Categories
Current News

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

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 www.chartist.org.uk)

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 boltonstncdp@gmail.com

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 www.lancashireloominary.co.uk. ‘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: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2019/12/21/who-signed-the-book-a-christmas-railway-ghost-story/

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: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/

Categories
Current News

Who Signed The Book? A Christmas Railway Ghost Story

Who Signed The Book?

A Christmas railway ghost story

Paul Salveson

This was originally published in ASLEF’s Locomotive Journal in December 1985. This is a slightly updated version. Two years of my railway career were at Astley Bridge Junction signalbox, in the 1970s.

I’ve spent the last 40 years as union branch secretary getting other people out of trouble. I’ve done more disciplinaries than you’ll have had hot dinners, and I have had some strange ones. But you want to know the strangest?  I’ll tell you. It happened over 30 years ago and there’s enough water flown under the bridge for me to talk about it. I’m long since retired so there’s not much anyone can do to me now.

I must have represented hundreds of my members at what they used to call ‘Form 1 hearings’. But this one found me in the hot seat. What led me to getting charged happened in 1983. Up to now the only people who knew anything about it are myself and Jack Bracewell, former Area Manager and he’s been retired even longer than me. He lives out Blackpool way. I promised I’d keep my mouth shut about the affair until Jack had finished and was getting his company pension. As a good union man, I’ve kept my word.

It was Christmas Eve 1983. I was working nights at Astley Bridge Junction; a small cabin just north of Bolton on the steeply-graded line to Blackburn. It’s long gone of course – it shut when the branch to Halliwell Goods closed in the late 80s. It was the draughtiest box I’ve ever worked, stuck on top of Tonge Viaduct with only the birds and the circuit telephone to keep you company, apart from the occasional platelayer’s visit, usually Derek begging a brew of tea.

We’d had plenty of rows about it on the LDC – the old ‘Local Departmental Committee’ where we battled things out with management – usually good naturedly. Astley Bridge  was one of the ancient Lancashire and Yorkshire (L&Y) boxes with facilities which could best be called ‘primitive’. Heating was by an old stove that Stephenson probably invented, gas lighting and an outside toilet that froze every winter. And then that bloody draft that blew up from below, through the lever frame. Management kept telling us it was ‘in the programme’ for modernisation, but nothing happened.

It had its compensations. You could look across Bolton and see the dozens of mill chimneys, mostly still working then, while turning north the moors stretched out before you. And it was cosy when you got the fire going, and no-one could say you were killed for work, with just a couple of trains each hour and the occasional goods on and off the branch. Years ago it had been on a through route to Scotland. Lancashire and Yorkshire expresses joined up with The Midland at Hellifield. Well before my time. Or so I thought.

At the time, we were working short-handed. My mate Joe Hepburn had retired three months previous and management were dragging their feet about filling the vacancy. So we were on regular twelve hours, George Ashcroft and myself. Good for the money, but not for your social life; nor, as I began to think, for your sanity.

Have you ever been to a Form 1 hearing? It’s probably different nowadays but back then it probably hadn’t changed since Victorian times. You sat there like a naughty schoolboy, usually accompanied by your union spokesman. If it was serious, the Area Manager would take the case and he’d read out the charge: “You are charged with the under-mentioned irregularity….etc.” A clerk would be sat in the background, taking notes of the ordeal and loving every minute of it, most times.

A good union man will use every argument in the book – and out of it – to get the poor bugger on the charge as good a deal as possible. I had a better success rate than many full-time union officers. I had just one rule: I never told a lie to get a member off the hook. If you pull that one, it might work the first time, but the boss would make it bloody hard for you the next. And that next time you might have had a genuine case.

So can you imagine how I felt, with 30 years’ service, including 20 as branch secretary, when I got that Form 1 addressed to me. But I’d been expecting it. And I thought I’d be the up the road.

The hearing was on a Friday morning in January 1984 at 09.00, in the Area Manager’s Office on Bolton station. Jack Bracewell, the AM, was an old hand whom I knew him from his days on the footplate. He was one of that dying breed of railway manager who’d started off at the bottom – as an engine cleaner at Plodder Lane shed – and worked his way up the ladder.

Ironically, I’d got him off the hook, years ago, by which time he’d got booked as a driver at Bolton. He was driving a loose-coupled coal train from Rose Grove to Salford Docks and I happened to be on duty at Astley Bridge Junction at the time, on relief. I got the’ train on line’ bell from Bromley Cross box but I had an engine off the branch waiting at my starter to go back to the shed, so I couldn’t give the coal train a road. He’d have to wait at my home signal, just up from the end of the viaduct.

I heard a long piercing wheel then a series of short ‘crows’ – the steam whistle code for a runaway. I saw the train coming down the bank, with one of the old ‘Austerity’ locos, passing the home signal at danger. She was away, no doubt about it. Not going that fast but fast enough to give that light engine a nasty surprise if she caught up with it. Just as the loco passed the box I got ‘line clear’ from Bolton West and I quickly offered the light engine. It was accepted and I was able to clear my starter to get the light engine out of the way. The coal train shuddered to a halt just a few wagon lengths beyond my box.

The driver – Jack Bracewell – was quickly out of his cab and up the cabin steps. “Sorry mate – there was no holding her. Overloaded to start off with – we nearly stuck in Sough Tunnel – and that old wreck’s brake wouldn’t stop a push bike, ne’er mind 40 o’coal. Anyroad, put it in t’book and I’ll answer for passing that home board”.

Now some signalmen I knew would book a driver for not having his hair combed right, but I wasn’t going to get anyone into trouble if I could help it – even if he was an ASLEF man and I was NUR! “Didn’t you see?” I asked, “I pulled off for you to drop down to my starter just as you approached. Forget it.” We exchanged looks and Jack turned to leave. “Thanks mate – if you’re ever stuck, I’ll return the favour.”

I looked out of the cabin window and saw him climb back into the cab of his grimy ‘Austerity’, wheezing steam from everywhere but now looking calm and innocent after her wild descent from Walton’s Siding. I soon got ‘train out of section’ bell from Bolton West for the light engine and was able to pull off for Jack’s train. The wagons shuddered and screeched and he was back on his way to Salford Docks. The guard in the brake van looked a bit ashen-faced after his experience but I got a friendly and slightly relieved-looking wave from him.

That must have been….. what? 1959? Jack had come a long way since then, getting into management somewhere down south then promoted to Area Manager back in Bolton. Poacher turned gamekeeper we used to say. And the battles we had on the LDC! But at least you knew where you were with him. He was a railwayman and knew his job, and everyone else’s. That’s more than you can say for most of today’s management whizz-kids.

That day of the hearing I broke one of my golden rules. Never go into a disciplinary hearing without union representation. We’d fought hard for that right and many genuine cases were lost because someone thought they didn’t need any help. With me, it was more embarrassment than anything. I thought of asking Benny Jones the full-time officer, or some of my old mates on the NEC. But no, none of them would believe my story and I’d look a bloody fool. I went through that door on my tod, feeling very alone: one of the worst moments of my life.

Jack was at his desk, with the young woman clerk, Joyce Williams, sat at his side, pen in hand. She was one of the better ones, and I think she had a TSSA card.

“Good morning Mr Hartshorn. Please sit down.” Jack was looking more bloody nervous than me. And Christ! I was a nervous wreck. He read the charge: ”You are charged with the under-mentioned irregularity. That on Wednesday December 24th 1983 you made incorrect entries in The Train Register Book, contrary to Signalmen’s Instructions and Rule Book Section such-and-such….What have you got to say in your defence?”

I looked across at Mr Jack Bracewell, Area Manager, London Midland Region. He’d put on weight since leaving the footplate; his face was a bright red and his hair receding. Maybe down to the hard time I’d given him at LDC meetings.

But today the advantage was firmly his – though you wouldn’t have thought so by the look of him. Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead, he shuffled uncomfortably in his chair. “Joyce” he blurted out…”turn that bloody heating down before we all roast.” The clerk jumped up and obeyed the command. The ball was now in my court.

“Before I give you my explanation Mr Bracewell I just want to remind you that I’ve always been straight when I’ve been representing my members in front of you. And I’m going to be straight with you now – however unbelievable it all might sound.”

“Of course…of course, get on with it.”

“Right. I relieved my mate at 6.00pm, as you know we were on 12 hours. I was sober, you can ask George to verify that if you want. We chatted for a few minutes about what we were doing over the holiday and then George signed off. “Could be a bad ‘un” I remember him saying about the weather; the snow had already started though lucky for him he didn’t live that far away. We wished each other ‘all the best’ and off he went down the cabin steps.

He’d left a good fire; the pot-bellied stove was glowing red. I settled myself down in the easy chair, with a quiet night’s work ahead of me. I saw the last ‘passenger’ through at 21.30h. It’s in the book. The only other scheduled train that night was the empty stock for Newton Heath at about 03.00. After it had gone I had permission to close the cabin early and not re-open until the following Monday, when I was early turn at 06.00.

I made a brew and settled down with my book – a thriller, funnily enough. To be honest I probably dozed off, at least for a few minutes. I was jolted out of my snooze by a ‘call attention’ bell from Bolton West.  I wondered what on earth it could be. I looked at the clock and it showed 23.35. I gave the ‘1’ signal back to Bolton West and they offered me a ‘4’ – the bell code for an express passenger train, as you know, sir. The first thing that came into my mind was that the wires were down on the main line and Control was diverting some trains for Scotland via the Settle-Carlisle Line. It happens quite often, though it was very odd that I hadn’t got a circuit to tell me. Perhaps I’d been in more of a sleep than I thought and had missed the wire. I sent the signal on to Bromley Cross, got ‘line clear’ and pulled off – home board, starter and distant. Five minutes later I received a ‘2’ – train on line from Bolton West. I expected to hear the roar of a diesel engine, but instead I heard the steady, slow puff of a steam locomotive, obviously labouring on the gradient out of Bolton.

All I could think was that it must have been some sort of special working back to the museum at Carnforth, routed by Hellifield. It was a strange time to run it, but what was I to know?  It was snowing very heavily by now, the wind blowing the flakes against the cabin windows so you could hardly see out. The tracks were completely covered.

The headlamps of the engine came into view; she’d slowed down even more and was barely moving though sparks were coming out of the chimney like a firework display.

“Aye the fireman would have the dart in to get the fire going,” said Jack reverting to his old footplate patter, quickly adding “but well, that’s if there was an engine…obviously. Delete that comment, Joyce.”

When the engine was almost level with the cabin the steam was shut off and the train came to a stand. I managed to open the cabin door, pushing the snow back, to get a better view.

Through the blizzard I could see that it wasn’t one of the usual preserved locos you sometimes get – she looked older, but well kept. The paintwork looked jet black and across the tender I could make out the words ‘Lancashire & Yorkshire’.

She looked like one of those ‘Lanky’ Atlantics that some of the older signalmen used to talk about, when I was a train booker in my teens. ‘Highflyers’ they called them, with high-pitched long boilers. Very fast engines. But i couldn’t recall any being saved from the scrapheap.

The coaches looked vintage too, though i couldn’t see much of them through the snow. It was blowing like an arctic gale, and curious though I was, I had to shut the door.

A moment later I heard footsteps coming up to the cabin. There was a rap on the door window. I took off the snack and opened the door to what looked like an oldish man – a gnarled face with a drooping moustache and eyes like red-hot coals. His hands were pitted and scarred. This didn’t look like some middle-class train enthusiast who did the occasional firing turn for the fun of it.

He walked in, shaking the snow off and carefully wiping his boots on the mat. “Short o’steam mate – they’re givin’ us rubbish t’burn wi’t’colliers on strike.”

By now I could get a proper look at him. He was dressed in old fashioned railway overalls which I’d only seen in history books. He had a very dignified appearance, reminding me of some of the old Methodist preachers I knew as a kid.

It was news to me that the miners were on strike, but that didn’t click at first. It took me a few seconds before I could say anything – though I offered him a brew and asked him to sign the Train Register Book, according to rule.

A few moments later more footsteps told me that his mate – the driver – was coming up for a warm as well. He looked about the same age as his fireman, slightly smaller with a long greying beard speckled with snowflakes and coal dust. He had similar overalls to his mate but wore a shirt and tie, with a shiny watch chain disappearing into his waistcoat pocket. He wore the L&Y insignia on his lapel. I remember thinking that if these two lads were steam buffs, they were certainly sticklers for historical accuracy.

The driver said, to no-one in particular, “There’ll be hell to play o’er this. Runnin’ short o’ steam on this job, we’st booath be on th’carpet o’Monday. It’s noan mi mates fault though – it’s that bad coyl they’re givin’ us. Tha cornt wark this sort o’job, wi’ nine bogies an just an hour to geet fro’ Bowton to Hellifield, wi nowt but th’best coyl. Th’bosses durnt give a bugger though – they just put th’blame on th’men.”

I didn’t know what to think. Was I caught up in an elaborate practical joke? Or was I in a time warp? I reminded myself that I hadn’t been drinking. Maybe I was still asleep and this was a very vivid dream. Yes – that was it. I’d soon wake up and get ‘call attention’ for the Newton Heath empties.

But it continued. The fireman went over to the stove to warn his pock-marked hands. “Th’company thinks as it con do what it wants wi’ us. It allus has done. But it’s geet a shock comin’. There’s talk o’one big union for all railwaymen after last year’s strike. Federation ‘ud be a good start. They’ve kept us divided for too long, grade agen grade, men agen men.”

The fireman halted for a while, feeling the heat return to his hands, and then continued “Aw’ve waited for th’day when we’d beat the company for a long time. Aw’ve suffered through bein’ a union man and socialist, like mony another. Moved fro’ shed t’ shed. Tret like dirt. Neaw there’s a change comin’.

The driver explained that his mate had been victimised following his part in the Wakefield strike…I’d never heard of it, even though I’d been a union man myself for 20-odd years. I had read about something kicking off around Wakefield in the union history, but that was way, way back. The bearded driver continued the story, explaining that the strike was broken by the company using fitters to drive the engines, with passenger guards providing the route knowledge. “Usual tale – divide an’ rule!” he added. The leaders were either sacked or transferred and told they’d be married to a shovel for the rest of their working lives.

His fireman finally ended up at Newton Heath shed, after several moves to holes like Bacup, Lees and Colne Lanky. He was still a fireman after 40 years service with no prospect of getting booked as a driver.

But hang on, was I playing a bit part in some union-sponsored costume drama? I could just remember reading about a big strike in 1911, before the NUR was formed. Were these blokes having me on?

“Aye,” said the driver. “There’ll be changes soon, reet enough. Anyroad, Aw’ll goo an’ oil reawnd. Valves are starting to pop so looks like we’ve got steam! Good night mate, and all the best.”

The fireman stayed a few moments longer and stood gazing round the cabin. “All reet these modern cabins, eh? Tha’s a bloody sight better off nor us locomen. Look what we’ve to put up wi’!” pointing outside to the snow-swept cab of his engine. “Still,” he continued, we know the long heawrs you lads have forced on you – sixteen hour days wi’ no overtime pay.” I thought of some of my mates, for whom the idea of working sixteen hours would be heaven – providing they got time and a half.

“Well brother. Aw’ll geet back – she’s blowin’ off neaw. She’ll get us up th’bank to Walton’s. Sooner we’re at Hellifield and relieved bi Midland men, the better. Hellifield lodging house allus does a gradely breakfast. Good neet and thanks for th’brew. Aw con tell a comrade when aw meet one.”

I watched him climb back onto the footplate and start shovelling more coal into the firebox. His mate stood by the long regulator handle, lit up by the glare from the fire. A shrill high-pitched whistle pierced the blizzard and the train began to move, with a powerful exhaust cutting through the snow storm.

I turned to my desk and looked at the Train Register Book. I noticed the fireman’s entry: “Detained within protection of signals. Rule 55.” The signature looked like ‘J.Weatherby’. If they were ghosts, they could sign their name!

I looked out of the cabin window and could just see the tail lamp in the distance. Suddenly it was gone, consumed by the blizzard. I gave a ‘2’ – train entering section – to Bromley Cross and sent the 2-1, train out of section, back to Bolton West. The entries are in the book and they were accurate to the minute. Both were recorded at 23.55.

The phone rang. It was Ernie Woodruff at Bolton West. “What’s that 2-1 tha just sent? Hasta gone daft?”

We nearly had a row. I told him he’d sent me a ‘4’ and the train had been detained at the box. I didn’t tell him what sort of train it was. Ernie denied sending the signal and said there’d been nothing on the block since the last passenger at 21.30. Anyway I thought, the proof would be when the train reaches Bromley Cross. That would show who’s daft, so I thought.

It never reached Bromley Cross. Ten minutes later, the signalman – Jack Seddon – rang to ask where this ‘4’ was. There was no sign of it on his track circuit. I told him he’d been having trouble and had maybe stuck again. It’s not unknown, even in the modern age, on that steeply-graded stretch of line.

We let another ten minutes pass and then decided something was up. As luck would have it, the Newton Heath empties were running early and were approaching Bromley Cross from Blackburn. Jack ‘put back’ his signals and cautioned the driver of the diesel train to inspect the line ahead. The train arrived at my box and the driver came into the box. He reported not having seen anything.

The driver – it was Jim Woods, an ex-Bolton man I’d know for years – asked how I was. I knew what was going through his mind. I’d had a few Christmas Eve drinks too many before signing on. I said I was OK but I was anything but. At 01.00, as you’ll see in the book, I rang Control and asked for relief. I was no longer sure of my own sanity, and that’s the truth of it. I felt faint and disoriented. Jim made me a strong cup of tea and stayed with me until the block inspector, John Brooks, arrived to relieve me and close the box.

“You’ve heard the lot – make of it what you like Mr Bracewell.”

Jack sat back in his chair – so far he nearly overbalanced. It was a few seconds before he spoke…it seemed like a very long time.

“Joyce, love, go and make us a cup of tea will you. And one for Mr Hartshorn.”

The clerk got up and left the room, leaving us alone. “Right John. This is off the record, just thee an’ me. You’d had a few, right? It was Christmas. Just tell me the truth. I owe you a favour, we’ll get round this somehow. Listen, if anybody else had told me that load of bollocks I’d have had ‘em cleaning out the carriage shed shit house before they could say boo to a bleedin’ goose. Now come on.”

“I’m sorry Jack, I don’t expect you, nor anyone else, to believe it. I wouldn’t myself if someone else I’d been representing had told me all that.

Bracewell was quite for several minutes. This was the man I knew. Working out a plan, weighing up the options.

“Look, he said at last. “I’ll tell you what. You’d been under strain with all those 12 hour shifts. You’d had a lot of union work on too. Maybe you’d had a few pints before coming on duty and you fell asleep. You’re brain wandered.”

“Sure Jack. But how can anyone explain the entry in the Train Register Book?”

“Easy.  We’ll just say you’d been dreaming and….err….” he dried up.

“Who was it that signed the book Jack? That’s not my signature. It looks like ‘J. Weatherby’. Who was this character that signed the book?”

“Who signed the book….who….” he mumbled and went quiet.

He came up with another ‘solution’. “I know. There’s a platelayer called ‘Weatherall’ isn’t there?”

“Aye, I responded. Dave Johnny Weatherall. He was on snow duty at Bolton East that night as it happens but didn’t came anywhere near Astley Bridge.”

“Never mind that. We can say he came up to check the points and made a balls-up of the entry in to the Train Register Book.”

“Listen Jack. I’m not getting anyone else into bother over this. It’s my problem, no-one else’s.”

“Look you awkward bugger. I owe you a good turn. And I’m going to do you one if I have to get paid up for doing it. Nothing ‘ll happen to Weatherall, I’ll see to that. Trust me.”

I did. I went along with his tale. I got off with a reprimand; I was lucky. Extremely lucky. If it had been that young Assistant AM – fresh out of college – taking the case it might have been dismissal. But it didn’t solve the problem for me. What had happened that night? Had I temporarily gone mad? I could never really trust myself handling traffic again until I was sure, one way or the other.

I took a few days leave that were due to me and then resumed at Astley Bridge Junction. I was on days – we were back to 8 hour shifts. On the first day a group of workmen arrived.

“You’re in luck mate!” the foreman beamed. “You’re getting them mod-cons you’ve been after all these years”. The gang set to work taking out the old fittings, removing the old stove and putting in a gas heater, new toilet, modern block equipment and even new lino for the floor.

It wasn’t until the following day they started work on the last job, stripping out the old linoleum floor covering, that had been polished zealously by generations of signalmen. It was a messy and disruptive job getting it out.

I was trying to complete a member’s  accident claim for head office when one of the lads piped up: “Hey, look at these old newspapers stuffed under the lino. Bet they’re worth a bob or two!”

I went over and picked one of them up. The paper was perished and discoloured. But I could read it well enough. It was the front page of The Bolton Evening News for December 26th, 1912.

“TERRIBLE CHRISTMAS EVE TRAGEDY –  EXPRESS  CRASHES OVER VIADUCT IN BLIZZARD. MANY KILLED”

I read on. The train was a Scotch extra for the Christmas holidays, routed via Settle. The viaduct had collapsed at about midnight and the train careered into the river below. There was a list of casualties who had been identified so far. The catalogue of men, women and several children made tragic reading.

At the end of the list was “Mr James Weatherby, the fireman of the locomotive”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 272

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: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

No. 272 December 12th  2019 Election pre-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

Technical problems with my website continue, so this issue is a return to the old days of emailing an attachment. Not everyone’s preferred method I know, but one or two did say it suited them. So let me know what you think. For this one, I’ll stick to a very basic page layout, which does at least have the merit of being readable. I won’t include many photos as they take up too much space.

Obviously, the election is a key issue but so too is the question of “what happens after?”, particularly for the ‘left behind’ North. This issue raises a few possibilities. What I’ve enjoyed about writing the Salvo over several years is the mix of politics, culture (?) and railways. Not forgetting chip shops, interesting cafes, cakes and the like. So this melange will continue. I hope non-Bolton folk don’t get too bored with references to Trottertown, my idea of a complementary ‘Bowtun Loominary’ hasn’t gone away.

One question for readers. I always used to like wearing a beret. A proper one, ideally French or Basque. Funnily enough, it was my dad’s preferred headwear in the limeyard at Walkers’ Tannery. But I lost mine ages ago. Where can I obtain one? Without having to go to Bilbao or somewhere. I would like to try it on before purchase, so the internet doesn’t help.

I may do a short Salvo before Christmas, when the results of the election are in and digested. But if I don’t (it could be that bad I need to lie in a darkened platelayer’s hut), have an enjoyable Christmas, whatever the outcome.

That election continued

We’re in the final throes and many people (myself included) will have voted by post. I cast my cross for Julie Hilling, the Labour candidate. Apart from being a railway person (TSSA sponsored) and a good sort generally, she is best placed to defeat in the Tory incumbent (who despite his strong pro-Brexit stance isn’t that bad a chap in terms of constituency issues). If we had a fairer voting system (not on Labour’s agenda at all, which is disappointing) I’d probably vote Green. So maybe that’s why it isn’t on Labour’s agenda. But it should be. The days of two-party politics in the UK are gone and we’ve got a huge democratic deficit whereby people like me (and we are many, not a few) feel increasingly disenfranchised. In Bolton West, both the Greens and Liberal Democrats are standing, with good policies. But the sad truth is, that the more the Greens and Lib Dems eat into the progressive vote (here in Bowtun West), the more likely a Tory victory is.

I can’t say that I find the Labour Manifesto particularly inspiring. It’s classic old-style ‘transactional’ politics, to use Jon Cruddas’ telling phrase. In other words, give us your vote and we’ll give you lots of goodies. It’s paternalistic and centralist, with an undue emphasis on state control. Yes, we need to have more state involvement but use that to facilitate grass-roots initiatives. So for rail, why not follow the Co-operative Party’s suggestion and develop a rail network that is run as a co-operative (or, preferably, several regional co-operatives) involving users and workers? The Rail Reform Group has come up with some deliverable ideas on this, on which Labour has shown zero interest. But for all that, a Labour government would be better than a Johnson regime, ideally one that is supported by other progressive parties which will force PR onto the agenda. So, my advice, which I know you’re not asking for, is to vote tactically for the progressive candidate best placed to defeat the Tory. And that means different things in different parts of the UK, obviously. Having listened to most of the debates, I have to say that the star of the show has been Nicola Sturgeon, closely followed by Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price. England doesn’t, at the moment, have much to offer in terms of political talent. Caroline Lucas comes nearest.

Salvo forecast

In the 2017 general election The Salvo went against conventional media opinion by forecasting a narrow win for the Tories, possibly without an overall majority. This time it’s much more difficult to call, but I’m less optimistic. It will be an interesting night, for sure, and I’ve got a couple of bottles of Shiraz in stock to see us through. A lot of seats will change hands but maybe the result will not be, overall, that much different. It’s ironic, and really quite shameful, that the North seems to have warmed to the phoney prat Johnson. Is it just about Brexit? Or is it more deep-rooted, with an historic shift away from Labour and class-based politics? In the South, Labour may well pull off some surprises. If Milani can defeat Johnson in his near-marginal Uxbridge seat, I’ll down one of those bottles of Shiraz in one gulp. All will depend on tactical voting, though the Liberal Democrats have 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. 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. But what of Labour? Yes, an interesting night ahead.

OK, so what of Labour?

Yes, I’ve asked the question but I don’t know how to answer it. The Labour Party should appeal to the likes of me, but doesn’t. Having served time in it, I’ve been put off by its tribalism, fondness for centralist and statist solutions which might have made some sense in the 1940s, but don’t any more. It’s failure to embrace voting reform, or democratic devolution, puts it on the side of reaction, whatever promises it makes in other areas. If Labour does very badly on Thursday, there will be talk of a split. I can’t really see it. Corbyn should stand down if he’d any sense. Perhaps there will be some fresh thinking but I have my doubts. What we could see is a gradual withering away – the slow death of Labour Britain. There have already been attempts at progressive re-alignment at a national (primarily English) level, with Change UK. That’s been a flop, with most of the changers defecting to the Lib Dems when it became clear it was going nowhere. In Scotland, progressive realignment has already happened, with the SNP sweeping the board and marginalising Labour, which seems unable to come up with a credible socialist alternative. The Scottish Socialist Party if it nudged more towards a centre-left stance, could take their place. But of course Scotland and Wales have PR in their own elections, which allows smaller parties like the Greens to flourish. My own view is that any re-alignment within England should – and it will take time – happen at a regional level. I hope the Yorkshire and North-east Parties do well on Thursday but for now they will most likely be squeezed by the bigger parties. But they need to keep at it, and develop a ‘liberal social-democratic’ position that can appeal to a wide cross-section, including some disenchanted Tories. There must be quite a few.

On the subject of which, a Yorkshire (and Lancashire) call to arms

The Yorkshire Party’s manifesto is well-considered document. It’s available here https://www.yorkshireparty.org.uk/general-election-2019-manifesto/ . I have reservations about some aspects of its approach, not least on Brexit. But I can understand their position. I played around with the document and produced a spoof ‘Lancashire Party’ manifesto. As my website isn’t functioning, I can’t offer a link but if anyone wants to see it, please email me and I’ll send it to you. Here is the first bit:

LANCASHIRE DESERVES BETTER: OUR VISION FOR A LANCASHIRE OF FAIRNESS AND OPPORTUNITY

The Lancashire Party is founded on the social and democratic principles of subsidiarity, dignity, community and cooperation. We believe that by moving powers as close to people as possible, we can empower communities to be ambitious and allow individuals freedom for creativity and enterprise. We believe service to humanity should be the foundation of government and that as members of society we share a responsibility to participate in building a region of fairness, equality and opportunity.

Westminster isn’t working. Across Lancashire – including Greater Manchester and Merseyside – we see the same failures – in housing, health, transport, education, the decline of our towns and a threatened environment. These are failures caused by a system where every major political decision is made in Westminster. Lancashire itself has been butchered by local government ‘reform’, with the historic county split into Greater Manchester, Merseyside and parts of Cumbria, leaving a small rump of what was once a great and powerful unit that made economic as well as cultural sense. Yet many Lancastrians, young and old, from a huge range of backgrounds and ethnicities, persist in identifying as ‘Lancastrian’. They’re right – and there is nothing at all backward looking about it. A re-united Lancashire would be a powerful region, working with its sisters in the North – Yorkshire, the North-east and Cumbria – enjoying friendly relations with Wales, Scotland, the North and South of Ireland and all the other English regions. And, crucially, having positive and economically beneficial relations with Europe and the rest of the world. (and so it goes on….)

Meanwhile, the Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament is pushing their ideas for ‘One Yorkshire’. They launched a new paper in York recently: http://www.yorkshireparliament.org.uk/ It’s very good. Here’s a flavour:

“Empowering Yorkshire requires a rebalance of power between the ordinary citizen, politicians and the government – a new way of making decisions. This includes replacing the current, old fashioned adversarial way of doing things, with one of co-operation and shared sense of direction, one where ideas emerge from discussions within local neighbourhoods and communities on what’s best for their area and the county as a whole. This parliament would have three key objectives written into its constitution: An inclusive Yorkshire, where every citizen would be given the opportunity to fulfill their maximum potential whatever their background or part of the county in which they live. This will require a prosperous Yorkshire capable of competing with the rest of the world to provide the jobs and income required to provide the necessary opportunities and thirdly an ecologically sustainable Yorkshire, fit to pass on to our children, grandchildren and future generations of Yorkshire boys and girls.

Members of the Yorkshire Parliament would be elected on their ability to deliver on these three key objectives on behalf of the people of the county, not for their party political dogma and prejudices on behalf a particular sect or interest group. Ideas for government would emerge from our new approach to empowering the people of Yorkshire. We firmly believe that the public is highly capable of both grasping the issues and of bringing much-needed knowledge, experience and expertise to the table of government themselves.

Members of the Yorkshire Parliament would be elected under a fair voting system or proportional representation in place of our current first-past-the-post system. This way, every citizen would be fairly represented; every person’s vote would count. Such a parliament of course, cannot achieve its objectives in isolation. New partnerships would need to be formed with central government, the local government, other devolved authorities, large and small employers, our universities and colleges, trade unionists, faith groups and other interest group.”

Clearly, their efforts complement those of the Yorkshire Party, while being non-party political. In the case of Lancashire, perhaps that model, for now, could be the right approach as long as it doesn’t duplicate the efforts of ‘Friends of Real Lancashire’.

Enough of all that, it’s Christmas and it’s steam on the main line. Tales of then and now.

The world beyond politics goes on. Yesterday (Saturday) was taken up by indulging in an ancient Salveson pre-Christmas tradition: chasing steam specials. This is a profoundly un-sustainable activity but it’s great fun. Our aim was to see as much as we could of the ‘Pennine Moors Seasonal Special’ which which we were informed could be hauled by one of 70000 ‘Britannia’, 34046 ‘Braunton’ or 46100 ‘Royal Scot’. Part of the fun is not being sure what would be on it. So we got to Winwick Junction, where the West Coast Main Line splits away from the ‘old route’ up to Earlestown. This was an old haunt from steam days and I’ve a nice shot at this location of 70045 ‘Lord Rowallan’ on a northbound freight. You get a good side-on view. The former Vulcan Foundry was close by, most of the houses built to create a genuine industrial community, remain.

 

The train was showing pretty much on time and we waved to a northbound Virgin ‘Pendolino’, heading for Glasgow on the last day of Virgin operations. A few minutes later we saw a whisp of steam and hard a recognisable three-cylinder roar. It was ‘the Scot’, without question. It came thundering past us in fine style. The question was, could we make it to the next possible spot, on Hoghton Bank. With some smart work by Driver Rosthorn of Upper Darwen shed, we got to within a mile or so of Hoghton and decided that our chances of catching ‘the Scot’ would be better if we headed for Pleasington. Sure enough there was a handful of folk on the platform and overbridge waiting. This was another favourite place in the 60s. My first visit (cycling over Belmont from Bolton) was August Bank Holiday Monday 1966. The station was still staffed, with a fine stone-built booking office and waiting room, and an eccentric ‘station master’. Several Farnley Junction (Leeds) Jubilees came storming through on Blackpool extras. ‘Bihar and Orissa’ and ‘Sturdee’ being two.

Low Moor’s 45565 ‘Victoria’ worked a Bradford – Blackpool special. A Lostock Hall Black 5 (see below) worked an eastbound special. So happy days and nice to be there, over a half a century on (and none the wiser) waiting for steam. Back then, it would have been exceptional to have seen a ‘Scot’ – there was less than a handful left. So – ‘who’d ha thowt it? – waiting for a Scot in 2019 seemed pretty amazing. And it was worth the wait. In a couple of minutes after our arrival we heard that three-cylinder roar again. The Winwick episode was clearly not a one-off, the engine was being worked consistently hard. It had a full train plus dragging a class 47 diesel for heating purposes, so it had a substantial load, probably equal to 13 coaches. It flew through Pleasington to a small crowd of very happy children and adults.

 

Our final spot was on the climb from Burnley up to Copy Pit, that wild and quite remote borderland between Lancashire and Yorkshire. It’s a very tough climb for steam in both directions, averaging 1 in 65 from Gannow Junction (Rose Grove) to the summit, and much the same coming up from Stansfield Hall (Todmorden). For whatever reason, most steam I’ve seen in recent years comes up from Tod direction so it made an interesting change watching the ‘Scot’ head south. We turned up in a field overlooking the line at Walk Mill, where a small gathering of photographers and children were waiting. It’s a good spot, looking down to the line and  Burnley beyond.

Last time I stood in that field was late July 1968, photographing now-preserved Stanier 8F 48773 on a rake of coal empties bound for Healey Mills. Once again, the ‘Scot’ was pretty much on time and working hard – but not excessively. To the fireman’s credit, a whisp of steam from the safety valves and no sign of black smoke. And shifting, considering the load behind the tender. Whoever the crew were, they were masters of their craft. We could still her ‘Royal Scot’ blasting up to Copy Pit summit, then silence. The small crowd dispersed, to their humble cottages and plates of tripe and onions, or perhaps to their handlooms to finish off the day’s work.

OK, stop it. We headed back to the car and stopped off for a pint at Rawtensatll station, with the added bonus of seeing 34092 ‘City of Wells’ on a Santa Special. “Whod’ a thowt, in 2019, we’d be seeing a Bulleid Pacific in Rawtenstall…” yes, OK, enough’s enough. Time for my pills.

Bolton Station Christmas Market: Saturday December 14th

Following the success of the ‘Food and Drink Fringe’ in August, Bolton Station Partnership is planning a Christmas Market at the station on Saturday December 14th, assisted by Northern and Transport for Greater Manchester. The format will be much the same, but we can’t honestly promise the weather will be as good! (But it’s all under cover).  So far we’ve a dozen stalls booked and room for a few more. It will run from 10.30 to 4.00 but stallholders are asked to be there earlier to set up. The event helps to promote the town’s ever-popular Christmas Market; we want people to travel to Bolton by train, and they will be met by our own ‘mini’ Christmas market on Platform 4.

Lancashire Day Celebrated in style!

Probably the most unusual celebration of Lancashire Day (November 27th) took place on the 11.05 train from Manchester to Preston. Eighty guests of the newly-formed Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership (BSL CRP) were entertained with music, song and dialect poetry. Guests, including the Mayors of Bolton, Horwich and Adlington, joined the train between Manchester and Preston before returning to Bolton fir further celebrations.

At Bolton station, four poems were unveiled on the large bridge supports on Platforms 3 and 4. Two were quintessentially Lancashire – ‘A Lift On The Way’ by Edwin Waugh (1817-1890), and ‘A Gradely Prayer’ by Bolton author and mill worker Allen Clarke (1863-1935). Two other poems unveiled were by the great American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) who had close links to Bolton. ‘A Passage to India’ features railroading across continents while ‘To a Locomotive in Winter’ is a celebration of steam locomotion. The ‘poetry pillars’ is an initiative of Bolton Station Community Development Partnership, which is a core member of the CRP.

The day was the official launch of the new community rail partnership for Bolton and South Lancashire. It covers routes from Bolton to Manchester, Wigan, Preston and Blackburn (as far as Bromley Cross). The partnership will be looking at innovative and creative ways of bringing communities closer to their railway network, and today’s event was an example of what can be done.

After the unveilings, guests enjoyed a hotpot lunch provided by The Kitchen, a local social enterprise, in the Community Room on Platform 5. Further entertainment was provided in the adjoining Platform 5 Gallery by Sid Calderbank, Alyson Brailsford, Mark Dowding and Julie Proctor. The event was supported by Northern, Network Rail, Bolton at Home and TransPennine Express.

“The series of events were an amazing celebration of Lancashire culture and history,” said Partnership chair Paul Salveson. “The four poems are now displayed on the station platforms for everyone to enjoy. I’m particularly pleased that the work of Allen Clarke, one of the North’s most neglected writers, is celebrated in his home town, at the station where he often departed on his travels across Lancashire.”

It is hoped that more poems, including contemporary work by local writers, will be displayed at the station over the coming months. “The poetry complements the paintings and photographs we are showcasing in the Platform 5 Gallery,” said Julie Levy, gallery co-ordinator. “Our next exhibition will feature the work of Westhoughton artist Andy Smith, starting Tuesday December 11th.”

More festivities took place that evening at The Wayoh Brewery, Horwich, with the indefatigable Sid, Jennifer Reid, Phoenix Knights choir and other a range of other performers adding to the fun.

Settle-Carlisle book published (reminder)

My new book on the Settle-Carlisle line has just been published (see below in ‘Salvo Publications List’). The book-signing at the Moorcock Inn, Garsdale, went very well indeed. Highlight of the afternoon was meeting Sylvia Caygill, whose family stretched back to the building of the line. Her grandfather  was on duty at the time of the Hawes Junction crash, on Christmas Eve 1910. He was the railwayman to whom a dying passenger uttered the immortal words, “tell my mother, she comes from Ayr.” These lines were put into poetic form by Colin Speakman, who read the piece at the Moorcock event. History was made! Thanks to the friendly staff at the Moorcock for hosting the event and for a lovely lunch.

The book is published by Wiltshire-based Crowood and is now available, price £24.

Crank Quiz:

There was quite a good response to the quiz but I can’t access some of the entries owing to the aforementioned technical difficulties. The poser, which tramways were owned by railway companies? Martin Higginson cunningly avoided the website comments and emailed me with this very worthy entry:
“Railway owned tramways included Grimsby-Cleethorpes, which survived to receive the glorious BR bright green multiple unit livery, Wisbech & Upwell (a ready to run 00 gauge model of one of its trams has just been issued at £110 each), Cruden Bay Hote (GNSR), Burton & Ashby (MR) and Wolverton & Stoney Stratford (eventually LNWR). You could include Weymouth Quay, even though it was part of an international main line rather than an urban tramway: still I believe technically mothballed, rather than closed. Moving in the opposite direction, parts of the Manchester and Croydon tramways and most of Birmingham’s, are ex-railways.”

Paul Abell also managed to sneak this in: “I know more about tramways than politics, so I will confine myself to railway-owned tramways and mention the Cruden Bay Tramway, owned by the Great North of Scotland Railway then the LNER, and replaced in 1932 as far as passengers were concerned by an LNER Rolls-Royce car taking guests from Aberdeen station to the railway-owned Cruden Bay Hotel.”

So, clearly worth doing a pre-Christmas crank quiz. Readers are invited to suggest names of railway installations, locomotives etc. with a Christmas theme. And, assuming I do a Christmas Salvo, I will include a Christmas Crank Quiz covering a wide range of obscure political, railway and other topics. In a spirit of inclusion and diversity, readers can suggest a question (with the right answer!).

Literary ramblings and reflections

Not had much time for reading recently but I was very pleased to receive FOFNL 25 through the post the other day. What? You might ask. It refers to the 25th anniversary of Friends of the Far North Line. The group, covering the Inverness to Wick and Thurso route, well deserves this tribute and good to see a foreword by Bill Reeve, Director of Rail at Transport Scotland. I was reminded by the book’s editor, Ian Budd, that I spoke at the inaugural conference that launched the organisation, in Inverness in 1995. John Ellis, then director of ScotRail, was the main speaker. And it was the first time (I think) that I met Frank Roach, who has done so much for rail in the North of Scotland. The group has gone from strength to strength, promoting this remarkable railway. One of my earliest musical memories is an old 78 that my dad kept, called ‘The Railway Guard’ by (I think) Sandy Macpherson. It starts like this:

“I’m the gaird upon the train that goes from Inverness to Wick

…and comes back again from Wick to Inverness…” (etc.)

Perhaps wisely, the song does not feature in the book. Copies can be obtained price £5 – go to www.fofnl.org.uk

Song for Horwich: next Salvo production and a request

I’ve alluded to my forthcoming novel in previous issues. The ‘sqaulid tale’ as one readers called it, is about life in Horwich Loco Works, the campaign to save it – and what might have happened afterwards. It’s nearly ready, if that same reader can hurry up and get the proof reading done. 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. ‘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.

Special Traffic Notices

  • December 7th: Christmas lights and market at Glossop station
  • December 14th: Bolton Station Christmas Market

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/