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Northern Weekly Salvo 273

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. 273 December 21st  2019 Election  Christmas Special

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, non-aligned social democrats,  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.

“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

I did threaten to issue a shortened pre-Christmas Salvo, and I’ve decided to carry out the threat. Here it is, a mixed bag as usual with election comment and a few thoughts on ‘where next?’ for politics. Thanks to Simon’s efforts, may website is now ‘clean’ and free of nasties. You may find that some anti-virus programmes still tell you it’s dodgy, but it isn’t, and WordPress (mein host) seem OK with it. The previous Salvo (272) is also available on the website now, if you missed it. And yes, Christmas will soon be upon us! It has been good catching up with mates over the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing at least some of the grandchildren (Stockport branch) and having a relaxing time wandering around post-industrial landscapes. There’s the City of Sanctuary/Bolton Station walk round Entwistle coming up on the 28th and maybe a trip on the East Lancs Railway. Have a wonderful Christmas and 2020.

Christmas Greetings from Bolton Shed (9K). Nice photo by Vern Sidlow used for station partnership/CRP card

That election : Grim Up North? (based on ‘Points and Crossings’ piece in forthcoming Chartist magazine

For us lefties, there’s very little festive cheer in the outcome of the General Election. Labour did particularly badly in the North of England, and there was little evidence of the ‘progressive’ vote switching to the Greens, Lib Dems or civic regionalists like the Yorkshire Party. As someone who isn’t a member of the Labour Party (although I voted for them, despite wanting to support the Greens), there’s a need for a hard and perhaps uncomfortable assessment of the election.

The results can be put down to a number of factors, Brexit being almost certainly the most significant, closely followed by Corbyn’s unpopularity. The unedifying spectacle of leave-supporting Northern constituencies who have traditionally voted Labour showing marked swings to the Tories, is too obvious to ignore. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if Labour had negotiated for better terms based on May’s deal we wouldn’t be where we are now. Yes, I was a reluctant supporter of a second referendum but sometimes you just have to recognise you were wrong. It was a mistake not to accept the original result (and yes, even if it was to some degree based on lies and misinformation).

Back to last week – in some places, it could be argued that the other progressive parties helped the Tories win. In my neighbouring constituency, Bolton North-East, the Tory had a majority of 337 votes. The Greens picked up a miserly 689 and the Lib Dems 1,847; almost certainly costing the highly respected former shop steward, David Crausby, his seat. The Brexit Party, whose sole existence was about undermining Labour, gained 1,880.

Should the Greens have stood down (as they did in neighbouring marginal Bolton West, in 2017)? They’re a legitimate political party with radical and imaginative policies. Labour has done them no favours and stood a candidate against Caroline Lucas in Brighton. The party has been averse to any semblance of pacts or alliances and it could be argued that they got what they deserved. But, to paraphrase Neil Kinnock when he said ‘Scargill and Thatcher deserved each other, but the country didn’t deserve either’ – the rest of us don’t  deserve to be saddled with an arrogant Tory Government that can now act with impunity for at least five years, and maybe longer. The very clear message in England , specifically, is that Labour remains the dominant force in progressive politics and that’s not likely to change very fast. But we need a different sort of Labour Party from what it has become if it is going to recover lost ground.

Labour will soon be in the throes of a leadership campaign which will sap energies but is obviously necessary. Politicians like Alan Johnson, many defeated MPs and indeed Tony Blair, are already calling for a return to ‘the centre ground’ to win back the Labour heartlands, or rebuild the so-called ‘red wall’ which has crumbled in the North of England.

I don’t think that’s the answer. Labour needs to be radical but much more inclusive and collaborative. Working with other progressive forces isn’t just about tactical advantage, it’s showing that you’re a grown-up political force that shies away from tribalism and sectarianism. Yet both characteristics have plagued Labour these last few years. I’m sick to death of hearing people talk about such-and-such being ‘a true Socialist’ whilst someone else isn’t, as though Socialism is some sort of theological belief and the slightest deviation from the canon risks consigning you to the burning fires of hell.

Alongside a cultural shift within Labour, the party needs to embrace voting reform. The tide has shifted away from traditional binary politics yet the voting system continues to prop up the crumbling edifice. Compare the European elections with the General Election, you’ll get a much more accurate view of people’s political aspirations. The Greens won seats in the North-West and Yorkshire and Humber – a pity they are not going to have much chance to use those positions. It’s reasonable to assume that a proportional voting system would result in a strong Green presence in Parliament. Small civic regionalists such as the Yorkshire Party might be able to make more headway. It could also mean that fringe right-wing parties win some seats – an argument often used by Labour to oppose PR. But that’s democracy. You don’t oppose the far right by excluding them from the political process.

Many on the pro-Corbyn left will argue that some of Labour’s policies were popular, e.g. rail nationalisation. Yet how radical were Labour’s proposals? Despite rhetoric about ‘new forms of ownership’ what seemed to be on the cards was a very traditional post-1945 model of state ownership. Corbyn’s populist call for a third off rail fares would have caused chaos on a rail system struggling with already-overcrowded trains. It isn’t that wanting fare reductions is wrong – but it needed thinking through in terms of more trains, staff and extra infrastructure. All of which would take years, not a few weeks.

Labour’s manifesto was silent on many areas of ‘democratic’ policy. Nothing on PR, nothing about bringing the voting age down and an absence of anything concerning regional devolution, such as making city-region mayors more accountable. Labour under Corbyn seems to accept that the current British political system is the best of all possible worlds. Many would disagree.

Back in 2012 I argued in Socialism with a Northern Accent that Labour needs to address issues around English regional identity and build a politics which is inclusive and radical. We don’t seem to be any nearer that, with some on the left still pursuing the case for an ‘English parliament’ that would further marginalise the North. Why not have devolution within Labour and build a semi-autonomous Northern Labour? Scotland and Wales have their own devolved party structures, it would make sense for the North as well (taking in Yorkshire, the North-East and North-West).

The coming year it would be good to see a flowering of radical ideas which the Left can mould into a progressive politics that chimes with the times. It means accepting Brexit and trying to make the best of what may well be a bad job. But let’s look for opportunities, not obstacles. It also means being much more collaborative, working constructively with a range of progressive forces including the burgeoning number of non-party movements, often at a very local level.

Salvo forecast

The Salvo forecast in issue 272 was broadly correct, apart from the Tories winning 🙂 I did suggest that we were in for a Tory win, though not on the scale that actually happened.  My comment on the Liberal Democratswas that ‘they’ve run a lacklustre campaign dragged down by their daft idea to revoke Article 50 in the rather unlikely event of them forming a government. That will haunt them in these last few days, despite the generally sound stuff they say in their manifesto.  So they’ll do less well than they might have done.’  Which was accurate. I added ‘So, maybe a narrow win for Johnson, perhaps without an overall majority – and it’s unlikely to imagine the DUP rushing in to prop him up. I can’t see the Brexit Party gaining any seats, their historic role has been to push the Tories to the right and help Johnson win. Watch them fade away, no loss to anyone.’ So less near the mark, but hey ho. People who are paid to forecast these things didn’t do any better. I did expect to see the SNP do well, which is what happened. Sturgeon shone during the election campaign and maybe it got a few people south of the border changing their jaundiced views about Scottish nationalism, mainly influenced by a hostile London media. The Scottish result, for me, was the only good news in the election. OK, getting Caroline Lucas re-elected and seeing the DUP’s vote slip, also deserved getting the Maltesers out.

OK, so what now?

Sometimes you just need time to think – and discuss. I’m looking forward to the meeting of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, early in the New Year, when different views will be aired about the future of radical politics in the North. The Labour leadership campaign will bring out, hopefully, some fresh ideas and not divide into a Corbynite/Blairite dichotomy, which would be profoundly unhelpful. I’m not of the view that any positive change is on the back-burner for the next five years. There are always opportunities that can be grasped. There will be a lot of new Conservative MPs who might welcome some fresh thinking about how to address challenges in the North. At the same time, there will be an obvious need to challenge Johnson on a whole range of issues.

On rail, the Williams Review will published soon; let’s see what it has to say though I suspect it won’t be anything like as a radical in its conclusions as we’d be originally been led to believe. A single ‘guiding mind’ for the railways will be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t become a ‘controlling’ mind. As for ‘management contracts’ they can mean different things. Taking any semblance of commercial freedom away from train companies doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea. I wouldn’t want to work for any business that is told what to do, down to the tiniest detail, leaving no space for a bit of entrepreneurial flair.

Bolton Goings-On

The Station Christmas Market went well, despite a chilly day. After standing around for a couple of hours many of our stallholders were getting distinctly chilled. But it was a lovely event, organised by Bolton Station Community Development Partnership.

Julie and Vern with our newly-acquited blackboard (originally from Bolton Trinity St.)

A total of 18 community groups and businesses set out their stalls on Bolton Station’s Platform 4, offering a warm seasonal welcome to visitors arriving in the town. They included social enterprise Justicia, Maisha African crafts, Live from Worktown, the Woodland Trust, Bolton Rail Users’ Group, local publishers Preeta Press, Halliwell Local History Society, Bolton City of Sanctuary, local artists and craft workers and the Salvation Army. Food was provided by Pretzel and Spelt offering delicious pretzels and stollen cake (not, as the press release said, ‘stolen’), with Indian food by Mistry’s Bakery.

Members of Bolton Model Railway Club had created a special Christmas-themed layout which delighted both adults and children.  “It was a delightful event, with lots of interest from the public and great to see the different stallholders chatting to each other and networking,” said Julie Levy, chair of the station partnership.

The Justicia stall

Some special visitors included three elves who arrived – by train of course – from Manchester. They entertained passengers with elf-like activities and gave out toffees to fascinated children. The Christmas Market was supported by Northern, Diamond Buses, Transport for Greater Manchester and Network Rail.

The main activity over Christmas is the joint walk with Bolton City of Sanctuary, on Saturday December 28th. We’ll be getting the 11.01 train from Bolton to Entwistle for a relaxed walk round the reservoir, followed by lunch in the Strawbury Duck. Salvo readers are welcome to come along but if you want lunch we’ve got a full house (though the pub would probably accommodate a few more if you book directly with them).

We’re almost there with funding for a full-time Development Officer to support the work of Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership. We’re hoping to advertise the job early in the New Year. If you’re interested, or know someone who is, please let Julie Levy or myself know by emailing

Publications here and in the offing

I’ve alluded to my forthcoming novel in previous issues. The ‘squalid tale’ as one reader called it, is about life in Horwich Loco Works, the campaign to save it, and what might have happened if the workers had won. It was originally going to be called ‘The Works’ but I’ve changed it to ‘Song for Horwich’. This was the title of a poem written (I think) by one of the works employees to support the campaign against closure. It’s show below. If anyone knows who wrote it, I’d love to hear from them. The book will be published in February price £13.99 (Salvo readers will however get a discount). The new imprint will be called ‘Lancashire Loominary’, as previously warned and will have its own website ‘The Lankishire Loominary un’ Tum Fowt Telegraph’ was published by J T Staton in the 1850s and 60s and it seemed a good idea to resurrect the clever title, if not the eccentric spelling of Lancashire.

My new book on the Settle-Carlisle line has just been published (see below in ‘Salvo Publications List’).  It’s published by Wiltshire-based Crowood and is now available, price £24.

I’m also working on an extended essay with the rather cumbersome title of ‘Walt Whitman and the Religion of Socialism in the North of England, 1885-1914’. It will be part of a collection of Walt Whitman-related essays being edited by Kim Edwards-Keats at the University of Bolton. Hopefully it will be out sometime in 2020, to be published by Manchester University Press.

Who Signed the Book?

The last couple of Christmases I’ve reproduced my short story ‘Who Signed The Book?’  (first published in ASLEF’s Locomotive Journal in 1985). It’s based on my time spent as a signalman at Astley Bridge Junction. For anyone who hasn’t read it before, or wishes to re-acquaint themselves with it, go to:

Christmas Crank Quiz:

Readers were invited to suggest names of railway installations, locomotives etc. with a Christmas theme. Some excellent and truly crankish contributions, but once again ‘Christmas Tree Sidings’ on the Settle-Carlisle Line (near Baron Wood Tunnels) was left out. They are long gone but I remember several Blackburn drivers referring to them.

John Kitchen struggled a bit:  The new railway in Barbados is the St Nicholas Abbey Railway. All in all my lateral thinking is definitely letting me down  –  Greek mythology / Empires / military derived  /racehorse names seem to have dominated the naming policies of the main line railways except for the Southern who used Arthurian legends / public schools / west country locations. That leaves the GWR who did have Saints but neglected Nicholas. Other than that they seem to have been obsessed with piles of stones. Ok they did have some military stuff and the odd monarch and celestial references, but the Christmas Class regrettably never emerged. I wouldn’t be surprised if Virgin named something seasonal but I am not an expert on modern namings. Heaven forefend that something as frivolous as Christmas would be celebrated by the 19th century railway. So after all this all I can add is the Pines Express – all the best.

A rare intervention from the Sage of Crosland Moor: Christmas railway associations seem scarce – perhaps I’m not trying hard enough.  70026 features in the biblical tale and I suppose it’s not hard to imagine three ‘Kings’ in the yard at Old Oak Common.  And there must have been a Sheep Pasture involved, albeit not specifically referenced.  Otherwise, how about Hollybush, on the Dalmellington branch?

Martin Higginson has a Saintly contribution: Christmas railway nomenclature poses quite a problem. My first hope was dashed: No BR/ER LNER B1 called Reindeer, as I had though there was, but just 61040 Roedeer – not good enough. So to stations:  Noel Park & Wood Green, on one of London’s few closed branches lines (Seven Sisters – Palace Gates) seems the only one, but according to the trusty Handbook of Stations there were Nowell’s Colliery and Siding in Warwickshire. Then, at last, the Great Western obliged: Saint Class 4-6-0 2926 Saint Nicholas

A truly crankish contribution from Stuart Parkes: I am invited to 61600 for Christmas lunch with the former 46201, along with 46202, 60508/61996. The menu consists of 60022 with vegetables from 1029, washed down with flagons of cider from 1017. 1011 will provide the cheese course and the dessert will be made from 60526. After the meal we shall watch recordings of games between  61662 and 61664. Best wishes from 30794 aka Stuart Parkes

The Annual Christmas Shed Code Quiz: Yes, it’s BACK

Many, many years ago in a far-away land east of the Pennines, an obscure revolutionary sect called TR&IN was in the habit of organising a ‘Christmas Party’ which was attended by down and outs, anarchists, train-spotters and general ne’er do-wells. One of its more outrageous activities was ‘the shed code quiz’. Not by any popular demand, nor even unpopular demand, The Salvo brings you an up-dated, non-compliant (with anything) SHED CODE QUIZ 2019.

To qualify for entry, participants are forbidden from consulting Ian Allan ABCs, Locomotive Shed Directories, or ‘WikiShedCodia’. No cheating! Our spies are everywhere….Oh, go on then (1960/1 edition). Maybe one year I’ll make it into a crossword, but for now….just have a go.

The Questions….please give the correct shed code/s and if relevant name of shed

  1. Which shed or sheds was ‘Two Sheds Jackson’ shed foreman of?……..
  2. Which shed had the largest number of sub-sheds? Name them………..
  3. Which sub-shed of which main depot was flat?………….
  4. Which shed was good if you had a headache?………………………
  5. Which sub-shed of which depot was well-defended?……………………………
  6. Which shed was especially environment-friendly?……………………………….
  7. Which sub-shed was the end of the line?…………………………………………….
  8. Which shed was a good place to pop into for a pint?…………………………….
  9. Which shed was noted for its flora and fauna?……………………………………..
  10. Which shed was always at its peak?…………………………………………………….
  11. Which sub-shed of which depot was popular with ornithologists?…………..
  12. Which shed should be adopted by The Woodland Trust?……………………….
  13. Which sub-shed did railwaymen go to for their holidays?………………………
  14. Which sub-shed was the setting for ‘While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks by Night’?…..
  15. What sub-shed was above 24D?………….
  16. Which sheds mainly celebrate the marriage of two Northern gardening couples?……………
  17. Which shed was noted for its river?……………………………………
  18. Which river separated two sheds and how were they connected?…………….
  19. Which shed was a good place for a quick nap?……………………..
  20. To which shed did you have to show exaggerated respect?………………..

Good luck! You can send your entries to The Salvo for adjudication by our panel of experts. You can also share it, confer on it, or just rip it up and throw it away.

Special Traffic Notices

  • December 28th: City of Sanctuary Walk; 11.00 train from Bolton to Entwistle. The walk is about 2 miles.
  • January 28th: Cheshire Best-Kept Station Awards, Hartford
  • February 3rd Bolton Station Community Development partnership AGM. 18.00 Community Room Platform 5
  • February 6th: Meeting of Irish Railway Record Society in Manchester, with Dick Fearn
  • March 19th: ‘The Enterprising Railway’ – open meeting of Rail Reform Group, 18.00 The Waldorf, Manchester (to be confirmed)


The Salvo Publications List

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

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.

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

5 replies on “Northern Weekly Salvo 273”

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year. We managed to survive the Thatcher years so Isuppose that we’ll get through five years (and hopefully no more after that) of Johnson and his accomplices..

Good to know that Salvo is ‘bloody but unbowed’, but I’m – even as a Scot Nat – torn by Scottish Labour’s collapse. My party from 1962 to 1989: an anniversary recalled by the death last week of Harry Hawthorne, my first Labour boss in the Edinburgh area in the early 1960s and a man who knew every Edinburgh stairheid and gave me the best political training imaginable. Others involved and ‘gone before’ were Colin Lindsay, Edin Uni’s first radical, Robin Cook and the linguistic scholar Richard Hogg who became Prof at Manchester Uni: all died far too young.

Thanks Chris and sorry for slow response. Be good to catch up soon. May be heading north in March so could call in at Melrose en route…

I warned everyone I could about the consequences of the LP obstructing Brexit and the stupidity of the Peoples’ Vote campaign. The tendency of left remainers to self righteously condemn everyone who supports Brexit as racists and nationalists has backfired and, to some degree, by forcing people into the Tory camp, has contributed to the very politics they claim to oppose. The underlying issue is capitalist globalisation, the fragmentation and alienation of communities and the total lack of any credible alternative narrative or leadership from the left. This is due to the focus on electroral politics instead of real grass roots resistance to the impact of globalisation at its point of impact. Neither workplaces nor communities have been seen as arenas of resistance (except perhaps some rare examples like Unite) There is no effort at education, not in the formal sense , but in struggle in the context of building an alternative culture. De-industrialisation and the retreat of the TUs and LP from working class life has left many people with an identity crisis and sense of alienation. Electoral politics has been a waste of energy and a massive diversion from the real task of building a culture of resistance. All the great upsurges of working class ectivity have been predicated on the existence of such a culture, whether it was the radicalism of the 1830s, the Chartists, the rise of the ILP, the Labour Revolt or the ‘Little Moscows’ of the 1920s. All the left is culpable in this. Paul is one of the few who has seen this and tried to generate a revival based on culture and community. But the wedding of this to electoralism continues to straight-jacket such a movement. Electoralism and statist bodies are part of the problem in that they disempower people and channel their alienation and discontent into a dead end of remote power that ultimately acts against them.

Thanks Alan. When is your next publication out? I think you’d like my new novel, features a Bookchin-reading character!

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