Rid of His Engine

A Fireman's failure to see a signal set at red leads to a crash.

THE way that it came about was this-
I was stoker¹ for over two years to Bill,
But do as we might something went amiss
With that creaking confounded engine still.

We never ran time, and were always late;
Now a throttle valve would get choked and stop,
Then an axle grow hot as a coal in the grate,
Next a tube would burst, and-into the shop.

How Bill did swear when delays took place;
He would chew till his lips were almost black,
Then say, with an oath, looking into my face-
"I wish I was rid of this engine, Jack."

But she stuck to us still, like one of the Fates¹,
Snorting and creaking on, until
A sort of proverb grew up with our mates,
"Six hours behind time, like Jack and Bill."

Well, one night on our way through Deepside_Moss -
It was then our turn out with the midnight goods-
Bill had sworn at the engine till he was cross,
And was now into one of his quieter moods.

When, just as I lifted up my head
From the furnace-door, there right in front
(I had miss'd the signal standing red),
Was a mineral train that had stopp'd to shunt¹.

I shut off the steam, and I shook up Bill
"For God's sake look out"-when with one wild roar,
And a crash that is making my ears ring still,
We pitch'd into the train, and I knew no more.

When I came to myself I was down the bank,
Half-a-yard from my head lay a waggon wheel,
With its axle twisted and bent like a crank,
But no hurt was upon me that I could feel.

Then I heard coming downward the sound of speech,
And struggling up to the top, I found
That engine and tender lay piled upon each,
With a fencework of waggons and vans around.

"What a smash!" said the guard, and I ask'd
"Where's Bill?"
He turn'd, and the light of his lamp was cast
On a form at my feet, lying stiff and still:
Bill had got rid of his engine at last.