As young kids, my siblings and I rarely travelled by train, generally only once a year for our annual holiday to Blackpool or North Wales but we saw plenty of them as they passed through our local railway lines and we "spotted" others as they steamed past on other tracks on their way to unknown distant destinations.

Picture of steam locomotive Princess Elizabeth
Princess Elizabeth
Picture of steam locomotive Dutchess of Hamilton
Dutchess of Hamilton
Picture of steam locomotive Blue Peter
Blue Peter
Picture of steam locomotive Dutchess of Sutherland
Dutchess of Sutherland
Picture of steam locomotive Flying Scotsman
Flying Scotsman
Picture of steam locomotive Mallard

Some we affectionately called "Namers" as they carried such evocative names as the "Flying Scotsman" and the "Royal Scot", as well as a unique number. The numbers were allocated by the different operators such as LMS (London, Midland & Scottish Railway) and LNER (London North Eastern Railway), while the names for classes and for individual locomotives were given to honour famous people, places and events.

For example, the LMS Coronation is a class of express passenger steam locomotives designed by William Stanier. They were an enlarged version of the LMS Princess Royal class, and were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives ever to be built for the British railway network, estimated at 3300 horsepower and making them far more powerful than the diesel engines that replaced them

Some designs had strange abbreviations such as "9F" as in the Evening Star (2-10-0 configuration) designed by Robert Riddles or "8F" (2-8-0) designed by William Stanier. In this classification, the number, from 1 to 9, indicated the loco's power, 9 being the highest, while F or P indicated its intended use as freight or passenger. Go to the Train Terminology page to read about some of the terminology used for steam train and locomotive parts.

The various locomotives were further identified by their wheel configurations; the examples in the slide-show above are all 4-6-2 configuration, but are of several "classes". They all had four articulated lead-wheels at the front followed by six very large drive-wheels (the drive wheels were driven by the locomotive's 2, 3 or 4 pistons, and were coupled together with side rods, also know as coupling or connecting ("con") rods), and two trailing-wheels on a bogie at the rear of the engine underneath the footplate (cabin). Names and details of these locos, and many more, are given on the Steam Trains page.
The steam locos were mostly fueled with coal, and a fireman was required to shovel coal into the furnace. This was carried in a "tender" attached to the rear of the locomotive.

Each passenger train had a "guard" who travelled in the "guard's van" at the rear of the train and advised the driver when it was safe to start the train. The carriages were divided into two classes, first class being more luxuriously appointed and naturally more expensive. My family always travelled in third class. There was no second class at that time, and First Class definitely didn't suit our budget.

The doors were manually operated and opened outwards. It was the duty of the Guard and the Station Master to ensure all doors were closed before the train started. The window was lowered by heaving on an enormous leather strap to release it. There was a shelf along each wall on which to deposit your cases during your journey, freeing up floor space for those unable to find a seat.

When electric trains were introduced, swinging doors were gradually replaced by sliding ones, which were still manually operated but automatically locked during travel. This reduced the risk of people being struck by a door as it opened, and of the door being accidentally opened during travel. The carriages had straps that hung from rails along both sides for standing passengers, and above this was a cord, which a passenger could pull if an emergency arose, to stop the train. Pranksters would sometimes pull this unnecessarily, which could result in a hefty fine if they were caught.

In a similar vein, I've just read of an event on a train in Australia, in which a group of youths pulled the emergency cord, causing the train to stop, and when it stopped, ran along the train with cans of paint, spraying the carriages as they went. The train crew called the Police, but the youths had gone by the time they arrived.

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