The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published from 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email:

No. 265  May 1st  2019

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

The Weekly Salvo seems to have degenerated into a monthly offering but hey ho, hard keeping on top of rapidly moving events, including such world-historical happenings such as my new bathroom. And after waiting ages for an election, two (or three if you live in Horwich, with its town council) come along at once. I’ve cast my postal vote for the local elections in Bolton (supporting the sitting Lib Dem who does a good job) and I’m looking forward to seeing what is on offer for the European elections later this month, assuming they happen (they probably will).

Renewing old friendships…Salvo with ‘No. 4’ at Whitehead, Northern Ireland, recently

Helped by the fact that the Euro elections are done on a proportional system, I will be voting Green. Labour, with its shilly-shallying over Brexit, isn’t an attractive option, however good the individual candidates are. If a General Election does come along, I will probably, with reluctance, vote Labour on the basis that Bolton West is very marginal and a vote for anyone else will help the very pro-Brexit Tory get back in. Also helped by Labour’s candidate being the ex-TSSA officer Julie Hilling who did a good job when she was MP before. The obvious conclusion to all this is that we need PR, and we need it soon.

Not being content with one visiting professorship, I now have two…but a bit different in emphasis. I was recently awarded the title of ‘Visiting Professor of Worktown Studies’ at the University of Bolton, in the Faculty of Arts. There is a growing interest in the ‘Worktown’ concept, originally based around the Mass Observation studies of the 1930s. Bolton was dubbed ‘Worktown’ as a typical Northern industrial town. So early days, but some interesting opportunities lying ahead.

Railway reform – but not too much

The collective voice of the railway industry, the Rail Delivery Group, has ‘delivered’ its verdict on the current franchising system and, very sensibly, has called for it to be scrapped. What it suggests instead is a bit of a dogs’ breakfast, more designed to suit the interests of its large corporate members than the travelling public. One member of our Railway Reform Group reacted thus:

“Apart from the proposal for an independent professional body to replace the DfT (read SRA mk2?) it looks an unholy mess:

  • no integration of train and track
  • increased rather than reduced interfaces
  • confusion and conflicting demands due to multiple private and public specifying bodies
  • a loss of network benefits, especially in the midlands and north where there would be a large number of operators
  • no stability, as an incoming government would be  almost certain to rip it up and start again.
  • (If the Virgin variant with compulsory seat reservations is adopted) a loss of passenger choice, especially for main-line commuters and users of connecting services.

To me it has all the hallmarks of a) Existing RDG members trying to hold onto their position whilst shoving the difficult jobs back onto local government; b) London-centred thinking which perceives the railway solely in terms of radial routes from the capital. Therefore it seems to be a ‘bad thing’ and certainly inferior to our proposals”.

The Railway Reform Group’s submission to the Williams Review, in a nutshell, argues for vertically-integrated regional railway companies based on identifiable large regions, run as not-for-dividend mutuals. The submission is here:

Over in Norfolk

I was invited to run a workshop at the NOR4NOR conference in Norwich last Saturday. NOR4NOR is ‘Norfolk for Rail Re-nationalisation’. As readers will know, I am not a fan of rail re-nationalisation in its traditional form, i.e. recreating a centralised bureaucracy which is tied to short-term Treasury constraints. But what emerged was different.  Amongst the speakers were Rachael Maskell, Labour’s rail spokesperson, and local Labour MP Clive Lewis who has a shadow cabinet brief for sustainable development. Both spoke very well and, clearly, Labour’s approach to future public ownership has evolved a lot in the last year. As well as a strongly Labour/union line-up of speakers, a local Green councillor spoke in support of a local light rail network based on Norwich. All good stuff. My workshop session outlined the proposals from our Rail Reform Group (see above) which lend themselves well to ‘Greater Anglia’. Most people in the group were supportive of the idea and added some useful local insights.

The journey to and from Norwich was long but enjoyable. Travelling with CrossCountry via Birmingham, I was able to stop off at Stamford, admire the delightful station and explore this pretty town. Top of my list of shops to visit was Robert Humm’s railway emporium, now re-located to the town centre on Scotgate. It is certainly in the Top 3 of ‘best railway bookshops’ and I made some good finds. These included some copies of the fascinating LMS Magazine from the mid-30s, an 1878 LYR handbill for ‘picnic pleasure parties’ in Lancashire; and a lovely book on The Aesthetics of Railways published in 1970 by La Vie du Rail. My reading French can just about cope with it, but the visuals made it well worth getting anyway.

And across the Irish Sea

The end of March saw us in Ireland, or the northern bit of it anyway, on what was essentially a business trip. We stayed in Whitehead, at the excellent ‘Whitehead B&B’ and found time to explore the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland’s fine museum in the town, and see a bit of Belfast too. My first visit to Ireland was in 1969, May 31st to be precise. I went across on the Heysham-Belfast ferry, arriving at Donegall Quay bleary-eyed and a bit sea-sick but excited at the prospect of seeing some surviving main-line steam.

Nice new trains at Whitehead, 2019

The RPSI was running a special with ex GN(I) Slieve Gullion – surely one of the loveliest preserved locos in the British Isles, and admired by great literary worthies including Flann O’Brien – and there was scope to photograph the ‘spoil trains’ as well. These trains operated between Magheramorne, just south of Larne, to a tip on the north side of Belfast, where a new motorway was being constructed. The trains were formed of specially-designed tippler wagons, with one of the surviving NIR ‘Jeep’ 2-6-4 tanks at each end. This much I knew, so the combination of steam-hauled freight and the RPSI special was highly attractive. What I hadn’t realised was that in addition to the spoil trains, NIR retained a decent-sized fleet of the ‘Jeeps’ which could be used for other work, including passenger excursions.

A ‘Jeep’ on an RPSI support working May 31 1969, Whiteabbey

So even in 1969, it was possible to see 10 or 11 coach trains, formed of wooden-bodied stock, taking organised groups (typically Sunday Schools, or occasionally Orange Lodges and similar) to places like Portrush. So on the day of my visit I had the huge excitement of seeing no. 55 charge through Whiteabbey on a Sunday School special to Portrush, with ’10 on’.

I couldn’t wait to return and several more trips took place during 1969 and 1970 before steam finally came to an end. So to return to the original story, coming back to Whitehead really was quite a special experience. It’s a nice wee town, a sort of Ulster version of Grange-over Sands, overlooking Belfast Lough. Back in 1969 it was very conservative, but nice enough. It feels a bit more bohemian these days, with the local pub even hosting Irish music sessions. This wouldn’t have happened back then, I suspect. Neither would you have fallen into conversation with a very nice lesbian couple who were regulars in the pub.

We found time to explore parts of Belfast city centre and take a ride on the very snazzy Translink ‘Glider’ service which runs from staunchly Protestant East Belfast through the city centre and up the Falls Road in West Belfast.

People’s art, West Belfast

It’s a good way of seeing the mural art along the Falls, in a city which is so much more relaxed in its own skin – or skins. We had a coffee in the Irish cultural centre up the Falls which also hosts a very good book and record shop, before heading back into town.

The final part of the trip was a drive (sorry folks) up the Coastal Road through Glenarm to Cushendall, a delightful place with an excellent local resource centre which had a good range of second-hand bookshops. We returned through the glens, seeing remains of the some of the former narrow-gauge railways which once served North Antrim. The Ballymena, Cushendall and Red Bay Railway was built to serve the iron mines in the area and only reached, appropriately, ‘Retreat’, never quite making it to Cushendall. The Ballymena and Larne Railway once had its own ‘boat train’ express, as well as a flourishing freight traffic. Again, if you know where to look there are quite a few remains left to see.

Perhaps more in a subsequent ‘Salvo’, including adventures in Belfast Docks with the peculiar 0-6-4 tank Lough Erne, formerly of the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway, now preserved by the RPSI, and my ride behind steam to Derry on August 12th 1969.

Bolton Station Developments

Work on the renovation of the station, including the provision of substantial amounts of space for community use, is proceeding despite a worrying hiccup last month. The contractors discovered serious problems with the station roof which meant that work on the upstairs rooms couldn’t proceed. Fortunately – and a big thanks to Network Rail – money was found to get the roof sorted. Meanwhile, work continues downstairs on the ‘General Waiting Room’ which we’re hoping will become ‘The Platform Gallery’ in due course. The station partnership recently had a very instructive and enjoyable visit to Edge Hill and Irlam stations (thanks to Becky at Northern for help with the group pass). Edge Hill station is the home of METAL, an innovative arts organisation set up by Jude Kelly. The station provides a home of METAL’s offices, performance space and room for artists.

Our walk with Bolton City of Sanctuary friends…at Entwistle (railway terraced cottages on right) – see below

As well as the contemporary art, METAL also looks after a delightful garden area. During our visit, hosted by Jenny, we watched part of the film by Bill Morrison which was made to accompany Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’ music, performed live at Edge Hill two years ago. Irlam is very different, a superbly-restored station building with a fine local history museum and a lovely cafe/restaurant. The station is managed by the Hamilton-Davies Trust and their manager, Tony, showed us round. The trust has recently opened a park adjacent to the station, and there are displays of railway signals and a tanker wagon. The art work on the station, by local artist Rachelle, is superb, depicting local Irlam personages.

The more-or-less monthly open events at the station continue. Richard Lysons spoke about the ‘Amazing Women by rail’ project on April 2nd. This week,  Flo Wood, with a bit of help from myself, talked about ‘Walt Whitman and Bolton’ (see below). More events are being planned for June and July, and we are hoping to run an event tied in with Bolton Food and Drink Festival at the end of August.

Walt Whitman is 200

The great American poet, Walt Whitman, was born on May 31st 1819. As regular readers will know, there are close connections between the poet and Bolton. The link began in the mid-1880s when a group of local people sent him a birthday message with a much-appreciated birthday gift of £10 (which was worth summat in them days). A range of events are taking place in and around Bolton over the next few weeks, including a major international conference at the University of Bolton.

Whitman Day 2017…join us this year on Saturday June 1st

The annual Whitman Walk is on Saturday June 1st, from the usual starting point – the bus terminus at Barrow Bridge. The day before, I’m giving a talk at Bolton Library, with old pal Don Lee, on Whitman’s links to Bolton. Full details of all the events are in the programme which is here: and

A special bi-centennial edition of my book With Walt Whitman in Bolton: spirituality, sex and socialism in a Northern Mill Town, is now available price £10 (inc. Postage to Salvo readers).

Steam is good for your health and well-being

There is something very invigorating about the sight of a steam-hauled express train. Even better when it’s a double-header. On April 13th a little group of us followed the progress of ‘The Citadel’ from Manchester to Carlisle, behind two LMS Black 5s 44871 and 45407. First location was Horwich parkway, followd by a fast run by Driver Rosthorn to Pleasington where we were able to photograph it again.

The two Black 5s at Carlisle

The train was booked ‘inside’ at Hellifield so we were able to get ahead of it and have coffee and cakes in Horton-in-Ribblesdale before getting some good photos of the train passing, to the shock of the local sheep. We continued on to Carlisle to meet up with retired Carlisle Kingmoor driver Jack Eden who is advising us on a proposed film project which features love, romance, war-time derring-do and Shap bankers.

Station of Sanctuary?

I attended the annual general meeting of Bolton City of Sanctuary a couple of weeks ago. I must say it was my kind of AGM, with business refreshingly short and some very good food. The speakers all kept to time as well, and didn’t go on for too long. Interest continues in the ideaof ‘stations of sanctuary’ where refugees and asylum-seekers can find a welcoming space, as well as having good quality information when they ‘arrive’ for the first time.

Bolton City of Sanctuary is a member of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership, and a new initiative is to have monthly joint walks. The first took place on Sunday, which involved getting the train to Entwistle and walking back to Bromley Cross (see pic above). It was a great way to meet members of the local City of Sanctuary and we enjoyed some delicious Albanian food. The next week will be in June, featuring a canal and disused railway stroll from Adlington.

Some ideas for how a ‘station of sanctuary’ might look are in the attached link…

Readers’ Rants, Ruminations and Reflections (mostly on our trip to The Harz)

Comment by Walter Rothschild : To your comment on HS2 – I suppose as a frequent user of the German ICE network I value the fact that these trains (with the exception of Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe) use the same city-centre stations as the other services and just go fast on the bits in between. e.g. the new lines from Halle to Erfurt, and Erfurt to Nürnberg. Taking an hourly ICE from Berlin to Frankfurt means having good connectional opportunities at Braunschweig, Göttingen, Kassel, Fulda… not just ”whooshing” from one end to the other and saving ten minutes. Now there is a plan for a new chunk of high-speed line between Hannover and Bielefeld – which will serve to relieve a double-track bottleneck and accelerate services to Köln – i.e. a piece-meal but effective way to reduce travel times while still serving provincial centres. People do not all go from A to B, they use sections of the high-speed route to meet their individual needs. HS2 has to work the same way…. but will it?

The ‘Crank Quiz’ on names for a ‘Brexit Class’ excited some interest. Here’s a selection:

David Walsh writes on the subject of unicorns: There can be found on the web a list of books and films which feature Unicorns, an animal for whom Brexit meant a re-entry into popular consciousness. Here’s the list. Alas, most are unnamed, so you will have to use the film / book title – however, in one episode of “My Little Pony” there are two named Unicorns – Rarity, Twilight Sparkle and Sweetie-Belle. The latter will look good pulling into Middlesbrough

Alan Burrows offers: We could always have Farrago trains which sums up Brexit. They could be class A50!

Malcolm Bulpitt suggests “So many possible choices! Perhaps ‘Mogg’s Muppets’ to remind us of those who have blindly followed every word of the ERG leader, even when he was busy moving his family £2 billion Trust Fund from the UK to Ireland! ‘No-deal Nutters’ would also cover a wider spectrum of MPs, and the Editors (and many readers) of the Mail and Telegraph. Many would like to be at the unveiling of the nameplates of ‘Buffoon Boris’. Finally, perhaps, ‘The Speaker’ for his attempts to bring some sanity to the House of Fools, and while not stopping the stupidity of Brexit has at least achieved a stay of execution that may help to bring this Nation to its senses.

Publications of Note: After 1968

My friend and regular Salvo reader Bill Jamieson has just self-published a substantial book of his excellent black and white photos of post-1968 steam. It focuses primarily on the Vale of Rheidol, the last outpost of BR steam until its sale. However he has included some great photos of steam in eastern Germany, Portugal and France. He really should do a further book of his photos in the former GDR, they are excellent.  He writes…

“During the summer of 2018 a number of events were held to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of standard gauge steam operation on British Railways. There was naturally extensive coverage of the anniversary in those railway periodicals aimed at the nostalgia market, and a number of books were published or announced, including notable offerings from Colin Gifford, Stephen Leyland and the Master Neverers Association, the last of these a four-volume magnum opus. Continued steam operation of the 1’ 11.5” Vale of Rheidol line beyond August 1968 did warrant a mention in the magazine coverage, but it is probably not widely appreciated that another significant anniversary fell in 2018, both for the line and BR, which actually ran its very last timetabled steam-worked train using one of its own locomotives some thirty years earlier on 4 November 1988, at the close of that year’s Vale of Rheidol operating season. Thesale of the line to the Brecon Mountain Railway was concluded a few months later and normal service wasresumed in May 1989, but the line was now firmly in the heritage sector, rather than a part of the national network.

This album of photographs has been produced to mark a 30th anniversary which otherwise seems to have passed by unremarked, and to redress the photographic neglect (based on a perceived dearth of published photos from the 1970s and 1980s) of a minor but interesting chapter in British railway history. With less than 12 miles of line to cover, this is naturally a somewhat slimmer volume than any of those brought out to mark the end of standard gauge steam, but hopefully the quality of reproduction and the generous size at which the photographs are used will compensate to some degree for the lower page count”.

Bill is selling his book for £27.50 but is offering Salvo readers a discounted rate of £25. Please send cheques made to ‘Bill Jamieson’ to Sparrow Castle, 91 Gala Road, Stow, Galashiels TD1 2BQ



The Salvo Publications List

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. 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 £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. 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: