THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
ENGINE-DRIVERS ’AND THEIR
WAYS, On the Rail and at Home-
My object here is not to sketch the appearance of engine-drivers, but to convey some idea of .thejr. manners, and habits by a few anecdotes, which will all be true.
;.Mr.: Frith’l “ Railway 3tatia*if , fis'one of the. most popular pictures ever painted, and all the officials in it, are taken from life. The driver-is from-'a photograph ; and it will interest ■ the reader of these lines, should ..he go to see the picture, to know that this very man made, it is believed, the fastest trip ever known. This was from London to Didcot; he accomplished the journey, just fifty-three miles, in fortyseven minutes. It happened that a comrade had, run the trip in forty-seven and a half, and Mr. Frith’s hero resolved. to: beat him. He did beat him ; and another first-rate man openly declared his determination to do it in still less time ; but an order was judiciously issued which stopped this rather alarming rivalry. The desire to run excessively fast is, curiosly enough, generally traceable to the pride each man has in his engine! which" may be compared to the well-known feelipg .of the-- groom towards his horse. 1 he engine-driver has too much rising and; tearing along to care for racing, pjl his o\vn account; but that the “ Rhinoceros” should be beaten by the,“ Hippopotamus;’ is not, to be borne. ; Even good-tempered men become -offensive when championing the merits of their engines; it is so difficult for them to exalt their favorite without depreciating competitors. To what a pitch this feeling goes may be illustrated by a little anecdote. A man Who had just come in from a very long brip.wUM goods train—only those who are familiar with railway work can appreciate the difference between driving a gobds' train for one hundred and twenty miles and doing the same amount of passenger work—threw his great-coat across his arm, and, swinging his can and basket in his right hand, walked slowly and heavily up the slope homewards, his fireman slouching behind him. Bed was evidently his immediate destination, and the poor fellow wanted rest badly enough, . Great, therefore, wasjhe surprise of his chief—and Tmay say’of myself too —to see, abput fifty minutes afterwards, the same driver coming dowri the'slope, followed again by his fireman) carrying greafG 1 coat, can, and basket, all as before. : “ Beg yoltr pardon, sir;" said thfe driver, ‘‘ but I hear you ard argdinglo , send ‘ Kaffir I —this was the name of
the engine—out again to-night, with Tom Baldwin.”
“ Yes,” replied the chief; “ you know we are very short of engines.” “ Well, sir,” returned the man, “ lie’s not a bit of good to her; he don’t understand her, sir; he’ll spoil her; and if you’ll allow me, sir, me and my mate will run the trip to-night.^’ “ You !” exclaimed the superintendent; “you can’t—you’re knocked up.”
“Not a bit of it, sir,” replied the driver. “ Anyhow, sir, I can do more with ‘ Kaffir 1 than he can, and I’ll never have such an engine drove by him, if 1 can help it.” And out of devotion to his great, ungainly goods engine, the driver, instead of going to bed, chose to pass another night without sleep, and to run dyer another six or seven score miles of rail.
Sometimes the feeling will manifest itself in a still stranger manner. An excellent plan is adopted on railways of taking the pressure of old boilers—that is, when an engine has run a certain number of miles, although no symptoms of weakness may appear, yet as wear must have been going on, the pressure at which the steam blows off is reduced from, say, one hundred and twenty pounds toone hundred, or perhaps eighty pounds tTthc square inch, by which, of course, the bursting of the boiler is rendered more improbable. It may be noticed here that so great an improvement in quality of fuel and completeness of combustion has, during the last few years, been effected, that an engine will run thirty or forty thousand more miles with the same set of tubes than would have worn it out some years back. Of course, when the pressure of steam is reduced, the power of the engine is reduced in proportion, and I have known a driver, whose favorite engine was in the factory for repairs, wait upon the engineer and beg and prhy, as the phrase goes, that authority to forego his intention of diminishing the pressure ; being quite willing to risk his own life and that of his firieman rather than his iron steed should suffer in her reputation for speed and drawing power. Not, be it understood, that any engine has any reputation beyond her driver, and a very select few.
It will be easily understood that engine-drivers are • intensely professional; the ruling spirit, I have no doubt, is strong with them in death, though this, of course, I cannot easily prove. I know of one instance, however, where the engine,, at some obstacle, leaped from the line when running at great speed on a high embankment. “ It’s up, mate,” exclaimed the driver, “ but hold on to the brake.” His m?ite did so, w'hile he held on to the regulator. The engine and tender turned right over, and pitched with terrific force into a meadow below. No one could ever account tor the escape of the men, but beyond stunning each of them for a short time, and knocking out the whole of the driver’s front teeth, no great harm was done.
I really think that even a drunken driver would hardly make any mistake ini his signals, and in support of this an odd illustration may be given. A driver, npt : on duty, had been drinVing, and was, in company with his firermn, walking in the vicinity of the Elgeware road, when he suddenly started violently, and seizing his mate’: arm, shouted—- “ Hold hard, mate —hold hard ?’ •'•"YV’Blt’S ' Tile nravierSm—
■fireman. . “ Matter !” roared the driver, “ w'ny, you’re a-running by the red light and he pointed to the crimson glare which streamed through a glass bottle in a chemist’s window. “ Come along; that’s nothing,” said the fireman, trying to drag him on. “ What, run by the red light, and go
afore Dannel in the morning ?” retorted the driver, and no persuasion could or did get him to pass the shop. He was
a Great Western man, and the “ Dannel” whom he held in such wholesome awe was the celebrated engineer, now Sir Daniel Gooch, and chairman of that line. He was then the locomotive chief, and renowned above all other things for maintaining discipline among his staff, while they cherished a feeling for him very much akin to what we hear of the clannish enthusiasm of thet ancient. Scotch.
1 The subject of the red lights reminds me of color-blindness. I have known one or two instances of men being pronounced unfit for driving because ot their inability to distinguish one color from another—in fact, from that singu-
lar defect of vision known as colorblindness. I do not thin!;, however, that this is quite an accurate way of describing this peculiarity; the men can see a difference in the colors when side by side, but, do what they will, they cannot remember which is the green and which the red light. Generally, nearly always indeed, this defect is remediable to the degree needful for the calling by habit, and the gradually acquired knowledge of the colors. Color-blindness in a minor degree is, I fancy, very common. The wrier of these lines, while deriving grea pleasure from the combination of various hues, cannot, for the life-of hm, tell brown ,cloth from green; and always fancies- that grass, with the sun shining on it, is as red as anything he las ever been, told is red. Dr. Cooper, the eminent physician, and medicd superintendent of a large railway, ir one of his elaborate reports stabs that, “color-blindness, which is happily rare —so much so, that many have doubted
its existence—did not present itself in any of the candidates”—for tie year. But partial color-blindness is common enough, and a friend of nine, has authenticated one very strange variety of it, in which, the man suv every object by daylight of a unifo-ra brown hue, but by artificial light he :ould distinguish every tint in its moa delicate gradations. He was a skilfil flowerpainter, but by gaslight only. (To be continued\)
Permanent link to this item
Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 241, 13 January 1881
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 241, 13 January 1881
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.