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Men Of The Footplate – 1939 London Midland & Scottish Railway Documentary

We posted  General Repair  last week and before that  A Study In Steel  and many of you enjoyed both of them and have asked us for more, so this is the third film in the series that we are going to share with you. Follow along as it is a little slow at the start, but well worth the time to watch it on through to the end.

This week we will move into the care and feeding of a locomotive, as a young lad starts out at the bottom of the trade as a cleaner. The cleaners do just that, as periodically a locomotive in England was cleaned and polished. Harry Truin also attends classes and goes onto learn the trade of being a fireman, where he feeds the boiler with coal and attends to the other duties necessary to help the driver.


In this film we will also watch as Jim Hawkins already trained as a fireman, moves onto the next stage of his career, that of learning how to operate a locomotive and become a driver. Follow along as it gives us a very interesting view of a much different time.

4 responses to “Men Of The Footplate – 1939 London Midland & Scottish Railway Documentary

  1. My grandfather was an engineer on the B&O around the turn of the last century. I wonder if his training was similar to this film. Very interesting and fun to watch.

  2. In this PSF, (public service film) the school is not just a class room but actual hands on work. The real learning process. There’s a line i this film where the narrator say, regarding the operations of everything locomotive, “The demands are exacting.” Almost seems to be and understatement.

  3. What continues to astound me is that they actually paid a crew of men to “clean” locomotives. That’s something which would never be done today. I wonder if anyone even cleans the mechanical components of commercial aircraft today, or in the name of profits they neglect this too?

    I recall when I got into old British motorcycles hearing about the need to always clean your machine. Yes, a clean machine looks just grand but the process was important to look for anything needing repair — the sort of things which would be missed by someone who never wiped off the grease and dust. I’d imagine that’s the motive here, too.

    In fact, I am reminded that it was just that process which made me find the broken front spring on the Packard last summer !


    • Scott, First off it seems the British took much more pride in the appearance of their locomotives that we did here in this country. You are correct in that cleaning something is the best way to find flaws that need correcting.

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