No. 7 - p156-157


Boiler Trouble


    It can quite truly be said that those who have not undertaken research into the history of industrial railways and locomotives have missed one of the most rewarding aspects of our hobby. The unearthing of fresh facts, particularly if of local significance, gives as much satisfaction to the researcher as does the discovery of a resplendent locomotive hard at work by the photographer. Research can be done at odd times and in inclement weather when outside visits are impracticable. The work is not always easy and at times heavy-going, but when perusing old volumes in the Library moments of light relief are enjoyed such as to cause a few raised eyebrows! Original manuscripts often make interesting reading and the following account is based on correspondence between a Company of "Coal & Cannel Proprietors" in the North of England (whom I must call "X") and a firm of locomotive builders ("Y").

    In September 1901, "X" ordered an 0−4−0 saddle tank locomotive from "Y" which was completed rather more quickly than "X" expected, being ready for delivery towards the end of October. "Y" was very surprised to hear from "X" that the "Loco House and siding to it are not yet completed" and that "we are unable to take the locomotive at the time mentioned in yours". (Normally, locomotive builders were being chivvied constantly to improve on their quoted delivery dates!) "We have been very much put about by the delay in completing our sidings owing to the non-delivery of the Points and Crossings"‚ but these arrived on 14th December and were laid during the Christmas Holidays and the first two weekends in January. "X" was now able to take delivery of the locomotive and asked "Y" to give special "instructions to the G.N. Railway Co. that it must be brought into our siding chimney first as we have arranged our Loco House accordingly". The engine was despatched from "Y" on 16th January 1902 and put to work at the colliery immediately.

    On 30th May 1902 "X" wrote to say that "there is a leakage somewhere in the boiler at the back of the lagging. As the loco has done very little work we think this is a matter that ought to be put right at your cost, and we shall be glad to hear from you thereon." This appears to have been cleared up the following month, and nothing more was heard for over a year until it was reported on 10th July 1903 that "there is a considerable leakage in our Loco Boiler Shell somewhere under the covering, and it is evident we shall have to have the tank and casing removed". Some fitters were sent along from "Y" to undertake the necessary repairs. Just what did happen afterwards will never be known with certainty although it seems clear that the fitters did their firm no credit.

    "X" contained themselves until receiving the timesheets and bill from "Y" when they regretted "to have to say that the conduct of your men was very unsatisfactory. You asked us to provide all the assistance necessary and we arranged for two fitters in addition to the engine driver to start and assist your men to get the tank liberated and lifted as quickly as possible, which in our opinion could easily have been done in about five hours. It would then have been a very easy matter for your boiler-maker to have got the bit of caulking done up to 6 o’clock on Saturday morning, as there was certainly not more than two or three hours caulking. Our three men could then have assisted your men to have got the tank into its place again, and the job could have been finished easily on Saturday.

    "Instead of the above being carried out, your men arrived at the Colliery about 5 o’clock and sat down on the top of a fence rail until 7 o’clock. In the meantime they allowed our men to bar the engine out of the shed for about twenty yards, your men looking on all the time. When they had got it barred out this distance they told them to rebar it back again into the shed.

    "After having told them this they set off and left the Colliery. Our men waited for them until 9−30 p.m.‚ but not knowing whether your men were coming back or not they set off home. Your men returned to the Colliery about a few minutes to ten. They spent the remainder of the night until 6 o‘clock on Saturday morning loosing a few bolts out which fasten the tank. We then sent four of our men to assist in lifting the tank, after which your men said they wanted no more assistance. They then spent the remainder of their time as is best known to themselves." Work continued throughout Saturday and Sunday and the men returned home at about 8 o’clock on Monday.

    The fitters must have been old hands at this game for they convinced "Y" that they had only sat on the fence for about two minutes, and that afterwards they went with one of "X’s" men to look for lodgings as there was nobody in authority on the premises! "X" countered by saying that their Engineer was engaged on other work and could not meet them, but "the two fitters, which your men choose to call labourers, and the driver were told to take any instructions from your men to facilitate the work. Before they left your men saw our Engineer about 7 o‘clock, but at that time the boiler was slightly leaking at the tubeplate edge, and we did not see anything of them after this.

    "We regret to say that the boiler is leaking now as badly as before your men came to it, and as far as can be judged from the sound at the back-plate and also the position the water runs through the lagging it must be leaking in the same place as before." "X" refused to settle the account until the boiler was made sound and "we naturally presume that you will make the matter right free of expense to us. If you have an Official in the area and he comes this way he will be able to verify all our statements, which can be given under oath if necessary!"

    How this matter was resolved I do not know. At any rate there was a six-year silence between "X" and "Y" which the Colliery broke by ordering some spares. It is amusing to note that when the Colliery decided to purchase another locomotive some years later the order was placed with "Y"!

    "Within the present week operations at the Driffield end of the Malton and Driffield Railway have commenced in good earnest. Numbers of navvies are flocking in from all parts and considerable activity and much business are expected." ("Hull Times", 9th July 1847.)

    "Since the harvest started the works of the Malton and Driffield Railway have not made such rapid progress, several of the navvies having left to assist in the harvest field." ("Hull Times", 10th September 1847). (K.P.P.)