Th’ Northern Weekly Salvo

From Th’Edge O’Leet, Ard Dorch and Tref-y-Clawdd

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

No. 244  September 4th 2017

Salveson’s nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, often not; but definitely Northern and maybe a bit Welsh too. Read by normal Hawaiians, the highest officers of state, Whitmanites, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, pie-eaters, tripe dressers, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society. Full of creative ambiguity.

“we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General Gossips

A reversion to the truly weekly Salvo? Probably not, it’s just such a wet miserable day that the best thing to do is write some stuff.

Let me eat cake…Salvo in Ridgmont Station Tea Rooms (see below)

There might be a bit of a gap during September as I’ll be saying a fond farewell to my house in Knighton and getting things moved back to Lancashire. The other limiting factor is the ongoing problems with my left foot (osteoarthritis plus trapped nerve/s it would seem). So walking or cycling any distance isn’t possible just now. It’s also bloody painful at times. All problems of old age, and with the imminent state pension date approaching the best I can say is that I’m still here. Fair to middlin’.

The last issue of The Salvo raised some doubts, in the usual Salvo style of challenging received wisdom, about ‘HS3’ or ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’. I’ve fleshed that out a bit more and circulated it as a separate paper. It’s here: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2017/09/03/low-speed-thoughts-on-high-speed-rail/ Comments welcome, as always.

Northern Powerhouse splutters on

Trouble at t’mill? Too right! Across the North, resentment over the Tories’ treatment of the North is growing. The recent abandonment of rail schemes in the North – whilst at the same time seeing CrossRail 2 getting the go-ahead – has enraged people across the region, way beyond the transport sector. IPPR North, which has done much to highlight disparities between infrastructure investment in the North compared to London, organised an on-line petition calling for investment in rail which has been hugely popular. So far, it has gained over  100,000 signatures. Yet it says much for the state of Northern politics that this response was organised by a small ‘think tank’ rather than a major Northern institution. Because there aren’t any. The recent suggestion of forming a ‘Council of the North’ to give the region a stronger voice may happen but it will be a very pale shadow of the powers which Scotland and Wales have, confined to the usual ‘suits’ with no accountability.

All of which raises questions about Labour’s lack of a strong regional policy. Its election manifesto called for regional banks, which is a start. But John Prescott’s dream of a ‘federal Britain’ comprising the English regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t get a look in. Labour remains committed to the half-baked devolution of elected mayors (without any elected oversight, unlike Greater London) but democratic regionalism doesn’t figure.

The sort of politics which gave rise to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ in the first place, perpetuated in the ‘Northern Powerhouse Partnership’ suits the classic style of Labour politics in the North, essentially based on backroom deals and keeping ‘control’.

The North needs its own Umbrella revolution

Whilst devolution in Scotland and Wales was based on empowered communities, involving unions, faith groups and a plethora of voluntary organisations, there is no attempt to do that in the North. That old style of ‘boss politics’ unites both Tories like Osborne and Labour politicians such as Richard Leese and the mayors. There is no appetite – at present – to move on to the sort of democratic devolution which the Scots and Welsh enjoy, but which could potentially threaten Labour’s powerbase in the Northern cities. Yet Labour is missing a trick in not grasping the regional agenda.

(this is based on a longer article on The Northern Powerhouse which shall appear in Tribune next week).

Lunch at the Station Tea Rooms

I had a most enjoyable visit to The Marston Vale Line (Bedford – Bletchley) earlier this week. Way back in the 90s I was commissioned to look at ways of forming a community rail partnership for this fascinating railway. It runs through the heart of ‘brickmaking country’ with the centrepiece being the huge chimneys of Stewartby, once the main source of London’s bricks, supplied appropriately enough by the London Brick Co.

The station shop is run by volunteers

The social history of this area is fascinating and it is well captured in the small museum on Ridgmont station. There’s quite a lot of railway memorabilia too, including equipment donated by Network Rail. The LMS signal block instruments caught my eye, with one being labelled ‘Walkden HL’, which the clognoscenti will know means ‘Walkden High Level’. This was on the Lancashire and Yorkshire main line from Manchester to Wigan and Liverpool, where the Highflyers once flew, at speeds in excess of 90 mph. HS3?

A Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway ‘Highflyer’ locomotive, exemplifying an earlier ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Photo: LYR Society

Huh, the L&Y had it by the early 1900s. The ‘low level’ was on the LNWR’s Bolton – Manchester route via Plodder Lane and Monton Green which closed in 1954. It would have been a valuable part of the network had it survived. My grandad was one of the last regular users of Plodder Lane, going to and from Nasmyth Wilson’s factory at Patricroft (walking from Monton Green) where he was a fitter. Never met him, sadly.

But I digress. Back to Beds. Ridgmont station has been sympathetically restored to its former glory. Many of the buildings on the line were built in a sort of cottage orné style and this is the best surviving example. As well as the community museum there’s a volunteer-run shop (I picked up a couple of book bargains) and a superb tea room. This was the main justification of my trip, naturally. I’d heard that the home-made pies were the stuff of legend and so it proved.

CRP officer Stephen Sleight and committee member Steve Mortimer at Ridgmont

The cheese and beetroot pie was lovely. And I couldn’t resist a pudding – a very yummy coconut and lime concoction. And you meet some interesting folk at Ridgmont station. On the next table to us was James Abbott, doyen of railway journalists, interviewing Tom Joyner, Director of Customer Services at London Midland. Tom joins Arriva Trains Wales as its new MD at the beginning of October (so a very hearty welcome!). Very many thanks to ‘The Two Stephens’ for hosting my visit

Last trains, end of steam

The next few months will see a tsunami of events and articles on the 50th anniversary of ‘the end of steam’. Needless to say, the Salvo will not be behind in wallowing in nostalgia. And for the record, it’s 51 years ago today that the Great Central main closed as a passenger route.

‘Alberta’ rounds the curve at Miles Platting returning from Blackpool North on an illuminations special to Leeds

I travelled down from Huddersfield behind LMS Jubilee ‘Alberta’ on the Leeds/Bradford – Poole and then hung around Nottingham Victoria station and Colwick loco shed, where SR ‘Merchant Navy’ 35030 was being serviced having brought in a railtour. Grimy ‘Black 5’ 44984 headed one of the very last Great central ‘expresses’ over the tops of Midland Station as we waited for ‘Alberta’ to couple on to our returning Leeds/Bradford. And what a thrash that was! But 51st anniversaries are neither here nor there. What was happening in my life on September 3rd 1967? Well I’m not sure as my notebooks have disappeared for that period. I’ll have to dig out Steve Leyland’s ‘After The Stripe’ vol. 3 to find out, though I do have notes from October onwards which include the epic footplate ride on 73069 from Stockport to Sheffield via Whaley Bridge. The various groupings of old cranks associated with particular sheds – Stockport Edgeley, Bolton, Lostock Hall and no doubt others, are re-uniting to plan events next Spring and Summer. It’s a bit like The Blues Brothers (‘we’re gonna re-form the band’…)

Settle delights

All the excitement around the 50th anniversary of the end of steam has obviously got to me. I’ve reverted back to juvenile dementia and started revising the haunts of my teenage years. Hoghton Bank, Stainforth Gorge, Wilpshire, Blackrod. Last Tuesday saw ‘The Fellsman’ from Lancaster to Carlisle (via Blackburn) being hauled by Stanier 8F goods engine 48151. Very nice, though I have to admit my preference would have been for an LMS Jubilee such as Leander. But whatever, it made a grand sight climbing to the top of Hoghton Bank.

8151 at Hoghton Tower

The photo shows it just approaching the summit by Hoghton Tower. I headed off to Settle, safe in the knowledge that it had a 45 minute water stop at Hellifield so I could easily get in front of it. And so it turned out. There was a large crowd of folk waiting to see it head north through Settle station, and they were certainly not disappointed. Whilst ‘8151 was making good enough progress on Hoghton Bank, it went through Settle like a thunderstorm, showering the delighted spectators with hot cinders (‘rockets’ in crank parlance).

Settle station has evolved as a classic ‘community hub’. The booking office, which is closely linked to the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Co., is a bright welcoming place. Nice to see station-master Paul Brown keeping busy with passenger queries and helping out on the platform. The station shop is staffed by volunteers from the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line and has a great range of railway books and local publications.

The trolley service on the line is run by the Development Company, with friendly and helpful employees

Behind the station is the S&C ‘Joiner’s Shop’ which has developed into a mini-industry in its own right, providing well-made signage and other fittings for the station and others along the route. And next to that is the newly-established (in the UK) DCC Concepts which provides electrical equipment for model railways – see https://www.dccconcepts.com/. So it really is a community/economic hub. And next to all that is what is now a great dales attraction in the shape of Mark and Pat Rand’s watertower. In the yard there is an original S&C bothy and a wooden bodied coal wagon. I must not forget to mention Gladys, with whom I’m quite smitten. She is a 1914-built Model T Ford. We had a most pleasant spin up to Arcow Quarry, with Drew Haley from the Development Co. We turned quite a few heads, I can tell you.

Readers’ rants

A good postbag on Salvo 243’s suggestions for re-openings/extensions. Dave Walsh observes: “The North East is in the North too, but seems to have dropped off the edge in this Salvo There are obvious re-openings here too. (i) Relaying of the three miles of track between Guisborough and Nunthorpe so allowing for a fast commuter link between this big commuter town and urban Teesside (ii) I would also see logic in some big Metro extensions outwith of the old Tyne and Wear boundary. Consideration should be given to incorporating the Blyth and Ashington line to the Metro, as well as extending the Airport line back to Ponteland. In addition, the line terminating at South Hylton could loop North and pick up that element of the Leamside line to serve Washington, and thence to Pelaw and Newcastle / Gateshead. (iii) A powerful argument could also be put for boosting the regeneration of Consett / NW Durham by looking to see if the old line closed in the 1980’s could be reinstated to link with the ECML”.

Regular ranter Allan Dare says “Paul’s list of re-openings is very sensible, and I’d also add Matlock-Buxton. Having just had to drive from Cromford to Manchester, I can vouch for the fact that our “modern” road system gives journey times that are much slower than the old Midland Railway achieved a century ago! However, what the North (and Midlands, and West…) needs most of all is decent urban transport. How the DfT expects cities the size of Leeds or Bradford to function with nothing better than grotty buses is beyond belief. There is no point in having fast inter-urban links if it still takes forever just to get to the railway station (and HS2 will actually make things worse due to the almost total disregard for connections with existing rail services!). So, let’s stop wasting money on IEP, HS2, HS3, CrossRail 2, that only Whitehall loves, and instead get down to building the tram and metro systems that are now the norm everywhere else in Europe (and Autralia, Canada, the USA, etc., etc.). Incidentally, I’m writing this from Porto, Portugal, which has a fine new light metro, a new funicular down to the quays, a heritage tramway, and a busy commuter rail network with 2 major electrification projects in hand. Porto is twinned with Bristol, and the contrast between the two cities’ transport system is an exemplar of just how far Britain is now lagging behind he rest of the world”.

Peter Black of Marple fame writes: “The one bit of infrastructure that would make a huge difference would be a central Manchester tunnel to link the two dilapidated, mainly diesel-run networks north and south of the river (which would of course be electrified, Paisley-canal-style). Currently both networks end on the edge of the city and unless you are aiming for somewhere close to Picc or Vic, it entails a long walk or change. Metrolink is too slow to be useful, and most northern European cities would have an ‘S’ bahn as well as surface trams. Many the size of Manchester have ‘U’ bahn underground networks too. It would be nice if Manchester could catch up with 1950s Germany (and Liverpool and Newcastle and Glasgow …) BTW, I am sure it is true that IEP uses more energy than either HST or electric trains, but I haven’t seen any figures – presumably they would be modelled rather than real life. Does anyone have a source?”

Barry Coward reminisces: “Ah the Bradford loop. The late Stanley King spent most of his long political career on Bradford City Council and on the West Yorkshire PTA trying to get Exchange and Forster Square linked. Stanley seemed to spend most of his time fighting sensible but lost causes. He fought against his council abandoning trolleybuses in 1972 and twice led schemes to bring them back in Leeds. He was also a great advocate for trams. Sadly none of his schemes came to fruition. Hopefully at least the Bradford loop might just happen one day”. (yes, he was a lovely guy – ed.)

Russ Haywood writes: “Jen and I have been on holiday recently on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall and, knowing that we were there, a friend had brought to my attention that, on a walk around St Just-in-Roseland a couple of years ago, he had walked down to the church which sits beside one of those lush inlets from the sea that are to be found on the south side of Cornwall. He said that not only does the church have what must be one of the most beautiful settings and  churchyards in the whole of Britain, but that it also has a sizeable monument to Bowen Cooke, latterly Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNWR. That this should be so deep in the heart of GWR country comes as something of a surprise and will stimulate me to read more about the man, but I thought the Salvo might like to display a picture of the memorial and perhaps this might trigger contributions from your highly informed readership about surprising and/or notable  locations where other great men of the railways have been laid to rest. I guess most of your readership will be the wrong side of 50, so this might be seen as practical research rather than a morbid fetish for wondering around graveyards, although I do have a tendency towards the latter as I think it helps to give one’s view of the modern world a realistic perspective”.

Quite so Russ. Funnily enough I came across it purely by chance when I was living in Cornwall in the 1990s. My pal Steve Leyland was visiti9ng and we had a trip out to The Roseland and came across the memorial when we were mooching around the churchyard. And see this week’s crank quiz!

Crank Quiz

Readers are invited to submit examples of memorials in unusual places dedicated to railway people – doesn’t have to be the great and the bad, it could be anyone or anything (e.g. animals!). Quite a lot to go at.

Special Traffic Notices

Saturday September 9th: Wigan Diggers’ Festival: great event. You might see Wigan RMT. From 11.00 at The Wiend, town centre

Saturday September 9th: Knighton Poetry festival! At Community Centre, all day from 11.00

Sunday September 10th: Heritage open day at Rivington Unitarian church

Wednesday September 13th: Garstang Art Centre: Salvo on ‘Walt Whitman and his Lancashire Friends’. Starts 7.30

Saturday November 27th: The Christmas Comet: special train organised by Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Co. from Carlisle via S&C to York. Details: www.settle-carlsile.co.uk or ring 017683 53200