Putting the Old Tank to Bed

The smell of burning coal and oil and the noise of the roaring engine will be with me forever

Photograph of the old tank engine

The old tank engine

I often think back and remember the times I was awakened every morning with familiar noises of my old mining town of Burradon. I lived in Office Row for 18 years till the old cottages were pulled down and we moved to Means Drive.

The early morning buzzer was to remind the men it was time to go to work, and the sound of their pit boots trudging down the streets for another day of hard slog. The creaks and grinds of all the machinery working continually all day are always in my thoughts; steam engines starting and stopping were a constant reminder of the work the men had to do in this primitive little village.

Growing up in Burradon Colliery in the 1950s was a great time for me; I can only remember with affection, all the years of my childhood and the joy they brought to me, I cannot remember any miserable times.

I often think about the old tank, meaning the big black coal engine, my Dad used to drive.

My Dad, Erne Lynch, drove one of these wonderful engines from 1950 till 1977; he would bring coal in the big trucks trailing along to and fro every day. The fondest memories I can remember were the times I would wait for my Dad to come down that great line from Weetslade to the village of Burradon, seeing the tank getting nearer and nearer, bigger and bigger, was quite eerie, it would slow down near the Working Men’s Social Club, to cross over the main road to the end of the journey.

As the tank slowed down, I would jump on to the platform and stand with my Dad and his mate who I think was called Bart Smith. The smell of burning coal and oil and the noise of the roaring engine will be with me forever. I would travel the rest of the way watching the trail of steam and Dad throwing shovelfuls of coal to keep the engine going for the rest of the journey to the engine shed. When we got to the end Dad would say, “that’s it lass, get on home I’m putting the old tank to bed.” My Dad is no longer with us now, but those memories will stay with me always.

I live in Cumbria now and often visit Mam and my old town of Burradon which quite frankly will never be the same, a wonderful village it is, but the old days were something else. We go for walks were the old pit used to be and when I see the kids playing I get a great lump in my throat because little do they know they are playing right on my doorstep where I lived and loved to play….they will never know the joy of it all.

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