From Steam to Stone - Volume Two: Onwards into Management
A BR life - Engine Cleaner to Stone Projects Manager
This book completes the story of a career with British Railways from 1951 to 1968. Volume Two covers the period from 1958 to 1968. It opens with the author’s final months working on the East Coast route out of Kings Cross to Newcastle, to give the background behind the entirely unintended decision to exchange the firing shovel for the ball-point pen.
The final decade of main line steam on our nationalised railway system had begun to unfold and with it the increasing rundown of the steam fleet, completed in 1968. Dieselisation introduced fresh challenges to staff of all grades. The fundamental changes created a major upheaval in how the industry was managed and operated. Th early development of the new 25kv ac traction was to introduce even greater changes, commencing in 1960 with the north-east London electrification scheme which modernised the intensive steam suburban services working out of London (Liverpool Street) station.
The decade covered by this volume proved to be one of dramatic re-thinking by British Railways, following the announcement of the 1955 modernisation plan. The author feels extremely fortunate to have been directly involved with the early dieselisation and electrification schemes introduced by the Eastern Region. It was an absorbing and fascinating period. Railway staff had to accept and adapt to totally new working methods. David Butcher experienced at first hand so many of the upheavals that were forced upon railwaymen at the time, and became part of the planning processes that drove it forward, before becoming a manager required to implement the new thinking. David realised he had become a sort of ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’, something that was not deliberately intended, but nevertheless happened.
Promotion to Westbury on the Western Region revealed a less than satisfactory situation had been inherited. It required early action to resolve, to achieve the benefits of effective cost management. Steam age attitudes still prevailed even with full dieselisation almost complete. The subsequent commercial developments arising from this challenge were an unexpected, but welcome situation, but one that eventually became one difficulty too many.
The latter years of David’s British Railways career placed him in a strong position when he joined Foster Yeoman and became responsible for creating the Foster Yeoman rail system, where he developed their railborne stone traffic for the next six years. This, and subsequent developments, are covered in the book’s epilogue.
A5 format softback, 232 pages, 125 illustrations.
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