At your service: The little shop with a big reputation

Pete Kelly visits a small market town in North Lincolnshire to tell the story of Caistor Loco.

It’s not every model shop proprietor who can regale you with stories of firing former LNER locomotives and others from King’s Cross during the twilight years of steam on British Railways – but Pete Fowler of Caistor Loco, in the quiet Georgian market town of Caistor, North Lincolnshire, certainly can.

After starting as a cleaner, he soon found himself on the footplate because, with the coming of the diesel era, so many railwaymen were leaving the job or retiring. Pete worked for BR for only seven years, from 1959 until 1965, but during that time he experienced many steam and diesel types that have all now passed into history.

With two chatty stylists running the ‘Just for Gents’ barber’s shop next door, a handy Tea Pot Cafe upstairs (accessed by walking up a short, steep hill from the side) and a fish and chip shop just a few doors away, Caistor Loco stands in a great position in the old market town.

He fired the last of the N2 0-6-2 tanks that once played such a vital role around the Cross, together with B1 4-6-0s, WD 2-8-0s, 9F 2-10-0s and even, once their glory days were over, some of the LNER Pacifics and V2 2-6-2s. He considers the sleek mixed-traffic V2s, which did such sterling work during the war years, to have been the best of the lot.

As a fireman, he could work on any steam locomotive, but special training was required for the diesels, of which he experienced virtually the full range, from humble Class 03 and 08 shunters to ‘Deltics’ and even the experimental DP2 – “but for quite a while at the start, I didn’t think any track existed at the other side of Gas Works Tunnel!”, said Pete.

Pete Fowler ponders the next step in his latest 00-gauge layout, ‘Buntingford’.

He has enjoyed modelling since the age of six, when he played trains with several kids in the London street where he lived who had train sets. “Dad bought me a Hornby-Dublo set consisting of an A4, two teak coaches and a circle of track, and I remember that there was a one-amp fuse in the transformer,” he said, and his two older brothers, along with his mother’s youngest brother, were always finding him bits and pieces to add to it.

During Pete’s railway career, the longest distance he was allowed to work was King’s Cross to Newcastle – and he had to lodge at the end of the journey. After 140 miles, every 15 miles counted as an hour’s pay.

For the full article, see the July edition of Modelling – available now!

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