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REFLECTIONS OF A RAILWAY CAREER
AN EXTRACT FROM J.M DUNN'S BOOK
J.M. DUNN WAS A RAILWAY SHED
WORKER AND EVENTUALLY "SHED MASTER"
IN NORTH WALES DURING THE THIRTIES. HE WAS FOREMAN FITTER AT 6G
BETWEEN 1935-1939 , AND WAS EMPLOYED AT MANY OF THE STEAM MOTIVE POWER DEPOTS, IN WALES, DURING HIS CAREER.
THE FOLLOWING GIVES AN INSIGHT INTO THE EVERYDAY LIFE DURING THE EARLY DAYS OF LLANDUDNO JUNCTION SHED.
Saturday the 2nd February 1935 I went on duty at Llandudno Junction
Shed for the
first time and spent the best part of the morning looking round. The
was of the “through” type with doors at each end, had four roads each
feet long and was the “Concentration Depot” * for North Wales
under the recent re-organisation of the Motive Power Section of the
Operating Manager’s Department, the “Garage Depots” being Holyhead,
Bangor, Rhyl and Denbigh. The mechanical equipment comprised the
modern machine-tools, all driven by electricity:
Wheel Lathe with attachment for truing-up journals supplied by
12 inch centre Axlebox Lathe by Dean, Smith and Grace.
7-inch centre Lathe by George Hatch.
Radial Drilling Machine, Type A, by Swift and Sons.
High-speed Vertical Drilling
Machine with 1-inch chuck capacity by Alfred Herbert.
Hydraulic Press by Rice and Co.
Emery Wheel by Luke and Spencer.
Tube-cutting Saw Bench.
Blower by Aland & Co.
7 ½ ton Chain Hoist by Herbert Morris.
Worthington-Simpson Centrifugal Booster Pump.
of these had independent motors and others were driven through
was also a L.N.W. “pit-type” hydraulic Wheel-Drop with table 9 ft. 0
Known as the ‘Motive Power Area Locomotive Supply, Repair,
Concentration & Garage Scheme’ inaugurated in
1933 , see The Railway Gazette for April ,6th, 23rd and 3oth,
had not been long at Llandudno Junction before I found that Mr. P...
very great awe of “Crewe” and got into a state bordering on terror if
from the Divisional Office at that place came on a visit. The people at
latter were aware of this and most of them improved the occasion
opportunity offered! He knew of my friendship with Tucker and that did
to his comfort though I was always careful to avoid mentioning the
latter if I
could. On his part, P... when he had to refer to Tucker always called
person I will not name”! The staff were just as frightened of P... as
of “Crewe” and matters were not improved by “Q” who was one of the most
cantankerous and cross-grained men I have ever met. He invariably
arrived in a
bad temper and the first member of his staff that he set eyes upon
full measure of his spleen. Likewise he did not consider he was doing
if he did not have at least one member of his staff “on the carpet” in
‘s office every morning when the latter would do his best to frighten
out of the victim. From this it will be seen that the atmosphere was
particularly pleasant one though as “Q” told me that he had, himself,
refused to go out to breakdowns with Ardern owing to the latter’s
the general conditions prevailing before that gentleman took his
have been very much worse and can be better imagined than described.
bad enough at the time of my arrival: every time Mr. P... came out of
he banged the door and every time the door banged, all the members of
mechanical and shed staff began to shiver and shake like a lot of
had been frightened by the report of a gun! There was little I could do
until “Q” was promoted and took his departure in March 1936 because
the chief clerk and most of the senior members of the clerical staff
persona grata with P.. . were already, for some unknown reason,
bitterly jealous of me and it was no good making bad worse.
as soon as “Q” had gone I bearded the lion in his den and said “Do you
know, Mr. P .., that every time you go out into the shed and bang your
door all the staff begin to shiver and shake?” He looked at me in
a few seconds until he’d got over the surprise and then said “Well,
how it ought to be!” I replied “I beg your pardon, but that’s how it
related this episode I must retrace my steps and mention the other
lights at Llandudno Junction. The second man, Llewellyn Williams who
designated Running Shed Foreman was my enthusiastic supporter and
did all he could to make things pleasant for me, as also did the two
Shift Foremen Parry and Sims, The chief clerk was known as “Blue Dick”
by that name I will refer to him in these notes. He made a special
keeping as much of’ an eye on me as possible and reporting the result
observations to P. . . with whom he and two other clerks were on very
terms. The chargeman-cleaner was one “Wingy”, a one-armed man, whose
principal use was as a medium for the conveyance of information to P...
for any reason, we did not wish to impart it directly. In other words
“Wingy” could always be relied upon to tell both P... and “Blue Dick”
anything he overheard that he thought was worth repeating.
to the General Office, I had never been in a place with such a horrible
atmosphere and the very walls seemed to exude evil. This was not merely
fanciful idea of my own and others have made similar comments about it
ever a place wanted exorcising with “Bell, Book and Candle” that office
outstanding member of the mechanical staff was the turner, David Price
had served his apprenticeship at the Dinorwic Quarry works at
Llanberis. He was
a wizard with machine
as he was called had a very poor command of English and although he
understand what was said to him, he had difficulty in replying. He
in Welsh and then had to translate his thoughts into English before
day a member of the staff came and told me that there was something the
with the shed cat as she was lying in a pool of water in one of the
We got her out and dried her but found she could neither stand nor walk
took her into my office and got her a drink of warm milk and brandy
tried to find out what had happened to her. Presently someone suggested
had had kittens, so we went to look for them and after hearing unusual
inside the whitemetalling hearth took it to pieces and found three
behind the gas-rings! To cut a long story short, the mother cat soon
having apparently been gassed and after living with her for about three
in the stores one of the black, long-haired kittens came to stay with
us. He was
christened “Micky” and ruled our household until his deeply regretted
from natural causes just before his sixteenth birthday. He was a grand
cat and a
engines allocated to the Llandudno Junction District in December 1937
2—6—2 T.B. Tk.
4—6—0 5P. 79, 82, 105, 107.
4—4—0 2P. 5035, 5045, 5048, 5052, 5070, 5219, 5130,
5235, 5236, 5246, 5253, 5444, 5371.
2—4—2 5 ft. 6 in. Tk. 6635, 6667, 6676, 6682, 6713, 6748, 6679.
0—6—2 S.T.C. 27571, 27593, 27597, 27604, 7803.
“Precursor” 25279, 25297.
“George the Fifth”
25348, 25371, 25373, 25392.
8337, 8385, 8401, 8503, 852!, 86i6.
420, 494, 651, 652, 638
of the peculiarities that had to be contended with at Llandudno
Junction was the
locomotive water supply, which was obtained from the Gyffin stream, a
watercourse which flows from the hills into the River Conway just
Castle. An electrically driven pump was installed in a hut built close
against the Town Wall of Conway and this pumped water from the stream
at a point
where its level had been raised by the construction of an earthen dam.
no trouble until there were high tides in the river but when these came
the salt water would come over the dam, the height of which was
believe, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, mix with the
and get pumped into the water-tank at the shed. then the fun would
salt water would pass via the various water-columns into the engine
then, in due course to the boilers. Then the engines would immediately
plainly and simply “sick” and vomit like a human being, all the water
boiler being thrown out of the chimney. This was frequently followed by
fusing of the lead plugs and I was told of one classic occasion when
P... found seventeen fused lead plugs on his desk when he arrived at
one morning. As the fusing of a lead plug is almost as serious a crime
railway world as murder, his feelings can be well imagined. The local
got so used to the engines discharging the contents of their boilers
their chimneys that whenever they chanced to be near the railway and
engine coming they made for shelter!
a result of these happenings it was, of course, necessary to endeavour
prevent a recurrence and to do this arrangements were made to stop the
before the salt water got over the dam but it had to be kept going
last minute in order to keep up the supply. In the ordinary way the
automatically started and stopped by remote control operated by a float
shed tank, so at the time of high tides this was switched out and a man
stationed at the pump so that he could shut off the pump at the
On the 17th August 1935 one of the busiest Saturdays of the year, I,
with P.. and one D. I. Jones who, because of his great reliability, was
chosen to act as pump watchman on these occasions, spent a very
afternoon standing in the long grass on the hank of the stream to make
the pump was kept working up to the last minute as we were short of
was pouring in torrents all the time and as soon as the salt water
dam, Jones went to the pump to be ready to stop it when we signalled
salt water was near the top. On this occasion the salt water went over
and contaminated the water on the “fresh” side: as soon as the tide