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).
Harry’s narrative we have included some notes of conversations with his
grandson, Vernon Jones.
COMPILED AND EDITED BY GEOFF POOLE
I am indebted to
George Lunn, who sent me the email and details below, which have now
made up this fascinating page full of memories which
will, no doubt, interest all enthusiasts and site visitors.
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
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.
at 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.
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.
Current British Rail stations in red, closed stations in white.
Geoff Poole’s website for the Llandudno Junction Steam Locomotive and
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.
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.
the local input. He started off with a London and North Western
Railway, that was amalgamated then to the
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].
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.
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 .
house 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.
The 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.
daughter 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.
census 18 Lower Gate Street appears to be
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.
to 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)
is a locomotive with only one pair of driving wheels, in this case it
2-2-2 with 7’ 6” (2.3 m) driving wheels
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
5. 4-4-0 locomotive, used
6. 4-6-0, used 1911-1949 [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNWR_Prince_of_Wales_Class
7. 4-4-0, used 1910-1948 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNWR_George_the_Fifth_Class
8. 4-6-0, used 1911-1949 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNWR_Prince_of_Wales_Class
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
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 Wales.
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)
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.
claimed the advertisement, ‘will fit any blast pipe, and can be put in
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/
used 1913-1941 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNWR_Claughton_Class
used 1880-1955. 18” refers to the
cylinder diameter. Nicknamed
“Cauliflower” because the company crest was prominently displayed and
cauliflower from a distance. http://lnwrs.org.uk/GoodsLocos/Loco03.php
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
inside the frames and two low-pressure cylinders outside.
Thus the steam is used twice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midland_Railway_1000_Class
entirely clear which locomotive(s) are being referred to.
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
used 1934-1967 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LMS_Jubilee_Class
BR Standard Class 5. 4-6-0, in use
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
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
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 work.
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