Q for a story [in this hot weather]

Not open for further replies.


"Come on son, get up". It's the old man bringing me a cup of tea just before he goes out to work. It's 5:30 A.M. and the sun is streaming through the window. Birds are singing in the garden and all seems right with the world. "OK Dad" is the weary reply. He's already got his uniform and cap on as he too is a motorman. "Right, now don't go back to sleep and I'll see you later" Off he goes and I hear the front door close softly so as not to wake Mum and the other boys up. "Sodding early turn again, ugh" is the thought that goes through my mind. Have drink of the tea that Dad brought and drag the frame out of the pit. Into the bathroom refreshed a bit by the "char" have a wash, clean the teeth (I had some then) and back to my room to dress in my sartorial elegance of LT uniform with yellow piping except for the overcoat.Then quietly down stairs to the kitchen and say good morning to the dog who wants to go out in the garden again. He's already been out once but I let him out again and he heads straight for next doors fence to watch his pigeons coming and going. Good job he can't get at them otherwise next door would have no pigeons! I resume what I was doing by having an electric shave (don't do that upstairs so as not to wake Mum) Having done that I let the dog back in and do my sandwiches for the day and, a nice bit of cheese and pickle with some biscuits thrown in for good measure.I wrap the lot in a "Wonderloaf" wrapper (waxed paper, no cling film in those days) Make sure I have enough tea in the container and sugar too. Fill up the milk bottle (an old medicine one) Look at the clock and on with the coat. Pack the shoulder bag with the stuff and out the door. It's now around 6:15. Walk to the bus stop and wait around 4 minutes and see it hove into sight. As it pulls up the driver gives me a nod. Climb on baord and say good morning to Dot who has been the conductress on the bus all week. Natter to her in between her dishing out tickets and she says she's glad that her two rest days start tomorrow as it's been a hectic week. After about 5 minutes we get to the shops and with a "tattar Dot " I drop off and cross the road to the station. Entering the booking hall I nod to the booking clerk and say howdo to the ticket collector which is returned. Going down to the platform I pass the station foreman coming up who tells me that there is "one on the board" and when I get down the is indeed a train on the indicator. On the platform is another motorman Fred Maynard (names are ficticious) who is jawing to the lady in the sweet kiosk. Say good morning to both and listen to the comments about the nice weather. Train arrives and me and Fred get in. Have smoke and I ask Fred what turn he is doing today and he tells me "7 o'clock spare" then pass the time till we get to the terminus. Get out and have a crack with the "foreign" crew that brought the train down then up to the booking on point. "Book me on and give me the money" says Fred to the Yardmaster "I'll book you on and I'll give you a job" came the reply. This elicits a "b***ocks" from Fred. The yardmaster then turns to me and says "don't go down the yard this morning there's no OK stock for your train" This bucks me up. "Make set 121 into yours when it gets here" That brings me down again. Look around and see my guard peering intently at the duty roster "What are you looking for" say's nosey me. "I was wondering if Andy Mason was on the sheet" says he. Fred immediately comes out with "What do you think he is, a w*nk stain?" Much lewd laughter all round. Say to the guard "You pop down and make a can of tea and I'll go and find out where 121 is." So up to the signal cabin for a word with the signalman "Not on the board yet" says he so we talk about nothing in particular. The guard appears with the tea can and joins the conversation. After about 5 minutes a train drops onto the signal diagram. "That's yours" says the Bobby "I'll put him in 5 so you won't have walk too far knowing how you drivers hate walking" he adds He gets called a name and we stroll down to the platform to await it's arrival. Whilst waiting we divide up the brew between us and I give him half of the biscuits and in runs 121. The crew are pleased at the reformation as it means they can catch a "fast" (LTS) train to Barking and have a bit longer meal relief. So while the guard changes the set number and destination at the back I toddle off to the front of the train climb in via the passenger doors and go in the cab via "J" door. Put my kit and handset on the floor and proceed to get ready.

Now is a good time to describe the cab of a "Q" stock. First let me say it is "bare bones" to begin with as all the walls are green painted metal in a single sheet of about a quarter inch thickness. Consquently you can hear every word said by the punters and they likewise can hear all your mutterings and expletives. So having arrived in the cab I turn on the control switch next to the master controller and stoop down to open the DBVIC and charge up the train line air. When I hear the click of the control governor coming in I make a small application of the EP brake to prevent rolling and go over the other side of the cab and change the set number and destination plates to the proper ones. (116 Richmond) Now the equipment in the cab is basic and as follows. Immediately in front of the drivers seat is the master controller. This is exactly the same as the one on the "1938ts" stock except it is brass and not chrome and rather battered too. It is also 630v and not 50v. Next to that on the left is the brake handle. This is different to later stocks in that it has no self-lapping mechanism. It's positions are, Off release and charge, Holding, application, Lap, Westinghouse application, and emergency. This is known as the "A" type EP brake and is much preferred to the later types. Above the brake handle (althought not necessarily in the order given) are these items of equipment. Two normal looking domestic light switches. The domes being made of bakelite but sometimes brass. These are the door cut out switches. "Near doors" and "End doors" are the labels. The need for these switches is because the platforms in the city are not long enough for an 8 car train so the instruction was that you cut out the "Near doors" switch on leaving Tower Hill and cut it in again on leaving Gloucester Road. In addition to this you also had to cut out the "End doors" switch at Cannon Street and Gloucester Road as they were very tight indeed. The guard had to cut out there rear doors between Tower Hill and Gloucester Road as well so that gives you an idea how tight they were. As an aside for a moment that is also the reason for station starting signals being in advance of the platforms by about a cars length and on the deck too. If they had been put at the bottom of the platform ramp you would not have been able to see them with an 8 car train so they were put where they are so that you could. At Cannon Street and Gloucester Road however the Starte WAS at the bottom of the ramp and to see if it were clear you had to open the cab window and peer straight down at it. At Cannon Street was the added bother of it being on the offside so you had to cross the cab to see if it were clear. Now back to the cab. Above the door cut-out switches was flattish black circuit breaker. This was a 630v "trip/set" thing that denied current to the motors if it were tripped. It was also very useful for lighting a f*g if you'de run out of matches but that was a dodgy practice of which more another time. Above the circuit breaker was the compressor control switch in a wooden box. On a Q stock only one switch at a time should be on as all the compressors were synchronised and the pump with lowest set compressor governor would switch them all on when it cut in. Thus it was important to switch off the compressor switch in the cab you were vacating and switch on the one in the cab you went to next. Above the compressor switch was the train "loudaphone" which doubled as the microphone for the "Drico" equipment, again more about that another time. Above the phone were two more light switches. The cab light and the marker lights. These also looked like an old fashioned domestic light switch but sometime the cab light switch had a larger fatter toggle on it so you could find it in the dark. At the very top of this array was the "Drico" equipment itself" Under the control switch was the "10 point" switch. This was used to isolate the motors of the car you were on in emergency.

On the offside of the cab in the front corner was a large metal thing with a fold up wooden handle. This was the "short circuiting device" (SCD) This was put across the current rails after it was discharged to prevent re-charging in emergency. It was NEVER EVER used to actually discharge traction current. You had to do that by pinching the tunnel telephone wires together or the headwall telephone to the substation controller. Next to that under the offside cab windscreen was the destination plate box with underneath it the marker light cabinet. There were 4 markers lights in there of a series of 5 the fifth light being the cab light. Now these light were wired in series at 630v. That means that each bulb was a 125v DC one thus the whole set took 630v or thereabouts. If one in the series went out they ALL went out. So if a marker light bulb blew you lost not only those lights but the cab light as well. When that happened you had to hang your handlamp on the front as an emergency headlight. This was so that you did not try to change a bulb in the dark as if you had forgotten to turn the switches off you could get a nasty belt up the arm from the bulb holders if you touched them. This could even be fatal. There were no individual switches on the marker lights themselves. To show the correct headcode there were little sliding doors to cover whichever little window was not needed. The only code that showed all lights was Barking. Above the offside windscreen was the train bell and the retardation controllers. Now these retarders as they were known were mounted in a "fore & aft" glass covered metal box. In the box were two circular glass tubes which contained mercury and three electrical contacts. The lowest and first contact was always covered by the mercury. As you applied the the brake the retardation of the train caused the mercury to run up the tube and make with the second contact. This caused the the application valve on the brake cylinder to close and prevent any more air from entering whilst maintaining whatever air was already in there. If the retardation was still too severe the mercury ran further up the tube and made with the third contact. That would open the "Blow down" valves on the brake cylinders and lower the brake cylinder pressure to 35lb a sq inch at which pressure they would close again. This gear was installed to try to prevent "flatted" wheels but we still got 'em nonetheless. On the back cab wall which separated the cab from the passengers there were 3 cabinets. The one on the offside had the emergency trainmans keys, the detonators and shoe straps in it. Above "J" cab door was a shelf on which the shoe paddles and coupling pole were stored. This shelf was generally filthy dirty with dust and required a good stretch to reach onto it. In fact some of the shorter drivers had to stand on the driving seat to do so. On the nearside back wall above the drivers head at about 6/half feet was the "Notching relay" cabinet. These relays were what controlled the accelaration of the train. Now an electric motor when it turns not only takes current it also GENERATES a current. This generated current is called back "electromotive force" (back EMF) The back EMF is what caused the relays to "step" and so accellerate the train. When the master controller was off both relays were down but when you wound up the left one was lifted by magnetism which was the firrst "step". When the back EMF current reached 240 amps this relay then dropped and the other became magnetised and raised so reaching the second step. Now each step meant a row of resistances in the bank was cut out allowing more current to reach the motors so they turned faster. As they turned faster the back EMF built up until it again reached 240 amps and the next step was initiated. This went on until all the resistances were cut out and the motors were getting full line voltage. Now if you watched these relays operating through the glass the would step alternately. The left one first with a loud "tick" until 240 amps was reached when it would drop and then the right one right one would raise with a loud "tock" and so until all the notches had been passed through. As you saw these relays going up and down they looked rather like two marrionettes on strings bobbing up and down so they got the nickname "Dancing Dollies" So as you gained speed you got TICK....TOCK...TICK as each step was gone through. The time between each step was between 3 and 5 seconds. Under the notching relay cabinet was the third cabinet which contained 630v fuses for the various drivers circuits..

Now we've booked on. Re-formed a train had a drop of tea and a biccy. I'm sitting in the cab observing a gentle shimmer in the air from the track bed. It's going to be hot today. As I ruminate whilst waiting I can hear a cat mewing somewhere and the clumping of people coming down the stairs to board our train. There's a beautiful smell of Honeysuckle wafting in from somewhere and I can see a little bird hopping about the track looking for his breakfast. The idyll is suddenly shattered by the diesel in the adjacent platform starting up and roaring away on his little shuttle to Romford. It's 7:17 a.m. and God is smiling on us all.

Then with a gentle "pssss" the trainstop lowers and we get the green for the off. I release the brakes and the "chauuugh" sound it makes alerts the guard and we get the rattle of the doors closing. As they close I depress the controller hand and feel it "latch". As I do so the starting bell goes "click" to give us the away. The bell on a Q never actually "rang" it was always "click" or "tonk" as it was battery powered. The batteries by the way were under the first offside transverse seat in the passenger saloon on the other side of the bulkhead. They were two 48v bus batteries which were charged by a trickle charger from the train busline. Only one was in use at a time the other being on charge. Changover between the two was automatic. The guard also had a separate set at his end of the car.

So now the bell has "rung" we wind up and the symphony (or cacophony) immediately starts. TICK....TOCK....TICK the notching relay does it's impression of a clock. At about the third notch a "pobbling" kind of noise starts up in the front offside corner. That is the SCD doing it's performance and banging against the wall. Not to be outdone the set numbers begin to rattle in their holders. That is joined by the destination plates clattering in the box. A couple more notches and the cab door windows start to chatter to you as well. These are of the drop down type with a leather strap that had holes in for adjustment purposes. On a Q they would drop right down into the bottom of the door and give you a nice armrest whilst driving. As today is warm I have them both fully lowered and a pleasant breeze starts to come through the cab. Then I can hear a "chunk, chunk" as my shoulder bag starts to swing about as it is hanging on the handbrake wheel on the offside. Then suddenly "PLOCK" as the compressor switch cuts in and the orchestra is joined by the "dum..dum..dum" of the pumps charging up the main line air. Then just as suddenly "PLOCK" again as it cuts out. Now I can hear the bass section of the ensemble starting up. That is the sheet metal of the walls drumming as the motion increases. Added to that the motors now begin to sing their low grumbles with the tone slowly rising. Finally the woodwind section of the symphony starts up. This being the whistle of draughts coming in all over the place. Pleasant in the summer but hell in the winter. Sometimes all this was joined by the "clonk, clonk" of a bouncing coupler too.

Now we are chuntering along in top notch and we can hear the nattering in the car behind us. The first station is approaching and as we shut off we get a nice "TACK" as the notching relays drop out. As I apply the brake the lovely "hiss" of cast iron brake blocks on steel wheels comes up from below. That is accompanied by that wonderful hot metal smell. Just as we stop there is a loud noise kind of like someone trying to wreck the gearbox of a motor car. That is the brake blocks juddering on the wheels and is the final act of our orchestra before it starts all over again.

So the whole trip pass's in that fashion and as we run into Stamford Brook westbound I see Pop's train standing in the platform on the east. He spots me and gives his customary lean forward and half bow with a big grin to go with it (Dad never waved) We'll see each other again in Earls Court canteen whilst on meal relief.

So there lads is the tale of the start of one day in the sixties. They were such happy days.
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in

RailUK Forums


Established Member
13 Jun 2005
Another excellent read. Perhaps a website for these story compilations? :)
Not open for further replies.