The Christmas “rat”, Dec 69

The Christmas “Rat” Dec 1969

Billy had drawn the short straw he was booked on the 2 till 10pm “Graveyard” Christmas Eve shift at his Travel Centre near the Mansion House in London. On arguing “what was the point on Xmas Eve” his boss retorted “We are an International business and have to be open for calls till 2200..Simple.” He added you’ve got New year off, i haven’t..”

So that was that then Billy joined 45111 on the 1050 Nottingham – St Pancras at Luton around 1300 on a chill, but dry Christmas Eve 1969. The tube was busy with last minute shoppers and various office types en route to Xmas parties. The office itself by 1400 was quiet, most of the staff  including the hot women had long gone to the pub leaving just left over nibbles for Billy to enjoy. Five others remained in the office till 5,  then it was just the three. The security Guard Ian, Billy and that ugly Doris in accounts who never seemed to go home.

To be fair Billy kept busy, there were plenty work calls from America and various files to update the call log from. At five to Ten Billy turned out the lights and joined Ian in Reception. “Well thats it till December 28th then said Ian do you fancy a pint?”

Several pubs were done all buzzing with pissed office types the further  from the city the better the atmosphere. Arriving at St Pancras Ian and Billy dropped in for one at the always atmospheric “Shires Bar” there (today its the Betjeman Arms ..yuk) but stayed for 6 like you do and after flagging various trains home for another one they reluctantly joined the class 127 DMU forming the 2345 semi fast to Luton.

The lead coach of the 4 car set was busy with that unique Xmas Eve atmosphere of pissed office groups heading home, talking loudly and laughing at everything. A few more were crashed out, other Xmas party couple liaisons in full swing, Ian didnt know where to look!

The DMU made a very slow departure from St Pancras but was soon at Cricklewood where Ian bailed. Billy consciously knew he must stay awake but by Elstree he was well dossed.

Next thing he knew he was being woken by staff porter “Sterling Moss” at Luton, “come on pal its half two on Xmas Day, and we wont to go home”. Puzzled by the late hour as the cold air hit him on hitting the platform at Luton he then heard the unmistakable sound and sight of a class 25 atop the train. He asked the driver what had happened …

“was partying it in the mess room at Cricklewood” when told Harry had failed the DMU at Napsbury. So i had to come and rescue you, took a while to get 5213 off the shed, only loco that would start up!” So 5213 had assisted Billy’s DMU from Napsbury just South of St Albans to Luton where the 0230 arrival meant it was almost 2 hours late.

Now back in 1969 the railway didnt shut down on Christmas day or Boxing day a limited service did run but to have a class 25 working in the Luton area on Xmas Eve night was hugely rare. With the last bus long gone Billy walked back to Dunstable, a good few pissed locals, perhaps Santa and reindeer were viewed too but 5213 had made his Christmas!

Before some of you Lists readers scoff at the tale, the DMU failure at Napsbury on the 2345 did happen as did rescue by 5213….all on Christmas day morning!

My appalling phot of 25063 leaving Newport on a “marches” service in Jan 1977

5213 was a common boilered rat being D01 London Division based for much of the 60’s. She was transferred to Ebbw Jn for use on Newport valley freight turns. She then went to Bath Rd working former Hymek parcel and passenger turns before transfer to Canton in Dec 76. She was a regular on the Cardiff – Crewes until withdrawn as 25063 in Dec 80 being cut 2 years or so  later.

Merry Christmas from the “lists” team…

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