Jeff Jones talks about his lifelong passion for railways

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 12th September 2011 by Liam Physick

Jeff Jones mentions how he has always had a passion for railways: when he was a boy, he received a Triang Queen Elizabeth railway set for Christmas, and was so excited he earned himself a clip round the ear for getting out of bed in the early hours! He recalls meeting Fred Dibnah, the late celebrity steeplejack and steam enthusiast, at a steam locomotives exhbition. Jeff mentions his passion for steam engines and how he prefers them to diesels, which he deems boring, lacking in character and not looking right. He discusses a number of well-known locomotives. Pacific Class was the colloquial name for a 4-6-2 steam locomotive (i.e. four leading wheels, six driving wheels and two trailing wheels): there are various theories on the origin of the nickname - a reference to the fact that it was an enlargement of the “Altantic Class” 4-4-2 design, a reference to the New Zealand designer A L Beattie who first proposed it, or because of its widespread use on the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the 1920s. Pacifics were mainly used for pulling express passenger trains: Gordon, in the Reverend W Awdry’s The Railway Series, is a Pacific, as is the famous locomotive Flying Scotsman (the first locomotive to be officially recorded as travelling at 100 miles per hour). Napier in fact is not a locomotive: Napier Deltic is a type of diesel engine made by Napier & Son, used on ships as well as on locomotives - Jeff may have confused it with a steam locomotive whose name he has forgotten. Napier Deltic engines were used to power locomotives of British Rail Class 55, which was consequently nicknamed the “Deltic”, and which Jeff next mentions. Deltics, built in 1961 and 1962 were diesel-electric locomotives used to pull high-speed express passenger trains on the East Coast Main Line between King’s Cross and Edinburgh Waverley - they were not the first diesel locomotives to be built in Britain, as Jeff erroneously asserts, though it is safe to say that they were the first to capture the public imagination. 22 were built by English Electric at Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, numbered D9000-9021 initially, and from thre 1970s 55001-55022. Their speed and power made them popular with railway enthusiasts, though Jeff is unable to appreciate them because they were diesels. A more practical disadvantage was that the class was highly sprung and frequently broke down (a common problem in the early years of dieselisation). From the late 1970s, they began to be superseded by the InterCity 125 class (aka the High Speed Train), and were withdrawn from service on 31st December 1981. However, six 22 locomotives in the class were preserved, and have been occasionally used since, most recently No. 55022 (originally D9000) Royal Scots Grey from April to July 2011 to pull bauxite between Blyth and the aluminium shelter at Lynemouth, and there has been talk of returning two Deltics to regular service. Additionally, Jeff mentions his as-yet-unfulfilled ambition to be an engine driver

Interviewee: Jeff Jones

Interviewee Gender: Male

Interview Transcript

Margi: Do something like that, you know, because . . .

Jeff: Well, being a boy, I’ve always been interested in railways, I had railways when I was a kid, you know . . .

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: . . . and we, I mean, I remember what, this is gonna sound silly this, I remember waking up one Christmas, thinking, feeling, our kitchen and I could hear the paper crackling, you know . . .

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: . . .  and I got up at three o’clock in the morning, and ripped it open and it was, it was a, a Triang Queen Elizabeth railway set, it was 99 and 11, and the next thing is, the light went on, I got a clip round the ear hole from me dad, “Get back into bed it’s too early” (both laugh), but that was me, that, actually before that I had O Gauge Clockwork ones, you know . . .

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: . . . but always been fascinated by railways and it just seemed to me, I mean, it sounds so dull and boring, and, sort of, anoraky, to say I used to collect train numbers (laughs), I mean, but that was the thing, I mean, I was fortunate to be born when I was born, because, if the Second World War hadn’t have happened, we wouldn’t have seen any steamers, cos I like steam engines, you know, I like steam trains and everything.

Margi: And they had character and stuff, you know . . .

Jeff: Well, they do, you know, they’re flipping things, you know . . .

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: . . . I mean, one of the best thrills was a few years ago, I went to Bolton, and actually met Fred Dibnah, so it shows you how long ago it was . . .

Margi: Oh, yes, yeah.

Jeff: . . . he was standing by one of his machines with his second wife, I think, and, I remember going up to him and saying, he’d, he’d been on the TV, and he said, I said “Hello Fred, hey up, Fred, how are you doing”, he said, “Oh, OK”, he said, I said, “Is this that bigger that slid sideways down a hill and went through a wall and dropped seven feet into a garden”, he said “Aye, aye”, said, “took some bloody getting out as well!” (he and Margi laugh)

Margi: You’ve got some really good stories . . .

Jeff: Yeah.

Margi: . . . we’ll have to speak to you again.

Jeff: Oh, yeah, but, I mean, you know, I mean, Fred’s a . . . oh, I, really wanted to spend more time with him, but, while I was there . . . what, what, what, I can’t remember what it was, I’ve lost me thread, it’s, it’s a sign of old age. (both laugh) I was gonna tell you something about that, it was a steam day, anyway, you know . . .

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: . . . and there were, there was, I think there was a Pacific Class locomotive in full steam . . .

Margi: Right.

Jeff: . . . God, what a (indecipherable) sight! And, I actually, I know what I was gonna tell you, there was a stationary 4-6-2, massive, 70 ton, and I actually got up and walked across it, you know, the footplate . . . oooh, what a feeling, but it wasn’t going, you know (Margi laughs), but (makes an engine noise), wow, that was it, and that was it, you know, but, I, I know people, I know a particular individual who’s actually ridden on the footplate and, cos his uncle was Charlie Harry or knew some of his neighbours other than his wife, you know, that sort of thing, “Come on lad, you’re all right, have your eggs and bacon on if you don’t want all this kind of carry-on”, I’ve never been there, I wish I had, but, you know, beggars can’t be choosers, as they say, so . . . (laughs)

Margi: You might still get your chance, you know, you know

Jeff: Yeah, you never know, you never know, especially if Mr. Borthman’s . . . if we can hook him, you know.

Margi: Yeah, that would be brilliant, that, you could get your, your chance to live your dream.

Jeff: You never know, never know, yeah, yeah.

Margi: That’d be brilliant, I mean, even if you ask little boys now, they’ll tell, “What do you want to be”, they’ll still say . . .

Jeff: Train driver, yeah.

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: You know, I mean, the, the electrics, sort of . . . they’re OK up to a point, but they just, they haven’t really got it, you know, I don’t know what it is, it’s just . . . I don’t know, it doesn’t, it’s not so . . . pronounced in, like, the likes of ships and, and that sort of thing, but actually, railways, I mean, diesels are boring, and, well, I’m saying they’re boring, I mean, we used to have a, there was one called Napier, and it was a, a proper locomotive, steam locomotive, but it used to come through Broad Green three times a night, and we’d give it the (indecipherable – he and Margi both laugh) cos it, I’m being serious (laughing), cos it was what you call a stinker . . .

Margi: Yeah.

Jeff: . . . a stinker was one you saw a lot of, you know, and there was the Deltic, the very first diesel train was the Deltic, 1957 I think it was, and it was so powerful it tore up the tracks, and I thought, “My God, you know, there’s the difference between that and steam”, but, I mean, it didn’t look . . .

Margi: It didn’t have . . .

Jeff: . . . like a steam, no, no . . .

Margi: . . . the X Factor! (laughs)

Jeff: . . . it just didn’t have that . . . je ne se quois, is it, yeah, I don’t know! (both laugh)

Margi: Very posh!

Jeff: What about that!

Margi: Very posh, there’s your Childwall upbringing!

Jeff: Yeah, Childwall, that’s what it is, yeah! The posh area!

Margi: Yeah.

Tagged under: steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, drivers, pacific class locomotives, electric locomotives, broad green station, childwall, model railway, flying scotsman, diesel-electric locomotives

Categorised under: Landmarks, Landscapes & Locomotives

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