|Little Barford at Acton Lane Power station; the driver steadies his nerves and rolls himself a cigarette after letting me drive his engine..................|
I have just finished watching a couple of programmes on BBC2 about railways in Wales, pre-Beeching. There were lots of 1950s/60s film footage taken during the last days of steam, together with the reminiscences of retired railwaymen. One story was of a young lad, befriended a driver at Mold, who was allowed a spot of driving, once away of the eagle-eye of the station master. These programmes were of a world so much in the past and it reminded me of the opportunities for footplate rides during the 1970s/80s on industrial locomotives, one I recall hearing being at a colliery in South Wales where visiting enthusiasts could 'play with the engine', whilst the crew were at lunch!
I did a fair amount of footplate travel myself during this period; the rough-riding old electrics at Harton Colliery, cadging a lift on the last train of the day out of Pennyvenie Colliery on a warm January afternoon in 1978 and riding on the outside of Simplex locomotives around the Leighton Buzzard sand pits (there was only room for one in the cab).
One of my earlier experiences was at Acton Lane Power station in November 1974. Visits to see the steam locomotives were granted on Saturday mornings and at the end of my visit, the old welsh driver suggested that I might like a turn at the regulator up and down the sidings. Whether management knew about this activity was unclear!
Health and safety considerations has stopped all this, not that there are many industrial locomotives around today, anyway. Even at preserved railways, locomotive sheds are now generally out of bounds to the casual visitor, unless with a guide of some sort. At least some railways now offer locomotive driving courses, which is one way to get onto the footplate. That said, my wife recently used her feminine charms on the fireman at Bridgnorth station, to get some pictures inside the cab of 42968...........