Subterranean Homesick Blues

The Class 73, TEAs, and TTAs that will make up Chris' latest train. CHRIS LEIGH

The Class 73, TEAs, and TTAs that will make up Chris' latest train. CHRIS LEIGH

I was never a fan of BR Rail blue livery, although for years my brother and I had wanted BR to get rid of the dull dark green and we liked the idea of blue.

I think, what spoiled it for me was the actual shade of blue and the straight-edged slabs of yellow which obliterated the character and the ‘face’ of everything they were applied to. There was, however, a transition period and some of the early applications of Rail blue which retained the small yellow warning panels were really pleasing to the eye. In particular, I liked the ‘Hymeks’ (Class 35) in this livery, and one visited Colnbrook on the Staines branch with no less than the Swindon 75ton breakdown crane for a bridge replacement job.

An even better application of blue came with the Class 73 electro-diesels. The first half dozen of these had been delivered in the Southern Region’s bright EMU green but subsequent new arrivals were in blue. I seem to recall some blue ones had the silver-grey lower strip the same as the green ones but others were plain blue, and they began with just small yellow panels. I quickly became familiar with these locomotives as they worked past my home at Egham with freights to and from Feltham yard.

Around 1966 I built a model of one and it was featured in Model Railway Constructor. I carved up a Hornby-Dublo ‘AL6’ electric locomotive and (from memory) used its chassis, roof and part of the cab fronts. I made new sides from plastic card.

I was reminded of this just recently. I joined a Facebook group (page?) called ‘Egham, Staines and Englefield Green Appreciation Group’. It’s mainly about prompting memories of the area (where I grew up) and some really interesting photographs have been posted, including several of the Staines West branch that I’ve never seen before. I’ve even been able to fill in some details regarding dates and possible locations where these were not known.

However, the one picture which really grabbed my attention was taken on the Southern line. It shows a blue Class 73 passing a signal box named Egham Causeway. I knew that signal box as New Road crossing, the next street down the line from where I lived, and just visible from my bedroom window. It was a tiny London & South Western Railway crossing ‘box and it disappeared with the Feltham resignalling, when the level crossing was eliminated. In steam days, on winter Thursdays, the 8.35am local goods would stop there to throw off some lumps of coal for the signalman. If it was a foggy morning I’d be woken by the sound of detonators protecting the crossing’s down signals.

Yet, despite that proximity, I have not a single photograph of that crossing or its signal box. In the Facebook photograph, the Class 73 is working an up train of Shell/BP tank wagons, both bogie TEAs and four-wheel TTAs. I have no idea where they were going or where they had come from, but in about 30 seconds they would have thumped past my home. Such is the stuff of memories and modelling inspirations. I’ve bought a Dapol Class 73 in the nice blue livery and, after consultation with Model Rail’s wagon expert, George Dent, I’m collecting Bachmann TEAs and TTAs, though the right liveries are hard to find and some repainting and lettering will be involved. Isn’t that what being a railway modeller is all about? (CJL)