Leaving Wakefield, to my great regret - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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Leaving Wakefield, to my great regret

The very next day, 20 April 1948, we moved out of Wakefield. I wrote a lengthy and rather pretentious account of that day's events; I thought at the time that it might come in useful for my new school's magazine - if there was one. I still have that document and the following paragraphs are, word for word, exactly what I wrote:

"It was gloomy and drizzly, one of those days when a combination of railway smoke, naturally-formed radiation fog, and the ever-present thick cloying industrial haze created a toxic greeny-grey gaseous mixture which hung low over the tall trees in Thornes Park giving everything a ghostly appearance. The scene might have been pretty had not the atmosphere been unhealthy and evil-smelling and had not the suspended sooty particles within it clung to everything, clothes and exposed parts of my body included. Nevertheless, I opened my bedroom window at about 7am and leaned out. I sucked in great breaths of the throat-lacerating air and gazed sadly for the last time at the nearby railway lines.

"I watched the early morning three-coach train from Wakefield Kirkgate to Barnsley pass by on the Up Fast. The ancient 0-6-0 locomotive at the head, running tender first as it often did towards Barnsley, was working hard on the slight up gradient as the train accelerated under the gantry signals towards Horbury Junction, adding yet more pollution to the already saturated air. I waited a few more minutes for the Liverpool to Newcastle express to come past in the opposite direction on the Down Fast low level track. It was on time, of course, and as usual it was packed with passengers even at that early hour. The Stanier Black 5 locomotive at its head was throttled right back, its connecting rods and cylinders making a very distinctive clattering noise as the nine-coach express coasted at a mere 30 mph or so towards Kirkgate's number 1 platform, less than a half a mile distant.

"The driver was hanging out of his cab window keeping careful watch on the station's approach signals, but he still found time to answer my wave. His, and the fireman's and guard's, duty would be over when they stopped at Kirkgate. There they would hand over to a new, fresh crew for the next sector of this frequent and important cross-country route which links the international ports of Liverpool and Newcastle with the thriving industrial centres of Manchester, Huddersfield, Leeds, York and Darlington. Over the 8 years since we moved to this house I've become a bit of an expert on the running of the LMS Railway. With my special pals, Peter Moore and Geoffrey Holt amongst many others, I spent countless hours at local vantage points collecting engine numbers in my note-book. We were well known at Wakefield Locomotive Shed (head code 25A) close to Kirkgate Station and often spent time wandering around the tracks outside the main shed building collecting numbers. Sadly, I moved back inside my bedroom and closed the window. Now that is all over. Goodbye Wakefield."

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