COLUMN: Remembering sounds of the shed

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Dave Darwin spent all of his working life at the Barrow Hill Engine Shed and still volunteers there.

He was asked to recall the sounds of the shed to help with a lottery-funded project at the shed.

The project will address some of the maintenance that needs doing to the Grade II listed building and introduce museum displays to interpret the heritage of the shed and the area.

Dave recalls the unique smell of smoke, the hot oil and the clang of a loco’s firebox doors being closed, followed by the roar of the loco’s blower to draw the fire up, but would not drown out the singing of the cleaners belting out the latest hit of the top ten as they went about their duties.

A fitter could be heard knocking seven bells out of a stubborn nut which refuses to move, or his mate on the same loco belting the sand pipes with a hammer to try to make them work.

There was a heavy metal thud as the last bolt holding a broken spring is released and crashed into the pit and more cursing as the fitters struggle to get a new one in position.

There was a heavy metal to metal crash, as a fireman threw out the safety catch on the turntable prior to winding it round to the engine which he took out of the shed, then a shout of “Right ho 44070”, who’s driver opened the ejector to blow the brake off, releasing a spray of sooty water from the loco’s chimney.

There was a pop on the whistle and a hissing of steam from the open cylinder drain cocks.

The loco moved onto the table and the shout of “Woah” could be heard by the fireman as the loco reached the correct position. There was another metallic crash as the safety catch was thrown out, followed by the shout of “Blow up” from the fireman for the driver, to create a vacuum in the locomotive’s brake pipe.

“Brake” was shouted from the fireman as the loco was in the correct position to leave table, and then the shed with more popping and whistling.

All went quiet in the shed, except for the singing of a boiler water injector topping up the boiler water of a loco, in steam by the shed’s steamraiser, and the rattle of his shovel as he puts coal on the fire – just enough to keep it in steam ready for when a crew came to take it out.

The bang of the heavy weight door closer on the running fireman’s office would put cleaners on their toes, as it might of meant he was going on tour of the shed checking on what loco’s he had got.