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First episode taken from The Wizard issue: 1780 March 26th 1960.

Starting Today—The great story of the boys who are never happier than when their numbers are up!


As his grace, Frederick, the thirteenth Duke of Dalesford, tip-toed to the corner of the street, he edged round it and then ran like an ostrich. The two men he had left standing, and who were not yet aware of his departure, were looking into a bookshop window in High Street, Midchester. Both these individuals wore bowler hats and dark suits. The newer hat, a real beauty, reposed above the ears of Mr Eustace Rathbone, by profession a tutor.

The other hat covered the bald patch on the head of ex-Detective Sergeant Prosser. Mr Rathbone spotted a new book with a picture on the cover of a widgeon in flight. With an exclamation of excitement he pointed at it. “Ah! Professor Scutt’s new volume on bird-watching is published at last!” he said. “Freddy, we’ll go in and obtain a copy, eh, my boy?” When there wasn’t an answer, Mr Rathbone looked round, and an expression of alarm appeared on his pale face. “Where’s Freddy?” he exclaimed. Mr Prosser, the former detective sergeant, whose duty it was to guard the Duke, whirled round from the window and stared up and down in a pop-eyed sort of manner. “My word, where’s he gone?” he spluttered. By this time, Frederick George Cornelius Granville, the thirteenth Duke of Dalesford, had turned into the park and, considered himself to be safe from pursuit, slowed down to an amble.

For Freddy, the thirteenth Duke of Dalesford, and his newsboy pal, Ginger Lucas, it was the start of a thrilling loco spotting tour—and it was certainly a start in style!

If the Duke lived another fortnight, he would be celebrating his eleventh birthday. He felt in excellent health, though he was regarded as a delicate child by his grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Poppington, and the trustees of his vast estates. It was because he was regarded as being delicate that he had not gone to school but had Mr Rathbone as a tutor. On one side of the path, from which it was divided by metal railings, was the main line of the Central Region of British Railways. Freddy was quite interested in trains, and looked through the railings at the sound of a locomotive whistle. A short goods train was coming along, but at that time Freddy was not sufficiently in the know to spot the engine as a British Railways Standard Class “2” 2-6-0, though he did notice that somebody had chalked “Dirty Duck” on the tender. The train clattered past and as the smoke cleared, Freddy came on a lad with red hair whose face seemed vaguely familiar. The red-haired boy who, naturally enough had the nickname of Ginger, was writing something in a grubby notebook with a red cover. He was talking to himself. “Seven eight nought nought eight,” he muttered as he used his pencil about an inch and a half long. Freddy stopped. He was curious. He liked to know what people were doing and how things worked. “What are you writing down?” he asked. Ginger shot a suspicious glance at him. “The number of that engine that just passed,” he said. “Why?” demanded Freddy. “Because I’m a loco spotter, that’s why,” scoffed Ginger, in reply to what he considered a silly question. “I say you’ve a lot of numbers in your book!” exclaimed Freddy. “Yes, and I bet Archie Hall hasn’t seen that last one,” he chortled. “It’s a Lester engine and I ain’t seen it in Midchester before.” Freddy thought that Archie Hall must be a rival loco spotter. In this he was correct. The competition between some loco spotters was so keen as to amount to a feud. “What d’you mean it’s a Lester engine?” Freddy queried. Ginger looked suspicious again. Was this boy with the clean collar and smart blue tie pulling his leg or was the toff as ignorant as he appeared to be? Ginger wasn’t sure, but eventually decided the latter assumption was more likely. “I mean the engine belongs to Lester loco shed,” Ginger explained. “How do you know?” demanded Freddy. “How do I know?” retorted Ginger. “Didn’t you see the Lester shed number on the smokebox door?” “Er, no,” admitted Freddy. “Here comes the station pilot!” Ginger exclaimed. “I’ll show you what I mean.” Freddy was puzzled for a moment. He thought that the station pilot must be a man, possibly one with red and green flags. However, Ginger pointed to a tank engine that wheezed towards them as it shunted some empty wagons. The station pilot was, in fact, the odd-job engine around the station. “See them little numbers on the front of the engine?” he demanded. There was nothing wrong with Freddy’s eyes, and he saw a small disc on the engine’s smokebox door. The disc contained the number and letter “80D” “That’s the Midchester shed number, see?” said Ginger. “You can always tell the home shed of an engine.” There was a clank and the arms of an upper quadrant signal, that is a signal in which the semaphore arm rises upwards for “go,” swung up. “Hello, the London’s pegged.” “Pegged?” echoed Freddy. “The boards are off,” said Ginger. “Oh, d’you mean the signals?” squeaked Freddy. “Yes. It took a long time for the penny to drop,” said Ginger, and this was another remark that puzzled His Grace. He looked on down the path. The number of loco spotters had increased since his arrival. At least a dozen lads were strung out by the railings. Some had notebooks like Ginger. Others were the owners of printed booklets containing locomotive numbers and names. When they spotted an engine that was new to them they ticked it off in their books. With a feather of steam rising from the safety-valve, the locomotive of the London express appeared from under a bridge. The spotters looked eagerly for the number—carried on the smokebox above the shed disc. The number was 7038. “Seventy thirty-eight,” growled Ginger. “I’ve seen it umpteen times.” As the locomotive passed—it was a 4-6-0—Freddy saw that it had a name, his name. Yes, there it was, in shiny brass letters on a curved plate over the splasher of one of the driving-wheels—The Duke of Dalesford.” It showed up clearly. “It’s named after me!” Freddy blurted out. Ginger’s lip curled out. “Pull the other leg, it’s got bells on it!” he exclaimed. There was a fiery blood in Freddy’s veins and what he took to be an insult raised the temperature. “I’m not trying to pull your leg!” he snapped. “Ha!” Ginger uttered a scoffing cry. “You’re nothing else but a show-off!” Freddy shot a fist out and his knuckles cracked against Ginger’s nose. Ginger sprang back, but only to gain time while he put his notebook and pencil in his pocket. Then he waded in. Since no other trains were signalled, the fight filled in time nicely for the other loco spotters and they rushed to the scene of the conflict. Freddy had never been taught to use his fists, but he stood his ground and relied on his natural instincts. Ginger was as full of fizz as a bottle of pop and so, as combatants, they were pretty well matched. Blood from Ginger’s nose sprinkled both of them. Freddy stopped a smack in the eye. Biff, thud, biff! More hefty punches had been exchanged when a loco spotter, who wore glasses, gave a yell. “What’s come out of the gas works siding?” he screeched. Away up the line, wreathed in a haze of smoke, a small engine was emerging from the gas works sidings with a train of empty coal wagons. Leaving Freddy and Ginger to settle things on their own, the spotters pelted away. Ginger snatched a glance over his shoulder. “Crikey, is that a Tilbury tank?” he panted. “Come on!” He dashed away to find out if the engine were a newcomer to the district—very few Tilbury 4-4-2 tank engines were left in regular service—and Freddy ran along with them.


The Dowager Countess of Poppington sat bolt upright in her chair in a large room in Dalesford Castle.

She was a very formidable old lady and was sometimes described by members of the staff as the Old Battleaxe. There was a tremendous panic on among the others in the room. Mr Rathbone, looking very upset, stood in front of the Countess. Also present were Mr Moss, the estate manager, Mr Freke, a private secretary, Mr Midgeley, who had arrived to give the Duke a piano lesson, Mrs Bunn, the housekeeper, and an important late arrival Sir Robert Busk, one of the trustees. The boy may have been kidnapped!” snapped the Dowager Countess. “The police have been informed by Mr Prosser,” burbled Mr Rathbone. The door opened. A dignified-looking footman rushed in. “His Grace has returned, My Lady,” he announced. There were cries of relief. “How did his Grace get back?” asked Sir Robert. “I understand he walked all the way from town,” answered the footman. “My Lady”—his voice trembled—“he has a black eye!” At that moment Freddy’s shiner was seen because he walked in. His collar was fastened on one side only and was stained with Ginger’s blood. The Dowager’s voice cut through the tumult. “Send for Dr Simpson!” she commanded.

On the following morning Mrs Bunn brought Freddy his breakfast in bed. “You’re to stay in bed till the doctor has seen you again,” said the housekeeper. Freddy frowned. His biffed eye was a bit bleary but apart from that he felt fine. “I was just going to get up!” he protested. “No, Dr Simpson insisted that you must be kept quiet until you had recovered from the shock,” replied Mrs Bunn. “What shock?” asked Freddy. “Oh, it was terrible to think of that rough boy hitting you,” sympathized the housekeeper. “I think I hit him first,” Freddy murmured. Convinced that His Grace was still in a state of shock, Mrs Bunn left the room. Freddy got out of bed and strolled across to a window. Over the trees, on the far side of the garden, he saw puffs of steam from a train. The railway line crossed the castle park on an embankment. He opened the window and stepped on to the balcony. The balcony was protected by a stone parapet. Freddy climbed up and stood on the parapet in his bare feet. He was rewarded by a distant glimpse of a goods train hauled by a portly tank engine that was running bunker first. It was too far away to see any details. Before Freddy had left the balcony, a cyclist whizzed into sight from the direction of the lodge. A look of recognition flashed on to Freddy’s face. The cyclist had red hair and was weighed down on one side by a big canvas bag containing newspapers. He had the job of delivery boy with a newsagent. “Hello,” Freddy called out and leaned over the balustrade. Ginger looked up, stuck a foot out and hopped till he brought his bike to a stop. “Hello,” he shouted. “Hey, I never knew you worked here!” Freddy grinned. “What about that train?” he asked. “Was the engine a Tilbury tank?” “Naw,” scoffed Ginger. “It was the old Fowler two-six-four on the pick up.” A pick-up goods train worked from station to station, dealing with local traffic. The Fowler 2-6-4 tank was a Midchester engine. The footman, awaiting the delivery of the newspapers, stepped out from the main doorway. “Hurry along boy,” he snapped, and then caught sight of Freddy. “Oh, I didn’t know you were in conversation with His Grace.” “His wot?” spluttered Ginger. “Is—is he the Dook?” The footman frowned. “Yes, indeed,” he said. Ginger sniffed. “He don’t know nothing about loco spotting,” he muttered.


Dr Simpson, a grave and portly physician, had Freddy by the window while he attended to his black eye. The Dowager and Mr Rathbone were present.

“The eye is mending,” Dr Simpson declared. “The swelling is reduced.” Mr Rathbone sighed with relief. “Why did you run away, Freddy?” he asked. “Because I was tired of looking into bookshop windows,” said Freddy. Dr Simpson turned to the Dowager. “The boy needs a hobby,” he said, “and a companion of his own age.” “Then he shall have a hobby,” replied the Dowager. “I am trying to get him interested in bird-watching,” said Mr Rathbone. “I don’t like bird-watching,” retorted Freddy. “It’s too slow. I want to go loco spotting.” This remark was ignored. “You have the beginnings of a fine stamp collection,” said his tutor. “Yes, stamp colleting is a good hobby for a delicate boy!” exclaimed the Dowager. Freddy scowled. “I shall have to throw one of my tantrums,” he muttered to himself. He stamped a foot, waved his hands about, and yelled. “I want to be a loco spotter!” The others were alarmed, As a matter of fact, Freddy had grown out of his childish tantrums long ago, but produced a good imitation from time to time when he wanted something particularly badly and this was the only way to get it. “I want to be a loco spotter and I want to go with Ginger, the boy who brings the papers!” he screeched. “I want to get a little blue notebook and fill it with engine numbers I spot. Dr Simpson watched him closely. “It might be just the thing for him,” he said. On hearing this Freddy piped down while reserving himself the right to have another tantrum if necessary. “You shall be a locomotive spotter, Frederick!” exclaimed his grandmother. “But you are a member of the family of Granville with the proud motto, “All or nothing!” Your locomotive spotting must be done properly.”

On the following Monday morning there were numerous loco spotters on the up platform at Midchester station, as it was the school holidays. Such veteran spotters as Archie Hall and Andy Powell, both of whom used printed booklets and had seen over a thousand engines were there. The South Express was nearly due when Ginger, wearing his best jacket, came along the platform. He was greeted with jeers. “Where have you been?” demanded Andy. “What have I missed?” ginger asked anxiously. “You won’t half be wild,” Archie crowed, and followed this up with the announcement that No. 92222, a British Railways Standard Class, fitted with a Crosti boiler, had just passed through on a special freight train. A Crosti boiler is a special type which enables the engine to develop more power. “Maybe we’ll catch up with it,” muttered Ginger hopefully. Hauled by the “Duke of Dalesford,” the South Express arrived. The loco spotters started to get interested when the engine uncoupled. It clanked away to return a few minutes later with a special coach that it shunted on to the front of the train. On one of the windows was the notice, “Reserved for the Duke of Dalesford.” Away down the platform there was a stir. The Stationmaster, wearing his top hat, led the way. Freddy came along, followed by Mr Rathbone, Mr Freke and another secretary, the footman, Sergeant Prosser, and other servants. “Hello, Ginger!” Freddy exclaimed. “Hello, Dook,” answered Ginger. “Come on,” said Freddy. “Get in!” Archie Hall’s mouth hung open so wide a budgerigar could have perched on his teeth. “Where are you off to?” he demanded. Ginger smiled broadly. “I’ve been invited to go on a loco spotting tour,” he chortled. Under the jealous stares of the other loco spotters, Freddy and Ginger got into the special coach followed by His Grace’s retinue. Loco spotting was going to be done in proper style by the Duke of Dalesford.

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 2006