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The Station Clock – a railway story

The Station Clock

A railway story by Paul Salveson

 Part 1: The Station House

Grange-over-Sands on a wet evening in early January; rain mixed with sleet driving in across Morecambe Bay. Dave Little and his partner Jane Bradshaw had been for a walk along the promenade before combined common sense took over and they retreated back towards the hotel. They walked down High Street, taking shelter in the doorway of an estate agent to escape a particularly torrential downpour.

The couple had decided to take a short break over New Year. Thanks partly to Covid, It had been a hard year for them both. Dave’s lecturing job at Leeds University had lost much of its intellectual attraction thanks to Microsoft Teams taking over from human interaction. Jane’s life had been harder, working as a consultant for the NHS in Bradford. Both were coming up for retirement and were ready for it; the stress of the last year was getting to them. A much-needed break in the South Lakes would allow them to see Jane’s mum Agnes, in Barrow.

They waited for the rain to pass and scanned the properties for sale.

“It’s more pricey than Leeds,” Dave thought out loud.

“Well, we’re not thinking about moving – are we?” Jane responded.

“No, course not. But there could be worse places to live if we ever wanted to.”

“You’re joking! God’s waiting room they call this place – very nice to visit and use as a base for walking but it’d drive us both mad if we had to live here.”

“Aye, you’re right Janey. But hey, look at this – ‘Station Master’s House, Kirkhead Crossing – needs renovation but would make a superb home for couple or single-person seeking a quiet life.”

“Show me – God Dave it looks a bit of a wreck don’t you think? Even an over-grown train-spotter like you should know better.”

He took another look. “It’s going pretty cheap – £150k or near offer.”

The rain had stopped and Jane grabbed Dave’s arm pulling him towards the hotel and the promise of a last glass of wine before bed.

The room had a fine view across the bay towards Morecambe, the Midland Hotel – and the nuclear power station. Gazing through the window they could see the Isle of Man ferry coming in to dock at Heysham. A train rumbled past, slowing down to call at Grange, then re-starting and curling round the bay towards Kents Bank and Wraysholme. The red tail light flickered then disappeared in the distance, leaving only the sound of the train’s horn as it approached the crossing before Kents Bank.

“Jane… we were planning to do a walk over towards Cartmel tomorrow, why don’t we see if we can get an appointment to call in and see that house, just out of curiosity…it’s sort of on the way?”

“Bloody hell Dave, you know what curiosity did?”

“Yes, I know, killed the cat…but we don’t have a cat.”

“You’re incorrigible…come on, let’s get to bed. I’ll ring the estate agent first thing but I bet they won’t be able to fix anything before we leave on Wednesday.”

She rang the estate agents at 9.15, before they went down for breakfast. The woman on the other end of the phone explained that the house was empty and they could only do accompanied viewings. She’d check the diary.

“You’re in luck – we’ve had a cancellation this morning. Could you make 11.30 at the property? Otherwise it would have to be Thursday.”

“Thanks – we’re heading home on Wednesday but it’s OK, if you can do this morning that’d be great. We’ll see you there.”

They set out just after 11 along the winding, hilly road to Flookburgh. The rain had cleared and the morning sky over the bay was dramatic, changing by the minute with clouds scudding across the morning sky. They turned off the main road and along a single-track lane dropping down towards the sea. The railway came into view and they could see the house as they approached, past the old tower, an historic landmark now partly in ruins, used as farm buildings.

They were a bit early so they parked up by the house and had a look round outside.

“I see what they mean about requiring renovation!” groaned Jane. “It’s a bloody wreck.”

Conversation was drowned out by the sound of warning sirens as the barriers just beyond the house came down across the road. A minute later a train came into sight and shot over the crossing. The gates lifted, silence returned.

A car was approaching down the lane and stopped next to theirs. A well-dressed young woman carrying a file got out.

“Hello, I’m Margaret Postlethwaite – or just ‘Mags’ –  nice to meet you. As you can see, the house has seen better days. The last resident – Mr. Benson, the tenant – sadly passed away four years ago and he’d not kept it in very good condition. The owner has been sitting on it since then but finally decided to sell. I know it’s a mess, but that’s reflected in the asking price. It’s got great potential though!”

Margaret struggled with the door key, an old mortice lock that had got rusty. It finally turned and she opened the door to find a mountain of junk mail piled up behind.

“I think the electricity is still on, let’s see if we can get some light!”

The lights came on to reveal two downstairs rooms with an adjoining kitchen. There was a bit of a garden at the side. The front window directly overlooked the line, with distant views of the bay and Humphrey Head beyond.

The stairs led to a couple of small bedrooms and bathroom, very 1970s style. The windows were UpVC and the downstairs fireplace had been replaced by storage heaters. Whoever had been here, they weren’t too interested in preserving heritage features. Not much apart from the shell of the house had survived. But one thing had – the old clock on the outside of the house, fixed above the front door and sheltered by a decaying timber canopy.

It was fixed at 11.45 – the face was in Roman numerals, the traditional railway style.

“The clock’s a nice feature isn’t it?” the estate agent commented, “doesn’t look like it’s worked for years though. The station closed years before I was even born, don’t think there’d have been much need for a station clock, nobody ever used it.”

…………………………………………………………………………….

Dave and Jane drove back to Leeds on Wednesday; most of the conversation centred on the house.

“We could always buy it as a holiday home, maybe even make a bit of money from renting it out?” suggested Dave.

“Well, the red-hot socialist has turned all capitalist now! But there’s the small problem of getting the money to buy it in the first place. Capitalists need capital.”

“Jane, if we pooled some of our resources we could afford it – just.”

“And what about the £30,000 – and maybe more – to make it liveable?” Jane responded. “Listen, if you really want it, let’s sell up and go for it. But after we’re both retired. My mum would be delighted, she always complains we never see her.”

“So that’s a ‘yes’ then?” said Dave, swerving to avoid an oncoming lorry on the Settle by-pass.

“Yes, if we manage to live that long…”

The sale was agreed and their solicitor said she expected completion by June, fitting in well with both their retirement plans. As they signed the contracts, she wryly commented that they’d both need to get proper station master’s uniforms to go with the house. “But won’t it be noisy with the trains going so near? Good luck, anyway.”

The sale was completed on time. They sold their house in Leeds with no difficulty and decided to stay a few weeks at a nearby pub – The Railway, appropriately enough – while they got stuck in with cleaning and painting, using local tradesmen to do the bigger jobs. They put their furniture into store for the time being.

Jane went at the task with the zeal of a convert, coming up with grandiose ideas for timber-framed doors and windows and Victorian fireplaces in the downstairs rooms.

They got on well with the people who ran the pub – Jack and Brenda Robinson. The family had had the pub for years, Jack inheriting it from his dad.

“It’s good that someone’s taking the Station House on”, said Jack, as he served Dave a pint of his new-found favourite, Loweswater Gold. “It’s not had a happy history but don’t let that put you off.”

“What was that?” picked up Jane. “What happened?”

“Over the years there’ve been a couple of accidents on the crossing,” replied the landlord, warming to his subject. They sen as there’s ‘blood on those tracks’. My dad remembers George Huddleston, a platelayer who lived with his family, getting run over right outside the house. Was distracted by something and a train hit him. Left a widow and three kids, though she – I think she was called Edith – carried on as crossing-keeper and kept the house. More recently there was a nasty accident late one night when one of the local lads drove over the crossing without looking. A train went right into the car and killed him outright. It was after that they put those automatic barriers in.”

“Huh, the estate agent said nothing about all that,” sighed Jane.

“It’s not like you to be superstitious,” said Dave, putting his arm round her. “Maybe we’ll get to know the ghost of the old station master, like ‘Ben Isaacs’ in that Arthur Askey film, ‘The Ghost Train’ – or the signalman in the Dickens’ story.”

“Oh sod off Dave. And don’t blame me if it all goes pear-shaped, if there’s any ghosts around I’ll be away off to mum’s in Barrow.”

They made good progress on the house; no ghosts were spotted and the incidents recounted by the landlord were put aside as they grew more excited about ‘moving in’ day. They’d filled two skips of rubbish, got local builders to put in a new kitchen, bathroom and – Jane won the argument – traditional timber-framed windows.

Searching the internet, they had dug out some original photos of the Station House, taken around 1900, which they used to get the new fittings as close to the original as possible, which dated back to the line’s opening in 1857.

“Look at that one, with the family group in front of the house,” said Jane. “’Mr and Mrs George Huddleston and family, Kirkhead Station House, 1901.’ That was the man Jack told us about in the pub, who was killed on the crossing. Poor chap, and leaving a wife and kids as well.”

“…and a crossing-keeper’s wage wouldn’t have stretched far then, if you’ve three kids to bring up on your own. But at least she was able to stay on here.”

The local joiner and plumber had turned up on time, did a good job and didn’t charge the earth. “Would still be waiting for them to come if we were back in Leeds,” said Jane, as she lugged the dining table chairs out of the removal van.

“There’s just one thing we should think about,” said Dave as they stood outside by the front door, enjoying a break between the unloading. “That clock.”

“What do you want to do with it,” said Jane. Can’t see it ever being made to work, it’s OK where it is.”

“Well let’s have a look anyway.” He got the ladders out and climbed up to the clock. It was screwed into a wooden panel that was rotten and the whole thing came off easily. Dave triumphantly carried his trophy down the ladder steps.

“Let’s take it inside and have a proper look.”

They were approaching the front door and a sudden wind slammed the door in Dave’s face.

“Where the hell did that come from?” Dave asked himself. Looking round, it was a calm, sunny July day.

“It’s that ghost o’ George Huddleston, I told yo’,” grinned Jane, lapsing into her mum’s Barrow accent.

Dave cleared some space on the kitchen table and started unscrewing the back of the clock. The screws were rusty and needed some WD 40 to encourage them, but eventually it pulled off. The mechanism looked as though it was still intact but badly rusted.

“There’s no way we’re going to get that working,” said Dave. “We’d be better off taking it to a clockmaker’s and having the old mechanism out and putting in entirely new battery-operated gear into it. I saw an advert for a place in Grange, shall we see if they can do it?”

“Well, if you want, but let’s keep the old mechanism, it’d be a shame to throw it away,” said Jane.

The face of the clock was pock-marked with stains from being exposed to decades of harsh weather. But cleaning round it he could make out the words ‘Furness Railway’ and a serial number.

“Bet this is worth something Jane, if we get stuck we could always sell it on e-bay.”

“Oh no we won’t,” responded Jane. “It’s one of the few bits of originality about the place, apart from the stone and mortar. It stays here – but if you want to get it running, try that place in Grange.”

The clockmaker – another Postlethwaite, Harold, who it turns out was Mags’ dad – was fascinated by it.

“Well I never. Furness Railway! It’s a fine clock but as you say there’s no way that mechanism will ever work. A shame to take it out, but don’t be too sentimental. A clock’s like a dog – made to work not be an ornament.

As he spoke, Ella, a retriever, came bounding out of the back room. “Though there’s always exceptions to the rule, I suppose.”

“Right, well if you can go ahead that’s great. We want to keep the old mechanism as part of the history of the house but having the clock working again would be the icing on the cake of everything we’ve done.”

“Aye, it’ll be a nice touch. Our Margaret told me about you and your wife buying the place. Good to get it occupied after all that trouble.”

The clock was ready in just a couple of days. Harold had done a decent job, even to the extent of giving the clock an artificial ‘tick-tock’ to make it seem a bit more ‘real’. Jane wasn’t convinced but it appealed to Dave.

Why don’t we keep it in the house? asked Jane. “It’d look good in the kitchen and nobody would see it outside above the door. There won’t be any passengers turning up for their train to Carnforth or Barrow, checking to see if they were in time.”

“OK, let’s try it in the kitchen. I’ll get a few rawl plugs and screw it into the wall above the dining table.”

After weeks of hyper activity – and stress – trying to get everything done, it seemed strange to be able to just relax and do nothing much.  A few friends from Leeds came over to see the new place and Jane’s mum drove across from Barrow.

“My, it’s lovely. And what a great job you’ve done on it. I love that clock, where did you get it from?” she asked Jane.

“It came with the house – we’ve had to have the mechanism changed – no way it could’ve been repaired. But it looks a treat, doesn’t it?”

“It does. They say clocks can bring you luck – good and bad, it has to be said. But I hope that’s a lucky clock.”

Summer gradually progressed into Autumn and the winds coming across the bay got stronger. They discovered they had a few neighbours, some of whom they’d met during their three weeks’ stay at the pub.

David Braithwaite was a local farmer, one of the few regular users of the crossing. He had two sides two him – the taciturn north Lancashire farmer but with a kinder welcoming side.

“I’ve brought you a few eggs – and some jam the wife has made. A sort of house-warming present though I know you’ve been here a few weeks now. Settling in alreet?”

“Oh yes,” responded Jane. “And thanks so much for the eggs. I was just going to pop into Flookburgh for some things so I can cross them off the list. Lovely.”

“Aye, they’ll taste better than those eggs you get in supermarkets from battery hens. Wouldn’t touch ‘em. Now then, I see the old clock’s gone?” he said, looking up to the blank space where the clock had been fixed.

“Well not exactly, Dave took it down and it’s in the kitchen. We got a new mechanism put in – it works now.”

“Well, I’m glad it is. They sen as that was what, indirectly like, killed George Huddleston.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, this is just hearsay passed down but my fayther told me as George had had a few bottles of ale an’ he decided he’d go out and wind up the clock. Silly bugger, it were well after 11 o’ clock at neet and pitch black. Wind blowing like mad. His wife begged him to stay in but he’d have nowt of it. The next thing we know is the sound of a train whistling – and a shout. They found George’s body further down the track. A bit of a mess by all accounts. Sorry lass, hope that doesn’t upset you. Long time ago, before the Great War. But time moves slower round here.”

Part 2: The Coach and Horses and the Airport Express

Dave and Jane had time to explore the area, making the most of the fine walking country around Cartmel and Grange. A stroll down to Humphrey Head was a regular afternoon outing, by the ‘holy well’ and up onto the headland where legend says the last wolf in England was killed. Standing on the headland looking out across the bay you could see Morecambe, and round to the west was Ulverston and the Hoad Monument; Barrow further along.

Before the railway was built there was a regular coach service across the bay. It was a dangerous experience and a journey that had claimed many lives over the centuries. It was discontinued after the railway opened in 1857 though people carried on walking across, using the services of The Guide who lived further round the coast between Kents Bank and Grange.

………………………………………………………

It was a typically wet and windy night in late October. The last train of the day was the Manchester Airport to Barrow, reporting number 1C50, powered by one of the new class 195 trains – ‘Pride of Cumbria.’ The last train from ‘the south’ to Barrow has been known by generations of railway folk and locals as ‘The Whip’ – though nobody knows why.

The driver was Jimmy Helm, an old-hand Barrow man who had started on the railway as a cleaner at Carnforth, not long after the end of steam. He’d been booked as a driver at Barrow for 25 years and was coming up to retirement. Jack had company from Preston – his old mate Derek Graham who was booked to return to Barrow ‘as passenger’ after bringing in a train from Windermere. He was sat in the front coach behind Jimmy, and joined him – against the rules but no prying eyes would be around at that time of night – after they left Carnforth. The train gradually emptied, small handfuls of people getting out at Silverdale, Arnside and Grange.

At Kents Bank a couple of regulars got on, heading home to Barrow after seeing friends. They waved to Jack from the platform as they joined the train, thankful to get into the warmth. After the doors had closed he got the ‘right away’ signal from Jenny.

It had started to rain – hard. That sort of icy, horizontal rain that comes in off Morecambe Bay when it has a mind to, which is frequently.

“Well Derek, just a few months to go and that’s it. Job’s not what it was, I’ll be able to get me feet up or do a spot o’ fishin.”

“Aye, an’ I won’t be far behind you! I’ve had enough o’ 4 a.m. starts and late finishes like this.” Derek agreed.

The train gathered speed and swept round the curve past Humphrey Head and the farm buildings to the left, rain lashing across the train’s windscreen making visibility difficult. They’d left Kents Bank on time at 23.43 and were hoping for a slightly early finish at Barrow.

It wasn’t to be.

Jack had expected the signal controlling Kirkhead Crossing to be showing ‘green’ – and it was, together with a flashing white signal to tell the driver that the crossing was working correctly.

A couple of seconds later Jack looked through the rain-spattered windscreen in horror. The gates were open to the road and there was what looked like a horse and cart, or carriage, galloping towards the crossing.

“Bloody’ell! What in f…’s name…..” shouted Jack as he threw the train brake into a full emergency application. He felt the train rock violently.

Derek had instinctively crouched down behind the control panel to avoid any shattered glass hitting him. Jack just looked on in shock. The next moment there was a loud bang and a flash, with the snorts of a distressed horse. In the train there were shouts of panic as the train slowed to a violent halt.

The train’s brakes had taken effect quickly and the three-coaches shuddered to a stand about a hundred yards beyond the crossing.

“You alreet mate? Derek asked.

“Well I’m not hurt. But f….n’ hell, what was that?”

“B…..d if I know but we’ll go and see. Better get the ‘red button’ pressed so the signaller and Control know we’ve a problem. We could be here a while.”

The conductor, Jenny Johnson, had been issuing a ticket to the couple who’d got on at Kent’s Bank when she was thrown to the floor when the train lurched to a stop. She was just behind the cab door.

“You guys OK? What happened?”

“I wish we knew – we had a green – didn’t we Derek? – yet the gates were open and some sort of horse-drawn carriage ran across. We hit it, I’m sure. That’s as much as I can say. Let’s have a look at the train and see if there’s any damage. Jenny, tell the passengers what’s happening and put some clips down on the up line to mek sure we’re protected.”

She put her ‘hi-vis’ jacket on and jumped onto the track with the regulation pair of Track Circuit Operating Clips, fixed across the rails to put signals to danger, if they weren’t already. Just to make sure they were on, she gave each clip a good stamping with her boots.

The Ulverston ‘bobby’ had been alerted by the emergency signal – the ‘red button’ – and the cab telephone rang within a few seconds.

Arthur Pickstone, the signaller, had been expecting a quiet night.

“Hello Signaller. This is an emergency call. This is the driver of IC50 stopped in advance of Signal U24. I think we’ve just struck summat at Kirkhead Crossing. Can you confirm signaller that all lines are blocked so I can go down and safely inspect. Thank you.”

“By the hell, I wondered where you’d got to,” Pickstone replied. “Is everyone OK?  Control is aware of the situation and all I can tell you is wait for further instructions. There’s nothing on the ‘up’ now until the 5 a.m. Airport but take care all the same.  I can confirm that both lines are blocked. It’s bloody strange, everything was working OK at this end, the gates were shown as down and you had a green signal.”

“You’re telling me it’s strange – I had a green and the flashing whites but the barriers seemed to be up – and this horse and cart, or something, went across and it sounded as though we’d hit it. Anyway, stay awake and I’ll let you know if we find owt. I’ve got a driver travelling home passenger with us and he’ll assist, as well as my guard.”

Jack climbed down onto the track with his lamp to see if there was any damage, or sign of what he might have hit. He was prepared for the worst, having been involved in another crossing accident years ago near Millom. Some poor old demented sod had wandered onto the line and the train hit him full on. There wasn’t much of him left. It made an awful mess of the train too.

This time there was no scene of squashed bodies with blood, skin and bone smattered around the front. Nothing at all, as far as he could see. Derek had gone back with Jenny reassuring the few passengers on the train that everything was OK but they could be stuck a while. Most of them took it well, though one character who’d been on the ale at Lancaster started shouting the odds about compensation.

“Everyone will get compensation, don’t worry about that – I’ll go round with forms for you to fill in and claim, we’re just checking there are no casualties,” said Jenny. “A…….e”, she thought to herself.

Derek looked round towards the crossing and sure enough the gates were down – the train had stopped within the overlap before they would go back up for road traffic – not that there’d be any at that time of night.

The Control duty manager at Manchester, Dave Parkinson, rang Jimmy a few minutes later after Jimmy’s initial check round the train – which had revealed nothing. He’d started his railway career at Carnforth so knew the line well.

“Hello driver – that’s Jimmy Helm isn’t it? I knew you when I was Signalling Manager at Barrow back in the 90s. You OK? What’s happened?”

Jimmy explained, as best he could, what he’d seen and how he had reacted, adding that he’d done as good an inspection of the train as he could – it was a dark night and the rain was still coming down in buckets – and nothing had been found.

“Bloody hell Jimmy, that’s some story. Listen, I’m going to send out some relief for you – you’ve had a nasty shock. Cliff Rudge was just signing off and he owed me a favour, so he’s on his way in a taxi – just hope the driver can find you. Des Melia, the on-call DTM is with him and Network Rail has been informed; their Mobile Ops Manager is on his way from Lancaster so you’ll have quite a party! How’s your conductor? Is she OK? I’ll try and raise her on-call Conductor Team Manager if need be?”

Jenny responded saying she was fine apart from a bit of a bruised knee after the sudden stop and dragging the on-call CTM out on a night like this would be over-kill.

“Good, it was starting to get a bit over-crowded. We’ve sent out for technicians from Newton Heath to have a closer look under the train – as close as possible on a dark night anyway – and that’s going to take some time. The taxi will take the five passengers; you and your mate go back to Barrow on the train with your conductor, which will run as empty.”

……………………………………………………………………………..

Derek managed to walk down the four-foot, in the driving rain, towards the Station House, which was in darkness, though Dave and Jane’s car was outside suggesting the occupants were at home in bed. He thought it wise to let the occupants know what had happened – and there might be a brew going, though they might not appreciate being woken up at half past midnight.

He rang the door bell and after a couple of minutes some lights went on and Dave opened the door.

“I’m really sorry to disturb you sir. I’m a driver on the Barrow train and there’s been an incident here at the crossing. We can’t see anything amiss but we’ve had to make an emergency stop. The train is just down the line.” Derek pointed to the red tail light of the beleaguered express.

“Did you hear anything, about fifteen minutes ago? We seemed to hit something, looked like a horse and carriage of some kind, and it made a huge bang.”

Dave looked nonplussed. “I’m quite a light sleeper but I didn’t hear anything. Look, would you like to come in and have a cup of tea? You look in a bit of a state. If there are others bring them down and we’ll get the kettle on.”

“That’s very kind but the rules say we’ve got to keep the passengers on the train for the time being – if we have hit something we don’t want to give them any nasty shocks. But we will need to get the passengers out of the train eventually, when the taxi arrives to take them home; we could be stuck for hours. It’s not a nice night to be standing around in the middle of nowhere – if you don’t mind me saying so – with no shelter.”

“Sure, fully understand. Tell you what – we’ll get the kettle on and make a pot of tea and you can take it back to the train, cups and milk provided as well!”

The five passengers, as well as Jimmy, Derek and Jenny, appreciated the cups of tea and biscuits. Even the drunk – who’d sobered up a bit by now – was appreciative of Dave and Jane’s hospitality.

“We’ll keep an eye out for the taxi,” said Jane, before Derek walked back to the train. “A lot of taxis don’t know the area, just hope he’s not got lost and ended up in Grange. What time is it Dave?”

Another half hour passed; Dave and Jane stayed up to greet the taxi. “Oh shit, the clock has stopped. It’s still showing 11.45. Hang on, I’ll get the phone out. It’s 1 o’clock now and I think I can hear something coming down the lane – must be the taxi.”

The cab stopped just short of the crossing, with a Network Rail 4×4 just behind with Cathy Huddleston, the on-call Ops Manager; Cliff Rudge and Des Melia got out, offering to help the train crew get the passengers safely down the track to the crossing.

Knowing the ‘up’ line was blocked the small group of passengers and railway staff was led down the track by Jenny, using her torch to show the way.

She saw the passengers into the taxi and told the driver to drop off two off at Ulverston then head direct for Barrow with the rest. Checks had been made at Cark and Dalton just in case anyone was waiting and luckily there wasn’t – or they’d given up and ordered a cab.

Jimmy got onto the signalman at Ulverston and told him the taxi was on its way to Barrow. “Thanks driver. Control has said the rolling stock technicians should be with you soon.”

Clive Draper and Ash Patel were there by 2.15 a.m., greeting Clive with characteristic Manchester humour.

“Hello driver, what have you got for us then? Hope it’s not too grisly because we’ve only just had our supper.”

A more thorough inspection produced the same result as Jimmy’s. There was nothing apparent. “What they’ll probably do,” said Ash. “is send the train to Newton Heath for a more detailed inspection tomorrow. If this train has hit anything – and we can’t see a thing – they’ll find out.”

Cliff Rudge, now the driver of the train, rang Ulverston box to say that the train was ready to proceed following the inspection. Cathy had checked the gates as best she could in the darkness and they seemed to be working OK.

“Thanks driver, you’re right away to depot then. And I can catch up on my night’s reading – it’s a ghost story! But mebbe yours is better!”

Derek and Jenny thanked Jane and Dave for their hospitality. “We’re really grateful for all your help; some folk would have slammed the door in our faces and told us to get lost!”

“I’m really glad we could help and hope you get to the bottom of the mystery. Let us know if you hear anything,” said Jane as Derek turned towards his train, feeling ever more baffled as to what he and Jimmy had experienced.

Cliff took the controls and the train moved forward – Jimmy and Derek sat at the table behind the cab door.

“So you’re telling me that you saw a horse and carriage galloping over the crossing and you think you hit it – but there’s no trace of any damage? Had you two been on the piss in Preston?” shouted Cliff from the cab. “You couldn’t make it up though, I’ll give you that. And to be honest, and seriously, I know you two aren’t ale cans.”

Jimmy, Derek and Jenny signed off at 3.45 after each completed an incident report. They knew they hadn’t heard the last of it. The duty supervisor told them Control had said they were to phone in at 12.00 and they’d take it from there, but they were not expected to take up their booked work. “For your own good – you’ve had a fright, especially you Jimmy,”  Eddie Wilson, the supervisor added.

…………………………………………………………….

They were asked to appear the following afternoon before their Driver Manager at Barrow. It was Mary Harrop, an experienced manager with ten years’ driving experience, but half the age of both the drivers.

She was suitably deferential to Jimmy and Derek, seeing each individually, offering them cups of tea. They told the same story of what they’d seen happen. Derek was the second interviewee.

“Derek, you and Jimmy have had unblemished careers and I know you’re both coming up for retirement. All we can see is that you made an emergency stop at Kirkhead Crossing. That’s OK, you didn’t go through a red, nothing untoward happened. If I was you, off the record, I’d keep quiet about this ‘horse and carriage’ story. I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I don’t know what to believe. But if it went to Rail Accident Investigation Branch I can’t see them swallowing it. Can you?”

“No, Mary, you’re right. But it’s a queer do that we both saw this bloody nag, and heard one hell of a bang. And both of us saw the barriers were up. What d’you mek o’that?”

“We’ve had a preliminary report from Network Rail on the barriers at Kirkhead and they say they’re working normally and no fault has been detected. Same with the signal that protects the crossing. So we’re still none the wiser. The 195 has been sent to Newton Heath for examination, let’s see if they can find any trace of it hitting something. For now, I’m giving both you and your mate a week’s sick leave. Whatever did happen that night it might have an effect on you and your alertness so we’re not taking any chances. In fact, let’s make it two weeks. OK?”

It was coming up to Christmas so a couple of weeks paid leave wasn’t unwelcome to either of them. Jenny was given two days off.

“I’d give you a bit longer chuck but we’re short-handed and we’re already having to cancel trains because we’ve no guards,” the CTM Janice Pickering explained.

…………………………………………………………………………….

Jimmy’s wife, Alex, had been saying she fancied a trip to Grange to visit Higginson’s the famous butchers, so how about a run out in the car next week?

That gave Jimmy an idea. It would be nice to call in at the Station House and personally thank the people there – David and Jane he remembered – and have a look at the place in daylight.

The car meandered down the lane from Allithwaite and pulled up outside the Station House. Dave was doing a bit of work outside, making the most of the mild November weather.

“Hello, I don’t know if you remember me but I was one of the drivers on the train that made the emergency stop last week. Just called round to thank you for your hospitality. It was really appreciated.”

“No problem at all, we don’t get much excitement round here and it has certainly given us something to talk about. And we’ve been doing a bit of our own research. Come in and have a cup of tea.

Jimmy and Alex went into the sitting room where they’d been on ‘that night’, feeling much less stressed than Jimmy had been then. Jane joined the company.

“I’m glad you called round,” Jane said as she placed the coffee and cakes on the table. “After last week we’ve been doing a bit of research on the area and found some things that might interest you. Back in the 1850s, when the railway was being constructed, there was still a horse carriage service, a few days a week, from Ulverston to Lancaster, ‘over the sands’. It didn’t last long after the railway opened – it was unreliable and dangerous. What probably killed it off was a terrible accident that happened in November 1857 when it tried to cross the bay on a stormy night,” Jane explained.

“The Westmorland Gazette had a lot to say about it – the carriage, carrying four people, a driver and guide, got lost in the sands and it was only a couple of days later when the bodies started to appear, washed up at Kents Bank and by Humphrey Head. The coach driver was never found, probably got washed out into the sea.  The route the coach took was this crossing by our house, then round by Kirkhead Hall to Kents Bank – and then headed across the sands. It was a stormy night, the driver took a big risk, and sadly paid for it. The coach left Ulverston at 11.00 pm so would have been at the the crossing by around 11.45 – the time when you saw what you thought was a horse-drawn carriage.”

“Well, thanks, that’s really very interesting. I’ve seen paintings of the carriages crossing the sands, led by teams of horses. I thought that had finished by the early 1800s.” Jimmy gazed into his coffee.

“Have another biscuit James – they are very nice – then we’d better get on our way,” announced Mrs Helm, lowering the tension.

“Thanks once again for your kindness,” said Jimmy. If I hear anything from the examination of the train I’ll let you know.”

………………………………………………..

Two days later his mobile rang. “Hello Jimmy, it’s Mary here at Preston. “We’ve had some results back from Newton Heath. The examination of the class 195 unit didn’t produce much more than the usual bits and bobs that trains pick up – remains of birds that had got in the way, a few branches, general muck. But they did find traces of timber – polished wood to be precise – at the front end. One of our ‘Year in Industry’ students said she could take a sample of the wood to the university and ask one of his mates in the labs if they could do an analysis of it. Now this is where it does get interesting. The bit of wood was well over a hundred years old. Probably 150 years or even more. There was some lacquer on one side, used by coach makers back in the 1840s, on both traditional horse-drawn carriages and early railway carriages. This sample also showed some trace of, well, to put it crudely, horse shit. So you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to think it was the remains of a horse-drawn carriage from the 1850s which our 21st century train had managed to hit. Or might have done. Maybe. What do you think of that then?”

There was a long silence on the phone at Jimmy’s end. “So d’you think my story – and Derek’s – about hitting a horse and carriage isn’t such a fantasy after all?”

“I’m not saying I’ve changed my mind – and I don’t see how we could take this to RAIB and expect them to believe us. And it wasn’t a reportable accident anyway. But I thought it might give you and Derek some peace of mind. As far as the company’s concerned, case closed. Enjoy your leave and please don’t see any more ghosts, OK? And by the way, you know the company takes a dim view of unauthorised members of staff riding with the driver?”

……………………………………………………………………

The following day – Jimmy was still on his enforced leave – he decided to call round again at the Station House and tell the couple what he’d been told. Dave was out – Jane said he’d been at the clockmaker’s getting the old clock mended after it had stopped the other night. Dave came through the door, holding the ancient time-piece.

“The clockmaker said there didn’t seem anything wrong with it – put a new battery in but it was working alright before. Just a quirk.”

Blitz over Barrow

Dave and Jane settled into life at Kirkhead. Christmas came and went and they were able to get out and do more exploring around the South Lakes. Retirement was doing both of them good – no more of the occasional rows, no stressful ‘Teams’ meetings. And the clock was keeping perfect time. Spring came round, one of those magnificent Springs where the valleys of the Winster, Duddon and Rusland Pool were full of colour and warmth.

It was a Saturday, May 7th. Dave and Jane had been out for a long walk over Hampsfell, getting home in time for a late supper followed by an early night.

It was Dave who first heard something, at about quarter to twelve.

It seemed to be coming from Ulverston way. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw. The sky was completely ablaze and opening the window he heard a seemingly endless succession of explosions and what sounded like heavy gunfire.

“My God! Jane, come here…I can’t believe this is happening.”

“Where’s it coming from? It must be Barrow – it’s well beyond Ulverston. It looks like the whole town’s on fire……What’s going on? There was nothing on the news. Are we at war? Or at the receiving end of some sort of terrorist attack? If one of those nuclear subs goes up the whole of Cumbria could go with it.”

Dave stood at the window, staring in shock. The explosions continued, with the sound of counter-attack fire coming from below. What looked like an aircraft burst into flames, downed by the ground fire.

The next moment they heard loud banging on the front door.

“Help! Please let us in! Help!”

Dave dashed down the stairs and opened the door – to find nothing. The rain was lashing against the porch and he checked up and down the lane – there was no sign of anything.

He went back upstairs. The sound of explosions in the distance continued and through the rain they could see the flames getting higher. After two minutes the banging started again. “Please help us! Let us in!”

This time they both went down, with a torch and some trepidation. The door blew open with the wind, Jane was drenched by a squall of rain. There was no-one to be seen.

“Look, let’s make ourselves a brew – we’re not going to get any sleep with all this going on – and if we do get any more visits at least we’ll be downstairs. Maybe it’s kids playing stupid games.”

“Dave, come off it. What kids? And at half past midnight? Any naughty boys will be safely packed up in bed. We’re not in Headingley now!”

It was then that Jane made a sudden realisation. “Mum! Oh my God Dave, she could be in the middle of all that. I’ve got to ring her.”

She rushed downstairs picking up the landline which was placed on the kitchen table below the clock. The phone rang for what seemed an eternity until at last she heard a voice.

“Who’s that ringing at this time?”

“Mum, it’s me, Jane. Are you alright?”

“Course I’m bloody well alright, at least I was before you woke me up. What’s the matter?”

“Oh, well…. nothing really, we just keep hearing explosions that seem to be coming from Barrow way. You sure you’re OK?”

“Yes love, I am. Have you been on the wine again? We’re alright here, get some sleep,” as she put the phone down.

Jane stood still for some time. She noticed that the clock had stopped again, at its usual time of 11.45. Bloody clockmaker! It would have to go back in the morning. Hopefully he wouldn’t charge.

She went back upstairs; the fires had disappeared and the explosions had stopped. All that remained was a gentle whistling through the trees and the sound of the barriers coming down as a slightly-delayed Barrow train came rattling over the crossing.

Jane and Dave settled back down to bed; neither could sleep. She mentioned the clock stopping again.

“I’m sure that clock has something to do with all this. All the bad things here have happened at 11.45. It can’t be a coincidence. Come on Jane, we’ve both got PhDs, we should be able to get to the bottom of this.”

That morning, before taking the clock back to Grange, Jane got on the internet and googled ‘Barrow – bombings’. Wikipedia described the events of May 1941:

The difficulty of solely targeting Barrow’s shipyard meant that many residential neighbourhoods were bombed instead; 83 civilians were killed, 330 injured, and over 10,000 houses were damaged or destroyed during the Blitz, about 25 percent of the town’s housing stock. Surrounding towns and villages were often mistaken for Barrow and were attacked instead, while many streets in Barrow were severely damaged. Bombing during mid-April 1941 caused significant damage to a central portion of Abbey Road, completely destroying the Waverley Hotel as well as Christ Church and the Abbey Road Baptist Church. The town’s main public baths and Essoldo Theatre were also severely damaged, however they were repaired within years. Hawcoat Lane is a street that is most noted for taking a direct destructive hit in early May 1941. Barrow has been described as somewhat unprepared for the Blitz, as there were only enough public shelters for 5 percent of the town’s population; some people who lived in the town centre were even forced to seek refuge in hedgerows on the outskirts of Barrow. This shortage of shelters was believed to have led to excessively high casualties.”

The worst of the bombings took place on May 7th, with the bombardment starting the previous night, just before midnight. Other reports told of terrified Barrovians fleeing the blitz, getting trains or buses – if they could – to surrounding towns and villages where they hoped they’d be safe. A train left Barrow that evening bound for Carnforth, packed with people escaping to wherever they could – Dalton, Ulverston, Cark – and Kirkhead. It departed minutes before the station suffered a direct hit. Many families were said to have taken shelter in strangers’ homes, barns or just on roadsides. Anything would be better than what they’d experienced that night.

“Look at this Dave. This is what we saw last night. Or imagined what we saw. 80 years to the day. I remember mum talking about it all, stories her mum had told her. She lived at the bottom of Abbey Road which took some of the worst of the blitz. She was lucky, but some of the houses nearby were destroyed and several of her neighbours died. She helped pull some of the bodies out of the rubble, including little kids. Grandad was away in North Africa, with the Lancashire Fusiliers. When he came back and saw the town he said it looked like they’d had it worse than anything Rommel threw at them. And that hammering on the door – was it something to do with those poor people fleeing the bombing – eighty years ago?”

The series of events was starting to take its toll. Rows between Dave and Jane become more common, almost as bad as when they were both doing stressful jobs. Jane was starting to think they should put the house up for sale. They’d get their money back, even with all the extra work they’d done.

Dave took the clock back to Postlethwaite’s. He had some sympathy for what Jane was saying.

“Good morning David,” Harold looked up from his current ‘patient’ as he called them and put down his pipe. “Not more problems with that railway clock? Let’s have a look.”

The battery was tested and was OK; the clock had started working that morning, after Dave had re-set the fingers.

“Do you think there’s something odd about the clock?” Dave asked. “I mean…something supernatural. Sounds weird I know. We’ve been doing some digging and it seems that all the bad things – fatal accidents, imagined fires and explosions, seem to happen around the same time of night – 11.45 – and the clock stops working. I’d have said it was just coincidence if it was a couple of times, but it’s more than that.”

Postlethwaite sat down on his bench and re-lit his pipe, aping his hero, Harold Wilson.

“Strange things happen Dave. Have you ever heard of the Timberbottom Skulls, over Bolton way? They’d been displayed in a farmhouse for many, many years, with a legend that they should never be moved. Then some bright spark came along and moved ‘em. They didn’t like it. They created havoc. It was only when they were put back in their original resting place that the trouble stopped. It may sound a mad idea, but why not put the clock back in its original place; I’ll fit the old mechanism – happy to do it, as favour, and I’ll sort you out with a nice retro-style Victorian clock for the kitchen.”

Dave returned the following day with the clock and the old mechanism which they’d been lucky enough to keep in a bottom drawer, following Jane’s intervention. Postlethwaite took out the new battery-powered mechanism there and put back the old clockwork machinery.

“Pity it’ll never work. But good luck – let’s hope these strange goings-on come to an end. I’ll order one of those repro railway clocks for you. They cost about £60 and look OK.”

……………………………………………………………………..

Jane had already been up the ladders and fixed a new wooden batten on the wall above the front door. She was a better DIY-er than Dave, though he wouldn’t admit it.

“Well done love! Let’s give it a coat or two of paint to protect it from the weather and we’ll mount the clock tomorrow.”

It was another fine day and after breakfast Dave volunteered to fix the clock back into place. Three long screws went easily into the batten, fixing the clock firmly in place. Dave went back down the ladders, pleased with his efforts.

Neither of them noticed that the clock had started to work.

Tick-tock-tick-tock – tick-tock

……………………………………………………………………………………….

January 9th 2022

 

Many thanks to all who have helped with technical advice, particularly Chris, Jason and Tim.

Note that this is a work of fiction, loosely based on a particular part of the Furness Peninsula. The characters are entirely fictional. Barrow was badly hit during the Second World War and the story is told in detail through displays in the town’s Dock Museum. Barrow station did suffer a direct hit but the part of the story about a train taking people out of the town is imagined – but may well have happened. See The Barrow Blitz, by Bryn Trescatheric.

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Weekly Salvo 300

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 300 December 24th   CHRISTMAS SPECIAL      

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern.

General gossips of a personal nature

Flippin’ ‘eck, the 300th Salvo! Not like me to be so consistent, though it’s a while since I was able to produce a weekly version. I’m glad it has kept going, mainly down to people telling me, usually in chance meetings, that they like getting it. So look out for Salvo 301 sometime in January. A very big thanks for the interest and support from everyone, including those who have dared to disagree with the infinite wisdom bestowed on you all, through The Salvo.

Christmas Eve has mixed memories for me. I used to love it as a boy, looking forward to the big day; I think the most memorable present was a Hornby Dublo model of ‘Duchess of Buccleuch’, 46232, when I was eight. I have less fond memories of Christmas Eve 2008 when Jo and myself were ushered into a hospital room to be given the news that Jo’s cancer had spread and really, that was it. And they had done their best. You’d think we would have had a truly dreadful Christmas, but not so. We walked up to West Nab on Christmas Day and did more local walks before New Year. January was dreadful and the end came on a snowy day early in February. But I can look back on over ten years’ of fun and enjoyment.

A lot more people have experienced death of loved ones in the last couple of years. I’ve been lucky not to have been affected too closely though the loss of Manu Mistry was a very sad blow. So too some good friends in the ‘railway family’ REPTA like Bryan and Ian who passed away this year. We must not forget them, and the thousands more who have gone before their time, as well as the amazing people in our NHS who have worked long and hard to help get us through this.

Sid Calderbank in good voice, accompanied by Julie Proctor on fiddle, at Bolton Station Community Partnerhip’s Christmas Fair last Saturday. Instead of teh rather chilly platform 4 e held the event at Bolton Interchange – thank you TfGM!

Let’s not get too miserable though – I’ve just watched the wonderful ‘Blackburn Sings Christmas’ organised by Gareth Malone, involving the people of Blackburn – especially its front-line NHS workers. The best show we’re likely to see over Christmas, even including ‘We Wish You a Mandy Christmas’ which came complete with John Cooper-Clarke.

A very happy Christmas and New Year to all my long-suffering readers.

General gossips of a political nature

Politics in 2021 has been pretty bleak, in many ways, at least until very recently. A welcome Christmas present was the Lib Dems’ win in North Shropshire – a clear pointer that people are well and truly fed up with the present administration. It’s also a signal that people have enough common sense to vote tactically. Could the same approach work in a general election, if there isn’t a formal deal between the opposition parties?  I’m coming round to the view that if we are going to get a progressive government it’s very much down to what happens in England, with voters using their common sense to select the candidate with most chance of beating the Tory incumbent. I don’t think a formal ‘pact’ is the right thing to do, but welcome readers’ views on that.

In some places the ‘main opposition’ will be Labour, in others Lib Dem. That implies -and seems to have been the case in North Shropshire – that one of the main opposition parties gets an easy run, with minimal campaigning by the other opposition parties, without a formal arrangement.

The Lib Dems shouldn’t run away with the idea that they are now in second place against the Tories, in England; they aren’t. Labour still is, though the Lib Dems should be well placed to make gains in more rural seats and parts of the South where Labour doesn’t stand a chance. That’s difficult for the Greens where realistically the best they could

Will the red flag wave over Blackstone Edge in 2022?

hope for is retaining the excellent Caroline Lucas. The better they do the more likely they are to split the progressive vote and let the Tory in. It’s an old dilemma, but they need to recognise that the only chance they have of getting seats is to have a Labour Government supported by the Lib Dems and SNP and Plaid Cymru, bringing in proportional representation. For now, the Greens’ best hope is to build up their support in local elections, where they can offer something distinctive and relevant. The same goes for the emerging regionalist parties in the North. A long haul.

The Integrated Rail Plan:  A Considered View

The Rail Reform Group has published what it rightly terms ‘a considered view’ of the much-criticised Integrated Rail Plan. The full version of the paper has a link below – but to give you a taster, here is an excerpt….

The background to the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) is that the country is still going through a pandemic that has ravaged its finances and changed the market for travel to the extent that rail has lost as much as 50% of its commuting business. Despite this, the Government is still prepared to invest £96bn in rail infrastructure for the North and Midlands. This is a massive vote of confidence in both rail and the economies of the North and Midlands. That should be a cause for celebration, not cries of betrayal, which for the most part seem to be politically motivated.

The IRP was intended to identify how HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and Midlands Rail Hub would dovetail together for a network of high speed routes, exploring the scope for shared use of new infrastructure and setting out an overarching delivery schedule in order to deliver maximum benefits quicker and to

Integrated Rail Plan – but we need a plan for all of the North including towns like Accrington

provide a realistic workbank for the supply industry. It was not meant to be a total blueprint for the Midlands and North. This means that proposals such as the Leamside Line are considered to be City Region schemes with alternative funding streams. This may be why no mention was made of Manchester’s Castlefield Corridor, for which there are ongoing workstreams. Incidentally, it does appear that IRP would take two paths off this corridor in each direction; a Liverpool-Manchester Airport semi-fast and a Redcar-Manchester Airport based on the current timetable.

A lot of the criticism is that ‘only’ upgraded lines and not new build is to be provided. Do passengers really care whether the line is new or upgraded if the trains are fast, frequent, comfortable and, of course, on time? An electrified, resignalled and improved Transpennine and Midland Main Lines (MML) is precisely the investment that has been called for over many years.  Whilst ‘upgrading’ implies disruption to services on the existing lines, the industry has improved its management of the required blockades. New Build implies less disruption to existing services, but there will be wider community impacts. If one regards Ditton Junction to Marsden as a new railway, this would then be a similar mileage to the proposed Manchester – Leeds via Bradford route.

Until IRP there were two schemes; the Transpennine Rail Upgrade (TRU), which seemed something of a patchwork of smaller schemes, but are at least already in delivery or under development. This included Manchester-Victoria-Stalybridge electrification, Huddersfield-Ravensthorpe quadrupling and electrification and Colton Junction – Church Fenton electrification. Then there was the showcase new build NPR line linking Manchester to Leeds via Bradford. Both these projects seemed to involve a degree of duplication, that would inevitably push NPR into the distant future while short and medium terms investment focussed on a series of TRU schemes. What we get now is a combination of the two, with the intention of more benefits being delivered sooner.

Commentators refer to a Warrington to Marsden new high-speed line but have missed the point that what is being delivered is a new fast electrified main line between Liverpool and Manchester.  The IRP should have majored on this. The Ditton Junction – Warrington Bank Quay Low Level line, now virtually disused since Fiddlers Ferry power station closed, will be rebuilt as a high-speed electrified line that reaches to within ten miles of Liverpool. That remaining ten miles is a four-track railway with spare capacity, except for a short section at Wavertree Junction, and all of this will doubtless be modernised to fulfil its new NPR role. This new main line from Liverpool and Warrington will be linked by new build to HS2 thus giving them direct HS2 services to Birmingham and London as well as NPR services to Manchester and Leeds. Provision for the new junction from HS2 to the Liverpool direction is already in development under HS2 phase 2b and the route into Manchester (mostly tunnel from the Airport) is already specified. This is precisely the synergy that IRP was intended to deliver.

https://railreformgroup.org.uk/the-integrated-rail-plan-a-considered-response

Building on Success: future directions for Community Rail

After many iterations and debate, I’ve produced a ‘final’ version of my paper Building on Success; Future directions for Community Rail. A link to the full version is below but the Preface gives a flavour and context:

This paper is aimed at a range of people active in the rail and transport industry as well as in the wider public sector – local government, combined authorities – and the ‘third sector’. I’m grateful to many friends and colleagues for their input to the paper, though I bear prime responsibility for what’s in it. The Rail Reform Group has kindly agreed to host the paper on its website and the same caveat applies.

I was involved in setting up the movement that became ‘Community Rail’ in the early 1990s, through a report called New Futures for Rural Rail. We launched it

Knaresborough has benefited from the work of its ‘station friends’ group

at the National Railway Museum in 1992. This paper is my own personal revision of ‘New Futures’, throwing up ideas and suggestions for Community Rail that can go forward over the next ten years.

Back in the 1990s, local railways were struggling and the main priority was to build use of what was there. We’ve moved on from that and part of Community Rail’s role is to politely not accept what we’re given but keep pressing, with well-reasoned arguments, why rail needs to grow. That requires further electrification, improved capacity to allow more services, better quality stations and new ones, as well as line re-openings where there’s a case and good links to the re-fashioned HS2 projects. Getting better access to and from stations by bus, bike and foot are as important as the train service itself.

Today, with over 70 community rail partnerships and hundreds of station groups, ‘community rail’ is no longer a purely ‘rural’ initiative, it includes inner urban areas as much as rural branch lines. And it isn’t just about the hardware of the railway; it’s active across a wide range of activities which back then we’d have thought way beyond the scope of what railways should be about. Mental health, loneliness, hate crime, addressing climate change, and lots more, often using art to get people involved and create stations as places that are a delight to use, not places to endure while you wait for your train. Mad optimism? No, it’s already there at some local stations – Smethwick Rolfe Street, Moorthorpe, Kent’s Bank, Burntisland, Beccles, Hindley, Yatton, Heaton Chapel, Betws-y-Coed, Llandovery and dozens more.

What they add up to is making rail more people-friendly and encouraging people to use the train and value their local station as a community hub. That feeds back into the really big one of the Climate Emergency.  Who was it who once said ‘Think Global – Act Local’?

I see this paper as very much ‘work in progress’ and welcome feedback. It represents a small contribution to the process of growing Community Rail – a healthy and vibrant movement which began with no resources and a lot of scepticism, in the kitchen of a terraced house in Huddersfield thirty years ago. Thanks to all who have contributed to its creation.

Building on success: future directions for Community Rail

A Christmas Railway Ghost Story

What is Christmas without a ghost story? Many years ago I wrote a piece for ASLEF’s Locomotive Journal (December 1985) called ‘Who Signed the Book?’ I’ve carried on tinkering with it and recently posted a slightly revised version on facebook. It’s also on my website and is here: http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/christmas-ghost-story

Inside Astley Bridge Junction, c. 1977. The Train Register Book is on the desk….

The story is set in my old box – Astley Bridge Junction – before the First World War. As far as I’m aware there never was a disastrous accident on the viaduct, other than me narrowly missing being thrown off it by irate workers from Ryder’s engineering works ‘down below’ who got fed up with being pelted by egg-shells. A tale for another time.

Community Rail Awards

An inspiring range of community rail initiatives, delivered by community groups, partnerships and volunteers across Britain – supporting social inclusion, sustainable travel, empowered communities and economic recovery – have been celebrated at the 17th Community Rail Awards. The awards, hosted by Great Western Railway and South Western Railway, were held at Southampton’s O2

David Jory (Rotala Buses), Steph Dermott, Julie Levy and Salvo with the award at Southampton

Guildhall. The event was also streamed live online, with more than 300 guests in total, including community rail volunteers, officers, rail industry leaders and government representatives. The event was addressed by transport ministers from the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments plus industry leaders and personalities passionate about community rail, including Chris Tarrant. The Outstanding Contribution to Community Rail Award was jointly awarded to:

Southeast Communities Rail Partnership, which coordinates activity on eight rail lines across Sussex, Kent, Surrey, and Berkshire, including education and sustainable travel programmes reaching thousands of children, helping adults with additional needs to build rail confidence, and promoting green leisure travel;

Friends of Buxton Station, a volunteer group that has cemented its place at the heart of its community during the pandemic via hugely varied initiatives from arts projects at the station and run digitally, to raising awareness about biodiversity, to improving integrated transport, to supporting local businesses.

A Special Recognition Award, chosen by the Community Rail Network board, was given to Kulvinder Bassi MBE, who was an instrumental member of the community rail team at the Department for Transport from 2006 to 2020 and is now the department’s stations and accessibility policy manager.
South East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership (SELCRP), based in Bolton, fought off strong competition to win the ‘Involving Diverse Groups’ prize at the 17th national Community Rail Awards, also achieving third place in the Influencing Positive Change and Sustainability category.

Raising awareness of Hate Crime

South-east Lancashire CRP won a prestigious award – 1st prize in the ‘Involving Diverse Groups’ category. The partnership’s ‘Hate Crime Awareness Project’ helped to raise public awareness of hate crime, the impact it can have, how it can be reported, and how those affected can access support. Funded by Bolton CVS, the project involved local community groups including Bolton City of Sanctuary, who work with asylum seekers and refugees, and Stand up Sisters who support women with lived experience of mental health issues, substance abuse and sexual/domestic violence in Bolton.

The partnership developed a survey and a series of online workshops in which participants reflected on ways to tackle hate crime, and ran a social media campaign that engaged around 60,000 people. This led to an exhibition of the survey findings, accompanied by art and poetry, that was subsequently put on display at Bolton Station as well as on-line.

The report is available to view at: – https://www.southeastlancscrp.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/SELCRP-Hate-Crime-Project-Report-2021.pdf

The CRP also won a third prize for its pioneering ‘Rivington Bus’ project supported by CrossCountry Trains, Horwich Town Council and Diamond Buses NW.

Christmas up North

The following piece was published in Big Issue North – if you get chance, do support the magazine by getting your own copy. There’s always lots of good stuff in it. This is the start of the article:

How did our predecessors in the North celebrate Christmas? There isn’t much written about how ordinary people in different parts of the country marked the festive season a century and more ago. However, many working class men – and some women – wrote dialect stories

Cover of one of his hugely popular ‘Annuals’

and songs with Christmas settings, mostly in ephemeral paperback ‘almanacs’. Allen Clarke, better known as ‘Teddy Ashton’ produced his Christmas Annual over several decades between 1892 and 1935. John Hartley started publishing his Clock Almanack in Halifax as early as 1865 and it was still going well into the late 1950s, always appearing in December – in time for New Year. Bradford had its own Bob Stubbs’ Original Comic Yorksher Awmynack, published by Watmough’s of Idle, while the Colne Valley had Sam Thropp’s Dialect Annual, published in Slaithwaite and still going strong in the 1960s. Alongside the dialect stories and poems there were numerous adverts for surgical appliances, miracle cures for rheumatism, coughs, colds and bronchitis as well as pills for ‘women’s ailments’!

The ‘almanacs’ shared a common sense of regional pride – in Lancashire and Yorkshire identity. The dialects of the two historic counties have many similarities. Christmas, in south-east Lancashire, was called ‘Kesmas’ whilst in Huddersfield it was ‘Kersmis’. Neither version seems to have survived into the 21st century!

Christmas for a Lancashire or West Riding mill workers’ family wasn’t the sort of extended affair lasting until after New Year. The mills closed on Christmas Day and they’d be back at full power on Boxing Day. Many of the children enjoying the delights of Santa and Christmas dinner would be up as usual at 5 a.m. on Boxing Day ready for a 6 a.m. start. As late as 1900 children as young as 12 worked half-time in the factories; the system was finally abolished in 1918.

Shady dealings along the Golden Mile

Reality is often stranger fiction in the world of politics. Andrew Rosthorn’s book The Oyston Files charts a remarkable story of corruption and intrigue which leaves a very nasty after taste. Rosthorn has spent a lifetime in journalism, including reporting on ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. While nobody was actually assassinated in Rosthorn’s account of Lancashire political intrigue, it’s fair to say that some lives were ruined.

It’s a complicated story, beginning with the deaths of two young women, one night in August 1975. The two mothers were walking home after a night out in Blackpool and were killed by a car driven by the daughter of a rich businessman, Bill Harrison, who was a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party. Rosthorn charts the attempts of Harrison to get his daughter off the hook. The Lancashire Evening Post (as it then was) saw the potential of a major political scandal and they pulled no punches in their reporting of the case.

The entirely honourable role of the Evening Post stands out in Rosthorn’s account. The ‘Harrison Case’ exposed corrupt practices within Lancashire County Council and the Lancashire Constabulary. Harrison was determined to ‘get’ the paper and a particular focus of his anger directed towards Owen Oyston, a Blackpool-based estate agent who was a major advertiser in the paper and a Labour Party supporter into the bargain. He had a majority share in Blackpool Football Club – a powerful and influential figure. Harrison assumed, probably wrongly, that Oyston was behind what he regarded as a ‘witch-hunt’ directed at himself.

Oyston was ‘no angel’ and Harrison was quickly able to identify his weakness – sexual relations with young women, barely over the age of consent. Harrison hired a former fish and chip shop owner called Michael Murrin who pursued Oyston over a period of ten years. In 1996 Oyston was accused of rape and indecent assault of two 16-year old girls, from a model agency. At the time of the alleged rapes Oyston was 58. Following three consecutive trials he was found guilty of the rape of one of the young women – ‘Miss H’. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment and served three years and six months.

Such are the bare bones of a story of very dirty dealings which had national political repercussions. Rosthorn presents strong arguments that Oyston was ‘set up’ by powerful forces within the Lancashire establishment who were determined to ‘bring him down a peg or two’. He makes extensive use of court transcripts and telephone conversations. He raises some serious questions about the way the trials were conducted, with some evidence not being taken into consideration.

I would say a weakness of Andrew’s book is his too-casual dismissal of the two female defendants as, in effect, the real criminals. There is no question that he had inappropriate relations with both of the young women and – as the judge observed when Oyston was being sentenced – abused his position of power into effectively coercing the girls into having sex with him. Whether you would call that ‘rape’ is open to interpretation. The prosecuting lawyer, Helen Grindrod QC, was a feminist when it wasn’t exactly a professional asset in the very male world of the law, championing the cause of vulnerable women in rape cases. This is to her credit, but sadly she doesn’t get any of that in the book, which ends with an unnecessary account of her ‘celebrating’ Oyston’s conviction.

What emerges from The Oyston Files is how much has changed since the ‘man’s world’ that was the last quarter of the 20th century. But could the same thing happen again? Well, some high profile cases involving members of the Royal Family suggest it might. There were very specific circumstances surrounding the Oyston Affair which reflect badly on our local polity and the nefarious influence of the moneyed class on our justice system.

Read it and make up your own mind – it’s gripping stuff that would make a remarkable film. The Oyston Files by Andrew Rosthorn is available on Amazon ISBN 9781916096349

Colin Speakman’s Yorkshire

Colin Speakman is a Lancastrian by birth, long exiled in Yorkshire where he has, without doubt, ‘gone native’. Yorkshire, and perhaps Colin himself, is all the better for it. He has made a huge contribution to public transport over many decades, bringing a very strong emphasis on the importance of leisure transport. I think it’s fair to say that he has developed an unrivalled knowledge of his adopted shire, bringing all the zeal of a convert to his work, not least for The Yorkshire Society.

His latest book – which I hope isn’t his swansong as there’s plenty life in the old bxxxxr yet – is Yorkshire –ancient nation, future province. It’s very much about the importance of identity, but this is no backward-looking journey of nostalgia. Colin has an excellent knowledge of Yorkshire history and this comes out in the book very well, but he also has an exciting vision of a modern Yorkshire, in all its creative diversity.

The book was published in August and the malign presence of Covid is apparent from the start, with Colin reflecting that “the world as it was in 2019 will never return.” And always the optimist, he goes on to suggest that while local authorities will be squeezed for cash and some services will be lost, “it could also be a greener future, one in which people get out of their cars and walk, cycle and use trains more, and appreciate the environment and natural world that exists all around them.” I hope he’s right.

This is a strongly political book but one which I would hope people from different backgrounds could appreciate and learn something from. Colin is a committed regionalist and an important part of the book is Colin’s development of the idea of ‘cultural landscapes’, identifying nine such parts of the historic country, each of which has its own distinctive identity within Yorkshire. This approach could well be applied to the county’s western neighbour, Lancashire, which has been mucked about with even more than Yorkshire itself. Re-creating a distinct over-arching Lancashire with its distinctive ‘cultural landscapes’ (Manchester, the South-east Lancashire ‘cotton belt’, West and East Lancashire, Merseyside and ‘Lancashire North of the Sands’ as an initial shot) is an attractive idea and one which I hope to work on in my forthcoming Greater Lancashire, which I hope to complete next year. Well, I suppose I need to start it first. I think Colin’s term ‘cultural landscapes’ is helpful but maybe not quite right. Perhaps ‘micro-regions’ within a Yorkshire ‘region’ instead of ‘province’? Is ‘region’ a stronger term than ‘province’? Possibly. I remember back in the 1990s the idea of a ‘micro-region’ was popular amongst environmentalists in parts of eastern Europe.

It’s great that Colin has started this debate and I look forward to him developing the idea further. In the meantime, do get his book, as you would expect from this veteran (but not quite vintage) writer, it’s a pleasure to read.

Published by Gritstone at £`12.50 (how does he manage to get it that cheap?)

Christmas Quiz: 21 of the worst

I’m grateful to Steve Leyland for some of the questions in this year’s quiz. See how you get on, correct answers (and winners) will be published in the next issue. It’s very nerdish and very male (pretty much 90% of my readers I suppose). Some of the questions were

Steve Leyland (left) and Vern Sidlow at the northern entrance to Sough Tunnel on the walk when some of the quiz questions were trialled

trialled over a pint in the Crown and Thistle, a lonely moorland pub set above Sough Tunnel on the Roman Road. What that has got to do with it, I don’t know. I can’t stop you using google but let’s face it, it spoils the fun…

  1. Which Snowdon Mountain Railway station is mentioned in The Bible?
  2. What was the last class of loco on BR to have any withdrawals?
  3. Which Lancashire station was originally called ‘Poulton-le-Sands’?
  4. Which Victorian author was involved in a serious railway accident – and where was it?
  5. In American railroad slang what is a) a ‘drag’ b) ‘Highball’ (verb) and c) a ‘hog mauler’
  6. How many nicknames were applied to the ‘Austerity’ 2-8-0s (name them)
  7. Which of the following musical figures were railway enthusiasts: Jools Holland; Antonin Dvorak; E.J. Moeran; Rod Stewart; Neil Young; Beethoven
  8. If you were a footplateman returning to depot by train after completing your job, how would you be travelling?
  9. If your train was detained at a red signal close to a signalbox, what would you have to do – and who would do it?
  10. What was it that ripped Frank Zappa’s flesh?
  11. Which Lancashire rural location once hosted a concert at which Captain Beefheart performed? Extra point for name of the Community Rail Officer who attended
  12. Which folk singer recorded ‘Moses of the Mail’ and which loco shed was Moses from?
  13. Which composer wrote a symphony set on the Diggle Route?
  14. What was the name of the piece of music composed specially to be performed at a Northern Rail depot open day? Name composer and depot for extra points
  15. Who was the great Welsh poet who was also a stationmaster at a remote junction?
  16. What task did Dvorak allocate to his future son-in-law and why was he disappointed with the result?
  17. In the gospel song, what line is Jesus on?
  18. Which Glasgow and South Western Railway inspector was an accomplished poet and writer of religious hymns? And which depot features in one of his poems?
  19. What action did C.B. Collett take when a group of GWR apprentices went on strike?
  20. In ‘The Night Mail’ how well was the train performing on Beattock Bank?
  21. In the Summer 1958 Ian Allan Combined Volume, what is the only named class to be in alphabetical order?

Lancashire Loominary publications and special offers to readers

My new biography of Lancashire writer, railway lover, cyclist and philosopher Allen Clarke (aka ‘Teddy Ashton’ is now available. Salvo subscribers can get Lancashire’s Romantic Radical for £15 instead of normal price of £18.99. I’ve some copies of my Moorlands, Memories and Reflections for £15 (reduced from £21) as well as my novel set in Horwich Loco Works (The Works) for £6. More esoteric but interesting is With Walt Whitman in Bolton: spirituality, sex and socialism in a Northern Mill Town. Also £6, not that much sex in it to be honest – but it has compensations. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

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Lancashire Loominary December issue

THE LANCASHIRE LOOMINARY

An occasional update from Lancashire Loominary 

No. 7        December 2021

Welcome to the December edition of Lancashire Loominary, an occasional update for readers and friends of Lancashire Loominary publications. It’s probably not too early to wish you a very happy Christmas. If you have bought any of my books over the last year, a particular thanks. It hasn’t been an easy time to be a small publisher (but when is?). Next year I’m hoping to bring out a new book on the history, present state and possible future of ‘Greater Lancashire’ as well as a collection of my local history features from The Bolton News, if they don’t mind, to be called Our Bolton.

This edition features an extended version of my article on Victor Grayson – the socialist MP who disappeared, almost without trace, after the First World War. His links to Bolton are highlighted, with scope for a bit more digging. There is a print version (a bit shorter but with pictures) in the current Big Issue North – which also carries a good piece by Chris Moss on Northern regionalism and the Hannah Mitchell Foundation (which is holding a conference on ‘Real Levelling Up’ on Saturday December 4th (www.hannah-mitchell.org.uk for details). Please buy BIN if you get the opportunity.

There’s what I hope is an attractive ‘readers’ offer’ for my books – see below. I also have a bit to say about HS2 and its partial cancellation. As usual, I don’t go with the tide!

Readers’ offers for Christmas

I currently have four books in stock – the full cover price is shown in brackets and details of the very generous (!) reductions for Loominary readers are given at the end of this newsletter:

  • Allen Clarke (‘Teddy Ashton’) Lancashire’s Romantic Radical ( £18.99)
  • Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (£21)
  • The Works (a novel set in Horwich Loco Works £12.99
  • With Walt Whitman in Bolton: spirituality, sex and socialism in a Northern Milltown (£8.99)

Some of these, as you’ll see from my website, are already available direct from me at a discounted price. Up to the end of the year I’m doing some further special offers which include:

  • Buy one get one free (the lowest priced one)
  • ‘two for price of one’ for same title
  • Bundle of all four titles for £30 (plus postage if not local)

Feature article:  the mysterious Victor Grayson

A young socialist firebrand called Victor Grayson shot to international fame in 1907 by winning a by-election in the Yorkshire textile constituency of Colne Valley, on an uncompromising left wing programme. He was defeated in 1910 and ten years later vanished, almost without trace. The story of his meteoric rise, and subsequent disappearance, is a fascinating chapter in British political history, very ably explored by the work of historians David Clark and more recently Harry Taylor whose biography Victor Grayson: in search of Britain’s lost revolutionary, was published recently. Bolton features prominently in the story of his life and subsequent disappearance.

Early years

Grayson was born in the Scotland Road district of Liverpool, of working class parents, in 1881 – though even this fact has been questioned, as we shall see. He had an adventurous boyhood, leaving home at the age of 14 to see the world, as a stowaway on board a ship bound for Chile – though he only got as far as Tenby, after being discovered.

Not much is known of his teenage years. He was an intelligent and resourceful lad with a strong social conscience and was apprenticed in an engineering works. He experienced poverty at first hand in the Liverpool slums and wanted to do something about it. In 1904 he enrolled as a student at the Unitarian college in Manchester to train as a minister; however he became increasingly involved in the socialist movement which was sweeping the North of England, inspired by the Clarion newspaper, edited by Robert Blatchford who was to become a close friend.

A popular socialist orator

By the following year, Grayson had become a popular figure on the socialist lecturing circuit across the North of England. He was a regular speaker at meetings of the Independent Labour Party and the Labour Church, both of which had a strong presence in the industrial North. Many meetings were held in the open air and attracted large crowds, such as in Farnworth on Sunday July 28th 1905. He spoke in Bolton’s Temperance Hall on several occasions during 1905, to huge audiences.

Revolution in the Colne Valley

In the Spring of 1907 the sitting Liberal MP for Colne Valley, near Huddersfield, resigned his seat following his elevation to the House of Lords. A by-election was set for July 18th, with the Liberals expecting an easy win. How wrong they were. The socialists got to work with enthusiasm and Grayson – a young man of 26 – was invited to apply to be the ‘Labour and Socialist’ candidate, narrowly beating a local man.

He had huge charisma – a handsome and flamboyant figure who could captivate his audience. Even in small mill villages like Golcar, Honley and Delph Grayson was able to attract audiences in the hundreds and sometimes even more. Grayson’s eve of poll message ‘to the electors of the Colne Valley’ pulled no punches:

“I am appealing to you as one of your own class. I want emancipation from the wage-slavery of Capitalism. I do not believe that we are divinely destined to be drudges. Through the centuries we have been the serfs of an arrogant aristocracy….the time for our emancipation has come. We must break the rule of the rich and take our destinies into our hands..the other classes have had their day. It is our turn now!”

Many of the looms in the weaving sheds of the valley had red ribbons tied to them, showing the weavers – mostly women – where they stood. Local children wore red rosettes and sang socialist songs when Grayson spoke.

The election result was announced on July 19th and it astonished the country. Grayson received 3,648 votes beating the Liberal with a majority of 153. The Conservative came a close third. When the vote was announced at Slaithwaite Town Hall, in the words of a local journalist, “pandemonium prevailed…the wild scene of enthusiasm which followed the announcement of the figures is indescribable.”

The result shook the political establishment to its foundations, with many fearing – or hoping – that a socialist revolution was imminent. Yet it wasn’t to be and Grayson’s parliamentary performance was erratic. He preferred touring the country speaking at socialist meetings than the dreary work of being a back-bench MP, though on one notable occasion he was expelled from the House of Commons for disrupting proceedings in support of the unemployed – an action that won him warm support amongst grassroots socialists but further alienated him from mainstream Labour MPs who were besotted with parliamentary procedure. He continued to visit Bolton and in February 1909 was the guest of honour at Bolton Socialist Party’s ‘Merrie England Bazaar’.

A darker side

There was a darker side to his behaviour. Possibly through the stress of his campaigning, he developed a strong taste for whisky and reached the point where he was consuming a full bottle every day. He enjoyed the social life of the London clubs and was always something of a hedonist, enjoying ‘the good life’. He was hugely attractive to women but also had several affairs with men, which seem to go back to his early 20s. Homosexuality was still a crime and Grayson had to tread carefully to avoid being exposed.

Grayson remained an MP for just three years. He lost the seat in 1910 but continued his socialist campaigning activities. On October 23rd he was speaking to a packed meeting in Bolton’s Temperance Hotel, no doubt amused by the irony of the location. By then, he was making a tenuous living from his speaking engagements though finding it difficult to maintain his lavish lifestyle and increasingly heavy drinking.

Marriage to Ruth

In November 1912 he married Ruth Nightingale, an actress whose stage name was ‘Ruth Norreys’. She was the daughter of an affluent Bolton family. Her father, John Webster Nightingale, was a banker and he shared a substantial house in Smithills with his wife Georgina and housekeeper/maid Jane Mackereth. Victor and Ruth had a daughter, Elaine, in 1914. The relationship with the Nightingales was to become increasingly important for Grayson over the next eight years.

By 1914 his health had deteriorated and he found himself in the Bankruptcy Court. Friends and supporters, helped by his father in law, assisted. Everything changed when war broke out in November of that year.

Most left-wing socialists were bitterly opposed to the war. Grayson took a very different stance, not only publicly supporting the Allies but advocating conscription and demonising the German people as a war-mongering race. Grayson spent some time in Australia speaking on pro-war platforms, then returned to Britain and continued to support the war effort, possibly with some financial help from the Lloyd George government. In 1917, he and his wife Ruth went to New Zealand where she had some theatrical engagements. Whilst there, he was involved in socialist activity but continued to support the war effort, joining the New Zealand armed forces (ANZAC) in 1917.  He took part in some of the heaviest fighting of the war and was wounded at the Battle of Passchendaele, one of the bloodiest encounters in the whole conflict.

He returned to England in 1918 and was devastated by the death of his wife in childbirth, in February of that year. The baby was stillborn. Grayson agreed with the Nightingales for them to look after the four-years’ old Elaine, who lived at the family home. By then, the family had moved to ‘Ellerslie’, a large house in The Haulgh. Grayson, living in London, was a regular visitor to Bolton, each weekend, with his own room and even pet dog which he named ‘Nunquam’, the pen name of Robert Blatchford. He kept a hidden supply of whisky under the floorboards of his room. His visits were ostensibly to see his young daughter. I wonder if there were other motives?

Post-war uncertainties

Grayson had little involvement in post-war politics. His estrangement from the Labour Party was virtually complete. Harry Taylor quotes a letter from parliamentary journalist Sidney Campion suggesting that Grayson “was a disillusioned socialist turned Tory” and his father-in-law approached Tory leader Bonar Law to employ him as a propagandist. The source of this came from Charles Sixsmith, who was part of Bolton’s ‘Walt Whitman’ circle which included another Nightingale – Fred, who lived, on Chorley Old Road. Whether Fred and John were related isn’t clear but they may have been closer in their politics than historians have given them credit for. John W. Nightingale was a friend of Sixsmith’s, who was a prosperous capitalist, with mills in Farnworth. He was a socialist and also, like Grayson, bi-sexual. Did Grayson and Sixsmith know each other? John W. Nightingale, certainly in later years, was a member of the Swedenborgian church which had much in common with the mystical beliefs of the Whitmanites.

Disappearance

The strangest part of the ‘Grayson Story’ comes next. In September 1920 he left his apartment in London accompanied by two men, telling his landlady that he would be away for some time. In fact, he was never seen again, at least definitively. Some accounts suggest he was murdered, others that he left the country to start a new life. At the time, there was a ‘cash for honours’ scandal brewing which Grayson may have threatened to expose and there are suggestions that he was ‘removed’ by a shadowy character called Maundy Gregory, who had links to the intelligence services.

His daughter Elaine was devastated by his disappearance, being told by Jane, the family maid, that her father “will never come again because he’s going to travel…but he’ll never forget you…and one day perhaps he may come back.”

There are several accounts of him being seen, in places as varied as Melbourne, Madrid and on the London tube. However, there seems to be strong evidence that he was living in Maidstone, Kent, in the 1930s.

He was not in communication with his parents in Liverpool or his Bolton in-laws. However, Elaine’s grandmother Georgina seems to have been convinced that Grayson might return to Bolton and ‘kidnap’ the young girl. She lived a cosseted life being driven to and from school in the family car – a rare luxury at the time – and only being permitted a very limited social life.

During the Second World War there was a government-sponsored investigation into Grayson’s disappearance, led by the well-respected Chief Inspector Arthur Askew, of Scotland Yard. The report was never published but subsequently, after his retirement, Askew sent a short note to his biographer Reg Groves saying “Grayson married – settled in Kent”.

There seems to be a possibility that Grayson died in an air raid in 1941. Certainly, his mother-in-law’s almost hysterical fear of Grayson’s re-appearance had diminished by the early 1940s. Georgina herself died in 1942.

Parentage questions

There is one final twist to the story, relating to Victor’s parentage. There had long been suggestions that his parents in Liverpool were not his biological parents. As Georgina lay on her death bed, accompanied by maidservant Jane and her grand-daughter Elaine, she kept muttering the name ‘The Marlboroughs’. Elaine was puzzled by this, but after Georgina’s death, Jane said to her “Elaine, don’t you realise your grandmother was telling you who your father really was?”

Amongst Grayson historians this story is treated with different emphasis. Harry Taylor rejects the possibility that Grayson was the illegitimate child of the powerful Marlborough family, whose members included Winston Churchill – with whom Grayson enjoyed a friendly relationship whilst in the  Commons, and after. David Clark is not so sure and offers evidence that the story might be true.

There are so many ‘known unknowns’ in the Grayson story, above all what happened to him after 1920 and the riddle of his parentage. As Jeremy Corbyn writes in his foreword to Harry Taylor’s book, says “the ever-secretive British state knows the answer, somewhere in Scotland Yard or the Home Office, the truth is known.” He’s right, and I think there is more to be discovered about his Bolton links, including the role of his father-in-law John W. Nightingale and the maid who seemed to know much, Jane Mackereth.

I am indebted to Lord David Clark, Harry Taylor, Sheila Davidson and Julia Lamara (Bolton History Centre) for their assistance. Harry Taylor’s book Victor Grayson: in search of Britain’s lost revolutionary, is published by Pluto (2021), David Clark’s Victor Grayson – the man and the mystery is published by Quartet (2016).

Use your local shop

As well as being able to order directly, my books are available in a number of shops across the North-West and beyond. At the moment they are:

  • Justicia Fair Trade Shop, Knowsley Street, Bolton
  • Ebb and Flo, 12 Gillibrand Street, Chorley
  • The Wright Reads, Winter Hey Lane, Horwich
  • Bunbury’s Real Ale Shop, 397 Chorley Old Road
  • Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford
  • Smethurst’s Newsagents, Markland Hill
  • Pike Snack Shack, Rivington
  • Horwich Heritage Centre
  • A Small Good Thing, Church Road Bolton
  • Books and Bygones, Chorley
  • Carnforth Bookshop
  • The Lakeland Gallery, Bo’ness
  • Penrallt Bookshop, Machynlleth
  • Beach Hut Gallery, Kents Bank

HS2: the wrong mindset

The response to the Government’s ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ (IRP) has been almost universally hostile. The chopping of the ’eastern leg’ from Birmingham to Leeds and ‘scaling back’ of the east-west line (Northern Powerhouse Rail’) has invoked particular ire, with cries of ‘betrayal of the North’ coming from an unlikely coalition of so-called ‘red wall’ Tories and Labour.

But..there were good arguments for a fundamental review of HS2, particularly in the light of Covid, which many people in transport think will lead to long-term changes in people’s travel behaviour – in particular, less business travel and commuting and more leisure journeys (less time sensitive).

HS2 as originally conceived – a very high-speed route (speeds of up to 225 m/ph or 360 km/h) from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, represents a particular approach to transport and wider spatial planning, which prioritises the major cities, at the expense (unless there is a complementary plan in place) of smaller towns and cities. In his Foreword to the IRP Boris Johnson recognises the adverse effect that HS2 to Leeds would have had on other places currently served by fast and frequent trains: “Under those plans,  many places on the existing main lines, such as Doncaster, Huddersfield, Wakefield and Leicester would have seen little improvement, or a worsening, in their services..” The same applies to the ‘western leg’ to Manchester, which is still going ahead: so – tough on Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stafford and Rugby.

The thinking behind HS2 reflects a particular approach to transport which I would argue is 20 years out of date. It is a move away from the earlier car-led approach of the 1960s which saw motorway building, rail closures, and towns and cities carved up for the motor car. The ‘Very High-Speed Rail’ approach prioritises the needs of major cities and ‘out of town’ development with huge parkway developments, in the case of HS2 at Birmingham Interchange. The proposed ‘dead-end’ stations at Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds would have been poorly connected with the rest of the rail network but developers would (or still will) have a field day with opportunities for major development schemes around the three termini. And anyone who knows much about railways will recognise that terminal stations are bad news, soaking up capacity, limiting the full opportunities of fast, long-distance trains.

The ‘very high-speed’ thinking behind HS2 means that you can’t bother with serving even quite large towns and cities along the route as it slows everything down creating longer end to end journeys which ‘the model’ hates. And of course the other big down side of ‘very high speed rail’ is that the need for such high speeds means you have to build a railway that is very straight – either a lot of tunnelling which is costly and very destructive on the environment, or ploughing through established communities and sensitive landscapes. Running long trains at 225 m/ph sucks up a lot of energy.

There is a further argument against HS2 which is more difficult to prove but has certainly been raised in some academic papers. High-speed rail, or any transport corridor, is a two-way street. The pro-HS2 hype is full of talk about how HS2 will ‘level-up’ the North. Equally, it could do more to benefit London and the south-east. Why should firms bother to maintain a major regional office in Manchester or Birmingham when you can be in London in next to no time? A far more likely economic generator would be better inter and intra-regional rail links across the North and Midlands, which happens to be what most people say in opinion polls, when asked.

This approach of ‘very high speed rail’ can work if you’re a country the size of France, China or the United States. The German approach is more nuanced with significant stretches of high-speed rail but part of a well integrated network of inter-regional and local services. It is less suitable to a smaller country such as Britain, with densely populated areas. One of the most trumpeted-arguments in support of HS2 has been the idea that it ‘frees up capacity’ permitting freight and regional passenger services. That’s only true up to a point and the main capacity benefits of HS2 will be south of Rugby. Where it frees up capacity in the North it is at the expense of existing InterCity services being re-routed via HS2 meaning that major centres like Stockport and Stoke will lose out. If we’re told that the existing InterCity services (3 an hour Manchester – London, pre-Pandemic) will continue, you wonder a) what the point of HS2 is in the first place, and crucially b) where all the extra passengers wanting to get to and from London in 71 minutes will come from.

A third approach would be a more integrated rail-based strategy with a core InterCity network which would aim for speeds of up to 160 m/ph and link major centres across the country, with good connections to regional, local rail and light rail services. This would be a bit more like the German approach, taking greater account of the needs of large towns and cities between the main centres, with good connectivity to all parts of the rail network. Such an approach would be a hybrid of new and existing, upgraded, lines and it would go through to Carlisle, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

It could be argued that the newly-published IRP does that, though I’d say it’s more of a ‘politics-led’ plan than anything that is strategic. It tried (and failed) to satisfy politicians in the North with a mix of new and upgraded lines and electrification schemes, notably the Midland Mail Line taking electric trains beyond the south Midlands to Derby and Nottingham, Chesterfield, Sheffield and Leeds.

Bradford is the big loser in the IRP, so as a concession the short section of line from Leeds to Bradford via New Pudsey will be electrified, shaving a few minutes of journey times. Quite what the trains do when they get to Bradford isn’t said, presumably they’ll speed back to Leeds. Yet all trains from Leeds to Bradford go beyond the city, to Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Rochdale and Manchester or across to Burnley, Blackburn and Preston. Any sensible strategy would have seen those lines fully electrified as part of the Bradford scheme. Even better would be a ‘Bradford CrossRail’ for existing regional and additional InterCity services, joining up the two separate routes into the city and permitting a ‘scissors’ shape network north-west of Leeds which would permit new journey options and improved capacity into and out of Bradford.

The ‘core’ of HS2’s western leg, to Manchester, will be a major engineering challenge and aims to link up with ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ and serve Manchester Airport. The route to Scotland and further north is likely to be re-considered with the proposed new ‘Golborne Loop’ scrapped. A sensible strategy for the ‘West Coast Main Line’ north of Crewe would see maximum use of the existing route with more capacity, track realignment to get faster speeds and some new sections, north and south of the border, to improve overall journey times but still serve main centres such as Warrington (with interchange with Northern Powerhouse Rail as per IRP), Wigan, Preston, Lancaster, Oxenholme (for the southern Lakes) Penrith and Carlisle.

I remain unconvinced that a terminal station at Manchester Piccadilly is the right solution. Termini are operationally difficult and soak up capacity. A through station that would help solve the ‘Castlefield Corridor’ dilemma, perhaps underground, would have been a better solution.

Perhaps the biggest criticism is the length of time the proposals will actually take – with completion of the Manchester parts of the scheme being well into the 2040s. So I won’t be around to see them!

The Rail Reform Group has produced a good statement on HS2 (sub-titled ‘A considered response’ which is available on www.railreformgroup.org.uk 

Lancashire Loominary Publications

Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton – Lancashire’s Romantic Radical

This is my latest book and tells the story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer.  The 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. It is a completely new edition of the 2009 edition, and includes an entirely new chapter on his railway writings which include Horwich Loco Works, ‘The Club Train’ and the adventures of Ginger the Donkey.

 

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

2020 was the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes got his historical facts slightly wrong. It was set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ It also included some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many characters whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

My book is a centenary tribute to Clarke’s classic – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today.

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. 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 was 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.

The Works: a tale of love, lust, labour and locomotives

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Morning Star hated it. It has been particularly popular in Horwich, which you would kind of expect, but it was nice to see people who have spent a lifetime in the loco works telling me how much they enjoyed it.

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ACTUALLY EXISTING CUSTOMERS’ ORDER FORM

Christmas 2021 (offers end December 31st 2021 but check)

Name……………………………………………………………………………………..

Delivery Address…………………………………………………………………….

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Post code…………………….

Phone……………………………………………..

email………………………………………………

Quantity Title Price ( + delivery)
  Lancashire’s Romantic Radical 15.00 + £3
  With Walt Whitman in Bolton 6.00 + £3
   Moorlands, Memories and Reflections                                                                                                             15.00 + £3
  The Works 6.00   + £3
  Total  

See above re bundles – please note:

  • If you buy any two, the lowest priced book is free
  • You can buy all four for £30 plus postage if required
  • Maximum postage on all orders is £4 within the UK. Enquire for overseas rates
  • Local delivery (free) is by Bolton Bicycling Bookshop, otherwise Royal Mail

Please send cheque for total amount made to ‘Paul Salveson’to 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU.

PLEASE TELL ME IF YOU WOULD LIKE THE BOOKS SIGNING AND /OR DEDICATING

If paying by BACS the account details are:

Dr P S Salveson (it’s a personal account) sort code 53-61-07

A/C no. 23448954.

Please email me with your order details and put your name and book e.g. ‘MMR’ or ‘Works’ as the reference when paying.

Lancashire Loominary 109 Harpers Lane BOLTON BL1 6HU

Phone: 07795 008691

email: paul@lancashireloominary.co.uk

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Black Friday Deals no thanks!

Black Friday hype and all that

Sorry, I’m not offering any ‘amazing reductions’ for Black Friday. Instead I’m adding £5 on to all orders received on Friday November 26th, which will be donated to the Railway Children Charity.

So do please take advantage of this stunning offer!

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HS2 lacks a mandate

HS2 lacks popular support….scrap it!

Every opinion poll conducted on the merits of HS2 show a majority of people in the UK as a whole firmly against it. Only in London does it actually have more support than opposition, which says a lot. A 2021 YouGov poll showed support for HS2 across the UK at 25% with 39% against and 11% ‘don’t know’ – the rest were neither for nor against. In London, the only region in support, 30% were in favour and 27% against, showing a large drop from the previous year.In the North of England, support was at 24% and opposition 42%.

Another UK-wide poll, conducted by Statista in 2020, showed UK 26% in favour and 42% in opposition.

A recent survey was undertaken by Redfield and Wilton Strategies and their findings were published in June this year. They tested general awareness of the HS2 project and found that to be high. They went on to comment: “Amidst this considerable awareness of the project, there is substantial opposition to it: a plurality (43%) of Britons aware of HS2 say they oppose it, compared to 29% who support HS2 and 25% who neither support nor oppose it. In April and May 2021 we found a similar 45% of those in the West Midlands metropolitan area who said they were familiar with HS2 were in opposition to the railway project.”

The pollsters also found that people view it as poor value for money: “a majority (56%) of Britons aware of HS2 say that it is a bad investment that does not represent good value for money, whereas a quarter (25%) believe it is a good investment and 18% are unsure. Following such statements, 48% of this sample think that HS2 should be scrapped and 33% think that it should not be scrapped, while 19% do not know. This demonstrates that opposition to HS2 is strong, with a plurality of Britons preferring to see HS2 scrapped than its continued development.

The professional magazine, The Engineer, undertook a poll in November 2020 which found that 77% of its readers wanted HS2 cancelled with only 23% in favour of keeping it.

From my own experience, people who oppose HS2 are not ‘petrol heads’ who want the money poured into new roads, nor Thatcherites who hate public spending. They want the money to go into improving public transport, rail, tram and bus.

All the evidence suggests that HS2 is unpopular and people think it should be scrapped. The sums of money we’re talking about – £100 billion or more – are eye-watering. The case for HS2 before the Pandemic was flimsy, to say the least. Today, it’s non-existent.

Finally, given the amounts of money involved, HS2 highlights the lack of democracy in the UK. In Switzerland, with its excellent transport network, major projects are subject to a popular vote. HS2 cries out for a referendum. I’m 100% sure that people would vote for it to be scrapped and the money put to better use in improving the rail network as a whole.

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Salvo 298 on HS2

The Northern Weekly Salvo

109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 298 November 16th 2021                        

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern.

General gossips

This is a slimmed-down Salvo, which you may welcome. I’ve been shilly-shallying about doing one before the publication of the ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ this Thursday setting out the future of rail investment in the UK, following on from the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail which is really more about how the railways will be run. Arguably they were published back to front but so it goes. I’ll do an extended and illustrated Salvo 299 next week. Promise.

HS2: North is better beawt (or Salvo’s Solutions No. 1)

Or, better without it. It looks like the Whole Industry Strategic Plan, which we are assured will be published on Thursday, will announce the scrapping of the ‘eastern leg’ of HS2, the bit from Birmingham –to Leeds. Cue wails of anguish from Labour MPs and some Tories about the North once again being ‘betrayed’ by this hypocritical government whose talk of ‘levelling up’ is so much nonsense. Oh yeah? As readers may have intuited, I’m no fan of Boris Johnson or the Tories but it has to be said: HS2 would have done nowt for th’North, or ‘nothing for the North’. It was an ill-conceived project that should never have been given such credibility in the first place. My impression, supported by opinion polls, is that it was never popular amongst us simple-minded Northern folk who would much prefer a bus shelter outside the Ainsworth Arms to avoid getting soaked waiting for the 526 bus.

Yes, I’m being daft but it has surprised me that so many people who should know better were taken in by the pro-HS2 hype. It was anything but ‘green’ and would have hurt the North’s economy. Nervous Tory MPs, particularly in so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats, supported it (probably against their instincts) because they wanted to show that investment was going into the North of England. Labour wanted it because they like big public sector-led projects. Yet HS2 would have done the North few favours, sucking investment out of the North and into London and the South-East. It would have drained money out of transport budgets stopping much needed projects, with a far better return, not getting the go ahead.

And if you asked those simple-minded Northern folk what they wanted instead of HS2 the answers were generally pretty sensible: investment in local and regional rail projects, better east-west rail links, improved bus services. Let’s hope we see some of that in Thursday’s announcement: projects that can be delivered within a five to eight year time frame, not in two decades – electrification and upgrade of all three Trans-Pennine routes, rail re-openings , sorting out the Castlefield Corridor to allow more trains to run. And Bradford should not be forgotten: right decision to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail but a Bradford CrossRail could be delivered at a fraction of the cost, much more quickly with the added bonus of demolishing some of the hideous new shopping centre that’s just been erected.

Salvo’s Solutions No. 2: Community Rail

After nearly thirty years I’ve decided it was time to do a new version of New Futures for Rural Rail, reviewing the success of ‘Community Rail’ and making a few suggestions about where it can go in the future. Look out for a feature in RAIL magazine in a couple of weeks and a longer piece in its sister publication Rail Review about the same time. I’m writing a much longer paper (‘Building on success: future directions for Community Rail’) which will be on my website after publication of the RAIL feature. The summary, still at draft stage, says:

This paper argues that the current restructuring within the railway industry presents a unique opportunity for Community Rail (CR) to up its game and become more ambitious, building on its strengths and becoming more entrepreneurial. It needs to shout its achievements much more loudly, or risk losing vital external support.

Maintaining and developing a close partnership with its existing partners in the industry, particularly the train operating companies, is crucial. Train companies and Network Rail should work with the Community Rail Network and CRPs to build a stronger awareness amongst all railway staff about the value and importance of Community Rail. ’Community Rail’ should become a professional career with appropriate accreditation, in partnership with the further and higher education sector.

Building an equally strong relationship with the new Great British Railways (GBR) is of equal importance. I argue for a GBR Community Unit with a dedicated director at headquarters level and community engagement mangers within the regional divisions, working closely with the TOCs and CRPs who should be incentivised to develop ambitious projects, assisted by a ‘Community Rail Enterprise Challenge’ funded by GBR.

These projects could range from developing integrated bus links, promoting walking and cycling schemes including bike hire, to station and on-train catering and other station activities which bring passenger and wider benefits. Making greater use of railway land e.g. for cultivating edible produce, is a further opportunity.

Community Rail should be resourced to take on issues around mental health, hate crime, anti-social behaviour and loneliness, each of which impact on the railways in different ways.

Local government, including the ‘Combined Authorities’, have a crucial part to play. Community Rail can help address wider policy areas beyond a narrow ‘transport’ focus.

New community rail partnerships should be encouraged through a ‘Community Rail Partnership Growth Fund’ which helps CRPs get off the ground and develop, rather than using existing resources which would have the effect of ‘spreading the jam more thinly’ and penalising existing CRPs.

If you would like the draft of the full paper emailing to you, let me know. It will be posted on my website in a couple of weeks.

Christmas is coming so buy my books (please)

My new biography of Lancashire writer, railway lover, cyclist and philosopher Allen Clarke (aka ‘Teddy Ashton’) is now available. Salvo subscribers can get Lancashire’s Romantic Radical for £15 instead of normal price of £18.99. I’ve some copies of my Moorlands, Memories and Reflections for £15 (reduced from £21) as well as my novel set in Horwich Loco Works (The Works) for £5. More esoteric but interesting is With Walt Whitman in Bolton: spirituality, sex and socialism in a Northern Mill Town. Also £5,not that much sex in it to be honest but it has compensations. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk Prices are plus £3 post and packing (free if local to Bolton)

OK I’ll leave it at that for now but look out for a more normal illustrated Salvo299 next week

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Building on success: future directions for Community Rail

BUILDING ON SUCCESS:

future directions for  ‘Community Rail’

Prof. Paul Salveson

Chair, South-East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership, Co-ordinator Rail Reform Group, Visiting Professor Universities of Huddersfield and Bolton, founder member of Community Rail Network  (all in a personal capacity!)

Preface

This paper is aimed at a range of people active in the rail and transport industry as well as in the wider public sector – local government, combined authorities – and the ‘third sector’. I’m grateful to many friends and colleagues for their input to the paper, though I bear responsibility for what’s in it. I was involved in setting up the movement that became ‘Community Rail’ in the early 1990s, through a report called New Futures for Rural Rail. We launched it at the National Railway Museum in 1992. This paper is my own personal revision of ‘New Futures’, throwing up ideas and suggestions for Community Rail that can go forward over the next ten years.

Today, with over 70 community rail partnerships and hundreds of station groups, ‘community rail’ is no longer a purely ‘rural’ initiative, it includes inner urban areas as much as rural branch lines. It is active across a wide range of activities which back then we’d have thought way beyond the scope of what railways should be about. Mental health, loneliness, hate crime, addressing climate change, and lots more.

What they add up to is making rail more people-friendly and encouraging more people to use the train and value their local station as a community hub. That feeds back into the really big one of the Climate Emergency.

Who was it who once said ‘Think Global – Act Local’?

I see this paper as very much ‘work in progress’ and welcome feedback.

Paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Thanks!

Paul Salveson, Bolton, November 2021

 Summary

  1. A unique opportunity
  2. Are we getting short of steam?
  3. Will TOCs still have a role in Community Rail?
  4. The continuing importance of Local Government
  5. Community Rail has grown – but there’s still work to do
  6. Station friends, partnerships and business adoption
  7. The new railway architecture
  8. Great British Railways and ‘Community Rail’
  9. What should a Community rail partnership be about?
  10. Catalysts for change
  11. Inter-City Community Rail?
  12. Maximising Social Value
  13. Developing ‘Community Rail Enterprise’
  14. Back to the land
  15. Arts-led rail regeneration
  16. Away from ‘big is best’ mentality in procurement
  17. Building awareness in the industry
  18. Professionalising Community Rail
  19. Rail re-openings
  20. Where next?

BUILDING ON SUCCESS: future directions for ‘Community Rail’

 “Community rail groups already play an important role in supporting a thriving rail network across the country, including through strengthening initiatives with local understanding, improving rail’s social impact and engaging partners such as schools and local businesses. Together, the regional divisions and community rail groups will be able to work more closely with each other, helping to maximise recovery from the pandemic by reinvigorating rail travel for leisure and tourism, particularly in our protected landscapes. They can also advise on how to improve active travel connections to stations, supporting connectivity in rural areas and working together to improve facilities at stations and on trains.” – Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, 2021   s. 13 p.45

Summary

This paper argues that the current restructuring within the railway industry presents a unique opportunity for Community Rail (CR) to up its game and become more ambitious, building on its strengths and becoming more entrepreneurial. It needs to shout its achievements much more loudly, or risk losing vital external support.

Maintaining and developing a close partnership with its existing partners in the industry, particularly the train operating companies, is crucial. Train companies and Network Rail should work with the Community Rail Network and CRPs to build a stronger awareness amongst all railway staff about the value and importance of Community Rail. ’Community Rail’ should become a professional career with appropriate accreditation, in partnership with the further and higher education sector.

Building an equally strong relationship with the new Great British Railways (GBR) is of equal importance. I argue for a GBR Community Unit with a dedicated director at headquarters level and community engagement mangers within the regional divisions, working closely with the TOCs and CRPs who should be incentivised to develop ambitious projects, assisted by a ‘Community Rail Enterprise Challenge’ funded by GBR.

These projects could range from developing integrated bus links, promoting walking and cycling schemes including bike hire, to station and on-train catering and other station activities which bring passenger and wider benefits. Making greater use of railway land e.g. for cultivating edible produce, is a further opportunity.

Community Rail should be resourced to take on issues around mental health, hate crime, anti-social behaviour and loneliness, each of which impact on the railways in different ways.

Local government, including the ‘Combined Authorities’, have a crucial part to play. Community Rail can help address wider policy areas beyond a narrow ‘transport’ focus.

New community rail partnerships should be encouraged through a ‘Community Rail Partnership Growth Fund’ which helps CRPs get off the ground and develop, rather than using existing resources which would have the effect of ‘spreading the jam more thinly’ and penalising existing CRPs. 

  1. A unique opportunity

The railway industry is going through some major changes, following on from the Williams-Shapps report. Nothing will stay the same.

‘Community Rail’ (CR) and ‘community rail partnerships’ (CRPs) get very positive mention, even with some suggestions that they could potentially take on the running of some local lines (going back to the early days of community rail and ‘microfranchising’). That’s too big a leap for now, but while the industry is going through big changes, not least with the formation of Great British Railways and post-Covid recovery challenges, serious thought should be given to building on the success of Community Rail in the next ten years, rather than assuming it just carries on ‘as normal’. All the encouragement that could be possibly asked for is in the white paper. It’s too good an opportunity to miss.

Rufus Boyd, Programme Director (Passenger and Freight Services) at GBR’s Transition Team told me: “It is a challenging time for the rail industry and high on the agenda post-Covid is the need to demonstrate value for money.  Community Rail Partnerships (CRPs) have proved themselves time and again as making a difference to customers at a price the railway can afford. I hope that CRPs continue to build on the success that they’ve so far demonstrated as we move towards building a railway that puts customers and its communities at its heart.”

It’s all about building on success, not a drastic change of direction. CRPs need to be more ambitious. One TOC manager bemoaned the modest scale of some CRP’s ambitions, proposing projects costing in the ‘low thousands’ when they should be developing initiatives substantially greater that can demonstrate value (not purely monetary but that’s important) and make a real difference.

So, my view – having been involved in Community Rail since its inception – is that now is the time to demonstrate that it can do much more – contributing towards attracting passengers back to rail and bringing innovation to local rail services which contribute towards reducing costs. And, of course, the big challenge is ensuring that rail plays the fullest possible part in addressing climate change – which takes us back to filling those trains.

This paper argues for a wider role for CR, embedded firmly alongside the new structure which will be led by Great British Railways (GBR). It should retain and expand its independence, dynamism and creativity. I’m talking reform and creative evolution, not revolution. Let’s use the ‘four pillars’ enshrined in the Government’s Community Rail Development Strategy, and take each of them further. Just to remind you, they are:

  • Providing a voice for the community
  • Promoting sustainable and healthy travel (including ‘the extra mile’)
  • Bringing communities together and supporting diversity and inclusion
  • Supporting social and economic development

 

In the light of post-Covid challenges, I’d be inclined to go back to one of the early objectives of Community Rail and add a fifth – ‘growing ridership and reducing costs’. Reducing costs? Yes, not through cuts but through better ways of delivering local projects and provision of services – through more agile, locally-based agencies.

Each of the pillars can reinforce each other, like any well-constructed building. Lots has been achieved already and the focus of this paper is perhaps more on the fourth pillar, social and economic development (and perhaps the suggested ‘fifth amendment’), but all are relevant and complementary.

  1. Are we getting short of steam?

There is a view amongst some that ‘community rail’ itself is not punching its weight. One senior industry source told me: “At the moment I feel CR lacks energy and dynamism…….it must diversify to survive. It needs to represent a broader church of interest and interests…spread its wings into hard urban areas… It must engage with bodies that represent the under-privileged and help them with basic skills, possibly those that lead to proper employment in the railway. It must better support children’s education and make a contribution to making the railway safer for everyone to use; women, the disabled and those with mental health or learning issues. CR can help us, along with station adopters, to wage war on crime and vandalism on the railway.”

I showed this quote to a good friend with long experience in CR – his response was unprintable! The unpalatable fact is that it’s good to be challenged, even when we may not agree with what’s being said.

Many CRPs are already active in these ‘hard urban areas’. But, whether you think that statement is fair or unfair, if that is someone’s perception (and someone with considerable influence) it needs to be listened to carefully. What it illustrates is that CRPs are quite poor at trumpeting their own successes. In such a media-savvy age that is a real weakness that needs addressing more strongly. Even local schemes, if they’re innovative and exciting, could get national exposure but too often CRPs neglect the all-important press release.

CR is already active in many ‘hard urban areas’ and the work of Community Rail Lancashire in education is outstanding. Similarly, the work of CRPs such as The Bentham Line and Cumbria around mental health issues is amazing and well recognised through numerous awards. South East Lancashire CRP has done pioneering work around ‘hate crime’ and certainly works in ‘hard’ urban areas. But it’s patchy – and anyone in CR would say they could do so much more with the right level of resources and long-term stability.

This paper suggests that the establishment of Great British Railways (GBR) offers real opportunities for Community Rail in the UK, particularly in England. I’m very much aware of the different approaches in Scotland and to an extent in Wales.

Northern Ireland remains isolated from CR despite attempts to change that. That said, I hope some of the suggestions in this paper will have a relevance to the devolved nations.

 

  1. Will train operators still have a role in Community Rail?

The train operating companies (TOCs) will be responsible for delivering the new post-franchising ‘Passenger Service Contracts’. Up to now, the TOCs have had a key role in working with community rail groups. Will that continue? It should. Within the PSCs the train operator should be expected to work positively with the relevant community rail organisations and station friends groups, with that co-operation clearly specified in the PSC. As one TOC manager, with years of experience in supporting community rail, said “The future scope of the TOC role is still to be finalised, but I think there needs to be some local responsibility and autonomy within the framework set by GBR, as GBR is never going to be in touch with local markets and community needs in the way a local TOC can be – so there’s some work to be done there to get that right, I reckon.”

He’s absolutely right. Will CR funding still be channelled through the TOC? It makes sense, to ensure a close structural link between TOC and CRP, and if an operator wished to support a particular initiative or project this should be encouraged. An interesting challenge is how to gauge the level of funding. Should CRPs be ‘paid by results’? Maybe it should be a combination of existing funding and support for an agreed action plan that meets the demands of the ‘pillars’ and encourages new development. It’s important that CRPs seek to broaden their funding base and not assume rail funding will continue forever at the same level. Lots of things CRPs do is of value way beyond the rail industry, and there are funding streams out there which we don’t tap into, e.g. in community arts, heritage lottery and numerous social funds.

The relationship between the CRP and TOC could, and should, expand. The TOCs will still be major employers and there is considerable scope for community rail partnerships working with TOCs on recruitment and training issues, helping them to recruit a diverse workforce, as well on the ‘classic’ community rail issues.

They should, in conjunction with the TOC, build links with the unions in the company. Hundreds of union members are involved positively in CR projects but the unions per se have little if any involvement, which is a pity.

Many TOCs have come to realise that CRPs are important conduits for passenger issues, feeding in informed and knowledgeable views that help shape a positive passenger experience and stimulate service improvements. And CRPs do important work in the community which help reduce trespass and vandalism, issues on everyone’s agenda, complementing the work of British Transport Police.

  1. The importance of local government and the Combined Authorities

Traditionally, local government has been a major sponsor of community rail and still hosts some CRPs; an average of about 20% of CRP funding comes from local authorities. However, the impact of cuts has forced some CRPs to re-think this reliance and become not-for-profit companies that are more dependent on funding through the railway industry, mostly via franchise contracts and their replacements in National Rail Contracts. This has saved many CRPs from disaster but at the same time creates a risk of over-reliance on a single source of funding.

Which comes back to the need to widen Community Rail’s funding base. Many CRPs value a local authority input even when they don’t supply any core funding but sometimes pots of money available via local authorities don’t get noticed.  Local government is the way in to a huge range of community services including housing, ‘place’, education, economic regeneration as well as remaining transport functions. In some ways, it’s the ‘non-transport’ areas which are the most important and where Community Rail could contribute more.

There needs to be stronger relationships with elected members, as well as council officers. At the end of the day it’s the members who make decisions on funding and unless the ground has been well prepared, the importance of a CRP will go unrecognised. Inviting elected members to events that demonstrate what the CRP is doing is easy to do, if the will is there. That should be re-inforced by regular press releases to the local media but also national media if it’s an interesting project that might just speak an editor’s interest.

There are specific issues in the ‘combined authorities’ – the former PTE areas in the North and Midlands. Strangely, a few have shied away from engagement with community rail, perhaps still seeing it as a ‘rural’ thing. Even some of the positive ones, such as Transport for Greater Manchester, are not able to provide core funding for CRPs – but do support individual projects. I think the combined authorities are missing a trick and the CRPs themselves need to up their game and ‘play the political game’ with the city region mayors, who wield increasing power and influence.

A predominantly urban CRP will have different issues and priorities to address than say a CRP along a rural line in East Anglia or Cornwall. Issues around diversity and inclusion, challenging hate crime, trespass and vandalism may well have a greater impact in urban areas, though even rural areas are sadly not immune to them.

A community-based approach can help bolster local line identities within a combined authority area such as Merseytravel, West and South Yorkshire, West Midlands or Greater Manchester, with scope for community art work at local stations which have been proved to reduce vandalism and create a more welcoming atmosphere. The Tyne and Wear Metro led the field on this but many more have followed. The Urban Transport Group, which does what it the label says, could help promote community rail initiatives  amongst its members and share good practice.

  1. Community Rail has grown in strength – but there’s still work to do

‘Community Rail’ (CR) has achieved a lot with very little since its formation in the mid-90s. There are now 74 CRPs across the UK, nearly all employing paid staff (at least south of the Scottish border) though this is often just one person, sometimes working part-time. Today’s community rail movement is in a far stronger position than it was 20 years ago.

Alongside CRPs there are hundreds of station adoption groups/station friends, many doing amazing work with no paid staff. CR is no longer a ‘would you mind?’ extra for operators. It is a contractual obligation. How well they get behind, promote and support CR counts towards their performance and thus the fees they can earn.

Community Rail is supported by the Community Rail Network which has grown in strength and influence and provides a range of services to its membership. It is a highly effective network, supported by Government and industry funding, light years away from the early days when we were very much finding our way. If I was completely honest I’d say that I regret that some of the ‘fun’ – but valuable – activities have been lost, not least the so-called ‘jollies’ to experience different regional railways around Europe, from which so much was learned and so many enduring friendships formed. One thing I’ve learned in 50 years of campaigning and community action is the importance of ‘the social’ and building networks based on trust.

Community rail partnerships are independent, but closely allied to, the railway industry and that’s the right position. Most of the things they do are with the agreement of TOCs or Network Rail. This independence can be an advantage, bringing new ideas and energy to rail. But it can also be like banging your head against a wall, with CRPs not taken seriously by rail managers in some parts of the business, franchise obligations or not. It’s fine having a ‘community manager’ but if their colleagues in other areas don’t know what you do, there can be problems. This is explored in a later section (‘Building Awareness in the Industry’).

One area that could be explored further is the potential for CRPs to collaborate or even combine with neighbouring partnerships to create stronger entities, without losing their grassroots base. Many CRPs (e.g. South East Lancs CRP and CR Lancashire) already work together and the former Sussex CRP has expanded to include a large swathe of the South-east and is now the South-east England CRP.

An alternative, perhaps preferable approach to mergers, could be for CRPs to share some ‘back office’ functions, e.g. finance and general administration, as well as some joint initiatives.

Could the Community Rail Network develop its own ‘regional divisions’ which work with GBR but also provide some administrative support to CRPs?

The proposed ‘Community Rail Enterprises’ (CREs – see below) could be based on community interest companies formed with ownership covering more than one CRP.

  1. Station friends, partnerships and business adoption

“There are real opportunities for the railways to do more to support local economic growth, such as encouraging and supporting small independent retailers on the rail estate. This could extend more widely, with greater emphasis on place and social value. Priorities will differ across the network: in rural areas, community rail partnerships can provide social connections to tackle loneliness, whilst easy connections to our national landscapes can improve health and wellbeing. Reusing existing rail buildings for services such as training, community hubs and education, as Network Rail has already done in Bolton, could reduce costs for the voluntary sector and improve services for local residents.”

  • Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, 2021   15 p.44

The role of station friends/station partnerships should remain largely voluntary (as with rail user groups), working with CRPs, GBR and train companies and acting as a link into local communities, though some could do more at their stations e.g. cafes and art galleries.  It has to be said that depending on voluntary effort is not the panacea that some think. Nice if you can get it but the reality often is that it’s easier where you have a pool of retired professionals with time on their hands. As a general rule, the more deprived the area, the fewer these potential volunteers are to be found and more intensive efforts are needed to engage with communities and build local capacity and confidence. Working with local voluntary sector coordinating bodies (the ‘CVS’ network) is a useful ‘way in’. South East Lancashire CRP has a close relationship with Bolton CVS which manages its staff budget but also provides wider links to the area’s very diverse communities.

This is not at all to give up on volunteering in a railway context but to widen the pool of volunteers, combined with realism on how much can be achieved just with volunteers. This should involve working more closely with local voluntary sector co-ordinating bodies and offering volunteers something in return for their input. Traditionally, this has meant provision of some travel facilities, which can be a powerful inducement (and contrary to the fears of some rail managers, is seldom abused). But for younger people there could be scope for opening up training and employment opportunities on the railway.

Some station groups have potential to develop much more as social enterprises, particularly at some of the bigger locations, e.g. Kilmarnock and Bolton, with charitable organisations or CICs employing staff as well as using volunteers. Could some stations be ‘adopted’ by a local business/es to promote their services in return for provided some services at the station? Brighouse station is a good example of ‘group adoption’ by local businesses which included florists – the impact is massive.

Irlam is probably the outstanding example of ‘business adoption’, with the station building run by the Hamilton Davies Trust with a flourishing cafe and meeting space, enhanced by superb artwork and memorabilia. However, there are many more and the work of ScotRail in community and business adoption of stations over many years is outstanding, with excellent examples in both rural and inner city areas of Glasgow.

Another potentially fruitful area for CRPs to work with station groups is developing station travel plans and accessibility audits. Again, this is something that should be a ‘paid for’ project, probably via GBR in the future, but involving the relevant local authority. Community Rail Network has been proactive in supporting community-led travel planning ad has produced a helpful toolkit guide.

  1. The new railway architecture

The establishment of ‘Great British Railways’ (GBR) is a major development in UK rail; it will change how railways are managed dramatically. It will administer ‘passenger service contracts’ in which the actual train service delivery is provided by private companies to a clear contract. Unlike the current system, there will be little room for manoeuvre (or creativity) by the train operating companies. The clearly stated model for this is TfL/London Overground. Yet the TfL rail and contracting model doesn’t readily lend itself easily to CR and we don’t want to see mass centralisation or corporatisation of Community Rail. At the same time, the establishment of GBR will be an opportunity to bring CR into the heart of the railway, spreading the positive experience of some parts of Network Rail (e.g. in the North-West) to the country as a whole.

GBR will have wide powers. The DfT press release said “A new public body, Great British Railways (GBR), will integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables.” It went on to say that “Local communities will work closely with GBR on designing services with local leaders given greater control over local ticketing, timetables and stations. The new model will encourage innovative bidders, such as community rail partnerships who want to bid for the GBR contract to operate their local branch lines.”

Many CRPs are already working with the industry on service planning issues and this needs to be embedded in the new structure; as for bidding for contracts to operate local branch lines, that’s an interesting challenge but one which CRPs as currently structured would, in most cases, be ill-equipped to respond to at the moment. But it does point to a more pro-active and operational role for CRPs. How do we get there? And is it realistic?

  1. GBR and ‘Community Rail’

If GBR is to be focused on passengers and communities – and their needs – shouldn’t some of what CRPs now do form part of GBR’s core programme, from Day One? There is scope for CRPs to have long-term agreements with GBR to develop specific services, e.g. in work with schools, mental health, refugees or ‘employability’ which help give long-term stability to CRPs.

We know there will be regional divisions of GBR and surely it makes sense for these to have strong roots in the communities they cover? The regional divisions of GBR should each have a ‘community unit’ that works closely with its community partners, with a small team at HQ level supported by a director with specific responsibility for ‘Community Integration’, working closely with Community Rail Network.

GBR should have regional boards which oversee the work of the organisation as a whole and include community representatives, including at least one CRP representative.

It’s important that the suggested dedicated community teams within GBR at the regional level are incentivised to ‘reach out’ and work with CRPs, CRN and a wide range of community organisations. Their role should be to help things happen, not act as a barrier.

Across the rail industry, community engagement should be treated as a skill to be learned just like any other, with training programmes (suitably accredited) that equip the managers of today and tomorrow with the knowledge and skill to be fully effective in this important field. GBR could work with Community Rail Network and the higher education sector to encourage ‘community engagement’ modules within Transport Studies courses – and ‘Community Development and Transport’ within community development courses (see below section ‘Professionalising Community Rail’).

  1. What should a ‘community rail partnership’ be about?

Williams – Shapps gives strong encouragement to CRPs as we’ve seen above. Section 13 is headed “Community rail partnerships will be empowered to strengthen rail’s social and economic impact”. But there is more in the white paper which may not mention ‘community rail’ specifically but opens up some exciting opportunities:

“New, locally-led innovation schemes will unlock smarter working and support growth. To achieve real change, there needs to be renewed emphasis on locally-led innovation and new ways of working. Those who work on the railways should be able to suggest and lead innovation in their workplaces or local network. Great British Railways will support this, through greater adoption of design sprints and competitions to identify and solve challenges at pace locally and regionally. Targeted partnerships between Great British Railways, its partners and other transport authorities, investors and start-ups will enable collaboration between the public and private sectors to push innovative solutions forward. Best practice will be shared across the sector.”

  • Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, 2021 s. 49, p.83

Community Rail must rise to these challenges presented by Williams – Shapps. It’s a once in a generation opportunity and the CR movement must think big.

It isn’t about a single, unified approach but one in which ‘a hundreds flowers bloom’. Existing CRPs are enormously varied in terms of composition and activities, reflecting the very different geography of their areas of operation and the interests of the CRP partners. The ‘accreditation’ process has brought a baseline of good practice to CRPs and should continue in its present form but, arguably, be a bit more demanding and questioning. Re-accreditation should not be an almost automatic process. At the same time, there should be more sharing of good practice now we are at least partly out of lockdown.

The annual Community Rail Awards is a great occasion to meet up and hear about great projects, but the only other annual event is the DfT-sponsored Community Rail conference each March. Train operators are often obliged to organise their own conference from community rail groups in their area but the CRPs themselves, with support from the Community Rail Network, could do more to develop regional collaboration.

The activities which CRPs are involved in are hugely varied and, assuming a core emphasis on assuring local accountability, good governance and ensuring that all sections of the community are reached out to, should be able to reflect local needs and priorities.

Some act as grassroots-based advocates to promote rail travel, stressing rail’s contribution to the health and sustainability agendas. Others are involved in tourism promotion, while some bring considerable expertise to service planning issues. As highlighted above, some engage in pioneering work around mental health and work with schools. In a small number of cases, some are involved in ‘commercial’ activities, others sponsor local feeder bus services (e.g. SE Lancs CRP). There is a growing agenda to be part of the wider sustainability agenda which is great and this could be developed into particular strands of work (e.g. ‘greening your station’). The best contribution CRPs can make to a greener Britain is getting more people using trains that are already there, getting them to and from the station by sustainable means. At the same time, CRPs need to be part of wider local initiatives around sustainability, demonstrating that rail is part of the solution.

CRPs are not lobbying groups but many have developed expertise and trust in honing services to local needs. One senior CRP manager said “I’d say too that the best thing a CRP can do to help the community is to work to ensure the train service is as relevant and useful as possible to that community (and is well used and stays that way) and that where there is sufficient unmet local need, the service expands to meet it where possible.” That will involve the future CRP working closely with the GBR divisions but also ensuring that the ‘TOC of the future’, working to a Passenger Service Contract, is aware and engaged with its CRPs and uses their local knowledge and expertise, as argued above.

In some cases, partnerships can play a direct role in developing new technology that improves the viability of rural lines. Hi-Trans in the North of Scotland is leading the way with alternative sources to traditional diesel for some of the more remote lines which will never justify conventional electrification. Vivarail’s battery and hydrogen powered trains could help revolutionise some branch lines and a partnership with a CRP or rail-based social enterprise could be immensely effective.

Getting people back onto rail, post-Covid, whatever sort of train, is the key challenge we face. CR has a vital role to play in nurturing that rail market and act as a bridge between ‘communities’ and ‘the railway’ without being fringe lobbyists. It’s about making good things happen.

  1. Catalysts for change

If we see CRPs as bodies that enable things to happen – community development agencies along railway corridors, rather than being too narrowly focused on the railway in isolation – it helps structure how we see CR developing. It may sound heretical but you don’t need strong community interest before forming a CRP. It’s the job of the CRP to create it. There was no community demand for a community rail partnership on the Penistone Line back in 1993, but we went ahead and set up the Penistone Line Partnership and the community engagement came along after. On many more urban routes there is little existing community engagement, even through station friends groups. A CRP can be about making community engagement happen, starting off small, working with the existing community organisations in their area. There should be a role for the future GBR regional divisions to work with Community Rail Network and local agencies to identify potential new CRPs and assist with funding new developments, as argued elsewhere in this paper.

Funding is an issue for most CRPs. They are dependent on Government funding, which is inevitably short term. Few generate significant revenue from activities. In the past, it has been suggested that CRPs should escape from the cycle of government funding and look to generating revenue-earning activities. Perhaps now is the time to revisit that. However, some important and necessary activities will never be ‘commercial’ and never should be. I’d argue this is where GBR should step in.

The CRPs could at least in part function as GBR’s delivery arm for certain ‘deliverables’. For example, if the regional divisions of GBR wanted to develop work with primary schools, rather than try to build up the expertise themselves, they should buy the actual deliverable from one or more CRP in their division, who already have the expertise. Potentially individual CRPs could develop strengths in certain areas e.g. education, mental health, arts and other fields, alongside more general community engagement work.

  1. InterCity Community Rail

CR needs to cover more of the rail network. It’s moved on since the days when it was mainly about rural branch lines. As the ‘industry source’ commented, it needs to be (and already is) working in gritty urban areas. It’s also active on Inter-City routes and could do more. All the TOCs providing InterCity services have incentives in their contracts to support community rail and this is an exciting growth area. Open access Grand Central, once described by its late MD Tom Clift as ‘a long distance community railway’ has a great record of community engagement. On routes like the West Coast Main Line there are stations like Oxenholme, Wigan North Western, Preston and Penrith with a strong community ‘feel’ and highly committed staff who like working with the community, supported by Avanti West Coast. Train operators such as Cross Country (which has no stations to manage but supports a range of CR projects), LNER, Great Western and East Midlands are all proactive on Community Rail projects.

Larger stations on main line routes could develop as community hubs, using vacant space for community shops, art galleries and more. There’s too much an emphasis on the ‘corporate’ chains providing cafe facilities and not enough encouragement to good quality, locally-based cafes at larger stations.

All rail franchises or contracts have support for Community Rail embedded within them, thanks to the support of DfT, and the devolved administrations for Wales and Scotland. In the new GBR settlement that must not only continue, but expand.

That means in many places new CRPs being formed, with new money available for them to develop. As things stand it is difficult, to put it mildly, to set up a new CRP even if it has strong support – because the current CRP budget is allocated to existing partnerships. That creates an impossible situation where potentially, existing CRPs are penalised if new CRPs are established. There must be dedicated funds for new CRPs – a ‘Community Rail New Growth Fund’ or the like, quite separate from existing CRPs. Funding would be conditional on meeting clear criteria, based on the existing accreditation process.

  1. Maximising Social Value

The importance of the strongly social elements e.g. work on mental health, hate crime, work with schools, refugees and more, needs greater recognition and support. This work should be sponsored by the regional divisions of GBR and delivered by the CRPs and local community partners.

This ‘social’ programme e.g. work with schools and mental health, work with NEETs etc. while sponsored and paid for by GBR, should be supported by the relevant public sector body e.g. LEA, NHS, local council and delivered, on a clear contractual basis, by the community rail partnership, or a consortium of them, possibly in conjunction with an external third sector partner or partners. SE Lancs CRP’s work with refugees is being developed in partnership with the local City of Sanctuary, for example. Engaging in this sort of work would be impossible without close involvement of the relevant organisations.

It’s clear that ‘Social Value’ is becoming increasingly important in Government policy, in all areas, not just transport. One experienced CRP chair told me “The future train operating company contracts will be looking for a strong pay back to the Treasury for the financial support given and an important part of this will be the monetary value of the social aspects of activity by both the TOC and Community Rail. The earlier  exercises in valuing Community Rail will need to be much more sophisticated to record , quantify and therefore demonstrate that this is not just a ‘good thing’ but of real value to the Exchequer, the economy and to the population. Having this as a monetary value will be an essential plank for the future survival and development of Community Rail.”

Some community activists will object to putting a cash value on their activity. But the world has moved on from the 1990s when we did stuff because we knew it was right. If Community Rail is to retain the support of Government it will need to demonstrate very clearly the benefits it brings, rather than just assuming that “it’s bloody obvious”. It might be to us, it won’t be to the Treasury.

A lot can be learnt from engaging and being a part of the wider ‘third sector’ which is highly developed in the UK with a huge resource of knowledge and expertise in lots of areas relevant to community rail. Some CRPs and station partnerships are active members of their local ‘CVS’ (Council for Voluntary Service, or similar co-ordinating body for the local third sector) but a lot aren’t. They should be. It would help CRPs develop their local knowledge, build awareness of key policy issues and develop contacts. For the ‘third sector’ it would give them a way in to transport issues which are often seen as important but difficult to engage with.

  1. Developing ‘Community Rail Enterprises’

Community Rail should be enabled, where it wants to and where there’s the potential, to become more entrepreneurial, developing activities that bring in revenue – ranging from running bike hire, cafes and bars, tourist promotions, bus services, educational services, some local stations and even (cf Williams-Shapps) local rail services, in time. There’s no shortage of examples already, highlighted in CRN’s The Socially Enterprising Railway https://communityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ACoRP-Social-Enterprising-Railway-Tooklit-1218.pdf

Developing long-term income streams from revenue-generating activities (which add value to the railway and enhance passenger experience) or from specific deliverables that are paid for by a commissioning body, is a sensible route to take, and Community Rail Network has been encouraging this through training and advice.

Some CRPs are already structured as social enterprises, often as ‘community interest companies’ or charitable incorporated organisations. They could do much more. Within existing CRPs, there are a number of activities that could be developed as standalone businesses, if the right investment was made. This isn’t the sort of thing that GBR could or should do, but it ought to be supportive and helpful.

Some CRPs already get involved in managing property (in partnership with TOCs and Network Rail), undertake business activities such as consultancy, training, etc. Part of the problem is that they’re stretched too far with grossly insufficient resources.

I’m suggesting that more CRPs develop into social enterprises – businesses, with social objectives. Let’s call them ‘Community Rail Enterprises’ (CREs). Alternatively, CRPs could act as an enabler for such bodies, doing the initial development work then floating the social enterprise off to be self-sustaining but keeping close links with the CRP.

The CRP’s role would be to identify and develop rail-based commercial activities which bring tangible benefits to local communities, as well as supporting the railway. While the Williams-Shapps suggestion of CRPs bidding for contracts for their local lines smacks me as naive, there could be scope for CRPs – or enterprises which they help create – teaming up with larger businesses which may already have TOC status, to operate local services and possibly take on some peripheral (non-safety-critical) services which really enhance the rail offer.

An obvious ‘quick win’ is tourism, with a CRP working with an operator to provide additional services such as ‘The Staycation Express’ on the Settle-Carlisle and Vintage Trains (a community benefit society) on The Shakespeare Line. The Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Co. is a good example of the sort of enterprise I’m talking about. A potentially attractive area is developing feeder bus services. The example of Dalesbus, where a CIC identifies a network of bus routes which help promote sustainable tourism and contract services to local bus operators, is interesting. It avoids the high overheads of running the service directly and leaves the company free to promote the service and work with local businesses.

Most successful businesses, social or not, usually start off small but need some capital. If the Government wants to see CR develop and take on the sort of things that Williams-Shapps suggests, it needs up-front investment.

My suggestion is for three or four pilot schemes  across the country where there is some investment (let’s not call it funding) into creating or developing a ‘community enterprise’. This should cover a range of things including:

  • Appropriate level of staffing
  • Getting a suitable form of governance and board members – CIC model
  • Business partners/investors
  • Writing a business plan
  • Some contribution towards implementation of projects

We should be looking at three or four year horizons. Some will fail, which is OK. Others will bloom. Getting CRPs out of the treadmill of short-term funding and conflicting demands and expectations is necessary and timely. It could be the next ‘great leap forward’ for Community Rail.

Given the Secretary of State’s enthusiasm for competitions (e.g. location of GBR HQ) why not a Government-sponsored competition for ‘The Community Rail Enterprise Challenge’ with substantial funds for three or four pilot projects around England.

The Community Rail Network (CRN) could build on its very useful work on social enterprise with more business advice and support.

  1. Back to the land

Community Rail has hardly tapped the huge potential of doing more with surplus railway land. The railway is a massive land owner; the 4th or 5th biggest in the country. We must make a greater contribution to improving the environment, its habitat for all species and to biodiversity. Europe and Britain have lost nearly 30% of its bee population. As one industry leader said “If the bees all die, we die. It’s as simple as that. We have massive tracts of land that barely see human feet on them. Why aren’t we seeding and flowering these tracts to attract bees and butterflies. Who knows, regional or local brands of railway honey?”

SE Lancashire CRP is already developing a ‘Railway BeeHives’ project at Wigan. Network Rail has made important steps on biodiversity, and the Community Rail movement is developing a range of outstanding local projects. Greater Anglia is working with Norfolk Wildlife Trusts to promote biodiversity schemes through their station adoption programme.

Can we do more useful things with the railway’s land assets? Most railway land is in Network Rail hands so presumably will transfer to GBR; anyone who has tried dealing with the industry on land issues will know how difficult it is. The issue needs addressing, possibly by identifying surplus land which should for various reasons remain in railway ownership but which could be developed as wildlife havens, or – where public access is possible – as ‘railway parks’ or community allotments. One senior figure in local government said “I think there’s massive potential in using the vast amount of ‘nowt nor summat’ railway land holdings for gardens and parks. The big railway has finally realised it needs a sustainability strategy so I would have thought it would be very receptive. There’s also interplay with wider biodiversity / climate resilience aims of the big railway.”

This could best be done through a strategic lead by Network Rail/GBR with suitable parcels of land placed in a land bank for community use, leased to a community organisation (which could be local, regional or even national). Could there be scope for some land to be transferred to community land trusts to develop affordable housing, or community growing areas?

The example of the ‘Incredible Edible’ movement which started in Todmorden and features herb gardens on the station platforms, is really exciting. Encouragement should be given to use railway land, whether at stations or elsewhere, as space to grow stuff which can then be consumed locally. Bolton station’s ‘Platform Planters’ produced vegetables that were donated to a local co-operative cafe. Why not have station shops and cafes that sell produce that’s partly grown on the station itself?

  1. Arts-led rail regeneration

Rail has a pretty good record in ‘public art’. There are some great examples of art work at stations such as, as well as art galleries at stations including Aberdour, Kinghorn, Bolton, Pollokshaws West, Wigan (both stations), Nuneaton and many more. There are lots of reasons for encouraging public art at stations and along the railway corridor. The obvious benefit is that it makes stations nicer places to be. They are more welcoming, people-friendly and that in turn helps reduce anti-social behaviour. If people find stations more welcoming and less threatening, it stands to reason that they are more likely to use them.

The actual process of creating art at stations in itself is important. If done well, community rail art can involve hard-to-reach groups, children in inner-urban schools with limited horizons, and people who are social excluded. Lots of railway employees are talented artists, in many different media. We need to involve them much, much more. The exhibition of Railway Workers’ Art at the Platform Gallery on Bolton station was a good start, there’s scope for a lot more. Encouraging railway staff ticks many of the industry boxes about supporting employees and staff satisfaction.

It needs doing well. Just throwing up a few pictures or a subway mural is fine but an arts-based approach needs to address the whole station environment rather than just being an add-on. We need to make our stations exciting and interesting places which showcase local talent. Take a look at the subway mural at Wigan North Western if you want a good example of how art can transform a rather dull 1970s station. But we’ve only just started!

There’s a lot of good work already happening. It would be good for artists and community rail groups involved in art work to link up more, perhaps through a Community Rail Network ‘sub-network’ of Community Rail Art. Some great examples are already showcased at the Community Rail Awards, with two categories directly arts-related and others which are in part.

  1. Away from the ‘big is best’ mentality in procurement

Why should retail at larger stations be totally dominated by the big chains which have little if any commitment to locally sourced food and whose staff have no say in how the business is run? Community rail partnerships could work with the rail industry to establish retail facilities on stations – small, medium and large – which are exemplars of what the ‘circular economy’ looks like. Grown at or near the station, cooked on the premises and sold to rail passengers and local people who use the station as a destination in itself, with attractive station cafes which could also double as local art galleries and bookshops.

The same goes for locally-brewed beer, with ‘artisan’ breweries springing up at stations offering good quality beer in a pleasant environment. The record of success here, particularly at larger stations, is better than with coffee shops and other retail. As argued above, there is scope for much greater diversity in provision of catering at larger stations. How many large stations do you see a local social enterprise providing good quality snacks and coffee? Hardly any – they tend to be allowed to set up shop at stations where there’s no ‘commercial’ interest from the corporate giants. One of the biggest challenges for community rail is to get the industry procurement managers to take community business seriously instead of seeing them as irrelevant and unprofessional. Too often procurement managers take the easy route and contract with a large chain rather than seeking out good quality local businesses that may offer a better service at similar costs.

One aspect of this is cost. When I’ve mentioned social enterprises running cafes at busy stations the response from some TOCs has been cautious, assuming the potential tenant would want a ‘peppercorn’ rent. It doesn’t have to be so. Well-established social enterprises in many towns and cities pay full commercial rents and make money. If there is commercial potential at a busy station, why not offer it to a social enterprise that has a good record for quality and service, on a commercial basis? Or, in cases where the market potential is marginal, agree a tapered rent starting off low and growing as – and if – the business grows. This is what Northern did, with success, at Skipton with the Settle-Carlisle Development Company’s cafe, taking over from a failed private business. That required an ‘open book’ approach and a relationship of trust with the train operator.

That model could work with other TOCs or Network Rail – or GBR in the future – which could be brokered by the CRP. And let’s remember, at some smaller stations talk of a ‘commercial’ rent should be treated with care. A ‘commercial rent’ at some stations could be in hundreds, or less. It’s far better to have an appropriate business trading at a station than a boarded up building that will never be let because the rent expected is unrealistic and doesn’t reflect local market rents.

  1. Building awareness in the industry

Thirty years on from the establishment of the first CRP (actually in Devon and Cornwall), the lack of awareness of what ‘Community Rail’ is amongst some in the rail industry continues to surprise me. It’s far too important to be left just to a ‘stakeholder manager’ or similar and should be embedded across the entire industry. So, how?

The future contracts for train operators need to incorporate some clear requirements for the operator (and this should also apply to GBR and former Network Rail staff) to develop awareness of Community Rail at all levels. This should include regular briefings to management teams but also publicity about CR activities in staff publications and social media. CRP officers should be invited to occasional staff briefings about activities they are involved in.

Every ‘new starter’ should have a half-day session on ‘Community Rail – what it means to you’ as part of their induction, which could include inviting a CRP officer to take part in the session. During my time at Grand Central (not, of course, a franchised TOC), part of my job was to spend a day with ‘new starters’ – mostly Bradford-based staff for the new London service. Drives, train managers and customer service assistants. Many of them became enthusiasts for community rail and fed in positive ideas.

In turn, rail managers and front-line staff should be encouraged to attend some CRP meetings and offer insights into their work; this could also include depot visits and other activities which help cement relationships between CR and the industry.

  1. Professionalising ‘Community Rail’

It would be interesting to know how many people are employed in ‘community rail’ across the country, including CRPs and rail employees. Given there are over 70 CRPs and about 20 train operators, a conservative estimate would be 100 full-time equivalent jobs.

The professional backgrounds of these people will be enormously varied, with some coming from community development roles, marketing, or railway operating backgrounds. What they will all have in common is a lack of any formal qualifications for doing ‘community rail’. If you come into the job from a railway operations or engineering background, you probably won’t know a lot about community development. If you’re a former community worker, the intricacies of the railway industry will be beyond you.

By and large, people ‘get by’. Yet the industry needs to recognise that being a ‘community manager’ requires real skills, every bit as demanding as being a timetable planner, signalling engineer or train crew manager.

It’s about time we professionalised Community Rail. Not by excluding talented people either in the industry or in outside ‘community-related’ jobs, but offering opportunities to develop skills which better equip them to do community-related jobs, either as CRP or rail industry employees. This could be done through a mix of on and off the job training, working with a number of higher education bodies in different parts of the country, with a shared core curriculum which includes:

  • What the railway industry does, its history, and how it is structured
  • How rail is part of the wider sustainability challenge
  • The communities served by rail and their diverse needs
  • Methods of community engagement
  • Community Rail overview – including funding and governance
  • Media relations

This should be suitably accredited. At school-leaving level, each rail business – and CRP – should have an apprenticeship scheme. Some TOCs, such as Northern, already have a good record here, not only offering apprentices the opportunity to engage with CRPs but also an ‘Early Careers Programme’ which has a community dimension. At a higher level, there should be encouragement to post-graduate qualifications up to and including PhD level on important aspects of Community Rail. There are opportunities to include ‘Community Rail’ within some degree courses, particularly but not exclusively in Transport Studies.

  1. Rail re-openings

Community rail has traditionally fought shy of getting involved in rail re-openings, for good reason. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s the practical possibility of re-opening a local railway, at least in England, was very small. Getting involved in complex and probably pointless campaigns would have sapped strength and resources which was better spent in supporting and developing what was already there, and had survived Beeching.

That caution need not apply in the 2020s, now there is broad support for re-openings with Government encouragement. Community rail partnerships are well placed to support and perhaps in certain cases lead on re-openings, particularly new stations along routes they cover. CRPs could act as a stimulus for more ambitious line re-openings, without being the lead body – which might be best done through a purpose-made organisation involving local authorities, the CRP and other agencies.

SENRUG – The South-east Northumberland Rail Users Group – has aspirations to become a CRP and promote both existing services and support the re-opening of ’The Northumberland Line’ from Newcastle to Ashington and to Morpeth.

  1. Where next?

Community Rail has a great future. It has emerged from the worst of the Covid-19 period intact but, lack everyone, feeling bruised. Jools Townsend, Chief Executive of the Community Rail Network said “I think we can hold our heads very high about the way the movement has come through a very difficult year and a half, supporting communities and their resilience in a range of ways, responding to local needs. I also would highlight the ways that community rail has come together and pushed forward with promotional and engagement activities as we have emerged from pandemic restrictions – including a strong focus on supporting leisure travel opportunities and positioning rail travel as a big part of the solution to the climate emergency. A lot of what we and our members have done in recent months has been new and different, responding to what’s going on out there at a local and global level.”

Community Rail is embedded in many communities and there is strong support for it within the rail industry and Government – and, as this paper has argued perhaps to excess, a sense that it could do much more if it had the right tools. It must relentlessly trumpet its successes and ensure that it isn’t just preaching to the converted. Why not a Treasury day out to visit some community rail lines and demonstrate at first-hand what has been achieved?

A good friend in a train company made a key point in response to an earlier draft of this paper: “We have to make sure we achieve the twin aims of protecting all that’s best about Community Rail, whilst also evolving into new but relevant added value areas. The the clue is in the title – community rail. If it doesn’t involve both those elements, then it’s probably not the right thing for Community Rail to be doing, could be a dilution of resources and may be duplicating what others do. We also need to be pragmatic and realistic – whilst still being ambitious and aspirational – about the resources that might get allocated to Community Rail. We might not always be lucky enough to have the passionate advocates we have today at the heart of decision-making!”

This paper represents a small contribution to the process of growing Community Rail – a healthy and vibrant movement which began with no resources and a lot of scepticism, in the kitchen of a terraced house in Huddersfield thirty years ago. Thanks to all who have contributed to its creation.

Key recommendations:

  1. Great British Railways should have ‘Community Rail’ in its DNA, with a ‘Community Unit’ at HQ level and dedicated resource in each of the regional divisions
  2. Train operators should be incentivised to support community rail and station adoption groups through the Passenger Service Contracts. They should continue to act as channels for funding CRPs but also be encouraged to go beyond the ‘core’ funding proposition for schemes with identified benefits
  3. The ‘four pillars’ in the Government’s Community Rail Development Strategy should be reviewed to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of the strategy. A fifth pillar, ‘to increase passenger numbers and contribute to reducing costs’ should be added
  4. Community rail partnerships should be encouraged to pull in wider sources of funding, both from other funders possibly external to rail but also from generating their own income streams in relevant areas which enhance the passenger experience
  5. There should be a new, dedicated ‘Community Rail Growth Fund’ administered by Community Rail Network on behalf of GBR to support new community rail partnerships where there is proven support locally
  6. Railway employers should be incentivised (and in some cases required) to ensure that Community Rail features in all aspects of the business, with all staff given the opportunity to be fully engaged, from induction throughout their railway careers
  7. The rail unions should be engaged much more in community rail activities, particularly in areas of mutual concern e.g. diversity and inclusion, combating hate crime, trespass and vandalism.
  8. Local government and combined authorities should be more engaged with Community Rail, recognising the contribution that CRPs in particular can make to a wider sustainability agenda.
  9. There should be a clear programme of training and development for all staff involved, or potentially involved, in community rail – from apprenticeships through to accredited further and higher education courses and PhD levels.
  10. There must be a sea-change in thinking amongst procurement managers to ensure that SMEs and social enterprises get the opportunity to bid for commercial contracts, as well ‘non-commercial’ station lets and right along the supply chain
  11. Consideration should be given to unused railway land being identified for community use, with the creation of allotments, ‘pocket parks’ or other facilities.
  12. Stations – small, medium and large – should be seen as community hubs which promote the communities they serve, offering locally-made produce, artwork and meeting space and information on local employment opportunities.
  13. There should be a ‘Community Rail Arts Network’ supported by Community Rail Network which shares best practice amongst artists, CRPs and station groups.

A ‘Community Rail Enterprise Challenge’ should be launched and managed by DfT (or GBR in the future) with substantial funding for innovative ‘commercial’ schemes which help to grow rail patronage and improve the passenger experience

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Northern Weekly Salvo 296

The Northern Weekly Salvo

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

Published at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton, Lancashire  BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 296 September 22nd   2021                   

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, trespassers, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, ILPers, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats, mis-aligned pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

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

General gossips

A bit of catching up to do after a busy few weeks.

The highlight was undoubtedly the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Winter Hill ‘Mass Trespass’ of 1896, though it has to be said that the thousands of people who took part didn’t see themselves as ‘trespassers’ at all – they were reclaiming a public right which the landowner had taken away. I enjoyed a trip up to Nelson to admire the superbly refurbished Unity Hall, built in 1907 by the Independent

The magnificent front of Unity Hall as it is today. The memorial stones were laid by Selina Cooper and Katherine Bruce Glasier and commemorate Caroline Martyn, Enid Stacy, William Morris and Edward Fay

Labour Party, with its ILP features lovingly preserved.  Seems a while ago now, but a journey down to Bournemouth for the REPTA conference gave an opportunity to test out the local bus network and visit Thomas Hardy’s birthplace. More below. I’m busy promoting my new book – an updated edition of my biography of Allen Clarke (Allen Clarke/‘Teddy Ashton’ – Lancashire’s Romantic Radical). If you have a shop that could sell it (and it doesn’t have to be a bookshop!) please let me know. More on the book below, including Salvo readers’ special offer.

Lib Dems go for regional assemblies

The Lib Dems held their annual conference at the weekend and approved a motion committing them to campaigning for elected regional assemblies. That’s a very good development though perhaps we need to move on from the very 1970s idea of regions based on the standard planning regional boundaries, which created a very large ‘North-West’ region which few people identify with. In contrast, ‘Yorkshire’ (whether just ‘Yorkshire’ or with ‘the Humber’ added) does make a lot of sense, as does the North-East. My own preference is for ‘county regions’ based on strong regional identities. In the North-West

Lancashire regional assembly? Yes please

this means a re-formed ‘Lancashire’ covering much of what was taken out in 1974 (but arguably leaving ‘north of the sands’ in Cumbria). Should Merseyside form a separate region? Cheshire? It’s all very complicated and there needs to be a lot of consultation on the most appropriate and popular regional forms. The other option is to go for a huge ‘Northern’ region which includes everyone. It has its attractions but it is too big as a region. A number of smaller regions which match with people’s historic (and current) identities but working together as ‘the North’ is a better approach, in my view. Others may differ. One of the strengths of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation is that it is keeping an open mind on options for democratically-elected regional government for the North. Will Labour make common cause with the Lib Dems for ‘proper’ devolution?

Trespassers Welcome! Winter Hill commemorated

On Sunday September 6th 1896 some 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill, just north of Bolton, to reclaim a road which had been used by local people for generations. The first commemoration was in 1982, followed by a gap before the centenary in 1996. After 25 years a few hardy souls decided that another commemoration would be a good idea, before we all get too old. On Sunday September 5th this year, around a thousand people, perhaps a few hundred more, walked the original route, accompanied up Halliwell Road by the PCS Union Samba Band. It was a great day, with warm sunshine and even warmer comradeship which crossed political divisions – the local (Tory) MP Chris Green was spotted on the march. A big thanks to Diamond Buses NW for their help in getting people to and from the walk (see right – collecting walkers at the station in the morning), the support of The Woodland Trust, Bolton Mountain Rescue and the PCS and Unison unions. Just like 125 years ago, people turned out along Halliwell Road to cheer the marchers on, and the Ainsworth Arms displayed a ‘Trespassers Welcome’ outside the door! Very appropriate 🙂

The ‘discovery’ of the events of 1896 owes much to Allen Clarke, who wrote of the battles in his Moorlands and Memories published in 1920. At the time of the demonstrations Clarke was living in Bolton and editing his Teddy Ashton’s Journal. After the first demonstration (there were several more) he published one of his dialect sketches publicising the struggle. ‘Bill Spriggs an’ Patsy Filligan o’er Winter Hill; Likewise Bet’ appeared on September 9th, and helped swell the ranks of the following Sunday’s march to an amazing 12,000. The sketch included this song:

Will yo’ come o’ Sunday mornin’

For a walk o’er Winter Hill?

Ten thousand went last Sunday

But there’s room for thousand still!

Oh there moors are rare and bonny

And the heather’s sweet and fine

And the road across the hilltops –

Is the public’s – yours and mine!

 Chorus:

So come o’ Sunday mornin’

For a walk o’er Winter Hill?

Ten thousand went last Sunday

But there’s room for thousand still!

 

Oh shame upon the landlord

That would thrutch us up in town!

Against such Christless conduct

We will put our feet firm down!

Ay we’ll put our feet down strongly

Until we’ve clearly showed

Twenty thousand feet each Sunday

Can soon mark out a road!

 

Must poor folk stroll in cinders

While the rich cop all the green?

Is England but the landlord’s?

Who locks up each pretty scene?

If they only could these tyrants

Would enclose the road to heaven!

So let us up and fight ‘em

Even seventy times and seven!

 The full story of the 1896 events was told in my pamphlet Will Yo’ Come O’Sunday Mornin’? The 1896 Battle for Winter Hill, published in 1982 and updated in 1996 but now out of print. There’s quite a bit on the events in Moorlands, Memories and Reflections, which is still available. A film of the recent walk, made by Nigel Coates, will be shown later this Autumn at The Ainsworth Arms. Trespassers very welcome.

Selina Cooper celebrated

North-east Lancashire has a rich socialist history; and nowhere is this exemplified more than in Nelson. The ILP Clarion House is a couple of miles away from this once thriving cotton weaving town and in

The large meeting room at Unity Hall. Images of Selina Cooper at the back

Nelson itself the magnificent Weavers; Institute remains. A short distance out of the town centre (under the railway and up the hill) is Unity Hall. Its history dates back to 1907 when the local ILP built ‘The Socialist Institute’. It has had a chequered history in recent years, recounted in an excellent booklet just published to coincide with the re-opening of the hall after an extensive refubishment, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund with support from Nelson Town Council.

Veteran Clarion cyclist Charles Jepson at Unity Hall on saturday

The links with the town’s socialist tradition have been retained and strengthened, with pride of place going to Selina Cooper, a weaver from Brierfield who played a leading role in the movement for women’s suffrage, active in the ILP, co-operative movement and the Women’s Peace Crusade. There are displays in ‘Unity Hall’ on the Clarion Cycling Club and space for meetings, film shows and a cafe. Congratulations to all involved in this wonderful project.

Bolton Film Festival at the Platform 5 Gallery

The internationally-recognised Bolton Film Festival has a two day programme of short films at the P5 Gallery, Platform 5, Bolton Station on the 29th and 30th September . The festival is a BIFA and BAFTA -qualifying short film festival, an impressive feat achieved in just five years since the festival started, very much thanks to Adrian Barber and Zőe Rothwell.

In her introduction to the Bolton Film Festival programme, patron Maxine Peake says, “Short films are a format close to my heart, they have the ability to tell big stories in a short amount of time, it’s always been a place to take risks and be bold and adventurous.”

There are two sessions of films each day and a light buffet lunch will be served in between. Note that the programme is suitable for adults only. The sessions are Wednesday (29th) from 12.20 to 13.20 with a number of animations. After lunch at 14.00 it’s ‘Past and Present’ films up to 15.30. On the Thursday there is an ‘environment’ theme, between 11.30 and 13.00. The afternoon features more ‘Past and Present’ films.

Pre-booking is essential. Seating is limited to 30 people per session and you will be encouraged to wear a mask if you are attending. If you would like to book a place or places, please contact Julie Levy at  julielevy9@yahoo.co.uk by the 26th September 2021. Seats will be allocated on a first-come-first served basis so get your booking form in, fast! For the full festival programme see https://www.boltonfilmfestival.com/

  • Meanwhile….An exhibition of work by artists from New Mills and Bolton celebrating the connections between their hometowns is on at the P5 Gallery and at New Mills Central station until this Saturday. Some great work!  Supported by Platform Gallery, Bolton, High Peak and Hope Valley Community Rail Partnership & Bolton Station Community Partnership
A visit to Tom Hardy’s houses

Like so many organisations, REPTA (Railway Employees’ Transport Association but formerly known as ‘Railway Employees’ Privilege Ticket Association’ see www.repta.org.uk) has been ‘ticking over’ during lockdown, unable to hold meetings or promote trips both near and far. Finally, a reconvened, real live AGM was organised for last month, in Bournemouth. It was an opportunity to have a short break tagged on, exploring the Dorset coast and some of the attractive towns and villages nearby.

Thomas Hardy’s writing desk at Max Gate, Dorchester

The bus network is pretty good and we were able to use our old folks’ passes to pop down to Christchurch and go further afield to Blandford Forum, Swanage and Dorchester. I’d been hoping to visit Thomas Hardy’s birthplace near Dorchester for some time, as well as his later home nearby. Combining train, bus and a bit of walking we got to Higher Bockhampton and saw the original cottage, now in National Trust ownership. From there we walked by a circuitous route to ‘Max Gate’, the much larger house which Hardy himself designed and lived in for many years before his death. There was yet another ‘Allen Clarke’ aspect to the visit. Clarke and his wife had called in to see Hardy during a cycling tour of Dorset. This is how he described it, writing in The Bolton Evening News as ‘Old Boltonian’ in 1935:

“Dorchester didn’t seem to have any great opinion of him. The landlady of the inn where we made enquiries as to the famous novelist’s residence remarked ‘Tom Hardy! Yes, he lives up at Max Gate.’…I said we had come all the way from Lancashire to see him. ‘Well, well,’ said the buxom dame. ‘It surprises me that people come here wanting to see Tom Hardy, there’s nothing special about him, I used to go to school with him.’

‘He has written great books,’ said I.

‘I don’t know,’ said the lady. ‘He doesn’t seem to have anything about him. Now, if you’d said it was his wife that wrote them –‘

We laughed and I bade good day to the genial landlady, who evidently wasn’t much interested in literature, nor impressed by authors.”

The Clarkes found ‘Tom’ to be at home and had a long discussion with him. Clarke commented on the novelist’s negative view of the Dorset dialect, with Hardy suggesting that William Barnes would have been a better poet had he written in standard English. Clarke disagreed. It would have been a fascinating debate to have witnessed!

Clarke, in an interview years later, said that he “expressed the view that dialect is the very soul of the people, and that Barnes would not have had such a hold on Dorset now, nor be such a favourite of all Dorset folk, had he written in ordinary English.” Clarke suggested that he should come up to Lancashire – “it would do him good mentally and physically.” Hardy replied that he had been to Bolton, on business with Tillotson’s, but remembered little about the town, or of Lancashire in general – to Clarke’s obvious disappointment. Clarke said that he corresponded with Hardy on a few occasions; they shared a common love of cycling and the countryside and there’s no doubt that Clarke’s novel writing style owed much to Hardy’s influence.

At Max Gate today there is reference to Hardy’s slightly fraught relationship with Tillotson’s. The firm set up a subsidiary which syndicated serialised novels and short stories. However, they rejected Tess of the D’Urbervilles on the grounds of indecency! They did publish The Woodlanders, for the princely fee of a thousand guineas.

Delightful Dorchester and Pallid Poundbury

We used the current hourly train service between Bournemouth and Dorchester for various outings. The last time I visited Dorchester the main station (Dorchester South) felt very isolated from the town and a bit depressing. That has changed dramatically, with a new development in the former brewery effectively integrating the station much more with the town. The station forecourt has a steady flow of buses, including a half-hourly service to Poundbury, the ‘new town’ supported by Prince Charles. Having an interest in these sort of things, we hopped on the bus and had a wander round the place, which lies just on the edge of Dorchester. I last went there about ten years ago and found it a lifeless place. I have to say I still do. It’s all very nicely done but there is so much lacking: a sense of life and vibrancy. It’s ever so clean and tidy, some nice shops and the one pub. But I’d hate to live there. Give me Halliwell Road with its multi-ethnic corner shops, pubs, pie shops and chippies.

Swanage Railway impresses

No trip to Dorset would be complete without a ride on the Swanage Railway, and we had perfect summer weather to enjoy it. It’s a great operation and we had a delightful afternoon in the goods yard at Corfe Castle supping coffee and watching the trains go by (then a very nice pint in one of the excellent village pubs). The small museum at Corfe is a model for how it should be done, with lots on the people who worked on the line. The nearby arists’ studios were an added bonus. We got there on the amazing no. 50 bus – an open-topper which uses the ferry to get across from Sandbanks. The bus was very busy with quite a few people unable to get on.

Station Mela brings out the sunshine

The well-established tradition of throwing a party on Bolton station was revived during the post-lockdown summer, and – true to form – the sun shone. It was our first attempt at holding a ‘mela’ – or festival – and all went pretty well. There were fifteen stalls and a very lively team of Indian drummers.

The Dhol drummers with Julie (hi-vis) and Cllr Linda Thomas, Mayor of Bolton

The event was a ‘fringe’ for the Bolton Food and Drink Festival which took place in the town centre. The mayor, Councillor Linda Thomas, popped down and took time to chat with stall holders and visitors. It was the last day of the ‘Railway Workers’ Art’ exhibition in the Platform 5 Gallery, which proved to be our most popular event so far (I think…)

Haigh Woodland Wanderer, Rivington Rover and Rammy Rambler

The dedicated weekend bus link from Wigan town centre to Haigh Woodland Park is doing very well, with passenger numbers steadily growing. It’s a joint initiative of South East Lancashire Community Rail Partnership, Wigan Council, Friends of Haigh Woodland Park and the Park itself. We had a trip on August Bank Holiday which seems to have been the busiest day so far, with over a 120 users of the hourly service.

The Haigh Woodland Wanderer welcomes customers at Haigh

The operator is Finch’s of Wigan. The extension of the 575 Bolton – Horwich service to serve Rivington – and other CRP initiative – was picking up well until a road closure meant that the service couldn’t operate during most of August – exactly when it should have been at its busiest. The service has re-started and we’re making a big effort to promote the half-hourly service, which is running every Sunday for the next month. The operator is Diamond Buses, who are also running an open-top double-decker from Bolton to Ramsbottom connecting with the East Lancashire Railway. Details on https://www.diamondbuses.com/north-west/

(Sub) Station Garden Adoption Takes off in Halliwell

The space next to Harpers Lane  – ‘el substa’ as it is described on maps – (electricity sub-station to most of us) was derelict for years, with overgrown bushes, rubbish dumped and little to incline you to linger. That has all changed thanks to the efforts of a new community group –

The community garden

Harpers Lane Community Garden has seen a remarkable transformation in just a few months. Much of the old vegetation and all of the rubbish has been cleared. The area has been landscaped and a bench provided by a local craftsman, Geoff. New paths have been created and a range of plants donated by local people adorn the space. A garden party last Sunday raised £340 for further development of the site.

Allen Clarke is out……Publications update from Lancashire Loominary

Allen Clarke (‘Teddy Ashton’) Lancashire’s Romantic Radical is out! The first edition was published in 2009 and the new one substantially improves on the original, despite some typos managing to creep in. There’s some additional information about his life and work and an entirely new chapter on his railway writings (‘Teddy Ashton Takes the Train’).

The ‘official’ book launch is on Saturday September 25th at Bolton Library’s Lecture Theatre, at 11.00. I’ll say a few words about the book and maybe do a few readings. Copies will be available at a discounted price.

There will be a more informal event at Bunbury’s Real Ale Bar, 397 Chorley Old Road, on October 19th, from 19.00h. Hopefully there will be a ‘Blackpool Launch’ later in October.

I’m doing a special offer on the Allen Clarke book – it will sell at £18.99 in the shops and on Amazon (plus postage) but I’ll do it for £15 with free local delivery c/o Bolton Bicycling Bookshop, or £3 postage in the UK. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk for details of how to buy it.

My photo gallery – a slight emphasis on steam

I’ve been making some changes to my website/s…I’m keeping www.lancashireloominary.co.uk  for all publications, including The Salvo. However, www.paulsalveson.org.uk has been re-born as Paul Salveson Photography: places, trains and factories.

There are several pages dealing with different aspects of my photography: BR Steam, Continental Steam, The Modern Railway, Industrial Steam, Northern Rural Landscapes, Mills and Mines, and Strikes, Riots and Demonstrations. This is my current favourite: Industrial Landscapes of Lancashire – Paul Salveson Photography

Good places to buy my books and other things

As lockdown eases, more shops are opening  which sell my books. These include Carnforth Bookshop, Wrights’ Reads in Horwich, Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford and Kelsall’s in Littleborough. Please support your local bookshops, it’s vital they survive. A great feature of any walk up Rivington Pike is the Pike Snack Shack on

Kelsall’s Bookshop in Littleborough – well worth getting off the train for!

George’s Lane – a long way up, the last place before you get on the track to the summit. They do coffee, pies, sandwiches and cakes for takeaway and you can sit amidst the heather and savour the view across the West Lancashire Plain. You can also buy copies of Moorlands, Memories and Reflections.  Another popular addition to my list of retail outlets is Bunbury’s real ale shop at 397 Chorley Old Road, Bolton. A slightly unconventional outlet is A Small Good Thing, on Church Road. This is a great little shop mainly selling organic fruit and veg and a range of ‘small good things’. Fletcher’s Newsagents on Markland Hill Bolton are stockists. Justicia Fair Trade Shop on Knowsley Street, Bolton, is handy for the town centre and has a full set of my books available (and some great gifts from around the world, ethically sourced).

If you’re local, or passing through, you can call in at 109 Harpers Lane and buy in person – just ring first or email to make sure I’m around (07795 008691).

Small Salvoes
  • Bolton’s P5 Gallery is currently showing an excellent exhibition, with local artists and friends from New Mills (Derbyshire). Also on at New Mills Central Station. Some great work on display, the exhibition is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 12.00 to 16.00 with free admission. Last chance to see it this Saturday!
  • The ‘Clarion Sunday’ event last Sunday at the Nelson ILP Club House near Roughlee attracted over 200 cyclists and raised a tidy sum for Clarion funds. It was the first major gathering following the move (with questionable authority) to delete reference to ‘socialism’ from the club’s constitution.
  • The Working Class Movement Library, a short but potentially lethal walk from Salford Crescent (pedestrian lights out of commission), has re-started its regular programme of free lectures. For details see www.wcml.org.uk
  • Plans are underway for a ‘live’ conference by the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, the cross-party campaign for Northern devolution and democracy. The subject will be prospects for Northern devolution; the day will also include the Foundation’s AGM. Provisional date is Saturday December 4th, Friends Meeting House, Manchester. Details will be posted on HMF’s recently-updated website: www.hannah-mitchell.org.uk
Crank Quiz: New Towns

There was a good response to the last Crank Quiz (see website for entries). This one is partly inspired by Poundbury, which doesn’t have a rail service. What new towns had a rail connection from the beginning…and which new towns lost their rail connection (but might be getting it back).

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

Saturday September 25th: Launch of my new book on Allen Clarke at Bolton Library’s Lecture Theatre, 11.00. Get there early and have a cup of tea or an orange juice!

Wednesday September 29th, 18.00: Richard Lysons is speaking on the history of The Free Trade Hall, at Manchester Central Library. Book via eventbrite (it’s free) and search for ‘Free Trade Hall’

Wednesday September 29th – Sunday October 3rd: Bolton Film Festival. See www.boltonfilmfestival.com

Wednesday October 13th: Walk o’er Winter Hill: Mass Trespass! 19.30 Ainsworth Arms Bolton

Tuesday October 19th: Allen Clarke’s Bolton: Bunbury’s real Ale Bar, 397 Chorley Old Road, Bolton at 19.00

Saturday December 4th: Hannah Mitchell Foundation Conference and AGM, Manchester. See www.hannah-mitchell.org.uk

Saturday December 11th: Salvo speaking at Railway and Canal Historical Society, Friends Meeting House Manchester at 14.00. Subject: Lancashire’s Railways: a cultural perspective

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

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. If you are local you are welcome to call round and pick books up at the door, or the Bolton Bicycling Bookshop can deliver to yours.

Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton – Lancashire’s Romantic Radical (NEW!). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer.  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. Special offer of £15 plus free local delivery or £3 postage to Salvo readers

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (2020) A hundred years ago Lancashire writer Allen Clarke published a forgotten masterpiece – Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. Clarke’s biographer, Professor Paul Salveson, has published a new book celebrating Clarke’s original and bringing the story of Lancashire’s moorland heritage up to date. Maxine Peake, in her foreword to Paul’s book, says “Hill walking, cycling, literature, philosophy, protest and The North…. these are a few of my favourite things.” She adds “Paul Salveson’s new book on Allen Clarke is irresistible.” Price £20 – see the website for details of how to buy: http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/order-form

The Works (2020). My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £6 (special offer). Also on Kindle £4.99.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’? The Winter Hill Trespass of 1896 (1996). Quite a few copies have re-surfaced and are available price £5 – with all proceeds going to Bolton Socialist Club, which played the main part in organising the original demonstrations in 1896. This was Britain’s biggest-ever rights of way battle with a series of demonstrations which peaked at 12,000 one Sunday afternoon in September 1896. SOLD OUT

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. 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. Special offer April £5 plus postage if you’re not local. New and extended edition under preparation – should be out late July

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in most 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

You can get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

 

 

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Lancashire Loominary 6

 

The Lancashire Loominary

An occasional update from Lancashire Loominary : No. 6 September 2021

Lancashire’s Romantic Radical: new edition of Allen Clarke biography is out

The new and updated edition of my biography of Allen Clarke (Allen Clarke – Teddy Ashton: Lancashire’s Romantic Radical) is now available with a pre-publication offer.  There is a lot of new material in it, including an entirely new chapter on Clarke’s railway writings. The official publication is September 1st but I am doing a pre-publication offer for £15, with free local delivery in the Bolton area, or add on £3 for UK postage (this will continue to the end of September).  You can download an order form from my website, below, or there’s one at the back of this newsletter: http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/order-form

I’ve a number of talks planned for the Autumn for different groups, and still open to requests. The main Bolton launch event will be on Saturday September 25th at the Lecture Theatre of Bolton Central Library. It will start at 11.00 and end by about 12.30 with book signing (at the special rate of £15). No need to book, just turn up. There will be a Blackpool event at the town’s main library in October, details to be determined later.

Unlikely Pioneers

I’ve been working on a new edition of my ‘Whitman’ book – With Walt Whitman in Bolton – spirituality, sex and socialism in a Northern Mill town – last published in 2019 though little changed since 2009. I’ve combined it with a lengthy paper on Whitman’s influence on ‘Northern Socialism’ and re-titled it Unlikely Pioneers: Walt Whitman, the Bolton Boys and Northern Socialism. I’m going to publish it as a kindle book to keep costs down – but the print version which is just on the Bolton group (and nicely illustrated) is still available at the special price of £5 plus p&p.

The latest Salvo

Here is a link to the latest  Northern ‘Weekly’ Salvo number 295 –  England and ‘Englishness’ (see below), reviews of books by some old mates, trips to Coniston and Ulverston, a literary walk on the moors and the new exhibition of ‘Railway Workers’ Art’ at the Platform 5 Gallery , Bolton. Plus the new RHS gardens at Worsley with  comments about the lack of decent public transport access. It’s here: http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/northern-weekly-salvo-295

England, which England?

The quest for a ‘progressive English politics’ is something that seems to have captured the imagination of quite a few writers on the English left, mostly columnists for The Guardian and Observer. I could be accused of making cheap points that most of them are based in London, but I won’t. As Marx said, material reality (inc. where you live) determines your consciousness. There’s another school of thought, which I must confess to having leaned towards myself on some occasions, which is quite anti-English. It’s a view shared by some in the Northern Independence Party which hopes to wish away the reactionary English state and have a Northern socialist republic. It’s a lovely dream, perhaps, but political utopias usually turn into something very different from what their first disciples hoped for. And I don’t think many people really want it. You can be passionately ‘Yorkshire’ and still identify as English, as well as ‘Huddersfield’ etc.

It’s always a good idea to start with a concrete analysis of a concrete situation. Scotland is key to this, with the likelihood that it will break away from the UK within the next ten years, possibly sooner. Northern Ireland could become an even bigger hot potato within the same time frame, the North re-uniting with the South and rejoining the EU. That leaves a UK comprising England and Wales, with Wales very much the junior partner. Could it go its own way? People say that it’s too small but that doesn’t necessarily bear scrutiny. Far smaller nations have gone independent and done very well – Iceland being just one.

So there is the possibility that we end up with a centralised English state by default. That could be very bad for the North and possibly the Midlands too, as more power – political and economic – concentrates in London and the south-east. Throwing a few sops to the North in the form of a bit more power for the largely unaccountable mayors won’t make that much difference.

What could make for a much more attractive vision of a ‘new England’ is a political entity that is decentralised with a much smaller central state – and it doesn’t matter that much whether or not it’s in London (I’d keep it there). Strong regions, based on historic boundaries rather than ‘technocratic’ ones, should be the foundation – county regions such as Yorkshire and Lancashire – with empowered local government again based on historic identities where possible and of appropriate size, that is really ‘local’. That means a return of the old ‘Lancashire’, starting with Greater Manchester (Burnhamshire) rejoining what’s left.

That set-up could work whether or not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland went their own ways. It would be a sad thing if they did and I suspect that after a while there might be the basis for a rapprochement based on equality between the nations and regions, rather than the current overwhelming dominance of England, and London in particular. A British confederation.

So a new England is possible, and we get glimpses of it through things like the Euros and our great ambassadors in the England football team. Nobody has to hate England, particularly anyone who is English. There’s lots of things in our past that are positive, in politics, culture, sport and industry. We should cherish these but have the maturity to look at the negatives in an open and honest way too.

So I think it’s OK to love England, but accept that it needs to change – and discard the reactionary trappings of an old imperial state. Personally, I’m relaxed about the monarchy continuing but again, let’s drop some of the outdated nonsense that goes with it. It all comes back to the people, the demos, democracy. Our voting system is an embarrassment, our leaders are a joke.  But change is possible. As the gay, upper-class Edward Carpenter (who made Yorkshire his home) once sang, ‘England Arise!’

Other books from th’same shed: Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

2020 was the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes got his historical facts slightly wrong. It was set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ It also included some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many characters whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

My book is a centenary tribute to Clarke’s classic – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896 and Darwen’s ‘freeing of the moors’;  a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, railway reminiscences, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees (including the much-loved Pedro of Halliwell Road). The story of Lancashire children’s practical support for the locked-out quarryworkers of Snowdonia in 1900-3 is covered in some detail, including the remarkable ‘Teddy Ashton Picnic’ of 1901 in Barrowbridge, which attracted 10,000 people. It is well illustrated.

It is available for Loominaries reading this at £20, with £4 post and packing. Go to http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/order-form or use order form below

I can do free delivery locally (within 6 miles of Bolton).

The Works: a tale of love, lust, labour and locomotives

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Morning Star hated it. If you want a copy I can offer it for £5 plus £2.50 postage to those of you on this mailing list. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

If you’ve already read and hopefully enjoyed The Works it would be great if you could do a short review of it on my facebook page (Lancashire Loominary). Feedback on how it could have been better is also welcome, especially as I’m starting work on the next novel (see below).

The Works is available in a range of outlets  – please support them, and see www’lancashireloominary for details of their location, ranging from Bolton and Horwich to Carnforth, Barrowford, Machynlleth and Bo’ness.

If you know of any local shop which might like to take my books please let me know. I do a third discount, sale or return.

With Thomas Hardy in Dorset

Thanks to a conference in Bournemouth (the REPTA AGM) we were able to explore Dorset for a few days, making the most of our bus passes. There’s a surprisingly extensive bus network and I was impressed by the quality of the operators. Dorchester-based Damory was particularly good but also Yellow Buses and Morebus too. We naturally took the no. 50 from Bournemouth to Swanage via the the Studland ferry for a trip on the Swanage Railway, behind BR standard 2MT 78018. We caught the Damory-operated bus from Blandford Forum to Dorchester, alighting near to Bockhampton, where Thomas Hardy spent his childhood and youth. It’s owned by the National Trust, as is his later home at Max Gate, a pleasant three mile walk from his original home.

Allen Clarke was a big fan of Hardy and modelled his writing on some aspects of Hardy’s. His relationship with the great novelist provides an interesting footnote to the history of English literature. Clarke corresponded with him and met him on at least one occasion and possibly more. Writing in The Bolton Evening News as ‘Old Boltonian’ in 1935, he recalls him and his wife doing a cycling tour of Dorset and looking up the great writer in his home town Dorchester. Clarke wrote that “Dorchester didn’t seem to have any great opinion of him. The landlady of the inn where we made enquiries as to the famous novelist’s residence remarked ‘Tom Hardy! Yes, he lives up at Max Gate.’…I said we had come all the way from Lancashire to see him. ‘Well, well,’ said the buxom dame. ‘It surprises me that people come here wanting to see Tom Hardy, there’s nothing special about him, I used to go to school with him.

He has written great books,’ said I.

‘I don’t know,’ said the lady. ‘He doesn’t seem to have anything about him. Now, if you’d said it was his wife that wrote them –‘

We laughed and bade good day to the genial landlady, who evidently wasn’t much interested in literature, nor impressed by authors.”

The Clarkes found ‘Tom’ to be at home and had a long discussion with him. Clarke commented on Hardy’s negative view of the Dorset dialect, suggesting that William Barnes would have been a better poet had he written in standard English. Clarke disagreed. It would have been a fascinating debate to have witnessed!

Clarke, in an interview years later, said that he “expressed the view that dialect is the very soul of the people, and that Barnes would not have had such a hold on Dorset now, not be such a favourite of all Dorset folk, had he written in ordinary English.”

Allen suggested that he should come up to Lancashire – “it would do him good mentally and physically.” Hardy replied that he had been to Bolton, on business with Tillotson’s, but remembered little about the town, or of Lancashire in general – to Clarke’s obvious disappointment. Clarke said that he corresponded with Hardy on a few occasions; they shared a common love of cycling and the countryside. (above is from my new biography of Clarke).

There is a reference at the NT-managed Max Gate to Hardy’s relationship with Bolton-based Tillotson’s. The publishers of The Bolton Evening News established a subsidiary – Tillotson’s Newspaper Fiction Bureau – which syndicated novels to newspapers around the world. These included some of Clarke’s own novels and short stories, such as The Miser’s Mine which appeared in local papers in Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand. They rejected Tess of the D’Urbervilles because the content was deemed ‘unsuitable’, despite having signed a £1000 contract with Hardy. They did however come to a settlement and Tillotson’s went on to publish other work by Hardy.

Still in print: previous publications

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. I have a few which I can offer with £4 postage.  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. It 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

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. Normal price £10.00, selling for £5.00. 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 was 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. Later this summer (see above) I’ll be bringing out an expanded version which has more on the wider political context – Unlikely Pioneers: Walt Whitman, The Bolton Boys and Northern Socialism.

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 UK’s 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.  A new supply has been found and is available price £5 plus postage (free local delivery).

Ordering:

http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/order-form

Other titles still available:

Socialism with a Northern Accent (Lawrence and Wishart)

This was my take on a progressive Northern regionalism, with a foreword by the much-maligned but admirable guy, John Prescott. Time for a new edition – working on it

Railpolitik: bringing railways back to communities (Lawrence and Wishart)

This is an overview of railway politics from the early days to semi-monopolies and current arguments for nationalisation, or co-operative ownership?

 

109 Harpers Lane BOLTON BL1 6HU

Phone: 07795 008691 email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

ORDER FORM 2021 (including Special Offers)

Name………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Delivery Address……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………Post code…………………….

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Quantity Title Price ( + delivery)
  The Works (special offer) 5.00 + £3
  Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton:  Lancashire’s Romantic Radical (new edition, officially to be published September) pre-pub offer now: 15.00 + £3
  With Walt Whitman in Bolton (special offer) 5.00 + £3
   Moorlands, Memories and Reflections                                                                                                             20.00 + £4
  Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’? Winter Hill Trespass of 1896 5.00   + £3
  The Settle-Carlisle Railway 24.00 + £4
  Total  

Bundles by negotiation! If ordering more than 1 book postage is £4 in UK. Local delivery is by Bolton Bicycling Bookshop, otherwise Royal Mail. Enquire for overseas rates.

Send cheque for total amount made to ‘Paul Salveson’ to 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU.

If paying by BACS the account details are:

Dr P S Salveson (it’s a personal account) sort code 53-61-07 A/C no. 23448954. Email me with your order details and put your name and book e.g. ‘MMR’ or ‘Works’ as the reference when paying.

I’m happy to sign books, but please let me know (and to whom, if you want a specific dedication).

Many thanks for your support.   Paul

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Northern Weekly Salvo 295

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 at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 295 August 6th  2021                       

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats, mis-aligned pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“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

Like a lot of Salvo readers I’ve mixed feelings about relaxing Covid restrictions, particularly when quite a few people I know seem to have caught it recently..not much you can say that hasn’t been said a thousand times other than I’ll carry on wearing the hated mask when it seems right to do so but not when common sense dictates otherwise (e.g. in an empty railway carriage).

What of the wider political world? In this issue I float a few thoughts on ‘England’ and ‘Englishness’, readers’ views welcome, as always. It worries me that Starmer’s Labour Party could lurch into championing a kind of ‘Englishness’ that leaves little room for regional variations, let alone distinctiveness, and panders to a sort of nostalgic and reactionary ‘Englishness’ which is miles away from what is exemplified by the England football team.

It continues to puzzle and surprise me that so many politicians, of all hues, continue to think that HS2 is somehow ‘a good thing’ and will help the North. I

Most people in the North would prefer to see investment in regional networks, not HS2. A Northern 158 creeps across Accrington Viaduct (10 mph speed restriction)

very much doubt that it will and share the view of most people ‘up ‘ere’ that the money could be far better spent on improving local and regional transport. So I’m pleased that it looks like Leeds will not get its HS2 link and I very much hope Manchester will be similarly blessed. Why so anti-HS2? Well first let me say I’m not against high-speed rail as such but this scheme is so flawed in so many ways that I find it impossible to justify. Changing travel habits ‘post’ Covid make it even less justified. All those day trips to London for business meetings are less likely to happen and the leisure market is perfectly happy being served by trains that run at 125 mph. I wish politicians would listen to what their constituents are saying and scrap this expensive white elephant which will only benefit London. I suspect it will not get beyond Crewe as financial reality kicks in, but why wait for that to happen when it’s obvious that it makes no sense environmentally, economically or – where it counts – politically.

It’s good to see heritage railways returning to something like normal. I met up with some old school friends in Bury the other week and had a pleasant drink in ‘The Trackside’ bar at Bolton Street station and watched a well-filled 1300 to Rawtenstall depart. Bolton now has a direct bus link to the East Lancs – ‘The Rammy Rambler’, a joint initative of Diamond Buses North-West and the ELR. Runs Wednesday to Sunday, three times a day, using an open top double-decker (presumably when fine!).

England, which England?

The quest for a ‘progressive English politics’ is something that seems to have captured the imagination of quite a few writers on the English left, mostly columnists for The Guardian and Observer. There’s another school of thought, which I must confess to having leaned towards myself on some occasions, which is quite anti-English.

It’s a view shared by some in the Northern Independence Party which hopes to wish away the reactionary English state and have a Northern socialist republic. It’s a lovely dream, perhaps, but political utopias usually turn into something very different from what their first disciples hoped for. And I don’t think many people really want it. You can be passionately ‘Yorkshire’ and still identify as English, as well as ‘Huddersfield’ etc.

It’s always a good idea to start with a concrete analysis of a concrete situation (special prize for who said that). Scotland is key to this, with the likelihood that it will break away from the UK within the next ten years, possibly sooner. Northern Ireland could become an even bigger hot potato within the same time frame, the North re-uniting with the South and rejoining the EU. That leaves a UK comprising England and Wales, with Wales very much the junior partner. Could it go its own way? People say that it’s too small but that doesn’t necessarily bear scrutiny. Far smaller nations have gone independent and done very well – Iceland being just one.

So there is the possibility that we end up with a centralised English state by default. That could be very bad for the North and possibly the Midlands too, as more power – political and economic – concentrates in London and the south-east. Throwing a few sops to the North in the form of a bit more power for the largely unaccountable mayors won’t make that much difference.

What could make for a much more attractive vision of a ‘new England’

Cartoon quintessential Englishman

is a political entity that is decentralised with a much smaller central state – and it doesn’t matter that much whether or not it’s in London (I’d keep it there). Strong regions, based on historic boundaries rather than ‘technocratic’ ones, should be the foundation – county regions such as Yorkshire and Lancashire – with empowered local government again based on historic identities where possible and of appropriate size, that is really ‘local’.

That set-up could work whether or not Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland went their own ways. It would be a sad thing if they did and I suspect that after a while there might be the basis for a rapprochement based on equality between the nations and regions, rather than the current overwhelming dominance of England, and London in particular. A British confederation.

So a new England is possible, and we get glimpses of it through things like the Euros and our great ambassadors in the England football team. Nobody has to hate England, particularly anyone who is English. A silly position to adopt. There’s lots of things in our past that are positive, in politics, culture, sport and industry. We should cherish these but have the maturity to look at the negatives in an open and honest way too. And when people who should know better harp on about a ‘Quintessentially English’ country that implicitly excludes anywhere north of Watford, that’s urban or multi-ethnic, they should be challenged.

So I think it’s OK to love England, the real England as it is not how some romanticise it, but accept that it needs to change – and discard the reactionary trappings of an old imperial state. Personally, I’m relaxed about the monarchy continuing but again, let’s drop some of the outdated nonsense that goes with it. It all comes back to the people, the demos, democracy. Our voting system is an embarrassment, our leaders are a joke.  But change is possible. As the gay, upper-class Edward Carpenter (who made Yorkshire his home) once sang, ‘England Arise!’

Up on th’windy moors

The third Saturday of July is the traditional day of pilgrimage to ‘Waugh’s Well’ – the lonely and beautiful spot on the Lancashire moors that celebrates the great Lancashire poet Edwin Waugh. After the inevitable break last year, the tradition was re-established last month with a group of about 15 members of the Edwin Waugh Dialect Society making the hike from Edenfield up to Fo’ Edge, on a hot summer’s day.

At Waugh’s Well

Stops were made on the way up for readings from Waugh and his contemporaries and a picnic lunch was partaken at Fo’ Edge, on the site of the farmstead that Waugh lodged in for a few months. There’s a plaque on the site telling you more about the place and Waugh himself. Less we lurch into too much misty-eyed nostalgia, part of the reason for Waugh’s sojourn was his need to ‘dry out’ from his rather excessive drinking habits. You’re a long way from a pub up there, though I suspect the farmer would have made his own ‘whoam-brewed’ but rationed Edwin’s share. The return walk was particularly interesting, following some of the long-disused tramway routes that once served the huge slate quarries ‘on the tops’. Some of these railways were very well engineered with deep cuttings and high embankments. Considering most closed soon after the First World War, they are remarkably easy to follow. So all in all a gradely day out, the highlight for some being the spectacle of one of the participants deciding to rip up his short – possibly in ecstasy at the loveliness of Sid and Alyson’s poetising, or maybe because it was just too warm.

Platform culture thrives in Bolton

Bolton Station Community Partnership is hosting a unique art exhibition at its Platform 5 Gallery on Bolton Station. ‘Routed – an exhibition of railway workers’ art’ displays the work of active and retired railway employees and is the only show of its kind in the UK. It

Julie Levy and first visitor John Stirzaker

includes paintings and photographs by five artists and runs until Saturday August 28th, culminating in the first-ever Station Mela which will feature stalls and music. The exhibition is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 12.00 to 4.00pm and admission is free – barrier staff will let visitors through the gates on request.

“We’re really excited to host this latest exhibition, building on the success of the first-ever Railway Workers’ Art exhibition in 2019,” said July Levy, chair of the station partnership who is curating the exhibition. The show features the work of Nigel Valentine, Susan Skully, Richard Hall, Josh Watkins and Paul Salveson.

The subject matter is largely but not exclusively rail-related. Some of the photographs were taken in the Bolton area and include images of railwaymen at work. The paintings of railway manager Josh Watkins feature scenes from the Welsh narrow-gauge railways whilst Richard Hall’s paintings include a dream-like scene at the former ‘Mop’ pub in Halliwell. “It’s a great show and follows on from our last exhibition featuring Bolton artists including Julia Uttley and Dave Burnham,” said Julie. “People really like the cosy atmosphere of the gallery and everyone can be assured of a friendly welcome.” Further details Julie Levy 07789 725753

Day trip to Coniston

I’ve made previous mention of the excellent ‘community bus’ operation based in Ulverston and run by Blueworks Taxis. The services have continued to develop, assisted by the Friends of the X12 who actually run some of the services on a Section 22 licence (which permits voluntary groups to run scheduled minibus services). My friend Martin suggested we should have a day out by train and bus and take in the steam-yacht ‘Gondola’ too. We got to the rather forlorn-looking Ulverston station and headed into town for a look round the market hall, which is home to a couple of excellent bookshops. One sells mainly new stuff while the stall next door is second-hand. I came away with a very nice Maryport and Carlisle Railway booklet and a couple of Oakwood Press titles. And some excellent Lancashire cheese (Ulverston being historically part of Lancashire).

We reached the bus stop to find quite a few people already there – a

A confluence of minibuses at Coniston

local women’s association having a day out to Coniston. Would we all fit in? MD (and Farnworth lad) Phil Halliwell had the situation sussed and three minibuses were on hand to cope with the throng, with Phil covering s driver on one of the vehicles. I wonder if the same responsiveness would have been evident from one of the larger corporate bus operators?

We set off in convoy with the third bus empty – but people joined en route so by the team our ‘bus train’ arrived at Coniston all three vehicles were respectably full.

The Gondola departs from Coniston

‘The Gondola’ was a delight, what a remarkable ‘restoration’ job the National Trust has done. When we got going it sounded just like an LMS Black 5 working hard at about 50 mph.

We returned on the afternoon bus convoy, with the Ulverston ladies in good spirits. They didn’t actually break out into song but maybe a bit longer and they would have. We were dropped at the station, a kind gesture by the driver. We spent half an hour reflecting on what great potential the station has. The booking office and waiting room has already been improved and there is some excellent artwork. But so much more could be done. The exterior is shabby and neglected, the former water tower is now empty after the brave attempt to open a cafe and bike hire business a few years back.

Haigh Woodland Wanderer wends its way from Wigan

A new rail-linked bus service from Wigan to Haigh Woodland Park started last weekend – and initial results are encouraging. The service is a joint initiative of South East Lancs Community Rail Partnership, Wigan Council, Haigh Woodland Park (owned by the Council) and Friends of Haigh Woodland Park. The service is part-funded by the Community Rail Network’s ‘Integrated Sustainable Transport Fund’. The service, operated by local company Finch’s, runs every hour and picks up alongside Wallgate station. The first weekend loadings were

Councillors, staff and volunteers at Haigh Hall with Finch’s bus in background

predictably low on the Saturday but much busier on the Sunday. Wigan Council has been energetically publicising the service with door to door leaflet drops and a media campaign. As word gets round, loadings will continue to increase. Haigh Woodland Park is a great place for a day out. Its centrepiece is Haigh Hall, currently undergoing restoration, but there’s lots to see and do in the park, not least the miniature railway. There’s also a popular bar, cafes and crazy golf.

RHS not as green as it thinks it is

We had a very enjoyable visit to the new Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Worsley (Bridgewater). The story of the garden’s restoration, from the ruins of Worsley New Hall, is remarkable and all credit to the RHS for getting it up and running so quickly – about four years from start to opening, despite Covid. But what lets it down are the poor transport links. There’s an infrequent bus service which runs from the Trafford Centre to Leigh – nothing from central Manchester – and it drops you off over half a mile from the ‘welcome’ centre. People

The grounds of RHS Bridgewater are extensive and great scope for further development

arriving by public transport are given a discount on their admission, but really they should be awarded a medal. The RHS makes much of its green credentials but this really is very poor. It’s right in the heart of Burnhamshire, between the RHS, Transport for Greater Manchester, Salford City Council and the bus operators it ought to be possible to have a frequent dedicated bus service. It’s all the more galling that a large amount of money is being invested in a cycle link from Walkden station to the gardens, which could have easily funded a frequent bus link. Much as I’m keen to promote cycling, the reality is that this will mainly benefit fit, middle-class people who have a pretty direct route from Walkden to the gardens already. And that assumes you are able to get your bike on the train – with the ‘2 bikes’ rule there isn’t much scope for group visits. So, unless things change, the overwhelming majority of visitors, like us, will go by car. But don’t let me put you off, it’s a great place for all that.

Off to the sunny South Coast with RPTA

This weekend it’s the annual conference of REPTA – The Railway Employees’ Public Transport Association (formerly Railway Employees’ Privilege Ticket Association, much more prosaic) – in Bournemouth. I’m looking forward to a pleasant trip down with CrossCountry and a weekend of catching up with old friends. For obvious reasons last year’s conference was cancelled. REPTA was set up in 1893 and continues to provide a ‘circle of good fellowship’. Many of its still-active members are retired but there are some newer members who are keeping the flame alive. Back in BR days it had a huge membership, around 50,000 at its peak. Today it’s much less but it still has a role as a truly ‘social’ network. Membership costs a mere £5 and is worth every penny – see www.repta.org.uk

Vintage Day out

It’s a while since I’ve travelled along ‘The Shakespeare Line’ from Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon and the promise of a run behind ‘Clun Castle’ was too good to miss. But as sometimes happen, it didn’t quite turn out as intended. ‘Clun’ caught a cold and was confined to shed and an almost equally ancient class 20 diesel (with ‘47’ support) substituted. Did it matter? Not at all, it was a great day out, launching Vintage Trains’ programme of excursions this summer, many of which will be steam-hauled, hopefully some with a revived ‘Clun’.  Vintage

Our short stop at Henley-in-Arden to admire the station gardens and hear about plans for the buildings

Trains is a fully accredited train operated company and the only one in the UK (probably the world) that is run as a genuinely community operation. It’s a community benefit society, mostly using locomotives owned by a charitable trust. It is part of the Heart of England Community Rail partnership and supports ‘station friends’ along the Shakespeare Line. Chairman Michael Whitehouse says it’s the only line on the national network to have every single station adopted, and I wouldn’t contradict him. On the way out we had a stop at Henley-in-Arden where the station buildings are set to be refurbished for community uses. At Stratford we had about 40 minutes and enjoyed drinks in the nearby cafe before heading back to Birmingham, from where we hopped on a local train to Bournville to have a look round the fascinating Cadbury’s industrial village. A perfect day was rounded off by a curry in our favourite Indian, The Lagan. Dessert just had to be a ‘Cadbury’s Delight’.

My Fernarium and 10F

During the mini-heat wave I decided it would be a good time to really get stuck into the various garden projects that I’d been promising myself I’d ‘get round to’. Not, you’ll be surprised to know, garden railway related. Oh no, the rail infrastructure is pretty much established now and it’s more a case of adding a few extras, new locos and the like. The two major new projects were the ‘Rose Grove’ at the front and the ‘Fernarium’ at the back. I’ve never really been much of a ‘rose’ person but, coming up to my 69th, I am a convert, with all the zeal that goes with it. But open to readers’ suggestions for what to buy, what to look out for. The ‘Fernarium’ is a case of using some space that has struggled to find uses. It’s very shady but the soil is good. The railway runs by it, naturally, and it sometimes gets a bit overgrown. So I’ve cleared out the early summer wild flowers (red campion, foxgloves, mint) and the ferns have gone in. Ladies’ ferns – again, no expert and welcome suggestions for what else to plant. The ones that have gone in are transfers from other depots.

Bolton’s Great Strike

My most recent feature in The Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ supplement was on the ‘Great Engineers’ Strike’ of 1887. This was no ordinary industrial dispute: cavalry were drafted in from their barracks in Manchester and hundreds of police from around the North-West were billeted in the town. Hundreds of strike-breakers – ‘knobsticks’ – were

Ald. Benjamin Dobson, main protagonist from the employers’ side. In possible mitigation he was fond of miniature railways

brought in by train and riots ensued at the station. The event formed the basis for Allen Clarke’s novel The Knobstick, published in 1891. It led to major changes in the town’s politics, with ‘labour’ representatives elected at the next local elections. It can be read in full here: https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/19465313.bitter-industrial-dispute-saw-troops-streets-bolton/

Publications update from Lancashire Loominary

Allen Clarke (‘Teddy Ashton’) Lancashire’s Romantic Radical is back from the printers but I’m going to delay a full launch until September when something approximating ‘normality’ might be back, allowing events in both Bolton and Blackpool. The first edition was published in 2009 and the new one substantially improves on the original, in my estimation. There’s some new information about his life and work and an entirely new chapter on his railway writings (‘Teddy Ashton Takes the Train’).

The current plan is once the Allen Clarke is duly launched I’ll publish a new book on the Lancashire –Whitman connection. This will incorporate most of With Walt Whitman in Bolton (published in 2019) with an entirely new section on Whitman’s wider influence on Northern socialism. It will be called Unlikely Pioneers – Walt Whitman, the Bolton Boys and Northern Labour 1885-2022. I’m not sure whether to do it as a print edition or just by kindle, which is much less trouble, but less fun. Comments welcome, I still have some copies of With Walt Whitman in Bolton left, which I’m selling for a fiver.

I’m doing a pre-publication offer on the Allen Clarke book – it will sell at £18.99 in the shops and on Amazon (plus postage) but I’ll do it for £15 with free local delivery c/o Bolton Bicycling Bookshop, or £3 postage in the UK. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk for details of how to buy it.

New books from my pals

Here’s details of four excellent books that have two things in common – they’re all written by good friends and all feature , to some extent, railways. So no big surprise, each is very different. Stan Abbott, who played a major role in the fight to save the Settle-Carlisle Line in the 1980s, has published Walking The Line – exploring Settle-Carlisle Country. It’s a detailed description of a linear walk along the route of the railway, using public rights of way. It’s really well written – much more than just a walking guide, it has history, anecdote and a strong personal touch. It sells at £9.99 and is published by Saraband.

Martin Bairstow, who features elsewhere in this Salvo (Coniston story) has lived (at least) two lives – as an accountant, often acting for disreputable railway consultancy clients (like me) and as a very reputable railway historian. His latest work is a new edition of Railways in the Lake District and includes the Cumbrian Coast and Furness Lines, Windermere and Coniston branches, the late and much lamented Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith line as well as the Lake steamers and Barrow Docks. Martin puts his encyclopaedic knowledge of railway history to god use and has a very good feel for railway politics. His account of the closures of the Lakeside and CK&P routes are of great value. He rightly bemoans the closure (one of the last) of the Penrith – Keswick Line in 1972. What a difference it would have made to ‘sustainable transport’ in the Lakes had it survived. But at least we’ve got the Coast Line and Windermere Branch – the latter very much in need of electrification and double-tracking, at least in part to permit a more frequent service as leisure travel takes off post-Pandemic. It’s priced at £17.95 and is published by Martin himself, at 53 Kirklees Drive, Farsley, Pudsey.

In the early days of community railways we had strong support from a number of BR managers. Foremost amongst them, together with David Prescott, was John Davies. John has spent much of his railway career in South Wales and knows the ‘Valley’s intimately. He was largely responsible for the renaissance of the Valleys Lines back in the 1990s as Regional Railways Manager for Wales. John has always been passionate about railways and the transformation of the Valleys Lines was partly informed by John seeing at first hand what can be achieved with regional railways elsewhere in Europe and further afield. His book From Hell to Paradise – and a thousand places in between is about his travels around the world, usually with his beloved Josianne, to whom the book is dedicated. Of the four books it is the most ‘personal’ but there’s plenty of politics and ‘railway’ in it too. John has a great love of American railroads and his travels around the USA are a fascinating contrast to his trips around Europe. The book is self-published and sells at £17.99. Email John at johnbaytrans@btinternet.com for details of how to get it.

The fourth member of this mates’ quartet is Richard Horrocks’ fascinating Turton Tower: A Caretaker’s History. It is edited from the notes of Albert Barrett who was caretaker of the historic house north of Bolton, between 1948 and 1964. I’ve known and loved Turton Tower for many years – it was always a favourite spot to watch, and later photograph, steam locos climb the steep gardient between Bolton and Entwistle. I got to know th house itself, a remarkable amalgam of different styles and periods which somehow works. There is some dispute as to how old the place is, with some suggesting the 12th century while others say the 15th century. But take it from Richard, it’s old. He takes us through the history of the building and its occupants, including Lees Knowles, an early patron of the Lancashire Authors’ Association in the 1920s. The building was managed by Turton Urban District Council from 1930 although today it is run by Blackburn with Darwen Council. Albert was appointed by Turton UDC in 1948 and lived in the building with his family until his retirement in 1964. Interestingly, the Tower was only made into a museum in 1952 and the Council was fortunate in having such a devoted employee to look after it. Albert’s notes reflect someone with a deep passion and interest for the Tower’s history. What makes Richard’s book so special is the role of Albert Barrett, clearly a most unusual chap – all too often people like him get air-brushed out of the history of these historic buildings. The book costs £9.99 and is available through Amazon or from the Turton Tower shop and Wright’s Reads in Horwich.

My photo gallery – an emphasis on steam (but not completely)

I’ve been making some changes to my website/s…I’m keeping www.lancashireloominary.co.uk  for all publications, including The Salvo. However, www.paulsalveson.org.uk has been re-born as Paul Salveson Photography: places, trains and factories or summat like that.

There are several pages dealing with different aspects of my photography: BR Steam, Continental Steam, The Modern Railway, Industrial Steam, Northern Rural Landscapes, Mills and Mines, and Strikes, Riots and Demonstrations. This is my current favourite: Industrial Railways UK 1966 – 1980 – Paul Salveson Photography

Good places to buy my books and other things

As lockdown eases, more shops are opening  which sell my books. These include Carnforth Bookshop, Wrights’ Reads in Horwich, Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford and Kelsall’s in Littleborough. Please support your local bookshops, it’s vital they survive. A great feature of any walk up Rivington Pike is the Pike Snack Shack on George’s Lane – a long way up, the last place before you get on the track to the summit. They do coffee, pies, sandwiches and cakes for takeaway and you can sit amidst the heather and savour the view across the West Lancashire Plain. You can also buy copies of Moorlands, Memories and Reflections.  Another popular addition to my list of retail outlets is Bunbury’s real ale shop at 397 Chorley Old Road, Bolton. A slightly unconventional outlet is A Small Good Thing, on Church Road. This is a great little shop mainly selling organic fruit and veg and a range of ‘small good things’. Fletcher’s Newsagents on Markland Hill Bolton are stockists. Justicia Fair Trade Shop on Knowsley Street, Bolton, is handy for the town centre and has a full set of my books available (and some great gifts from around the world, ethically sourced).

Winter Hill 125 – this September, have a walk o’er Winter Hill

Plans to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the 1896 Winter Hill ‘mass trespass’ continue to evolve with strong interest from a wide range of groups and individuals. The celebration will take place on Sunday

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September 5th 2021 – get it in your diary now! It will set off at 10.30 from the bottom of Halliwell Road, with assembling from 10.00 onwards. We expect the walk to take about four hours – Diamond Bus is providing buses to get people back from Belmont to Smithills and Bolton.

My book on the mass trespass is available price £5 (plus postage if not local) – see below. It is hoped to have some major events this year, circumstances permitting. More details to follow. The best way of keeping updated is to join the Winter Hill 125 facebook page.

Small Salvoes

  • Bolton Diggers are running a series of talks on ‘The Alternative Economy’ in the town’s Victoria Hall. The first one kicked off on June 30th, at 6.00 and they have been well attended. These free talks and participative workshops take place every Wednesday evening at 6pm in the old coffee bar at Victoria Halls between June 30th and September 1st. This will be followed by a ‘Made in Bolton’ local products fair (date to be arranged.)
  • Humanity trumps politics: it was good to see the respectful messages from local opposition politicians to the untimely death of Council Leader (and Conservative) Cllr David Greenhalgh, who died suddenly at the age of 53. My own condolences to his friends and family; a decent man by all accounts.
  • Plans are underway for Autumn events by the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, the cross-party campaign for Northern devolution and democracy. Details will be posted on HMF’s recently-updated website: www.hannah-mitchell.org.uk

Aagh! Crank Quiz returns…Sheds and seating

Several readers (well, one) laments the absence of the Salvo ‘Crank Quiz’. Well OK, showing appropriate responsiveness to customer demand, it’s back! In fact two quizzes. The first was suggested by that man in the water tower, Mark Rand of Settle. He mentioned amusing railway signage, giving examples of the station seats at Settle (‘SettleDown’ on the down line and ‘Settle Up’ on t’other) and a named class 66 ‘The Flying Dustman’. So please send examples, with photos if possible, of amusing official or unofficial examples of signage/etc.

The other part of the Crank Quiz is inspired by my new-found horticultural zeal. Please name loco sheds (with shed codes unless a sub-shed) of loco sheds with horticultural themes. There are too many stations, junctions etc. so don’t go there, but sheds should keep you busy.

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

Sunday September 5th. Winter Hill Trespass Memorial Walk: assemble 10.00 bottom of Halliwell Road, Bolton,  for 10.30 departure. Buses from Bolton Interchange to starting point and special buses back from Belmont in the afternoon. Bring flask and sandwiches, sturdy footwear and waterproofs!

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

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. If you are local you are welcome to call round and pick books up on the doorstep, or the Bolton Bicycling Bookshop can deliver to yours.

Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton – Lancashire’s Romantic Radical (NEW!). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer.  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. Publication date September 1st . Pre-publication offer of £15 plus free local delivery or £3 postage

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (2020) A hundred years ago Lancashire writer Allen Clarke published a forgotten masterpiece – Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. Clarke’s biographer, Professor Paul Salveson, has published a new book celebrating Clarke’s original and bringing the story of Lancashire’s moorland heritage up to date. Maxine Peake, in her foreword to Paul’s book, says “Hill walking, cycling, literature, philosophy, protest and The North…. these are a few of my favourite things.” She adds “Paul Salveson’s new book on Allen Clarke is irresistible.” Price £20 – see the website for details of how to buy: http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/order-form

The Works (2020). My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £6 (special offer) . Also on Kindle £4.99.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’? The Winter Hill Trespass of 1896 (1996). Quite a few copies have re-surfaced and are available price £5 – with all proceeds going to Bolton Socialist Club, which played the main part in organising the original demonstrations in 1896. This was Britain’s biggest-ever rights of way battle with a series of demonstrations which peaked at 12,000 one Sunday afternoon in September 1896.

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. 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. Special offer £5 (plus postage if you’re not local).

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in most 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

You can get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk