It was Sunday lunchtime, Dad was carving the beef, I was running round the living room with my hands against the side of my face, like horse blinkers, except I wasn’t a horse. No, my hands were smoke deflectors, I was emulating one of the newest steam locomotives that had them fitted to the front boiler sides.
“Wah-ooh-wah, wah-ooh-wah” I was calling as I was running round. My brother was imitating me “Wah-ooh-wah”, it was the sound of the chime whistle this particular locomotive had fitted. “What are you two doing?” my father enquired, “We’re Britannia” I replied. Rapidly he retorted “Well if you don’t quieten it down a bit you’ll have a tender behind as well!”
The Britannia class locomotive was a great favourite of ours, we knew when they were passing through Bridgend by the sound of the distinctive whistle. This particular class of locomotive were initially used on the longer distance passenger routes, The Red Dragon is one such train that sometimes had a “Brit” up front, not that I ever saw this particular express as it passed through Bridgend at a ridiculously early hour; I did get to see it once though!
My friend in school was a bit of a tease and I did tend to believe everything he said. I guess I was about eleven and my brother eight when my friend informed me The Red Dragon was going to be hauled by a King Class locomotive the next day. Foolishly I believed every word, not knowing at that time that King locomotives never worked past Cardiff as they were too long or too wide or too something to be turned at Landore.
I persuaded Mum that Geoff and I were going to get up the following morning to go and see the train, she wasn’t terribly happy about this but I kept on and on and eventually she relented so it was at the crack of dawn my brother and I pedalled our way to the station to view this wonderful spectacle. Pah, what a load of rubbish, it wasn’t even a named locomotive, just some old 2-6-0 hauling five coaches, what a let-down even if it did have the Red Dragon headboard. Of course, I learned afterwards that these five coaches we saw at Bridgend were just added to another six or seven at Cardiff station for the run up to London. I never saw the Red Dragon again!