BRC Website Home
Quainton Virtual Stockbook
Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 62 - Spring 1987
A First AcQuaintance
I thought other members might be interested in the first time I carne across Met. No. 1. It was March 1946 - and I was on my way home from Baker Street to Aylesbury. We were at Rickmansworth - and I sat in the Dreadnought coach, numbed by cold and the tedium of the seemingly-in terminable journey (like this sentence), awaiting the first wheeze of one of those filthy clapped-out A5s that would labour painfully up Chorley Wood Bank towards home. The guard's whistle blew, but, instead of a gruff whiff of steam from a GC whistle in reply, there came a cheeky contralto toot, such as I had never heard before. What motive power could this be? The ride seemed even longer in my excitement to discover; but at last we rolled in to Aylesbury and I stumbled along in the dark as fast as my heavy suitcase would allow, to where the loco was taking on water.
Lo! There, gleaming even under the feeble lights of the station, was an immaculate picture in crimson and gold - and on its tank-sides: L44. At that moment my pre-war interest in railways was brilliantly rekindled, following a wartime eclipse by Spitfire, Typhoon, Mosquito. It was my first acquaintance with the class - and here was L44 doing a real job of work. She and her sisters, L46 and L48, were to perform this duty quite a few times during the next three years or so. Films were almost unobtainable at that time, so I did not manage to photograph one of the class until L46 was so engaged on 24th July 1946. Did any of them ever reach Quainton Road on passenger duty? I do not know (does any other member?). It was quite possible, as at that time two trains from Baker Street did terminate at Quainton Road, one at tea-time and a late night train.
In those post-war days, of course, the locos' normal duties involved hauling permanent way trains from Neasden - and one pleasant consequence of the extension of LT territory almost to Aylesbury on nationalisation was that L44 and her sisters began to appear at Aylesbury on these works trains too. Officially off their beat, they came to run round and take water before returning to London. As time went on, the LT locos were regarded with more and more affection and were popular for use on tours and specials, such as the train to commemorate the 50th Jubilee of the Uxbridge Line and the Railway World Special, which DID reach Quainton. However pleasant though, these trips were put-up jobs -and it was seeing the locos on real work that I found so pleasing. I photographed L44 on one of her visits to Aylesbury with a PW train soon after a misty dawn on 21st August 1955. The train had a real vintage red and grey Met. brake van at each end, that at the north end being No. B575. Locos of the class visited Aylesbury for other purposes too: on 29th May 1950, L48 arrived to collect an LT steam crane, which I believe had attended a derailed Dreadnought coach near Aylesbury's bay-platform a few days earlier.
During these happy days, I never saw an LT loco hauling a revenue-earning train on the northern part of the Met. and GC line (ex-GC, L3s, N5s and later BR standard types ran the freight), though it was on just such a goods train much nearer to London that I last saw L44 doing a real job of work. This was on the Neasden - Willesden Green coal train and, on 8th January 1962, I stood watching her, still immaculate, sorting a handful of trucks and brake No. B554 before emitting a melodious crow and disappearing down the Bakerloo road back to Neasden. It was my last chance: the next time I managed to visit Willesden Green in 1962, the train had been handed over to BR steam - and later diesel - haulage.
What splendid memories are conjured up for me every time I gaze on L44 (Met. No. 1) at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre today - long may she steam.
Albin J Reed,
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 25 November 2017