By A. E. Grigg and Alan P. Walker.
1st Published in 1983 by Calypus Books.
2nd Edition Published by Blandford Press.
3rd Edition Published by David & Charles.
There were two hundred of more of us waiting on the station platform for the 7:55 to take us into London Euston. When it arrived, we were advised not to embark. This was the late 1970s – The Age of Strikes and Industrial Action. Two hundred of us just standing there silently, submissively; all looking rather glum. No one talking to the driver. I strolled along the platform toward the engine. in those days I wore a dark suit, and carried a furled umbrella – not the most suitable uniform in which to approach an engine driver who had a grievance. We may have talked about the weather to being with, I cannot remember, but eventually we got onto the subject of the ‘stationary situation’. He told me about his pay negotiations which were not going anywhere either. I told him about students needing to reach exam rooms on time, and other people who had families to support. I have no delusions about my poor powers of persuasion, but eventually we were taken on our 40 minutes journey to Euston Station.
Some time later I was passing the offices of a publisher, when the same driver of that 7:55 to Euston was leaving the front door. He was instantly recognisable, to me he was the spitting image of Bing Crosby. As we drew level I heard him say something derogatory about publishers. I laughed and said to him, “What’s he done?” for I knew who he must have been talking about. He pointed to a window on the first floor and replied “Well, he published my last book all right, but he doesn’t want this one”, indicating a foolscap notebook he was holding. It had OHMS stamped on its cover. I suggested we should find somewhere for a drink of coffee.
Sam was nearing retirement then, and he told me he had been taught his trade by men who, in turn, had been taught by some of the pioneers in the Age of Steam. His first book was a history of the Engine Drivers’ Union, of which he had once been secretary. This, his second book, was a collection of twenty-two stories he had been told during his apprenticeship . They were tales of the Oxford to Cambridge Line, which once intersected the London to Birmingham Line. I was never a railway enthusiast even as a boy, but the more he talked about the stories the more I was encouraged to get involved with its publication. Recklessly, I offered there and then, to illustrate it, design it, publish it and make sure it sold. In the months which followed Sam Grigg took me around the lines, engine sheds, signal boxes, bridges, stations and many of the places featured in the stories.
The first edition, in 1982, sold out quickly, and was awarded a book trade prize for design; then a second edition with Blandford was arranged in 1985 and became their Book Club choice of the month; then again in 1989 David and Charles produced a third edition, that time becoming the Railway Book Club choice.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS