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The last episode taken from The Wizard issue: 1815 November 26th 1960.


An evening train from Penzance to Plymouth approached Liskeard in Cornwall. It was dark and the signal lamps shone brightly. The train was pulled by a pair of Type “3” Diesel locomotives, Numbers D6500 and D6501, and the first vehicle of the train was the special coach in which Freddy, the eleven-year-old Duke of Dalesford, was concluding a grand tour of the Southern Region and the West Country. Freddy’s great pal, Ginger Lucas, was also on the journey. It was Ginger who had originally introduced Freddy to the fascinating hobby of loco spotting.


The boys had been over most of Britain on loco spotting tours, of which this was their third. When not on tour with Freddy, Ginger delivered the newspapers at Dalesford Castle, Freddy’s home. Roy Sexton and Frank Ayleston, two shifty characters, were sitting in a compartment in the next coach to Freddy’s special one. There was no corridor connection between the coaches. Sexton and Ayleston reckoned that they had been mighty cute in the way they had diddled the Customs officers and the police at Penzance. The officials had suspected that while at sea in a cabin cruiser, Sexton and Ayleston had made contact with a French trawler and taken on some goods to be smuggled into Britain.


During a fascinating visit to a loco works, Freddy and Ginger see a machine that tests that a loco’s wheels are properly balanced.

Will the haul of watches mean “time” for two crooks?


The two men’s suitcases had been opened at Penzance by the Customs officers without any smuggled goods being found. This was because the two crooks had already hidden a bundle of smuggled watches under a berth in Freddy’s coach, intending to pick up the bundle later on the journey. “The flipping train is stopping again,” grumbled Sexton, who had a small dark beard. “Still it might be a good notion to take a look about.” Ayleston nodded. He had a sunburned complexion and wore a sports jacket with big leather buttons. “I’ll have a dekko,” he said. The driver stopped beyond the end of the platform. Ayleston got out of the carriage and strolled along the platform. He glanced through the saloon window of Freddy’s coach. Mr Eustace Rathbone, the Duke’s tutor, who accompanied Freddy on all his tours, was looking at the roof, pencil poised over the crossword puzzle in his newspaper. Ex – Detective Sergeant Prosser, Freddy’s private detective, was writing a letter. A light shone from one more window. It was the window of the sleeping compartment of Freddy and Ginger. Ayleston moved towards the window, looked in, and gave a startled gasp. Freddy and Ginger had found the rolled-up travelling rug Ayleston had stuffed under a berth. It was open. Both lads were holding gold watches in each hand. The rug possessed numerous pockets. In each was a watch. Away down the platform a railwayman gave a toot on a whistle. Ayleston turned and sprinted back to his compartment. “The kids have found the watches,” he rasped. Sexton shot out of his seat. “We must get into their coach,” he snapped. “We must jump into action at once.” He fetched his yachting cap and suitcase from the rack. He tossed Ayleston his bag. Just as they got out of their compartment and shut the door, the train began to move. Sexton ran forward. He made a grab for the handle of the special coach. He turned it. The door did not open. “Drat it, it’s locked,” he snarled. “We’ll have to get back into our old compartment!” Ayleston exclaimed. In turning the two crooks bumped together. Both staggered. The train was picking up speed quickly. The light was poor. It would have been asking for trouble to try to get into their compartment again. “You clumsy ape!” Sexton snapped. “It was a dud idea of yours to stow the rug in that coach,” he spluttered. “It diddled the Customs, didn’t it?” rapped Ayleston. “C’mon, we’ll do better than catch up with the train, we’ll get ahead of it.” “Yes, yes! We can do that,” said Sexton, and strode towards the exit. “We’ll get hold of a car.” Meanwhile Freddy and Ginger, who had been thinking of turning in, hurried back to the saloon. The former carried the rug. He had spotted it under the berth when he was looking for a tanner he had dropped. “I thought you lads would be in bed by this time!” Mr Rathbone exclaimed. “We’ve found dozens of watches,” Freddy yelled. “I saw the rug under my berth and yanked it out. It was strapped up into a roll.” Ex-Sergeant Prosser leapt from his chair. “I’m pretty sure it must be a smuggler’s hoard,” he declared. “It’s a big one, too. The value of the watches must amount to thousands of pounds.” “All we’ve looked at are Swiss watches,” Ginger chirped. “The smugglers try all sorts of dodges to get them into the country,” Prosser said. A watch on which neither Customs duty or purchase tax has been paid can, of course, be sold much more profitably than a watch that has entered the country in a legitimate manner. “What are we going to do, Prosser?” demanded Rathbone. “Well I suppose it’s a matter for the Railway Police for a start,” said Prosser. “We’ll report it as soon as we get to Plymouth.” The train was slowing down. “Where are we?” Ginger asked. Freddy looked at his list of stopping places. “Menheniot,” he blurted out.


The lads had been sleepy when they went along to their sleeping compartment, but the discovery of the watches had aroused them thoroughly.

The train crawled into the rural station of Menheniot. “I can hear an engine blowing off,” Ginger bellowed. The lads rushed to the end of the coach, lowering the window on the outer side and looked out. The engine that was blowing off steam moved slowly towards them on the down line. It carried one lamp over the left buffer. This was the code for a local freight, mineral or ballast train. “It’s a tank engine!” Freddy exclaimed. There was sufficient light from the window to illumine the number on the smokebox door. The engine was a Western Region Class “51XX” 2-6-2 tank with the number 5175. After pulling in his head, Freddy fished his wee, blue notebook out of his pocket. This was the book in which, in loco spotting fashion, he noted down the numbers of all the engines he saw. He entered the number of the tank engine. The cover of Ginger’s wee, red book was worn at the edges. He had been using it for a long time. One number in Ginger’s book would be covered by every loco spotter who hadn’t had the luck to obtain it. This was a very special number, because there had only been one engine of the class. A year or two previously, on a visit to the Lickey Incline, the 1 in 37.7 incline between Bromsgrove and Blackwell on the Bristol-Birmingham main line. Ginger had seen Number 58100 banking a goods train up the steep 2.3 miles of the gradient.

Everyone who knew the incline called the engine “Big Bertha.” It was a 0-10-0 built for the job, which it performed faithfully for many years before being withdrawn from service. There was a honk from the horn of the leading diesel, and the boys train pulled out of Menheniot. The train’s brakes were soon biting. There was a descending series of gradients all the way to St Germans, the next stop. In the saloon of the special coach ex-sergeant Prosser replaced the watches in the pockets of the rug. Ginger fetched the straps, and Prosser rolled up the rug and bound it tight. “It was a clever dodge to use a rug,” he remarked. “Smugglers more often try to carry the watches in secret pockets in a body-belt.” D’you think we shall get a reward for finding the watches?” asked Ginger. “It’s possible,” said Prosser. “Train!” yelled the Duke just as their train halted in St Germans and the boys rushed to the window. They gazed out and what a sight it was. A double-header—that is, a train drawn by two engines—was storming its way up the 1 in 68 gradient, and the two steam locomotives made a glorious sight. The locomotives were in fact hauling the second portion—a special—of the 3.30 p.m. Padding to Penzance express. A whistle screamed. The thundering steam engines entered the station. “Get the engine numbers if you, bust,” Ginger screeched. Thanks to the light from their coach the boys managed to see the number of the leading engine. It was 7011, indicating that the engine was a Western Region Castle Class 4-6-0. “The other one’s a ‘Britannia’ Class Pacific,” screamed Freddy on seeing the outline of the train engine—with a double-header the leading locomotive was the pilot and the second the train engine. By Pacific Freddy meant an engine with a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement. By straining their eyes the boys managed to see the “Britannia’s” number on the side of its cab. The number was 70019. “That was a snip,” said Ginger in a voice shaken with emotion. “I never expected to see a ‘Britannia’ Pacific along here. The lads were so excited about the double-header they forgot all about the smuggled watches. They looked up their record books. Number 7011 was “Banbury Castle,” from the Old Oak Depot, London. Ginger said that they would find that Number 70019 was a Cardiff (Canton) engine since Western Region’s British Railways Standard Class Pacifics were concentrated there. This proved to be so. Number 70019’s name was “Lightning,” and its shed code was 86C, which was the number of Canton shed. Every British Railways steam engine carries its shed code number on its smokebox door. “I bet I know how ‘Lightning’ got here,” mused Ginger. “I bet a peanut to an elephant that it pulled a train from South Wales to Newton Abbot and that they borrowed it for this train into Cornwall.” Their train gave a bit of a lurch in restarting from St Germans and Freddy sat down on Mr Rathbone’s knee. He apologised in suitable terms and moved over to a seat. “I think you’d better think about getting into bed,” said the tutor. “Maybe they should wait up!” Prosser exclaimed. “The police will probably want a word with them about finding the watches.” Ginger gave a deep sigh. “It’s our last night in a train for a while, Dook,” he moaned, for it had been ordained that they should return to Dalesford. “It brings a lump into your gullet, doesn’t it,” groaned Freddy. “Still, we’ve got to get the Castle Railway working.” The boys brightened up a bit at the idea. The Castle Railway, a private one, was to be laid out in the Castle Park and would give rides to visitors. So far, the stock consisted of a veteran 0-6-0 ex – North London Railway engine and two coaches that were to be restored in their old liveries. “Lights!” exclaimed Ginger pointing down. “Hey, we’re going over the Royal Albert Bridge.” Their train rumbled over the bridge and passed from Devon to Cornwall.


The train made a brief stop at Saltash. The lights of Plymouth twinkled around like a myriad stars. “Next stop Plymouth,” Freddy said.

Prosser yawned. “About time, too,” he declared. “These local stopping trains get me down.” Whuu, whuu, whuu! The siren of the front diesel boomed and the brakes came hard on. “What’s this in aid of?” Ginger gasped and made for the window to find out. “Hey, a bloke’s swinging a lamp.” A red lamp was being brandished at the side of the line near the approach to Keyham. The train came to a stop. The man with the lamp put it out. Sexton and Ayleston reckoned that luck was with them. Just outside Liskeard station they had found a sports car. They had stolen it and raced towards Plymouth. There had been next to no traffic and they had reached Keyham with some time to spare before the boys’ train was due there. The two crooks had realised that once the train got to Plymouth the watches would be handed over to the railway police and they would have no chance of recovering them. So desperate measures had to be taken. The train must be stopped at Keyham. Sexton and Ayleston jumped a railwayman there, tied him up, took his carriage key and lamp. Using this lamp they had stopped the train. With a scarf over his face Sexton climbed to the leading door of the special coach and put the key in the lock. After dumping the lamp at the side of the line Ayleston ran and joined him. The train driver leaned out of the cab of the front diesel, but he was over a hundred feet away from the special coach because of the length of the two locomotives and it was too dark for him to see what exactly was going on. As a matter of fact he was a very puzzled man. But, from the window at the other end of the coach, the boys saw the crooks climbing up. “Crikey, here comes trouble,” Ginger gasped, seeing the masked faces of the men. “I bet they’re the smugglers come for these watches.” “Prosser will see ‘em off,” Freddy bleated. “’Ow can he if they’ve got coshes.” Ginger retorted. “Or guns,” squeaked Freddy. Ginger whipped round. He pointed up at the fusebox that served the lights in the coach. It was situated high on the bulkhead. “Gimme a shove up!” he exclaimed. Freddy acted swiftly in giving Ginger a bunt up. The fuse-box is locked,” Ginger said. “I’ll have to bust the glass.” He jabbed his elbow against the small glass panel of the box and reached for the fuses. Sexton and Ayleston ran down the corridor towards the saloon, the former gripping a tyre wrench and the latter the lead hammer for quick wheel changing taken from the sports car. At the instant they charged into the saloon the lights went out. It became as dark as if the train was standing in the middle of a tunnel. Sexton gave his leg a crack on the sharp edge of the table, and Ayleston stumbled over a chair. Mr Rathbone sat quite still. Ex-Sergeant Prosser moved silently. He had travelled so many miles in that saloon he had the positions of the furniture memorised. Hand against the table he moved stealthily. “Put those lights on or I’ll Start shooting,” snarled Sexton, pretending he had a gun. “Quick—” By opening his mouth Sexton had betrayed his position to Prosser. The ex-sergeant was quick to take advantage. The punch that came out of the dark landed with a terrific bump on Sexton’s jaw and he toppled backward, colliding with Ayleston as he dropped. Prosser heard Ayleston gasp and drove at him in a rugger type of tackle. It brought the crook down with a crash. It was tough on Sexton, because Prosser and Ayleston fell on top of him. “Right,” Prosser roared. “Get the lights back on.” Freddy gave Ginger a shove up and after a bit of fumbling the latter managed to restore the fuses. “Prosser has got ‘em both,” Freddy yelled as he gazed at the scene in the saloon. The boys actually received a compliment from Prosser. “You used your wits!” he exclaimed.

A train was signalled. The signals were off for it to pass through Swindon on the middle road. It was the following morning. Freddy and Ginger, nearly on the last stage home, were standing on the up platform. They had a terrific hour in visiting the famous Swindon locomotive works and getting the numbers of many locomotives under repair. Swindon had produced steam engines for the Great Western Railway for one hundred and twenty years. Now it was only repairing steam locomotives, having gone over to the manufacture of diesels. Freddy stared down the line. A haze of steam showed in the distance. Through Swindon was such an important station the speed limit through it was as high as seventy miles an hour. “Here’s an engine belting along!” Freddy exclaimed. Ginger’s eyes opened wider and wider. A very long parcels train was coming and heading it was a vast locomotive. The chimney had a gleaming copper top and the engine was painted in Western green. Its whistle boomed. Freddy!” yelled Ginger. “It’s the ‘Evening Star!”  The great British Railways Standard Class “9F” 2-10-0 grew rapidly nearer. It was the last steam locomotive to be built by British Railways and Swindon made it. A competition had been held to select the most suitable name for this historic engine, and three members of the loco works staff had suggested “Evening Star.” The boys gazed enthralled as the wonderful locomotive roared through the station. “What an end to our trip,” sighed Freddy as he fetched out his wee, blue book and entered the engine’s number. Times were changing. Though many years would pass before the last steam engine went to its shed for the last time, the day of the diesel and electric locomotives had finally dawned. Railways would always fascinate, but the loco spotters of the future would not share the old thrill of hearing a distant steam whistle and watching the approaching plume of steam, of seeing a “Duchess” Pacific fight its way up Shap in the teeth of a gale, of seeing a Western “King” storming westward on the “Cornish Riviera Express”, of seeing “Mallard,” holder of the speed record, thundering along on Eastern Region’s racing stretch—or of hearing “Big Bertha” raising the echoes as she forged steadily up the Lickey Incline.

Freddy, Ginger and the loco spotters of today were lucky lads. Loco spotters of the future would not be so fortunate.


Ginger and the Duke – and the wee blue book 36 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1780 - 1815 (1960)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2006