Friday, 24 June 2016

'The Staffordshire Potter' remembered ...part III (1987-1988).

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

As 1987 starts we were now in the middle of the second 'EH winter' and we are well away from the remaining pockets of steam heat (still going in Scotland… nowhere else really), and so there was very little prospect of anything but EH fitted power working passenger turns and in our area that meant a couple of 47/4's workings (more turns on Sunday's if not diverted away) and a selection of AC electric diagrams. Rather than wait for the summer timetable to arrive before going out again, the local 'Roadshow' made the collective decision to pick off those few, still required, AC electrics that we all seamed to need a few odd, examples of. The class 86/0 sub class had been rare performers on passenger duties, in daylight hours at least, since the spring of 1980 when a 80mph blanket speed restriction was imposed on the type. As a result, we had all still needed a few of them for haulage. Now that most of those 86/0's had been fitted with modified bogies and reclassified as 86/4's, these once elusive, on daytime passenger' engines had now been returned to 100mph status and they were once more available to be picked off. We also all needed a few odd Roarers too.

There were two problems to be overcome. The 1st was the almost total lack of gen. What little gen that did filter through to us, never included any info on the AC electrics. We did, however, know details of the diagrams thanks the 'Loco-Hauled Travel' books backed up by our own local observations. If you did see a required loco pass by, and could identify which service it was working, you could then work out what service it might come back on. This system was not fool proof as there was always the danger that a loco might not come back even if it was diagrammed to do so. The 2nd problem centred on the simple fact that we all needed different engines. The solution to this problem was a 'design classic'. Dave B provided every member of the local 'Roadshow' with a green card, which, on one side carried a list of each Roadshow member's required locos, while the other side featured a list of everyone's phone number, the green cards were then to be carried around everywhere or so the theory goes.

The cheapest way to travel with some kind of validity, albeit locally, was still obviously on a 'Potter'. Armed with this ticket there were a number of trains that could drop a Roarer while a 86/4 could turn up on just about any electric diagram at any time of day. Of the trains that could be officially covered on a 'Potter', the 1G76 1921 Manchester Piccadilly - Birmingham New Street was the best bet to be something useful, and the loco for this was booked to work north on 1M50 1015 Brighton - Manchester Piccadilly, due Stoke-on-Trent at 1420. At that time, at least one member of the local Roadshow could usually make themselves available to go out and view 1M50 pass through on most days, and on some days, quite a few Roadshow members would turn out to see M50. This would be as close as we would get to solving our 'lack of gen' problem, for the time being at least. Sometimes, during the first few weeks of 1987, we would, by arriving lineside a little early, (or if the train was running late) or by waiting around longer than the normal, by chance we would view a couple of other services. These services were the 1A49 1330 Manchester Piccadilly - London Euston, due Stoke-on-Trent at 1411 and 1H10 1230 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly, due Stoke-on-Trent at 1430. The loco's off both 1A49 and 1H10 could also work back later in the day to effect an evening's 'Potter' moves, but more of that later. If 1M50 produced a loco that appeared 'on the green card', then we'd all probably do a 'Potter' that night. If no one got a new engine after a few days and a Roarer did work 1M50, then we'd go out for that anyway, and if we hadn't been out for a few days for a Roarer, then we'd go out anyway just for fun. So, most nights then, at that time, at least some of the Roadshow members would be out on a 'Potter' more or less every night until the May 1987 timetable change.

There follows a further selection of 'Potter' moves, some of which are memorable for some reason, while others are included just because they are typical of the period.

Thursday 1st January 1987 - Happy new Bashing year!
86229 worked 1A49 while 87016 worked 1M50 that afternoon. Dave B stopped by shortly afterwards and was then told the disappointing prospect for 1G76 (87016), but he was keen to do a 'Potter' anyway, wanting to get his first moves of the year 'in the book'. Word went out that a Potter move was on and I asked the lads if any of the services we might want to catch would not be running due to the fact it was a bank holiday and I was assured by the lads that everything WAS shown as running, so I took their word for it, and so, a 'Potter' it was then.

We decided on doing the 'Congleton leap' which, you may recall from previous accounts on these pages, that this involved taking the 1H20 1700 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly due Stoke-on-Trent at 1845, to Congleton, where it was due at 1903. 1H20 was the only northbound hauled turn to call at Stoke both and Congleton. As the 'Potter' was an evening rover it didn't cost us any more to cover this turn as well as 1G76, so why not make an evening out of it? We did this move all the time they said, so no need to look again at the timetable, they said, and so I went along with it without checking for myself (big mistake). 1H20 was a, nothing to get excited about, 86219, which we did anyway. The move then, was to return on the 1815 Manchester Piccadilly - Stoke-on-Trent all stations EMU, due Congleton 1912 and back at Stoke-on-Trent for 1931, in good time for 1G76, which left Stoke-on-Trent at 2001… except, this local service was clearly marked 'BHX' in the timetable, as we only discovered upon arrival at Congleton, and this WAS a bank holiday, so it didn't run on this occasion! We had a good laugh about that one… Anyway, having 'bowled' ourselves well and truly out, we even saw 1G76 go through flying through Congleton, and thankfully 87016 had stuck to diagram, and then we all caught the following 1900 Manchester Piccadilly - Stoke-on-Trent all stations service back, which was running, and unusually formed of a pair of 304 'Dinosaurs' 002+020. When we got back to Stoke, and with no other move on, Dave B (who else) was desperate enough to then hitchhike to Stafford, but by the time he got there, his only possible move was to do 1M31 1745 Dover - Manchester Piccadilly straight back home with a not very exciting at the time 87002 as power. An evening that was memorable for all the wrong reasons really.

Thursday/Friday 15/16th January 1987 by Dave B
As I remember, the weather was unusually wintery 4 winter.
"Truly amazing evening! Arrived at Stoke station about 18.30 and waited 2 hours 4 the first decent train, everything hideously 2 Stafford 2 find eleventeen foot of snow !
Fast 86 2 Crewe which was so bloody slow you wouldn't believe it. Played cards in carriage which was minus lights & heating.. Arrived at Crewe approx 21.40, no sign of SOT unit, big moan 2 Mr station supervisor...
Extremely helpful man, he organised loco & stock 2 take us home, snag - had 2 wait almost 3 hours 4 it 2 arrive. Good fortune was on hand: 47 119 & 1 pullman & 1 bg 2 take just 7 of us home.
Arrived in at 01.30... truly amazing."
Looking through the main book, details are as follows:-

19.21 Man Picc - BNS (1G76)
85 023 Stoke - Stafford

19.00 Euston - Holyhead (1D70)
86 249 "County of Merseyside" Stafford - Crewe

0034 Crewe - Stoke special relief
47 119 Crewe - Stoke

What makes this night even more memorable is the fact it was done on the old Staffs Potter and the whole evening cost £1.
"Happy Days"

Tuesday 20th January 1987.
Due to a spell of bad weather and the resulting unpredictability of train services locally, this was the first time anyone had actually seen 1M50 since 85017 had worked it on the previous Tuesday (13th), and even then 1M50 had been so heavily delayed that it had terminated at Stoke-on-Trent rather than go through to Manchester. Today, 85012 had worked 1M50 more or less on time. This was enough to trigger a 'Potter' after several blank days in the moves book. These notes that follow, then, are shown as an example of what was a typical 'Potter' move from the period, not very exciting, but a cheap evening out at the time. The main event, 1G76 and the expected return of 85012 was not until 20:01 but we would arrive at the station much earlier. In between quizzing the station staff during their quieter moments as to what, if anything, of interest had happened, or might be about to happen, we might do little filler moves on 304 EMUs or even if really desperate for something to do, Sprinter DMU's, and we would visit otherwise rarely visited local stations such as Stone or Longport as well as the regular possibility of 'the Congleton leap' on 1H20 (Which was 86219 once again on this occasion) for an EMU back. 85012 didn't come back on 1G76, this was always a distinct possibility, but this time, our luck was in, for it was 81021 that came back, and so, although dud, this 'big fish' was seen as even better. A good fast, albeit short, run was then had and we even made the minus 2 onto 1H27 1810 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly at Stafford. While I elected to come straight back with 1H27, the lads all planned to crossover platforms and wait for the 1D71 Holyhead, and their planned move would then be D71 Stafford - Crewe. As they made their way to the steps, they encountered the local character that we all knew as "Socket" and 'annoying' wasn't the word for him! He walks straight past the lads, who deliberately give him the slip, by going behind a crowd of 'Normal's' making for the stairs, and "Socket", he misses them completely, but he clocks me, and he heads straight on over. Of all the local Cranks, "Socket" was the one that you hoped not to bump into and it looked like I would be stuck with him, for once he latched onto you, then, there was no escaping him. Once you got stuck with "Socket", everyone else would stay well clear, and this was not good for getting the gen. The lads, meanwhile, feeling rather pleased with themselves having skilfully avoided "Socket" and landing me with him, were now on the opposite platform and all having a right good laugh at my expense! "Socket" then asks me, what my move was, so I tell him that I'm off straight back home on 1H27… Then adding… "But the lads are going to Crewe on 1D71!" I say this, pointing him in their direction. He likes that move much better, thankfully, and so he scurries off to annoy them, as I get to join 1H27 in peace, with 86235. As 1H27 pulls away, on the opposite platform, the lads encounter "Socket" and warn him off, but, as usual, despite their hostile reception towards him, he fails to take the hint, and still latches onto them, and tags along as he usually did anyway! Eventually they all left with 87022 on 1D71 for 1M47 back Crewe - Stafford with 86417, and then home from Stafford with 1H45 1940 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly, which was 86101, by all accounts.

Wednesday 28th January 1987.
This was the 'Potter' that wasn't (at least for me). I'd been flu'd up and getting a little stir-crazy. Finally feeling a little better, and well wrapped up against the weather, I'd ventured out and viewed 1M50 during the afternoon. The sight of 86415 working 1M50 was my limited reward. Gen hardly likely to trigger a mass 'Potter' move that evening or so it would seam.
Later the phone rang. Lenny had dropped onto 45143 which had worked the 1514 Derby - Crewe Sprinter turn. Normally a loco out on table 80 vice Sprinter would trigger a mass 'Potter' move, but after my little more than ten minutes in the fresh air just viewing 1M50 go past, I was withered for the rest of the day. The return working for the Peak was the 1648 Crewe - Boston (presume hauled only to Derby?) so the lads went after it without me (Nor Lenny, who was not really a big Peak fan anyway, and for whom his 'bus stop' mileage earlier was already enough). Never mind, it would work again (As Steve Cotton would have said, and frequently did, at the time!) The 1648 was strictly too early for a 'Potter' which left the lads looking at a single to Uttoxeter and to then buy a 'Potter' to get back and also to then make an evening out of it by covering 1G76. The Peak finally arrived some 20 odd down and the lads all took it. As the erstwhile Boston service reached Stoke junction, 1M07 1302 Portsmouth Harbour - Manchester Piccadilly hove into view with something of a surprise up front!
The Phone rang just after six when the lads reached Uttoxeter (No mobiles just yet)! 50027 had worked 1M07 vice AC electric. What, they asked me, would it come back on? "The stock forms 1G76 and the Hoover 'might' run round and work back on that?" I told them. There wasn't anything else it could come back on as far as I could see. The lads joined Sprinter 150116 on the 1644 Grantham - Crewe to get back to Stoke for around seven.
The Phone rang again just after seven. The lads had managed to find a member of station staff willing to make discrete enquiries regard 50027's possible return and it is now confirmed that it is to return on 1G76, so, now they want to know, am I going to turn out for it after all? Regrettably, I have to say I'm just not up to it. Back in the days when Class 50's had been LMR locos and based at CD, they would turn up from time to time on passenger duties around Stoke-on-Trent, most likely Sunday drags if the power went off, or on specials, but since those days, which already seamed a long way behind us even back then, Class 50's had been uncommon in our area.
As it turned out, 50027 did work back on 1G76. I at least got to hear it go past even though I felt much too rough at the time to go out after it! The lads arrived at Stafford just too late for the move on 1D71 to Crewe for 1M47 back, so instead, they festered at Stafford until 86242 had turned up on 1M31 1745 Dover - Manchester Piccadilly.
But just how does a Class 50 end up working through to Manchester on a service from Portsmouth? Well, the following tale, as told to me, is from memory, so it may not be 100% correct; so if you can confirm or deny any of what follows, then please let me know?
Apparently, shortly before this incident, the powers that be had noticed a lot of appearances by classes 81 and 85 (Roarers) on cross county duties, most notably those between the West midlands and Scotland and vice versa. As these locos were being run down, they were also becoming more unreliable and this was said to be having an effect on timekeeping, so a memo was then issued to 'control' to the effect that Roarers were only to be used on these duties as a last resort. While until recently, it was Roarers that had seamed to dominate these diagrams.
On this day a Class 87 had been rostered to work the 1O11 0950 Glasgow Central - Brighton as far as Birmingham New Street. Upon arrival at New St, the 87 was detached as usual, and then ran light engine to Coventry to await the arrival of 1M07 as per diagram. Meanwhile, 1M07 had set out from Brighton, presumably with the usual 47/4 up front, but only a short distance into the journey 1M07 was involved in a fatality on the line and was terminated. In those days BR didn't like to cancel trains and would run them if at all possible. The WR managed to find a spare loco, 50027, and a spare rake of MkI stock at Old Oak and this ran ECS to Reading to restart the service from there. At Coventry, the booked forwarding engine was AB only while the stock was Vacs, and with nothing else available in the area, the Hoover had to work it through. Of cause I can't say that that memo, if, indeed it ever existed, was to play any part in the working of 50027, but it was implied that it did, by he who told me this tale. Can anyone shed further light upon this incident?

Monday 23rd February 1987.
Just just a single member of the local roadshow required most of the locos that featured upon 'the Green Card' Gen sheets, occasionally two people might need the same loco, but there was a single loco required by almost everyone, and that loco was 81005. Should 81005 ever turn out on 1M50 then it was generally understood that everyone would want to know all about it and if that ever did happen there was sure to be a large 'local' turnout. Only minutes after the appearance that afternoon of 87028 on 1A49 1330 Manchester Piccadilly - London Euston, (a turn in serious danger of becoming 'solid' Laser at the time) 81005 had bounced around the curve and into view on 1M50. Word was spread and the long expected near full turnout did indeed 'produced on a Potter'. To make an evening of it, most elected to do the full 'Potter Experience' which, as I've said before, often included a few filler moves on units, and 'the Congleton leap', 86261 working 1H20 on this occasion and then a move back with a 'Dino' all helping to build up the tension before that crucial moment when 1G76 would finally hove into view, ever hopeful that it would still be roaring. As the twin lights first appeared, it was 'Roaring' at least, and indeed as it got closer, it was a flying fish… 81005 had finally produced! Only Lenny was disappointed… somehow he had been informed that we were all expecting 81006 to appear, which only he needed at the time, rather than the, for him, dud 81005. Everyone piled on, and we made our way to the front coach, which was otherwise empty, which meant we could open a few windows without upsetting anyone despite it being a freezing, frosty evening and we could soak up those once familiar sounds that only a 'Roarer' made as we travelled through the darkness. Many heads were out for the first couple of minutes until beaten back inside by the cold as we accelerated out of Stoke and into the freezing night. Then we all settled back to enjoy the thrash, looking out for the illuminated Wedgwood sign, to see which of the Blue neon letters would be working and which would be out… it had read "We woo" for what seamed like months amusing Dave B every time we passed it. After the short thrash, on came the brakes for the familiar junction just short of Stone station and the sharp right hand bend. After that restriction was safely negotiated, and as we accelerated again, away into the night, there came a Bright flash, a Bang, and what appeared to be a small fireball that flew passed the coach windows. With sufficient momentum we made it to the peg protecting Norton Bridge just short of the mainline and only then did we come to a stand at a Green colour light but it was obvious to all that something was up. We had failed. The guard confirmed to us that 'the carbon had been lost from the pan' as we had all suspected, and we were told we were awaiting rescue from Crewe or maybe even Stoke where we had left 47359 & 20032+20209 parked up. With all the windows now firmly shut to keep in the last of the heat, time passed quickly as we played cards and speculated upon possible rescue locos. After about 90 minutes, a Light Roarer passed by ahead of us on the main, southbound, then minutes later, it reappeared and dropped onto the front of out train. Soon, we were under way again, but it wasn't until we got to Stafford and all baled that we were able to discover that it was 85023 that had rescued us. Due to our late arrival there was now little in the way of moves to be done, but wait, what's this? Within a couple of minutes arriving at Stafford, here was the 1M31 1745 Dover - Manchester Piccadilly, the last hauled train to take us home, and it too, appeared to be Roaring… indeed it was another 'big fish' 81002! No one present could recall 1M31 ever dropping a Roarer before… A short, but blistering run home followed.

Monday 30th March 1987.
1M50 had produced 86416. Not one of the former rarish 86/0 conversions, but the former 86316, which after all had been rather commonplace leaving a Potter move looking unlikely. But the chance viewing of the appearance of 31458 on the 1511 Derby - Crewe Sprinter turn turned things around. 31458 would be back as the 1648 Crewe - Boston (tonight terminating at Derby). Not everyone in our roadshow was that keen on the 'Goyles', so just three of us went out after it. With plenty of up hill thrash and two intermediate station stops, 31458 seamed like good value on a Potter and taken out to Uttoxeter, the easterly limit of validity. Lengthening Spring days meant there was enough light for photos at Uttoxeter, not only of the departing 'Goyle' but of the half hoped for / half expected 47223 that passed through on a rake of oil tanks before our return move on another plastic Sprinter. With a valid piece we may as well cover 1G76, and just as well we did, for it was an unexpected bonus Roarer in the shape of personal mileage machine 85003, this having replaced the expected 86416. A good fast run with 85003 even sees us making the minus into 1H27 1810 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly, so it's straight back towards home, and true to the usual expected form, that 1H27 only gets a Roarer if the minus isn't made, it produced 86220. From Stoke it was back to Stafford on a Dino. We were beginning to appreciate these old units more and more, and by now they had been reduced from four to three cars, we were noticing that all the different sets each seamed to feature little detail differences, and some sets had seemingly taken on different characteristics all of there own. Some sets gained nicknames as a result of these characteristics, while other sets gained nicknames with a slight 'comedy value' (but only if you knew the story behind it). A list of these 'Dino' nicknames was floating around back then, but I don't have a copy of it, and can only remember a few odd ones. Off the 'Dino' we hoped to make 1M31, which had produced another Roarer (since 81002 at the end of the last month), but we just missed it and ended up having to wait around for 1H45 the 1940 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly, with a disappointing 86258 instead.

Wednesday 6th May 1987.
I decided against the full 'Potter Experience' and turned down the Stoke-on-Trent-Stone-Longport-Stoke-on-Trent unit bash prior to 1H20. 'The Congleton Leap' was raked in however, with commonplace 86250 working 1H20 1700 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly for Dino 001 back on the 1815 Manchester Piccadilly - Stoke-on-Trent stopper. That afternoon, 1M50 had been 87033 so was expected back with 1G76, but no, it was 85008 which made a nice change to Stafford. 86255 taken on 1H27 1810 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly back homeward for an unrecorded Dino on 1935 the Altringham - Wolverhampton back to Stafford and a choice of 1M31 ex Dover or 1H45 1940 London Euston - Manchester Piccadilly to finish the day. 86404 working north with 1H10 had followed 87033 that afternoon and should have gone back south with a Newhaven service and thus was 1M31 as booked and turned down as 1H45 was unknown but turned out to be a rather uninspiring 86428. And so, the end of an era, though I don't think I realised it at the time as the 6 month or so period, that saw the most intensive use of the Potter ticket by the local bashing road show drew to a close…

Timetable change May 87.
There were no booked evening diesel turns, not ever summer dated ones, 1G76 runs no longer, but is now replaced by 1V19 1920 Manchester Piccadilly - London Paddington in similar times. The loco for this came off 1H88 1517 Birmingham International - Manchester Piccadilly (1641 through Stoke-on-Trent), but because the circumstances of the Roadshow members had also change, there was rarely anyone around to view 1H88 anyway, so there was usually no Gen on 1V19 to be had. The road show itself had splintered, with the various members now becoming more specialised. Now, there were factions chasing Class 50's, Class 47 or Class 37's exclusively, and the Potter ticket was of little use for any of those. Previously, the local road show's only specialists had been the followers of the Class 40's, and their appearances had already become as sparse as those of their favoured locos. Wayne and John had both already come out on a Potter with us one night and then announced that they were both quitting railways altogether, for fishing, and true to their word, I don't think I've seen neither of them out on the rails ever since.

Potter tickets would now be of little use to the Roadshow. It was to be over twelve months before I was to have another Potter.

Thursday 14th June 1988.
The phone rang. It was Lenny. He was at Derby and had just seen 31259 heading for Stoke hauling a failed DMU and was I interested? As it was a score, yes I was interested. 31259 was working what I believed was a late running 1604 Derby - Crewe dragging a rare, for the route, Gloucester RCW co set formed 51101+51071 vice Sprinter. Strictly a service too early for a Potter, but I just asked for a piece for Crewe and that's what they sold me, so who am I to argue? I was treated to quite a lively run behind a smoky Goyle and I don't recall any other bashers being there for it. A signal check West of Alsager, just before the single track section, saw a Sprinter pass on what should have been the return leg of the service that I was already on, and that now meant a Plastic ride back was now guaranteed, putting a dampener on the rest of my run to Crewe. Upon arrival 31259 then worked into North Wales still with the dead unit in tow, while my ride back was on Neville Hill based Sprinter 150248 on the 1839 Crewe - Derby. NL sets were booked on this service at the time!

'The Staffordshire Potter' remembered part I (1980-1983).
'The Staffordshire Potter' remembered part II (1984-1986).
And now onward into the final 18 months of 'The Staffordshire Potter' part IV (1988-1989).

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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