View Full Version : An introduction to engineering in the UK - 1960's

John Stevenson
12-27-2008, 09:04 AM
Really really long, go get a coffee and book a day off work.

I have always been interested in engineering, taking things to pieces but never managing to get them back as a kid :D Where we lived when I was young was reasonably industrial. There was plenty of work for adults, most worked with 8 miles of home, many within 2 or 3 miles.
Buses were used to get to work or push bikes, quite a few people had motorcycles, some with sidecars for the family and the occasional car but it was expensive to own and run a car.

When I left primary school in 1959 aged 11, because I had managed to pass my 11 plus exam, I had a choice of schools. Anyone not passing this exam was sent to the nearest comprehensive school.

I had a choice of 5 schools, 4 grammar schools where the accent was on literary and languages [ Latin amongst them ] or 1 technical grammar school where the accent was on trades, I chose the Technical grammar school.

Besides the usual lessons in maths, english etc., this school had two large woodworking shops, two large metalworking shops and a large room for technical drawing. In the first 3 years you had a half day at alternate woodwork and metalwork plus a half day at technical drawing. In the last two years you had to choose between woodwork or metalwork which then became weekly.
There were also after hours classes for various subjects as most of the kids were reasonably local and could get a later bus.

The woodworking and metal working classes were both run out of hours. Whilst I was there the woodworking class built two sailing dingies from plans bought by the school and a sailing club started.

If you built anything for yourself all you had to do was pay for the material, as most of the metalworking articles were small this was usually pence.

This school wasn't unique as at that time there were a lot of trade schools part funded by industry.
Nottingham at that time was a big lace produced, possibly 50% were employed in it in some way. My father was a warp knitter who used to run anything from 1 to 7 large lace machines on 12 hour shifts, he wanted my elder brother to go into the trade which he did but I didn't want to.

At 11 my brother went to a school in Nottingham that catered for the lace trade, Theirs had a workshop containing about 5 or 6 large lace machines, 30 odd foot long and weighing upwards of 12 tons which they learn the basics of warping and patterns on. Heath and Safety would have a baby nowadays.

I left school at 16 having gained certificates in glue sniffing, grievous body harm and ice cube rolling. No seriously I got all the practical subjects but not many of the others. During the last 6 months at school we were visited by prospective employers for a 2 hour lecture with slides on why we should go and work for them, we were graded so you only saw the ones you were interested in.

I went to the ones presented by Raleigh bikes, Boots the chemists, Stanton Ironworks, John Player cigarettes, Royal Ordnance Factory and 38 Base Workshops REME who maintained armoured vehicles for the army.

After much deliberation on all these various employers as to their various future advancements I chose REME because it was at the bottom of ower street.

All these places had a 2 part entrance exam, meant to weed the dross out, half theory, half practical and I'm sure I could have gone to any of these companies it was that easy to get an apprenticeship in those times.

So on the 3rd of August I became employed although I had been working part time at a local motor cycle dealers doing simple repairs. We were taken round the base which was enormous. The main shop had bays lettered A to M, all were specialised like the machine shop and electrical shop but the build shops at the bottom could hold 20 tanks each.

Initially the tank would go into M shop, the turret shop and have the turret lifted off as that shop had the only 25 ton crane,
then the tanks came into the shop around K shop, were stripped down and all the numbered parts / trays of parts were sent to the cleaning bay, then examined and then sent to whatever bay was responsible for their repair. The hull was then cleaned up with scaling guns, primed and painted ready for the part to go back on it.

These were Centurion tanks powered by a detuned version of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine as fitted to the spitfire called the Meteor.
Everything was stripped to the last nut and bolt.
As apprentices you moved round the shop in stages, no matter what trade you had signed up for everyone had to do this 2 year shop tour. Some stages were only a week, most two weeks but some were a month.

Because engines were complex they were classed in stages as instead of say just 2 weeks on engines which is impossible to learn anything the engines were broken down into units, cylinder heads, connecting rods and crank, carburettors, wheel box [ auxiliary drive gearbox ] etc.

At the end of 2 years you then went on to do your specialised trade, they were fitting, machinist, electrician, welding and sheet metalwork.
This dealt in deeper into what you had seen on your shop tour.

Hang on 2 years shop tour, 2 years specialised but it was a 5 year apprenticeship ?
That was because in the first year you went into a self contained apprentice shop with sheet metal, fitting, machining, welding and electrical units just so you got a grounding before you went out into the big bad world.

Four full time apprentice masters were on hand to teach the subjects, they were all specialised in one and all taught fitting to make the 5 subjects up. There was the head shed who looked after everything, Sturmbanfuhrer Marshall.

No expense was spared, all that mattered was you learnt your job.

On top of this we had to go to the local college for a full day and an extra evening for Technical Drawing, incidentally taught by Myford's chief draughtsman.

OK that's it for now I may post later if there is a demand but this was the situation back then, I know other will have different experiences but the whole basics will be the same, possibly where my came out better was that being run by REME and hence the government of the day they didn't have shareholders to account to.

In my apprenticeship year we had to modify the fitting benches we used. They had a tubular steel column with a welded on plate top, the mod was to cut the column and insert a piece of 4" square thread and a screwed ring to make them adjustable for hight, everyone had to do their bench.
One guy couldn't get his head round screwcutting, he was taught time and time again but couldn't get it.
To save the rest of the class falling behind they took a turner out of the main shop and put him with this lad full time just screwcutting.
After a week he managed to do his bench. I asked our machine shop guy what would have happened if after a week he still hadn't got it. He just replied they would have left the turner with him until he did. What private industry could afford to loose a skilled man for 2 or 3 weeks on something this trivial ?

12-27-2008, 09:13 AM
Excellent post. When do we get the rest of the story?


According to my calculations, that makes you just a year older than me.

12-27-2008, 09:44 AM
Fantastic. There are those of us that have never had that type of experience. Every job that I have had I had to jump into and go. Training?.?.Only the basics to keep a fellow safe followed up by the foreman walking around yelling at you if you did something wrong.

To imagine, a shop that would take a worker in, properly train them (for more than 2 weeks!) before sending them to a specific job where the employee would get more training AND you were given time to do it right.

I could go one about how industry has changed and that industry has pulled away from things that were good but..... That would take away from the story.

Which, by the way, is unfinished. I cant wait to read more. Thanks Sir John for sharing.


12-27-2008, 09:52 AM
Yes, nice beginning John. Incidently, how much did the turret weigh on the Centurion tank? IIRC, the Abrams unit weighs right around 25 ton.

12-27-2008, 09:57 AM
Great to hear about your past training!

You know there is a book to be written and soon!
ps I want the first signed copy

12-27-2008, 10:27 AM
Waiting for the next installment. Things sure have changed. After my education every thing has been, figure it out your self. That would explain why most people don't understand craftsmanship. That why I try to hang around and learn from the old hands.
Thanks for sharing.

Allan Waterfall
12-27-2008, 11:24 AM
Just think....if you'd gone in the RAF you could have done all that in six weeks and have been turning Spitfires out by the dozen.:D


John Stevenson
12-27-2008, 11:33 AM
Post two.

Going back to the school.
The woodworking shops were mainly manual, about 15 to 20 double sided benches in each shop, in fact other than a wood lathe in one shop they were identical. In the stores space between the shops was a saw and planer that only the staff used, that was to prep work for the students. The old type heated fish glue pots on the window benches and the usual hand tools in the cupboards, all very basic and simple.

The after hours club in woodworking was restriced to making the boats, you couldn't go in and do your own thing

The tech drawing shop was very light, full length windows along one wall. long benches with 4 drawing boards and a tee square, you had to supply the rest of the gear.
You could get away with a rule, about 4 pencils and a set of compass's if you were cruising or go the whole hog if you were really interested. Funny but it split this way about equal, some lads were totally out of their depth in 'seeing' projected views, others had no problems.

I used to do others homework for sixpence [ 2 1/2p nowadays or about 4 cents ] a go, it got quite popular and in the end I could do 8 or 10 homework assignments all in different styles and I never got caught out :D That used to earn me 4 to 5 shillings when my pocket money was only about 2 shillings.

The metal working shops were totally different, one caters for the younger boys being mare manual and the other had more machinery.
The first shop had a forge, casting equipment, brazing hearth, two Boxford lathes, three bench drills and two buffing wheels.
there were equipment cupboards with drill, taps and other equipment.
There was a stores with a power saw and metal racks.
Everything in this shop was used by the second year with the exception of the casting equipment which never figured in the syllabus ?

The second shop was more industrial, 4 lathes, a 5" Little John, two 6" Harrison's and a 6" Colchester Student, [ all centre hight BTW, Double up for swing ]
There was a 10" Alba shaper, Elliot universal miller, cylindrical grinder, tool and cutter grinder, brazing hearth, oxy-acetylene welding equipment and a sheet metal folder and guillotine.

After year two you could use any of this equipment except the cylindrical grinder and tool and cutter grinder which didn't fit into the syllabus again.

The after hours club allowed you to make anything either singularly or as a team.
The school was building a Tich steam loco but I wasn't interested. I stayed behind to build a small petrol engine from scratch and got to cast my own crankcases and timing cover. I never got this finished before I left school and sadly it disappeared over the years.
A fried of mine was building a spray gun which he still has.

The library used to subscribe to any magazine that there was a demand for, sadly not Playboy. They were already taking Model Engineer when I got there so I never missed an issues whilst there.
If you showed a genuine interest in anything the 4 teachers we had who moved about from subject to subject in the workshop section would go out of their way to help you. Our tech drawing teacher would bring in books from his own colection to get you to look at different ways to approach things, possible that has helped in later on.

All in all it shows a view of a past teaching era that will probably never be repeated and I was probably there at the hight of it's success.

Two years ago there was a reunion for pupils from this era. I went up paid my entrance fee which was a damn sight more than sixpence, bought a coffee and mingled. Unfortunately there was no one there who I was close to in my year, later as we did the tour the main workshop now held a computer and silly little plotter, models made from straws and felt and in the small workshop was a Harrison lathe, 3" deep in dust with a big sign on it in childish printing that said Lathe on it.

I stood my cup on it and left.

12-27-2008, 12:06 PM
thanks for the account. I'm struck by the investment the company made in their people and what a loss our current reality is. That could only happen if worker and Co. were getting married. In this world of just dating, who is going to train like that? No one i suppose, as we slip further into the abyss of a culture of investment bankers and burger flippers. I guess the "lathe + styrofoam cup" sculpture is testimony to that - hey maybe the Tate Modern would be interested?

12-27-2008, 12:27 PM
That is the world before the mandatory minimum wage, health benefits, and runaway tort law. It won't happen again because it is unaffordable. It's been replaced by globalization and out-sourcing which is another way of saying the work is done where there are no tort laws, minimum wages, and health benefits. And precious little training.

12-27-2008, 12:57 PM
Very interesting, John. Thank you for your excellent posts.


John Stevenson
12-27-2008, 01:25 PM
Post three.

Now coming onto the first job, REME which officially stands for Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers but in later life came to be known as Rough Engineering Made Easy something I have stuck to all my working life so the training must have paid off :D
It was run by the military with mostly civilian workforce, all the foremen and supervisors were civilian but had to jump when the Colonel's said jump.

Twenty apprentices were selected each year from the various trade schools around, some of these had better training than other but that didn't matter as they took it you had none and started from scratch.

Started of doing all textbook stuff, our bible was the Chapman books, very similar to the Moltrech ones in the US, after 8 weeks of filing we were split up into 5 groups of 4, one group stayed fitting, one went welding, one went doing electrical, one sheet metal and the last one went machining.
We had 6 weeks on these subjects and then changed round, then back fitting until the year was up.

Welding was only gas welding, stick was taught only if you chose welding as a trade and then in the main workshops. I chose machining but asked if I could learn to stick weld and our welding master took me into the main workshops at night on his own time.
he also taught me to alloy weld on his own time. You finished up making your own tool box but ironically you couldn't keep this out of work as it was forbidden to take anything out the depot on pain of the sack and prosecution, security was very tight, the MOD police were a law unto them selves and would think nothing of stopping you, doing a full pat down search and nigh on stripping your vehicle.

Sheet metal was folding bending forming projections, tubes into tubes. I didn't care for this as I have always found sheet metal to be hard, a cross between wall papering and trying to bend biscuits added to this the apprentice master was a bit of a creep.

Electrical was a hoot, it was taken by this small fat Welshman who was mega strict. he used to shout and rage, smack you round the back of the head if you got anything wrong but a good teacher.
We had our own small classroom that could hold the 20 of us and you had lectures all the while on your subject. In one lecture we had to explain to the class various psrts of a vehicles electrical system, this one guy had to explain how a voltage reulator worked. [ We used to call then FADE boxes because the Lucas ones were markes FADE, Field, Ammeter, Dynamo, Earth ] so this guy explains :
"and as the voltage increases to 14.4volts it tends to pull the points closed an................................]


Big smack round the back of the head with large book

In thick Welsh lanuage he explaind that there is no such word in the english language as tends, it either does or it doesn't............
Always remembered that, must be the training.

Once we were out of our first year and in the shop this guy became totally different, you could go to him for help,have a laugh and joke with him but never disturb him whist he was torturing his class :D

Electrical was being given a big board with lights in each corner various connection boxes that represented the dynamo etc and switches, basically a vehicle on a board. We had to wire this up from a reel of wire, make all the cables follow a track, crimp the terminals and them wrap the harness with that old canvas harness tape.
When it was finished it was connected up to a motor driven dynamo and the who lot had to work or you had to stay in break times and dinners to unwrap it and make it good.

Machine work was on Harrison lathes doing turning boring screwcutting etc and some milling although milling didn't get a lot of attention both at school and work.

It was a strict regime, larking about wasn't tolerated, there were no first name terms it was all Mr to us and Sir to them.
They had a unique way of dealing with bad behaviour. Because the apprentice shop was a way from the main shop you couldn't hear the bell so they ran a wire from the main shop to put a bell in but the bell system was 110 volts and they only had a 24v bell so taffy put a set of resistor in series and it worked.
One day in the queue waiting to clock off i spotted these so next night before the bell went off I bypassed these resistors with a piece of wire and two crocodile clips.

When it went if it went crazy and vibrated the bell off the mounting and it went spinning down the hall only to land at sturmbanfuhrur Marshalls feet ..... gulp

So next dinnertime I'm held back to saw a slice off a piece of 6" x 4" steel bar. Twenty strokes of the saw and ooops the blade broke, "Sir the blade has broken" hand comes out the store window where they have their dinner with a new blade.
Twenty more strokes and oops the blade broke.
"Sir the blade has broken" hand comes out the store window with another new blade.

Twenty more strokes and oops the blade broke.
"Sir the blade has broken" hand comes out the store window with another new blade.
They will soon get fed up of me and tell me to bugger off.

Twenty more strokes and oops the blade broke.
"Sir the blade has broken" hand comes out the store window with a packet of 100 blades and a voice says "Come back when you have broken all them"

I realised at this point that there was no way I could buck the system, they would have throw a 1,000 blades at than one piece of metal until it was cut.


Thomas Staubo
12-27-2008, 02:57 PM
Very interesting and entertaining read, indeed.

It reminds me somewhat of my first year in apprenticeship to become a car mechanic.
This first year (popularly called "the filer" because of the boring filing work) was a basic course to teach machining (lathe & mill work), welding and sheetmetalwork among other things.
Maybe I shall show some of the items I made during this year. I have a bench vise I made, some simple tools made on the lathe and a tool box.

BTW, who/what is "taffy" you speak of in the bell episode, John?


12-27-2008, 03:30 PM
Very interesting and entertaining read, indeed.

It reminds me somewhat of my first year in apprenticeship to become a car mechanic.
This first year (popularly called "the filer" because of the boring filing work) was a basic course to teach machining (lathe & mill work), welding and sheetmetalwork among other things.
Maybe I shall show some of the items I made during this year. I have a bench vise I made, some simple tools made on the lathe and a tool box.

BTW, who/what is "taffy" you speak of in the bell episode, John?


Taffy is a nick name for a welsh man .........like "mick" for an irish man ..and "jock" for a scots man ..wonder why they didnt have a word for an english man :)...it's his electrical teacher .

all the best.markj

Thomas Staubo
12-27-2008, 06:08 PM

Thanks a bunch, Mark.

12-27-2008, 06:15 PM
I always thought taff or taffer was an olde word for the four letter word starting with f.

Here a "mick" is another term for catholic.

Mark McGrath
12-27-2008, 06:18 PM
" ..wonder why they didnt have a word for an english man"

Oh we have,Mark....we have.

12-27-2008, 06:50 PM
Well when do we get the 4th part?

Come on don't leave us hanging:)

John Stevenson
12-27-2008, 07:58 PM
Part Four,
In the main workshop,

So were were all released after training into the main workshops, ahead of us were three years of apprentices that had all been thru what we were going thru plus being there for a year meant we we no longer green, the trip to the stores for a long weight didn't work although one or two tried it on. By and by they were good men to work with but some of the chargehands were trying to make a name for themselves.

You had a lot to learn in a short time, some jobs were great some boring and often it wasn't the jobs you expected, stripping bay was a sh1tty job but dead interesting in more ways than one. When I was there the Aden conflict was on and many of the tanks and armoured vehicles were coming in from this theatre. the main shop did the Centurion tank, Ferret scout car, Saladin armoured car and Saracen troop carrier, later we had the Stalwart amphibious vehicle.

When a tank came in minus it's turret, 20 tons BTW whoever asked the first job was to take the auxiliary power unit out which was a side valve Austin 7 engine driving a generator as it was on top of the main engine.
Then the Meteor engine came out, as soon as the engine came out everyone dives in the hull because if anything had been dropped in the tanks life it was on the bottom as there was no way to get anything out.
Coins, watches, bullets, spanners all lying in the bottom up for grabs. There was a lost list with the vehicle and anything dropped was recorded so it could be sent back but the lying bastiches used to claim anything so they could draw new on site so we never sent anything back.
Some of the lads had 50 odd round of live ammo in tool boxes but that stopped when someone welded another guys box shut with live rounds in. The foreman managed to keep it quiet but it scared a few of the jokers.

I found a pair of binoculars under the twisted seat frame of a Ferret that had hit a land mine and had all it's wheels blown off. someone had tried to get them out but not managed it. I got a jack and twisted the frame to get them and there was a hand under the seat, that sorta knocked the duck off the find, plus they were broken on the hinge.

Inspection was boring but it was only a week, measure this, check that, mark stripped threads with paint, fill forms in.

Hardest part was making the week last out because if you went off full cock you had finished by Wednesday dinner and it showed the rest up so you had to keep it down.

That was OK later when you got to work your trade as you only had to account for yourself so you got stuck in but kept some work back to dribble thru the inspectors whilst you did your own work. In the machine shop this was great as you could make anything you wanted provided you could smuggle it out.
small stuff was OK because I had a hollow battery on my Velocette and used to park in the bike shed and take the battery in, people thought i was doing it to stop the battery getting knicked but just filled it up with bolts rivits etc and out the gate we went. if we were stopped no one would thing to search a bolted on battery. Long think stuff was slid into the dual seat from a small slit in the back.

We had a small Alexandra engraver, actually it was a 3D die sinker but as the 3D bit was locked off i never realised this until oly a few years ago.
All this did was engrave the engine plates with bore size, main and big ends size. They would stamp them as they looked too crude.

No one liked this machine as you couldn't earn bonus on it but we weren't paid bonus anyway so I used to do all the plates on it. I was shown how to use it and sharpen tools, another skill for later and I probably had two days to do 20 plates, in truth about 4 hours work by the time you had swapped type.

After that it was doing Velocette, Norton and Triumph badges for the lads and to sell. I once got 4 hours overtime on a saturady to come in and do one of the colonels dog tags, yes proper dog tag, Rover C/O REME Workshops.

You still learnt a lot during this time, bluing bevel gears and shimming to get the right adjustment, removing broken studs. One guy did nothing but get broken studs out. I really clicked with this guy and he showed me many ways instead of the set routine he had for apprentices. He'd have two studs broken in side ny side and use two different methods on each determined by just looking at them and tapping with a punch, truely a work of art.

The V12 engines were done in stages as they were so big and complex but the smaller Rolls engines the B60 and B80, 6 cylinder and 8 cylinder engines that went into the wheeled vehicles were done in one bay by 4 guys and you got 4 weeks with these guys.
That was dead interesting doing an engine from start to finish and at the end of the 4 weeks I didn't move on and it took them a week to realise that there was a log jam:rolleyes:

However that did me a favour as you then moved into the test house for two weeks and it was dead boring just watching an engine run flat out for 8 hours at a time with the odd adjustment.

Long brick building away from the main shop, originally there were 12 beds but two had been removed to make one covered bed at the end and a test room where the 11th bed should have been. the idea was to convert all the bed but it never got done. We had to go into the last bay, all the other guys used to sit on chairs with ear defenders on reading books at the side of their engines.

There were full test procedures but they had been doing these for so long they knew all the wrinkles, They ran with no fan belts and no exhausts lust open port, coolant was pumped from tanks on the roof and pumped back. If the tanks got too hot you had to let some water go and replace with cold using the temp gauges on the wall. One day I fell asleep and dreamt it was raining and the tank had overheated, over flowed and was pissing into the test house thru the peg board insulation :D

Once the engine had run for about an hour and settled down it was time to make adjustments. they were never far out as the line knew how to set them but each engine was different. Mixture was set by lying full length across the top of the engine with a ring spanner weld to a long screwdriver and another screwdriver for the screw. You had to adjust for 6" of blue flame out the exhaust, experience had proved this was the best setting.
Whilst you were busy lying across the engine at about 1/3 throttle setting this the apprentice master used to rev the engine up to full throttle and scare the sh1t out of you.

Then the timing was set, the Meteor had two magneto's and to set the timing you cut one mag and the revs had to drop by 200, any more and the running mag was retarded , any less and it was advanced. the mag was pulled and the vernier couplin moved a bnotch and you tried again.
Then the next mag was done, once this was done it was flat out for the rest of the day then check for loose bolts, oil leaks etc.

Last job was to clean the engine before it went back to fit into the tank, on the walls of the test house wer those old pump fire extinguishers that used to contain CTC, remember those ?
Well ours had petrol in them:eek: and you used to pump and spray this over the engine to wash any leaks off.

All this led up to the whole lot of bits being found from all round the shop and then reassembled back into the hull for the best bit of an apprentices time - the test run to be covered tomorrow in part 5
Also includes playing dobby at Donnington Park race track before it became a track again and going swimming in the river Trent in a Stalwart


bob ward
12-27-2008, 09:05 PM

12-27-2008, 10:18 PM
Ah John, Sheet Metalwork, (Tin Bashing). 1955/56


Electrical, Included Plating. (Fleming Left Hand Rule, etc).


Metals/Heat Treat/ Hand Forgings/ Black smithing.



"White" Boiler suits, (overalls), for 5 years 8 months.
"Hey lad, wheres your belt? They had a white rubber buckles, so it could pull off if you caught it on anything.


One year pre-apprenticeship, milling, turning, grinding, heat treat, aluminium foundry, sheet metal, fitting/inspection & electical/plating. Second year, (actual first year of endenture), Advanced milling, turning & grinding. A year of three, four month assignments to your choice of prefered trade, then assignment to your selected trade or strongly suggested where you were best suited.

Spin Doctor
12-27-2008, 10:34 PM
John the whole process reminds me of when I went through mine. Different school systems, different countries. So the whole hiring process was by competetive exam. But the whole being sent to different areas of the plant operations was very similiar. Usually a month in each maintence area. One for block, head and other parts machining. The next was for cam and crank machining and small parts operations. The third was for pistons and manifolds. The fourth was for front and rear end suspension and drive train. The fifth was stamping operations. Then back to the main shop for two to three months. And then back out on the cycle again. We also had auto body assembly but they would not send the apprentices there.

12-28-2008, 08:30 AM
Ah yes Les A W H, sheet metalwork, "Developement of a frustrated cone"

Regards Ian.

12-28-2008, 09:22 AM
Well said John.
I did my time with the PMG (before Telecom Australia)
under similar circumstances.
Interesting to note that your electrical (HV?) instructor was a taff, as was mine.
If I f****d up, he'd be right there with a lump of 25 pair PVC!
I'm still here after 30-some years including HF/HV/microwave.
Here's to the old school, slainte!

12-28-2008, 10:47 AM
Interesting reading John. My experience is rather different.

However, that sort of corporate training investment still exists in different form. During my employment with Xerox over 23 years I spent about two years in total on training courses, some as long as six weeks, all away from home. Many of these were at the main training centre in Leesburg, Virginia, otherwise known then as Xerox U which is a facility with over 1 million sq feet of classrooms, dorms and support services.

Because I worked alone in a remote area and had to fix everything in sight which included copiers, fax machines, laser printers, color copiers and duplicators, network connected multifunction boxes, 4 foot wide draughting print copiers and ultra high speed duplicators as well as computers my training was many times more comprehensive than the average technician. This sort of what they call "cross training" was the exception, not the rule and very few services reps were trained for and worked on as wide a range of products as I did. My responsibilities actually crossed into two different corporate divisions which normally never happened and posed occasional problems accounting for my time.

Estimated company cost of all my training was at least $3000 per week when all travel and other expenses were totaled. Total cost maybe $250,000 over the years. Even though they put us up in some of the best hotels I will be happy if I never see another hotel room.

John Stevenson
12-28-2008, 11:33 AM
Interesting reading John. My experience is rather different.

Estimated company cost of all my training was at least $3000 per week when all travel and other expenses were totaled. Total cost maybe $250,000 over the years. Even though they put us up in some of the best hotels I will be happy if I never see another hotel room.

Interesting slant Evan but being in the UK we had to do the impossible for sixpence :rolleyes:


12-28-2008, 12:38 PM
I have sure enjoyed reading your posts John. Is there more to the story?

12-29-2008, 05:03 PM
That is the world before the mandatory minimum wage, health benefits, and runaway tort law. It won't happen again because it is unaffordable. It's been replaced by globalization and out-sourcing which is another way of saying the work is done where there are no tort laws, minimum wages, and health benefits. And precious little training.

But but when John went to work we had had free healthcare for over 20 years... so I dont think thats a factor here... and runaway tort law?- thats not really here in the UK even now...

Derek - a nine years younger member of the golden age of childhood

11-21-2012, 07:13 PM
I've just stumbeled across this thread, John where can i find part 5, so far a thoroughly good read to those of us who wish they were around 40 years before our time


11-21-2012, 08:46 PM
John, Very well done! Please continue the story.

11-21-2012, 09:30 PM
The old timer lost his train of thought and we may never hear the end of it.


11-21-2012, 09:51 PM
Said this before and again...John or someone should write a book on John Stevenson's life along with some of his work/ideas wit charm (sic) etc...
The author should be able to make enough $ to buy a round or two for the whole membership of this forum.... (prefer Spitfire me self...luke warm...)

11-21-2012, 10:03 PM
Thank you sir, I enjoyed your story.

11-22-2012, 12:22 AM
BTW, who/what is "taffy" you speak of in the bell episode, John?

When I was at the Ministry of Works in Wellington there were two men on my floor who answered to Taffy. Both were named Jones so one was Taffy Mechanical and the other was Taffy Electrical.

The OED says it comes from "an ascribed Welsh pronunciation of Davy or David, in Welsh Dafyyd." It was first recorded in 1700.

11-22-2012, 03:27 AM
I went to a vocational high school in new york. This was back in the early 60's. They had auto shop, electrical installation, carpentry and maybe one or two others. We would get visits from Con Ed, Bell telephone and a few other companies usually held in the auditorium. I enlisted in the Navy as the vietnam war was just starting to ramp up after I had graduated. The ship I was serving on was the USS Franklin D Roosevelt CVA42 a steam powered aircraft carrier. For the next three years or so we did all our repair work, overhaul and just about all the operating of any steam powered equipment. Upon release from active service I went to work for Con Edison of New York which was the public utility responsible for most if not all electric and some gas in NYC. I spent the next 30 years doing shift work on oil pumps and electrically operated oil pumps. Still think that the best education on steam powered equipment was when I was in the navy. Frank

11-22-2012, 03:53 AM
I've just stumbeled across this thread, John where can i find part 5, so far a thoroughly good read to those of us who wish they were around 40 years before our time



11-22-2012, 04:03 AM
John's story is very similar to mine but mine is sparks related

left primary school in 1958 no 11 plus pas for me so off the the secondary modern school , but we did have a woodwork shop and a metal work shop along with a tech drawing room, like John we chose which practical to do I did wood work for two years and metal work for the rest both of these were all morning or all afternoon, left at 16 with some tech qualifications but a wealth of knowledge to exist in the real wold , unlike John I went to Stanton Iron works as a sparks apprentice our first year was at peoples collage Nottingham as the works only had a mechanical training centre, after that we did a tour of the plants concrete , dale 18 foot , old works , new works and Erewash with time spent in the main electrical workshop which included armature and stator winding the reson you did the tour was to get traind up on the various ages some plant were modern and others were old slate open DC switch gear no guards at all

in the end at 21 you were fully qualified sparks in heavy power ect never did do any house bashing

so I looks like our start in life was very similar later on in life I found out why I was rubbish at things with letters in them was rubbish but numbers were OK was because I am dyslectic and could not spell ect at that time they did not recognise it but they did treat you for it by giving you the cane for bad spelling

when on at 25 to work for a bank in engineering for the computer centre at Kegworth did that for 27 years and then gave up work at 51 but during my time with Nat west I did get loads of qualifications in lots of different subjects including BAS programming finished up as a shift supervisor ( same scale as a assistant bank manager )


11-22-2012, 04:15 PM
Thanks RC for the link to 5,

And thanks Sir John for taking the time!


11-22-2012, 08:57 PM
Just think....if you'd gone in the RAF you could have done all that in six weeks and have been turning Spitfires out by the dozen.:D


The Spitfire was obsolete by 1959

Nzoldun (I'm giving Sir John 9 years!)

11-22-2012, 09:38 PM
Very interestin , like many have said not always practicable now for vaious reasons , mainly bean counters.
It is still posible to complete an apprenticeship in most trades but the one thing most dont get taught is work ethics.