Eastleigh Memories

A previous post on this site made mention of the dangers of working with run down steam locomotives in the last years of steam traction on British Railways. Those of us old enough to remember will have our own stories, probably mixed in with accounts of visits to various scrap yards up and down the country but notably Woodhams at Barry in South Wales. My own locomotive cemetery was just outside Kettering where a Saturday afternoon visit would involve a cycle ride, seemingly into the countryside, to find some sidings filled up with bits and pieces of steam locomotives, wagons and London Underground stock, some of it already loaded onto wagons for transit to a steel works somewhere. There was a smell of burning from fires lit during the week to burn out combustible materials like wood and accumulated deposits of grease. It was a sad sight, looking at the remains of SR Schools classes, MR 0-6-0’s and so on. In the end, 181 locomotives were cut up there – plus a few not mentioned, I imagine.

But if I have mentioned footplate crews battled the odds, and scrapyard men slicing through metal with acetylene without a thought to sentiment, I ought also to doff my cap to the shed fitters who kept the show on the road for as long as possible.

A favourite is Eric’s story. (Eric’s mate had an unusual pastime of drawing link motion of steam engines and trying to improve on the designs of Messrs Stephenson, Walschaerts and others. It beats Sudoku, I suppose).

Eric was at Eastleigh, near Southampton, repairing Bulleid’s once proud Pacifics in the 1960’s. ‘The run down of Eastleigh shed was in full swing when I began working there in 1965…. The shed conditions were absolutely filthy, squalid even,’ Eric recalled.