Mick Jones was born in 1937 and grew up at Little Preston near Swillington where he lived all his life until his death in 2014. As a young boy he was captivated by the steam trains which used to pass close by his grandad’s house near Kippax on the single line linking Castleford and Garforth.
Mick started work when he was 15 with the Leeds Industrial Cooperative Society as a butcher’s boy at Rothwell Haigh, but within a year the attraction of steam, and higher wages, led him to a job at Stourton Motive Power Depot, the closest engine shed to Woodlesford. He started as a locomotive cleaner, but quickly rose to be a “passed” cleaner qualifying to be a fireman on shunting engines and short “trip” workings to nearby stations and collieries along the Midland main line including Water Haigh at Woodlesford and Savile at Methley.
In May 1956 he left for his statutory two years National Service in the Army but returned in 1958 to again pick up the shovel on the footplate. Unfortunately his ambition to rise up the ranks and eventually become a driver were thwarted when he failed an eyesight test. He has always felt it was “rigged” by railway officials to give them an excuse to demote him as they looked to make tens of thousands of men redundant as part of the British Railways Modernisation Plan which led to the demise of steam. Mick finished on the railway in 1960 and spent the rest of his working life driving road tankers.
Click on the links below to hear Mick’s memories of Stourton shed, firing engines with the infamous “duck eggs” of powdered coal, and occasional visits to the seaside on the Starlight Specials.