The Northern Weekly Salvo

From Th’Edge O’Leet

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly.

No. 258  September 26th 2018

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, 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, possibly. Promoting moderate rebellion and sedition, within reason, obviously.

“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

There has been an unpardonably long gap since the last issue, apologies to my reader.  I’ve been busy with one thing and another – finishing the Settle-Carlisle book, Bolton station developments, and various other matters including preparations for the house move. Hopefully by early November I will be back in Bolton, ‘up Halliwell’, almost on the route of the 1896 Winter Hill Mass Trespass. The new house has more than sufficient space for Garden Railway Phase 3 and contractors are waiting for the word ‘go’. It will be enlivened by a new acquisition – see below.


I’ve been spending a lot of time on ‘The Midland’ (never ‘The Long Drag’ nor even ‘Settle-Carlisle’ at Blackburn depot in the 70s). The final draft will be sent off to publishers Crowood next week, before I depart for the Community Rail awards in Glasgow, then on to Skye to see the family. It has been great re-acquainting myself with the line, but also with many of the people who have been involved with it over the years, as well as meeting some of the new generation of campaigners. It’s a line that excites great affection and loyalty.

A Northern 158 heads north between Horton and Ribblehead on the Settle-Carlisle Line, or ‘The Midland’

The book is provisionally titled ‘The Settle-Carlisle Railway: a new history and guide’. It doesn’t seek to replace Baughan’s North of Leeds, but does  try to offer a thorough introduction to the line’s history and its present-day operations. It has a strong focus on ‘people’. The experience of ‘the navvies’ who built the line has been extensively written about and there was the TV series ‘Jericho’ not long ago. But what seems remarkable is that a final tally of the numbers killed in building the line has never been arrived at. At a very conservative estimate, perhaps 300. Probably more, lying in unmarked graves along the line. It is a popular myth that the casualties were the result of slapdash working methods fuelled by drink. Some undoubtedly were, but you can hardly blame the deaths of women and children on that – disease was rife in highly unhygienic camps. The book should be out sometime in the middle of next year.

Ritson Graham

One of the remarkable characters I’ve become fascinated by in the course of the research is the late Ritson Graham. Hewas an exceptional person, a classic working class intellectual who was largely self-taught. He was born near Wigton in 1896. His first job was as a farm labourer, but was then called up during the First World War and served as a machine-gunner in Italy. He had no intention of returning to farm work and saw a railway career as offering better prospects. The local vicar had to stand as guarantor, even for a lowly post such

Ritson Graham

as engine cleaner! He started his railway career as a young man at the Midland’s Durran Hill sheds, Carlisle. He rose through the footplate ranks and became active in his union, ASLEF, and was heavily involved in local Labour Party politics. He became a keen student of natural history and often went off into the Pennines on his rest day to explore the countryside. He regularly worked over the Settle-Carlisle Line: “Although it was a hard and long slog up to Ais Gill on the Pennines, every time out, it was through some of the finest scenery in the country. I had special and personal reasons to be concerned and was deeply interested in the countryside we passed through, for I was familiar with most of it from my natural history wanderings.” When he was exploring the surrounding countryside on foot, his mates would often sound a friendly whistle if they spotted him nearby. Ritson went on to become a ward councillor on Carlisle City Council, then Mayor. He was appointed a Freeman of the city.

He served as a lay union representative and also became president of the city’s natural history society. Talking to historian Frank McKenna in the early 1980s, he had fond memories of Durran Hill shed: “I shall always regard as maturing years those spent as a fireman at Durran Hill depot…This, though we may not have realised it at the time, was one of the best run engine sheds in the country, a model of efficiency where both men and machines were respected and where decency and order prevailed.” (Frank McKenna, The Railway Workers 1840 – 1970, p. 173)

Ritson Graham’s memory is immortalised in his book A Border Naturalist. The Birds and Wildlife of the Bewcastle Fells and the Gilsland Moors, 1930-1966 (published 1993).

Labour in Liverpool

I’ve been watching the Labour conference on telly while I sort out the captions for ‘Settle-Carlisle’. I can’t say I’ve had a totally balanced view, missing some debates but hearing quite a lot about the NHS, employment and Windrush, and sympathising with the conference chairs who had a hard job keeping some of the more enthusiastic delegates in check. John McDonnell has clearly had a good conference, and is demonstrating some much-needed fresh thinking – up to a point. His idea for worker share-ownership has something to be said for it but I’m not convinced he is quite on the right track. I’d prefer to see companies offering its employees shares at favourable rates, but as options, not as ‘givens’. For many of the conference delegates, the default option for any complex policy challenge is ‘take it back in public control’. I remain unconvinced. What Labour doesn’t get is that big isn’t necessarily better – I view the prospect of a monolithic BR with dread – let’s learn from positive examples in rail, which emphasise long-term stability and getting the size right – not to big, not too small. And a move towards closer integration between oeprations and infrastructure. Watch this space.

Lenin: more astute than some Labour MPs

McDonnell seems supportive of co-operatives and social enterprises, but in practice the solutions being offered for rail and other ‘utilities’ (I wouldn’t describe rail as a utility) seem pretty dull and conservative.  Reading McDonnell’s speech, you still get the feeling that he’s a traditional Labour centralist. The Treasury will be ‘directed’ to invest more in the regions. Well sorry, Labour should be supporting democratically elected regional authorities with their own tax-raising powers, not dependent on the largesse of The Treasury. So I won’t be applying to re-join, though in any straight fight between Labour and the Tories, there’s no question about who would get my vote. Whether enough other voters in what were once Labour’s traditional ‘heartlands’ will be similarly inclined, I’m not sure. I doubt that they’ll be impressed by calls for a ‘general strike’, a classic example of what that astute politician V.I. Lenin called ‘left-wing communism – an infantile disorder’. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was very good: well delivered, confident and assured. It had a welcome emphasis on climate change, as well as new ideas on social ownership.

Ireland at Peace? There’s a UK Dimension

The fine Lancashire writer and historian, Thomas Newbigging, once wrote that “reading the history of Ireland would make even a heart of stone bleed”. He was speaking in 1885, as the Liberal pro-Home Rule candidate for Rossendale. What has happened in those intervening years has confirmed his view, many times over. Earlier this month I watched the excellent programme about the Warrington bombings, Mother’s Day.

Thomas Newbigging – great Lancashire radical, from Scotland, who felt passionately about Ireland

By a coincidence, the final episode of Fergal Keane’s Story of Ireland, was on the same evening. Mother’s Day presented a very moving dramatisation of the IRA bombing in Warrington town centre 25 years ago which killed two young boys – Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball. The story took in the efforts of an Irishwoman – Susan McHugh – to build a broadly-based peace movement. The Warrington bombings serve as a reminder of how dreadful the ‘Troubles’ were. Yes, you could say far more people were killed in Ireland than in England. Yet there was something about the Warrington bombings which marked a watershed in what was a vicious, murderous war, with atrocities committed on all sides. There must be no going back.

There was a context to what happened in Ireland between 1969 and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 – one of Blair’s great achievements. This context was explored extremely well by Keane’s Story of Ireland, particularly in the last episode, screened on that same evening as Mother’s Day. British policy towards Ireland was a disaster, motivated by contempt and arrogance. The experience of the Famine (which, let’s face it, made the Lancashire Cotton Famine seem trivial) not only killed over a million and faced many more to leave their native country, it caused bitter resentment which lasted for generations. Its most dramatic expression was the Easter Rising of 1916. True to form the British ruling class responded with malice and vindictiveness, with summary executions of the leaders. The same gentlemen had stymied Gladstone’s attempts to get Home Rule in the 1880s. Had he succeeded, history might have been very different. The current negotiations over Brexit, and its impact on Ireland, north and south, bring all the same bigotry to the fore. The likes of Johnson and Rees-Mogg are the lineal political descendants of those who opposed Home Rule, colluded with the arming of the Ulster Volunteers and applauded the executions of Connolly, Pearse and McBride. They neither understand nor care about Ireland, but it may yet come to trip up their plans. I hope so. Let’s do a bit of speculation. If Home Rule had succeeded, we may well have had a ‘United Kingdom’ in which the power of England – and London in particular – was lessened. Interestingly, Churchill argued for a ‘Federal Britain’ before the First World War.

Could this idea be revisited, with Ireland forming part of just such a ‘Federal British Isles’ within Europe? It requires a big conceptual leap but here goes. The relevance of a border in Ireland has become less and less over the last few years, helped by being part of Europe certainly but with a lessening (but not eradication) of traditional tensions. Let’s for one moment imagine a united Ireland within a radically reformed UK. It would reassure unionists that they are still within the United Kingdom, and give nationalists their dream of a united Ireland. Why not one parliament, alternating (as with the EU in Brussels and Strasbourg) between Belfast and Dublin? Yes, it would certainly mean that the existing Republic cedes some of its sovereignty but that is never an ‘absolute’. Some sovereignty is ceded by being within the EU. Sovereignty involves having your own armed forces, but does Ireland really need all the paraphernalia of its own military infrastructure? Despite everything that has happened, in the last hundred years and in the centuries before that, the ties between Ireland and Britain are strong, not only economically, but through personal and family links. The Queen is probably at least as popular in the Irish Republic as she is in England. A Federal Britain, ideally within the EU, involving Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English regions would be a powerful force for good, with each partner there as an equal partner. The power of the ‘centre’ personified by the likes of May, Johnson and Rees-Mogg, would be removed. As an Englishman and a Northerner, sympathetic to the ideals of Celtic nationalism (Irish, Welsh and Scottish), I realise this is a big ask – but it could help settle the current tensions building up within the UK which could lead to a fragmented and much poorer British Isles.

Bits and bobs, mostly Boltonian

Bolton’s Museum has re-opened. We braved the rain to attend the opening event last Friday and liked what we saw. The museum has a highly-regarded Egyptology section (I used to wander round it when I was a kid) and that has had a major revamp. But it’s also good to see the social and industrial heritage of Bolton giving more coverage. There’s a  fascinating exhibition on the history of Botlon School of Art (which my dad attended in the late 30s before getting called up for creative activity on a minesweeper). Today, the school is part of the university which has put together the exhibition. Well worth a visit.

There was a very well attended conference on ‘The North Against Brexit’ in Leeds recently. I spoke on the impact of Brexit on industry, and rtansport in aprticular. Will Hutton, the keynote speaker, was excellent. At a more local level, ‘Best for Bolton’ continues its street campaigning.

Bolton Socialist Club is showing the great film ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ this Friday. It’s on at 7.30, 16 Wood Street. On the Saturday, the club is open for its legendary lunches. In the evening, at 7.00pm, the plaque in honour of the International Brigaders from Bolton is rededicated at 7.00pm with songs from The Clarion Choir (free event). At 8.00pm ‘Na Mara’ will be eprforming music from the European Celtic Tradiiton – sounds great. It’s £12 on the door. My former table prefect from Thornleigh, Nat Clare, is doing a ‘Desert Island Disc’ session on October 5th. OK Nat, let’s let bygones be bygones.

Preparations for the ‘Whitman 200’ events are coming along well, with a working group involving the socialist club, university, library and Woodland Trust meeting regularly. Walt Whitman was born on May 31st 1819 and he had close links with Bolton in the later years of his life. Current plans are for a major international conference and community-based events.



Phases of Distress: the Lancashire Cotton Famine in Poetry

The Lancashire Cotton Famine, or ‘Cotton Panic’ as it was more often called, hit Lancashire between 1861 and 1865. It was a direct result of the American Civil War, accentuated by an economic depression. Lincoln and his Northern ‘Union’ forces imposed a blockade on the Confederate southern ports of the USA which prevented American cotton reaching Lancashire. The result was that Lancashire’s thriving cotton industry, by then highly mechanised and based on intensive production methods, suddenly found itself without its basic raw material, cotton. Some towns were less dependent on American cotton, with supplies coming from Egypt, India, and elsewhere. The blockade affected towns like Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Preston and Stalybridge particularly hard. Tens of thousands of workers were laid off, with no support for them or their families.

One of the unlikely products of the famine was the huge outpouring of literature – mostly poetry, but also some prose. There was a practical logic for this – poems or songs published as ‘broadsides’ at a halfpenny a copy could make all the difference between survival and starvation. Broadside ballad sellers became a common feature in many of the cotton towns.

Waiting for relief – an image of the Cotton Famine

This literary phenomenon has been little known outside Lancashire literature specialists. However, academics at Exeter University have initiated an important community-based project which aims to rescue this remarkable story from oblivion. The project aims to collect the hundreds of hitherto unknown poems which appeared in local newspapers and broadsides, both in dialect and standard English. Dr Simon Rennie and Dr Ruth Mather are being helped in their research by volunteers from U3A (University of the Third Age).

The project makes freely available a database of poems written in response to the Cotton Famine, along with commentary, audio recitations and musical performances drawing directly on these poems. The Cotton Famine helped stimulate the emergence of working class poetry, often written in dialect. Worker-writers such as Samuel Laycock, William Billington and Joseph Ramsbotton gained popularity for their ‘cotton famine’ poems and went on to become household names in Lancashire. Perhaps the most famous poem to emerge from the Cotton Famine was Samuel Laycock’s ‘Welcome Bonny Brid’. It’s the song of a father to his new born child, born into hard times:

“Tha’rt welcome, little bonny brid

But tha shouldmn’t ha come just when tha did;

Toimnes are bad.

We’re short o’pobbies for eawr Joe,

But that, of course, tha didn’t know,

Did ta, lad?”

The ‘brid’ turned out to be a lass, not a lad…and married a local dialect writer, James Dronsfield. The full poem became enormously popular and was passed down through generations of cotton workers. Harry Pollitt, Droylsden-born leader of the Communist Party during the 1930s, frequently recited the poem at party events. He recalls having learnt the poem from his mother, a millworker.

Harry Pollitt

Few of the poems written during the famine exude any sort of anger. The distress is seen to be caused by purely external events, though attitudes towards the American Civil War were far from uniform. The traditional myth – and it’s an heroic myth – was that the Lancashire workers largely supported the anti-slavery North. The reality, based on evidence from the time, was that whilst some did, others were pro-South, with many being agnostic.

There was a lot of sympathy for the unemployed amongst Lancashire’s middle classes. The out of work spinner or weaver was seen as ‘the deserving poor’, in trouble through no fault of their own. Laycock’s poem ‘God Bless ‘Em, It Shows They’n Some Thowt’ was an expression of thanks to middle class men and women who were giving aid to the suffering workers.

“We’n gentlemen, ladies an’ o,

As busy i’th’country as owt,

Providin’ fro th’ Lancashire poor;

God bless ‘em, it shows they’n some thowt!”

Many middle class women helped with sewing classes to keep young women occupied. Another of his poems was ‘Sewing Class Song’.

Whilst Laycock’s ‘famine poetry’ tends to be cheerful and uplifting, in contrast to some of his later, more radical, work, other writers took a less conciliatory tone. Joseph Ramsbottom, a dye worker, wrote some hard-hitting poems published in a small volume called Phases of Distress. Some of his poetry exposes the harsh conditions that many unemployed men had to cope with, including ‘oakum-picking’, a job usually reserved for prisoners or the feckless. ‘Philip Clough’s Tale’ is the cry of a proud member of the labour aristocracy reduced to humiliating stone-picking:

“Aw hate this pooin’ oakum wark,

An’ breakin’ stones to get relief;

To be a pauper – pity’s mark –

Ull break an honest heart wi grief.

We’re mixt wi th’stondin paupers, too,

Ut winno worthch when work’s to be had;

Con this be reet for them to do,

To tak no thowt o’ good or bad?”

 While the supply of American cotton dried up, some Lancashire spinners brought in additional raw cotton from India, which tended to be very poor quality – the notorious ‘surat’ castigated by many writers including Laycock. It features in an imaginative poem written anonymously (signed ‘An Operative’) and published in J.T. Staton’s radical local magazine Th’ Lankishire Loominary and dated ‘Bolton, September 1864’. The poem begins with the vibrant sounds of a spinning mill working full tilt:

“Hum, whirl, click, clatter,

Rolling, rumbling, moving matter,

Whizzing, hissing, hitting, missing,

Pulsing, pulling, turning, twisting…”

But ends with a sense of exasperation…

“Steam, dust, flying, choking,

Stripping, grinfding, brushing, joking;

Fuill time, short time, no time – so that

Enough’s in a mill with Surat!”

 Some songs from the Famine years were passed down through generations, often sung by children. In the history of the co-operative movement in Darwen published in 1910, the author, C. J. Beckett,  looks back on the Famine years and remembers a song sung by his schoolmates coming home from class:

 “We’re warkin’ lads fro’Lancasheer,

An’ gradely decent fooak,

We’n hunted weyvin far an’ near,

An; couldn’t ged a stroak.

We’n popt both table, clock an’ chear,

An’ sowd booath shoon an’ hat,

An’ borne wod mortal mon cud beear

Afoore we’d weyve Surat.”

 The response to the Cotton Famine by Lancashire’s workers was far from being uniform. While the myth of unflinching support for the anti-slavery cause has been over-played, a few poems seem to suggest a sympathy for black emancipation, including work by the Blackburn writer William Billington. In ‘Aw Wod This War Wur Ended’ he appears to take a strong class-based position:

“Some factory maisters tokes for t’Sewath

Wi’ a smooth an’ oily tongue,

But iv they’d sense they’d shut their meawth,

Or sing another song;

Let liberty not slavery

Be fostered an’ extended –

Four million slaves mun yet be free,

An’ then t’war will be ended.”

But there’s a twist in the story – there is some doubt as to whether Billington added the final ‘political’ stanza when the poem was first published in 1863, or when it was re-published in his Sheen and Shade collection in 1883.

The writings of Laycock, Billington, Ramsbotton and many more working class men help us to understand the human responses to a cataclysmic event which devastated Lancashire’s economy and brought poverty to tens of thousands of households. The cotton industry revived once supplies re-started, but the memory of the dark days of ‘the cotton panic’ lived on for generations. Arguably, the bitter memories of those years in the 1860s helped to fuel support for the socialist movement in Lancashire from the mid-1880s.

More details of the project, and access to the database of poems collected so far, can be found at

This is a shortened version of an article which appeared in Big Issue North’s current issue. Please buy a copy when you see it being sold.

Horwich Jerk at Llanfair Show

I enjoy going to the annual Garden railway Show at Llanfair Caereinion, especially as it coincides with the Welshpool and Llanfair’s Steam Gala.

101614 in action

Add that to a stay at Knighton’s Milebrook Hotel and what’s not to enjoy?I hadn’t gone to the Garden Railway Show with any expectation of making a significant purchase, but how could I not go for the G Scale model of a Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway ‘Railmotor’ numbered (LMS style) 10614? It was a little beauty, made even more interesting by having been built by the late David Yates of Carnforth, a great campaigner for rail. The ‘railmotors’ operated over much of the L&Y system, ideal for short branch lines, such as Blackrod-Horwich, Southport – Downholland and elsewhere. They often had their own names such as ‘The Horwich Jerk’ and ‘Altcar Bob’. Towards the end of their lives, in the 1930s, they seem to have congregated at Bolton. Some were used on workers’ shuttle services between Bolton and Horwich Works. My purchase, 10614, was scrapped by the LMS in 1937. What a pity none were ever preserved. There’s a good construction project! So ‘The jerk’ has already entered service, not that far from where ‘The Altcar Bob’ once shuffled. Soon it will be providing valuable service on ‘Garden railway 3’ in Halliwell.

Bolton station updates

The renaissance of Bolton station continues. Two weeks ago another team of Network Rail community volunteers got stuck into the large room on Platform 5, adjacent to the Community Room. Lots of junk was removed and part of the room got a lick of paint. There’s much more to do, including removal of the panels which cover up the stained glass panels. Discussions are ongoing about an over-arching lease for the ‘non-commercial’ space within the station. Meanwhile there’s commercial interest in the unit on Platform 4/5 which would provide a very welcome facility for passengers using the northbound platforms.

The latest room to be refurbished on Platform 4/5 – lots more to do but getting there. Note the L&YR tiles. The boarded up windows will have original glazed lettering

The Community Room is getting some good use. On Tuesday we had Steve Leyland and Vern Sidlow back for Part 2 of ‘1968 –last year of BR Steam’. An appreciative audience enjoyed Steve’s talk and Vern’s slides of 1968 steam which illustrate Steve’s new book. The next open meeting is on Tuesday October 23rd when Simon Walton, chair of Campaign for Borders Rail, will speak about the campaign to re-open the southern leg of the former Waverley Route, from Tweedbank through Hawick to Carlisle.  For more information about the Partnership email us at or like us facebook BoltonStationCDP or on twitter @BoltonStnCDP

Bretherton Bibliophile

I was fascinated to learn that Sajid Javid is reported to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged ‘twice a year’. Blimey, he mustn’t have time to do much else. Although according to The Spectator, he actually said it was only an excerpt. Whatever. A friend loaned me a copy and I’ve been wading through it for weeks, if not months. It’s an interesting novel, though I can’t say it’s well written, or believable. However, it’s a fascinating piece of work, with a very strong railway element. The main character, Dagny Taggart, is the (female) chief operating officer of the family-owned railroad ‘Taggart International’. Much of the railroad elements of the novel are well-researched. Ayn Rand is one of the icons of the ‘alt-right’, presenting a free market utopia in which the heroes are the entrepreneurs like Dagny and her lover Hank Rearden. Or is that simplistic? Rand has been called an anarchist, rather than a libertarian free marketeer. I think it would be hard for anarchism to claim her. There’s very little of grassroots democracy in her novel, although the railroad workers are portrayed sympathetically. Yet the idea of any of them having a direct stake in the ownership of the railroad would be anathema. Her opponents – ‘the looters’ in the state, are one-dimensional and unbelievable. But I’ll soldier on with it and report on what happens, so you won’t have to read all of it yourselves.

I was back in Slawit the other week and had a nice lunch in The Handmade Bakery, followed by a mooch around The Colne Valley Bookshop. This is a relatively new venture, comprising several independent booksellers sharing the same space. It works very well. Slawit has a lively and prosperous feel to it, helped no doubt by the canal which runs through the middle of it. It reopened in 2001 and has gradually helped the transformation of the village. These things take time.

Readers’ rants

There was a good haul of readers’ rants on the last issue, 257. You can read them all here:

Jim Ford on HS2: “Thanks to Paul for writing a challenging and rational piece about HS2, all the more welcome when our London-based newspapers are full of gratuitously anti-northern pieces by such HS-deniers as Christian Wolmar and Simon Jenkins, who clearly don’t have to grapple with the impact of the north-south divide, unlike the rest of us. To understand the rationale for HS2 it is important to attempt to drive to or from London at any time other than in the middle of the night when you will discover that effective speeds are down to 40mph or less with a crawl at every junction. This used to be the case just on Fridays but it is now spreading to other weekdays. The essential interaction between HS2’s maximum speed and the capacity issue is that fast trains, all going at the same speed with few stops can shift far more bodies than widely spaced cars running at up to 70mph on infrastructure shared with freight vehicles and buses travelling at a slower speed but with a greater mass. And try suggesting to Chiltern nimbys that instead of a single high speed rail line, they could have two six-lane motorways, with which it will have equal capacity! Choosing 250mph is future proofing the system for a time when extension to Scotland will enable a journey time from central London to Glasgow or Edinburgh well inside the critical 3 hour barrier, so eliminating the need for air travel in the way that HS1 and Eurostar have decimated the London to Paris and Brussels traffic. There are of course other reasons why a network of high-speed rail (as recommended by Paul) must come to the UK, not least the need to clean up our air, but inevitably the impact and benefit will be greatest in London – that is just a feature of the economic divide between north and south which has been increasing for over a hundred years and needs a political solution such as northern devolution. Salvo is of course correct (as was Simon Jenkins recently in the Guardian) that the London destination needs to be critically reviewed. For the north, improving access to horrible Heathrow to which a number of our Manchester flights are likely to migrate (if it gets its Third Runway) and to Eurostar are far more important than just Euston. How about a piece about Regional Eurostar, especially as the original trains are being hastily scrapped, even though they are considerably newer than the 507s, 142s, 150s, and 156s which serve our local services in the north and some of which are likely to be with us for some years to come, whilst Eurostar expands further into Europe (despite Brexit), and northerners have to pay up for a night in London to use it!”

Simon Temple is similarly supportive of HS2: “Not every supporter of HS2 is either (a) on the government payroll, or (b) got a commercial interest, or (c) blinded by a regeneration dream for their community. As a transport planner with no commercial interest in HS2, I am – and always have been – a supporter. Britain has a serious shortage of North – South transport capacity across all modes. This is an economic bottleneck that needs freeing up. Providing new rail capacity is the most environmentally friendly way of tackling this shortage. Expanding capacity on existing lines is possible but is expensive for the benefits obtained, disruptive to users during implementation and would tear apart towns through which the lines run. A wholly new greenfield route is the logical solution. It is only marginally more expensive (c15%) to build a high speed than a low speed new railway. It takes inter city services off existing lines, freeing up capacity for regional, commuter and freight services. HS2 has always been about capacity, even if some politicians got carried away with the speed hype. I agree with a lot of the criticisms that the planned HS2 routes are too London-centric but a few strategic chords could fix this, allowing Edinburgh – Plymouth trains to use HS2 between Leeds and Birmingham for example. The Phase 1 rolling stock procurement is also less than ideal. But don’t let the best be the enemy of the good!”

While Malcolm Bulpitt is against: “As a former habitué of Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewpup I can see that its beer (and pizza) have given Allan Dare similar thoughts to mine about the fantasy – or vanity – project that is HS2. Most of the transportation engineers and planners not in the pay of the Government and its ‘too close for financial comfort’ partners also have the same view, but for a lot of us we find it inconceivable that all the politicians and local ‘boosters’ north of Watford have not realised that the scheme is incorrectly named. Instead of using HS2 for its title replace it with Crossrail 3 and the reason for the highly unusual open-pocket funding coming from the Westminster Village becomes apparent. The keep finding human fodder able to live in reasonably priced accommodation, yet be able to travel daily to fuel the London economy, they need to look further afield.You do not build a P & R station at Toton to input economic development to the surrounding hinterland, you build a P & R station to draw people from the surrounding areas to a fast train to London where their skills can be used. Surely there are people in the area who are not deluded by the HS2 hype of incoming development not to realise that it is outward human energy that Crossrail 3 is after. Nottingham will become the new Notting Hill. Closed and then re-opened termini? How about London’s Holborn Viaduct, if you allow for a change of name. This lightly used terminus station on the NW edge of the City of London used to see a small number of services from SE London terminating there. I did it for one year in the mid-1960s, whilst there were lightly used low level through freight lines still in-situ. After Holborn Viaduct closed the through lines eventually became the core of the Thameslink development in the 1980s and a new station ‘City Thameslink’ reopened nearby on the formation of the old station’s approach tracks that had been lowered into a tunnel to pass under Ludgate Hill, freeing-up high value developable land.”

And Allan Dare weighs in “Originally I was very much in favour of HS2. We urgently need extra capacity, and diverting long-distance trains onto a new line and thus freeing up existing routed makes a lot of sense. Reluctantly, however, I’ve changed my mind. Whatever the theory, in practice HS2 looks like being a commercial disaster, and very unlikely to result in any capacity release. The reason for this is that HS2 serves so few points, and is so poorly connected that to existing rail and transit networks that it will suit very few journeys. Consider the catchment area of Birmingham New St, with local and regional rail and tram routes radiating in over a dozen directions, with the HS2 station at Curzon St which will have a solitary tram line. Then there’s the Toton “Hub” – between Nottingham and Derby, yes, but convenient to neither (and those who think an express bus along the A52 will suffice should look at the near-empty rail replacement buses running during the Derby remodelling – passengers avoid such things like the plague). Adding insult to injury, HS2 will actually reduce caoacity at Euston – the one London terminus that will not benefit from Thameslink or CrossRail! Moreover, where Britain needs transport investment is in our provincial cities. It is ridiculous that places the size and importance of Bristol or Leeds have nothing better than grotty buses, and that even no-brainers like the Portishead reopening are being denied funding. The £56bn cost of HS2 could buy a light rail system in every UK city – and leave money to spare. As for releasing line capacity, a few (properly thought-out!) tram-train schemes could work wonders. We can all think of alternatives to HS2 – but the first thing is to pause the whole sorry affair, and think through just what are the problems we are trying to solve.”

Walter Rothschild comments from Berlin: “To HS2 – As any fule no – to run a high-speed line that ends in some buffer stops a good distance (walking) from any other station in Birmingham, Leeds etc. means that it is effectively a high-speed branch line rather than a through route. The trains from Kings Cross could go to Harrogate and Ripon and York, that trains from St. Pancras could go to Bradford and Skipton and Settle and onwards, made their trunk routes into THROUGH routes. An ICE from Hamburg or Hannover can continue into Switzerland, to Interlaken or wherever; it doesn’t stop at a terminus somewhere north of Basel. A TGV from Paris can continue over DB lines to Karlsruhe, Mannheim and Frankfurt. Why is this so hard to understand? Making HS2 into a through route (on all its ‘branches’) makes it into a part of a system. Not doing this makes it a line for London commuters. To UK Politics: Can someone tell me please – Is there an Opposition Party in Britain right now? If not, why not? I would have thought that had the LibDems or Greens or any other group announced at the last election ”We are going to fight Brexit and need your support” they would have been almost guaranteed 48% of the vote as a minimum…

Termini closed and reopened, and excluding heritage lines: – Falmouth (closed in favour of Falmouth The Dell, now Falmouth Town, the line was eventually extended back to what is now known as Falmouth Docks) – the terminal platforms at Birmingham Moor St (the history here gets a little complicated!) – Belfast Great Victoria Street (British in the political rather than geographical sense!)

Conrad Natzio observes on Brexit: “Allan Dare and Malcolm Bulpitt are so right. But where do we go from here? Another referendum? Be careful what we wish for. Referendums/a (there’s a classical education for you) don’t really suit us, certainly not the binary-choice, first-past-the-post sort which may be (just) acceptable for electing a government which can at least be ejected in due course if no good. Proper referenda need a significant (60/40?) majority for change, or possibly compulsory voting. The 2016 affair produced the divisive effect we’re suffering from now: would a repeat be any more benign? What about a three-way option, Accept whatever deal might emerge, Reject it and Remain, or Crash Out? Result, probably a three-way split vote and a decision by a minority. Parliament got us in to this mess in 2016 with its insouciant decision to go for a simple process. (You could say that there was a precedent in the original EU referendum which gave us the (as many of us think) ‘right’ answer – but at least if the vote had gone the other way we wouldn’t be where we are now!) It’s for Parliament to get us out of it now, preferably with a free vote ( a whipped vote, with the major parties in their present divided state, would surely be a shambles). In fact it might need two votes: Accept (straightforward) or Reject, in which case there’d need to be another decision about remaining or an incontinent crash out. At least, if the resulting final outcome did not end well, we could blame the MPs rather than each other! What really puts the wind up me is the possibility of Mrs M being defenestrated or packing it in, and the next PM being decided by the membership of the Conservative Party: the front-runners evidently being the self-seeking comic Johnson or the superannuated sixth-former Mogg. As for Mr Corbyn, a nice old boy, but difficult for him as leader to overcome his history as an anti-party member: a bit late for him to try and be all things to all men. I doubt if he’s electable. End of rant, but glad to get it off my chest. We need more rain: I was lucky to get into Cornwall behind a ‘Merchant Navy’ on one of the few wet days in June…”

Aidan Turner-Bishop comments: “In 2014 I wrote a chapter in a 229 page paperback book published by Preston Socialist History Group. It was called ‘Mark our words: we will rise again’ [ISBN 978-1-78280-257-0]. My chapter was about a ‘radical topography’ of Preston. I included about a half page (say, 3 or 4 paragraphs) on the understandable concerns of Preston’s pre-war Jewish community about shop window smashing by fascist supporters. Oswald Mosley had addressed a large fascist rally in Preston in 1934. Jewish business families in the town had their sons and young men on the streets guarding shop fronts against attacks. I’m sorry to say that all my text about attacks on Jews was cut and none of it was published. Why? When we had a launch for book, sponsored by unions like Unite, Unison, the Trades Council and so on, there was a tribute concert by a fine bass singer who channelled Paul Robeson, the great Black American singer and socialist activist. Part of the show was biographical. When the singer mentioned Robeson’s support for a Zionist park in Israel the singer, Tayo Aluko I think, apologised to the audience for Robeson’s ill-advised political ‘mistake’ about which many in the audience clucked and sighed. I thought then that there was definitely something unhealthy among the attitudes of some Left Socialists. As to HS2, follow the money. Developers, construction firms and local authorities in Birmingham, Manchester, Cheshire East and elsewhere are salivating at the fortunes to be made in redeveloping ‘Manchester East’, ‘Crewe South Interchange’, and the Curzon Street area of Birmingham. Just imagine the rents from apartments there with travel times less than those of outer London. HS2 will suck whole new areas of England into the London economic black hole.


There’s an interetsing research post available at The University of Bolton in textile history. Please find an advert on the link:

Crank Quiz

The last crank quizzed questioned: “Name terminus stations that have closed and subsequently re-opened for scheduled passenger trains”.

Dave Walsh mused: Racked my brains on closed and then re-opened terminals? Does this include heritage lines, which would give you Minehead and Swanage, but I feel that is not what you are after ? So the only one I can think of is North Greenwich which I think was in the London and Blackwall Railway’s empire. It closed decades ago, but the DLR used the line for their entry into the redeveloped Isle of Dogs and built what they called “Island Gardens” on the old terminal site.

Allan Dare comments “Termini closed and reopened, and excluding heritage lines: – Falmouth (closed in favour of Falmouth The Dell, now Falmouth Town, the line was eventually extended back to what is now known as Falmouth Docks) – the terminal platforms at Birmingham Moor St (the history here gets a little complicated!) – Belfast Great Victoria Street (British in the political rather than geographical sense!)”.

The Salvo Publications List

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 8 Moorhey Cottages, Bretherton, Leyland PR26 9AE. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £9.90 including post and packing. New edition published in May 2016. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896?. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

 ‘Songs of a Northerner‘  by Jo Barnes. Photos by Paul Salveson. Price £3.50 inc postage  – please make cheques payable to ‘The Jo Barnes Fund’. A lovely collection of Jo’s poems written in the two years before she died; about landscape, emotions and day dreams.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: