Co-Bo World would be grateful for any personal notes, recollections and reminisces of the Metrovicks in service. Please email your stories (photos appreciated though not essential).
The following is an extract from "On Why, Worldwide, Arnside Station Is Unique", by Wyn Anderson, Wettenberg, Germany previously printed in "Cumbrian Railways", Vol. 6, No. 5, February 1998. Reproduced with permission of the author.
"I have very good reason to remember the 9.15 p.m. out of Preston? One time, when I was actually daring enough to risk travelling from Arnside to Manchester, the 9.15 p.m. out of Preston was then the only available connection the time that the Co-Bo at the head of our train displayed pyromaniacal aspirations up at what Dr. J. D. Marshall referred to in a talk to the Cumbrian Railways Association as "Old Junction", but which I always knew as "Preston Junction Junction", which of course it must have been before the LMS or whatever they finally decided to call themselves started to give signalboxes those extremely illustrative, informative and descriptive names so full of imagination. Well, Dear Reader, would you dare to tell anyone you spent your holidays at Whitehaven No. 4...??!! Anyway back to the subject
(I do love to digress, don't I?!):...when that Co-Bo died of exhaustion after struggling up that tremendous bank from Lancaster Castle Station, got a form of "inflammation of the innards" and then exhorted and exerted the City Fire Brigade to hithertofore unknown heights and ambitions. What a sight that would have been, had the train tried to creep back down the hill into the refuge of the station - and all those firemen stumbling about over the sleepers, calling "My water, my water. An engine for my water" (or am I getting something mixed up with earlier English history somewhere?). This was the only time incidentally that I ever travelled on a triple-headed train on the Lancaster & Preston Junction (or any other BR section at all; I've only managed such things in Switzerland otherwise); two Co-Bo diesels, of which one was out for the count in the meantime and the foreseen pilot Co-Bo wasn't too healthy and then succumbed to shock at the sight of her sister, whereupon the only locomotive available was an 'Evening Star'-type goods-engine, which just happened to be minding its own business loitering around the goods-sidings and which might get them on to Preston, never mind about the coaches - or the passengers either for that matter, who coincidentally tagged along too just for the fun of it all (I know, I was one of them!). Anyway, by the time that tremulous expedition finally arrived at Preston, it was too late for it to go anywhere else except home to Barrow (let them worry about it!) again. How it went, I just don't know - the original perpetrator just hung its head in shame and disappeared as the mists from the River Ribble rolled in across it - but that at least is how I got to know the 9.15 p.m. L&Y Scot."
Paul Mallett notes;
"I went to Earnseat School, based on the promenade at Arnside, from 1962-1965. I have no particular stories about D5705, but I still have very vivid memories of the Co-Bos going across the viaduct over the River Kent, with the distinctive "ddler, dder...ddler, dder" (or vice-versa!) sound of the wheels as they crossed the rail joints.
Several of us at the school were keen trainspotters in that dying age of steam, and we used to rush to any available vantage point to see what was crossing the viaduct, whenever we were able. However, we soon came to ignore the Co-Bo hauled trains as they became so common. I know that during my time at the school I saw all the class in operation.
The last time I definitely remember seeing a Co-Bo in working order was on my way home from Arnside to Manchester Victoria, having just left Earnseat for the very last time. Me and fellow school-leaver Philip Hopkinson (who lived in Bury, actually) had been provided with a packed lunch of spam sandwiches (really!). Earnseat spam was not a favourite, to put it mildly! We pulled in to Lancaster Castle station, alongside a Co-Bo which was stationary on the fast up line. I remember Hopkinson opening his sandwich, removing the spam, and throwing it hard against the side of the engine, where it stuck fast! I was appalled, and thought we'd get into serious trouble!
I came across D5705 at Matlock some years ago, and was delighted to see that a Co-Bo was still surviving. I would like to be able to help preserve the loco but am not financially able to do so at the moment. In my dreams, however, I'd love to ask that the engine (once running again!) be named "Earnseat School, Arnside", in memory of those days by the sea. I'd give more than a spam sandwich for that!!"
Keith Sanders notes;
"I remember that they worked "The Palatine" in pairs between St Pancras and Manchester Central in their early days. My friend and I had been on Manchester Central Station doing some spotting when the Down Palatine arrived. As the locomotives were fairly new and therefore a novelty, we asked if we could have a look around. We were taken to the rear loco and in we climbed. Someone showed us what did what (bearing in mind I was only 15 or 16 at the time so the details are a bit sketchy) then we were led through the corridor connection into the rear cab of the front loco. Next we went through the engine compartment, which was dark, cramped and very hot, until we emerged into the leading cab. The impression was that the engine room was so cramped that we had to edge our way past the engine block, which was only inches from us, and which was producing lots of heat as it had just worked down from London."
Colin Williams notes;
"I was resident engineer for Sulzer at Vickers Barrow for a period in the 1960s and often saw the D5700 series at work. On the 29th August 1964 during a 2,1/2 hour observation at Carnforth I noted the following:
D5703 arr. 11.32 Preston - Barrow
D5717 arr. 11.33 Barrow - Morecambe
D5704 arr. 11.39 Manchester - Workington
The odd thing is that during the 2 1/2 hours all three MVs arrived inside within 7 minutes with two side by side on the Barrow platforms.
The following day Sunday 30/8 on Barrow shed were D5707, D5713, D5714 and D5718. Thus at least 7 were working or at Barrow on that date."
Another correspondant who remembers the machine from his schooldays commented;
"My own recollections of the Metrovick centre on it's time at the test track between Eggington Junction and Mickleover near Derby which ran past John Port school in Etwall. It was just so unusual you couldn't help but feel an attachment for it. That and the hum from the baby deltic when the RTC used it, aahh sweet memories. I used to regularly spot the test track in the early to mid 1970s but I can't definitely state the last time I saw D5705 being used was 1976.
Trying to rack my brains here, whilst I can remember the distinctive D5705, the overwhealming recollection of the Co-Bo was that it always seemed to be coasting, a low throbbing sound more than anything else, mind you, the test track was hardly arduous and on most occasions the maximum load was normally only three or four wagons or a couple of coaches. Slightly OT but one of the strangest things I saw on the test track was a twin bogie flat bed truck with a small electric motor on one axle being controlled by the wires laid between the tracks."
Alan Ross writes,
"I worked on this unit together with the rest of the fleet when they were stationed at Workington around the time 1962-64. They proved an interesting loco to work with . You could always tell when the Crankcase blower motor was not working when you climbed on board because the engine room was covered in oil. The boiler was also a bit temperamental, especially if the spark leads had carboned up. Once, I was called to a boiler with another fitter and he would hold the live spark lead to earth to check it was firing while I switch it on. When it struck, it was leaking around the insulator and threw him behind a set of fire bottles further up the boiler room!"
Tony Hunter writes,
"As a young trainspotter at Water Orton during the 70's, I remember D5705 regularly coming through on Reseach Centre trains (D5909 was also a regular).
Monday lunch times were the most common times to see it with 4 or 5 blue and red liveried coaches. During the miners' strikes of the '70s, we only had to go to school in the afternoon to save fuel and several of us used to spend all morning near Water Orton station and used to curse on a Monday if we had to go to school before the Research Centre train came through.
Other regulars at the time were double-headed Hymeks on coal trains to Hams Hall Power Station and a Trans-Pennine Class 124 DMU on a Friday evening extra York-Birmingham service which went back ECS."
Paul Harrison writes,
I have researched the history of the ICI hopper wagons including a short section on the Class 28s; Trials using a pair of Metro-Vick Co-Bos (later class 28) were conducted in May 1963 and they demonstrated superior braking power to the EE Class 40s which were also being assessed as replacement for the 8F steam locomotives. These trials on the 21st - 23rd May used D5711/D5714 in multiple hauling 19 wagons on the third day.
The Class 40, thought to be D228 had suffered damage to the wheel tyres and brake linings and hauled a maximum of 16 wagons. Tests with 19 wagons were scheduled for the class 40s but were cancelled due to the damage sustained. Further trials took place in June when D5700 which hauled a 19 wagon test train unaided for four days in a row.
Full scale introduction of these locomotives never took place, the final trials taking place in March 1964. The main problem was maintaining sufficient brake-force on the descent to Cheadle Heath despite the Co-Bos having good haulage abilities. The plan was to transfer 8 of the class to Trafford Park shed on a permanent basis.
Kester Eddy writes,
I have been thinking of early spottin days at Bedford in the early 1960s and of the Metovicks, thinking they had died alone and unloved.
Must say, they always made me think their designer was the same man who dreamt up the gas masks issued for WWII. (I only remember we had them at home, I don't actually go back that far myself !)
Sadly, I didn't keep spottin books from the earliest days. I certinaly saw a number of them, but I have but one vague memory of a concrete event, a double headed D57xx down Condor in the gloom at Cow Bridge (the bridge where the MML crosses the Bletchely - Bedford line). It seems to me it was about 19.00hrs, so probably end of September 1960. I missed getting the second loco, of course.
I do have a diary from 1961 with various number scribbled in it, but no Co-Bos in it. But I do remember the seeing very first Cl 45, D11, make an appearance at Bedford - an event under the influence of the Metrovicks.
It was about 13.30 one sunny day, and I had just "cabbed" a LT&S 3 cylinder 2-6-4T in the old north bay, platform 3, at Bedford. (It was going to/coming from Derby for overhaul, I think, 42534 I believe it was). I had just gone over the footbridge, and an up express was signalled. I remember leaning over the platform edge to peer up the main ine (towards the then Oakley Junction box) and I saw a diesel. Well, thinking it was probably 2 Metrovicks, I shouted to the driver of the tank if he could help me get the second loco - probably thought I was nuts, but still. Then in splendid ex-works green appeared under the bridge D11, only doing about 50mph at a guess, on some sort of test train.
At the time I was frustrated it wasn't a named Peak - they were all on the WCML at the time - but still excited. Little did I realise it was the beginning of the end for steam on the MML. Memory is hazy, but I believe it came thro same time next day. A bit later it was D12, and....... That event was probably August 1960. I used to think it was 1961, but I found a Trains Illustrated/Modern Railways from 1960 or 61 at a friend's house a year back and it had an article on the "Peakisation" of the MML, and said it started in 1960. It means I had only been trainspotting a matter of 5 weeeks at the most, but it seemed an eon in those days when every main line train was steam (bar the Midland Pullman) before the Peaks started making ruthless inroads into workings.
One of the Ian Allan trains annuals of those years had a feature on the Condor with Metrovicks over the S&C. I remember it quoted a driver as saying the wind could hit you like a battering ram over the moors. (Something like that), and I believe, praising the Metrovicks. Wonder how much they paid him to say that ?
I also saw some at Barrow in 1968, but I guess you have many correspondents who know about those times. I just wonder what the local men thought of them. Failures on the single line stretch up to Whitehaven must have caused chaos.
David Hills writes,
I think I'm right in the fact that the MetroVicks had the first scheduled diesel diagrams in Scotland. A number of diesels were tested about this time including D5303 & D8208 but they weren't permanent transfers to Scotland.
The LMR Class 40's were probably the first into Scotland, Carlisle had D213 on loan 6/59 and it was kept south of Carlisle The original Deltic trialled out of Edinburgh mid June 1959, Gateshead did not receive its Class 40's (D237-D242) until October 1959. The Class 44's were real latecomers and clearly don't feature in this little study.
So I think the MetroVicks do have a 'first' for them
Mike Crarey (Melborne, Australia) writes,
I am nearly choking because as a 14 year old in Barrow in Furness circa 1964, when these engines turned up so unexpectedly, we (the guys I hung around with) hated them. Not just disliked but hated with a rage and disgust that something so ugly and with a dubious reputation, could take over the few prized workings we had out of Barrow. The one I remember most was the 1pm Barrow-Euston, and during school lunch we would see what engine was 'on'. Often a 'Scot' or a Jubilee, many times a black 5...but a Metrovick day after day, was enough to make a young guy cry with a feeling of hopelessness.
Anyway my family left for Melbourne Australia at the end of '64, and its only in the last 5 years that I've rekindled my youthful passions on steam.....and a little bit on Metrovicks. I'm not sure if this directly fits into reminiscing...but it's my memories. Once again thats for the page...it's bookmarked.
Keith Brunt writes,
I am not a fan of the metrovics but never-the-less admire them for what they were. as a kid growing up with a brother thirteen years ahead of me and a signalman at that I was influenced by the railway scene. His records and his picture etc. One item I remember well is a puzzle of the "Condor". It was running through the night, through a city passing under a bridge with a Scot heading an express over it. Sadly the puzzle has disappeared but maybe its some thing for your web site. If ever there was one up for grabs I'd have it!
Brian Wainwright writes,
My first memory of these engines is oddly enough as a model. I almost always got a Hornby-Dublo engine for Christmas as a lad, and one year asked for one of these, thinking it could work both passenger and goods. As a model, it ran very well, and was of the typical standard of the day.
A little later I saw a real one, at Arnside, while visiting the Lake District. My flabber had rarely been so ghasted. To see one of these rare birds in the flesh! Only an A4 or a King could have delighted me more.
Then perhaps a year or so later, a visit to my nearest shed (Reddish) presented me with a whole clutch of Co-Bos. I might even have the numbers somewhere. I believe they were stored there for a time. Certainly I never saw one turn a wheel, still less doing anything useful. And then, one day, they were gone, and I never saw one again.
So I look forward to seeing one on the ELR!
Further reminisces welcome!