Thursday 22 March 2018

Robert Fisk: Relic of steam age still on track to outlast us all

The spit-and-polish black livery of the No 186 locomotive brings memories flooding back to Robert Fisk after seeing it on the platform at Connolly

THE 10.50 from Dublin Connolly to Maynooth, No 186, a J-15 class 0-6-0 steam loco in spit-and-polish black livery, was born exactly 20 years before my father. Bill Fisk was born in 1899. But No 186, moved out of the Manchester factory of Sharp, Stewart & Co in 1879, and looks like it was born yesterday. More to the point, it is still steaming and hissing and 'chunnering' its way across Ireland's broad-gauge metals to this day.

Indeed, there it was this week, standing at Platform 2 at Connolly Station.

Many were the rain-soaked days when Bill Fisk stood forlornly on Southern Railway platforms while his wretched son, Ian Allen's loco-spotters' book in hand, ticked off the tank engines that pulled the Maidstone-Ashford local down to Bearsted. In those far-off years, there was no thought of being a foreign correspondent. I wanted to be -- like millions of my juvenile contemporaries -- an engine driver. And like those children who worshipped steam and hated diesel, I never gave up on my dream. I didn't really want to be a driver. I just wanted steam to last forever.

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