The Harry Jones page.
Railway memories of a local postman.
Harry Jones (1908-1996) was a postman who, apart from his War service, lived his entire life in the Conwy-Gyffin area.
Being retired in the 1960s he wrote down his memories of things he had seen and people he had met during his life.
These memoirs were written long hand in five large notebooks.
They are being transcribed and edited for publication.
The following excerpt describes one of the people he knew well, his father-in-law, a driver for the LNWR.
Although Harry always refers to him as “my father-in-law” we can give him a name.
He was William Henry Jones (1888-1965).
After Harry’s narrative we
have included some notes of conversations with his grandson,
COMPILED AND EDITED BY GEOFF POOLE
George Lunn has emailed me to
let me know that he has finally published the book of his
It is titled "AS IT WAS : North Wales in the 1920's and 1930's, in peace and war"
The book can be purchased through Amazon co.uk. It is available as a print edition or a Kindle edition.
It can be viewed through this LINK.
Everything about railways is already on this page but he talks about many other things particularly his childhood and
the war so will undoubtedly still be of interest to readers of past local interest.
I am indebted to
George Lunn, who originally sent me the email and details
below, which have now made up this fascinating page full of
will, no doubt, interest all enthusiasts and site visitors.
I was delighted to find your excellent
website about the Llandudno Junction loco shed a few days
ago. I commend your efforts.
Recently I have been working on a biography of my late uncle, Harry Jones of Gyffin.
He retired early from the Post Office and during the 1960s he wrote out his reminiscences in some bound notebooks.
I have one set and his son Vernon Jones has another. It seemed a pity that such interesting memoirs should disappear into the fog of
history and, having an impecunious student daughter who could be bribed to transcribe the notebooks, I have been
working on preparing them for publication in some form. The project is almost ready for launch.
One of the people that Harry writes about is his father in law William Henry Jones, a driver for the LNWR.
With the resources of the internet I have been able to check a number of the statements and they all seem correct.
I have excerpted the section about William Henry Jones and I wondered if you would be interested in posting it on your web site.
I would also be interested if you had any comments on the manuscript.
Thank you again for your fascinating web site.
Best wishes, George Lunn.
A RAILWAY DRIVER
Today, March 6th, 1967, sees the end of one form of railway haulage, steam, and the beginning of another, diesel.
The fact prompted me to delve into my memory regarding the reign of steam on the Chester-Holyhead line over many years, until it ended today.
Always very interested in railways, locomotives in particular, I was fortunate in the fact that I married the daughter of a
locomotive Driver, who was always quite ready to talk to me about the engines he had driven, and about various incidents on the footplate, etc.
Fortunately, he kept notes regarding various engines he had fired or driven, so I am able to list these in the course of my story.
My father-in-law began his career on the railway at Llandudno Junction shed when he was 14 years of age.
It was rather difficult to obtain work on the railway in those days, everyone who tried did not succeed.
His first job was engine cleaning, a dirty job, and the engines had to be really clean then, or there would be trouble.
Discipline was harsh and rigid, no relaxing for one moment.
As a Cleaner, he was expected to attend evening classes, without payment, where the functions of the various parts of a locomotive
were explained, and where every aspect of working a locomotive was taught.
Failure to attend these evening classes meant that you would be out of a job very quickly.
The Shed Sup’t [Shed Superintendent] was given a list containing the names of those who were present each evening, and if
he saw any Cleaners absent, he would personally warn them to attend, or else.
After about 2 years as a Cleaner, my father-in-law was promoted to Fireman, and sent to Nuneaton to work.
Here he fired on various Webb engines  on local passenger and goods trains. It was at Nuneaton that he had a most unusual experience.
He was called upon one stormy evening to fire on a single-wheeler , one of the “Lady of the Lake” class .
He had never seen one of these engines before, let alone to fire one.
It was with great trepidation that he went up on the footplate, and took stock of the various items, coal, water, etc.
No firing was allowed at stations in those days, it was a rigidly enforced rule, so all the firing had to be done when the engines were on the move.
The fire looked fairly good, and he waited for them to move off so that he could built it up more.
Once on the move, however, the single-wheeler swayed and rocked about so much that it took all his efforts to remain on his feet, let alone fire.
Each time he tried to place a shovelful of coal into the firebox, the shovel caught in the side of the door. More coal was being
scattered over the footplate, than to the fire itself.
As the engine sped along, the swinging, rocking motion increased, and firing became more difficult.
This journey was a real nightmare for my father-in-law, and he was glad to see it end.
He never wanted to see another single-wheeler as long as he lived, one trip was enough.
He remained at Nuneaton where he fired most engines of the Webb vintage.
Some work was very heavy, especially on coal trains, but he was gaining valuable experience every day.
After about 3 years at Nuneaton, he was transferred to the Patricroft Shed, Manchester, a very large Loco Depot.
He was now a regular Fireman, and worked, in addition to the Webb engines, the latest Experiments  and Precursors  that
were used on express passenger work.
He regarded the Precursor as a very good engine, and had several long distance trips with this class of engine.
[Charles] Bowen-Cooke had now become the Boss at Crewe [i.e. Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNWR 1909-1920], and
the “Prince of Wales” engines  began to emerge.
He first fired this class at Patricroft, and maintained that it was the hardest engine to fire properly, owing to its long, narrow firebox.
It needed both skill and muscle to place coal into the firebox of these engines.
While at Patricroft Shed, he also fired on main line express trains.
provided him with knowledge of the lines, that was to prove
very useful when he became a Driver.
It was at this Shed that he first saw the “George the Fifth” class , and had many trips with them.
After about 4 years at Patricroft, he came back to Llandudno Junction Shed, where he remained until his retirement.
He began his work as Passed-Fireman [who is qualified and can act as a Driver when required], and before long he was chosen to fire on the link express trains.
At this time, every Driver picked his own Fireman, and once chosen, he would remain with him, unless the Driver was not satisfied with his work.
Of course, it only needed a Fireman to be dropped by Drivers once or twice before he would find himself firing on goods trains
in the bottom link, and with a poor reputation, he was likely to stay there.
It was of paramount importance, therefore, to my father-in-law, to fulfil the trust of the Driver who had chosen him, so that
he could remain in the top link and get in line for promotion to Driver.
The first partnership worked very well indeed. All the years of experience at Nuneaton and Patricroft proved of immense value.
It emerged that my father-in-law became to be recognized as the best Fireman at the Depot, and the Senior Driver, as was his right, claimed him.
Thus began a partnership that was to last for many years, and as the Senior Driver was a good engine-man, it gave my father-in-law a great deal of useful experience.
Above all, the Senior Driver was a sensible man, and would allow my father-in-law to drive on many occasions, something few other Drivers did.
Let me give you details of some of their daily rostered trips.
Engine would be Prince of Wales class , Lusitania [No. 25673] , and from the shed they went “light” [i.e., the engine only] to Llandudno.
From Llandudno to Manchester with the “Club” train , made up of heavy 12 wheeled saloons, weight 400 tons.
Llandudno, Llandudno-Junction, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Prestatyn, then Manchester Exchange.
Running time from Prestatyn to beyond Chester Station was 32 minutes, so you can see that there was need for good speed to be sustained.
At precisely 10:00 am, the train arrived at Manchester, day after day, with never a minutes delay it came to rest.
On to the shed at Patricroft, for more coal, water, and attention to the fire, oiling, etc.
Then with a train from Manchester to Liverpool, on to the Shed at Edge Hill to turn the engine back with a train from
Liverpool to Manchester, and then on to the Club train for the return journey to Llandudno.
My father-in-law reckoned he would have slung somewhere around 12-14 tons of Coal into the firebox on this roster, and knowing
the hungry appetite of the Prince of Wales class, I feel sure his figures are correct.
As you can well understand, firing on these express trains was no job for a weakling,
and it was astonishing how men were able to shovel ton after ton of coal into the firebox as the engine sped along the metals.
Other rosters entailed working express trains to Liverpool, Stafford, Crewe, Birmingham, etc., so you can see that
the Drivers at this time knew the road [i.e., all the speed limits, signals, etc.] to a wide area of places.
This fact gave my Father-in-law experience and knowledge of the “road” to these various places, which he
put to good use later on when he became a Driver.
At this time, no Driver would dream of going on a journey without his “Jimmies”. These gadgets were of various sizes of
metal which were screwed by a turn screw across the blast pipe.
Each class of engine required a different size of “Jimmie”, so a Driver could be carrying as many as six in his work basket. 
When a “Jimmie” was placed across the blast pipe, the blast was increased by a terrific amount, so if an engine
did not steam properly, the old Drivers simply opened the smokebox door, screwed a Jimmie on the blast pipe, and away they went.
They were frowned upon by officialdom, as they tended to produce leaking boiler tubes, and other effects.
One could not mistake the blast of an engine fitted with a “Jimmie” – it could not be disguised, the whole district could hear it!
It required great care also that the right type of “Jimmie” was used, as it could happen that “back draught” from the firebox would result from a wrong kind.
My father-in-law learnt a great deal about “Jimmies” from the old Drivers and, in due course, had six Jimmies of his own, ready for use when he began driving.
A “Claughton” class engine  came to the Llandudno Junction shed for a trial run on the Manchester “Club” train roster.
My father-in-law and his mate were chosen for the trial run. This was regarded as a tribute to their skill in driving and firing.
An inspector would be travelling with them on the footplate to observe the working.
My father-in-law had to fire the Claughton engine to the instructions of the Inspector, and although time was maintained to
Manchester, the run was a very poor one indeed, the engine steaming very badly all the way.
The Inspector stated he would be returning with them from Manchester to Llandudno with the Down Club.
My father-in-law was convinced that the engine was not being fired correctly, and his Driver agreed with him.
When the Inspector arrived on the footplate, both men asked him whether he would allow the engine to be fired
as my father-in-law thought. The Inspector had nothing to lose, so he agreed.
My father-in-law fired the Claughton in his own way, and the engine was transformed.
It steamed well, and the Journey was entirely different to the morning one.
Upon arrival at Llandudno, the Inspector congratulated my father-in-law on the excellence of his firing, and said that
his method was the best one for the Claughton Class he had seen so far.
A few days later, a letter came from Crewe, congratulating my father-in-law on his excellent firing of the Claughton.
This was praise indeed, as Crewe very rarely handed out any letters of commendation, it was nearly always the reverse.
The Shed Sup’t called him into his office to add his own praise.
At the Shed during this time were several Webb engines, 18” Goods (Cauliflowers) , 0-6-2 Coal Side-tank , 2-4-2 Jumbo
tank (two types) , G type Goods , Experiments, Precursors, Prince of Wales, George the Fifth, and now the
last new engine to emerge from Crewe Works, the Claughton.
Day after day, my father-in-law fired on long distance express trains in the top link, and was steadily nearing the total
of 800 turns of firing, which would bring him into line for promotion to Driver.
The Claughton class now monopolized all the main line express trains, and at this time, each Driver had his own engine, so that they
were exceptionally clean and very well maintained.
No one dared to use any engine which “belonged” to another Driver, not even the Shed Sup’t interfered with this rule.
My father-in-law recalled the time when his Driver was most upset one morning upon learning that their Claughton was not available, and they
would have to take a George-The-Fifth Class [locomotive] Colwyn Bay  for the next two weeks to work the Club train and other expresses.
The Driver could not bring himself to trust a smaller engine for such heavy work, but my
Father-in-law re-assured him, and as he trusted him implicitly in all locomotive matters, Colwyn Bay went on the job.
Despite the fears of the Driver, the 60 Ton Colwyn Bay, although only a 4-4-0 did very well indeed, and by
the end of the two weeks, the Driver was rather reluctant to see the 4-4-0 go.
One must bear in mind when reading of good runs by various LNWR [London and North Western Railway] engines, that they were maintained to
perfection, every detail on the engines was carefully looked after, and one must understand
that the engines were at the peak of their performance, due to much care.
My father-in-law now became a Fireman-Driver, which meant he could go on driving, as and when required.
This grade was really a very bad way of promoting men.
After 800 turns of firing, then you became a Driver of “convenience”, called out at all hours of the day and night for
extra jobs, never daring to refuse, and the driving jobs were the ones that the regular Drivers did not want.
Until a vacancy arose at the Shed, or you were prepared to move away to another Depot, it was a case of waiting for “dead men’s shoes”.
My father-in-law told me many times that this period of being a Fireman-Driver was the most distasteful part of his whole career on the
Railway, the system was abused so much. He was called out on a Sunday, perhaps, to drive an excursion to Llandudno from
the Junction, returning with the engine “light” to the Shed, then told to go home. Time taken for the job 1½ hours and he got paid for that, nothing else.
You will realize that great bitterness was building up against this iniquitous system.
Then, at last, he was made Driver. It seemed a very long way back since he began work on the Railway, now he was a Driver, and went into
the grades with a very high reputation.
the Shed held him in high regard and plenty of Firemen
wanted to be his mate. That was enough proof of his ability
if any was needed.
As he knew the “road” to such places as Wigan, Stafford, Birmingham, in addition to the Crewe-Holyhead district, he was given the task of
driving trains to these areas. As being able to go through, it saved the use of a “Pilot”. Excursions to
Blackpool at this time became his monopoly, in view of the above.
When the railways of Britain were merged into four big Companies in 1923 , the LNWR lost its identity and became part of
the LMS [London, Midland and Scottish], which was taken over by Derby [i.e., the former Midland Railway and now LMS headquarters in Derby].
The Midland gained control, and at once began to denude the LNWR of its engines, giving in return their own, which was rather a short-sighted policy.
It did not take the Midland long to get rid of most of the “Prince of Wales”, “George the Fifth”, and Claughton classes, giving in
return the Midland Compound engine , and the Lancs & Yorker 4—5 , which in the eyes of most
ex-LNWR Drivers were far inferior to the withdrawn engines. Feelings ran very high on this point.
My father-in-law realized there was no point in trying to fight what was an accomplished fact, and decided to make
himself fully conversant with the new engines., and try and get the best out of them.
He obtained good results from the Compound and the “Crab” types, but he still had “Jimmies” in his work basket, just in case!
When Stanier arrived on the scene, the picture was changed completely.
In the same way as Churchward  had given the GWR [Great Western Railway] the best engines in the land, Stanier, his pupil, from
Swindon, did the same for the Midland Region. Now came along engines that my father-in-law absolutely adored.
At last, he had engines to drive that were excellent machines in every way.
As a matter of interest, he was chosen to drive the first Jubilee Class EXP 5XP , the first Caprotti Class V , to be
stationed at Llandudno Junction.
A peculiar twist of fate let him drive the last rebuilt Claughton on its last journey, before it was broken up, engine 6004 .
Naturally, he had many experiences as a Driver that he related to me.
One article in the Railway Magazine described a journey from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog, behind a Cauliflower, which the writer
described blasting its way up the severe gradients and bad curves, shooting steam and smoke high up
into the air, and emitting the strangest blast noise he had ever heard.
The writer stated that upon arrival at Blaenau Ffestiniog the smokebox door was red hot! What he did not know was that my father-in-law was the
Driver on the trip and that he had put a Jimmie across the blast-pipe.
Webb 0-6-2 Coal side tanks came his way, and in order to overcome the neglect of them, he always put a Jimmie in. It always worked, without fail.
After the Second World War, the engines of all the railway regions were in a bad state, the track also needed
repairs, there was 5 years of inability to repair both. Incidentally, during the War, my Father-in-law was engaged with
fast main line goods taking aluminium from the works at Dolgarrog to Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
As he knew the ‘road’ to both places, he was stuck with this job.
Troop trains from North Wales to the South and North came his way, and on many occasions he had narrow escapes from enemy bombing.
He had to use all his skill and experience to keep the engine on the move and at the same time keep the
fire-box door closed.  He told me that many times the steam pressure fell to around 80-100 P.S.I., hardly enough to keep the brakes off.
I should also have mentioned the fact that he had fired engines over Shap, and knew all about this famous gradient.
He maintained that if the Fireman had done his job correctly on the way to Shap,and the Driver had not trashed the
engine too much beforehand, the engines would go up quite well.
All the trips he had up Shap proved very uneventful.
Now the War was over, staffing problems became acute. There was a big deficit in experienced Firemen, this
coupled to the state of the engines, made the task of a Driver most difficult.
The attitude of the Shed Supervisor left a great deal to be desired, they “could not care less”, and everything made life most difficult for the Drivers.
Allocating engines had gone to a matter of “first in, first pick” with the result that you would have Drivers struggling
on an express train to Liverpool and back with an engine due for general overhaul at Crewe, while the local goods had an excellent Class 5  for their trip.
My father-in-law was one of the old school and laid any delay by the loco straight back to the Shed Supervisor on paper.
They were rather more careful with him than many others, and although they tried to work a dirty drive on him once
or twice, on each occasion the attempt backfired, and they took more care than ever not to be involved with him again.
Some attempts to cover up for lazy Firemen were not tried with my father-in-law.
His main regret at this time was the indifference of the persons in charge, and a serious lack of discipline.
A Driver now did not know who his Firemen was from day to day, the shortage was so acute.
On one Saturday morning, my father-in-law arrived at the Shed, a Saturday before August Bank Holiday, to work a London
express from Llandudno to Crewe, from Crewe to Holyhead non-stop with an express as relief to the Irish Mail [i.e., an extra train going
the same route at about the same time to cope with demand], then back to Llandudno Junction.
The engine stood ready, a “Royal Scot” class , but no Fireman could be seen.
Approaching the Sup’t, he enquired about this, only to be told that, due to an error, the Fireman due for the job had left on another.
The only person available was a young boy, who had only fired on the station shunter. He was small, and looked very pathetic at my
father-in-law lest he should turn him down, and others make fun of him.
Either my father-in-law accepted this young inexperienced lad as his Fireman, or the train would have to be cancelled, with
consequent inconvenience to the travelling public.
He gazed at the big red Royal Scot engine and looked at the young lad. Good heavens, it was hopeless to contemplate how this lad could cope.
Anyway, he decided to take him, and off they went ‘light’ to Llandudno. At Llandudno, my father-in-law filled the
firebox to capacity, and told the lad exactly what he had to do and how.
My father-in-law took over the injectors controlling the flow of water to the boiler, so that the lad could concentrate on firing only.
Away they went from Llandudno and reached Prestatyn without any trouble. From Prestatyn lay 26 miles of
non-stop running to Chester, and my father-in-law opened up, and the Scot began to move faster and faster, and
also to sway somewhat as the speed increased.
Now up to the seventies the “Scot” was really moving and my father-in-law saw the young lad crouching in a corner
of the footplate in sheer terror. He could not stand, let alone fire! This was not an 0-6-0 Tank!
The lad sat on the footplate in sheer misery and fear, and there was nothing my father-in-law could do except carry on.
Picking sections were the signals were well spaced, he flung coal on the fire as quickly as he could.
The engine was tearing along, and all seemed clear ahead, when all at once a Distant Signal showed ‘Red’ .
This was disastrous! Then a ‘Home’ Red nearing a Signal Box at Connah’s Quay, the Signalman waved a red flag at him from the Box.
He stopped the engine right by the Box.
The Signalman stated that another one at Holywell had reported seeing no Fireman on the engine as it passed and requested a
“Stop for Report” action. No wonder he could not be seen, as he was on the footplate floor!
After driving, and firing, my father-in-law reached Crewe without further incident. Now lay a non-stop run from Crewe to
Holyhead, and he wondered how this lad was going to manage.
As soon as he got on the engine my Father-in-law shovelled the coal from the back of the tender, filled the firebox, and
prayed that this youngster could put some coal on himself.
Things turned out better on this trip. The lad seemed less afraid, and he did manage to get coal on the
fire, assisted from time to time by my father-in-law.
the roster was over, the lad said he had never travelled so
fast in all his life, and he was really scared.
However, my father-in-law never spoke about this trip to anyone on the Shed, so that the young lad was saved a great deal of
misery from being taunted about it. For this, he was very grateful.
Other Firemen were really terrible, and were the cause of many delays. No one took any notice if a report was
made about their conduct, so Drivers retaliated themselves.
On one trip to Liverpool, my Father-in-law had a foul-mouthed lout as his Fireman. He was noted for his bad language and his tendency to use
his fists at times. One thing was certain, he would never be silly enough to attack my Father-in-law, he was a 16 stone [224 pounds] man of
great strength who could pulverize him easily.
My father-in-law did not say a word to this character on the outward journey to Liverpool, but on the return
journey things were different. The engine was 5XP “Jubilee” Class , “ASSAM” 45583 , load around 400 tons.
Out from [Liverpool] Lime Street went my father-in-law with this engine, the regulator full open, and the reversing wheel in full forward position.
The exhaust burst from the engine chimney like a volcano, and as the train came on to a level gradient after the uphill
pull from Lime Street, the Fireman expected to see the engine being eased up somewhat, but my Father-in-law left everything full open.
Now the Fireman had to start firing, and he did not stop all the way to Chester, the firebox just ate everything up like chaff, and
with full regulator, most of the small stuff went straight out of the chimney.
Off from Chester, where the cutting echoed and re-echoed to the terrific blast of the Jubilee in full fury.
The Fireman just had to keep on putting coal on the fire, he could not rest for a single moment, and for another 26
miles to Prestatyn went the Jubilee on a full regulator opening.
When the train arrived at Llandudno, the Fireman was flat out in the tender! There was no question at all that he would
never forget this trip, it had been a real killer.
My father-in-law told him quietly that he would receive the same rough handling if he ever misbehaved in any way again.
Naturally, my father-in-law informed the other Drivers in the ‘Link’ about this fellow, and they were all prepared for him.
On one July Saturday, he arrived on the Shed, and asked where his engine was. A Midland Class 2P  was pointed out to him.
My Father-in-law gazed in sheer disbelief. The train was one from Llandudno to London, and was around 400 Tons.
He sought the Shed Foreman, who said it would do, as it was only a local train. He had completely misread the tables.
When he discovered the truth he nearly died.
Of course, my father-in-law played merry hell and said that the Foreman must take the consequences of all delays.
From Llandudno to Rhyl, the “Class 2P” just crawled along.
It did not have the power needed to move the train away quickly. From Prestatyn to Chester it went better, and on arrival there, a Loco
Inspector stood speechless on the platform, as he saw a “Class 2P” heading a London train.
He could not believe it, and came on to the footplate to ask the reason for such a thing.
He saw the grime and dirt on the hands and faces of the crew, and knew that they had an almost impossible task laid on them.
He told my father-in-law that it was only his skill and experience that had got them to Chester and wondered how they had managed it.
Now it was out of the bag, trouble lay in store for the Shed Foreman, and my father-in-law was not going to save his neck.
He was absolutely fed up struggling to Chester, and he made sure they were late at Crewe. A fresh engine had to be provided at Crewe, and
this led to more questions.
Everyone was amazed that the train had managed to get so far with such an unsuitable engine.
Within a few days after this, the Shed Foreman came to my father-in-law to say he had received a severe reprimand
for turning out a wrong engine, he would take care not to do it again.
My father-in-law spoke to me many times about this journey with a Class 2, and laughed as he described the reactions of
various officials when they saw it head a London train.
Needless to say, he did not have a Class 2 again!
One day he was given a Class 5  to work a train to Crewe. This engine was the despair of everyone, it would not steam
at all, and had been on local goods work because of this fact.
Now he had this engine to work an Express from Llandudno to Crewe. He had a quick look around the engine, which
appeared alright, but he had his own suspicions what was wrong with it. He put two large buckets of sand in the tender, out of sight.
From Llandudno to Colwyn Bay, the engine laboured horribly, and just crawled along. It just managed to get into the tunnel at
Penmaenhead, then they were on a good down gradient to Abergele.
Down the 1-100 gradient between Llysfaen and Llanddulas, my father-in-law opened the regulator to “Full”, opened the firebox
door, and threw a bucket of sand straight at the far end of the firebox quickly followed by a second bucketful.
The outcome was sensational!
Into the sky went huge clouds of black smoke, soot, small cinders, sand and steam.
The whole area disappeared from view under this cloud. At Abergele, pressure began to rise, and when Rhyl was reached, the
boiler pressure was up to normal, the engine was steaming quite well.
What my Father-in-law had observed was dirty boiler tubes, and a most effective way of cleaning them was to fling sand through them
when the engine exhaust was strong enough to draw it through. As the sand passed through the tubes, it shifted the dirt as well.
An old trick he had learnt from an old Driver. It worked, however.
Another occasion found him with a Class 5 that would not move at all, hardly. Every Driver complained about it, but no one
took any notice. It was passed from Driver to Driver, who, all in turn, played absolute hell about it. Firemen loathed the sight of it.
Now my Father-in-law had it. Many a sly grin in the Shed could be seen as he moved off with it.
Most thought it would be a rough trip, and many wondered if it would reach Crewe. At Llandudno, my father-in-law opened the smoke-box
door, and screwed a Jimmie made for a Precursor across the blast pipe, hoping it would be somewhere near the right size.
He had never used a Jimmie on a Class 5 before, and he wondered how it would work, if at all. Further, he prayed that it would not arouse any curiosity en route.
He went from Llandudno as quietly as possible, listening intently to the sound of the exhaust, and to his great relief found it satisfactory.
He took things very easy indeed as far as Rhyl, to make certain the Jimmie was operating properly.
When he opened the regulator to move away from Rhyl, he gave the engine far more steam than at any point so far.
The results were spectacular to say the least.
The blast shot up straight into the air for over fifty yards, and the noise was deafening. Everyone on the station looked in astonishment
at the spectacle. Never had anyone seen or heard anything like this before. The Jimmie was working with success.
On to Prestatyn, by which time the steam in the boiler began to increase. From Prestatyn to Chester, the Class 5 with a Jimmie stuck
in took only 21 minutes, so it had proved its worth. Crewe was reached [at the]right time.
Having put the Jimmie in, the problem now was to get it out unseen by any official. Luck was with him, fortunately.
They got the engine on to a ‘road’ that was not in full view, and my Father-in-law, helped by his Fireman, got the Jimmie
out, and out of sight into his work basket. He warned his Fireman not to talk about what he had done.
Everyone was interested upon his return regarding his trip, but all they got out of my Father-in-law was the comment
that “the engine was alright, it only needed a good Driver”!
He was never involved in any accident, nor ever reported for having passed a signal at Danger. His record was absolutely clean when he retired.
He witnessed many accidents, and averted a great number, by his vigilance and devotion to duty.
He was noted for the number of places he “knew the road” to, and in particular, was equally at home on
the ‘road’, day or night. He drove the Irish Mail on several occasions between Holyhead and Crewe, and had many
stories to tell me about these runs.
For some unknown reason, Webb 0-6-2 Coal Side-tanks and “Cauliflowers” were retained at Llandudno Junction far beyond reason.
Their condition was deplorable and Drivers were furious having to struggle with worn-out wrecks when
Stanier Class 3 Tanks  were to be seen everywhere else.
No one bothered at all about these relics. They did the job somehow, but the men were physically exhausted after struggling with them and
were so fed up that they made up their minds to have no more of it. The problem was how to get rid of them.
My father-in-law laid before the other Drivers a plan that would ensure a quick death to these wrecks. All agreed, secretly, to work together.
One by one, the old engines were so badly handled and mismanaged until they just fell apart.
One “Cauliflower” driven by my Father-in-law blew the cylinder end right off.
A coal side tank had all the valve motion destroyed, tearing the boiler as well. Now everyone refused point
blank to work them any more, and the Union came in with a warning that if new engines were not at the
Depot in two days, the Board of Trade would be informed as well as the Ministry of Transport.
That did it.
New “Stanier Tanks” came in two days, and the work was totally different, the wrecks vanished overnight.
Needless to say, the Drivers and Firemen were delighted at the change.
In the opinion of my father-in-law, Stanier was the best CME [Chief Mechanical Engineer] the Midland region ever had. His ideas on
valve travel, etc. were good, but above all, he considered the Driver.
It is strange to think that until Stanier came into office, no previous CME on the LNWR, the LMS, or Midland Region had thought
of providing the engine crew with seats.
All that the Driver could do before the coming of Stanier was to lean against the side of the cab, so in effect, he
stood on his feet all through the journeys of the day, or night.
Some engines were terribly uncomfortable to ride on. The engine cab itself did not improve until Stanier came.
No one seems to have worried at all about the protection of the crew. I saw my father-in-law arrive home many times on wet and stormy days absolutely
soaked to his skin. Doors on the sides between the engine and tender were long overdue also, as added protection.
On one point, my father-in-law was always exceptionally keen, namely lubrication. He would never move off the Shed until he was
absolutely certain that all parts due to be oiled were checked. He never left anything to chance.
Anyone failing in his duty regarding lubrication felt the lash of his tongue. Safety at all times was his main characteristic, he would
never allow anyone or anything to interfere in his methods of working.
He retained a high standard all through the long years he served on the railway.
He demanded of his Fireman the same high standards as he himself upheld, and I spoke to many of his mates, who always paid tribute to
his skill, experience, and high standards of working.
I went with him to the engine sheds at Llandudno Junction scores of times to see the engines, and Vernon came later on.
I went on to the footplate many times, but not on any journey, although I travelled in numerous trains driven by him.
I used to “time” him between various points as a matter of interest, and the best I ever recorded was Chester to Prestatyn in 29 minutes.
The Diesel Electrics take 30 minutes today.
He retired just as the DMUs [Diesel Multiple Units] and Diesel Locomotives began to make their
first appearance on the Chester-Holyhead line.
I persuaded him to come with me on a run to Chester in the earliest DMU to travel this route, but he was most unimpressed by its performance.
“A carriage with a motor under it”. That was his summing up of the DMU.
Today, no steam train pounds up the gradient from Llandudno Junction towards Conway, nor passes swiftly out of the
Tubular Bridge the other way.
There is no Loco Shed at Holyhead, Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Rhyl, Denbigh, [or] Mold Junction, and Chester will close shortly.
The age of steam has gone.
Also gone has a generation of men, like my father-in-law, who worked the Steam Locomotives in their prime, men who
eased out of their engines power far beyond normal.
Now all seems very quiet, steam has gone for good, and the men also. Looking out from the front window of our house on the
Quay [in Conwy], towards Llandudno Junction, one sees a clear sky, and I have, as yet, failed to appreciate its meaning.
No smoke, no steam, no noise, all very quiet.
It seems as if the railway itself has died, and gone out of existence. I used to take a great interest in seeing the various kinds of
locomotives passing, but now I scarcely look.
There is no one here to talk with me about locomotives either, so to me personally, the loss is immense.
A great change has happened.
As a matter of interest, I found an old Jimmie amongst my father-in-law’s possessions. Evidently, he had kept it as a memento of
his driving days. It appears to have been well used, and is of a queer construction.
Written in 1967.
at : http://www.ribblevalleyrail.co.uk/Lancs%20Maps%20Anglesey.htm
Current British Rail stations in red, closed stations in white.
also Geoff Poole’s website for the Llandudno Junction Steam
Carriage Shed [1899-2000] http://www.6g.nwrail.org.uk/index.html
Recollections of His Grandson, Vernon Jones (16 July 2017)
William Henry Jones lived at 18 Lower Gate St., Conwy, Aberconwy LL32 8BE (previously Caernarvonshire).
He was known as Will Quay (pronounced Will Kay) because he lived on the Quay.
He was “a very handsome man” [Interview with Beryl Helyer (Harry’s niece) 2 August 2017].
He had two brothers: David who drove trams between Llandudno and Colwyn Bay and James who worked for Conwy Gas Co.
James joined the TA (Territorial Army) and served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in Sulva Bay (Gallipoli), Sinai, and Palestine in 1917-8.
He was promoted to Company Sergeant Major and survived the War.
much is known about WHJ’s parents. His father seems to
have died young.
He had a long apprenticeship. First of all, he started off working as a gardener’s boy, in this big house called
“Bodlondeb” , owned by Abram Wood who ran the Saltney chain and anchor works just outside Chester.
Abram Wood’s house and a park became a municipal park later on. WHJ used to say, when we were walking around, “I used to be on my
hands and knees grubbing the daisies out.” But one day, Mr. Wood came to him and
said “Would you like to start on the railways?” And he said “Yes”, and he just started.
know, it showed the local input. He started off with a
London and North Western Railway, that was amalgamated then
London Midland and Scottish railway in 1923 and then finally after the war, it became British Rail. He started off as a cleaner.
I think he was about 14 when he went into the railway. Oh, point of interest, I asked him once whether he’d ever been on those big
single wheelers? He said he had been once, firing, he said it used to bounce around.
It was a long apprenticeship to become a driver. You started off as a cleaner, knocking out all the clinkers and setting the fire, making sure
the water tank was full, the sandbags were all filled, and the oiling was done.
He never believed it when somebody said the train was ready, he checked it himself. And he was very, very good at firing, when he became
a fireman, quite scientific about it. He hated inefficiency.
At the height of his career he was on the Manchester Club. They had a reserved coach for members of the Manchester Stock Exchange, and the Cotton Exchange.
Kind of Pullman I suppose, though I don’t think it was as grand as a Pullman, probably just a first class dining car.
And it was direct from North Wales, where they had their homes, all the way to Manchester-Piccadilly [station].
was very good, at Christmas, very often they’d stop and give
you a pair of socks or something, give-aways sort of thing.
WHJ was a proud, thorough workman. His loco was thoroughly checked – oil, sand boxes – before he left the shed.
He was meticulous. He learned the art of fire building to get the best out of each lump of coal.
Inspectors carrying out fuel consumption tests often asked for him by name to drive the test run.
WHJ used the regulator to get the best out of the steam’s expansion. My father [Harry] reckoned that he was one of a small group of
drivers who really understood compound engines, knowing when to switch over to get the best out of the steam expansion.
He was a staunch Union man. He was awarded the long service badge for ASLEF, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the
Craft Union for footplate staff. He had a pension of 5 shillings a week. This came from the Union (ASLEF) and he paid into it.
There was no pension from the train company. In
contrast Harry’s pension from the Post Office was
index-linked for inflation.
Politically he supported Labour, even in its infancy. He voted Labour against Lloyd George who stood for Caernarvon Boroughs [1890-1945]! He
took part in the rail strikes in the early 1900’s and the General strike in 1926.
He did have a jimmy, and I saw it. It was made by the local iron chap who was working in the shed. Quite illegally.
You didn’t show it to anybody. And it was used for recalcitrant trains that wouldn’t steam properly.
But it was frowned upon, because it strained the tubes apparently. So you had to take it out before you returned the train, or if an
inspector was coming. Quickly get it… But he did have it there, and he had a paraffin lamp for going around [the shed].
Most of the trains did not have seats for the drivers. Always I was amazed, he’d spend his day standing in an open cab, open to all weathers.
Yet he never liked using a bus. He would walk to work, which is a two mile walk, and he would walk back.
And after he’d had a rest, and a meal, his favourite recreation was to walk, again. Down the river, down to the Morfa .
on the Quay through [apparently] the tube of the railway
bridge which would bring him to the engine shed.
One day he was challenged by a very nervous Home Guard sentry.
From Llandudno Junction, services ran to:
• Holyhead (ferry link with Dublin)
• North Wales coast resorts – Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Abergele
• Branch lines to the Conwy Valley (to Blaenau Ffestiniog);
• Main links to Liverpool (Lime Street station) via Runcorn and Manchester (Piccadilly station)
• Crewe, the main link to the North and London, also the engineering and maintenance centre.
WHJ drove the “Irish Mail” –
Holyhead, Llandudno Junction, Chester, Crewe.
Mail was sorted in the travelling post office coach by skilled sorters.
Mail bags were ready for Chester, Crewe, and London Euston.
He learned with experience. So you would do all the North Wales coast, and then to Chester, and then there was
the Liverpool one, the LMS line, ran over the Runcorn bridge, by way of a thing called the Halton curve  which
has been out of action for years and they’re now bringing it back, which we’re all cheering about.
He ended his time –on the branch line, to Ffestiniog. He trod on a piece of coal, and fractured his ankle, so he couldn’t stand as he used to do all the time.
That was quite a challenging route, because of its gradients. And of course, the worst thing of course, at the
end of the war, all the locomotive stock were really clapped out.
There is a record of the death of a William H. Jones, born 1888, in Conway in 1965.
There is no proof that this is “our” William Henry Jones but he does seem to be the best candidate.
Census and Other Records for 18 Lower Gate Street
The 1939 Register
William Henry Jones as a Locomotive Driver (LMS) Born 22 September 1888
Henry Jones (Harry) as an Established Postman born 29 Oct 1908
Mary Elizabeth Jones born 18 October 1889
Mary Elizabeth Jones born 27 July 1911
One closed record (probably their son Vernon)
The 1911 census shows William Henry Jones residing at 18 Lower Gate Street with his wife Mary Elizabeth Jones.
His occupation is shown as an engine cleaner for the London and North Western Railway.
He and his wife have been married for one year and both speak Welsh and English. Eventually their daughter Mary will marry Harry.
head of the family is shown as being Edward Brookes, a 67
year old fisherman who speaks both Welsh and English.
He is a widower. Edward Brookes fostered Mary Elizabeth Jones (born 1889) who married William Henry Jones, the engine driver.
was Mary Elizabeth Jones (born 1911) who married Harry
Their son was William Vernon Jones (always called Vernon). The house is shown as having 4 rooms including the
kitchen but not including the bathroom.
Edward Brookes (born 1844), Mary E. Brookes (born 1842), Lilly Evans (niece, born 1890), William J. Alcock (nephew, born 1872, a general labourer)
1891 Census* Edward Brooke (born 1844), Mary E. Brooke (born 1842), Edward Evans (nephew, born 1883)
1881Census* Edward Brookes (born 1844), Mary Ellen Brookes (born 1842)
1871 Census** Edward Brookes (born 1843), Mary E. Brookes (born 1842), Richard T. Brookes (son, born 1861)
*Now given as 35 Lower Gate Street but I think that it is the same place.
**Address is given as Plas Isa Yard which I think is a different house from that on Lower Gate Street but it is probably quite
close because it follows Lower Gate Street in the records.
this census 18 Lower Gate Street appears to be uninhabited.
Edward Brookes is always shown as being a fisherman. They certainly seem to have been very generous in taking people in to live with them.
The 1939 Register is very useful for establishing dates. According to The National Archives:
The 1939 Register, taken on 29 September 1939, provides a snapshot of the civilian population of England and
Wales just after the outbreak of the Second World War.
Details of around 40 million people were recorded in more than 65,000 volumes (transcript books).
The information was to produce Identity Cards and, once rationing was introduced in January 1940, to facilitate the issuing of ration books.
administer conscription and division of labour, and to
control the movement of the population caused by military mobilisation and mass evacuation.
Individuals’ records remain closed for 100 years from their date of birth or until proof of death is produced.
From 1948 the Register was also used as the National Health Service (NHS) Register, and was updated
until 1991, when the paper-based system was discontinued.
included notification of deaths, so the records of people
born less than 100 years ago, but whose death was
reported to either the National Registration authorities or to the NHS, will be open.
Some on-line search results of the register will have a number of blanked out lines, indicating closed records of individuals deemed to be alive.
As more records are made public by 100 having elapsed from date of birth.
The Register was continually updated while National Registration was in force, when it was a legal requirement to notify the
registration authorities of any change of name or address.
ended in 1952, but since 1948 the Register had also been
used by the National Health Service, who continued
updating the records until 1991, when paper-based record-keeping was discontinued.
Changes of name for any reason were recorded; in practice this was mostly when women changed their surnames on marriage or
re-marriage, but also includes changes of name for any other reason, such as by deed poll.
1. Francis Webb
designed a number of locomotives for the LNWR https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Webb_(engineer)
That is a
locomotive with only one pair of driving wheels, in this case
it was a 2-2-2 with 7’ 6” (2.3 m) driving wheels
Introduced 1859. The last one
was scrapped in 1907
4. Probably a
Whale Experiment 4-6-0, used 1905-1935 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNWR_Whale_Experiment_Class
locomotive, used 1904-1949 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNWR_Whale_Precursor_Class
6. 4-6-0, used
7. 4-4-0, used
8. 4-6-0, used
Club Train was a well-appointed train for businessmen. For example “known locally as the
'Club Train', for it conveyed a private Club Car whose
occupants, prominent Manchester businessmen … paid a supplement over the normal first-class fare” http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/arrailways/.
Also: “Luxury carriages set aside for the toffs. All modern conveniences carried.
Newspapers, hot drinks, ice refrigerator” (Murder at Deviation Junction by Andrew Martin, Mariner Books 2009, page 37). More specifically “…club carriages.
These were provided for exclusive use by a select group in return for a supplement on top of the season ticket fee, or a guarantee
by the membership to make a minimum purchase of tickets.
The first club carriages began running in 1895 on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s Blackpool-to-Manchester route.
The carriages really were organized like a club: new members were elected by committee and agreed to abide by
club rules, which included the allocation of armchair like seats within the saloon and strict protocols that governed
the opening of windows while the train was in motion.
Another club was formed fifteen years later [i.e.,
1910] for businessmen travelling to Manchester from North
Every day, its two dedicated saloons were attached to the same morning train from Llandudno, returning each afternoon.
Tea was served on board and members had their own lockers.” (The Railways. Nation, Network and People by Profile Books, London, 2015, p. 83)
11. “The West
Highland Jemmy usually consisted of a short length of wire
with a fish-plate fashioned to each end.
The wire, when set across the orifice of the blast pipe and weighed down with the fish-plates, was said to be a wondrous aid to steaming.
But the sharp blast thus induced did not do the tubes any good, and the Jemmy tended to cause back pressure.
The more fastidious driver, by answering a Peterborough firm’s advertisement that appeared in the railway press at one time
could, for the modest outlay of 1s 6d avail himself of ‘The Driver’s Friend’, a professionally made Jemmy guaranteed to
improve the steaming of any locomotive.
The device, claimed the advertisement, ‘will fit any
blast pipe, and can be put in or taken out in two seconds’.
That ‘taken out in two seconds’ was significant; trouble awaited the driver whose engine was found to be equipped with a Jemmy, whether
hand-made or mass-produced.” The West Highland Railway by John Thomas, David St John Thomas Publisher, Nairn, Scotland, 1992, page 147.
See also https://enginemanwook.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/the-unsung-blast-pipe-jimmy/
12. 4-6-0, used
13. 0-6-0, used
1880-1955. 18” refers to the
cylinder diameter. Nicknamed
“Cauliflower” because the company crest was prominently
displayed and looked like a
cauliflower from a distance. http://lnwrs.org.uk/GoodsLocos/Loco03.php
14. 0-6-2 Coal
Engine Side Tank, introduced 1881 http://lnwrs.org.uk/GoodsLocos/Loco05.php
4ft 6in Tank Class, used
and 5ft 6in Tank
Class, introduced 1890 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locomotives_of_the_London_and_North_Western_Railway (The dimension refers to
the diameter of the driving wheels)
introduced 1906 http://lnwrs.org.uk/GoodsLocos/Loco16.php
used 1902-1953. Compound refers to the layout of one
high-pressure cylinder inside the frames and two low-pressure
Thus the steam is used twice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midland_Railway_1000_Class
entirely clear which locomotive(s) are being referred to. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locomotives_of_the_Lancashire_and_Yorkshire_Railway
used 1926-1967. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Hughes_Crab
William Stanier, Chief Mechanical Engineer at LMS 1932-1944. https://www.lner.info/eng/stanier.php
Jackson Churchward, Chief Mechanical Engineer for the GWR 1903-1922 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Jackson_Churchward
used 1934-1967 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Jubilee_Class
BR Standard Class 5. 4-6-0, in
use 1951-1968. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BR_Standard_Class_5
to preserve the wartime blackout https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blitz
the West Coast Main Line from England into Scotland Shap
Summit is 915 feet with gradients up to
1 in 75 northbound https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancaster_and_Carlisle_Railway.
28. A banking engine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_engine was sometimes necessary to help push the train up the gradient.
The Driver could whistle for a banking engine if he required one http://stainmorerouteproject.blogspot.com/2015/03/tebay-and-shap.html.
a Stanier Class 5 4-6-0, in use 1934-1968. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Stanier_Class_5_4-6-0
in use 1927-1965. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Royal_Scot_Class
indicated that the next signal would be red.
The driver can pass the Distant Signal but should be
prepared to stop at the next signal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Railway_semaphore_signal
in use 1934-1967. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Jubilee_Class
a 4-4-0, in use 1928-1962 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Class_2P_4-4-0.
The Power Class 2P indicates that it was for light passenger
Classes go from 0 to 9 with 9 being the most powerful. P indicates passenger use. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_locomotive_numbering_and_classification#LMS_System
the Stanier 2-6-2T, in use 1935-1962 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Stanier_2-6-2T
Bodlondeb see: http://www.conwy.gov.uk/en/Resident/Leisure-sport-and-health/Play-Areas-and-Green-Spaces/Green-Flag-Award-Parks/Bodlondeb-Park.aspx
- The house at
Bodlondeb was built in 1877 for Albert Wood, whose family had made its fortune manufacturing anchors and cables at Saltney, Chester.
The company’s anchors were selected for Brunel’s Great Eastern, the biggest ship ever built at the time.
Wood’s Patent Anchor was used on Royal Navy ships and other vessels. Many other notable buildings along the North Wales coast were also
built as idyllic homes for people who had amassed wealth in industrialised north-west England.
Albert Wood played an active role in civic life in Conwy. In 1900 he was one of the magistrates who refused to grant a new licence for the Royal Oak Inn, in Lower Gate Street, despite
the High Court in London having ruled just four months earlier that the licence must be renewed.
Lloyd George presided over the ceremonial handing over of the property and 60 acres of grounds to the public in 1937. http://historypoints.org/index.php?page=bodlondeb-civic-offices ]
38. The Conwy Morfa is a large sandy bay that shapes the south side of the estuary of the River Conwy. It is north of the western end of the modern A55 entrance to Conwy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conwy_Morfa
Chester Holyhead Summer Railway Working – The View from 1967.
Steam traction has disappeared completely from this area, and all facilities for steam locomotives have been withdrawn.
Diesel Multiple Units [DMUs] of various formations made up from 2 car sets to 12 are to be seen very frequently.
All types of Diesel-Electric Locomotives are to be seen. Brush Type 4  and English Electric Type 4  the most numerous.
I am not, as yet, fully conversant with recognizing other types, and, at weekends, I have seen some locomotives which were quite strange to me.
One thing is very clear.
The loading of the Type 4Diesel Electrics has been very heavy.
Twelve coach trains are the rule, and the Irish Mail trains are made up to 15. 
An interesting innovation is the London-Holyhead train, conveying passengers in the coaches and
cars on flat trucks at the rear, to connect with the Holyhead-Dublin Car Ferry Steamer.
The steamer can accommodate about 200 cars, but the number of cars using the service is very small indeed.
Twenty cars have been the highest number
seen on day trains. Unless a great deal more use is made of
this Car-Ferry, I can see the service withdrawn.
One wonders if the probably demand was ascertained before embarking on this service.
A recent feature on the Welsh TV showed the steamer, and the commentator indicated the service was used on a small scale.
Surprisingly, the greatest change has been seen on Goods trains. Up to 70 trucks are taken by Type 4 Diesel Electrics, 78 is my largest count so far.
This represents a very heavy load. They crawl up the 1-100 gradient from Llandudno Junction to the Tubular Bridge [at Conwy], but none have failed, as yet, to get up the gradient.
It is obvious that the Locomotive is at its maximum power pulling trains up. It appears that fewer goods trains are being run, and hence the ones that do run are loaded to excess.
The maximum number of wagons to be conveyed on the Chester-Holyhead line in days of steam haulage was 60. Apparently, no maximum now operates.
Trains of empty stock for Holyhead are made up to 20 coaches, here again Type 4Diesel Electrics crawl up the gradient, flat out.
Few trains are double-headed [i.e., have two locomotives].
A number of DMUs have failed recently, and have to be hauled to Llandudno Junction by the 0-6-0 diesel shunting engine. A very comic picture.
From comments made to me by a friend who is a Loco Driver – the E[nglish] Electric Type 4 is preferred by
drivers to the Brush Type 4, these being very dirty, with diesel oil swilling everywhere.
This may be due to bad maintenance, and not to faulty design.
We are finding that, contrary to our expectations, diesel locos make far more noise coming up from the gradient from Llandudno Junction, more so at night.
Where the steam locos with the Irish Mails coasted up the gradient, the diesels come up on full power, and invariably wake us up.
We may get used to this noise in due course.
I understand that any failures result in long delays.
Apart from Station 0-6-0 Diesel Mech[anical] Shunters at Rhyl, Llandudno Junction, and Holyhead, any relief loco has to come
from Chester, so you can realize how long that will take. 
Businessmen are abandoning rail travel to Liverpool and Manchester by DMU sets, and proceeding in parties by road.
The Llandudno-Manchester “Club” train is now a DMU and has ceased to carry business people. 
In general, the public refuse to travel long distances by DMU trains. With a further increase in bus fares in North Wales this month, any form
of travel has become viciously expensive, with a consequent decrease of use of public transport, and an increase in private cars on the road.
Just a situation we should avoid.
The pattern of travel from Crewe to London is highly praised, it is speedy and very efficient.
On the Chester-Holyhead line, a great deal of tidying up in train times needs to be done.
Express road services appear to be increasing their passenger quota at the expense of the railways. Here the fares are far cheaper.
The closure of the Afon Wen Branch has resulted in a great falling off of people going to Butlin's Camp Pwllheli.
It was reported in the Press last week that the number of people at the Camp was 1000 under the usual number there in July last year.
Butlins will probably close the Camp. 
The Blaenau Ffestiniog branch still operates, one wonders how long it will continue open.  At the moment, it is goods traffic
for the Atomic Power Station at Trawsfynydd  that enables it to break even.
All parts of the Chester-Holyhead line
which had four tracks have been made into two, thus the line
is just double all the way.
The summer train service between Crewe and Holyhead has been criticized for lack of good connections at Chester and Crewe.
It appears as if the authorities seem bent on trying to “run down” the North Wales coast, and the winter timetable will
reveal their intentions more clearly. 
Recently an English Electric Type 4Diesel-Electric hauling a First Class Saloon, Dining Car, Kitchen Car, and Brake coach made the
journey to Caernarfon, with a host of officials on board to inspect the “TOILETS” at that station.
As a result of this visit, it has been decided to rebuild Caernarfon Station entirely!
Further, the single line between Bangor and Caernarvon is to be restored to double track. Not very long ago, the second track was uprooted. Now it has to go back.
Incidentally, none of the officials left the train at Caernarfon!
You may well ask what in Heaven’s name all this furore is in aid of. I will reveal it now.
Prince Charles is to be invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 2 years’ time , hence all this action.
Will the second track be uprooted against after the Investiture? Quite possible.
No wonder the Railways are in the ‘Red” with things like this going on. 
I was furious when I was given this information by a driver. I never heard anything so stupid in all my life.
I wonder what the reaction will be when it turns out that track can be restored for Royal functions.
Quite a good platform for the Welsh Nationalists!
Overcrowding has been reported every weekend, every complaint being met by a cold indifference, the trains are crammed
before they reach Colwyn Bay. London trains have been terrible.
The Car Ferry has done better this month, more cars on the train, but still well under capacity.
The travelling public seem to resent the DMU’s more and more, but B.R. [British Rail] are unmoved.
Express Coach services are increasing on the Chester-North Wales district. Stupid and ancient ideas of
day return fares have thrown most people to travel by road.
Llandudno Junction, Bangor, Rhyl, and Holyhead have ceased to be Diesel Depots.
Should any unit fail, and require spare parts, these will have to be obtained from Chester, so you can understand that
delay is certain before the unit can be restored to service.
If a Diesel-Electric Loco breaks down between Chester and Holyhead, the nearest point for obtaining a spare loco is Chester.
Goods trains are well loaded, mostly containers, Irish exports of meat, etc. Cattle trains are up to normal.
The Level Crossing at the Junction has 2 men on duty regularly to prevent cars being stranded on the rails while the Barriers come down.
Travelling in the area of Conway, Colwyn Bay, and Llandudno has become very expensive by road or rail, hence more
people get cars, which adds to the already chaotic state of the roads around here.
Twelve mile queues are now common. Far too many Railway Stations have been closed in too great a hurry, and we now
suffer from this action by having all our streets here absolutely choked with cars.
I should have mentioned that in connection with the restoration of the Bangor-Caernarvon Line to double track, the re-arrangement of the
signalling alone will be costly, as all the newly installed single line instruments will be scrapped. New signals will be needed at every point, and track layout will be revised.
[Written in 1967]
Class 47 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_47
Class 40 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_40
Irish Mail conveyed passengers and the mail from London to
Dublin and vice versa.
The train connected with a ferry at Holyhead that sailed to Dun Laoghaire, Ireland with onward connection to Dublin. http://railwaywondersoftheworld.com/irish_mail.html
diesel mechanical locomotive uses a mechanical
transmission (like a car) rather than the more common
diesel electric type in which the diesel engine drives a
generator and the
electricity so generated drives electric motors attached to the wheels https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_locomotive.
Club Train was a well-appointed train for businessmen. For example
“known locally as the 'Club Train', for it conveyed a
private Club Car whose
occupants, prominent Manchester businessmen … paid a supplement over the normal first-class fare” http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/arrailways/.
Also: “Luxury carriages set aside for the toffs. All modern conveniences carried. Newspapers, hot drinks, ice refrigerator” (Murder at Deviation Junction by
Andrew Martin, Mariner Books 2009, page 37).
Wen was the junction of the line from Caernarfon with the
line joining Pwllheli and Porthmadog.
It closed on December 7, 1964. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afon_Wen_railway_station.
The line from Bangor (which is on the main London to Holyhead line) to Caernarfon was closed on January 5, 1970 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caernarvon_railway_station.
happened in 1998 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butlin%27s_Pwllheli.
is still in operation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blaenau_Ffestiniog_railway_station]
is still going. Conwy
station was closed on February 14, 1966 but reopened on June 29, 1987. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conwy_railway_station]
1, 1969 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investiture_of_the_Prince_of_Wales
the line from Bangor to Caernarfon was closed on January
5, 1970 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caernarvon_railway_station.
13. The crossing was replaced by a road flyover in 1969. http://www.6g.nwrail.org.uk/signaling.htm.
Francis and the Mail Trains
In the early 1930’s, I worked at Rhyl Post Office. It was here that I came into contact with a most remarkable character.
He was nearing 60 years of age at this time, and was very slow in his actions.
One fact made Francis different from everyone else – he was fat, very, very fat.
Not only was he fat, but rather short in height as well, which made him look like a barrel on small legs.
He was such a problem regarding his size and queer measurements that his Uniform had to be specially made. He was different to everyone else.
As he was so very fat, he could not go out on a delivery like other Postmen. He could not bend down to the letter-boxes.
The Post Office gave him a regular night duty 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.
His duty was to convey mails on a small handcart to and from the Railway Station to the Sorting Office, and also to
dispatch mails via the “Nets” to the Holyhead-London Irish mail train at 1:15 a.m.
As he was too fat to do the job by himself, the Postman working the “nets” on the Down London-Holyhead mail train helped him. At times, the
Postman on the “Down” side forgot all about Francis, and, in other cases, sometimes kept away on purpose.
Francis had a beard like George V, which, coupled to his short, fat body, gave him a rather “kingly” appearance. He had one great weakness – Beer.
On duty at 7 p.m. each night made it impossible for him to have any time in a Public House, such as other men could do.
So Francis had to employ other means to obtain his beer, which lead to many funny incidents.
On his way to and from the Railway station, he would go to the rear of a Public House in Bodfor Street, gulp down a pint of Old Ale, and away again.
It was a good scheme while he called on his way from the station, but taking mails to the station was a different matter, as the trains
would not wait for him if he happened to linger too long at the rear of the Pub.
One evening, he called at the Pub on his way to the Station and stayed rather longer than he intended, with the result that when he
arrived at the station, the train was gone! Francis was panic-stricken.
He had no excuse, as he had left the Sorting Office with plenty of time in hand to catch the train.
Only one avenue of escape remained. He would have to see Albert Hayes.
Albert was an old soldier, who had come into the Post Office after the First World War.
He was a master at getting out of all sorts of trouble, and could produce an excuse that would stand inquiry.
Only Albert could help him now.
He [Francis] rushed backed to the yard of the Sorting Office as fast as his short fat legs would allow.
Albert went out quietly to Francis. The situation looked very dark. It could mean suspension from duty unless he could get some good excuse.
The Overseer on duty was a very nervous, gentlemanly type, always very worried lest things went wrong.
Albert found a way out. Francis could cry with no effort at all in a most convincing manner, and he could make himself the picture of misery.
So Francis had to put his crying act on, and say the lift [elevator] at the Station had stuck half way down, and that he had lost the train.
Francis played the part perfectly.
The Overseer, seeing him in tears, told him not to worry, as it was not his fault the Lift had stuck, and the mails would go on the next train.
So Francis got clear.
No one told the Overseer, and he knew no different, that there was no need for a lift to the Up platform, you just walked on to it.
The excuse worked and Francis thought Albert was very clever indeed, both were happy at the result.
Another incident, or perhaps incidents might be the best description, happened some time later.
As I have told you, Francis had to dispatch mails via the “nets” to the Up Irish Mail at 1:15 a.m. This time, he put the mail bags into the
leather pouches, hung the pouches on the stand ready to turn them out for collection by the “net” on the mail coach.
He had to wait for the Signalman to ring him on the telephone before he could swing the pouches out.
Whatever the reason, probably more old ale than usual, Francis went to sleep, a very deep sleep.
The next thing Francis heard was the Irish Mail thundering past, and the pouches still hung as
he had put them, facing the wrong way. This was really very serious.
Messages arrived at the Sorting Office wanting to know the reason for the failure.
This time the Head Postmaster took the inquiry, and Francis had to think fast, and think very deeply how to get out of this one.
Once again, he consulted Albert, who came up with quite a reasonable explanation.
No crying at this time, just the look of utter misery, and a statement that he had an urgent call of nature, due to a stomach upset, and he was
forced to go into the bushes to relieve himself. The train passed before he got back.
The chaps on the Mail coach could not have seen him, as he was inside the small hut. The excuse was accepted and Francis got free once more.
The next night, he slept again, and the mails failed. This was incredible. Two nights following each other, and both failures.
Francis gazed up at the pouches as they hung on the stand, silent witnesses to his gross neglect of duty.
The Mail Coach Overseer again phoned to ascertain the cause of the failure.
A Travelling Post Office Inspector was coming down to conduct the inquiry. Everyone thought Francis was in dead trouble. They were right.
Again, he consulted Albert, who racked his brains in an effort to find some explanation that could withstand the closest scrutiny.
As Albert remarked, Francis could not blame the call of nature again. It was too much to expect anyone to believe that even a
freak of Nature, like Francis, could receive urgent calls to relieve himself two nights running, and both at exactly the same time.
After a long deliberation, Albert decided there was only one course left – Francis would have to cry.
This time he would have to cry harder than at any time in his life before, and, as Albert instructed, there would have to
be “bloody big tears” this time. This was to be Francis’s last cry, and it had to be good.
His acting would need to be good. Whether it was his convincing crying act or not, the inquiry closed, after accepting the fact that
Francis had suffered a momentary lapse of memory. We all knew Francis had cried for the last time, he would never again get away with his tears.
Another person took a hand in the matter now.
The Inspector of Postmen was an old RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major]in the Army, and had by this time, suspected that some monkey business
was going on, and he took steps to end it, and also to really frighten Francis once and for all.
He knew very well what pub Francis called at on his way to and from the station. When Francis came out one night, the Inspector of Postmen stood in his path. He was caught.
As the Inspector told him that if he ever saw him in a pub on duty again, he would be dismissed, Francis realized his days of sneaking [out] for ale were over.
The Inspector had also checked on the working of the “nets” without anyone being aware of the fact. He cornered me, as I was on the ‘Down’ “nets” and asked why I had also worked the ‘Up’ “nets.
“Where was Francis?” (Asleep at the P.O.)
I could not deny anything, as he had seen it all. Francis would have to reform or go.
As Albert told him, “Lay off the beer for a few more months, and you can drink yourself to death afterwards.”
However, Francis did not live to see retirement.
One evening, as he signed on duty, he slid slowly to the floor, the pencil still clutched in his hand, and we all knew he had died as he fell.
He passed on in the Sorting Office where he had played around so much.
Despite his weakness for ale, we all liked him, and the Office was very empty after he died.
I was always on very good terms with him.
He never said a crass word to me at all. Somehow, I felt sorry for this fat, small man, made to work nights permanently.
I somehow revolted at anyone being so cruel as to deprive him of his evenings at home.
His life, in consequence, was rather empty.
[Harry only refers to Tom by his first name and his full name is unknown, perhaps for the best.]
Tom was a locomotive-driver at Llandudno Junction and a great friend of my father-in-law, who was also a driver at the same depot.
Tom was, without any doubt, a “character” in the full sense of the word. Kind, generous, lively, over the years he had gained a reputation as
a real “speed merchant,” and as one who “flogged engines without mercy”. He was not a person to tangle with as he had a very loud voice, and
whatever Tom had to say he said it loud enough for all to hear.
Cleaners, firemen, fitters, foremen, all in turn felt the lash of his tongue. Any fireman who was lazy soon discovered that Tom was not long in
disposing of his services and his failings broadcast all over the Shed [locomotive depot].
Foremen were careful enough not to get on the wrong side of him. Tom would pay back in full interest if they did. Tom terrified the fitters on the Shed.
Any repair he had “booked” which had not been attended to by them was the signal for a major upheaval.
Where my father-in-law worked his engines on expansion, saving coal and water, Tom never bothered about these things.
The reversing wheel did not exist as far as he was concerned. Full regular, full forward gear, that was Tom.
His fireman toiled twice as hard to satisfy his enormous demand for steam, yet, strange to relate, he never had any difficulty in getting one.
Tom clowned a great deal, and he managed to get away with things that others could not.
Over the years he became well known on the Crewe-Holyhead-Manchester district, and he created around himself the image of a dare-devil.
Tom had no hesitation at all in shouting at the top of his voice at the platform staff from Inspectors downwards if he thought they were slow in getting the train away.
Passengers were surprised on numerous occasions to see their driver get off the engine and shout at the platform staff to “bloody well get on with it.” If anyone
else did this there would have been trouble, but everyone knew Tom and accepted it.
He liked to “hear” the engine working, the louder and more fierce the blast the happier he became.
Tom entered a very difficult period in his career, as did a lot of other Drivers, when the Midland deluged the LNWR with their engines
[probably 1923 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_and_North_Western_Railway].
In particular, he hated the Midland
Compound 4-4-0, and he had a string of choice Welsh swear
words to describe them
Tom never bothered about working this class of engine as a Compound, but as a 2 cylinder “simple” so his fireman was always unable to maintain enough steam.
My father-in-law always managed to get good results from the Compound and had some good runs with them.
[These locomotives had one high-pressure cylinder inside the frames and two low-pressure cylinders outside the frames.
When steam was exhausted from the high-pressure cylinder it could be used to do extra work in the low-pressure cylinders.].
On one occasion the Shed Foreman gave Tom a “Compound” to work a train from Llandudno Junction to Holyhead and back. Tom was furious.
He called the foreman and engine all the swear words he could muster, then climbed on to the footplate in a rage.
When the Train came on to the 1:00 gradient leading up to the Tubular Bridge [across the Menai Straits], the engine slipped violently.
Instead of closing the regulator, and giving the engine a chance to “get its feet” Tom just left it full open.
The slipping became so bad, and the driving wheels spun around at such a fearful speed, that the side rods buckled under the strain. Now the engine was a total failure.
The whole train had to be dragged back to the station while Tom gave everyone his ‘blue’ opinions on the Compounds.
Tom made out all his official reports in handwriting that no one could decipher, and if the foreman asked him to explain, he would be told sharply it was time he learnt to read.
Invariably, Tom got away with a great deal by his scribbling.
Rather than risk a major upheaval, foremen always accepted his unreadable reports.
When the Loco-Inspector rode on the footplate with Tom he disregarded him completely, and if the Inspector was rash enough to question him, he
would pretend not to hear him. Whatever any Inspector did made no difference to Tom, he blasted away like mad with a full regulator.
Tom had no compunction whatsoever at emptying his tender of coal, and if anyone in authority questioned his heavy
consumption of coal, Tom would reply that coal was in the tender to be burnt.
He was also one for using the whistle. Whether this was done in a spirit of bravado to draw attention to himself, I do not
know, but Tom used the whistle without respite.
If he was stopped by signals and the signal box was close by, Tom would keep on whistling, driving the signalman hopping mad.
When the signal cleared, he would move off with full regulator, and would shake his fist at the signalman as he passed.
Then he would smile quietly, satisfied that he had created a noisy scene.
One busy Saturday in the holiday season, the only available engine to take a Train to Llandudno was the 0-6-0 Shed Shunter.
The regular crew of this engine adored it, and kept it in perfect condition and very clean.
They were horrified to learn that they had to let Tom have their engine. To make matters worse, Tom shouted that he
would “slog the guts” out of the small Tank. The crew of the Shunter were really infuriated and protested loudly.
Tom threatened to wreck the Tank engine and this made things worse. When the time to move off came, Tom went out very
quietly and easy. He had succeeded in his intention of upsetting the Shunter crew, now he made
things more complicated by acting contrary to expectations.
Holyhead drivers always had “banking” assistance up the gradient from the station on almost every train, but when Tom took Trains
out of Holyhead he declined the services of the “banking” engine and said he would show Holyhead drivers how to take trains up the gradient unassisted.
This he certainly did.
Showering the station with sparks and cinders, he would “blast” up the gradient in a spectacle of noise and smoke.
The din was terrific, the entire district heard. This was what Tom wanted, to draw attention to himself and add to his “image”.
My father-in-law told me that to see and hear Tom leave Holyhead with a ‘Scot’ class was unbelievable. He deliberately set out to do this just to “show off”. Typical.
When Stanier came to the LMS from Swindon, with all GWR Loco practice at his disposal, a great change occurred which affected all drivers.
Tom was no exception.
At last, here were engines that were the finest ever made for any railway, the “Class V” mixed traffic being the best of all
Tom was now in his element. He drove the Class V with full regulator, as was his usual practice, and the tremendous exhaust satisfied him beyond measure.
The only exception was the “Jubilee” Class 5XP
This 3 cylinder engine in its original state displeased Tom. The blast was ‘soft’ and he could not get them going at all.
As my father-in-law had driven the first engine of this class to be stationed at Llandudno Junction, Tom came down to our
house to have a talk with him about his difficulties.
My father-in-law maintained that the nozzle of the blast pipe was too wide, his diagnosis was later proved correct when all the engines in this
Class were taken in to have modified blast pipes that were narrower.
When Tom understood the problem, he asked my father-in-law to lend him a “screw on” type “Jimmy” so that he could “get going” with them.
At first, my Father-in-Law tried to talk Tom out of his plan.
But all was in vain.
Tom got his “Jimmy,” ready to use it on his next turn of driving on a “Jubilee”. The event took place eventually and, as might be
expected, the results were spectacular indeed.
The blast was transformed into a mighty roar as the engine blasted its way out of Llandudno Junction towards Conway, up the gradient.
The result pleased Tom very much. My father-in-law had reservations.
This was a new engine, just out of Crewe Works, and to use a “Jimmy” in it was taking some serious risks.
If any officials were to discover the fact, the result would be an official inquiry and Tom could well be demoted.
Tom did not worry at all. He came out of Holyhead in a hail of cinders, small coal, ash, smoke, and steam that left everyone amazed.
Once again he had succeeded in maintaining his “image”.
Fortunately, for everyone’s sake, the 5XP’s were taken away from Llandudno Junction and replaced by Class 5’s.
My Father-in-law was very glad to see this happening.
As you will have no doubt gathered, Tom was no respecter of persons. High officials from Crewe had visited the loco shed from time to time must
have wondered what on earth this aggressive driver was.
Should they by chance talk to Tom they would invariably be told to get on with the job of building engines and leave the driving to men who knew how to do it.
In effect, mind your own business.
The Shed Foreman was worried stiff by Tom’s attitude but there was nothing he could do about it. Tom was ‘Tom’, no one could change that.
I had many journeys by rail where Tom was the driver. Although I did not have a stop-watch to time the runs accurately, I did
time them by my pocket watch which had a “seconds” hand.
His best time between Chester and Prestatyn was 28 minutes flat, a feat performed by a Class V fitted with “Caprotti” valve gear.
When one considers that all diesel hauled trains are allowed 30 minutes for this 26 mile run, Tom’s effort can be seen as really great.
The engine on this particular run was driven ‘flat out’ in full forward gear all the way. Tom was, like my father-in-law, a person who knew all
routes intimately, which was a great asset in high speed running.
One could not indulge in high speed without being perfectly sure of the route.
On one occasion when he was approaching Manchester exchange station with the “Club” train from Llandudno, he was turned on to a wrong line by the local Signal Box.
He stopped the train, climbed down on to the Track and went to the Signal Box where he conducted a high-powered attack on the signalmen, classifying them as “Apes”.
Of course there was an official inquiry where Tom’s action was commended. Not every Driver would have realized he [had] been given a wrong line.
After this, Tom openly derided the signalmen, who, very wisely, decided not to engage in open warfare with him. So his “image” spread.
Coalmen at the Loco Depot never dared to put inferior Coal on to the Tender of an engine driven by Tom.
He would decline to move off his Shed unless he had decent coal, and no official ever tried to cross his path on this point, as they knew they could not beat Tom.
Tom let it be known that he would deal personally with any coalman trying to foist “rubbish” on him. The threat was quite effective.
All feared Tom.
About two years before he retired, the Diesel-Electric locomotives had made an appearance in the district, and some of the younger drivers began
to tease Tom that they had machines that were much faster than the steam engine.
His position as the “tearaway” driver was now in peril, his ‘image’ might be tarnished.
Bold as ever Tom applied for, and received, tuition in the art of driving Diesel-Electric locomotives.
Why his application was allowed, no one knew, as with only 2 years to go it seemed rather fruitless.
Nevertheless, Tom gained access to the ‘Diesels’ and proclaimed that he would show the younger drivers how to really make them “really” go, a promise
everyone knew he would carry out regardless of the consequences.
He made some spectacular runs, as you might guess, and his image was bright again. His incursion into the realms of Diesel-Electric traction was brief.
It all happened very quickly, and Tom was deposed from his throne without fuss or ceremony.
He was driving the Down “Welshman” Express, a Summer season train from Crewe to Holyhead.
It was non-stop from Chester to Penmaenmawr and Tom set out in his usual style, driving the Diesel without mercy.
He went like the devil and arrived at Penmaenmawr about 12 minutes before time, an unheard of feat.
There the ‘Diesel’ came to a stand and everything went “dead”. All the ‘cut-out’ contacts had burnt out completely.
Tom had overtaxed the Diesel so badly, disregarded all the dials, and had succeeded in destroying it.
There it lay, useless, utterly over driven, and the Train remained at Penmaenmawr until a steam engine arrived from Bangor to tow it there.
Tom’s image was now battered.
There was an official enquiry, which he managed to wriggle out of without any punishment.
The damage to the Diesel was extensive. It was said at the time that had the driver been anyone else but Tom, he would have been dismissed.
So no more Diesels for Tom. Back to steam
He ended his days driving Class V’s, which he thoroughly enjoyed. When he retired, a real ‘character’ vanished from the scene.
I have met him several times, and he has not changed one bit.