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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Morritt Avenue

Quite a while ago I did a rather self indulgent blog posting about the houses in which I had lived:
Re-looking at it I realise I need to finish it but I shall spare you that for now.

It is always great to get feed-back to items on this Blog and frankly I did not expect that one to attract any but I was wrong.

The house that prompted comment was my childhood home of 7 Morritt Avenue in Halton, Leeds.

When built Morritt Avenue was quite a sight, sufficiently so that postcard images of it were made and presumably sold.   Present and long-time resident of Morritt Avenue Phil Driscoll has sent me some very newsy updates about Morritt Avenue's comings and goings included among which were early postcard images featuring number seven, no less:

click to enlarge (recommended)

As Victorian semis go Morritt Avenue's were magnificent - huge and ornate in the extreme.   Each pair was different - not hard to achieve with that amount of detailing.   Some succumbed to 'modernisation' over the years with cement rendering and so on but I am glad to report that some have been restored to their original appearance based on the evidence of pictures like these - and what is being rediscovered behind rendering and cladding.

Number 7 is the second semi on the right in the lower picture, part of the pair in the foreground.

Not only was Morritt Avenue as built a gated road, it was intended to be tree lined once the saplings matured.   There are no trees there now, nor during my time there in the 1950s and 60s.   Perhaps they fell victim when electricity arrived in the avenue and cables had to be laid?   Certainly number 7 was lit by gas when first built, evidenced by tiny pipes in what would nowadays be regarded as outrageously dangerous places.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

We're Becoming Iconic

Dunno if that link will work.   It's a link to one of those Facebook 'groups' that you have to join and be approved before you do so.

That one's For Sale in Settle - a very handy means of buying, selling or just giving away in a given locality.

Anyway, these groups can chop and change their background picture and I am honoured, delighted and thrilled to be able to report that an image of our water tower has been chosen as the title page background for For Sale in Settle.

It's this one:-
click to enlarge - credit flashpast photography

(Dammit my spellchecker wanted to make that credit 'Flashiest Photography'.   Some of these 'intelligent' aids to modern life are damnably annoying.)

Anyway, I suppose that the big SETTLE letters were a major factor in its choice by the panel of judges.   The implication is that we are becoming a bit of an iconic image of Settle, which is jolly nice too.

We still have the big yellow letters, having taken them down when the 2016 Flowerpot Festival finished, partly for fear of prosecution for offending planning law.   We have asked Settle Town Council, who own the letters, what they want to do with them.   One good place would be on the railway-facing wall of a bland industrial unit on the railway approach to Settle.

The Clerk to Settle Town Council enquired of the planning authority, Craven District Council about planning permission (got that GCHQ, the Kremlin and the Pentagon?).    They replied in the stiffest of terms that planning permission was required for this 'advertisement' and the fee would be somewhere north of £300.    That ball is now in the court of Settle Town Council. 

Anticipating the Settle Town Council have better things to do with £300+ than give it to Craven District Council (still with me) I have nearly decided to put the letters into temporary storage on the left of the tank for summer 2017.

I have asked the 4,000* or so participants in Facebook For Sale in Settle what they think of my idea as I really do not want to upset anybody.    So far it is 100% 'likes' for the idea among the 15 who have expressed an opinion.    I think I need a few more before I am comfortable in exposing myself to a criminal conviction and a potential fine of £2000 +.

I am considering equipping the letters with wheels so that they become 'vehicles' which are exempt from planning law, like the coal truck.

Maybe we need a Donald Trump to rid us of some of this crap?

* the population of Settle is only 2000-ish so my brain is beginning to hurt.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

And Now Tornado Too

Perhaps the second most in-demand and famous locomotive in the UK after Flying Scotsman is Tornado.   In a double-whammy for the soon-to-re-open S&C news was broken this week that Tornado would haul twelve scheduled Northern passenger services over the roof of England on Valentine's Day and the two following days February 14, 15 and 16.

These are the timings

This will be the first time in fifty years that this has happened in the UK.

It is being done as a thank-you to the S&C's passengers whose line has been closed to through traffic for well over a year because of the Eden Brows landslip.

A huge attraction wherever it runs on the main lines, the chance to ride behind Tornado will be at normal day to day fares.  They go on sale next week and booked seats are reservable at any UK station or online on Northern's website.

As with Flying Scotsman (see a couple of posts ago) the planning has been done in secret.   For some months I was one of just three people who knew about it, which was quite a burden.   A leak could have scuppered the whole thing.

Now it is very much in the public domain and the clamour for tickets is already unprecedented.   Book early to avoid disappointment!

click to enlarge
Tornado in the National Railway Museum in York

and on a previous outing on the Settle-Carlisle line

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Might Have Found a Pinchbar

A pinchbar? I hear you cry.   They were once commonplace items of equipment wherever railway wagons or other rail vehicles needed to be moved short distances.

 National Railway Museum photographs taken in Kings Cross Yard.

In effect, a long lever that would provide enough purchase between a wheel and the railway line.

Well, there's one on E-bay right now.   Only trouble is it is in Wales and I'm in Settle so enquiries are in hand as to its weight.   Then I can see if a courier can be found who can oblige.

Meantime, I thought you would be interested.   Well, if it crops up at a quiz night you'll thank me for this broadening of your horizons.

Sadly this looks like falling through as carriage would be something north of £100 as the item weighs 26 kg and is just over 3m long.    Unless anybody has a van or lorry that goes to south Wales sometimes.    Some you win.

We think we may have found a way to get this up here sometime.   Pinchbars move in mysterious ways.  The back axle of our 1914 Model T Ford came here under the driver's seat, as it were, of  jumbo jet from America.    A pinchbar from Wales should be less of a challenge. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Book Now for The Flying Scotsman

Tickets have just gone on sale at £220 each for the re-opening train on 31st March, hauled by the magnificent Flying Scotsman.

click to enlarge

On that day the train starts from Oxenhope at the end of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) and then via Keighley and Skipton it goes the full length of the by then reinstated Settle-Carlisle line, right to Carlisle.

This has been organised in some secrecy over the past few months and I have had the privilege to have been involved.

Tickets via the KWVR website.   Please form an orderly queue.

We hope the media that day will be full of S&C things and Flying Scotsman will be a great boost and crowd-puller.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

I am on Google Earth

This may not work but here goes,-2.2802548,3a,90y,124.57h,81.58t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s4ezUolz_hYBjQ3_H98RpwA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

It is Google Earth and if you navigate up the station drive you will see me - the chap in the green boiler suit, about to be run over by a Google Earth camera car.

click to enlarge

You can spin round and see the water tower in all its glory.

If you travel along Settle's roads you will see some excellent pictures of Flower Pot Men.

To followers in the Kremlin, ask one of your buddies at GCHQ what Flower Pot Men are all about.

Lob-a-dob.   Weed.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Croggy Station

Groggy is Leeds-speak for the suburb of Crossgates, on the eastern side of the city on the railway line to York.   The first two pictures below show what a large and busy place Croggy station was.   Generous canopies and wide platforms, lit by gas.

I spent much of my childhood there.   The station and booking hall were still then staffed.   The gas lamps were still how it was lit.   A twilight job was to go round with a long (to me) pole with a hook at its end with which to pull gently on a chain with a ring at its end to turn on the gas.   The kindly (but probably simply idle) men at the station used to 'let' me turn on the gas lights and to sweep the platforms with an immensely wide brush.   When from time to time new posters arrived I was allowed to paste them onto the notice boards.   These posters, usually of seaside scenes, castles and such were in the style of railway posters that nowadays sell for fortunes.

Posters were pasted on top of posters until the depth became absurd when they could be ripped off most satisfyingly.   What joy.

Notice the footbridge in the middle distance of the first picture.   That footbridge became home from home for me and any number of boys the highlight of whose lives was to watch the trains (all steam of course) and note their numbers.   

Sometimes a Leeds-bound stopping train would come to a halt with its chimney at or under that footbridge.   Temptation indeed for boys worthy of the word.   Stones, apple cores or whatever came to hand would be dropped down the chimney in the most times forlorn hope that they would be blown back up at us when the train set off.

Happy days.

 click to enlarge

 The two pictures below are more from my era.   Both seem to show A3 Pacifics - the same class of engine as Flying Scotsman - taken absolutely for granted then as part of the day to day scene.

There was a junction just to the east of Croggy station where the tracks divided - right to York and on to Newcastle and left to Wetherby.   The Wetherby line is no more.

Leeds bound express trains from York would take those points at speed - maybe 90mph or more - who knows?   Most did not have speedometers.   Etched on my brain still is the spectacle of a locomotive named Sugar Palm lurch sideways over those points looking for all the world as though it was going to derail.   It didn't but I bet some coffee was spilt at the very least.


Oh dear, this is Crossgates in April 2016:

There is no commentary, just wind noise.   You half expect a bundle of marram grass to come rolling along just like in those old, politically incorrect, cowboy films we used to watch at the now long-gone Ritz cinema alongside the station entrance on the main road.  

There is little to show of what was.   The wide platforms and the distance between them - clearly enough for four tracks - remain as hints.   The one-time fast lines are becoming overgrown.   Buddleia will soon substitute for wailing steam whistles at speed.

The massive brick walls of the access ramps are still there but graffiti now defiantly triumphs over tolerant neglect.   What was a magnificent canopied main building is now a glorified bus shelter, branded Metro whatever that means.   Our cameraman wanders westwards towards the Leeds end, towards the road bridge, wafting to and fro but finding nothing of interest.   Oh, blessed relief there are cycle racks, with a generous roof too.   Was it a 'funded project'?   Part of a scheme no doubt, put there by the sort of funny money that is drip fed to the regions from time to time.   No bicycles though.   And, least said,  lamp posts.

But hang on!   Where is the footbridge?   MY footbridge..

Another leap forward three score years and ten.   Here is a Youtube view of Crossgates nowadays complete with commentary from today's enthusiast, armed not with an Ian Allan trainspotters book but with a camcorder.

Long gone are the days when trainspotters like me wrote down engine numbers in a notebook, to be neatly underlined later with pen and ruler in the Ian Allan book once back home.

Those books were regional and 'my' region was the LNER - the London and North Eastern Railway on which Crossgates was.   Locomotives from other regions like the Midland were of little interest.   Only six figure numbers beginning with a 6 were for us.

Your parents fuck you up* according to Philip Larkin.    My parents threw away my half-full Ian Allan book when it was decided that I must 'grow up'.   I am sorry I disappointed them.

*     “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you."

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Taking on Water at Settle Down

This picture has popped up on Facebook -
click to enlarge

It shows Jubilee class locomotive Kolhapur taking on water at the Settle down side water crane - served by our water tower of course.   Kolhapur was a regular on the S&C at the very end of the steam era.   From the details below it is likely to have been between April 1966 and October 1967 when the locomotive was at Leeds Holbeck depot.

This is likely to have been a fast or semi-fast service to Carlisle, possibly with Appleby as its next stop.   A full tank of water from Settle would have given comfort that it had sufficient to climb over the 'roof of England'.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Come Back Russia, All is Forgiven

I recently did a Blog posting about who visited this Blog,  see

It reproduced the following table for visits to the Blog for one WEEK, up to 17th December, which revealed a surprisingly high number from Russia:

United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand

With the news media full of tales of the Russians spying on the Unites States, diplomats being sent home to Russia with no tit-for-tat reprisals I thought it would be fun to see if Russian interest in the Settle Station Water Tower was being maintained.

Here are the equivalent WEEKLY statistics for the last week, ending today:

United States
United Kingdom

Well,well,well.   Compare and contrast as examiners used to say.   The USA - remarkably consistent.   The UK - must try harder.   Australia - B+ for effort.   BUT where is Russia?   Nothing.   Zero.  Zilch. A weekly fall from 626 to zero stretches credibility.

Perhaps Russia has lost interest in Settle Station Water Tower.   The Pentagon is remaining vigilant and GCHQ is just slowing down as it's Christmas.   But WHAT should we make of the total absence of the Kremlin?

I did read somewhere that Russia was suspected of keeping tabs on western websites on an industrial scale.   Allegedly.    Could it be?

GCHQ - welcome to have a look to check the figures.

But be prepared for a lot of boring stuff about ball valves and Kingspan Envireau rainwater harvesting systems.