Reg talks about the diverse work involved in running a steam railway and how it differs from modern rail.
Funded by Bristol City Council. Watershed has created a new Bristol Stories theme to focus on the area now designated as the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.
The theme engages businesses, residents, and people travelling through Temple Meads and the surrounding neighbourhoods in projects that deliver creative digital representation of the area to ‘animate’ the heritage and personal experience of the area.
As part of this project Watershed worked with Knowle West Media Centre to deliver digital storytelling workshops with a group of ex-railway workers and ex-railway workers widows who lived and worked on the railways in Bristol.
This project was funded by Bristol City Council and delivered by Watershed and Knowle West Media Centre in collaboration with bigger house film
I was born in 1935 in Bedminster, Bristol. I worked on the railway three times during my life.
The first time I went to work on the railway was at Parson Street station. As a porter my duties was to keep the platform clear of any stones and that and any debris. Also when the trains came in I made sure the passengers were onboard all safe. The doors were all closed so to let the train go. In the meantime between trains I had the job of cutting up all the ‘sleepers’ with the saw. I was keeping busy.
During the winter time they needed it because it was pretty cold.
The second time I worked for the railway was at Barrough Road cleaning sheds as a locomotive cleaner. We had to clean the engines with a mixture of oil and paraffin, bring the boiler up to a shine. And on the smoke box we used just oil, rubbed that over to make it more black.
Then I was transferred onto Shunton (?!). I was there waiting to be called up on National Service or volunteer, well I volunteered. I served at the Royal Tank Regiment and went off to Germany for 12 months then came back on leave and went off to Hong Kong for two years.
I went back on the railway. My job as a guard was to prepare the train, make sure everything was safe, I put the lamp on the back as a signal to the signalman, which was to say that the train was complete as we passed him by the signalbox.
Before leaving the guard’s duty was to get the weight of the vehicles and hand it to the driver so he knew the weight behind him and that’s including the engine.
On the freight trains you had a break van, which you applied the break according to the type of incline it was on. If it was slight incline you applied the break gently, if you were on a steeper incline you’d put the break on a bit tighter to keep the train taut.
When the engine breaks it won’t clamp together and it could cause the couplings to come off. In the Severn tunnel you had to put the break on about a mile outside before you approached the tunnel and when you got down near the bottom you’d turn the break right off.
My kind of railway that I worked on is a different kettle of fish now. You had the steam, you had the…the carriages were different. The train now is like a bus, but on rails. A steam engine is a live thing, there’s something about it that’s different to the things today.
I left the railway and moved down to road transport after