scotland (4K)
The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Did you ever want to become an Engine Driver?

This was in the October, 1998 issue of the newsletter, not then called Far North Express

At the end of the last century it must have been every boy's ambition to become an engine driver. Few of them did. Have you thought it was because there was a limit to the number of jobs available? Having been lentthe book "Locomotive Engine Driving", written by one Michael Reynolds, formerly Locomotive Inspector, London Brighton and South Coast Railway I think there may have been other reasons.

After a moralizing introduction, in the style of Samuel Smiles, Michael Reynolds sets out his basic syllabus for the lower rank of Third Class driver under nearly 50 topics. Apart from being able to read rules and to write down 12 taken from the section "Engine Drivers and Fireman", he also has to be able to answer questions on the observance of signals and a host of other topics. For example, he has to generally describe the locomotive engines with either inside cylinders, or outside cylinders, double frame or single frame, and to give an explanation of lap and lead pointing out their advantages. He has to explain the use of the lead plug and the effects of expansion on the boiler. He has to explain why it is necessary to know the number of vehicles in the train before starting, and to know why 140lbs steam is better than 120lbs steam. He needs to show how a film of oil is capable of preventing two metal parts from coming into contact with each other. He also needs to understand that 4 drops of oil per minute will keep a big end cool, and the precautions that are necessary to surmount any slight breakdown - spanners, packing etc. He must also state what must be done in the case of the regulator losing all control over the steam to the cylinders, other than applying the brake. If he got through these, and many more he had the prospect of taking an examination for Second Class and rising to a First Class Driver's certificate.

However before he could qualify for Third Class he had to satisfy the Locomotive Inspector that he could do arithmetic e.g. If 4lbs of tallow cost 20 pence, what will 16lbs cost? Simplicity itself, according to the author. All you had to do is:

In this question there are two things mentioned, tallow and money; the answer required is the price, money. Put down the money - 20 pence - for the third term. This is always so, that is, the third term is of the same kind as the answer required, and is worth remembering. If the answer is to be greater than the third term the greater is placed second and if it is to be less it is placed first and the less, of course, second. The question before us requires an answer greater than the third term and is worked out thus -

  4lbs : 16lbs:: 20 pence  
  4 320    
  80 pence = 6s 8d Ans  

So now we might just know why so few people ever became engine drivers! On the other hand, perhaps it explains why Mr. Reynolds was former Locomotive Inspector.

Submitted by members Pam and Laurie Draper, Culbokie. "Locomotive Engine Driving", Michael Reynolds; first published in 1877 by Crosby, Lockwood & Son 7, Stationers' Hall Court, Ludgate Hill, London.