FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Christmas Past

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on December 25, 2011

The roads are quiet, nothing is moving in the nearby railway yards and the only sounds are the first stirrings of family. The familiar pattern of Christmas is embedded in my head so well that I could probably tell you the entire timetable for the day without waiting for it to unfold (and as a creature of habit I quite like that). However, there have been some unusual moments in past christmases that I had quite forgotten about until relatively recently.

Amongst the boxes of photographs, slides and cinefilms at my parent’s home I found a small collection of slide positives taken by my father on Christmas Day 1975 or 1976 which show at least eight Class 33 diesels lined up outside Norwood Loco. The diesels were only ever lined up like this at Christmas, from Christmas Eve round to sometime after Boxing day, when all the diesels were in the depot – this was one of a number of lines. Another line was made up of nothing but Electro Diesels (Class 73s).

A long line of Cromptons (Class 33 diesels) outside Norwood Loco

At the time of these photographs just one driver was booked on to look after the diesels (in later years a second man was also booked on). My father was booked on to do this duty on Christmas Day 1975 or 1976.

The general idea was that he would start the first diesel and work his way down the line. When the last one was running he would return to the first and start switching them off. This would generally happen only once or twice per line during the day, with the intention being to stop them getting frozen up. This was done each Christmas for many years (the sheds were usually filled up with electric stock and 350 shunters).

The thought of a yard filled with all these diesels now is almost impossible to imagine and I was far too young to appreciate just how rare such a sight would become in the years ahead. This was simply a moment to enjoy for what it was and I must have been in my element.

Headcode JB

On this occasion my father changed the headcode on the nearest Class 33 to show my initials, JB, which the photograph above illustrates. The final shot is a picture of me at the controls of one of the Class 33 diesels.

In the cab

After all this, I kept an interest in the railways for many years until I reached my late teens. After that, not so much – until a chance encounter with a steam locomotive at Poznan in 2004 re-awakened my long abandoned passion. However, maybe it was in this moment in 1975/76 that my interest in the railways really began…

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