One of the main reasons for doing these web sites is to try and explain to everybody the history of the footplate grades, the conditions they had to work in and the creation of the A.S.L.E.F. branches within the Brighton & Sussex area.

I am therefore very grateful for people sending me personal photos from their personal collection and for allowing me to display them on the web sites. But unfortunately what is missing, are the stories that accompany them. What I want to do is to try and remedy this by starting to record the remaining stories that are still out there, before they too are lost in the midst of time.

I have added some information about some of the drivers that I know and the comments that have already have been sent to me.

If you too have any stories about your own working life on the footplate, the people that you worked with and the conditions you had to work in please send me and I will post, on the web site.

If you are interested in helping me in capturing these stories by any means possible please let me know.





Click on the icon above for

the history  of the Brighton Branch of ASLEF

 Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


Memories of my days at Brighton Loco Shed as a Fireman and

then returning back to Brighton Loco as a redundant Passed Fireman in September 1963

By Ron Terrill

Engine-men who worked through the war were the pillars of society and were treated with respect especially by their commuters even in my early days I was treated well by some of my commuters, On several occasions whilst working around the Oxted road to London Bridge, if we had a rough trip a commuter who guessed what was going on would come up to the cab and thank us for the journey and slap a Half Crown in our grubby hand.

The changes of workmate attitudes, I think started about the 'Green Era' c1963/65, for many years aiming to be a Top Motorman and then suddenly overnight we were given a green uniform in preparation for the change to diesels. A lot of men stopped any work on steam because they didn't want to get their uniform dirty. I had steam in my veins, so I volunteered for steam duties even though I had learnt D.E.M.U.'s etc., so many men wanted the clean job.

 When I transferred to work at Brighton Loco, my only means of transport was a push bike, which I used for seven months until I got my first motorcycle a Francis Barnet 150cc. As a fireman we did not have a residential pass for the first three years for travel to and fro work! Of course I had the option of buying a train ticket each day (no way) besides with the shift work I was not prepared to stay in Brighton overnight to catch the first train in the morning snatch a few hours sleep and back to work again. We did have five free tickets and one continental pass, but they where for holiday use, and some privilege tickets.  Of course when I became 17 I took my driving test (car) and then bought  my first car from Frank Heritage!

When I first came to Brighton and before I was teamed up with Harry Bolingbroke, I was asked to go on loan for the week to Fratton. On the Monday I arrived at Fratton and reported to the Foreman who said would I be prepared to go pass to Ryde and work to Ventnor and back one trip? Of course I jumped at the chance to go (abroad). I caught the boat to Ryde pier head and relieved the Fireman and away we went all stations to Ventnor as I was approaching Shanklin I realised that the return journey would be Motoring and I had not been trained (at the time). I told the Driver and he said he would show me what to do and would take a chance with me! All went well and I reported back to the Foreman at Fratton, He said to me tomorrow I will put you on the Hayling Flier so you will report at Havant and do 3 trips to Hayling & back with 1 balloon coach and run round each time, and do it for the rest of the week, you will have 32678 which I was familiar with. Then home on the cushions.

On the Tonbridge to Brighton Passenger trains, we often had Right Hand Drive Engines, usually 'N Class,' or 'U Class,' apparently they were built like that, because on the South Eastern, they had a lot of signal on the opposite side of the track, because of the winding roads. 

 I can’t remember if I mentioned a couple of memories of working at Kingston Wharf (Shoreham) but my first time at Kingston Wharf I was on a B4 class when I had a Guage Glass blow on the climb up to the weigh-bridge with two wagons of coal! 

I remember many times working on 31556 P class which was the regular engine for the job. I often used to wonder why they didn't use an AIXwith a slightly smaller wheelbase because of the sharp curves around the wharf .  

 When I arrived at Brighton loco depot (for a second time) after the closure of Newhaven loco, this time as a 'passed man', I went into the 'Motor Link' and was working push/pull trains to Guildford via Steyning and Horsham. We always had a Class M7 know to the loco-men as 'Jerusalem Donkeys' (It is believe there nick-name came about because, they were so powerful, that providing you had steam they would never let you down. We used to call the 'C' Class locos 'Canterbury Hill Climbers' for the same reason.

Being a 'Passed Fireman' at Brighton and I was sent on all sorts of jobs, mostly on loan to other depots. One job I remember well was the 6.00 a.m. freight from Norwood to Brighton Top Yard, I nearly always had the same fireman, Dave Strudwick (who later became a Train Crew Supervisor at Selhurst) he was an exceptionally good fireman and I never went without steam with him. We quite regularly used to have an ex River class No. 31890, it was possibly one of the last steam engine at Norwood (could have been 31925 W class).

At Brighton loco at this time we still had a number of van trains which were still steamed hauled. There were the 11.18 vans to London Bridge, which on arriving at London Bridge, we would leave the vans there and go light engine to Victoria via Crystal Palace, tender first. On arriving at Victoria we then work a passenger train back to Brighton via Oxted, Eridge and Lewes. We also had many other van trains which we worked in reverse, such trains such as the 03.25 a.m. paper trains from London Bridge to Brighton, also the 03.40 a.m.to papers Eastbourne. On arriving at Eastbourne, we would picked up a coach and worked a passenger train all stations to Hailsham and back to Eastbourne, before running back to Brighton with a couple of vans.

On the paper trains we carried the newspaper men who rode down on the train sorting out the papers en-route. They always enquired who the driver was going to be so they whether to expect a rough ride or not on the way down.

The papers trains continued until the mid-1980s when the newspapers were transferred by road. 

On several occasions on Market days at Steyning, we would unhook the train in the platform and then we would go and pick up a wagon of cattle and return back on to our train. We would then carry on to Horsham where we took the cattle wagon to the cattle dock, after returning back on to the train we would then 'Motored' back to Brighton.

I retained my Newhaven route knowledge which included signing over to Ashford, this still enable me to work trains over the Romney Marsh after I had transferred to Brighton loco. My fireman for the week was Hamish (Jock) Lockhart; in November 1963. We were taking redundant steam engines to Ashford, mostly for scrapping. But on this particular we had a ‘USA’ class tank engine from Eastliegh to Ashford No. 30065, which had been done up in Southern colour’s (malachite green) and named ‘Maunsell’. After leaving Rye we travelled about 3miles, when suddenly the wheels locked solid. I examined the engine and found two axle boxes hot (apparently a common problem with this class of locomotive when travelling some distance). We were about 5 miles from Appledore and there are no telephones or roads on the marshes. I decided to take the drastic measure of using the engine’s spray pipe directed onto the axle boxes to attempt to cool the bearings. Luckily it worked, so we carried on to Appledore, where the signalman put us into the sidings were we filled the boiler, and then dropped the fire.

 My favorite trains were the stock trains from Lancing works to New Cross Gate we usually had a Class L1 or a Class E1 or maybe some sort of mogul locomotive, they were good engines strong, and were good steamers. We would run fast to Horley sidings, where the examiner would check for hot boxes, and if they were ok we carried on to New Cross Gate where we would leave the train and turn the engine and go light engine back to Brighton.

The Chichester goods from Brighton Top Yard, run via Preston Park with the first stop being at Portslade to pick up from Ronucks (The Polish people) and then on to Shoreham to pick up. On arriving at Lancing for any refurbished Passenger stock from the Carriage works and then the next stop was at Worthing goods shed. Then we were fast to Chichester in the sidings. We had to turn the engine via the triangle which was in the yard and then behind the up platform, there was no turntable at Chichester. We would then pick up a mixed freight and return back to Top Yard.

I remember going out with a ‘C class’ 31725, which had scrapers for the conductor rail fixed on the tender axles, and of course the snow plough in the front. On one particular day we had to rescue a ‘2bil’ stuck between Cooksbridge and Plumpton in the deep snow, we ended up getting stuck ourselves, it eventually took us 2hours to clear the snow. We had to cross over at Plumpton and go tender first to give the ‘2Bil’ a shove, to get it going. I don't know who the driver was except it was a Seaford man

I recall Brighton Driver Bert Batcheler, who on early turns brought fish and crabs into the depot and spent about half an hour cleaning and gutting the fish, we were all grateful for the freshness of the fish, Bert had connections at the markets. Later on I run into Bert at Eastbourne loco, I was firing to Harry Bolingbroke, when we had to take a light engine 31817 over to Eastbourne, to work back with the Birkenhead. On arriving at Eastbourne we went on to the loco for water. We saw Bert there and Harry asked him, why you are not working the Birkenhead. Bert had got his engine (Mogul 32540) stuck his engine on the turntable. This engine had been fitted with an experimental brakes called an Orlikan system (which was the system they later used on the class 47s), and had not secured the engine properly, and the engine had run off the turntable and into the field (partially). That was the reason we were sent over to Eastbourne with our engine.

There used to be a 'Motor-Rail' service coming from Stirling in Scotland, which was hauled by a class 45 diesel, because we did not know this class of locomotive and the locomotive was not changed over, we were booked to conducted the train from Willesden Junction and the same on its return.

I remember as an appointed driver, I came off of my turn to go back on the shovel because the fireman on the Salisbury refused to work . It had came to Brighton with a Standard 5 the night before, It had been worked with a Warship diesel, for several weeks. I broke a bit of tradition by firing to Captain Peacock, who was an M.P.I. at the time, I don't think he had his job long. We returned from Salisbury with a Crompton, I can't remember the date but it must have been the mid 1960s.

We were always self supervised as steam men and we had the power to refuse even railway officers on the footplate if it interfered with our duties I used this power a few times! even though I was flexible. Later on when we had a lot of learners I was glad to sit on the cushions whilst they took over.

When we used to work goods trains from Brighton Top Yard to Kemp Town, our first stop was east of Ditchling Road tunnel, where we left the train and took some of the wagons of cattle into the abattoir sidings, then back on the train. we then called into Lewes road sidings to drop off coal wagons and proceed on to Kemp Town. At Kemp Town we would run around the wagons in the platform and then we would pulled up inside of the tunnel. Situated at the Southern end of Kemp Town tunnel was a ground frame. The ground frame was operated by the shunter and inside the tunnel there was a gong which was operated by a lever from the frame. The shunter would operate the gong using his lever and inside the tunnel we would get two bangs we would set back out of the tunnel and the we commence shunting. After we had finished the shunting we would then return back to Brighton.

 Memories of some of our bad practices!

When we had to shunt in the Loco Yard and if we were on our own, sometimes we would take an engine down to the stops to go back in another road, so we would jump off the engine to operate the points. Sometimes it entailed spring points in which case we had to carefully open the regulator to move very slowly and go to the front of the engine to hold the point handle and put the vacuum hose back on the dummy, as the brake pressure built up the engine moved foreword over the points and when it cleared we let go of the point handle and pull the hose off of the dummy of the engine, thus stopping the engine, then we had to scramble quickly on to the footplate to shut the regulator and apply the brake then go to the front of the engine to replace the vacuum hose then return to the footplate and drive normally back into the shed road. I Think I have just wrote my own Resignation!!!

One day a class 5 MT Standard turned up on the coal road with it's Brick Arch collapsed and blocking the rocker grate system. Alf asked me to try and hook the bits out with the pricker with no success then up came Cliff Highams with a load of wet sacks which he put all around the mouthpiece and with me and a couple of others standing by with buckets of water he crawled into the hot Firebox to unblock the fire-bars and came out like a bat out of Hell in a deluge of water we all threw at him when he shouted to us to throw it (he had guts to do that). It saved the day because that engine was back in steam within 2 hours and working to (I think Kensington) that afternoon. That is dedication for you.

Whilst I have mentioned Cliff Highams, I can recall two humorous stories involving him. Cliff once came into Brighton lobby at the top of platform 10, and entertained us all on the lobby table, about a drunk person that he met the night before, and he acted out being drunk on the table in full view of people on the platforms. The performance come to end when the foreman told him to stop!

The humorous occasion involving Cliff Highams, was when walked into the canteen at London Bridge and put his xxxx on a plate and said “Put some peas with this!”

Whilst I am on the subject of railway staff canteens, I was thinking about the Depots that had canteens, Brighton had a good canteen down the lift at the end of platform 9/10, mainly for Goods Shed workers. Stewarts Lane was very good, London Bridge was good too and so was Horsham. Other places we could always rely on a good meal were the Royal Mail canteens at Redhill & Reading, Other companies looked after there staff better than us. At some locations we had to find a good cafe! I suppose it was because we had no meal breaks owing to being 'double manned' all the time we were expected to work until we dropped! We did have some jobs like Night Ballasts that would over run and we had to improvise, one time in particular we had been working between Burnt Oak Bridge & Crowborough Tunnel and had been on duty for 7 hours and we had run out of sandwiches, so with the engine secure we had a walk around the fields looking for mushrooms or anything to eat. We came across some chicken and we managed to catch one! We took it back to the engine and cleaned the shovel with the spray pipe and cooked it along with a mangle wurzel (cross between a swede and a turnip) that we found in the field. The chicken was lovely but the mangle wurzel was as tough as old boots. Later on when we eventually took the train to Three Bridges and went light back to Brighton (we had been on duty for 14 hours ). We later found out that the chicken was one that belong to a farmer that Trevor Fielding used to help whilst doing one of his small jobs in return for some fresh eggs, that he used to bring to work to sell. We were always grateful for newly laid eggs. 

I think I may have put my foot in it again!!!

 I will tell you now about an incident that happened to me Christmas 1963. I was working the Top Yard pilot with a 350hp diesel shunter. We had to take five coal wagons down to Lower Yard, on arriving at Lower Yard, the shunters had to hold over two sets of catch points before they would signal you to move ahead slowly. As I moved about three lengths, I saw the end wagon jump in the air; I stopped and secured the engine then walked forward only to find I had squashed the Shelley’s coal lorry between the truck and the coal bin, with the driver stuck inside the cab. We called 999 and two fire engines and an ambulance turned up to cut him out. The next day Christmas day I drove in to Brighton Royal Sussex County Hospital to see how he was and found he had been discharged no major injuries.

I remember going 'on loan' to Tunbridge Wells West, and being a 'passed man', I therefore was trained for 'motor working' (push/pull), and we had an 'H' Class tank engine. I worked the train over to Three Bridges via East Grinstead calling at Groombridge, Withyham, Hartfield, Forest Row, East Grinstead (H.L.), Grange Road, Rowfant and terminating at Three Bridges (in the down bay platform), and then we returned back to Tunbridge Wells West. Back at the 'Wells' we then formed a train to Oxted via Ashurst Junction, after arriving at Oxted we returned back to Tunbridge Wells West. Then I was pass back to Brighton on the cushions. 



On several occasions I took the Viaduct inspection unit out on nights, on one such night I had a spam-can (Q1 Class) to Ouse Valley Viaduct, on arriving at the site of work we set up the unit and secured the engine. I asked the gaffer in charge, if I could ride the unit under the arches with the team and he said yes. I found it a wonderful experience and after that I often used to ask again. Since that time I have been under London Road (Brighton) Viaduct and Shoreham River Bridge. We also took out gauging trains to check any movements in tunnels; they were long jobs but easy work for us crews as it gave us, a rest from the heavy freight work we were normally doing.

Three Bridges was the main ballast depot for the Southern, which done most of the track relaying trains. The best jobs were when we went to Woking yard to bring bulk trains of rails or hoppers back to Three Bridges, we usually had either a class S15s, N or U and a Spam Can. The best engines for the heavy loads involved if we had S15s we had to take them to Redhill depot which seemed to be the keepers of the big freight engines.

I always let my fireman/secondman do half the driving and this particular turn involved working a van train to Redhill then returning to Brighton with a heavy freight, one of us would work the vans to Redhill and the other would work the freight back. On this occasion I did the vans up, and my mate did the freight, we had left on time and called in Three Bridges Yard to pick up more wagons. As I was doing the secondmanning, I went to the lobby on the up side to make the tea. By the time I returned back onto the engine, the shunting had finished, so we had a cup of tea. When we got the right away, I exchanged hand signals with the guard and away we went! All went well to Hassocks where I lit up a fag put my feet up and nodded off next. The next thing I knew was when my fingers were burning I awoke to find we were past Clayton box and doing 45mph and my mate was asleep. I put the brake on and realised we had no fitted head (we were in the xxxx). I blew the whistle to let the guard and signalman know we were in trouble, someone must have heard our prayers, because when we got to Preston Park the signalman had set the road down the spur and informed other boxes we were out of control. We finally stopped at Klondyke sidings which were situated beside Lancing Carriage Works (which refurbished all the passenger steam stock). Where after a change of underwear, we propelled the train wrong road to Shoreham, and then we took the train to Beeding Cement sidings, where we left the train and then took the engine light back to the depot. I did not hear anything about this possibly because it was during the night.

I have briefly mentioned Lancing Works, which used to be served by its own train known as “ The Lancing Belle”, which run between Brighton to Lancing Works (run straight into/out of the works itself). It consisted of 12 coaches and was hauled by an E4 Radial tank and sometime was double headed by an L class. Apparently it became double headed when Driver Bob Shimmons set the timber mills alight at Kingston, so had the assistance of a bigger engine!

Bulleid Pacifics

At Brighton we worked on the Bulleid Pacific’s West Country’s or Battle of Britain’s locos, which we regularly worked on the trains to Bournemouth West or as far as Salisbury with the 'West Country trains'. The West Country trains on arriving at Salisbury, our engine would come off and then the train would  continue on with another engine to either Cardiff or Plymouth. But sometimes the Bulleid Pacific’s were replaced by ‘Western engines’ like ‘T9s’ or ‘Manors’, I remember we had a 'Western engine' No. 7816 (Granville Manor). With the Western engines, we sometimes had trouble with their vacuum creating 23 inches (instead of 21 inches), which they worked with on the 'Western', this causing the brakes to drag on the 'Southern' stock. We would often had to pull the cords to release the brakes. We used to stop at Fareham and have 3 more coaches put on the rear, which came from Gosport, and if we had a ‘Western engine’, the guard had to pull the cords to equalise the vacuum brake pipe pressure.



Click on the icon above for

the history of the Brighton Branch of ASLEF

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches

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