In the 1960's 'Dr. Findlays Casebook' was a very popular television programme. It was filmed in the Callander area, a small town near the Trossachs. The main line from Glasgow to Oban branched off at Dunblane passing through Callander and Killin Junction and Perth crews sometimes took engines there to exchange with the crewmen from Killin. One day I and a Driver were told to take a Hiker-Pug to give to a Killin crew and bring back their engine to Perth. We arrived at Callander, waiting at the Signal Box (which was just outside the station) for the Killin men.
I walked to the newly refurbished station to use the Public Toilet. I entered and was standing at a urinal when I happened to glance to my left. To my horror I saw a woman looking in the plate glass window at me - I didn't know what to do. I quickly buttoned up and walked briskly from the Toilet. Outside, the woman was still looking in the window, it was a new-fangled idea, a one way mirror, you could look out from the Toilet but from the street it was a mirror. Thank God the builder put it in the right way round!
It was at Callander that I saw my first dead body. Again we had taken an engine to exchange with the Killin crew. At the Signal Box we were told that a train had struck a Permanent Way worker north of the station and we were required to assist in carrying the body along the line. The Driver and I walked until we came upon a Policeman and two railway employees with the body on a stretcher covered by a tarpaulin. My job was to make sure the tarpaulin did not fall off as the stretcher was carried over the uneven ground. As we walked by the lineside a young workman came towards us on the opposite side. One of the men said to the Policeman, "That's him." The stretcher was lowered to the ground and the Policeman went to speak to the workman. I asked what was going on and was told that the young man was the deceased's son.
During the summer of 1963 I volunteered to be a Fireman at Forfar Depot. There were only two Drivers and two Firemen based there but one Fireman was on long term sickness. The work consisted of delivering and collecting goods along branch lines to the small country towns of Blairgowrie and Kirriemuir and visiting villages with names like Tannadice, Guthrie and Friockheim (Freak-um).
One incident stands out in my memory. I had to travel from Perth to Forfar each day, so, consequently I worked the late shift freight train. The locomotives we used were Black Five's and at the end of each shift I had to empty the fire and prepare a fresh one ready for the early shift. To empty the fire you had to attach a metal pole called a 'Rocker Handle' to the grate that the fire sat on. The grate consisted of sections of metal bars that when 'rocked' with the pole would open to allow the ash and clinkers to fall through into the pit that the locomotive was standing over. This particular day I cleaned the fire but unfortunately a section of the brick arch inside the firebox (which protected the boiler pipes) had fallen down and jammed the grate in the open position. The Driver told me to go in and remove the brick. I glanced at the steam gauge which showed 50lbs pressure per square inch, dropped my eyes to the firebox to see heat waves radiating from it, looked at the Driver and declined. With much moaning and gnashing of false teeth he said he would have to do it. He put on as many old overalls as he could find to protect him from the heat, went into the firebox feet first and I fanned aside the smoke from his smouldering boots to see him succeed in dislodging the brick. He was a small skinny man but with the clothing he had on and the fact that he had expanded with the heat inside the firebox he couldn't get out. To the rhythm of tap dancing on hot rubber soles coming from the firebox I hastily dismantled the metal surrounds to enlarge the opening. I pulled him free and put out his smoking clothes by drenching him with water from the boiler hose.
He's dead now.
In May 1964 there was a Typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen and precautions had to be taken when Perth crews worked there. Before leaving the Perth Depot, we had to stand in a tray of disinfectant and on our return we had to go through the same procedure. The toilets and washroom were specially disinfected by the application of a paste called 'Gunk' which was liberally applied over walls and floors and anything else that didn't move. A high pressure hose was then played over the area removing all the dirt and leaving the washroom in a pristine condition. Typically, after the Typhoid scare was over, the washroom reverted to its usual filthy state.
A Perth fireman standing on the steps of a moving Locomotive got his buttocks caught by the lever of a set of hand points. He had to go to hospital to get stitches put in the cut. While sitting in the mess room, he said to his mate "I think the stitches have come out". Being a true friend, the pair of them went to the toilets to check the damage. Five minutes later a Driver burst into the mess room with a red face. "You'll never guess what I saw in the toilet", he said, "Bill with his trousers at his ankles, and Ricky looking at his bum!"