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Thursday, 31 October 2013

One Horse Power

This is how wagons were often shunted pre-war
Click to enlarge

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

click to enlarge

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?