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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Hurricane Ophelia Devastates Water Tower

One of the consequences of living in a triple glazed virtual castle is that you are insulated from the sounds of the world outside.    Last night the UK suffered the wrath of Hurricane Ophelia - an unwelcome export from the USA.   Here you can well see the extent of the devastation that greeted me as I went dog walking this morning:

and that was the extent of it.

Below is my new lean-to car port, since yesterday equipped with a translucent side wall - with air gaps top and bottom.   It proves to be hurricane proof.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Our Water Crane in 1955

click to enlarge

This lovely old picture popped up on Facebook today.   The text tells the tale.   What took my eye though was the water crane at the end of the platform.   The location is Skipton and that is where what are now Settle's two water cranes came from - see several earlier posts.

We have few pictures of the water cranes in situ at Skipton but this is unlikely to be bettered.   

There it stands forlornly, a soon to be obsolete relic of the steam age, alongside the shape of things to come.   The S&C's trains look much the same today - charmless boxes on wheels.

On the right of the picture are catch points to deflect any runaway train away from the down main line.

Well, the water cranes have survived but I bet the train hasn't.

Monday, 9 October 2017


click to enlarge

Stackhouse is a small place on the outskirts of Settle - walking distance from us.   It is the first place worthy of a name on one of our many routes around here with the Model T.   This lovely picture was taken a couple of days ago by former Dalesman editor Paul Jackson.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

An Outing to the Goat Gap Cafe

On the one fine day of this week we decided to have a lunchtime run out in the Model T to the Goat Gap cafe on the A65 between Clapham and Ingleton.   The A65 would get us there directly but it is no fun and there is a gentler route by country lanes via Giggleswick, Lawkland, Austwick and Clapham along which you can just chug-chug, potter and take in the countryside.

The Goat Gap cafe used to be a Little Chef.  It closed some years ago and has lain forlorn until March of this year when it re-opened, following a stunning refurbishment, doing fine food and wine cafe style.

Goat Gap Cafe

It is highly recommended, but that's another story.

In the middle of nowhere en route my 'phone rang.   I pull over and answered it.   As coincidence would have it we were at a spot near the village of Eldroth, overlooking the little used but important railway line that connects Settle junction with the West Coast Main Line at Carnforth, near Lancaster.

I switched off and continued the call, which proved lengthy.   The scene in front of us was idyllic and the sun was on our backs.   Nothing was moving on our country lane nor on the railway.    There was silence.   My interlocutor was at work in his solicitors office in the City of London.   Conversation was businesslike.

After some minutes Pat interrupted.   "Look!" she shouted, pointing to our left.   Curling lazily upwards was the unmistakable shape of a cloud of steam.    I interrupted my call with a description of the unfolding scene, to the delight of a London lawyer.   It was indeed a steam engine, towing only its support coach, en route from Carnforth to Hellifield and onwards to who-knows-where.   Our old car on the skyline would have been as unexpected a sight in the bucolic scene as the train was to us.   We waved, I commentated and there was a wave and a whistle of mutual admiration and respect.   "What was it?   Did it have a name?", London asked.    "Just an 8F or a Black Five" I lied, pretending to know the difference.   That satisfied London and conversation moved on, with only thinly disguised envy seeping northwards.

In hindsight the scene would have been worthy of one of those jigsaws;  you know the ones - happy people in old car, picnicking by a railway line with a steam train passing, everybody at peace with their worlds.

At the other end of my call was Edward Album - heavyweight London lawyer who tied British Railways in legal knots in the 1980s when they were trying to close the Settle-Carlisle railway line.   Unknowingly, the crew of that little train had made his day.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Our Lounge Just Got Twice as Long

Our lounge, if that is the right word, is the entire middle floor of the water tower, less the space taken up by stairs and the lift shaft.   It is enormous as lounges go - 52 feet long by 20 feet wide.

Clever arrangement of furnishings visually divides it into a dining area at the southern end and a bigger sitting, reading and TV viewing area to the north.

Daylight is inevitably limited to that which comes through the original tower windows, plus what amounts to a large glass wall in the south end.

Settle, along with most places nowadays I imagine, has a buying and selling website where you can have a clear out or drop on a bargain on your doorstep.   Many a time the items are simply free to a good home.   So it was that I happened upon a very large bevelled glass mirror in a heavy black frame.

It would be far too large for most living rooms but it suits our monster lounge admirably:

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There it is on the far wall.   Depending where you stand the lounge now appears 104 feet long!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Clouds in a Blue Sky

Today has been one of those days when it is good to be retired, not to have to go to work nor school.

God has been in His Heaven and All has been Right with the World here in Settle at least.

Off to Booths, get a picnic and off we go in Gladys Emmanuel.   Not far - just to the road to Lawkland, park up and picnic.

The Dales scenery is wonderful but today it was the clouds that stole the show:

This one first took my eye.   Can you too see the fluffy dog jumping from left to right?

And here is the view to the north with Ingleborough and Whernside on the horizon.   But it is the clouds that complete the picture.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The 4x4 Ferrari is Finished

Well, it has been quite a job, or series of jobs, but the station truck is finished.   She may get a final coat or two of paint next year but meantime she, and the Yanmar tractor have a new shelter:

click to enlarge
 It is at the back of the navvy hut and therefore out of sight.   It also means I can hide away other things like wheel barrows too.

The finishing touches for the truck were LMS signs:

and here is the Villiers Mk 10 engine, which starts first pull and now has the correct Villiers identification plate - a gift from Meetens Ltd who overhauled the engine.

Been doing a bit of digging into the history of these Geest trucks.   Turns out they were made by the Geest banana people at a factory in Spalding, Lincolnshire initially for use by Geest in such places as wholesale fruit and veg markets.   They proved so successful that other people, railways for instance, wanted to buy them from Geest so production was increased to satisfy that demand.

They were simple, rugged, reliable and above all  extremely manoeuvrable.   The single front wheel can turn full circle.   Great fun.

We Are Happy - and that's Official

There are statistics on just about everything nowadays.   Even Happiness can be counted, apparently.   The government counts Happiness by local authority areas and countries in the 'United' Kingdom.

We live in the Craven District of the UK and, so say the government, we are the Happiest people in the UK.


OK, it's the Guardian so it could be wrong but if the report is accurate, I suppose our Happiness is more to do with the God-given scenery than anything done by Craven District Council.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Treats from Down Under

We get ever so many visitors from Australia, most of whom have seen our programme on TV there.   Most sign the visitors book and have a chat if we are about.

Imagine our delight when the postman delivered this to us today:

 click to enlarge

All the way from Tasmania was a box of chocolates, made in Tasmania and a pouch of 'kangaroo strips' doggie treats for Bess.

No, seriously I kid you not.   The number one ingredient is er, kangaroo.

Inevitably, that too was made in Australia.   Bess has sampled one and has been jumping about the place like mad.

I shall not embarrass the senders by full name but their covering note said this:

"Dear Mark, Pat, Bess and Boss*,
 Thank you so much for showing us your home when we visited Settle in August.   It was truly the highlight of my visit I even bought the T shirt.   You have even rekindled Steve's interest in model railways.
Please find enclosed a small token of our appreciation in return.
Very kindest regards for such wonderful memories,
Gwyn and Steve

*Boss - the cat, of course

Thank you Gwyn and Steve.   What a lovely gesture.

Monday, 18 September 2017

"One of the Greatest Restoration Projects I've Ever Seen"

Spurred on by the deterioration of the DVDs of our TV appearances on Restoration Man I have been doing a bit of web surfing to see if there is anything out there which might address the situation and fill some gaps.

In the process I came across this, a compilation of the best tower restorations covered by Restoration Man.   Somehow we missed it first time round, or had forgotten about it.

Do have a look at:

which covers four tower restorations - ours being the first, as it happens.

Presenter George Clarke is generous enough to describe ours as "One of the greatest restoration projects I've ever seen".   That is mighty high praise considering the dozens of projects that Restoration Man covered.   I am not at all sure it is fully deserved either, considering the magnificence of so many others.   Not least the three other towers covered in the link, some of which encompassed human tragedy and setbacks that we, mercifully, were spared.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tornado Blasts By

One of my self appointed jobs in Settle is to use social media to tell the local people, and visitors, about the steam trains passing by.   Today it was Britain's new-build A1 Pacific locomotive Tornado hauling a Birmingham - Carlisle - Birmingham train.

It screamed through Settle at full speed at 1620 today.   This superb black and white picture freezes the speed but the body language on the platform reflects it.

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The trail of white steam betrays the whistle of recognition for Settle.

The Water Tower from Above

This link gets you to a quirky but fascinating short film about the Settle-Carlisle railway from very different viewpoints, not least above and around Settle station

Use full screen, sound and HD if you have it.

The first minute or two has you flying over Settle station - and the water tower.   For the first time you can see the enormous SETTLE  letters on the roof of the tower.

There are some stunning shots of Arten Gill Viaduct and delightful glimpses of a small child experiencing perhaps his first impressions of a wonderful railway from the privileged vantage point of his father's back.   You'll see.

Friday, 15 September 2017

DVDs Don't Last Forever

Discovered to our dismay yesterday that DVDs do not last for ever.   The makers of Restoration Man, Tiger Aspect, had kindly sent us DVDs of our two episodes - the original restoration and the re-visit.   Neither will now play, sadly for us.   Googled it, like you do nowadays, and it appears this is a well known problem - especially if DVDs are left exposed to light.

But all was not lost, our re-visit programme is still on the Channel 4 website at

The link itself may eventually go so I must discover how to create copy DVDs - which will be kept in a dark place for posterity.   Maybe.

All is not lost - far from it.   Right up there on our third floor - the roof room - is a Personal Video Recorder  about which I had quite forgotten.   It makes no noise or fuss.   It just does what it is told.

I looked at its library today and, lo and behold, there was our original Restoration Man programme, and our re-visited programme,safe, sound and very viewable.   In fact it has recorded every single Restoration Man episode - and every Father Ted, and every Foyles War and much more besides - 350 hours of television in all and there are still 117 hours-worth free.

I expect if I r.t.f.m.* I shall discover how to put our programmes onto clean DVDs - to be kept henceforth in the dark.

* r.t.f.m. read the f-----g manual.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A Slo-o-o-o-o-o-w News Day in Settle

Well, most days are slow news days in Settle actually.

Todays slow news is that we have an energetic slug on a first floor window of the annex.   Outside, fortunately.   Here she is:

enlargement not recommended

Slug photography is not my strong suit but you get the picture.   Anything on windows poses problems of focus for 'intelligent' cameras.

For the record, her name is Slimonella.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The 4x4 Ferrari's Engine Leaps into Life

Regular readers will know that during the past couple of years I have had three vehicular projects on the go, punctuated with cancer and a busted Achilles tendon.   Both are now history but they have slowed progress on the three vehicular projects.

Today they all met meaningfully for the first time:
click on pic

First there was the four wheeled trailer, made from a caravan chassis.   Today I towed it to the far side of Preston to collect the 4x4 'Ferrari' three wheeler truck from Paul Child - wizzard with Villiers engines and boss man of Meetens Ltd.   Here is the man himself, basking in the glory of having got the 55 year old engine back to life:

40 years of this sort of thing enabled him to diagnose a faulty ignition coil, new HT lead and the wrong carburettor jets, all fixed to perfection.   The engine was, he declared, otherwise good as new with very little wear at all.   His firm has a mountain of genuine Villiers engine parts along with the factory's records of every engine they built - including those supplied to the makers of our Geest auto truck, seen here sitting on said trailer.

The third of the triumvirate of therapeutic wheeled vehicles is the Yanmar diesel mini tractor.   I have equipped this with a front tow ball - a push ball really.   This enables me to manoeuvre the heavy four wheeled trailer to the millimetre - much as you see those airport tugs positioning jumbo jets so delicately.   Not only that it sounds like a canal boat - chug, chug, chug.

Anyway, the three wheeled 4x4 Geest-Ferrari is now very much a going concern, though presently stranded on the trailer whilst I sort out its gearbox:

I think these three projects have been occupational therapy with big boy's toys as a theme.

Our local fish and chip king, Richard, happened past this afternoon and casually enquired "Mark, what the heck's that?"

"Ferrari" I replied, which seemed to impress.   I shall expect Ferrari sized fish come Saturday.

The final drive chain fitted this morning and the gear box works!   It had probably gummed up a bit with standing unused for so long.   Her maiden voyage was a couple of circuits of the station car park.   Great fun.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

I Like Red Ones

A dismal autumn day today, brightened up though by LMS Jubilee locomotive Galatea racing through Settle at 1240 northbound and 1821 on return with The Waverley from York to Carlisle and back.

Latter day trainspotter Pat missed it going north and mumped all day as a result.   No such mistake this evening though.   She was impressed, I could tell.

"I like red ones", she declared as we strolled back to the tower.   "I don't care about 423's or your 567's.   I like red ones".

"Yes dear" I replied.  

She's right of course.

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The sun has not always shone for Galatea.   Here she is in serious trouble on 16th August 1953, at Wilnecote between Birmingham New Street and Tamworth:

Amazingly just two people were hurt when the train from Bradford to Bristol derailed and split in two.  Galatea's crew were uninjured.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Here and Now at Ribblehead Viaduct

Not at all sure I am allowed to do this but click on the link below to see and hear what is happening right now at the world famous Ribblehead viaduct.

The  camera is a joint enterprise between the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line and Railcam uk.   Sign up at for a very modest subscription to see live pictures at railway locations all over the UK and abroad.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Settle Circa 1950

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This photograph from The Folly collection has just appeared on Facebook - an aerial view of Settle about 1950.   It shows a town about half its present size, with the railway prominent and dominant.

Our water tower is clearly shown, to the left of centre.   You do need to click on the picture to enlarge it.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Taking the Prof. for a Ride

Had a most agreeable day today hosting Northern's Professor Paul Salveson to Settle station and around.

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Paul is the leading light behind the community rail movement so he was mightily surprised to see what happens in our Unit 8A joinery workshop which he declared to be unique in his experience on the big railway, as opposed to heritage lines.

We saw the Fellsman steam train through, witnessed the 1146 depart for Carlisle with many passengers standing and visited DCC's Settle HQs.

Then a run up Ribblesdale in the Model T, a visit to the Arcow Quarry railhead and Stainforth's Wonder of Wood Ltd.

Oh yes, then lunch at the Talbot.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Morris Minor for a Day

Today the sun shone on the righteous, for once.   So good in fact we decided to take Gladys Emmanuel to Malham Show.   The website said that 'vintage vehicles' were one of the attractions.

When we slowed for the entrance to the show ground a worried steward looked at Gladys and asked where we usually parked.   "With the vintage vehicles" seemed to phase him a little but he opened the field gate whereupon we were confronted by the largest gathering of superb Morris Minors ever seen.   In old car circles it was a 'One Make' exclusive event.

We tried our best to look like a Morris Minor but were unconvincing.   We need not have worried though.   We were made very welcome by the Morris men - indeed we were quickly granted honorary membership of the Lancashire Branch of the Morris Minor Owners Club.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Ups and Downs at Settle Station

When a place has a name like Settle it really is a bit of an opportunity for a bit of fun at its railway station.   For anybody not in the know, the UP line goes to London

and the DOWN line heads away from London.

People sometimes ask, and very probably a lot more wonder, what we do with the money we collect in our donations receptacle from those visitors who care to use it.  

Some of it is spent on relevant things around the tower - visitor signage, gardening and so on.

Some of it is spent on things directly to do with the Settle-Carlisle railway.   What's left is paid in to the Friends of the S&C.

These are a couple of examples of our latest spending on the line - in this case something that the authorities would never dream of doing in a month of Sundays.   A little bit of fun on the backs of platform benches at Settle station.

We commissioned ten of these signs - five for each platform.   They were designed by Richard Johnson, MD of DCC Pty, the railway modelling suppliers next door to us.

Former colleagues who may raise their eyebrows about the easily removable screws may be reassured to know that they have been replaced by those clever one-way thingies.   You can screw them in but you cannot screw them out.

Ferrari Man

Well, not quite.   Work continues on the auto-truck.   Its brakes and clutch now work and its now for the engine to do the same but we're almost there.

I have still been unable to get the makers badge 'Geest' for the front of the engine cowl so I have reverted alphabetically to the nearest I could find - Ferrari.

I have already been taken to task for the 4 x 4 badge on three wheeler.   It's a j-o-k-e                                                     OK?

Thursday, 24 August 2017

X Factor Finalist Visitor - Goldie Cheung

We really do get a great cross section of people visiting the tower each day.  Some just whizz round too fast to read the explanatory display boards.   If they have not seen the TV programme either it must be a real puzzle for them to understand what it is all about.

Other people take their time and take it all in and that can be very rewarding for us too.  Today we had a famous person visit us, with her husband David.   She is X Factor finalist Goldie Cheung.   See, and prepare to be amazed:

 and / or

I did not get a leg round my neck (you need to have watched the links) but I did have the pleasure of chatting to a very intelligent lady whose questions were very perceptive indeed.   Altogether a delight.

Jokingly I said to her husband that his wife would be quite a personality if only she would come out of her shell.   We had a good chuckle about that - again, WATCH the link.

As they were leaving she insisted on having a photograph taken with me looking awkward and in my scruffs.  

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I have to say she worked a jolly sight harder for her TV appearances than I ever did!

Monday, 21 August 2017

As Popular as Penyghent and Ribblehead Eh?

Mark Neale is an on-train guide on most of the steam trains that pass through Settle - including the Sunday Flying Scotsman trains this year.   Today he posted this on Facebook:

Mark Neale Mark Rand I pointed out what has now become `The Grand design house` to my passengers on Sunday as always. It seems to have become as popular feature as Penyghent and Ribblehead. Hope you dont mind!!!

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We can always tell which is Mark Neale's coach.   It's the one with people pointing at the water tower.   Most gratifying.   Of course, it's Restoration Man, not Grand Designs.   We often get asked what is Kevin McCloud really like!   We always put people right of course and tell them that George Clarke is a thoroughly nice chap.

Here's Mark Neale at Carlisle after one of his trips.                                                                                      

Stunning Picture at Ribblehead

I  know this Blog is supposed to be about the water tower but now and again something only vaguely related crops up that is worth sharing - such as this super photograph from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust's 2018 calendar.

 definitely click to enlarge

It shows Tornado going north with one of the Plandampf *trains one afternoon back in February.   There is snow on Ingleborough and just look at all those cars parked on the Ingleton road in the background behind the train.

* Plandampf - 'planned steam' trains at normal day to day fares.   All twelve S&C trains were packed, unsurprisingly.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Policing Bradford City Centre

This picture has popped up on a retired (thank God!) police Facebook group:

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It serves as a reminder that police officers in city centres like Bradford, where I started in January 1966, patrolled on foot in all weathers armed with a bit of wood in an elongated trouser pocket and a whistle.   No car, no radio, no body armour, taser - and definitely no baseball cap.

It sort of summed up for me a, thankfully, bygone age when coppers got wet and cold.   But I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Thursday, 17 August 2017


This lovely picture has appeared on Facebook and has attracted quite a few likes and shares

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It was taken soon after our big tree was felled and shows how the view of the water tower from the station has been opened up.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Water Tower Boy's Toys as Catalogue Props now Online

These three pictures are from Settle firm Piccalilly's autumn catalogue range of children and baby wear, just released.   The backgrounds certainly do not detract from or eclipse the models and their clothes do they?

A New Angle on Settle

This spectacular picture of Settle railway station and its setting has appeared online.    It is a drone shot looking north from somewhere higher than the station footbridge:

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As you can see I have used it for my computer's desktop image.   It reveals several interesting features:

1.   the water tower on the right
2.   the straightness of the railway line at Settle, exposing how mercilessly it marched across the town without the slightest deviation.   
3.  the double line of trees to the north of the station conceals the reality that the railway right through the town of Settle is on a high embankment between two substantial viaducts - Marshfield and Church
4.   its construction involved using the grounds of once grand houses - Ashfield, Marshfield and Whitefriars
5.   the building to the left of the station is at a crazy angle to the railway line and station, with a high retaining wall separating them.   It pre dates the railway and is shown on the original plans of Settle station in all its absurdness.   Land and building owners were compensated handsomely.
6.   it also invaded the lands of Settle church and even Settle cricked ground!
7.   Pen y Ghent is just visible on the horizon.

The Sky at Night

Even Settle is not too bad for light pollution in the night sky, especially as they have recently converted our few street lamps to downward facing LEDs.   From the top of the tower we get a reasonable view of the stars but nowhere near as good a view as at Ribblehead, not too far away.

Ribblehead is fast becoming a haunt for night sky photography.

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The viaducts itself provides a dramatic foreground and any remnants of the setting sun below Chapel le Dale behind it provides contrast with the dark sky above.   This long exposure shows the current Perseid meteor shower obliging.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

I Have Opened Giggleswick Horticultural Society Show

Well, today was the BIG day for many in Settle and Giggleswick - the 76th Annual Giggleswick Horticultural Society Show and I had rashly agreed to open it.   Believe me this is an honour in these parts.

Pat and I were hosted to a super lunch and then had time to look at some stunning exhibits before the official opening at which I made a speech, of sorts, before declaring the thing open.   Afterwards I had to present the prizes.  My word, after 76 years there wasn't half some silverware to be presented.

In all humility and modesty it was a great honour to be asked to play a part in an event that had been going even longer than I have.   The first GHS show was in 1940  when the country was at war and 'digging for victory'.   Had Captain Mainwaring and the boys walked in they would have felt quite at home today.

 Up in lights on the front of the programme

 At the magnificent venue of Giggleswick School

 This rather appealed to my quirky sense of humour.

 Somebody here knows his onions.

I am not ofter seen in a jacket and tie in Settle.

The prize winners were young and old.   Aaaah, bless her.

Altogether a magical, very English country occasion.