boil­er­mak­ers you could ever wish for and the en­gine­men, in the ‘B1’ and ‘B12’ links, had their own en­gines. What a dif­fer­ence that made and how much pride in the job it cre­ated. I went round to Ip­swich sta­tion on the first day that No. 70000 Bri­tan­nia came down with the ‘Nor­folk­man’, with Driver Bill Red­head and Chief In­spec­tor Len Theobald in charge, and very happy about the way things were go­ing. A cou­ple of days later Mr Theobald ac­com­pa­nied E.S. Cox, who was re­spon­si­ble for the de­sign of the ‘Bri­tan­nias’, to Ip­swich where they left No. 70000, had some lunch and waited on the Up platform for the light en­gine for the 2.15pm Lon­don ser­vice to come through Stoke tun­nel. Nor­mally the en­gine would have worked through from Yar­mouth and changed crew at the sta­tion, but in view of our vis­i­tor we turned out the booked en­gine from the shed, ‘B12’ No. 61535 with its own men and a cab that shone like a jeweller’s shop. She was in per­fect or­der and so were Jim Calver and Ed­die Simp­son on their own ‘Old ’35’, and they gave their vis­i­tor a jour­ney as near-per­fect in ev­ery de­tail as ever could be, as was the fi­nal run up to the buffer­stops in si­lence with the lever at about 15% cut-off and with L.P. Parker stand­ing there, no noise com­ing from the mo­tion, no tin­kling snift­ing valve – a per­fect demon­stra­tion of en­gine­man­ship and en­gine main­te­nance. That was the day that we showed Mr Cox, to us a mere ‘Mid­land’ im­port, a thing or two, and he was kind enough to write me a per­sonal let­ter of grat­i­tude, which I have al­ways trea­sured.


On Jan­uary 20 1993, ‘7MT’ pi­o­neer No. 70000 Bri­tan­nia was dressed up as ‘Golden Ar­row’ celebrity No. 70004 Wil­liam Shake­speare. Later that day, one of the name­plates was ex­changed for one read­ing ‘Richard Hardy’, to mark his re­tire­ment from the Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion.

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