136 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News April 1991 – Part 4
More Sid Browne Memories – Pete Aldridge
During the 1960s many long cherished traditions on the railways were swept away. The scrapping of steam and the closure of many branch lines are well known, but in fact almost every aspect of railway life was changed. For many decades the railwaymen had worked to their own hierarchy, whereby the most senior guards got the best pay, and generally easier jobs. Then the tide of change began to sweep in.
As a goods senior guard at Bescot, Sid was among the more senior of the staff and had become used to the ‘plum jobs’. One of these was the Bescot toSheffieldgoods train as this involved maximum pay for minimum effort. One morning, however, a new policy was introduced.
The foreman introduced a slightly scruffy looking young man to Sid.
‘This isNorman’ he said, ‘He’ll be taking over some of the Sheffields, so can you show him the road and make sure he’s OK?’
Sid was far from pleased. The youth was a new recruit and had what we would call today an attitude problem. Sid was determined to show him just who was the boss. Once all their duties were done, Sid and Norman climbed into the brake van. The driver of theSheffieldbound train also knew what was at stake, and intended that this new youth should be put in his place.
ToNorman’s surprise, Sid lay stretched out on the bench in the brake van and apparently dozed off. Normandid not know that in this position Sid had a good view of the train through the ducket in the side of the van. Through half closed eyes Sid watched the loco until its cylinder drain cocks opened prior to the train moving off. Sid yawned and appeared to wake up. ‘It’s about time we were off’ he said nonchalantly. ‘How do you know?’ began the youth, but before any explanation was given the van jolted forwards. They were off. ‘It’s a sort of sixth sense you get’ said Sid mysteriously. Sid pretended to doze off once more while all the time looking carefully through the ducket.
After a few minutes Sid stirred again. ‘I reckon the peg’ll be against us at Brownhills’ he said.
‘Why do you say that?’ said Norman.
‘Just a feeling’ explained Sis, not, of course, admitting that he could see the approaching signals. Sure enough, the train slowed and Sid laconically pulled the hand brake on.
At every junction, station or landmark along the way Sid would mystify his unwanted pupil, pretending to be asleep until his mysterious sixth sense popped up/
‘Smell that?’ said Sid ‘That’s the hops at Marston’s Brewery. It’s a totally different smell to the hops at Bass brewery. If you’re going to work this line at night you’ll have to tell the difference or you’ll not know what part ofBurtonyou’re in.’
Young Norman’s self-confidence was beginning to crack. Did you really have to be a beer expert to become a railway guard? **
Just outside Sheffield Sid drove his point home.
‘Ah!’ he said ‘Roast mutton’. PoorNormanwas mystified.
‘What day is it?’ asked Sid.
‘Err… Thursday’ repliedNorman.
‘Then we must be at Millhouse, you see theVictoriapub serves roast mutton on Mondays and Thursdays. The pub’s right next to the railway, so you can’t miss the smell. The trouble is, the Railway Hotel at Heeley also serves mutton, but on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, so you need to remember what day of the week it is and who serves what on what day of the week, otherwise if it is foggy, you might not know where you are. Is that all quite clear?’
Normanjust did not know what to think. Not only did you need to be psychic and a beer expert, you had to be familiar with all the pub menus on either side of the railway and a walking almanac.
Needles to say,Normansoon left the railway and the ‘Sheffields’ remained in the hands of the senior men a while longer.
9Actually, those railwaymen who knew Sid would probably say that he DID know the pub menus on the line from Bescot toSheffield!)
** Experience at Chasewater proves the answer to this question to be a resounding ‘YES!’
Please note: While these stories are as they were told to Sid’s grandson, and have not been knowingly embellished, the author cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracy! If they are not true, they ought to be!