The Illustrated Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, BikkiRail, Weekly Notices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly. Contains no Isinglass

No. 179   March 8th International Women’s Day Issue

Salveson’s weekly diatribe of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Read by the highest officers of state, Brechtian punks, yes women, no men, Chartists, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, pie-eaters, tripe dressers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses

Quote of the week – who said it, where, and when?

” For too long women’s inequality has been treated as a side issue, not the business of mainstream  politics. But sexism in this country is a national scandal. Over 85,000 women are raped every year, the gender pay gap stands at 16% and women are the majority of low-paid workers. In a parliament whose membership is currently 77% male, parties will need to work hard to prove women’s inequality is even on their agenda, let alone a priority”.

Can a man be a feminist?

I think the answer has got to be ‘yes’, though it is fraught with dangers. A recent article in The Guardian by Owen Jones ( “…. there can be a perverse irony involved in men speaking out in support of women. As the sociologist Kris Macomber put it ‘men are members of the dominant group; they have access to social and institutional power that women lack’. In other words, their support for feminism is useful for the very thing feminism is struggling against – their power. Feminists have often expressed their frustration to me that men are applauded for saying what women have said for generations. And then there are the men who elect themselves ‘feminists’ as a way of granting themselves a certain type of coolness, or making themselves more attractive to women: ‘Look how sensitive and caring I am – I’m even a feminist!’

Our Suffragette display in Red and Green Club

Our Suffragette display in Red and Green Club

Sexism is rife on the left – as it is everywhere in society – but the danger is that left-wing men may decide they cannot possibly be sexist, even as they interrupt a woman to assert their feminism. One left-wing feminist tells me she can work out a man’s attitude to women in five minutes: ‘Do they interrupt you? Do they listen to you? Do they presume they know more than you?’”

Jones makes the very valid point that there are plenty of things men can do that don’t involve parading their ‘feminism’ on t-shirts but really make a difference. Changing our own behaviour and taking practical action against the huge but often ignored issue of domestic violence would help:  “….men will only stop killing, raping, injuring and oppressing women if they change. That means tackling attitudes within their ranks that make possible the objectification of women, for instance, or which normalise violence against women. The White Ribbon Campaign is one example, attempting to transform men’s attitudes towards such violence. Unless men speak out, such attitudes will persist and the terror against women will continue.”

Female rail models

The railway industry has traditionally been a man’s world. Both in the front-line jobs and in management, it was men that ran the railways. Women were confined to low-grade clerical jobs, carriage cleaning and the like. It started to change in the 1970s and it was largely driven by a more enlightened attitude within BR.

Dyan Crowther

Dyan Crowther

The BR management trainee scheme took on several bright young women graduates who, perhaps in the face of considerable opposition, made their way to the top. Heidi Mottram, now with Northumbrian Water, is an outstanding example. Yet whilst it is received wisdom for leading (male) executives to say that it is in their company’s commercial interest to embrace ‘diversity’ and get the best people at the top, the picture across the railway industry is still pretty bleak, and arguably has got worse rather than better in recent years. Publicly-owned East Coast had Karen Boswell as its MD. The new, thrusting (sorry) Virgin East Coast is led by a man, DavidHorne (not that I’ve owt agin him personally!). Forgive me if I’ve missed anyone, but there are no longer any female MDs in train operating companies whereas a few years back there were several. Network Rail has perhaps done more than most organisations to embrace diversity, with Jo Kaye in a senior director role and several more women in senior management. Dyan Crowther, after moving from a TOC role, was a route director with Network Rail. She is now Chief Operating officer with GoVia Thameslink.

Claire Perry MP

Claire Perry MP

We have a woman minister in charge of rail. Claire Perry, MP for Devizes, is parliamentary under-secretary for transport, holding the rail brief. I haven’t met her but I have to say I’ve heard good things about her: challenging, open to new ideas and very bright. Anna Walker is the highly-respected chief executive of the Office of Rail regulation. Claire Moriarty heads up rail in the Department for Transport and Carolyn Griffiths is in charge of the Rail Accident Inquiry Branch. So it isn’t all bad. But could be better, especially in the train companies.

But so what?

Do women in senior management roles make a difference? My gut feeling is that they do. In an interview with ‘Women in Rail’ ( Dyan Crowther responded to the question of whether men and women handle leadership roles differently? thus: “Most definitely. Most women practice what I call “leadership from the back row”. Women feel more comfortable ensuring the team is clear on tasks and performs well. They more readily take on a coaching role, keep everyone motivated and focussed. I have not experienced many men being able to lead from the back row. In my experience, men tend to push themselves forward and front the team. For women, it is not a natural tendency. Women can do it but their inner self is to act more as a facilitator, a chair. It is important to understand the different skill sets”.

Great Northern Women

This weekend’s Morning Star carries a number of comments from senior labour movement figures with their nominations for ‘outstanding women’. I particularly liked RMT’s Mick Cash’s choice of Jennie Burden, a 19 year-old carriage cleaner who became the first women to join the NUR, on July 2nd 1915. Carriage cleaning remains one of the industry’s dirtiest and most lowly-paid job, and guess what? It is still nearly all female. There have been bitter disputes in the last two years in the North-east, with RMT championing the cause of cleaners to get a living wage. Jennie Burden was a member of Brighton No. 3 branch, though I suspect she might have been a Geordie by origin with a surname like that. But what of other ‘great Northern’ women? I’d certainly nominate Hannah Mitchell, obviously. She did more for working class women in the North of England than most. One of her proudest achievements was getting a public wash-house installed in her Newton Heath ward. Her fellow councillors showed their gratitude by not even bothering to invite her to the official opening!

Hannah Mitchell - a great northern radical

Hannah Mitchell – a great northern radical

Hannah was a talented writer, despite having just two weeks of formal schooling. Many of her sketches in Labour’s Northern Voice during the 1920s were written in dialect, appealing to a Northern working class female readership. (about time to get them re-printed!). A recent edition of Lancashire magazine included a feature by my friend Harold Elletson in which he nominated Emmeline Pankhurst as ‘the greatest Lancastrian ever’. A good choice, though I’d argue that her daughter Sylvia had more about her, though her radical zeal was undoubtedly influenced by mum and dad. Anyone who can run a paper called The Workers’ Dreadnought gets my vote. Ellen Wilkinson, Manchester born and bred but best known for her role as MP for Jarrow (‘the town that was murdered’) and the Jarrow March, must be one of the 20th century’s greatest political figures, female or male. She was utterly and totally principled and came to a very sad end. I’d also nominate Elsie Booth and Louie Davies, two outstanding Lancashire ‘reds’ who were active in resisting Mosleyite fascism in the 30s and remained politically active in the Communist Party well into the 1970s. I will never forget the story of Louie, by then well into her 70s, attacking a mob of National Front supporters in Bolton who were carrying balloons emblazoned with racist slogans. Amazing the uses an old lady’s hat pin can be put to!

Songs of a Northerner

Another nomination for a great Northern woman who wasn’t ‘famous’ but perhaps did more than most in championing environmental causes is Jo Barnes, who died just over six years ago.

Jo Barnes, author of 'Songs of a Northerner'

Jo Barnes, author of ‘Songs of a Northerner’

She was born in Huddersfield but spent much her youth in Devon and then Cheltenham before settling in Staffordshire where she transformed the county councils’ environmental work. She ‘came home’ to Huddersfield in the late 1990s and became active in community and environmental projects in the Colne Valley. The Jo Barnes Fund is dedicated to her memory and supports local projects in the Colne Valley with an environmental element. She very much saw herself as ‘Northern’ and she insisted that a collection of her poems, published posthumously, should be called Songs of a Northerner. Here’s a taste:


Up through the houses

And out on to the Edge,

A sandy path snaking through

Bilberries and Yorkshire Fog –

Tickle grass we used to call it,

Running through with bare brown legs.

More laboured breath today,

But brown-legged in spirit.

The glorious green and gold

Spread out below.

(I’ve a few copies of Songs of a Northerner left – £6.00 including postage)

Leonora Carrington: a gradely Lancashire Lass

One of the North’s most interesting, indeed eccentric, women was Leonara Carrington (1917-2011). She was born into a well-to-do Lancashire textile family (hence the ‘Carrington’ of what became Carrington-Viyella). She was a natural rebel and quickly decided to leave Chorley forever and embarked on an exciting and creative life which led to her settling in Mexico. On the way she had liaisons of a probably very dangerous kind with Max Ernst and other well-known figures in the inter-war surrealist movement.

Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington

She was both an artist and a writer. Her work is something of an acquired taste it must be said but congratulations to Tate Liverpool for putting on a show of her work (now until end of April). I intend to get over and take a look. Her novel, The Hearing Trumpet, is quite amazing and well worth tracking down, and even reading as well. Carrington became active in the women’s movement in Mexico and designed the poster Mujeres conscienscia (1973) for the Women’s Liberation movement in Mexico, depicting a ‘new eve’.  She advocated greater cooperation and sharing of knowledge between politically active women in Mexico and North America. Her political commitment led to her winning the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Women’s Caucus for Art convention in New York in 1986. It’s a pity that the manuscript of her surrealist novel, Turned Eawt Nice Ageean Ernst, written entirely in a particularly abstruse Lancashire dialect, has disappeared without trace.

Northern Rail Franchise

Readers are still wading through the detail of the Northern and TransPennine invitations to tender, issued just over a week ago. The general response from readers has been very positive. For Northern, we’re promised new trains (admittedly only 120 vehicles but better than nowt), major refurbishment for existing trains with Pacers removed, significant service improvements including Sunday services on routes which either didn’t have any or only seasonal (Cumbrian Coast, Esk Valley) as well as serious commitment to re-instate services to Ashington. You can’t please everyone and RMT, rather than taking credit for quashing any hint of booking office closures, remained doggedly negative. My good comrade and friend Craig Johnston challenged my assertion that the ITT was ‘pretty good’ – see ‘readers’ rants’ below. But have a look at the documents, in particular the stakeholder briefing – links below – and make your own mind up. The relevant documents are here:

What about TransPennine? UpNorth InterCity……

The tender invitation for TransPennine Express has received less publicity, probably because they don’t have ‘Pacers’. Lucky them. But there are some big issues in the TPE proposals, not least the decision to transfer much of the TPE empire to Northern. So goodbye Blackpool, Barrow and Windermere, all transferring to Northern, whilst the Barton-upon-Humber branch goes to East Midlands. There is much logic to these changes, allowing greater consistency in service patterns, route promotion, station management and train crew utilisation. The down side is the understandable fear that routes transferring to Northern will see a loss of quality.

TransPennine proper: Slawit Viaduct with TPE train

TransPennine proper: Slawit Viaduct with TPE train, formed of a 170 (heading south to the Chilterns!)

Each of the ‘North West 3’ currently enjoy modern, comfortable class 185 trains with first class areas, trolley services and a high standard of comfort, at least for an inter-regional train (though I prefer the Arriva class 175s if I’m being honest). What will these lines get instead? The Blackpool route is already facing the prospect of older, but 4-car, class 156s replacing 3-car 185s as part of the deal arising from the removal of TPE class 170s to Chiltern. Windermere is being electrified so it will be interesting to see if the route gets the suburban 319s – not ideal trains for a line dependent on tourists. As for Barrow, hopefully campaigners will lobby bidders to propose keeping 185s. Of course there’s a bigger issue about what happens with the 185s as more and more parts of the network get electrified (eventuall-eeee, as Manuel in Fawlty Towers, might have said). Maybe not the catchiest slogans of all time but maybe there should be a campaign to ‘Keep the Class 185s Up North’.

With the loss of the NW3 routes, TransPennine Express will have just 16 stations to look after, mostly on the east side, though Manchester Airport is very much the hub of the operation. That gives the bidders to come up with some really imaginative proposals about stations, encouraging by the ITT which states:  “The successful bidders for each franchise will need to engage with local communities, asking them about the improvements they would like to see in their stations; this will then allow the train operators to focus on implementing the improvements that matter most in that local area through a Social and Commercial Development Plan. We are also requiring the bidders to identify the stations that have redundant or under-utilised buildings and facilities that have commercial development potential or could be developed for social purposes” (para. 4.69 in Stakeholder Briefing Document). The bidders could do worse than take a look at what has been done at Huddersfield, where the local station management has worked with community groups, local artists and small businesses to transform the station.

Bread of heaven! HandMade Bakery stall at Huddersfield station

Bread of heaven! HandMade Bakery stall at Huddersfield station

Lots more could be done, with that experience applied to the other 15 stations. And one last thought. TransPennine Express? Given that the network is only partly ‘Trans-Pennine’ and a big stretch of it heads north o’er the border to Glasgow and Edinburgh, isn’t it time for a re-think of the name? If the aspiration is to really make TPE the ‘Northern InterCity’ operator, why not call it that, or summat like? Northern Express/ TransNorth Express? InterCity UpNorth? Suggestions to The Salvo, please.

On the campaign trail: this week it’s Marsden. And by the way, can you spare a few quid?

The campaign team took the Yorkshire devolutionary message to Marsden on Saturday. By gum it were cold. But the reception we received was warm and friendly, with several people volunteering their intention to vote for us. Colne Valley is a Tory-held marginal seat, currently held by the popular MP Jason McCartney.

Nell and Salvo (the one with the mandatory flat cap) in Marsden

Nell and Salvo in Marsden

The latest Ashcroft poll shows him ahead of Labour by 1 point, with UKIP, Lib Dems and Greens in the low teens 12, 11 and 10 respectively). For some reason Yorkshire First didn’t figure at all (‘others’ were showing 2%). But lets’ see what happens on May 7th. Our biggest problem is visibility; lots of people haven’t heard of us and we don’t have the resources to do blanket mailings. So take this as a plea to help with donations – large or small. You don’t have to be from Yorkshire! Just go onto the Yorkshire First website: £100 will get us 2500 leaflets; £2 will get me a cup of coffee to warm up after giving them out (NB: that’s a joke, we pay for our own coffee, and cakes too!). We have had one very kind donation of £500, which covers our election deposit; apart from that there’s, errr, very little in the kitty. But what we lack in cash we make up for in enthusiasm and we’ll be back on the streets next Saturday, at Milnsbridge. Come and join us, or just have a chat for a few minutes. We’ll be at the bottom of Scar Lane from 10.00. A big ‘thank you’ to Laura and Gordon for their mid-week leafleting efforts around Lindley, and to Nell, Richard and Freddy for their hard work in Marsden on Saturday.

Crank Quiz: The Beastliness of Beeching (and Benson)

Last week’s question was “Which, of all lines axed in the 1960s and 1970s, was the most crazy closure  – and why?”. This got a hefty postbag of comments on the website, so thanks to everyone. Here is just a small selection, starting with Allan Dare: “Crazy closures? Right at the top would be (Derby)-Matlock-Chinley-(Manchester). Not only was it the only direct rail link between the East Midlands and the North West, but the alternative A6 and A515 roads were, and still are, dreadful.

Beeching's ideal railway?

Beeching’s ideal railway?

But from the viewpoint of London’s ivory towers it was a duplicate route to the capital and so had to go – and to heck with any interregional potential. Other candidates would be Oxford-Cambridge (famously announced the day they started work on Milton Keynes new city); the S&D ; the East Lincs. line from Spalding via Boston and Louth to Cleethorpes, closure of which left a huge area rail-less; and (Edinburgh)-Cowdenbeath-Kinross-Perth. Significantly, most of these were not part of the Beeching closures, but were instead driven by political antipathy in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Then there’s the GNR(I)’s Derry Road in Ulster … ( a victim of Northern Ireland’s Beeching equivalent – The Benson Report –ed.). The list could go on!”

Simon Norton says: “Agreed the closures you cite were damaging. Two of them were orbital routes round metropolises avoiding the need to go in and out. If it’s frustrating to have to go via Glasgow to get to Motherwell, how about Lanark ? This area must have lots of potential if only it was easier to get to from England. New Lanark, a World Heritage Site, would surely be an attractive day trip destination from Yorkshire by way of the Settle-Carlisle line. Then there’s the spectacular Mennock Pass through historic Leadhills and Wanlockhead served by bus routes 30/31 and 221. Currently the only main line station in the area, Carstairs, has no daytime trains to Carlisle and isn’t well sited anyway as one can’t run trains from there to Lanark, but why not provide a new interchange station on the A706 with trains to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Lanark and Stirling, and buses to Sanquhar, Edinburgh Airport, Galashiels and the Irish ferries ?”

Cllr Guy Harkin brings a waterways theme to the tale: “While the closure of the Bolton/ Bury line and its sanitisation by building over the line at Radcliffe was a major disaster let us not forget the loss of the canal link to Bolton which would, had it not happened ,have facilitated a significant redevelopment opportunity around the Church Wharf area of Bolton town centre. As with so many other things the planners and politicians of the 60s left little to applaud and much to bitterly regret.”

Dave Koring, no doubt from a narrow boat somewhere in the Midlands, writes: “The Harrogate/Starbeck to Ripon and Northallerton closure always seems a little daft to me. Apart from their being a significant traffic between Harrogate and Newcastle (and the rest of the North-east), I felt it most as a very young traffic controller at York HQ. When the ECML got blocked somewhere along its route there was usually some way of getting trains through on an alternative – except between York and Northallerton. I seem to remember it was felt soon after closure north of Ripon when DP2 (an early diesel express loco – ed.) succumbed.”

And it wasn’t all ‘Up North’ as Roger Ford points out: “How about closure of the Welwyn Garden City to Luton and Dunstable line which today would widen access to London Luton airport as well as improve mobility and reduce car commuting in the WGC-Harpenden-Luton corridor. I know it’s darn sarf but we are north of Watford”. (only just though – ed)

Richard Greenwood agrees with Guy: “The most ridiculous closure has to be Rochdale-Heywood-Bury-Radcliffe Bolton. Connections at both ends. All sizable conurbations. The Trans Lancs Express Bus, (Stockport-Oldham-Rochdale then as train) was put on to bolster the case for closure of the line. It doesn’t run now, a victim of congested roads. There weren’t all that many significant closures after this one. And it wasn’t in Beeching’s plan to close it”.

This week’s Crank Quiz has an appropriately feminine flavour: Name locomotives and trains named after non-titled women…(i.e. no queens, duchesses, lady this or that, etc.). Could be present-day, or past. Shed codes and numbers get bonus points though it really isn’t the point…And for a bonus point: which British female freedom fighter is closely associated with a main-line station?

Readers’ rants

RMT’s Craig Johnston has a pop at The Salvo for describing the Northern ITT as ‘pretty good’. Here goes: “Pretty Good” I guess if you believe promises from Tories made just weeks before an election… I see it’s being alleged that DFT civil servants were opposed to the promise of new trains on cost grounds – but we’re overruled by McLoughlin? Time will tell if these pre-election promises ever come to fruition – and what sort of New Trains – I understand there’s mention of “Metro” style trains? Pretty Good too I guess if you believe that those plans for refurbished Pacers and underground stock will remain shunted into a siding after polling day… Pretty Good too I guess if you believe ignoring a huge public consultation exercise which had thousands of Northerners sign up to oppose Driver Only operation is the best way to instil confidence in such consultations (not to mention all the councils and MP’s who opposed the proposals). Pretty good too if you’re a Tory who now finds the Labour Leader of Manchester your biggest cheerleader – just weeks before the polls open. Not so good if you you’re in favour of regional autonomy because if Rail North is an example of it, frankly many passengers and my members will say you can keep it!”

Whilst Simon Geller finds good news in the ITT for cyclists: “One welcome improvement in the Northern ITT is the introduction of a proper Sunday service on the Sheffield – Lincoln line. At the moment the first departure from Sheffield is 13:42, with the first arrival into Sheffield not until after the shops shut. This will be welcome news for cyclists wanting to head out to the flatter regions of the Dukeries for a day ride as well. I recently travelled on the Bernina Express in Switzerland which has some of the Community Rail aspects you mention as well. I think at least one Pacer should be preserved so our grandchildren can experience the horror that regular travellers have to put up with today”.

Regarding the attempts to shut the Heart of Wales Line, Richard Faulkner writes: “Chris Austin and I tell the story of how the Heart of Wales line survived in our boo Holding the Line – How Britain’s Railways Were Saved (reviewed in The Salvo some time back and highly recommended).

We said this: “Central Wales line trains (now the Heart of Wales Line) run from Shrewsbury to Swansea. The route runs for 100 miles through seven parliamentary constituencies, three of which were marginal in the 1970s, and this made closure a difficult proposition for any transport minister. This is now the archetypal ‘basic railway’ with a limited train service, basic signalling and long single line sections. Nevertheless it remains an important link for the communities it serves and brings with it many tourists who would otherwise miss out the quiet towns and villages of Shropshire, Powys and Carmarthenshire. Richard Crossman writes in “The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister” the following entry for 31 July 1969: “The final item was the proposal to close down at long last the Central Wales Railway line which has in winter only 100 people travelling on its ninety miles, 200 in summer and only 6 regular passengers.

A passenger rpepares to board a Heart of Wales train at Llandrindod Wells - first reader to name her gets a bonus prize!

A passenger prepares to board a Heart of Wales train at Llandrindod Wells – first reader to name her gets a bonus prize!

This is a parody of a railway and there is an overwhelming case for permanent closure next January, because otherwise we will have to pay a £300,000 subsidy. Dick Marsh moved this proposal and the Chancellor supported him. I barged in and said, ‘Look, if you are going to start playing politics with this, you mustn’t do it,’ but they did. Roy [Jenkins] half-heartedly stood out, I stood out with Dick Marsh, and round the table the others were in favour of the £300,000 subsidy, because three seats were in danger in central Wales.”
John Morris refers to that same cabinet discussion in his autobiography: “When George Thomas became the Welsh secretary, after my time at transport, he apparently opposed the closure of the line in Cabinet, on the grounds that it went through five [sic – it’s curious how the number changes, depending on who is recalling these events – ed) marginal constituencies: such were the pressures we were under. The line is still running.” Indeed it is, with four trains a day in each direction six days a week – and there are even two trains on Sundays, which did not exist in 1969. It is actively supported by the Heart of Wales Line Forum, a dynamic community rail partnership that has done much to promote the line and the attractive part of the world that it serves, with special events and on-train entertainment as well as promotion and marketing”.

Salvoes in print: regionalism on the rise; stations that are nice places

The emergence of radical regionalist parties in England is the subject of Salvo’s latest ‘Points and Crossings’ in Chartist magazine. You can see it here:

Meanwhile, Local Transport Today carries the monthly ‘Community Routes’ feature covering stations. You can view it here:

and…a new feature! SalvoSlips

Certain readers take pedantic delight in spotting typographical errors in The Slavo. In a spirit of open-ness – or sheer bravado – this column will feature some of the better (or worse) ones. Peter Murnaghan has the dubious honour of being the first entrant. Referring to Salvo 178 and its piece on snowdrops on the Heart of Wales Line: “True love ! It’s nice to read of the snow drops adorning the stations along the Heart of Wales line. But adoring the platforms – that is true love !”

Special Traffic Notices 

Colne Valley Election Hustings will be happening at several places including:

  • Friday March 27th, University of Huddersfield
  • Monday March 30th: St John’s Church, Golcar
  • Monday April 13th, Holmfirth
  • Monday April 20th: Wills o’Nats pub, Meltham
  • Monday April 27th: Marsden Mechanics

Further details nearer to the event, all take place in the evening

Quote of the week:   Sophie Bennett, co-director of UK Feminista, in today’s Observer