fredag 30. juli 2010


1984 turned out to be a massive year for diesel bashers all over the UK, but in Scotland it marked the last year of any numbers of class 40 workings and very numerous NB class 37 workings.

The year so famously chosen by George Orwell, has been called the "last classic year of bashing diesels" on, but really that is a misnomer as perhaps the years in the early 70s before the demise of hydraulics and the advent of HSTs to replace them and Deltics were truly the last of the classics.

The year turned out to be so big mainly because of a certain Mr Arthur Scargill. Our "arfur" saw the inevitability of what Thatcher wanted to do: balance the books at the pits or close them all. When the miners went out in 83 and 84 it meant there were vastly fewer trains to run. The strike turned out to be the last English civil war, ironically enough actually starting in Scotland at Bilston Glen.

Also at a guess a couple of other factors came into play: decline in freight bookings due to improving roads and private investment in road transport. Also the final run down of regular bookings of "Non standard" classes and those considered to have numbered days; 40, 45, 25 and 27 amongst them. These factors released more frieght dedicated locos ( non boilered, or no train heating to be precise) to general pool of working. On the one hand you had "large" members of the 25 and 40 classes dropping onto anything because they still actually ran and had little to do, and on the other the spaces at depots were made up by shiny NB 37s or 56s/8s. Boilered forties also were released from some of their regular duties allowing them to drop on anything needing steam, fort william sleeper forward from Dumbarton included in 1983, and not being missed when depots like Haymarket and Motherwell "borrowed" them as reliable back up to type 2s and the awful scottish class 47s.

Frieght locos though were the most sought after by hardened class bashers and neds like us alike. We liked to irk some "top man" with a drop like 37172 on a scarborough or 37013 on a stanrær.

However, that being said, I doubt there were any 37s which had never actually worked a passenger service: all 37s were originally installed with boilers and vacuum brakes only, so it is likely that they all had worked something by 1984 in the years when the first generation DMUs were being fased out. However some class 47/3s had never been had by fanatical duff bashers and probably never had worked a passenger due to their allocation to non passenger rostering depots and the demand for them on freight trains meaning the depots would not let them out on trips to drag on the WCML, rescue trains or stand in for lack of locos at depots who needed metal to pull trains. 47-3s were built to do frieght only, period.

Also some class 20s had most likely not been booked on a passenger more than a handful of times in their entire life, "producing" only on failed trains and when they were inadvertedly rotated to the manchester area where they may have been pinched to work the skeggies.

In scotland if you wanted rare 20s or 47s and the chance of a 40, then the Carstairs-Edinburgh portions and the Motorails north from there were the ones to cover. THe motorails became difficult for bashers even on all lines, and some who were BR employess donned Hi Vis Vests and walked up the track at Carstairs to nab 40 mileage to Perth. in 83 and 4, forties were once again a common site in Stirling and Perth due to the motorails, but it was out of our grasp as we saw several split box forties work the untouchable service from the shunt north of Carstairs.

The other factors making it such a great year overall, included not in the least the host of summer ADDEXs which were still being run at this time. In Glasgow, the populated centre of Scotland, there was still plenty of Glasgow Fair specials for workers doing their stint to Blackpool, and the more exoitc eastern riviera towns of Skegness and Scarborough.

I remember most people I saw in Glesga were poor by todays standards, and I was of course in a poor widowed family. The majority of the population in the west of scotland lived in local authority housing on a modest income. So the packages offered by BR were still much in demand, although the train fares revenue was probably boosted by bashers filling the first two coaches; at least indirectly from "all liners", "freedoms" and other regional go anywhere tickets.

There were summer timetable services, such as to stranrær, which used vac or just non coffin stock thus being amenable to frieght locos.

1984 had a lot of social turmoil due to the miners and the whole tory thing: the steel industry was also being tampered with to cut traditional routes to markets and value multiplication, like the gartcosh strip mill which added value to the raw materials from Ravenscraig. The dockers too, probably the worst example of abuse of union power, were facing privatisation in Liverpool in particular. Many of the "hard working, working classes" and the middle class were shocked at the unfolding scenes of violence at picket lines as the 1984 civil war took shape. Also the supposedly appaling waste of money these unionised industries represented. That Britain needed to import subsidised coal from Poland and New Zealand and the US went on to protect it's out dated steel industries for another 20 years, was lost on the tory voting populace. That income tax had gone down, while rates and VAT had gone up was a tricky balancing act which favoured well earning working class families as much as the rich, while penalising pensioners and those on low wages; and people worked pretty often for a pound an hour back then.

In 1984 I started out as pretty anti miner, but soon found I was supporting them because of the egalitarian contact of being a basher. Some bashers were either from mining families or railway workers running into the pits. The thing the tory accountants and Ian McGregor could not see was the utter devastation of these communities as little or no industry or services could be attracted to the areas after the closures. Instead of paying the coal industry subsidies, the tories ended up paying them to do nothing and subsidising private sharks to take on employees dirt cheap supported by "training " grants.

Also, for some reason, the summer was a scorcher all over the UK with record temperatures recorded. I remember it being 24'C or more from May to September. This meant no one would complain about no heat trains, as long as they weren't coffin stock.

Love or hate the miners and steel workers, their actions lead to a massive number of locos being available for the still large number of loco hauled trains. As loco histories of diagrams and bashers moves and blogs like mine appear, it reinforces that all over the UK, 1984 was a biggy for all of us in the "faith".

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