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An episode, taken from The Wizard issue: 1796 July 16th 1960.


Freddy, the young Duke of Dalesford, stood on the platform of an Eastern Region station that was closed to passenger traffic and cast an eager look at an express that was roaring towards him on the up line. “Mind the draught,” he advised his great loco spotting pal, Ginger Lucas. The speeding locomotive took shape, and Ginger yelled that it was a Class “A3” pacific. With a scream on the whistle it rushed through the station at the head of a long train. In spite of the blast and the dust, the boys, keen loco spotters that they were, got the engine’s number, 60036, and its shed-code, 50B, which was on the shed-plate on the loco’s smokebox door and indicated the loco’s home shed. The name of the engine was “Colombo,” and a little research in a loco spotter’s handbook indicated that the engine’s home shed was Leeds, Neville Hill. Freddy, who was eleven, and Ginger, who had first met the Duke when delivering the newspapers at Dalesford Castle, jotted down the engine and shed numbers in the notebooks in which they listed all the engines they spotted. Freddy’s was a wee, blue book, Ginger’s a wee, red one. In a siding at the station stood the special coach in which Freddy, with Ginger as his companion, would soon be continuing their loco spotting tour of the north.

It’s a big moment for Freddy and Ginger. They’re seeing a mighty “Deltic” for the first time—but their French companion couldn’t care less!

They had previously been on a loco spotting tour to the West Country. Eventually, in this second tour, they would reach Scotland, but some hours were being spent at the closed station of Laythorpe, so that the boys could see some of the Eastern Region’s crack trains. Since the only building in sight was a distant farmhouse, it was not surprising that the station had been closed to passenger traffic. It was, however, open for goods, and a dozen wagons and vans were in another siding. The staff consisted of Foreman Carter. Bill Thrupp was on duty in the signalbox. “Colombo” and its train had become a distant blob when the home signal was pulled off. The starter signal remained at danger. A down train was coming. The boys were on the up platform. Foreman Carter came out of his office and glanced at the signals. Then he hailed the signalbox. “Hey, Bill, why are you stopping the runner?” he called out. In railway language the word “runner” meant an express train. The signalman leaned out of his window. “It’s four minutes early, and Sedgeham hasn’t cleared the Down Parcels train,” he responded. The foreman turned to the boys. “This is the sort of thing that often happens on a busy main line,” he remarked. “A driver running ahead of time finds the signals against him.” Freddy nodded interestedly. Mr Eustace Rathbone, his tutor, who was accompanying him on the loco spotting tour, had once read him a newspaper paragraph about the diesel-hauled “Red Rose” express train. Running from London to Liverpool on a Sunday, this train had approached Lime Street Station, the Liverpool terminus, 44 minutes early. The train had been held up for 17 minutes while a platform was cleared for it, and it still reached its destination 27 minutes before time. “Here it comes, Dook!” exclaimed Ginger, meaning the express that was due through the station. With steam blowing off, the down express approached the station. The driver gave a prolonged blast on the whistle. “He sounds a bit fed up,” Freddy remarked. “It’s another of them ‘A Threes’,” chirped Ginger. The locomotive came slowly into the station. As Ginger had said, it was a Class “A3” pacific—i.e., a 4-6-2. Its number was 60080. “The driver ought to wear a black mask,” declared Freddy mysteriously. “Your wit kills me, Dook,” retorted Ginger. The reason for Freddy’s joke was that the name of the engine was “Dick Turpin,” and the smokebox door carried the shed plate 52B. This was the number of Heaton motive power depot. The driver kept creeping along, but the signal was not pulled off, and he had to bring his long train to a stop. With a deafening hiss of steam, the engine’s safety valve lifted. Freddy and Ginger sprinted along the platform to have a good look at the engine. The young fireman gave them a wink. The train had been standing about half a minute when the starter and advance starter signals were pulled off, indicating that the train could proceed. “Bet the engine slips!” exclaimed Freddy. “Bet it doesn’t,” retorted Ginger. What Freddy meant by the engine slipping was that with such a long, heavy train behind, the engine might have some trouble in restarting. The engine’s driving wheels might slip round for a bit before they took a grip and got the train moving again. But the driver of “Dick Turpin” got it moving without the slightest suggestion of a slip. “I told you so, Dook!” scoffed Ginger. Freddy made a hurried count. “It’s got fourteen coaches on, including a restaurant car set,” he replied. Foreman Carter overheard the conversation. “You should’ve seen the length of the trains hung on to these engines during the war,” he said. “Time and again they’d come through here pulling twenty coaches.” His voice trailed away, and his eyes popped as he stared across at the down platform. “Good gracious!” he spluttered. “Where have they come from?” “They must have got out of the train,” Freddy gasped. Standing on the down platform, with a bulging suitcase and several packages between them, were a man and boy.


The man possessed a dark beard, and his hat looked a size too small, for it was perched right on top of his head. His overcoat had a velvet collar. The boy was a shade taller than Freddy and Ginger. His complexion was sallow, as if he were just getting over a bilious attack. He wore a bow tie.


“Ave we made ze arrival at donkeycaster?” the man called out in a high-pitched voice. “Eh? D’you mean Doncaster?” exclaimed Foreman Carter. “Yes, yes,” responded the bearded man. “Donkeycaster!” He stared around as if things were not as he expected to find them. “We were informed zat ze next stop was at Donkeycaster.” Foreman Carter groaned. “You got out at the wrong station,” he stated. Henri Putchard, the bearded traveler, waved his arms wildly. He nearly gave his son, Emil, a slap on an ear. “We were told by ze official zat ze next stop was at Donkeycaster,” he screeched. “The train wasn’t booked to stop here, sir,” cried Foreman Carter. “It only stopped because the signal was against it.” Putchard described his feelings in a torrent of words spoken in his native tongue, French. Emil yawned. He gave the impression of being terribly bored. The foreman lowered himself from the platform and crossed to the other side to talk things over with Putchard. Mr Eustace Rathbone, Freddy’s tutor, attracted by the chatter, came along and joined Freddy and Ginger. Putchard spluttered that he was taking Emil to Doncaster to stay with an aunt, Madame Kettle. She had been Mademoiselle Marie Putchard until she had married a sergeant in the Yorkshire Light Infantry soon after the end of the war. The foreman took off his cap and scratched his head. “I dunno what to do for the best,” he said. “We’re ten miles off a bus route.” “You must stop ze next train!” exclaimed Putchard. “Lummy, I can't do that!” gasped Foreman Carter. “I’d have my head chopped off, if you get what I mean.” Emil yawned again. “We must try to be of assistance, Freddy,” said Mr Rathbone. “We can give lunch to the stranded passengers, and they can travel on to Doncaster with us this afternoon.” He made this offer, and it was accepted with a show of gratitude by Putchard and a sigh of relief by the foreman. They crossed the line by the bridge. The signals were pulled off for a down train. “You’ll see the ‘Deltic’ now,” Foreman Carter told Freddy and Ginger. Freddy’s face lit up as if somebody had pointed a torch at him. “Gosh, I’ve always wanted to see the ‘Deltic’!” he exclaimed excitedly. “Same here,” Ginger blurted out. The ‘Deltic’ was the most powerful of all diesel-electric locomotives, with a rating of 3300 horsepower. “Here it comes!” Freddy soon shouted. A dot in the distance took shape at tremendous speed. In its brilliant blue and gold livery, the ‘Deltic’ hurtled towards the station at the head of a very long train. Its hooter boomed. The platform seemed to shake. Mr Rathbone clutched at his bowler hat. In a few moments the train had streaked through the station and the dust was starting to settle. “Terrific, wasn’t it?” burbled Freddy excitedly. Emil yawned. “French trains go very much faster,” he drawled in a bored voice.

A very good lunch was served in the coach, and afterwards Monsieur Putchard settled down to smoke a cigar provided by Mr Rathbone. Putchard told Emil to go and “vatch ze trains” with Freddy and Ginger. It was a nice, sunny afternoon, and ideal for loco spotting. Freddy hoped to get a good few more numbers for his wee blue book. The boys heard the bell sound off  in the signalbox for an express, and the signals were pulled off for the up line. The train was soon seen in the distance. “There’s no steam, Ginger!” exclaimed Freddy. “It must be a diesel loco.” “You’re right,” Ginger said. “It’s fairly moving, ain’t it?” At a guess, the diesel locomotive was moving along at about seventy miles an hour. Freddy yelled that it had a shed-plate. “Don’t miss it!” shouted Ginger excitedly. The locomotive, a Type “4” 1Co-Co 1 of 2000 horsepower thundered into the station. Its number was D205. As Freddy turned his head, he had a glimpse of Emil. The French lad was sprawling on a seat. He was reading a magazine. He did not as much as lift his head as the train sped past. “Did you read the number on the loco’s shed-plate?” Ginger demanded. “I missed it.” Freddy triumphantly announced that the code number on the shed-plate was 30A. “Eh? Are you sure?” demanded Ginger. “I’m sure I’m right,” retorted Freddy. It was a puzzle. 30A was the shed code of the Stratford, London, depot that provided locomotives for the Great Eastern line. What was D205 doing on the Great Northern section of the Region? Foreman Carter came along and provided an explanation. “I think that loco must be on loan to King’s Cross,” he stated. “Ay, it’s been through here previously. I saw it pulling ‘The Flying Scotsman’ the other day.” Emil turned over a page of his magazine and yawned. “Your trains are to slow, they are as slow as worms,” he drawled. Ginger drew a deep breath. “Blooming swank,” he growled. Freddy and Ginger knew that the expresses on the electrified main lines in France had some very fast timings. The boys were also aware that France held the world railway speed record of 205.6 miles an hour, set up near Bordeaux on March 28, 1955, by electric loco number CC7107 and equaled the next day by electric loco number BB9004. But there was no need for Emil to rub it in. Except for suburban traffic, the railway services in France were not nearly as intensive as those in Britain. The next thing that happened at the station was the arrival of the pick-up goods train. It was hauled by a Class “J20 – 1” 0-6-0, Number 64694 with the shed code of the March shed, 31B. It was turned into the sidings. It had some wagons laden with farm fertilisers to set down and a few empties to pick up.


When the goods train was shunting, the signalman accepted a parcels train on the down line. Ginger and Freddy soon sighted it approaching in the distance. Emil yawned and lowered his magazine. He looked across at the other platform, and his gaze fixed on a package with a bright yellow label.

He jumped up. “Oh!” he exclaimed in surprise. “That is our parcel, it is a gift for Aunt Marie.” “You must have put it down and forgotten it this morning,” remarked Freddy. Emil nodded. “I will go and fetch it,” he said, and walked to the edge of the platform. “Hey, you mustn’t cross the line,” Ginger rapped. “Go over the bridge.” “There’s a train coming!” Freddy shouted. Emil shrugged. “It is a slow train, like ze snail,” he retorted. “Come back, you twirp,” Ginger snapped, but Emil jumped off the platform instead of taking the longer way round by the bridge. Freddy and Ginger watched anxiously as the French boy sauntered across the tracks as if he had all the time in the world. The train was batting along. Emil was spotted by the vigilant driver, and the whistle screamed a warning. The French boy climbed nimbly on to the platform and picked up the package. Ginger fixed his attention on the train. It was a scoop for the two loco spotters. The engine was the Class “V2” 2-6-2, Number 60800. Its name was “Green Arrow.” A frenzied cry broke from Freddy. “Stop!” he screeched. He could hardly believe his eyes, for, with the train within a hundred yards of the station, Emil was preparing to jump off the edge of the platform and recross to their side. The French boy cast a scornful look at Freddy and sprang down on to the line. He landed on an oily patch on one of the sleepers and lost his footing. Pitching forward, he lay sprawling with his legs across the outer rail of the track along which the express was pounding. Emil appeared to have hit his head in his fall, for he made no attempt to move. He just lay where he was dazed. With the thunder of the train in their ears, Freddy and Ginger acted together. They sprang down from the platform, bounded on into the five-foot way between the tracks and grabbed hold of Emil by the back of his jacket. Heaving together desperately, they dragged him clear as “Green Arrow” loomed above them. The driver leaned far out of the cab and looked back. He saw that the boys were clear of the track and kept going. The carriages of the train went cluttering past the lads. As a matter of fact, the driver was the only witness of what had occurred, for the station foreman was down the sidings, and the signalman’s view was obstructed by the train. Emil had winded himself when he fell and given a knee a bang. His clothes were smeared with oil and dust. Freddy and Ginger pushed him up on to the platform. “You’re a blinking bright spark,” snapped Ginger. “I reckon you must have left your brains at home if you ever had any.” “That train wasn’t going like a snail, was it?” growled Freddy. Emil looked sheepish, mumbled out his thanks to Freddy and Ginger for saving him. Ginger went back and picked up the package. He gave it a shake. There was a tinkle of broken glass. “I don’t know what’s inside, but it’s bust,” he said. Emil looked ready to burst into tears. “Oh, it was a glass bowl for my Aunt Marie,” he gasped. “What will father say? He will be very angry!” Emil limped away to go to the coach for a wash and brush-up and, Freddy and Ginger supposed, to face the wrath of his excitable father. “You can’t help feeling a bit sorry for him,” Freddy remarked. “Garn, he was daft!” snapped Ginger. “He could have been killed.” “Yipee, here’s another train,” whooped Freddy. “This is a grand spot for loco spotting.” It was another Class “V2,” Number 60841, that clattered through on a London-bound Class D express freight. Unlike “Green Arrow,” Number 60841 had no name. In a Class D train, not less than one-third of the vehicles are connected by vacuum brake pipe to the engine. As soon as the line was clear, the pick-up freight left the sidings and puffed away to the north. Foreman Carter returned to the station wiping his greasy hands on a wad of waste. “We’ll soon be saying goodbye to you,” he remarked. “A local passenger train is going to stop and pick your coach up. I understand it’s taking you as far as Doncaster.” Ten minutes afterwards a Class “V1” 2-6-2- Tank, Number 67610, arrived from the south with a train of three coaches. The passengers looked surprised when the train stopped at Laythorpe. Freddy and Ginger watched from the platform during the shunting operations. The train backed into the siding, and Foreman Carter connected the brake and steam hosepipes of the special coach to the last vehicle of the train. He rode on the engine as the train returned to the platform. Freddy and Ginger, sorry to be going from this loco spotters’ paradise, waited to get in. Monsieur Putchard leaned out of a window of the special coach. Suddenly he frowned. “Where is Emil?” he demanded. “We—we thought he was in the coach with you,” Freddy spluttered. “No, no,” cried Putchard in alarm. “I haf not seen Emil! I thought he was with you all ze time. He has not returned to ze coach.” Ginger looked round blankly. “Where’s he gone?” he gasped. The driver gave a pip on the whistle. He was anxious to get away, as he only had a few minutes’ clearance before a down express was due. But of Emil there was not a sign!

Ginger and the Duke – and the wee blue book 36 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1780 - 1815 (1960)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2004