“It was a particular problem in ‘76…”

Ade Williams tells a story of his life in 1976 as part of a biker gang who were able to fry eggs on the pavement during the drought of 1976. Ade also worked on the railways and, although it was largely safe, he remembers the heat affecting the system due to railway lines expanding and wires stretching in the heat.

“I’m Ade Williams. I live in Church Village, near Llantrisant, South Wales. In ’76, my first memory that sticks in my mind is the fact that, riding a motorcycle at that time, it was one of the few times during my lifetime that I could go out and ride a motorcycle and not ever worry about taking waterproofs because it was warm and sunny, you know, for most of that summer. So that was great, but then a few other things, as a member of a biker gang, called the Wild Welshmen, we used to do things like, you’d see things on the telly about people you know, frying eggs on the pavement. So we’d try things like that. I mean, they were edible. They might not have been cooked to perfection but they were edible. People used to do that kind of thing. And then the other thing that springs to mind is the fact that I was a railwayman and there were problems with possibilities of the rails expanding. I mean, every summer, you may, as long as it’s reasonably warm, you may get expansion in the rails but it was a particular problem, in ’76, because that expansion was a safety issue. People who were working on a permanent way, for instance, would be what they call hot railing. They’d be going out looking for problems. Very often, late in the afternoon or the evening. So they would be taking gauges with the, rail gauges, and checking if there was a problem that needed solving. I seem to remember that there were temporary restrictions in terms of speed. I think, as well, I mean you would have problems with signalling because, although there were what we call colour light signalling then, there was still a lot of semaphore signalling then but those semaphore signals were run from signal boxes by levers and the signalman would pull a lever and it’d be pulling a wire, which might be a quarter of a mile long. Well you might find that, during the heat of the day that that wire was a little bit longer than it should have been. Around ’76 I would have been working passenger trains as a guard, freight trains as a guard and also I was a signalman around that time. I experienced quite a few little things. I don’t remember any major incidents. I think the railway is fairly safe. You would have perway men looking out for those problems, obviously would have drivers and guards reporting if they felt a bit of a rough movement on the track, then they would probably stop so that a perway could go and have a look, you know, and see if there was a problem. So when you have temporary restrictions of speed, you’ve got signalling arrangements temporarily and you might have a flag man, at that time, out to warn you to slow down, and so on.”

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