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"Say nathin!"

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Lisburn, about 1943. The second world war is in full party mode, and the American forces are based near Aldergrove Airport. The GNR and the N. I. Government and US officials are liasing at very top level with London with regard to construction of their air base there - always extremely conscious of German or German-sympathetic spies out'n'about.

A train load of sand is organised from Belfast docks to Aldergrove late in the evening. Such is the secrecy, the crew are not told until the last minute that they are needed for a "special", and there is no mention in any circular or notice. Dunmurry and Lisburn cabins are notified by telephone, not long before the train leaves Adelaide, where the loco has been serviced.

The instructions from the high command are that this train is to be given absolute priority over everything else, with the last down "Enterprise" held for a short while at Goraghwood or Portadown or somewhere on its way north, and local trains swept aside. It is to go non-stop; a loose coupled train of some 30 wagons of sand with a brake van at the end. (I'm not sure what the loco was, but it certainly wasn't one of the faceless blue tin cans of today!).

The train enters the back platform at Lisburn, and finds a red signal against it. Within a few moments, the arm has dropped and the train has the road, but not before it's stopped momentarily. The driver is a little heavy handed, having been on the soup in Belfast before being told hurriedly that he had to take the train. He yanks the couplings, and off one of them comes off - on the loco tender! The loco coupling is also damaged.

Shock, horror and panic. Up to the signal cabin goes the fireman, and a hurried phone call is made to Adelaide for another locomotive. As the fireman returns to the loco, he sees the driver walking, somewhat unsteadily, along the platform, with the guard, who is his drinking buddy. "We're going for one over the road in the Robin's Nest" they say. "Look after the engine!". The fireman returns to the footplate. Meanwhile, in the station, all hell breaks loose. The Traffic Department are already through their third change of undergarments in Belfast as the US Military authorities are shouting blue murder about where the train is. They try to calm the situation. The signalman tells them that the crew are attending to a "small matter" on the locomotive. "WHAT SMALL MATTER!!!!!!" the Americans, and Traffic Department want to know.

After what seems like an eternity, the relief loco appears, and the arriving crew switch to the cripple to take it back to Adelaide. The leading coupling of the leading wagon is also damaged, so the decision is taken to shunt the train and take one wagon off. The fireman is sent to get the driver and guard. The guard is well oiled in the bar, while the driver is way off course, frolicking in the meadows with the Sweetie Mice and barely able to stand. He's put away about six pints on top of what he already had before getting onto the engine in Belfast!

They assist him across the road, and get him onto his engine. The crew of the other loco assist. He sits down on the coal in the tender and wants to sleep. They manage to rouse him and persuade him to sit, somehow, perched, on the driver's seat. A quick conference discusses whether the fireman is happy to try to take the train up the branch on his own. No signal checks, he's told, and just keep the speed slow.

The plan is made. The cold night air summons some sort of coherence into the driver, who decides he can drive after all. The rest of them suggest he has a cup of tea in the van, or something like that, but the fireman doesn't want to be alone at the front. They prop the driver up and he just sits there, a stupified look on his face.

Meanwhile, the phones are on fire, and Captain Mainwaring is going purple and having Advanced Fits of the Multiple Conniptions, Collywobbles, Advanced Hysterical Murmurings and Screaming Fits. So is Col. Uncle Sam Chuck Elmer Sanders III Jnr. from Minnesota, at his desk in Aldergrove.

The driver of the other locomotive, who has done most of the shunting, prepares to take the cripple back to Belfast.

As he passes the fireman of the sand train, now on his own footplate, he yells across to him,  "Say Nathin'!"

Edited by jhb171achill
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