Brian misses his date with Kathy due to problems at work. Short Chapter.
I arrived at the locomotive depot for the morning six-till-two shed men's duty feeling pleased with having a day back on my old job. There was variety on the job, cleaning the fires, coaling, watering, and turning locomotives in preparation for their next trips on the main line. What I liked best though was the way that shed crews could fill their work ticket and get away early.
The work was hard and at times uncomfortably hot, but because it was continuous it didn't seem long until we took our break. I sat on my own in the cabin canteen after turning down an offer to join the noisy card game that was in progress. I was thinking of Kathy and wondering where I should take her on our first date. We could go for a drink, but maybe she didn't like going to pubs. Pictures perhaps, but I had no idea what was on at the pictures. I wish I had found out a bit more about Kathy when I spoke to Lynn at Minstrels. My thoughts went to Lynn. I could see her clearly in my mind, walking over towards me in the crowded club. I was dwelling on what a wonderful moment it was when my thoughts were interrupted by the depot foreman walking in the cabin.
"Brian, the fireman hasn't turned up for the local goods pickup. You'll have to go out."
I looked at my watch. "What time will I finish? I'm going out tonight."
"You'll be all right, they're usually back by four or half past at the latest."
I picked up the old gas mask bag I used for carrying my billycan and sandwiches and I set off to join the driver on the small, Class Two, locomotive.
We left the shed and backed up onto our small train of coal trucks and then set off for the job shunting the coal yards at the stations along the line towards Manchester. We returned to the sidings with the empties and then set off again with more loaded trucks to shunt the yards in the other direction. The driver was a plodder and seemed to have no urgency about him, so it was a while before we began shunting the last yard.
I dropped off the steps of the engine at the point's lever realising that I would be lucky to be back to the depot before five o'clock. I pulled the lever so the locomotive could drive towards the line of empty trucks where the guard was waiting to couple them up. As the engine approached the points I began to daydream about my date with Kathy and trying to imagine her behaviour and personality. I heard a strange bumping sound followed by the squeak of the steel brake blocks on the wheels as the engine suddenly stopped.
"What the hell have you done?" the driver shouted as he climbed down the steps.
I didn't answer as I stood staring at two of the wheels sitting on the sleepers instead of the rails.
"You've derailed the engine. You didn't close the points properly," the driver continued.
"Yes I did," I shouted back.
"You couldn't have, engines don't bloody well jump off the rails by themselves. There'll be trouble over this." The driver walked off towards the signal box puffing strongly on his pipe and muttering to himself.
I must have closed the points, I thought. You pull the lever and do a visual check. You don't think about it, you just do it. I must have looked surely I must.
It seemed to take forever for the engine to arrive with the fitters and re-railing equipment. I kept checking my watch knowing that my chances of meeting Kathy were dwindling. I would have to go straight to the bus station from work. She wouldn't be too impressed with me turning up in my work clothes on my dad's old bicycle but at least I could explain what had happened.
When the fitters arrived, they had trouble re-railing the locomotive and when they eventually succeeded they had to check for damage and make sure it was safe to drive back to the depot. We left the coal yard at ten to seven for the thirty-five-minute journey back to Locksford.
It was quarter to eight when I left the depot on the old bicycle. I slowed down as I passed the bus station on my way home hoping Kathy would still be there waiting for me but, of course, she was not.