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Thursday, 26 December 2013

Taking Water at Settle

click to enlarge

Here is Black Five 44878 drawing in to Settle on 27th July 1966 to take on water.

The tender is alongside the up line water crane, supplied from the tower.  The tender's capacity is 4,000 gallons but it will not have been empty.   The water tower's tank holds 43,000 gallons.

More than 800 Black Fives were built between 1934 and 1951.   44878 was nearing the end of its days, being withdrawn from service in 1968.   It was cut up for scrap.
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Monday, 23 December 2013

Twinkle Twinkle Little Truck *

Just for fun the Settle truck has taken on a festive appearance.   Sorry it is a bit blurred - the lights flash and it was a long exposure.   All done in the best possible taste.

*Please do not attempt to sing this or you will regret it.
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Tank Outlet Valve Restored and Working

This awful mess was the main outlet valve of the water tower soon after we bought it.   Siezed up solid, it is surrounded by rubbish and there seems to have been a black paint incident.

As part of the painting of the atrium I decided to have a go at getting the valve back to working order.
Much use of WD 40 and crow bars and it is now back in business, good as new.
The pipe nowadays carries rainwater from the roof to our rainwater harvesting tank.
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Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Atrium in All its Glory

click to enlargeIt is not easy to show the dramatic change that has taken place with the atium but these pictures give a clue.   The walls and ceiling have been prepared and painted - some weeks of an operation.   The massive pipework inside the tower has been painted in the same colours as the tank.   The magical touch, as with the staircase (previous post) has been the use of LED light strips behind the pipes.   Minimal electricity consumption for maximal effect.   The picture above is the main outflow pipe.

And this is the overflow pipe, similarly lit.

The ceiling - the underside of the water tank - now painted white and sidelit by 4 Watt LED bulbs in the recesses.   The Ais Gill Summit sign - rescued from a skip has found a place that befits it.

Cosy and Trendily Lit

  A surprising number of people have asked us if the place is warm enough.   The answer is now a very definite yes.   Last winter the underfloor heating in the main room did not work but that was fixed over the summer and the room is now comfortably warm.   In the modern parts of the house we simply do not use the underfloor heating otherwise the place would be too hot.
The main room is a problem space - large, very high and by modern standards lacking insulation.   This is part of the answer - the (now repositioned) Esse flueless gas fire enables us to warm one cosy corner of the room intensively as-and-when required.

One of the downsides of installing the lift was that it slightly compromised the illusion of the floating flying staircase.   Here is one solution - the installation of a 5 metre long LED strip in the space between the staircase and the wall.   This makes it quite clear that the staircase stands clear of the wall as well as illuminating the stairs for safety.

LED lights, as bulbs or as ribbons are revolutionising lighting.   We have exploited them to good effect in the now decorated atrium - see the next posting.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

National Railway Heritage Awards

We were well and truly up against stiff competition at yesterday's NRH awards in London.   We were Highly Commended which was quite good considering what we were up against.   Our short listing was for The Key Publishing Modern Railways Restoration Award.   The other two short listed projects were:

the restoration of Bann Bridge, Coleraine (Translink NI Railways)

and the new Headquarters of York City Council - the £32M restoration of the west wing of York Station

Both fully funded public sector projects.

The judging criteria are objective and concentrate on restoration.
It is the result that counts and we stood little chance on that score.   York City Council rightly won.

More precious than any iron plaque we appreciate the Settle Water Tower report of judge Robin Leleux which begins:

"Without a doubt this is one of the most impressive privately funded projects to be entered in the Awards competition for many years"

The victor ludorum of the whole competition was the restoration of London's Kings Cross station. . . .

Monday, 2 December 2013

When Coal Wagons were Everywhere

This remarkable picture shows coal wagons, just like ours, as far as the eye can see.   It was taken at Cardiff docks in 1927.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sunset and Fireworks

Today has been the switch-on of Settle's Christmas lights - well, a tree in the Market Place really.   Mike Harding sang a song and pressed the button.   The Market Place was full to overflowing.   Then there was a stunning firework display from the top of Castleberg.   Magical.

My contribution was floodlighting the tower and stringing 720 LED lights round the top.   Although I say it myself it looks good.

The prize however goes to the Lord Almighty for one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen.

What a place.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Painting the Atrium

    This is a job I have been putting off for two years.   My excuse is that water was coming in between the base of the water tank and the stone wall below it so the inner wall was damp.   The hot summer enabled Peter Bennett and me to see to the problem so the excuse, along with the water, evaporated.

   Another factor was the sheer awkwardness of gaining access to the ceiling in order to paint it.   The introduction of the 'George Stairs' (sorry George) meant there was no room for a scaffolding tower so I have had to use a very long and heavy ladder that stretches the height of the tower but on the inside.

Picture 1 shows the south east corner of the tower with the tank's overflow pipe now painted in Midland Railway colours, like the tank itself.

The browny yellow to the right of the ceiling is the sprayed-on insulation foam which stops condensation forming on the iron tank and girders.   It yellows over time.

Picture 2 shows the other corner, with the much larger main outlet pipe and its still bare, grimy stone walls.   All this stone is being whitened (as it has been in the past) which is brightening that end up dramatically.   The big pipe will also be green, red and cream.   Five Watt LED floodlights between the ends of the girders will finish things and make that end harmonise with the rest of the building.

About another week should see the job done, which will be a big relief.

Click images to enlarge
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Galatea at Full Voice (see also previous post)


By coincidence and despite the gloom, Bernard Dewhurst happened to be filming Galatea as she raced through Settle with crewman Martyn Soames sounding the whistle in tribute to his late father Derek.

In the opening seconds you can hear the long steady blast on the whistle as the engine passes Settle church yard.   The whistle then stops but resumes as the train races through Settle station.


I met Martyn Soames today.   Fittingly, he was sitting in Derek's seat-of-honour in Settle signal box.   I asked him if he thought his father had heard the tribute.   "Almost certainly" said Martyn.   "Most unusually we were held at the Settle Junction signal as a Morecambe line train was ahead of us.   Settle Junction was 'Dad's box'.   I went to see what was up.   The Bobby* explained - and gave us a brew of tea while we waited."

I hope Martyn will forgive me explaining why the whistle falters as they go through Settle.   He could not keep his hand steady as tears were streaming down his face.

* Bobby - railway terminology for signalman.   In  the early days of railways signalmen were constables, directing traffic as it were.   The name has stuck.   The word 'signalman' was replaced by the gender-less 'signaler' some years ago.   Very recently that term too has been replaced by 'Train Dispatcher'.   Doesn't sound quite right does it?   Bobby I guess it will remain.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A Salute to Derek

Sitting in the roof room about 5 this evening reading the newspaper and considering myself lucky not to be outdoors on a foul night I heard the unmistakable sound of a steam whistle.   Not just a quick toot but a whole series of long blasts.   I shot up and looked towards the line as the noise got louder and louder.

I was just in time to see Galatea hurtling through Settle and to enjoy the sound of a 'proper' train.   It was crew-man Martyn Soames giving it everything in glorious tribute to his father Derek, laid to rest in Settle churchyard on Monday.

See for video of Galatea earlier in the day.   Sound on - and listen to that whistle.

Well, I and most of Settle must have heard it.   Some will have known what this feast of sound was all about.  It was a grateful son's magical tribute to his late, great, father.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


For some while I have been working with Network Rail and Lafarge Tarmac on the possibility of a rail re-connection into their Arcow and Dry Rigg quarries at Helwith Bridge.   I had rather too much to do with the coal mining industry in the 1980s but never anything to do with quarries.

Throughout my police career I never lost an opportunity to see behind the scenes of industry, developing a huge respect for those who worked in them.

Today was a 'blast day' at Dry Rigg and I went along.   At the appointed hour sirens sounded and six tonnes of explosives detonated amidst strictest security.   26,000 tonnes of rock moved sideways and slid down into the quarry bottom as if liquid.   The photograph does not do justice to the grandeur of the location and its enormity.

All this stone will be crushed and graded, ready to become an ingredient of the very finest tarmacadam in locations where skid resistance needs to be high.

click to enlarge

This is what that amount of rock going sideways looks like.   The advancing rolling 'liquid' front of rock is to the right.   The sound is not ear splitting - more like a roll of distant thunder.   The rock itself muffles it.   Not sure how far it is to the far side of the quarry - half a mile maybe.  The dry stone wall in the foreground is made of the rock being blasted.

Awesome - and one of the best kept secret free shows in The Dales.

Monday, 4 November 2013

'State' Funeral for Derek Soames

Today was Derek Soames (see Blog entry on 25th October) funeral - at Settle Parish Church, conducted by the Methodist Minister as nearby St John's Methodist church was nowhere near big enough.   Neither was Settle Parish Church!   Despite the use of the choir stalls and hastily imported stacking chairs they were standing in the aisles.   I was honoured that my picture of Derek was used on the front of the order of service.

Click to enlarge

The Minister was clearly taken aback and remarked that this must be the nearest Settle gets to a State Funeral.

The Settle-Carlisle Railway was hugely well represented with railwaymen past and present as well as the 'Last of the Summer Wine Gang', of course, and hundreds of others.

Afterwards there was what Martyn Soames described as a right good Chapel tea party in St John's Hall.

Derek got his wish and was buried facing 'his' railway line.   A lot of people checked on that.

Chatting with Martyn afterwards it emerged that he would be crewing a steam train through Settle at the weekend.   The locomotive will be Galatea.   Martyn will sound its whistle in tribute as it flies past Settle churchyard.
Here is a splendid portrait of Galatea.   Unless I am very much mistaken that is Martyn looking out of the cab window.
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Thursday, 31 October 2013

One Horse Power

This is how wagons were often shunted pre-war
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This lovely photograph was taken in 1938 at Welwyn North station.   The horse waits patiently and unconcerned by the Cambridge - Kings Cross express as it rushes past.  The full details and a bigger image are at
Note the horse's blinkers, ensuring his eyes were on the road and helping to prevent him being spooked by distractions alongside - like express trains!
The horse is attached to the wagon's coupling hook in this instance but for normal shunting operations it would be attached to a horse hook on the wagon's sole-bar, alongside - as here as recently as 1957
The shunter seems to be leaning on the brake lever - perhaps it was meant to make for a better picture but Dobbin does not look thrilled about it.

We had a re-visit from former wagon builder Albert Wright (94) who had come by train from Doncaster to inspect our now virtually completed wagon.   He approved of what he saw and was kind enough to say that nobody could have done a better job on it.
Albert is getting frail but his mind is agile and his memory for details of railway wagons is amazing.   His kid brother Clifford (83!) propels him around and still has a twinkle in his eye.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Linking Out of Linkedin

I have Linkedout of Linkedin. The wretched thing sent an invitation to 'Linkin' to my entire address book. If you received such an invitation I am sorry.    I am also sorry for any reminders you get from Linkedin.    Linkedin seemed to be a good idea at the time but on this experience it is getting out of hand.  Heaven knows what Craven District Council, Northern Rail and Daily Telegraph Letters have made of my 'invitation'!   

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

An Overdue Haircut

Settle has the benefit of a proper barbers shop, specialising in men's hair, though nowadays no challenge can be turned away.   Proprietors Ian and Duncan are very different personalities, Duncan is Mr Chatty-man; Ian is more of a droll philosopher.

Today it was Ian, the droll philosopher.   I told him that for a number of weeks Pat had been dropping increasingly insistent hints that I needed a haircut - so here I was.   He got the message.

Quite a pile of hair later we got to the stage of the mirror round the back of the neck and  "Is that OK for you?"   It most certainly was.

"The wife will start talking to me again", I replied.

"Oh, sorry about that" said Ian.

M'learned Daughter and Mallard Again

 Today, m'learned daughter Lorna took her family to the National Railway Museum in York to see the gathering of A4 Pacific locomotives - including Mallard.   Here she is having pushed aside the crowds to have her picture taken with Mallard.

When she was five her Dad(dy) had taken her to the NRM where she had her picture taken with Mallard.   Deja vu?   Sorry it is sideways.   Slides do not copy at all well do they - but wasn't she a little sweetie?

And still is.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Derek Soames 1930-2013

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Sad news today is the death last evening in Settle's Castlebergh hospital of the Settle-Carlisle line's stalwart of stalwarts Derek Soames.   Here is Derek in August watching this year's re-creation of the Fifteen Guinea Special from the walkway of his beloved Settle signal box.   The original train was meant to be the very last steam train on British Railways and Derek had signalled it.

He spent fifty years on the railways - notably as signalman on the S&C - seeing its seeming demise, then its reprieve and later its rise to stardom.   Derek too was a star.  Whenever anybody wanted to make a film or do a broadcast about the line Derek was the man - hugely experienced at public speaking and telling the tale about the line he knew and loved so well.   In retirement he spent his days chatting to visitors at his beloved Settle Station signal box.   He never tired of talking about the job he had so enjoyed.   Not many of us can claim that.

Every Saturday a select group of men of a certain age and character assembled at Settle signal box to reminisce, to learn and to enjoy themselves playing trains.   The parallel with TV's 'Last of the Summer Wine' was so obvious.   Without a shadow of a doubt Derek was the boss - the Foggy Dewhirst, the Truly of the Yard, the smart one to whom the others deferred.   He would sit in 'his' corner - the seat of honour that nobody else would dream of taking.

Two memories of Derek Soames come to me.  He was a lover of nature and a water bailiff for this bit of the Ribble.   I met him one October day at The Locks  between Langcliffe and Stackhouse where we watched the salmon leaping against a very strong current.   What a privilege to witness such a sight and to have such a commentator.

Much more recently I took Derek in my car to a spot near the Hoffmann kiln at Stainforth.   Derek had told me he knew the source of the water supply for the water tower.   We pulled off the main road and up a rough track.   It was a hot summers day and we were glad of the shade of a tree.   With that special stick of his he pointed to an overgrown area on the far side of the tracks.   "Just there" he said "in the trees you'll find  a slate tank that fed the kiln and the water tower."    Then he turned and pointed to a bare piece of ground alongside the up main line.   "There was my signal box" he said, barely able to contain his emotions.   "Twice it was knocked down by runaway trains.   That kept you on your toes!"

Well, Derek's life is over.   Bob Swallow asked him if when his time came he wanted to be buried behind Settle Junction signal box, where his faithful dogs are buried.   Derek, a devout churchman and pallbearer at countless funerals is familiar with the mechanics of death.  "No" said Derek.  "I want to be buried with my wife Freda at Settle churchyard.   But I want to be buried t'other way round".

"So as I can see the trains".

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

From Russia With Love

Blog statistics enable one to see where in the World people are when they click on to Settle Station Water Tower.   Unsurprisingly the UK heads a very long list, followed by the USA.   Third place goes to Russia.   Now that is a surprise.   Rarely though do we get a Russian visitor but this week we had one.   A most charming lady from Moscow.

She looked round the house and had her fix of cat, courtesy of a compliant Purrcy and wrote in the visitors book:
"This is the best house I have ever seen!   Amazing!   Thank you so much.   You did a great job."

How the world has changed - and shrunk.   For the better mostly.

People are always interested in the weather station on the roof and are surprised to hear that you can see the weather in Settle from any on-line computer in the world, if you really want to!   The computer in the roof room is on and connected to the internet permanently to enable this.

One programme I like to show people is Planefinder
Give it a try but be warned, it is addictive.   Pop in any postcode by clicking Map Options / Location top right of the screen and lo and behold there is a map of that location and details of the aircraft flying over it right now.

Our Russian visitor was intrigued.   She tapped in her Moscow postcode, more in hope than expectation.   Such snooping on what is happening in real time over Moscow would have been unthinkable not long ago.   Instantly,the map was there, her road centre screen.   Zooming out a bit (slider on the left of the screen) we saw a dozen or so planes over Moscow, mostly landings and take offs but some at high altitude taking that route from one side of the globe to the other.

A really good thing.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Then and Now Comparison

June 2013:   Broken back, buffers hanging off, sides caving in.
Click to enlarge

October 2013:   Straight again and good as new.

The Vintage Carriages Trust have assembled a comprehensive list of wagons that have been preserved.   Our wagon is at

Thursday, 17 October 2013

What a Paint Job

Click image to enlarge
After yesterdays wind and rain today has been fine and sunny - the prefect day to paint the metal bands on the wagon body.   There is still a minor amount of lettering to do on the lowest grey timber - the unladen (Tare) weight, the maximum load etc.   Meanwhile I am chuffed to bits with how the lettering and banding looks.

Note the diagonal white band running through the letter L of COAL.   This indicated the tippler end of the wagon so that railwaymen could see at a glance if any wagon in a train was wrong-way-round;  vital when it came to upending the wagons at a dockside and into a ship's hold for instance.  

I took a leaf out of signwriter Eddie's book and used yards and yards of masking tape to do the metal bands.   If he, with all his experience thought it good to use masking tape I thought I most certainly should.
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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Steady Handed Eddie

Today was the day when the wagon ceased to be a grey box on wheels.

click images to enlarge
Despite a forecast of heavy rain signwriter Eddie Ralph did his stuff.   I had kept the wagon dry overnight with a tarpaulin, then I rigged up a temporary shelter at the top of the side planks.   Here is Eddie marking out the side of the wagon.

In just an hour or two the letters Settle Coal Co Ltd were painted with great precision and skill.   The promised rain came - hence the blue plastic sheet, under which Eddie painted black shadows to the lettering, bringing them alive.   The weather worsened and the plastic sheet took off but Eddie soldiered on.

I had to ask about the signwriter's uniform jacket, with trendy paint stripes on the arms.   It is as much a rag as a garment.   Excess paint on a brush is wiped off on the inside of the elbow, as demonstrated below.   It also shows that even signwriters can get paint on their noses!

Eddie Ralph, signwriter of Gargrave.
07851 721915
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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Happy Birthday

It is my birthday today.

M'learned daughter Lorna's card makes it to the most popular Blog in Station Road, Settle.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Questions for Grandpa

Grandchildren Ben (4 11/12ths) and James (8) are at the sort of age when you can hold a sensible conversation with them.   Over lunch today we got round to the subject of age.

"Grandpa - there was a war on when you were born, wasn't there?"

"Yes James"


"Grandpa - who was the Queen then?"

"We'll James there wasn't a Queen then ;  we had a King - George the Sixth.   But his wife was called the Queen."

"Victoria", said Ben.



Later, the Queen still an area of concern, James asks "How old is the Queen?"

Grandma, being a woman and therefore knowing about such things, replies "Eighty seven."

James, after a moment's reflection:

"We'll, in thirteen years she'll have to send herself one of those tele-things".

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Wagon Lettering

I had a go at signwriting today.   There is almost nothing practical that cannot nowadays be learned on You-Tube.   Above is my effort, compared with the real thing below.   Rather trickier are the words Settle Coal Co Ltd on the other side of the wagon.   They are entrusted to signwriter Eddie Ralph next week.   Even so, I am quite chuffed with my efforts.
Note the table and chairs inside the wagon - a rather quaint, and certainly different - dining area, don't you think?

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Talk of Settle

Some days ago I bumped into builder Richard Kilburn (the Kilburn of Kilburn and Johnson Ltd) who told me that the wagon was the talk of Settle.    I keep being buttonholed by local people, many of whom I do not know by name who tell me how good the wagon looks.   Pat went for a dental check-up the other day and the dentist said the same.   So too the trolley man at Booths supermarket.

This is very pleasing.   The truck was an almost total wreck when we got it and three months on it looks like new.   A recent visitor is a volunteer on one of the preserved railways and his group had just spent £15,000 restoring an identical truck.   Our restoration - and transport - costs are nearer £2,000  thanks to a tremendous amount of local support and help in kind.

Coal trucks were the most commonplace, unremarkable and least glamorous of railway vehicles.   Even in Thomas the Tank Engine stories they are 'troublesome trucks'.   I think it all the more important that some examples of them are preserved and we are glad to have done our bit.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Another Magnificent Tower

I think it was a day or so after our first Restoration Man episode was screened that a water tower near Harrogate came up for auction.   Carol and Majid Nadry were sufficiently enthused / encouraged by our experience that they bid for the Harrogate tower - and got it!

They came to see us to compare notes - and submitted their project to Channel 4's Restoration Man, who have taken it on board.   We had no hesitation in recommending Restoration Man as a totally positive and helpful experience.

Here is their tower:
click to enlarge

The window openings have just been cut - hence no doubt the brick dust.   Still early days but this is clearly a very fine building in the making - and another industrial relic being rescued.

Pat and I are thrilled to be here in the background as 'been there, done that' resources for the Nadrys to refer to as and when.

The picture was taken back in July.   Is that Matt the fearless camera man in the cradle?

Monday, 30 September 2013

A Last Look at the new Chassis

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Before the floorboards are screwed down here is a last look at the extent of the new chassis timbers.   Everything in the top picture is new hardwood except for the two pieces on the left.   It was marginal whether they too were renewed but they were spared - mainly because they were originals and were the best of a bad set of components.   They are seen in detail below.   Each of the chassis timbers has now been topped off with damp proof course to help preserve the timbers from rot .

Had a visit today from the head of North Yorks Moors Railway wagon restoration team.   He had a jolly good look and declared that it was an excellent restoration.
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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Not Compo After All

This sunny afternoon I was pottering in the wagon when I saw three chaps peering over the fence, obviously interested in the tower.   I told them they were most welcome to have a look around and to sign the visitors book.   After their circuit of the tower I could not resist asking them what was their story - so distinguished and interested was their demeanor.   In fact I said they looked like something out of 'Last of the Summer Wine'.   It turned out that one of them was local and the others were visitors from East Anglia.   Jokingly, I asked the visitors if they were doing missionary work in the north of England.   They laughed politely.

Whilst signing the visitors book they watched part of the Restoration Man DVD and noted the bit about me being a retired police officer.   The local chap asked if by any chance I was Truly of the Yard.   I denied it but said that if they went to the signal box they would see the rest of the Summer Wine Gang.   "Including Nora Batty?" one of them asked, hopefully.

I knew I had seen the local chap before so I tackled him about this.   Had I perhaps seen him in Booths supermarket?   His face was familiar.

"Well" he said, "I was Archbishop of York but now I'm retired and a priest of last resort when they're stuck."

Not Compo after all then!

Meet the Rt Reverend Dr David Hope, Lord Thorne - and a jolly good sport: