Friday, 24 June 2016

'The Staffordshire Potter' remembered ...part I (1980-1983)

"If Timewarp was a loco it's status would be: Stored Serviceable."

The 'Staffordshire Potter' was one of many evening rover tickets made available within the Stoke division of the LMR during the early 1980's and there was an interesting leaflet to publicise it that advocated a pub crawl by train.

I can't remember now just when they started, but it was autumn of 1980 when I had my first 'Potter' so it would be a date somewhere about that period and the adult fare was then the grand sum of 50p, rising slowly during that decade to the even grander sum of £2. The way that we used the ticket also changed over the years and a short series of four articles have been planned to outline those changes and illustrating how the local service changed too. Part one features the transition of many local enthusiasts from spotter to haulage basher and/or photographer initially using the ticket to get to Crewe or Stafford for a bit of spotting.

At first glance, a ticket that gave validity between Crewe - Uttoxeter and Stafford - Congleton does not seem to have a great deal of haulage bashing potential, but over the years that followed it was to prove surprisingly useful for picking up interesting haulage's from time to time. Although strictly speaking you were NV direct between Crewe - Stafford I don't recall anyone ever having problems, the ticket usually being excepted by most, and it was only in later years that 'via Kidsgrove' was added to the piece.

Being an evening rover, during the week, the ticket was only valid on trains booked to run after 1745 (time off Stoke) and I can remember, on many occasions, when earlier trains were running late, being kept waiting before I would be allowed to book my ticket. In the early years, the ticket was also available for all day use on Sundays and that was when they could have come in really useful for the haulage basher, or they would have done if I had been bashing seriously that far back. At that period most of us locals were still Spotting though the appeal was on the wane. A few of our number had already become Bashers and were chasing Class 40's to the almost total exclusion of all else. I did have the good sense to record my haulage all the same, but not necessarily the service details, and often, back then, we would arrive at the station on a Sunday morning only to find the hauled trains had been diverted away from us, running instead via Crewe and replaced through Stoke by a DMU and bus shuttle. That was the case with the first half a dozen or so Potter's I had. We would still go to Stafford for a hour or two spotting in the morning then to Crewe in the afternoon.

For anyone who was not familiar with the railway scene in North Staffs and South Cheshire at that time, the service between Crewe - Uttoxeter - Derby and beyond was an approximately hourly DMU service, which scine 1969 would usually the DMU's would be Derby based Class 120 Cross Country Swindon sets supplemented from time to time until October of 1981, by Class 104 BRCW sets which had worked the line since 1958. While between Stafford - Stoke - Congleton, the weekday evening turns were mostly Class 304 EMU's, although Class 310's also appeared on some diagrams but were not considered unusual, plus there was a couple of electrically hauled expresses that called at both Stoke and Stafford that you could cover and the one London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly service 1H20 that called at both Stoke and Congleton. On Sundays, trains before 16:00 were usually booked diesel haulage. There were four booked diagrams off Manchester via Stoke, and those to Euston were booked to call at Stoke and Stafford, all diesel hauled or dragged most weeks and all diagrams could be covered as there were also two Euston - Manchester's calling at Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent to get back.

A sequence of personal accounts of Potter's follow:

Sunday 04/01/81.
For the first Sunday in about a dozen attempts we arrived at the station and found that a bus or DMU had not replaced the first hauled service to Stafford! So it was 47512 working 1G60 Manchester P - Birmingham NS and so we took that to Stafford for a few hours spotting. The earlier 1A11 to Euston was not officially booked to call at Stafford at that period, but usually it did, so as to detach a diesel that would be dragging an electric more often than not. On one occasion, a mate of mine arrived at Stoke to see a Forty dragging 1A11, so he jumped on regardless. 1A11 did stop at Stafford for the Forty to detach, but on the centre rd. Though he considered baling there, the presence of ‘Bert’ prevented this, so, he found himself raking in some bonus sparky mileage until 1A11 was signal checked at Watford! But back to this occasion, and it was the combination of 47468+87035(Drag) on the 1H?? Euston - Manchester P back, the 47 being attached at Stafford after working in from Manchester earlier.

Sunday 25/01/81.
Same move again, this time it was 47443 on 1G60 and 47405+87027(Drag) on the same trains. We were disappointed to get only ETH engines again.

Sunday 13/09/81.
This was to be my last 'Potter' of 1981 and it was to be a little different. 40080 was most welcome on the 1V69 0908 Manchester Piccadilly - Plymouth, which it would work as far as New Street. However due to engineering works, 1V69 was diverted from Stone to Colwich to call additionally at Rugeley. My one and only run over the Stone - Colwich route with a Class 40 providing lots of thrash before I leapt at a, rare for me, location, Rugeley, before then taking an EMU shuttle to get to Stafford, while 40080 continued onwards with 1V69 via Cannock. After a quiet morning at Stafford it was back to Rugeley on the EMU and 1H?? with 86103, an unusual straight electric haulage home.

Early 1982.
For much of early 1982 Sunday services via Stoke were lost due either to industrial action or engineering when they were diverted via Crewe.

Sunday 30/05/82.
The overnight 'Pope-ex' trains had all produced EMU's, just as we had been informed they would, so we were glad we hadn't bothered with an overnight to cover them... unfortunately we had not been aware at the time of what what had worked elsewhere...
After asking around, no one was sure if the advertised train to North Wales would be hauled or not, so we went down to see for ourselves. Again there was disappointment. It was a very sick five-car DMU formation that finally departed Stoke and then only after fitters attention and even then, it was a departure accompanied by a dense cloud of smoke and it was a major stagger. With an hour to kill, we paid a flying visit to Cockshute HS to see what might be stabled. Not much, as I recall. We made it back to Stoke-on-Trent station with only minutes to wait for with 40079 to Stafford on the 1V79 0908 Manchester P - Bristol TM. 87008 was a disappointing find on 1H30 1000 Euston - Manchester for the return. Having witnessed the departure of that mornings North Wales service it came as no surprise to us when we were informed by JL that 40091 and a rake of AIR CONS had replaced the sick units en-route and would work the return. So we took an afternoon DMU service to Crewe in good time for another good but short 40-hauled run, this time on the 1748 Llandudno - Stoke behind 40091. The train was packed and very hot, the air inside foul, no wonder then most of us chose to flail all the way! Mileage men we were not!

Sunday 13/06/82.
Not very exciting again! 47438 to Stafford, for 47533 back. So it wasn't all NB and boilered locos even back then.

Sunday 27/06/82.
This was the weekend that I had planed to start a rover for my first all out bash, but uncertainties over threatened industrial action saw that plan canned, so instead, another 'Potter'. 47409 to Stafford on 1V79. 47536+87019(Drag) back. And my poor luck and always dropping onto the EH locos continues.

Thursday 01/07/82.
Due to this being 'Potters fortnight', (the Stoke-on-Trent area industrial holidays - if you're not local), the 1P14 0925 Crewe - Blackpool was starting back at Blythe Bridge with loco and stock provided by Derby. Having viewed and photographed this train behind 45002 that morning and not having seen the peak return during the day, I felt it must be worth taking a trip to Crewe to cover the return 1K04 1707 ex Blackpool, which was A Crewe service extended to Blythe Bridge. 45002 was noted on Crewe diesel upon my arrival so things were looking promising! 1K04 arrived behind a Roarer and 45002 backed on. It wasn't too often you got a chance cross the always Orange(!) waters of the Trent and Mersey canal and travel up the short but steep Kidsgrove bank behind a Peak! So sheer Hellfire novelty value then and why I didn't go at least to Blythe Bridge I can't recall!

Thursday 05/08/82.
To Crewe by DMU to bring back 40164 which was expected on the 1K38 1737 Llandudno - Stoke. On the journey out I was introduced to Glover, who was an interesting character! I was talking to my old mate Steve Cotton regarding the unit as a crowd of us headed for Crewe. I mentioned I liked the oval mirrors that featured on those Swindon built Cross County units. It was around that point that, unnoticed, Glover went missing. When he got back, he opened his coat, flasher style, revealing one of those oval mirrors! I was then informed by Glover's mate that he was 'building a Class 120 DMU One piece at a time'! Then, Glover points at a small square metal plate fixed to the side of the unit, beneath the window. "What's that for?" Glover asked. "Well" said his mate "When you've nicked the ashtray that's what they cover the hole up with!"

Monday 09/08/82.
Required 40168 had worked 1D32 so I went to Crewe for it on 1K38 1737 Llandudno - Stoke. But unknown to me, the engines had been swapped and it was 40172 that turned up, not that I was complaining - 172 was required as well. Despite having arrived at Crewe off the north Wales line, 40172 arrived on what was, at that time, platform 6, since renamed platform 1 - such a movement became impossible with the 1985 station rebuild.

Monday 13/09/82.
Required 40168 had worked 1D32 so I went to Crewe for for a second attempt at getting 40168 and this time it did come back on the 1K38 1737 Llandudno - Stoke.

Sunday 19/09/82.
After a Summer long absence, Sunday hauled trains had returned to Stoke-on-Trent and now, with 1A11 booked to call at Stafford officially there were now five south bound trains to cover. 'The lads' had asked if I was up for a 'Potter', but I def'd it in favour of taking a few photos line side. 1A11 was expected first but after half an hour there was no sign. Instead first to appear was 40184 with the lads all on board 1G60 hauling the usual WR Mk I rake. When the peg again changed moments after the 40 cleared, it went straight to Green and it was unclear if 'Bobby' was playing his usual Sunday game of 'peg it two hours early and keep 'em guessing' or if 1A11 was now imminent. I decided to wait and moments later 1A11 did indeed appear with the memorable combo of 25037+25044 dragging 86252! The 'Rats' would no doubt work 1A11 to Stafford as booked and should return North later. As I could not remember Rats on the Sunday drags before, the lure was too great and I just had to go out and get them! So now I had to take 1A16 1040 Manchester P - Euston to Stafford and in it rolled with 47432 dragging 86212. It was, I noted, a 'dead time' at Stafford, but with 40 minutes allowed on a Sunday I felt sure I would still make it, but I hadn't reckoned on stopping to pick up a pilotman at Barlaston, before setting back and stretch of single line working to Stone. With Stafford station finally in sight the 'Rats' were already in and on the train! A 'desperate leap' followed by a mad dash and I'd made it by the skin of my teeth onto 1H30 1000 Euston - Manchester P this time the 'Rats' were dragging 87035. I made my way forward expecting to find the lads, but no, they were nowhere to be seen, in fact I don't remember seeing any other bashers on board. Had pangs of hunger not got the better of me I would have hung around for 1A21 1242 Manchester P - Euston and taken that to Stafford, but I figured, with my luck it would be another 47/4 just like 1A16, so I went home for food. I made the mistake of viewing 1A21 and wished I hadn't once I realised I'd been bowled out for 40027 dragging 86235!

Late 82.
Now that I had made the transition from spotter to basher, during the last three months of the year, almost without exception, the Sunday trains before 1600hrs were diverted leaving the DMU and bus shuttles filling the gap, while, once the Stoke - Llandudno had finished in mid September there was, no longer reason to go out on "A Potter" for a few months...

Sunday 2nd January 1983.
A much larger Roadshow than usual and we all let 47543 on the first Euston go. It would only drag to Stafford and then work back on 1H30, while what ever worked the 1G60 0908 Manchester P - Birmingham New St wouldn't be seen again. So it was that we waited for 1G60 which was to be our first move and this appeared behind 47205, which was boiler fitted, and was duly taken to Stafford. Here we waited for the return working of 47543, which was 1H30 1000 Euston - Manchester P, this brought in by 86238. As usual, the pan of the electric was lowered as the Brush backed on. We baled back at Stoke, then came the move with 47502 dragging 86102 back to Stafford on 1A21 1242 Manchester P - Euston. As soon as 86208 arrived with 1H32 1200 Euston - Manchester P, Crewe based 47448 was added for the move back to Stoke again! As can be seen, it's all getting rather repetitive, with the motive power that produced being fairly standard fare for the period. The rest of the day continued with a DMU trip to Crewe and back, followed by a few Electric moves between Stoke and Stafford with 47205 becoming the undoubted highlight. In fact, the only reason for this day to be noteworthy for anyone I would think was that this was to be the last time ever that "The Staffordshire Potter" was to be available for all day travel. From now on a "Staffordshire Potter" was strictly an "Evening Rover" available Monday - Saturday and therefore only very limited use to us 'local' enthusiast types... in fact, it would be over eighteen months before I would next partake... Little did we then know that for some of us, many of the best ever "Potter" moves were yet to come!

'The Staffordshire Potter' remembered part II follows.

Does anyone else out there have any 'The Staffordshire Potter' memories?
Post in the Comments box below.

© 'UD' & 'Clayhead' - Preserving the gen online since 1999...

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