This page was last updated, 01 May 2015 with the letter from Hugh Connolly.

By Driver Hugh Connolly of Bletchley Depot.

I started my first railway carer at Bletchley, on Steam in 1959, before we were made redundant in 1996, we went from Steam to 10001 and 10000, also 10201 and 10202, then Sulzers and English Electric Class 40.

What a difference, hand held gas pokers on 10000 and 10001, to the magic eye Claydon Boilers on Class 40's.
Here are some of Class 40 jobs at Bletchley that I worked. 18.00'ish Nuneaton Bricks. (My driver Joe Long) brick train Bedford to Bletchley. Class 81 or 85 Electric off shed onto train up slow Bletchley to Nuneaton, unhook train engine into sidings onto Nuneaton Shed (you had 3 hrs or more Nuneaton). Pick up Class 40 to work goods train south, I never knew train to run, but control always kept us back until last up sleeper, went through going south in case of trouble.

We came to rescue of Irish Mail on night, it failed just where the new line, and Northampton Branch meet at Road. Much more details about this incident, may be later.

20.00'ish Tring - Didcot Cement (Joe Long Driver) Class 40 light engine Bletchley - Tring Cutting cement, pick up cement presflos at Tring Station run round Tring Yard, (now the car park), then we must go out fast line at tring, to go round cord line at Bletchley onto Oxford Branch, then down to Didcot, unhook, on to coal train, back via Oxford to Swanbourne Yard, unhook onto Bletchley Shed, then home!

When they were electrifying Euston, Euston shut, all trains electric hauled to Bletchley, Diesel Class 40 hauled to Marylebone, always Bletchley men, some went down Great Central to Quainton Road, then into Paddington, some worked by Bletchley men.

Perth Parcels (Diesel hauled Bletchley - Marylebone), Driver Bob Fisher also the Mayor of Bletchley, and me 2ndman with Guard Larry Kelly. We took turns at driving, with most drivers I was driving as we left Bletchley, to go up Swanbourne Bank, about 02.30 in morning, the bank is one in seventy five, we had twenty parcel vans on, so as soon as you left Bletchley, although going through a junction, you give it full power. We were half way up the bank, when engine jumped up and came back down with a thump! We had ploughed into 36 cows, one was under front bogie, and about sixteen were dead and down the very steep bank either side. Just then an Oxford Steam Train came down the bank and finished off the rest of the herd. We pulled all the cows, that were stuck under the engine out of the way, even the Signalman at Swanbourne came down because had never seen a cow before!
I could look over two fields see my house at Newton Longville, and was totally knackered because it took me 18 hrs to get home. What I should have said "we have killed one of two cows. I got to know the farmer years later. Farmer Thomkins of Bletchley, he claimed for sixty prize Galloway Cows. They were just ordinary Ayrshires. The staff at Swan Bourne Yard brought shunt engine(08). Plus empty wagons and a crane down to site, loaded up all dead cows and they were taken straight to Whipsnade Zoo, the lions were lucky that week with fresh Beef!

Cowley to Scotland (Car train to all parts UK carrying brand new TR7`s) Driver Joe Long and Me, Sunday night job, light diesel to Cowley pick up low loader car transport, work train north.. Arrived at Cowley, I think only half train was loaded, no staff on Sunday nights to tell us, but after many phone calls the police arrive. The car people put 1/2 Gallon of fuel per car and drove from the factory straight onto train. Train was fully loaded Saturday P.M. but some nice people, sucked petrol out off back cars, put it in front cars, drove off with almost half of the cars!

Class 40's were fantastic engines, nice to drive, all sorts of trains express, locals passenger, even Sunday ballasts, but as we had just came off Steam, still carried our small brush and shovel, to clean cabs. One of the small bad habits on class 40 was door sometimes never shut properly so if in the cab you gave it a kick to shut. If a hard kick, a small parcel what look like snow fell on the floor, we brushed it up……..It was not till later, we found out shell of engine was made of Blue Asbestos, no wonder they scrapped the Fleet.

I was a Secondman at Kings Cross in the 1970's and consequently did some work on Class 40's, although they were always referred to as '2000's' back then. Most of our work was on 31's Deltics and 47's, but there were regular instances of 2000's, usually on freight or overnight trains, sometimes on the 'Parly's' for Peterborough, known as such from the fact that these trains were those originally run by parlimentary requirement. Sometimes we had 2000's on Freightliners, but they wern't popular loco's, especially in the winter and on Newcastle lodge turns, they had a reputation to be very cold, working trains with the old BR overcoat on all the way and still cold! The cooker was in the engine room and the Secondman had to go back to warm the tea can up, if at the wrong end this meant going past the radiator room, which literally took your breath away as you went past the radiator louvres. On one occassion I had gone to warm the tea and returned into the cab at Abbotts Ripton north of Huntingdon, as I entered the cab the driver shouted to hold on, we hit a temorary speed rather fast, the driver had failed to spot it and this was before the fitment of AWS on TSR warning boards, which happened after the Nuneaton crash, so illustrates the risks. We both thought that we might come off the road, but although the ride was very rough we stayed on despite the long rigid wheelbase of the bogies! We also had them on an Up fish train which we relieved at Doncaster and worked into the Goods Yard at Kings Cross.

Class 40's were sometimes used on passenger workings, I always dreaded this in the winter as the steam heat boilers fitted to the class were generally either Stones or Clayton units. We seldom came across these at Kings Cross and so I was less familiar with them than the various Spanner types, operation was usually with the manual in one hand as both types were rather complicated. The Clayton had a 'blowdown' valve which was part of the operation to clear the boiler, we were instructed that this was NEVER to be used in platforms as it could send showers of steam and hot water vertically upwards, one night we had to get a 2000 ready in one of the bay platforms at Doncaster, to do an engine change on our Up working, in error I operated the blowdown, it was a good job it was in the early hours and nobody was hurt!

Another memory is of getting one ready in the Passenger Loco at Kings Cross, the handbrakes were notorious and the instruction was that berthed loco's had to have scotches placed under the wheels. In the Passenger Loco it was the Secondmans job to pull the points to set the road and there were spring points at the exit which involved standing on a lever plate as locos passed over so as to ensure that the road did not go back. On this occassions I was down by the points, there was a hurry on, unbeknown to me the driver had failed to take the scotches out, he blew the horn, I gave the tip from a distance that it was OK to drop down, the engine climbed the scotches, no harm done, just a slight delay. It was always a cause of amusement that whilst a Deltic weighed 100 tons a Class 40 was 140 tons, but 1300hp less!

With the class 40's the older loco's still had the old headcode discs and so we had to know all the different lamp codes to show the class of train, climbing up the front to release the appropriate disc and then switch on the correct lights, there were also a few class 31's with this arrangement and I used to quite enjoy setting these as opposed to winding the blinds They were however interesting engines and reliable. I hope this is of some interest, I am now a Driver Manger with Southeastern, a far cry from the days of real railways!

Kind Regards

Jeffrey Bridges

Re English Electric Type 40's Diesel Locos


Dear Alan,

I thought I would write about my time as a driver at Healey Mills Depot......

The information below is just from memory, and abit about being trained on these locos`s.

I hope it will give you a slight insight into these locomotives.



I drove these locos from 1964 until they were withdrawn in 1984.


Just a short history of my railway employment:


I started as engine cleaner on 12 October 1942 , age 15 yrs 2 months, at Sowerby Bridge Loco, West Yorks , 25E, this changed to 55E in later years, I passed for firing duties, on local trips aged 16 only , and made booked fireman aged 17 years. Passed loco drivers 2 days examinations to drive 14 years service age 29, known as a passed fireman.


Drove accordingly to requirements and seniority and route availability. Left the Depot after 21 years 2½ months owing to shed closure on 12 January 1964 .


Started grade driver at Healey Mills West Yorkshire, the following day being Sunday, I was given a day to sort out my locker and my issue of rule books etc.


This was the only time that I can recollect that strict seniority was not adhered to, namely senior drivers first etc. Drivers at our depot were booked piecemeal according to their diagrams to proceed to York to do their basic training on our first main line diesel locomotives type 4s namely class 40.


The total training only took 3 weeks to convert to the new traction.


First week


In the loco shed , six drivers from our depot and two loco inspectors were split into groups of 3. One group would start at number 1 end in the driving cab and the other group at number 2 end and work from one cab to the other. We would spend about 6 hours every day for 5 days going around the locomotive asking questions with regards to all parts of the loco and how to regain power if we were to come across a fault etc. We were told how to isolate or deal with loss of power to the defective traction motors; how to isolate defective cylinders, compressors or burst air pipes and how to change various fuses. You were being trained to keep these locomotives running and how to rectify most of the small faults yourself.






Week 2

All into classroom, with a brilliant lecturer named John Hart, who gave us a marvellous complete understanding re performance of this new modern traction.

He answered our questions, never once failing in his reply. He would lecture for one hour then answer any questions for say half an hour. This carried on for five days in the lecture room at Leeming Road opposite York Station, and finish on the Friday at 4pm .


Final Week


Accompanied by the two previous loco inspectors we would work say 10 empty coaches York to Scarborough , Scarborough back to York, and same again. Three drivers drove there, another three drove back. Two trips per day for two days. Two further days worked loaded coal trains to various places. And also empty wagons, back to York .


Last day all six of us, together with two loco inspectors, were asked various questions, each answering in turn.


As we were passed drivers, your own loco inspector would now pass you all out independently to drive this type of traction, one whole day each for exam, our loco inspector Jack Mitchell was the man in charge.


At Healey Mills we were driving 11 weeks on steam, 1 week on type 4, and so on, finishing say 11 weeks on type 4's, one week on steam, up to the last days of steam. All wagons at this time were the old unbraked type, no vacuum, only just a few maybe.


We worked shipping coal for Germany , Holland , Denmark and so on. With these locos on say 3 diagrams from our depot daily, empty wagons to Brodsworth Colliery to be loaded via Stainforth, Scunthorpe , Thorns, Wrawby Jnction, Barnetby down to Immingham. Unload our (usually) 38 wagons about half hour under hoppers, run round train, empties back to Healey Mills say 60 miles each way.


We also worked these locos on coal as far as Blackburn 45 miles, working back out of Taylor St sidings. Also one train daily to Preston Dock from Port Clarence being tanks relieving York men at Healey Mills, this was usually 16 tanks.


Power stations we loaded to Wakefield , Thornhill, Elland, Agecroft, Whiteburk, Padham, Middleton Jn, plus a few more. Pits were Brodsworth, Southemsall, Castle Hill, Park Mill, Grimesthorpe, Thorhill, Park Mill, Enely Moor, Prince William, Wooley Darton plus others. We would work about 4 trains daily, on our local trip diagrams.


Some of the type 4 loco's were fitted with water scoops to catch water on troughs for extra boiler water if needed. But I never used them. All troughs in our area had been removed. Firemen later called secondmen had one week's training at Holbeck loco Leeds to operate boilers for train heating, I worked these locos on passenger turns to Blackpool for say up to 3 years and sometimes as far as Crewe .

A very good loco, the one failing I found, were bad sanding equipment, the sand used to get wet in boxes due to condensation, causing failure of the sand onto the rail for adhesion.


One of our fitters or electricians invented an electricity coil to be placed into base of the sand box, heating the sand. Excellent! It kept the sand bone dry and they worked perfect where fitted. We had to give a report regarding the above, they were just fitted in the boxes at one end of the loco.


One of the trips I can remember on the Class was..


From Healey Mills to York about 35 miles each way and return, leaving our depot about 1030, 10 bogies weight about 220 ton, I was stopped for signals at Wakefield Kirkgate. Head loco inspector boarded saying I will ride with you to York and back Harry Jameason(spelling) was his name. The loco, 40126, is the train robbers engine. Brought out to work this special on its last trip, above your head, was painted in small black paint were the words “This is the train robbers loco” and the date was given.

We had about a 5 hour break at York before being relieved back at Healey Mills.


I used to keep all my Aslef diaries with all dates in, but disposed of them about 15 years ago.This had every loco I had driven, and also all the diagrams we had at Healey Mills .

At Healey Mills I was passed on shunting locos Class 20, 24, 25, 31,37,40,45,46,47,and the last class I passed out on was the 56.



It is now 22 years since I left the railway, age 60 and 3 months, and my age is now 82.

I was offered early retirement, which I took, and did a bit of part time work as a gardener.



I hope this is of some interest to you.



Patrick Farrell

Retired Driver

Healey Mills


By Neil MacDonald


I was a Passenger Guard at Newcastle in 1976 and one evening between Christmas and New Year I worked a relief train from Newcastle to Edinburgh.

This train had started from King's Cross and terminated at Edinburgh.

  Upon our arrival at Edinburgh the engines were changed. The engine which worked in from King's Cross went to Haymarket Shed and we were given 40072 to work the Empty Coaching Stock (ECS) which was destined  for Bounds Green Carriage Sidings, London.

We were to work the ECS as far as Newcastle, to save starting the boiler, (and I can't remember if 40072 even had a boiler), I rode in the rear cab. All was uneventful until near Drem when there was such a bang from the nose end at the back cab and we lost power. After a short time power was regained but it was obvious something was wrong as whenever my Driver opened the regulator the electrics in the cabs were obviously receiving too much power. The driving desk panel lights glowed very brightly until one by one they burned out. The cab heaters became really hot and I remember thinking that I had never been on such a well heated Class 40!. They eventually gave out as well. 

I learned later that an auxiliary generator had burned out and all the electric power was coming from the engine's main generator.  My Driver stopped at East Linton Signal box to report that we would soon be a complete failure and requested a fresh engine. We then carried on to Dunbar where after quite a wait a crew from Millerhill arrived with a fresh engine for us. The fresh engine was used to dump 40072 in the sidings and it was later towed to Haymarket. We had left Edinburgh Waverley about 2100 and by the time we eventually got to Newcastle it was about 0200.

At Dunbar we had stopped on the Up Main Line so following trains passed us by using the Platform Line so we didn't really delay any other traffic.

To the best of my knowledge 40072 was never returned to traffic and was finally withdrawn in 1977.

Hope you found this of interest.


Neil MacDonald