Steam train came to grief on its first visit to Fratton

This Graham Beech oil painting shows a football special arriving at Fratton station on Saturday, January 7, 1961. It had brought Peterborouogh fans to an FA Cup third round game at Fratton Park. The locomotive is the West Country class Seaton
This Graham Beech oil painting shows a football special arriving at Fratton station on Saturday, January 7, 1961. It had brought Peterborouogh fans to an FA Cup third round game at Fratton Park. The locomotive is the West Country class Seaton

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The late Eric Grace was a fireman and then driver of steam trains based at the bustling Fratton depot.

During his career he carried his trusty Pentax camera with him taking pictures of his workmates and engines at Fratton and beyond – photographs which are now of historical importance.

Fratton steam driver L Edwards has a cuppa in the cab of West Country class engine Saunton at Petersfield. This Eric Grace picture was taken on royal duty while waiting to take the Queen Mother to London in May 1963. Eric would have been the fireman on this occasion

Fratton steam driver L Edwards has a cuppa in the cab of West Country class engine Saunton at Petersfield. This Eric Grace picture was taken on royal duty while waiting to take the Queen Mother to London in May 1963. Eric would have been the fireman on this occasion

Dozens of them form the core of a fascinating new book by Michael Harvey from Cosham called Fratton Locomotive Depot.

It features the steam engines based there and the men who fired and drove them, the cleaners, depot staff, crane operators and other station staff, mainly from the mid-1950s up to the demise of steam here in the south in 1967.

The book also includes reproductions of oil paintings of steam engines in Portsmouth by Graham Beech, who was born in Portsmouth in 1950 and went to Eastney Modern School in Reginald Road.

The age of steam did not dawn brightly in Portsmouth, as Michael recalls in the book.

He says: ‘It was on Saturday, June 14, 1847, that the citizens of Portsmouth saw its first train arrive at Portsmouth Town Station... and it was not without its problems.

‘It originated from London (Victoria) via Chichester and Havant, but it came to grief as it departed from Fratton station, the tall chimney of the steam locomotive got jammed under Fratton Road bridge.

‘Railway workers from Fratton depot were hastily summoned, armed with pick axes and shovels to dig away ballast from beneath the locomotive’s wheels, just enough space for it to continue its journey.’

n Fratton Locomotive Depot by Michael G Harvey is published by Tricorn Books at £14.