Trains Boats and Planes and taxis, buses, and tanks
The 10.42 service from platform 7 is for Enniscrone. Calling at Clapham Junction, Woking, Guildford, Petersfield, Havant, Portsmouth Harbour, Brockenhurst, Lymington Pier, Epping, North Weald, Ongar and Enniscrone, where it will be scrapped. Passengers travelling forward from Enniscrone will be able to choose from a selection of old taxis, boats, aeroplanes, buses and tanks. Or walk away in disillusionment.
In the early 1970s whilst I was a young secondman at Kings Cross Motive Power Depot, BR Engineering at their York works were busily refurbishing old Mark 1 British Railways rolling stock and converting them into Electric Multiple Units for use on the Southern Region 3rd Rail system. They would be brought down from York to Ferme Park sidings and Hornsey Depot where they waited to be distributed to Southern Depots prior to being introduced into service.
Following a stint at Inverness MPD, by late 1977 I was a driver at Selhurst Depot and training on the electric multiple units that I would be driving for the next five years. Amongst those EMUs was CIG unit no. 7423.
During the period 1970-72 the second phase of these units were being delivered and I watched with interest as they arrived each week in their bright blue and grey livery with all yellow cab ends filling up the sidings previously used for coal.
Towards the end of its working life 7423 was renumbered 1498 before being painted in the old BR Southern Region green livery and had one of its four coaches removed for service on the Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier branch line in Hampshire. It was allocated to Wimbledon MPD for most of its life and to this day retains the WD Wimbledon depot code.
It was withdrawn in 2010 and bought for preservation by the Epping Ongar Railway heritage line in Essex. For a time, it was used as passenger carrying stock and hauled along the de-electrified line by a diesel locomotive before the company decided it was surplus to requirements and put it up for sale.
Businessman David McGowan from the Northwest of Ireland has now become its new owner and had transported it to a field in the coastal town of Enniscrone County Sligo. Intending it to become part of his dream to bring a Glamping Site to the area. Sadly, after being exposed to the sea air for a year, no progress has been made to do anything with it.
On the 16th July 2019 on a visit to see my relatives at home in Ireland I came across the sight of 1498 rusting away, forlorn in a field.
Only three weeks earlier, I had been invited to go with some friends for a day out on the Epping Ongar Railway on the 22nd June 2019, if I was interested that is. Normally as part of various groups we visit old stately homes or places of interest not normally available to the general public so the chance of visiting a part of the old rail system not previously seen by myself was a temptation too far. Even the trip to Epping on the Central Line was an adventure to me. I have hardly ever travelled on the Central Line other than in the centre of town, so it was going to be all part of the day out for me. I noted the Charles Holden station at Loughton with its unmistakable Holden booking hall. On arrival at Epping I positively squealed like a girl at the sight of a 1928 tube stock driving motor car isolated near the station and in use as an office or store.
We met up at Epping Station before boarding an old London RT bus that was used to take us to North Weald station where we could look around before boarding a train to Ongar. Well along with the glorious weather the day was going along very nicely. My first look around North Weald revealed many old friends in the shape of many different classes of old BR diesel locomotives and diesel multiple units, every single one of which were a type that I had driven during my times at Kings Cross and Inverness MPDs.
So, at the conclusion of our first trip on the line I made my way to reintroduce myself to the locomotive, a Brush Type 2 no 31438. During my time at Kings Cross she was D5557 later 5557 before being renumbered in 1973 as 31139. She was renumbered again in 1984. I stood looking through the cab door when I had to apologise to the driver for blocking his way to the footplate. I just mentioned that it had been so long since I had sat in that seat, over 46 years in fact. Impressed with this fact I was immediately invited to ride back in the cab.
Volunteer driver Tim had given me the chance to relive a happy part of my life and was eager to hear of some of my experiences of my time with BR. I had of course to let my friends know that I would catch up with them later. They had decided to travel on that train too and it was a sign of the times when I was able to phone them to discover that they were actually in the train behind me.
On our return to North Weald I thanked Tim for his much appreciated invitation to ride with him and vowed to catch up a bit later, which of course I did.
The fun continued throughout the day with pub visits and a look through the railway’s museums.
Whilst waiting for the heritage bus trip back to Epping we got chatting with a young man who also shared our love of the surroundings that we had enjoyed. He had come all the way from Sydney, Australia. He explained that he often made the trip and loved to look around British heritage sites. This was all very well I thought but Sydney to North Weald? You would have to be suffering from an acute form of geekiness coupled with a rash need to dispose of a sizable fortune to make that a hobby surely? When asked where he was staying while here, he said he was going to make his way back to Heathrow, which it turned out is where he had parked his Airbus A380. His role as a Captain on a Qantas airliner now made sense of the heritage transport visits.
Whilst we were chatting to Captain Qantas, we were shaken by an extremely loud couple of bangs. It was like a loud and close explosion that launched every bird for miles into the air. It was immediately identified by our Aussie friend as a sonic boom! A new experience for me I have to admit. No aircraft anywhere in sight, we later learned that an RAF fighter had been scrambled to intercept an airliner that had reported a troublesome lady passenger and was being escorted back to Stansted. A little extreme maybe, but certainly in keeping with the fun had on the day. The fun wasn’t quite over yet though. A car pulled up at the bus stop. We had lost sight in the engaging conversation that no bus had shown up. The car driver informed us that the railway had cancelled the bus due to lack of perceived interest and offered to run us to Epping in his car. The offer was duly accepted from the railway volunteer and he filled us all in with more interesting information showing us a bit more on arrival at Epping. It was a great day, no mistake.
The author of this post, Ray Coggin, is both a Taxi Tour Guide and a City of Westminster Guide and leads both walking tours and taxi tours (both highlights and themed) around Central London and further afield. Details of his taxi tours can be found here.