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English Jam

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“5:03, the down postal’s due any minute now,” mumbled the porter.

“Aye, but the special is tied up all across the yard ahead of the market run,” chirped the stationmaster.
In the sleepy seaside town of Wehymouth, the only people awake were the fishermen on the wharf, and the porter and stationmaster of the Wehymouth station.

It is now 5:08am on this overcast morning and the postal train from London is due within the next two minutes. Out in the goods yard, the stationmaster is running about. The local was due out at 6:05 and yet not a soul has shown up at the sheds. On the turntable sat the very image of railway efficiency, a former London, Midland and Scottish railway 4-4-0 that bares the title “Duke of Tunbridge”. The stationmaster walked back to the station and overviewed the situation. The throat of the goods yard was still riddled about with the vans that came in on last night’s special goods train. While out on the departure tracks was the London Market. It was a long cut of 15 refrigerated railway vans filled with fruits and vegetables that are grown up in the hills and shipped by way of railway vans to the markets of London.

“Charlie, the postal is just in! Where’s the crew for the market?” the porter called as he checked the pocket watch the made its home in the front pocket of the porter’s overcoat.

“The Duke is out on the table but her crew is yet to come and collect her,” replied the stationmaster as he clambered up onto the station platform.

“Well the postal is due in to Ratinnburg within the next 25 minutes and it’s already 6:15 and the climb up the grade takes at least a good half hour.”

“Ring the signal box up the line and tell ‘em to set the home signal for danger on the downgrade line and all trains that might possibly come down are to set brakes there and come down easy into the sidings in the old coach yard. Richard will understand, just remember to mention that the Market is holding the postal in station.”


5:21, the postal has yet to depart from Wehymouth Station. The porter has notified the signal box up the line of the situation and has gone to the wharf to see about borrowing their Jinty 0-6-0 to clear the line for the postal. The superintendant over on Wehymouth Wharf was much too busy with the soon to be outgoing train bound for York. The aptly named “Flying Kipper” was being loaded with the mornings catch already on ice and in crates. The Jinty was fast at work shunting vans onto the key by the wharf. In a siding by the key sat the engine to pull the Kipper the distance to York, the “Green Arrow”. A massive 2-6-2, the usually passenger hauler, sat steaming happily in the siding while its crew stood next to her chatting idly.

“What time are you due out guard?” asked the porter.

“Due out in an hour or so, maybe longer,” replied the guard.

“What’s the chance of you taking the time to clear the line for the postal and quite possibly pull the Market to London?”

The guard turned and talked to the driver and firemen and discussed the porter’s proposal.

“Sounds in order, but who’s to take the kipper in place of us?” asked the guard.

“Our crew will have to take over with the “Duke of Tunbridge”. They were supposed to be out with the Market by now but they have yet to be seen.”

The Green Arrow’s guard then went into the Wharf office and returned with the necessary papers. The guard gave the porter the papers for the crew of the Duke and the porter in turn handed the papers for the market to the Green Arrow’s guard. The porter worked quickly with the guard and made fast to run the Green Arrow onto the front of the vans for the Market.

“Easy now, these vans have seen better days,” called the porter as he spotted the Green Arrow down onto the line of vans.

The porter made fast to set the couplings between the vans and then set the couplings between the lead van and the Green Arrow. The Green Arrow’s guard took the place of the brakeman and lit his lantern and the red lantern on the back of the brakevan. The porter went along and released the brakes on the individual vans, while the guard released the brakevan’s brakes.

The postal’s engine sounded its whistle to make aware that they were ready to depart once the Market was clear of the station, and they would be ready to make a fast run up the hill to Ratinnburg. The porter set the home signal to indicate that the postal was occupying the station and the down line signal to indicate that there was work ahead at the station.

“The line’s clear and the signalman at the top of the hill is expecting the market soon,” called the porter to the stationmaster.

“Right good then,” replied the stationmaster.

The stationmaster stood at the middle of the platform and looked back at the end of the train. All seemed in order and he then turned and looked towards the engine now with a full head of steam built. Seeing that all was in order, the stationmaster turned and faced the direction of the brakevan and putting his hands to his mouth, he called back:

“Right Away Guard!!”

The guard swung his lantern and the Green Arrow reported two short blasts on its whistle. Gradually moving and picking up speed, each van picked up one by one and soon the red lamp on the rear of the brake van was but a faint glow in the distance. The porter then came out onto the platform with a bit of hurry in his step and said to the stationmaster:

“I checked the roster for the market train; the last five vans are out of the old siding by the old china clay wagons. There axles haven’t turned since the Great Western Railway first build this section of line. I’m quite surprised that their brakes weren’t hard on, let alone that the vans themselves didn’t just fall to pieces when they were pulled from the siding.”

“Is that so? I’m surprised that I didn’t notice when I made the first inspection early this morning when I got here. Well, either way, call up to Ratinnburg and notify the stationmaster there of the situation. Tell him to set the home signal to danger/stop and have a flagman on the platform. We’ll send the inspector up with the postal.”

“Will do sir, and just to let you know, the dukes crew arrived a few minutes ago and are set to haul the Flying Kipper out once the postal is through.”

“Good. Tell them to be quick about it, and don’t forget to call up to Ratinnburg.

The stationmaster informed the crew of the postal engine about the problem with the market, but assured them that the line ahead will be clear for them and that the Kipper will make the climb 10 minutes after them.


5:47, The crew of the postal has cleared the station and is on its way up the grade. The crew of the “Duke of Tunbridge” has just begun to pull off the key with the Flying Kipper.

“What say we make up for lost time and make a run into York as quick as we can,” said the Duke’s guard.

“Agreed. Have a good go at it fireman,” said the driver.

The hearty engine had a full head of steam built and was making good time on the climb to Ratinnburg. As the signal box came into view, the saw that the home signal was set straight up in the air.

“Looks like they are halting traffic for us to make a good run into York,” said the driver with a hint of doubt in his voice.

“Right you are,” said the fireman between hefty shovels full of coal into the engine’s firebox.

What the crew didn’t know is that the signal was meant to flag them to a stop. Up the line a good ways, the rear vans of the market had given way to the stress on their couplings and axles. The first of the old vans had its coupling yanked out of the wood work which caused the front of the van to collapse. The next two vans bearings became so hot that they snapped, causing the axles to come loose and slam the vans into the sleepers between the rails. The fourth van’s breaks were still hard on and caused sparks to fly and set ablaze the wreckage of the third car, now spreading to the second. The Fifth van’s breaking gears jammed in the sleepers and caused the van to come off the rails. All the while, the guard was hearing these strange noises and had the sense to take a look. Seeing that the line was now blocked, the guard took a shunter’s pole and unhooked the brakevan from the wreckage of the vans, and eased off the brake wheel, allowing the brakevan to coast downhill to the signal box where the signalman threw the points and sent the brakevan into a short siding. Once at a stop, the guard got out and walked to where the signalman was already standing.

“I see that Charlie’s porter was right about those vans then. There is nothing we can do to re-route the postal around the accident. You’ll have to walk down a ways and flag them to a stop.”

The signalman gave the guard a long poled red flag and an amber lamp. He was to post the flag beside the tracks and to light the amber lamp and place it on a sleeper about 120 yards ahead of the red flag. The Guard also took his red flag and the red lamp off the brakevan. He walked a good ways and set the long poled red flag beside the tracks and brakevan’s red lamp in between the tracks next to the long poled flag. He then set down his red flag and lit the lamp with the amber colored lens. He then set down the bulky box of kitchen matches with his flag and walked further back. When he estimated that he had walked about 120 yards, he set the amber lamp in between the rails and propped it on a sleeper with a lump of ballast. As he was walking back to collect his flag, the amber lamp between the rails went out. The oil in the lamp had leaked out through a small hole in the bottom of the lamp that had been plugged with a scrap of rag that was dislodged when the guard was propping it up with the rock. Once the guard had collected the matches and his flag, he walked back to the signal box and sat on the step of the brakevan.


The minutes seemed to drag on, yet it had only been about 5 minutes since he had sat down. He got up to go into the brakevan to fetch something warm to drink, and once inside the van, he though he heard a whistle off in the distance, shrugging it off to the possibility of it being a downhill train from Ratinnburg, he set about to make a hot cup of tea. What the guard didn’t know is that the whistle he heard was to postal whistling as it steamed past the posted flag and lamp. If the amber lamp hadn’t gone out, the postal would have been able to slow down in time to stop at the flag. But now the postal was steaming at full speed and gave a long whistle as it passed the signal box. The guard stormed out of the brakevan waving his red flag franticly, but to no avail. The postal was gone.


“The fresh morning mountain air sure does do wonders for the sinuses,” said the postal engine’s driver.

“It’s much better than soot and coal dust in your nose,” added the fireman

The postal train was making good time and was due to pass the signal box any minute now.

“What’s that up ahead there driver?” asked the guard in a bit of panic.

“Seems to be a warning flag and the lamp off a brakevan,” Replied the driver

“What’s a brakevan’s lamp doing between the rails?” asked the fireman.

“Could be nothing, probably not even meant for us anyway,” said the driver

The postal train steamed over and past the warning flag and red lamp, as the signal box came into view, the driver sounded a long blast on the whistle and steamed on.

“If it wasn’t for these overcast clouds, it would look like morning rather than the dead of night,” commented the guard as he looked ahead of the train.

“Well, all that won’t matter once we are out of Ratinnburg; from there we’ll just… “

“Carrrash!!!!” The sounds of splintering wood and bending metal overpowered the driver’s words. The postal came to a screeching halt.

“Hisssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss…” The driver let off steam from the engine.

The guard clambered down from the cab and walked quickly to the front of the engine. Rather than seeing the front of the engine, there was a mass of splintered vans and smashed fruits everywhere. The wreckage of the burning vans had been spread everywhere, mixed with new splinters of vans, there were now several separate fires scattered around the area. The firemen, after quickly seeing that there had been an accident, grabbed the guard’s red flag and ran a ways beyond the rear of the train to fag the kipper. Improvising a piece of burning wood and some coal from the tender, the fireman made a small fire about 200 yards from the rear of the train.


Soon the Duke of Tunbridge came into sight pulling only the brakevan from the market train rather than the kipper. The Duke stopped short of the small fire and the guard went and talked to the fireman.

“Sorry we didn’t stop, we never saw your amber lamp and by the time we saw the flag and lantern from the brakevan, we wouldn’t have been able to stop in time to avoid hitting the vans,” apologized the fireman.

“Not your fault, those vans weren’t meant to be used anyway, they were supposed to be broken up for lumber last week.”

The guard walked up to the wreck while, the fireman rode in the brakevan down to Wehymouth to the station.

“Well well, from the looks of it, people would think that you were trying to make jam with all this smashed fruit around.”

“I’d say so myself.” The driver then stuck his finger into some crushed apples, pears and grapes that were around the engine’s lamp iron. “Well bless me, that is quite the English Jam.”





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