This is the story of Frank Thomas Chamberlain, popularly known as Tom (or Tommy), told by his daughter Mrs. Joyce Leonard. Tom was born on 24th November 1904 and died on 2nd August 1991.
After being called up to do his national service in 1920, Tom joined the Central LNER as a Caller Up or Knocker Up as some called it. This involved knocking on doors or tapping bedroom windows with a long stick to call the men to work. He then advanced to become a cleaner, continued his career to become a fireman (see image L3544) and eventually took charge as a driver.
A group of cleaners, probably based at the Leicester South sheds. The man on the far left is Tom Chamberlain, who went on to become a fireman for the LNER and eventually an engine driver. Tom was regulary in charge of the Flying Scotsman. See Details
Tom often drove engines and trains to London during the Second World War with barrage balloons coming down in front of the engine – a very dangerous affair. Also, in order that enemy aircraft couldn't see the fire in the cab, heavy tarpaulins were draped over the cab, causing it to become very hot for the driver and his fireman. The engine crews weren't allowed to return home from London if there was an air-raid and they had to sleep with the Londoners in the underground. Sometimes he would cycle to work only to be told that the trains wouldn't be running that day.
Later in Tom's career on the railways, he was a regular driver of the Flying Scotsman and the Master Cutler. He would take the Scotsman up to Sheffield and stay overnight. This was called Lodging and he carried with him a heavy-duty metal box. In the box were the papers etc. for the Scotsman. If it was necessary for another driver to take over during the journey, there was a very narrow corridor down the side of the tender leading to the first carriage, where another driver would be travelling.
Engine driver, Tom Chamberlain, and his fireman (name unknown) standing on the footplate of a V2 engine. Tom worked extensively on the GCR and LNER, progressing from cleaner to being a regular driver of the Flying Scotsman, quite a career. See Details
Tom's brother, Cyril Chamberlain, was also a Train Driver and he also worked for the Great Central Railway/LNER. Cyril was blinded by a pellet gun fired at him near London whilst driving the Master Cutler.
Tom also drove the Flying Scotsman for Alan Peglar in 1963, when it made its last appearance at Leicester Central Station, prior to the station closing.
On 15 June, 1963, Leicester Central Station was honoured with a visit from the world famous locomotive, No. 4472 - FLYING SCOTSMAN. The engine was driven that day by Tom Chamberlain and he can just be seen leaning out of the cab talking to his family. See Details
After the closure of the Great Central Line, Tom was transferred to the LMS line, based at London Road station in Leicester, where he had to learn to drive diesels. However, steam was Toms life (he always said that diesel engines held no character) and, after two years with the LMS, he retired at the age of 63.
During Toms time on the Central Line, he was responsible for saving a train loaded with passengers from Marylebone to Leicester. The incident happened in 1958 when Tom was working the 3.30pm express (engine no. 60831). On approaching Leicester Goods South and although the signals were correct, Tom noticed that the cross-over points were incorrectly set. Taking evasive action to slow and stop the train, Tom managed to inform the signal man prior to the arrival of a fast train on the up line (London bound). For his decisive action, Tom was given a commendation from the Motor Power Officer of the British Transport Commission (see image records l3546 & L3547).
A letter of commendation for Engine Driver Tom Chamberlain, who showed decisive and intelligent action to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Tom was given a commendation from the Motor Power Officer of the British Transport Commission (see image record L3546 for Tom’s letter describing the incident). See Details
Tom is mentioned in the Railway Magazine (March 1960) in an article written by Colin P Walker describing the last express trains to operate between Manchester and London on Saturday January 2nd 1960: "No. 61063 with Driver Tommy Chamberlain and Fireman Harry Elford, drew out of Leicester at 6.58pm with the last express from Manchester to London by the Great Central route.
A poster produced by Lutterworth Rural District Council in January 1962. At a time when the future of the London Extension was under threat, it urges 'all affected' people to attend a public meeting to discuss the 'proposal to reduce rail services and close stations on the former Great Central line'. Even by the time this meeting was held, through express services had already stopped running for two years. See Details
As with most footplate men, Tom and his crew would clean their shovels and fry egg & bacon on the fire. Tom also had his own signal lamp and this is still in the possession of his family today.
One of the highlights of the journeys was when the Earl of Lanesborough, of Swithland Hall, always went to the driver and thanked him for the journey, and would always give the driver a tip.
Signal lamp owned by engine driver Tom Chamberlain, a regular driver of the Flying Scotsman. See Details