Maurice (Monty) E.

I was brought up on Rise Carr, in Westmoreland Street opposite the workshops. It was surrounded by a large wooden fence and you could see into the yard from our front bedroom window. A large crane ran on an overhead track, the full length of the yard. There were boilers and engine frames, large sheets of metal and all sorts of different parts for trains. You could see the old stripping shop where the engines were dismantled and hear the  noise of the rivetters, hammering, the flashes from the welding and oxyacetylene burners and the crane going up and down. It was quite exciting but noisy as it went on day and night. I suppose we got used to it.

I went to Rise Carr primary school and then Albert Road school. Both are gone now. I left school at 15 in 1957. My father had put my name down at the workshops. He said it was a job for life.

I started my engineering apprenticeship aged 15 in the summer of 1957. My first six months were spent in the Main Stores Offices which is where the main entrance to Morrisons is on North Road. My job was to deliver the order forms for parts and mail to all department stores in the factory. I also had to deliver and collect mail from Stooperdale Offices on Brinkburn Road and North Road Station. It took some time and some miles on foot as the works covered all that retail area between North Road, Whessoe Road and up what used to be the railway crossing on Rise Carr. There is a scrapyard and car sales company there now.

They used to play a trick on the new boys in the office, that was to tell them that the record for stamping order form pads with the works address was 1,000 a day using a rubber stamp and ink pad. What a laugh the staff must have had watching us, we had no chance. The innocence of youth! It was time to move on now and start my apprenticeship in the factory.

The first thing I had to do was to get fitted for some overalls or boilersuit as it was called. I was only about 5 foot tall at the time so I had to roll the sleeves and legs up so they would fit. The backside hung down to my knees, the modern style nowadays. I also had to join the engineering union and I think it was about sixpence a month. I was a member for 44 years.

My first job in the works was fitting piston rings in the piston head assembly area. We also went to apprentice school for a day learning engineering practices. We attended night school three nights a week at the Technical College at the corner of Gladstone Street.

The apprentices were moved around different workshop areas every few months to learn different working practices. My next move was on to the coal and water tender rebuild. Being small I was given a bucket of bolts, spanner for the bolt head, washers, waterproof tar like sealant and a tallow candle. You climbed inside through the manhole that was used to fill the tender with water and you worked you way under and over the tank strengthening struts. You put bolts through holes in the body and wheel bogie for the fitter to put nuts on and tighten the tank down. Sometimes they banged on the side with a hammer to make you jump, and you knocked your candle over and you had to find it in the dark. After you were finished you got out covered in rust and dirt and the tender was filled with water and tested for leaks.

My next move was into the machine shop (shell shop during the war) which ran parallel with the Westmoreland Street side. You were taught drilling, milling, turning and we spent about a year in there. I also worked in the tinsmiths, brass shop, Stooperdale boiler shop and then back to North Road erecting shops. I worked on bogie assembly and then on to one of the steam engine assembly pits. It had a foreman, chargehand and works gang. You had a set amount of work to do each shift and you worked as  a team to get it done. It was hard work and you had to keep your wits about you. Rivets were being thrown about the area and welders working. There were hot sparks from oxycetelyne burners. There wasn’t much health and safety them days, no hard hats or ear defenders.

It had its benefits as sometimes you were told to bring in some sandwiches the next day as you were going on a test run. The engine was all steamed up in the yard and three of us climbed into the cab and off we went with a couple of carriages behind going up into the Dales for the day on the old pre-Beeching lines. What a day out as long as there were no problems occurred with the engine.

On my time in the pits I got the chance to work on some of the great steam engines, which were brought to the works for servicing. There was the Mallard, Flying Scotsman, Sir Nigel Gresley and also Locomotion No.1 when it was brought from Bank Top station to be cleaned up.

I was moved into the new diesel engine shop for the last few months before finishing my apprenticeship in 1963. As there was no National Service then I transferred to Derby Loco Works, working in the diesel shop. At that time they were working on the prototype of the new Deltic diesel engine. In 1965 I transferred to Shildon Wagon Works where I worked on on the first prototype Merry Go Round wagon for the Coal Board. It was built with a galvanised steel body which was all riveted.We also built new wagons for Blue Circle cement and an Atomic Flask wagon. I left British Rail in 1977 to start work at Cummins Engine company until I retired in 2001.

Tony B.

In September 1957, I embarked on a 5 year British Railways Sandwich Course. Each year was divided into two almost equal parts, with 6 months academic training at Derby College and 6 months practical training in a railway works or at a maintenance depot. My hometown was within the North Eastern Region, and as a result, my practical training centred on the North Road Locomotive Works, Darlington.

As part of the course I was instructed to keep a logbook of my works training. I remember, at the time, that I regarded this as an unnecessary chore, but had little option but to comply. The logbook has now survived for over fifty years, and I now regard it as a valuable piece of memorabilia.

I had joined the railways straight from school and in my naivety (and in works tradition) I was the subject of a number of japes played by those workmen around me, but managed to survive. I remember on one occasion that I was told to get a small spring extended by a quarter of an inch and was sent to the blacksmith. The blacksmith heated the spring to red heat and then stretched it into a straight wire, much to the play acting anger of the fitter on my return.

My first 6 months of practical workshop session was spent almost exclusively in the “Shell Shop”, so named because of its use in the production of munitions during the two world wars. Work centred on the overhaul of components for locomotives such as the reversing gear, valve motion and lubricators. The vast majority of lathes and machine tools were driven by flat belts from overhead shafts, which traversed the length of the workshop; each of the shafts being driven by a single, large electric motor. The system must have been largely unchanged from its installation during Edwardian (or even Victorian?) times.

The following year I passed through the axlebox and cylinder shops before spending three months in the Electrical shop under charge-hand Tommy Atkinson and foreman Mr. Spackman. New 350HP diesel electric shunting locomotives were being built and their work was associated with the installation of their electric cables and control wiring, followed by final testing. Electricity was an alien subject to the majority of workshop staff and full of mystery. As the output test of the completed shunting locomotive got under way, it attracted interest from several workers. Amazement followed when an electrician called from the cab for more amps and with due ceremony, an empty bucket, supposedly filled with amps and marked with a prominent sign was handed up to the cab footplate. A few moments later there was a similar call for more volts and another bucket marked “VOLTS” was offered up. Confirmation from the cab was then shouted that the locomotive was giving a satisfactory power output. The electrician who undertook the scam was Peter Dawson, who was later to work alongside me in the Divisional Maintenance Engineer’s Office, Newcastle, after the Works closed in 1966. He became a firm colleague and never lost his acute sense of humour.

My third year of practical training, was spent in the Erecting Shop under the watchful eyes of the foreman Mr. Broadfoot and charge-hand Mr. Weston, and it was with some considerable excitement in July 1959, that I was put with the gang allocated to the “General” overhaul of Class V2 locomotive 60800 “Green Arrow”. Although I was unaware of it at the time, this was the last major overhaul the locomotive would be given, before being withdrawn from traffic and it’s entry into preservation.

The fourth year (Sept 1960 – Feb 1961) was mainly devoted to work on the new build 1160hp diesel main-line locomotives, later designated Class 24; a class with which I was to be involved on many occasions during my subsequent career. This was followed with a short period on steam locomotive boilers at Stooperdale. I recollect that the boilersmiths were very protective of their trade and would not allow apprentices of other trades to work with them. In consequence I spent rather a miserable three weeks removing and replacing boiler mounting studs; much of the work being outside in the open air, during a bitterly cold January. My practical training at the works was completed with a session on the overhaul and testing of the various types of small diesel engines as fitted to the Diesel Multiple Units then operating in the NE Region.

My final year was spent at the motive power depots at Hull Dairycoates and Botanic Gardens, before progressing to South Gosforth Car Sheds to work on the Electric Multiple Units.

I look back on my time at Darlington Locomotive Works with some pride, despite having to live in lodgings, some of which could only be described as considerably less than homely.

George T.

I started at North Road at 15 years old. I had a racing bike and my father had a stand up bike, one of those big bikes. On a dinner time my father always beat me home. I had a racing bike and I couldn’t beat him home and this went on for months. An old work friend said ‘I know how your father beats you home, I’ll help you beat him home once but no more.’ He told me to go and stand by my bike just before 12 o’clock and when the bell goes jump on and go like mad to get home. He said he would clock me out once and once only as I was an apprentice and they would be watching me. He did clock me off and I went like mad down North Road and I beat my dad home and I was eating my dinner when he came in. My mother asked my dad how I had beaten him home. He knew how I’d beaten him and asked who had clocked me out. I didn’t tell him but said he must get clocked out every day. I never beat him home again.

We were on nightshift and I would have been on welding. One night a man called Ernie was sleeping, he could sleep anywhere and this one night he was asleep on a block used for levelling. So two young men, two young apprentices went and got a load of newspaper and put it over him and put six candles round him. He was lying in state. In a minute everyone was coming round crossing themselves.

When it was getting close to dayshift coming in we went to wake him up and the other fellas wouldn’t let us. So when day shift came in they all went passed him and crossed themselves as well. It was half past eight when he woke up. Then he totally shopped us. And the next night when I was welding he says I’ll get you George. I told him it wasn’t me it was Pat. It turned out that Pat had blamed me!

Phillip N.

I started work as an office boy aged 15 years old. After a year we all went to the apprentice training school and from there we went into the works as apprentice fitters or electricians. After spending time learning to use the lathes, drilling machines and other machinery we worked in the erecting shop assembling the engines. The toilets were outside and had cubicles with wooden seats over an open drain pipe that ran under the toilets. We would occupy the end toilet and put cotton wool with newspaper on it, set it alight and flush the toilet. This would get washed down under the other toilets and we could hear the results and we would run like hell back to the works. They couldn’t catch us as they had their  overalls round their ankles!

When an engine was ready to be lifted by the overhead crane, it was a mad rush to get everything finished. This day, I was trying to finish my job in the cab together with a joiner, a painter and an electrician all getting in each other’s way. In came a coppersmith with a wooden mallet and he said, ‘right lads, all stand back and let a proper tradesman in to do important work’. We all went to each side of the cab and watched him let fly with the mallet. It hit the pipe and bounced back and hit him on the head and he disappeared out of the open cab. Luckily there were planks across the pit and he landed on them. The ambulance men came and took him away on a strectcher. The next day a notice appeared on the door of the coppersmith’s work shop, ‘This workshop is full of proper tradesmen not only are they coppersmiths, but they have the ability to defy gravity by learning to fly backwards. Rumour has it that they are now going to learn how to land safely’. The notice was removed very quickly.

There was a labourer who used a wheelbarrow to deliver parts round the erecting shop. It was a special wheel barrow, all the wheels were polished and the wood was painted and cleaned after every journey. He had permission from the foreman to take it home with him and he would wheel it home and back the next day. Nobody ever attempted to use that barrow. At Christmas time, on the last day at work, work used to stop at dinner time and all congregated in the erecting shop. Carols were sang and jokes were told and Davy Davis would hold boxing lessons. He had a leg injury so that when he walked he dipped to one side. He was an amateur boxer and we used to wear boxing gloves. If we hit him, he gave us a shilling. None of us ever managed so we had to pay him a shilling.

John, he and I were good friends at work and outside of work. This day we were working outside. Come dinner time we climbed over the level crossing gates and went to the pub next door. John finished his job and he climbed into one of the wagons on the next line and fell asleep. We didn’t know there was an engine hitched to the line of wagons and it started moving when the level crossing gates opened. He couldn’t get out until the train stopped at Piercebridge for a signal. He walked a long way before somebody stopped and gave him a lift home. I clocked him out so nobody knew what happened. He never climbed into anything again!

 

Gladys

I started at North Road working in the office. I was given a folder of names of men who had been injured at work and it was my job to phone them to see if they were ok. When the war started I began driving the Lister machines. This photograph was taken to help to persuade the United States of America to join the war. It was to show that we were working hard to help the war effort. Gladys Rosemary Court WW2

Marjorie Alderson

I worked at North Road during World War Two. My job was to pump water out of the air raid shelters to keep them dry. I moved on to Faverdale not long after I started at North Road. At Faverdale I worked in the Shell Forge putting graphite in shells.

My mother worked in the shell shop during the First World War and her father and four brothers all worked at North Road.

Ken and Jan

I used to live five minutes away from North Road Works when I was a child. I remember them putting fog bombs on the tracks when the weather was bad and the level crossings along Whessoe Road.

During the school holidays I used to sit on a wall near the works and watch them shunting wagons. My friends and I used to take the mickey out of them and once got sprayed with an oil gun by one of the men as a result! My Mam went mad!

My father used to be friends with the policeman who patrolled the site, his name was Arthur Bielby. It meant I could never get into trouble as he would go and tell my dad!

Norah Leonard

Both my father and brother worked for the railways. My father worked at Faverdale offices and my brother was an apprentice boilersmith at North Road Works. My brother was exempt from war service because he was needed at the works.

I was the youngest of seven and I used to meet my father every night at the bottom of Whessoe Road after he finished work and tell him what we were having for tea.

I remember when the all the men used to leave the works all at once and they stopped traffic on North Road, even the trolley buses stopped.

 

Nita Raine

My brother Douglas used to work at North Road Works. He started before the war and left when he was called up. After he was demobbed he returned to North Road. He emigrated to Australia in 1950.

I used to work at the post office on North Road. The men used to come out of work to buy cigarettes. I got the job because the owner came into my school and said he needed an assistant. Being head girl, my head teacher recommended me for the job.

Doris

When I got married I used to live near the works. I remember having a baby and a toddler in a pram and walking into town most days. I used to make sure I was home before 12noon when the hooter went signalling lunchtime for the men at the works. You took your life into your own hands if you were walking nearby at that time!

The works used to close for two weeks every year to coincide with the school holidays. It always rained for the fortnight. We went on holiday to Scarborough during that fortnight once and it rained for a week.

If you married a man from North Road Works it was said that you were made for life. If you had a son you used to put their name down to work there as soon as you could.