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A Run on the ‘Problem’

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June 2002
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A RUN ON THE ‘PROBLEM’

The following was printed in the ‘Birmingham Weekly Post’ for Friday 9th June 1944, where it was attributed to ‘G.C.B.’ Some technical details and dates may not be quite correct, perhaps due to the author’s memory of events fifty years earlier, but the story is worth re-printing here. Move to the photographs page

The train had just passed the engine sheds at Aston, and my companion had gazed with interest at the engines standing there. He might well be interested, for before his retirement he had served for over 50 years on the railway, most of it on the footplate.

As he watched the grimy monsters, he said musingly, ‘Do you remember the Problems?’

‘Mathematical, chess, financial or domestic?’ I asked.

He smiled, a little impatiently I thought, at my ill-timed levity and explained ‘I mean the seven foot six single drivers which Ramsbottom brought out in the early eighties. Lady of the Lake  Explain 'Lady of the Lake 2-2-2 Locomotive Class' class they were called. There used to be two of them at Aston.’

I nodded. I remembered the Lady of the Lake engines well, the most graceful engines, to my mind, that the old LNWR ever ran, with their great driving wheel Explain 'Drive Wheel', fretted splasher Explain 'Splasher', together with the shining varnish and neat lining which seems, alas! to have vanished with the last war.

 

‘I well remember a run I had on one of them’ he began. ‘I was firing at Vauxhall at the time, mate to Jack Rayner, and we were in what was called the Special Link Explain 'Special Link', which meant we had no regular train but were called out at short notice to take any job that turned up unexpectedly.

‘One day we were called in to take an engine to Crewe for repairs. It was in a pretty bad way, but we got it there, and when we had handed it over, the inspector said to Jack: “I’ve got a new engine, a Problem, for Camden. The express from Liverpool is due, and I’m taking the engine off and letting you take the train on to Rugby with the Problem. You’ll be relieved at Rugby and; their men can work it on from there.’

‘Well, we took over the engine and coupled on to the train. The change of engines had made us 15 minutes late getting away, and when we had got well away, I noticed Jack listening intently and looking rather worried. An experienced engineman, as you may know, judges his speed by timing the beat of his pistons. We had been used to engines whose driving wheels were anything up to five foot six, or less, and both failed to realise that the huge wheels of our present mount meant a lot more work being done per turn than anything we had been accustomed to, while on the other hand the distance travelled per revolution was pretty well half as much again as with our usual machines.

Story continues ...
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