GWR No. 5741, Montague, or Duck to give him his
nickname, was built in 1929 at
the North British Locomotive works in Glasgow. Yes, that's right, not Swindon!
This is already where the difficulties begin. He was built in Glasgow,
curiously enough by the same workshop that built Edward about thirty three
years earlier. His statements of 'Ship shape and Swindon Fashion' are the sort
uttered by most GWR engines no matter of their works. Duck himself is proof of
My Great Grandfather was apprenticed at
Swindon Works, however, and it was for this reason Duck has remained a GWR
engine through and through over his career - the only modification he's ever
seen is the addition of sandboxes!
Duck arrived in 1955 to become station
pilot at Tidmouth, having worked briefly at Paddington under the same duties. Percy,
being only a small engine, was no longer suitable for the increasingly heavy
traffic in the yard. Duck was far larger and had the strong reputation carried
by all 5700s, and was easily capable of the job alone.
Percy was required for other work -
Knapford Junction, where Thomas's branch line met the main, was being reworked
to allow it greater use as a harbour - this would act as a gateway to a far
larger scheme for the entire branch line, levelling a fair degree of it out to
a flatter, and thus more amiable gradient.
Duck, on his first day, began note
problems in Tidmouth's yard, but sorted them out quickly. As a start, he made
sure the stock in the yard was well aware he was in control - trucks soon
learnt that bothering Duck would do little in their favour!
The bigger engines, James, Henry and
Gordon, did not think much of Duck's business around the yard. They took his
work ethic as him being a touch simple, and began to tease. Duck would take
none of it, and when it turned into ordering him about, he lost his temper and
work ethic and decided to instead work on shutting them up. Quite literally.
Duck and Percy both sat on the points
that were outside the Tidmouth Sheds, thus preventing Henry, Gordon and James
entrance. When confronted, he calmly explained himself to both the engines and
my great grandfather - and proved himself to be an engine that wouldn't take
nonsense. The engines soon learnt that ordering 5741 around was of no benefit
to them - particularly when the Controller of the railway agreed with him! - And
he managed Tidmouth easily.
Duck continued to have a strong
presence in Tidmouth Yard, constantly demanding his fellow engines work to the
sort of standards the Western would demand. This meant an air of discontentment
with the bigger engines, and in 1958, when a Class 08 - 'Diesel' arrived from
the Other Railway, they were pleased to see a new face. Duck was unimpressed
with the visitor, and a rivalry soon erupted.
Diesel, eager to take the place of Duck
in the yard, began spreading rumours - and the big engines soon refused him
entrance to their shed, much like he had done only three years before. My
Great-Grandfather, in no mood for such foolishness, sent Duck to Wellsworth
while he got to the bottom of the issue. Duck enjoyed his time at Wellsworth,
to bank on Gordon's Hill was a nice change and he made a good job of it - but
steep hills and unfitted trains make for difficult circumstance...
One day, a goods train's tail broke
away, and chased him down the hill. This always has dangerous consequence, and
Duck, instead of running away from the incident, held his ground as firmly as
he could, slowing down gradually until the trucks met him gently, and began
slowing with him. This gave a signalman just enough time to divert him into a
siding, leaving him smokebox first into a barber's shop instead of into a
passenger train's brake coach! Duck's courage was worth every penny of praise
he was given - and he was welcomed back to the yard after diesel was proven to
be a liar and a scoundrel, sent back to the mainland in utter disgrace!
Other than this, Duck's escapades on
the NWR were not of major interest, but in 1967, things were beginning to
change - a line travelling to the old lead mines at Arlesburgh had been reopened,
and so far, only Donald and Douglas had ever travelled up it - Duck one day
ventured forth to find the new Arlesdale Railway, which had been built for
transportation of ballast. Only the next year, Oliver, our GWR 1400 tank engine
from the 'Other Railway', was saved from scrap, and passenger services were
slated for reopening on what is now known as the Arlesburgh branch. For both
tourist interest and sheer efficiency, both were allocated on the 'Little
Western', carrying all the colours and architecture of the GWR.
Apart from a collision with the Flying
Kipper while banking up Gordon's Hill in 1983, his life has, in a professional
sense, been largely uneventful.
Duck is one of the strongest characters
on my railway. The reasoning is clear - he is a stubborn, headstrong but very,
very hard working engine, who can run a yard like clockwork. He is respected by
big and small engines alike, and finds favour with many of the yard staff -
Duck is very much like the GWR itself. He is efficient, well run, clean, prim
and proper - and won't allow disorder or poor behaviour! He doesn't take
anything sitting down, and for that reason, he is perhaps one of the finest
purchases the North Western Railway has ever made.