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Some Unusual Engine Failures

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March 2002
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Tony Robinson

This article is taken from ‘MORE REFLECTIONS ON A RAILWAY CAREER’ an unpublished manuscript by the late J.M. Dunn M.I.Loco.E

At the end of June 1919 I was sent to Watford relieving and as this was a noted place for engine failures on the main line I hoped to goodness I would have a clean week. I had a pretty good time which included some footplate trips to St. Albans and Rickmansworth and was congratulating myself on the evening of Friday 4 th July when the telephone bell rang and a message came through that the engine of the Down Boat Train had ’dropped its guts’ at Bushey. I could not find out what sort of engine it was or what had happened to it, so I got a cleaner to come along with me, grabbed all the most likely tools and plenty of rope and made a mad rush to the station where an engine was waiting for us. I have vivid recollections of pushing my way along thee crowded platform trailing rope and dropping tools as I went and I hope that nothing fell on anyone’s toes! Move to the photographs page

When we got to Bushey we found Claughton No.2042 had broken the left hand union link of the Walschaerts gear and I was very pleased that there was no need for me to go underneath as the engine was standing on the troughs which. of course, were full of water. The broken - or detached link had swung round and smashed the outside back cylinder cover. That was all that had happened and I was rather surprised that the driver had stopped where he did because he could


have kept going until he got to the next suitable place, in this case Watford. Most, LNWR drivers used to reckon to wait for the second bang when anything went before stopping! That reminds me of another occurrence very many years later which was told me by one of the Derby people who carried out the investigation but I must finish with No.2042 first. We had the engine that had brought us from Watford, an 18in goods, crossed over to the Down main line, hooked-on to the crippled engine and its train all of which it took to Watford to which place a more suitable engine had been sent from Willesden on the slow line to work the train forward. There had been a delay of 56 minutes which in the circumstances was not all that bad. This was the first engine failure I had to deal with on my own.

This is the Derby man’s tale which I believe to be quite true. He said that one day when the ganger was patrolling his length on the Madeley bank, just south of Crewe, he was amazed to find two connecting rods lying in the four-foot of the Up fast line. He at once went to the nearest signal box to report his discovery but no one knew of any mishap. No explanation was forthcoming until about three or four hours later when the examining fitter at Camden found one of the 4-6-2 Pacifies with the two inside connecting rods missing. The engine had run from Madeley to Euston and then light back to Camden without the enginemen being aware that anything was wrong. I never heard the cause of this mishap or whether the enginemen had heard the first and were waiting for the second bang which never came!

Story continues ...
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