I was one of the Riccarton Junction “Railway Children.” My Father, Willie Jardine was a signalman for many years. Other village children were the Richardsons – Ina, Moira, Campbell, Jim, Jeanette and Isobel, Sandra Grant, Addie Thompson, Shirley Gasgoine, to name but a few.

What a privilege to have spent the first twelve years of my life in that happy, caring community.

As children we were blissfully unaware of the practical problems of living in a village where, apart from a long walk across the hill, the only access was by railway. We only knew the joy and freedom of the surrounding hills and valleys, loving families and always plenty of fun, games and other activities.

riccarton houses3

On the days when we were not in the classroom being taught our three R’s by Mrs.Rhodes or Mrs.Grant (who succeeded Mrs.Rhodes in 1946) we could be found playing on the hillside, or, on hot summer days paddling in the crystal clear pools of the burn which meandered and gurgled its way down through the hills and fields next to the village. Occasionally we dammed a pool to make it deep enough to swim. How excited we were when one of us mastered our first strokes.

Sometimes we lazily read or picknicked on the lush green grass bank, the stillness only broken by the occasional splash of a jumping trout or the bleat of a sheep grazing peacefully. I can still picture Thomas Beattie the Shepherd walking along the ridge of the hill with Glen the collie trotting happily at his side.

riccarton from bell hill

Winter dramatically changed the scene! Howling gales and sudden snowstorms often made it impossible for the trains to get through. Sometimes we came downstairs in the morning to find that the snow had drifted to a depth of several feet. Dad spent hours digging through drifts as tall as himself to reach our hens and pigs housed near the allotments. How we children loved the snow and could be seen on sledges of all shapes and sizes hurtling “doon the brae.”

When the shed where the pigs were housed was not in use, we scrubbed and disinfected it and one year I remember holding a concert there to raise money for charity. We had a mention in the “Hawick News” which was a great thrill!

riccarton from phaupknowe

One of the highlights of our year was sports day, when young and old alike abandoned themselves to an afternoon of running, jumping, wheelbarrow and three-legged racing, usually followed by a picnic and music from Stu Milligan on the accordion. How important I felt one year when asked to play my accordion to lead the procession from the school to the field where the sports were held.

Easter time saw most of our mothers carefully hard-boiling fresh free-range eggs wrapped in various things like onion skins to create lovely patterns on the shells. There was always lively competition to see who could create the prettiest patterns. Then “Auntie” Sarah Richardson, who lived at number 21, used to take us to a favourite spot where we rolled our paste eggs down the hillside.

Christmas was a magical time! Santa Claus always managed to reach us in time for our party. Archie Hardy, who lived next door, had something to do with the arrangements for Santa, I think!

The village ladies once again showed their baking skills. There was always a lovely spread.

riccarton_1907_2

When an addition to one of the families was due, a special engine and guards van was sent to take the Mother-to-be to the Haig Maternity Home at Hawick.

When my brother Hamilton’s birth was imminent, he was almost born in the guards van. It was a very relieved Joe Lamb who handed my Mother, Lily, into a taxi at Hawick station that night. He was born moments after arriving at the Home.

Probably the biggest thrill of all was when we travelled on the train to Hawick. As the huge engine puffed and smoked its way along the track and up towards Whitrope Summit, the sound of the wheels on the lines seemed to be saying “A cannae dae it – A hettae dae it.” Then when it reached the top “A can dae it – A can dae it!”

On special occasions we were treated to high tea in Hawick, but usually it was fish ‘n’ chips (what a treat) just before boarding the train for home, tired but happy.

Riccarton Junction may be no more, but forgotten? NEVER!!


This article was originally published in The Waverley Issue 08, Autumn 2005. It has been reproduced here as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Written by Katherine Montgomery. All photographs WRHA Archive Collection.

More tales from life at Riccarton Junction can be read about in Kit Milligan’s book ‘Riccarton Junction – Just a few lines’, available from the WRHA web shop at https://wrha.org.uk/the-association/merchandise/

Riccarton junction_PROOF copy 3


Copyright WRHA 2005 & 2020. No part of this article may be reproduced without express permission.

Posted by: wrha | May 16, 2020

Deltic Diversions – Richard Maclennan

 

Part 1

The Waverley Route and the Class 55s both had a life span far shorter than should have been the case. With the former closing 120 years after it opened and the latter having a life span of just over 20 years the British malaise of scrapping useful assets prematurely certainly applied.

Following a move to the Scottish Borders last year to see out my autumn years in the former railway cottage at Whitrope Summit an idea has been germinating in my brain to bring both passions together into one research project. What follows is an attempt to prove that every Deltic locomotive did at some point in its career work over at least some portion of the Waverley Route on a number of different types of service. In addition from using material from a number of trusted sources and publications I have also recreated a virtual cab ride over the route on a diverted Anglo Scottish express.

Evidence suggests that the Waverley route was not the stranger to Deltic power that some may think. The 98 miles between Edinburgh and Carlisle was shorter and less congested than the former Caledonian Railway route via Carstairs and was for many years the main diversionary route for the ECML, especially before the closure of the line to Tweedmouth via Kelso.

64B depot had a number of jobs to Carlisle including the prestigious through services to London St Pancras, still known colloquially as “The Pullmans”. So with route and traction knowledge not being a problem the stage was set for the occasional sound of 3300 horses unleashed on the 1:75 climb over Falahill, and up the 13 mile climb to the line’s summit at Whitrope.

The first recorded visit other than the prototype’s light engine run some years previously that I can find of a loco to the route was during the extremely hard winter of 1963 when during the month of January D9000 passed Whitrope heading south with an up diverted express. The last visit was by D9007 PINZA on the well documented and morbid final day rail tour on January 5th 1969.

Listed below is a fairly typical cross section of workings which would bring the class to the route. Data has been verified from a number of sources including the superb Chronicles of Napier website along with the archives of the Waverley Route Heritage Association.


D9000 March 14th 1967, 0124 Millerhill to Carlisle freight
D9001 May 6th 1966, 1000 ED-KX
D9002 Jan 4th 1969. Rail tour LDS to ED
D9003 Sep 16th 1967, 1200 KX-ED
D9004 June 8th 1968, 0X** HA-CAR
D9005 May 5th 1968, 2230 ED-KX
D9006 June 15th 1967, 3E09 parcels to CAR
D9007 January 5th 1969, Leeds to Edinburgh rail tour. Last north bound service to use the line throughout.
D9008 May 5th 1968, 2355 KX-ED
D9010 December 26th 1967, 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh
D9011 March 7th 1967, 0315 Millerhill to Hawick and 0658 return
D9012 July 16th 1967, 1400 KX-ED
D9013 July 16th 1967, 2230 ED-KX
D9015 July 16th 1967, 1940 KX-ED
D9016 July 16th 1967, 1215 ED-KX
D9017 July 16th 1967, 1000 ED-KX
D9018 July 16th 1967, 1000 KX-ED
D9019 July 16th 1967, 1400 ED-KX
D9020 December 31st 1966, 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh
D9021 December 23rd 1966, 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh

The above table offers the reader a reasonable representation of services worked by this iconic class over the Waverley Route. Most services were of course on diverted express services; however the 0658 Hawick to Edinburgh local service features on more than one occasion. This train would be a useful duty for a machine operating on only one power unit or requiring a test run following maintenance.

D9018_Longtown_160767 copy 2D9018 “BALLYMOSS” cruises through Longtown on Sunday 16th July 1967 working the diverted 1A16 service from Kings Cross. Photographer Keith Holt


 

22_21A little further on, D9018 “BALLYMOSS” crosses Shankend Viaduct with the diverted 1A16, 10:00 Kings Cross – Aberdeen ECML service on Sunday 16th July 1967. The diversion was a consequence of the derailment of the previous evening’s 12-coach Edinburgh – Leeds North Briton near Acklington (caused by a broken rail).

Photo Robin Barbour Collection (Courtesy Bruce McCartney)


The March 14th 1967 working for RSG is unusual and one can only speculate why the locomotive was used on a 45mph freight train and indeed what its back working from Carlisle would have been.

The visit of D9004 in June 1968 carries a clue in the head code as 0X usually signified a light engine move in connection with 1X01 the Royal Train, known in railway circles as “The Grove” although no further details can be found for number 4’s visit.

BM099D9002 “THE KING’S OWN YORKSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY” is seen between Hawick and Stobs on Sunday 16th July 1967 with the diverted 1A37 11:00 Edinburgh – King’s Cross.

Photographer Bruce McCartney


Readers may have noticed that missing from the above selection of workings are both D9009 and D9014. Thankfully records from the archive of the WRHA show that 14 worked through Hawick at least once on a diverted ECML service, however  no records exists for number 9. That of course does not mean it never did only no records appear to exist of it doing so.

22_23D9003 “MELD” is seen shortly after passing Hawick with the diverted 1A28 12:00 King’s Cross – Edinburgh on Sunday 16th July 1967.

Photo Robin Barbour Collection (Courtesy Bruce McCartney)


Regular diversions appear to have ceased after 1967 as the route was made ready for closure and as many of the line’s signal boxes had closed this reduced the line’s capacity to no more than a bare minimum.  Therefore it may be entirely possible that when ALYCIDON finally makes an appearance on the new Borders railway that it becomes the 23rd and final member of the class to have done so.

D9003_Kilnknowe_SquanceNot on a diversion but on a working logged as a training run for air brakes, D9012 “CREPELLO” with the 0815 ex-Hawick photographed north of Galashiels on a misty morning, Friday 12th April 1968.

Photographer Dougie Squance (Courtesy Bruce McCartney)


Note: Since Richard wrote this article D9009 ran to Tweedbank on the Borders Railway. Photos and article can be found at https://waverleyrouteha.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-deltic-borderer/

Part 2

It’s a grey morning at Edinburgh Waverley station in the autumn of 1965. The east end of the station is its usual busy  self with much traffic passing through the platforms and shunting of carriages to form any number of departing services.  Our eyes and ears are drawn towards platform 1 where an immaculate two tone green Deltic locomotive waits for the arrival of coaching stock to form the famous 10 o’clock Flying Scotsman service to London Kings Cross.

We leave the impatient mumble of the idling Deltic behind us and walk down from our vantage point onto the concourse where we note that the passengers are beginning to board 1A23. By the time we arrive the Deltic is out by Carlton Tunnel as it begins to back down onto the stock.  The station tannoy is warning intending travellers that due to flooding between Grantshouse and Reston the service will today be diverted via Hawick and Carlisle adding almost 2 hours to the overall journey time.

We walk towards the front of the train counting 12 maroon carriages including a buffet and dining car, the whole lot weighing in at around 440 tons gross. Approaching the Deltic we note its name and number as D9018 BALLYMOSS one of the 8 London based machines based at 34G shed (later to become the famous Finsbury Park).

Escaping steam is beginning to hiss through the  pipe between loco and stock as the Deltics steam heating boiler begins to do its job by providing heat and hot water to the train. The right hand side door slides open and we are invited into the cab to enjoy our impromptu footplate trip as far as Carlisle. Looking round we take it the sights and sounds of our cramped surroundings, the row of lights above the driver’s desk shows that both engines are running and no faults with the locomotive exist, Main air pressure is a steady 140psi and the brake gauges show we have 21” of vacuum brake pressure throughout the train.

The loco’s straight air brake is applied with 30psi registering on each of the locomotive’s brake cylinders. Finally the Deltic is carrying circa 800 gallons of boiler water and a steady 40psi of steam is now being pumped through the train.

The friendly driver introduces himself as Jock McBride and informs us that whilst now based at 64B his career actually started as a locomotive cleaner at the small shed at Hawick way back in 1921 and therefore he has an intimate knowledge of the route we are about to travel over and will gladly share some of that knowledge with us during our time together.

The signal at the end of the platform winks to green as the leather sound deadening curtain is pulled over to keep out the worst but certainly not all of the noise and draughts from entering the cab.  For the next 2 hours or so we are now cocooned in our own little world.

Come the appointed hour the controller of our mighty steed is nudged open and slowly, agonising slowly we began to move away from the platform and into the north bore of Carlton Tunnel.  The first 3 miles are totally uneventful and typical of any number of Deltic runs, it is only when the brakes come on and the locomotive lurched to the right over Portobello Junction and onto the Carlisle route proper that the significance of the journey began to dawn.

Once clear of the mainline power is slowly applied to warm the engines thoroughly for the significant climbing ahead.  After passing the recently opened Millerhill Yard a hive of shunting activity with several loco classes of EE, Sulzer and  a brace of Clayton locomotives patiently waiting work , the power handle is pulled all the way open and the Napier’s really start to sing and cover the south end of the yard with a dusting of milky white exhaust.

Once clear of Glenesk Junction (the line to Dalkeith sadly closing the year before) we began to climb at an initial gradient of 1:200 away from the coast and into the hills. The speedo is creeping round to the lines limit of 60mph before the gradient stiffens to 1:70 at Hardengreen Junction the line to Penicuik curving away to the right. Even for a mighty Deltic Borthwick Bank begins to take its toll and speed balances at around 45mph for the final few miles to the first summit.

Falahill is but a shadow of its former self with goods loops and banking sidings in the process of being lifted and only the signal box remaining standing in isolation amid the hills. With the controller now closed we can once again hold a conversation without shouting as we drop down through Heriot and Fountainhall and into the wide glacial valley of the Eldon Hills.  Skilful use of the brake is needed to keep our speed checked between 45-55 mph round the switch back valley of the Gala water.

The 249 yard Bowshank Tunnel is passed in just under 40 minutes from leaving Edinburgh. Speed is reduced further with the vacuum brakes checking us nicely for the approach to Galashiels and Kilnknowe Junction where the line from Peebles trailed in from the right until closure in 1962. The first major centre of commerce at Galashiels and 33 miles from Edinburgh is passed in 44 minutes and 50 seconds. Hot cups of tea brewed on the Deltics hotplate is passed around as we glide through the station at a stately 30mph.

As we pass Netherdale the home of the famous Gala RFC and over the river tweed to Tweedbank BALLYMOSS is given her head and the mesmerising sound of hard working twin Napier’s  carries on the chill wind of a November morning.

A mile south of the station we pass Selkirk Junction and the now freight only line to the town of the same name.  With the gradients much easier we climb at 60mph towards the town of Melrose and its superb station and Abbey (reputed to be the resting place of some of the remains of Robert the Bruce).

Running on 60 foot jointed track the clickty clack sound is broken for a moment by Ravenswood Junction and another one time Borders line to Duns. After flashing through St Boswells at 65mph we pass the recently closed line to Kelso and Tweedmouth a line which almost certainly was used by Deltics prior to closure and scene of the time diversionary route before its severance as a through line by the almost apocalyptic floods in the summer of 1948.

Our driver recounts warmly of how his predecessors would run that way with the nonstop ‘Capitals Limited’ after thrashing their A4 over Falahill to avoid stopping for a banking engine.  These enterprising men were not going to allow a diversion to get in the way of a nonstop trip to London and the tender would be in desperate need of water as they approached the first water troughs at Lucker.

As we twist and turn through Sir Walter Scott countryside we pass Belses and Hassendene stations at close to 70mph the Deltic eating up the miles with ease. After almost 50 miles of running we encounter our first cautionary signal on the approach to the town of Hawick the brakes go on hard as D9018 glides to a halt with 2 columns of lazy exhaust climbing skywards over the town.

The station at Hawick was situated on a viaduct high over the River Teviot and a visitor today would find it almost impossible to visualise this scene such is the scale of change in the last 50 years.   Our driver is passed a message from the one remaining signal box that we have a light engine running in front of us and as soon as it had cleared the block section ahead we would be on our way. This impromptu stop allowed the driver to nip back into the first coach to answer a call of nature and for a few minutes we are left alone to enjoy the sights and sounds of the footplate.

The sliding open of the cab door is followed by a chill blast of wind as Jock returns to his office. The semaphore section signal at the end of the platform finally clears as a tuneless parp on the Deltics horn followed by a brief rise in engine tone signalled the start of the 10 mile climb to the summit at Whitrope.

The start away from Hawick is a tortious one and careful use of the power handle is needed to keep the amps under control and avoid wheel slip in the damp cutting up the 1:72 gradients towards Lynwood viaduct.  The locomotives flanges squealed around the tight curves as more amps are fed into our 6 traction motors.  Now hugging the west side of the Slitrig valley speed is held at 30 mph and it is only on the approach to the site of the former army camp at Stobs is the power handle fully pulled fully open.

The twin Napier’s scream in defiance as we crossed Barnes viaduct and onto the steepest part of the climb at 1:65. Stobs was once the location of a huge military camp and had one of the largest fans of sidings on the whole route.   We continue to climb in a southerly direction and follow the course of the Slitrig water still on a rising gradient of 1:65.

The gradient finally eases over the magnificent 15 arch Shankend viaduct and allows our Deltic to gain a little speed before the final slog through the wild and windswept uplands. The valley opens up for the last few miles to Sandy Edge and the 1206 yard long Whitrope Tunnel.  The handle remains wide open for the whole length of the tunnel and right up until the line briefly ran level before passing the famous Summit box and remote cottages.

With the climbing now finished for this leg of the journey it is all downhill for the next 13 miles or so to the English Border at Kershopefoot. With speed still limited to 45mph careful and frequent use of the vacuum brake is needed as the long train snakes round the reverse curves towards Riccarton Junction.

This totally unique community totally depended on the railways for its existence and with no road access until 1963 everything had to be brought in or out by train, even the local Doctor in Hawick would travel up on a specially commandeered light engine if needed. Although by the time BALLYMOSS rumbled through in 1965 many of the houses are empty and the writing was on the wall for those hardy souls who had yet to leave.

We glide through the Junction at 15mph before passing the remains of the Border Counties branch to Hexham closed in 1956 with some of the line to be submerged under the huge Keilder Dam. We are now heading southwards under the shadow of Arnton Fell and still on a falling gradient of 1:75. The small wayside station at Steele Road flashed by as a short burst of power saw us over the small hump passed the ballast quarry at Mains and onto the magnificent Sandholm Viaduct and the approach to Newcastleton station (scene of the infamous last day protests involving outraged residents led by Reverend Brydon Maybon who at one point was taken briefly into custody by the local police).

We are now following the course of the Liddel Water as the train twisted and turned at 60mph ever nearer to the Border City of Carlisle.  After a further 2 mile descent this time at 1:200 we pass through Riddings Junction, the junction station for the recently closed Langholm branch and where we would have emerged had the railway had followed its original planned route from Hawick via Langholm.

The gradient continued to fall as we flew through Scotch Dyke exactly 86.5 miles from Edinburgh. We are now deep in the debatable lands and Border Reiver country and our driver tells us tales of the murderous feuds between Border families such as the Grahams,  Armstrongs and the Elliots.

The last major centre of note is Longtown with its town on the east side of the River Esk and the station on the West. It is now virtually level all the way to Carlisle and after clearing a 20mph engineering slack on the towns level crossing our Deltic is opened up to clear its throat and accelerate its train up to 70mph the ruling line speed for the remaining 10miles.

Lynside and Harker stations pass by at speed along with the small wayside halt at Parkhouse built to serve the large military presence in the area. In fact Parkhouse would continue to see a daily workers DMU service for some time after the line had closed as a through route.

The brakes now came on hard for the climb over the WCML at Kingmoor and onto the Eden Viaduct. With flanges squealing in protest and made our final approach to Carlisle passed the five story Canal box and the junction for the Silloth branch. Finally we rumble over Port Carlisle Junction and into Citadel station.

We arrive at our journeys end in platform 4 a few minutes over 2 hours and 20 minutes since leaving the Scottish capital. Carlisle was once home to no fewer than 7 railway companies and its station stands between the Citadel (prison and court house in one building, very convenient) from which it gets its name. We thanks Jock for his hospitality and jump down onto the platform to allow the relieving Newcastle crew access to the cab for the next leg over the 60 mile Tyne Valley route to Newcastle.

Walking past the impressive bulk of an idling BALLYMOSS we climb into the train to undertake the final leg of our journey to Newcastle by the more conventional means of a BR Mark 1 coach.


This article was originally published in The Waverley Issue 29, Spring 2017. It has been reproduced here as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Written by Richard Maclennan.

Please see the excellent Whitrope Siding blog for more of Richard’s work and how to help rebuild Whitrope Siding Signal Box:

https://whitropesiding.co.uk/


Copyright WRHA 2017 & 2020. No part of this article may be reproduced without express permission.

The Border Union Railway from Hawick to Carlisle was divided into a series of contracts, each of varying length and features. Here we concentrate on the Whitrope Contract.

These extracts were taken from the reports of the Engineers on the Border Union Railway. They have been compacted & compiled to make for easier reading and arranged in chronological order.


1859

The project commenced in September 1859, the Contractor was William Ritson and the resident Engineer was J.A.Harrison with John F Tone as the North British Railway engineer for the section Hawick to Newcastleton (Penton to Carlisle used Mr. Jopp as Engineer).

At 4 miles 5 furlongs in length, from Shankend to Whitrope Burn, this was certainly the most difficult section of the line comprising as it did the 15-arch Shankend Viaduct and the 1208-yard long Whitrope Tunnel, with five shafts and a large amount of water pouring into the tunnel.

The tunnel had been constructed under the site of a lochan that was fed by a number of streams. There was also the need to divert the road and build a large bridge where the railway crosses the Turnpike Road and the Whitrope Burn, this structure was later known as the Golden Bridge on account of its building cost.

The section of line from Shankend to the tunnel was also problematic on account of the topography running as it did along the side of Shankendshiel which caused the embankment to slide down the hill; this was exacerbated by the appalling weather which lasted for most of the almost three years that it took to complete the two contracts.

The volume of the cuttings to be made on this contract was 282,469 cu yds, which in total is about the same as the huge Ninestane Rigg Cutting, which is the Northern boundary of the Riccarton Contract.

At the beginning of the project most of the workmen were engaged on the Tunnel as would be expected, 197 men worked on the tunnel often twenty four hours per day including some miners whom Mr. Ritson had brought from his project in Wales at Briton Ferry.

The Whitrope contract was worth £72,000 and at the end it cost just over £76,000.  The project was supposed to be finished on 20th August 1861 but because of the appalling weather and the water pouring into the tunnel, the first passenger train actually ran on 1st July 1862.

The Shafts were numbered from the north and shaft number 1 was commenced on 16th November 1859 and the other shafts on 3rd October.  The deepest shaft was number 3, which amounted to 276 feet deep.  The problems with the water manifested themselves from the beginning.  A horse gin was constructed to pump out the water, this proved of only limited use.  It was only when a steam pump was finally hauled up from Hawick that the water level could be reduced.  Sadly a number of horses died of exhaustion in trying to reduce the levels before the steam pump arrived.

In October all the land had been purchased and three cuttings were in progress and a start had been made to all five shafts in the tunnel and a temporary “way” had been laid from the turnpike road at Limekilnedge along the line of the tunnel.  The shafts are all in red sandstone and the dimensions of each are 9ft x 7ft.  At this stage there is no sign of water but that changed very soon after.  17 navvy huts had been built and others were in progress.

By November 27 gallons of water per minute were pouring into shaft 4 and progress on this shaft has been stopped.  The number of men employed has now reached 316 men.  A temporary railway has been built along the tunnel; a steam engine to pump out the water from shafts 4 and 5 has been purchased and is “on the road”.

1860

In February, the weather was very bad and it has proved impossible for the men to “stand out”, the number of men has reached 393.  A horse gin (an example of which is shown below) has been erected at shaft 1 but the weather has been too bad to use it.

Wanted Quarrymen Limeburners Carlisle Journal Fri 20 Jan 1860

In shafts 2 and 3 the water ingress was running at 1210 gallons and 495 gallons per minute.  The pump obtained for shaft 4 was removed on Nov 30th 1859 and moved to shaft 2 and another was ordered which is now here and will take about one month to get working.

On shaft 5 a 12hp movable steam pump was stated to be on site and about to be erected, it was be in action three days” after the fine weather returns”.

The temporary railway over the tunnel had now reached 100ft north of the summit.

The turnpike road had to be realigned and this was completed in January, the burn which previously ran along the projected line of the railway was almost rerouted by February and a culvert had been built, this was the only masonry work which could be done in the month because of the weather.  Some work has been done on the internal fittings for the platelayers’ cottages.

“82 out of 150 navvy huts have been erected at Shankend and Langburnshiels, another 50 will be erected when the weather improves.”

Mr. Ritson asked for more land to be purchased to improve drainage and to provide against landslips between Shankend and Langburnshiels.

By the 16th March 1860 the foundations for bridge 200 (the golden bridge) were in progress and building should start as soon as the frost permits, the cottages were nearly complete.  110 temporary buildings had now been completed.

whitrope tunnel diagram


A cross section of the tunnel can be found here: Cross section PDF


Shaft number 1 was complete in March 1860 and work started on the headings using a double horse gin to remove stone and water, now running at about 300 gallons per hour. In this shaft a steam engine will soon be put into use.

Shaft number 2 was recommenced on the 15th March after two months of inactivity.  A set of 7.5 inch pipes were used to clear 23,000 gallons of water from the shaft in 19 hours using the steam engine.

Shaft 3 had to be lined because there was evidence of creeping that was endangering the men.  Shaft 4 was still at a standstill in March for want of a steam pump. One has been ordered from Messrs R & W Hawthorn.  In shaft 5 material was being drawn out by the steam engine and water hauled out using 100 gallon tubs.  At this shaft and shaft 1 sump holes have been made 7ft wide, 7ft deep and 20ft long.

In April 1860, the golden bridge (bridge 200) had been constructed up to the springing and foundations had been deepened because of the soft mud.

The bevel wheel of the horse gin broke but was quickly repaired on shaft 2 the engine and pumping gear was erected.  The engine on shaft 4 was erected at last.

The incline road over the tunnel has been completed and the engine to operate it has arrived on site.  Clay and slate have been found at the bottom of the tunnel, this will add considerably to the cost.

By May the number of men had reached 437, by this time it was stated that” the ground was so saturated with wet weather over the last six months that there was a considerable danger of slippage of the embankment.  The contractor is carefully preparing the footings for the embankment and letting them dry out before proceeding.”

The first death on the contract occurred in April 1860 when tragically a 40 year old subcontractor named Samuel Lambert was killed on shaft 2 on the 21st when he fell from a rope while he was ascending the shaft, Mr. Ritson was stated to be in no way to blame, the man was stated to have been reckless. “This has caused some delay.”  There wasn’t much progress on shaft 3; an engine that was erected at the summit will be used on the incline and on this shaft.  Work was recommenced at shaft 4 in May now that the engine is working.  There were problems with the foundations for both the bridge and the culvert that will entail extra cost.

BUR Whitrope Tunnel accident Carlisle Journal Friday 27th April 1860

By June the number of men had reached 522 plus 78 horses, which has been the average for the last few months.  By June we should have expected the ground to have dries out but this has not been the case.  Work was being carried out on the bridge that crosses the Whitrope Burn.  By June the first 118 ft. of the tunnel was completed at full size at shaft 5.  It was concluded that because of the nature of the stone the tunnel would need to be lined.

In June shaft 2 was nearly complete, the sump was being dug.  In shaft 4 a strong feeder of water was encountered. but work recommenced on the 6th June.

On 1st June 1860 at the bottom of shaft 5 the first stone of the masonry was laid without ceremony, this would be equivalent to the laying of the foundation stone in a building.

By July work still hadn’t started on the Shankend viaduct but finally Ritson has contacted Mr. Elliot of Stobs Castle and has permission to use a quarry at Wilson’s Shoulder close to the track to provide stone for the viaduct.  The alterations to the earthworks for the Whitrope Road were complete and preparations were in hand to spread the stone to surface the road.  Shafts 1, 2 and 5 were complete. ” Many horses working on shaft 3 have been killed and rendered useless due to the heavy nature of the work” but the large steam boiler that is now on site hopefully will alleviate the problem when it is installed.

Early on the 9th July another “large water feeder was pricked.  The men had to retreat from the tunnel even though at the time the steam pump was lifting 218 gallons per minute”.  The length of the stroke was increased and the level of the water decreased as a result.  The heading (the horizontal shaft) from shaft 1 has reached cutting number 30.  943 yds to go to the northern heading from shaft 5!  Lining of the tunnel will be required throughout because of the nature of the material.

BUR wanted Navvies, Wallers, Carlisle Journal Tues 31 July 1860

In September 1860 the contractor was still striving to find large enough stones at Wilson’s Shoulder to form the footings of the viaduct.  In October four of the footings had been started, a year after the project was started. It was stated that they have reached clay and slate rock between 3 and 5 feet below the surface.

In October Ritson was in touch with the agent of Sir William Elliott who had a quarry with better stone but Sir William had gone away and nobody knew where he was; no mobile phones in those days!  The centres of the Golden Bridge had been turned.  Much time was spent cleaning out Shaft three from the damage caused by the water that was contained in it before it could be pumped out, and problems remained with shaft four with the flow of water continued unabated. Another auxiliary shaft was formed to expedite the work on shaft five.

It was stated that the quality of stone produced by the quarry at Wilson’s shoulder is very inferior and therefore progress on the viaduct was very slow.

By November the number of horses was the same as previously and the 22 hired horses are used to bring material up from Hawick.  Nearly 50% of the earthworks had been completed.

In December it was said that some horses were used to bring coals up from Canonbie, this was used for heating in the dwellings and mainly to make quicklime for the preparation of mortar.

Finally at last Sir William Elliot was contacted and agreed to allow his land to be used for quarrying at a charge of £550; the quarry is about a mile from the viaduct at a place called Culing Bank.  In December all the shafts had reached the base level.  Some delays were experienced in shaft four because of the pumps breaking down.

excavating

whitrope tunnel built

1861

In January 1861 an attempt was made to use water from shaft one to feed the engine but there was too much clay sand etc. in the water.

In shaft two a workman was killed by a fall of stone from the roof, another miner had to have his leg amputated and another was seriously injured.

BUR Whitrope Tunnel accident Carlisle Journal Friday 11th January 1861

In shaft five a full size section of the tunnel had been driven to a distance of 12 ft.

In February, the contractor had laid 1600 yds of temporary way towards the quarry for the viaduct and quarried a considerable amount of stone.  More pumps were put down at shaft 5 a considerable feeder of water has been found 276 yds north of the shaft. A great deal of water has prevented any work on the tip and the shaft mouths.

In March it was necessary to divert a 100yd length of the Slitrig (Langburn) near Langburnshiels because it was impossible, due to the wetness of the soil, to stabilise the embankment without the bottom of the embankment being in the river and therefore being eroded.

Mr. Ritson has acquired 22 more stonemasons to accelerate progress on the viaduct; this has required some additional temporary houses.  The new quarry at Culing Bank has yielded a very excellent quality of stone.

In April 1861 the piers and the south abutment of Shankend viaduct are now founded and have been built up to 14 feet above the surface. 31 masons are now employed on this; a total of 136 men on this part of the project.

323 men are now working on the tunnel in three eight-hour shifts, the greatest number were on shaft 5 where 105 employed including 20 miners and 21 masons.  52 men have been working on pumping of the water from the foundations of the Shankend Viaduct.

In May the number of men on the whole Whitrope section had reached 642; the early part of the month was spent cleaning out cuttings and preparing the roads after the bad weather; on the viaduct there were 47 masons and 52 labourers; including quarrying the total number of men is 158. This quantity of men is not sufficient to complete the viaduct in time so Mr. Ritson is to take on an additional 25 masons.  Due to the soft nature of the material of the north abutment, it was necessary to increase the depth of the foundations by 6 to 10 feet.  The masonry on the viaduct was stated by the engineer to be excellent and the stones are large and of superior quality.

The heading between shafts number 1 and 2 in the tunnel has been widened so as to allow full size earth wagons access was completed.

In July it was stated that to prevent erosion of the embankment by the Slitrig a small groin would have to be constructed. 90 additional wagons have been purchased or are on the road to speed the movement of soil.  4243 yds of fencing have been erected out of 14,000 yds;  5276 yds of rail had been laid out of 16,040 yds. Just over 16% of the ballast had been laid by July.  The Shankend viaduct should be complete by 9th November. Mr. Ritson was taking on as many miners, masons and labourers as he can find.

In August the amount paid over to the contractor was £44,233 out of the £72,000 total value of the contract and 952 men were employed plus 63 horses. ” The problematic embankment 26 near Langburnshiels is now standing firmly and will be completed more quickly than expected.  Mr. Ritson has purchased a small locomotive for the purpose of bringing material between the tunnel and Shankend.”

In September Mr. Tone stated that the number of men was now 975 plus 69 horses. In October the number of men had exceeded 1000 and stood at 1084 and in November 1152.  Great difficulty was being experienced in getting the railway locomotive from Hawick to Langburnshiels because of “the frequent abrupt turnings in the road”; it was stated to be about half a mile away from its destination.  At this stage about 11 of the 15 arches had been “turned”.  Track laying had been progressing apace with 239 yds being laid in the month and 4500 cu yds of ballast having been put down.

On 30th September the masons working on the viaduct went on strike because a ganger had threatened to dismiss two of their number for coming to work late.  The masons marched to Hawick led by a fiddler.” They had a rare night’s fun” according to the Hawick Advertiser as if to celebrate them joining “the big shop of the unemployed”. 22 fresh men have been recruited to replace them according to the Hawick Advertiser.

In late September 1861 the last section of the tunnel was complete so that it was possible for a man to crawl through the last opening; a party was thrown by the contractor according to the Hawick Advertiser.

In December 1861 the number of men had risen to 1234 and at the beginning of 1862 it had reached 1368 plus 89 horses. All the arches had been completed; this was the peak of activity on the Whitrope Project.

CUTTING EMBANKMENT 1

 

1862

By February 1862 the tunnel was almost complete and water could now be allowed to flow through it, the section between shafts 3 and 4 had still to be completed.  Some problems were still being experienced with slippage of the embankment at the south end of the Shankend viaduct following very heavy rain; ballast material is now being hauled up to the line between Shankend and Langburnshiels. One of the embankments was affected by the heavy rain with slippages of eight to ten feet along a 100-foot section.

A railway locomotive arrived in Newcastleton on 14th February that caused great excitement; some directors and engineers rode on it from Scots Dyke to Hermitage.  Only about forty years earlier the good folk of Copshawholm were astounded to see a wheeled vehicle for the first time in their town, namely Sir Walter Scott’s horse drawn coach.

Work on the cuttings at Shankend, Wilson’s Shoulder and the North End of the tunnel is now taking place 22.5 hrs per day.

In April 1862 the Viaduct was now complete except for minor finishing off.

In May the weather was said to be very favourable for once, Shankend Station was under construction and it was said that the permanent way would be ready for inspection by the Board of Trade in ten days.

1285 men were still employed but most of these will dispensed with shortly apart from the platelayers. Only 300 cu yds of earthworks were still to be done out of 282,469 cu yds!

Captain Tyler inspected the work from Riccarton and in mid June it was stated that the line from Hawick to Riccarton Junction was finished subject to inspection by the Government Inspector.

On the 21st June 1862 Captain Tyler reported that the line was ready for opening apart from some slight signalling modifications at Riccarton Junction. The first goods trains ran on the same day sometimes with passenger coaches attached. The first goods to pass directly from Edinburgh to Carlisle were some bolls (sic) of flour for Carrs of Carlisle.

The line was opened without a formal ceremony from Hawick to Carlisle on 1st July 1862, just under three years since Mrs. Hodgson cut the first sod in September 1859.  It was in fact almost one year behind schedule.

On 30th June the Mail Coach from Carlisle to Hawick ran for the last time.

On Saturday 12th July excursion trains ran from Hexham to Melrose and Edinburgh; unfortunately few passengers alighted at Hawick “as we have little to induce strangers to stop here” according to the Hawick Advertiser.


Originally published as a display for Whitrope Heritage Centre, it has been reproduced here together with additional material as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Written by Bill Morrison, David Tough and Matt Stoddon. Illustrations by Matt Stoddon.

Further photos and details about Whitrope Tunnel can be found at the following web pages, that we can thoroughly recommend:

https://whitropesiding.co.uk/f/the-rise-and-fall-of-whitrope-tunnel

http://www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/tunnels/whitrope.html


Copyright WRHA 2020. No part of this article may be reproduced without express permission.

Posted by: wrha | May 2, 2020

The Scottish Lowlander

001_ticketTicket from the railtour. M.G.Stoddon Collection


On 26th September 1964 the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society railtour “The Scottish Lowlander” set out from Crewe at 0915. The tour travelled north to Carlisle behind Duchess 46256 Sir William A Stanier FRS, where 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley took charge for the run north over the Waverley Route.

Not without incident, the tour was initially announced incorrectly at Carlisle as the 0930 Manchester to Glasgow, the rear three coaches being for Edinburgh, and this may have been partly to blame for the stray passenger who boarded.

What he witnessed, however, after an initial wrong routing and set-back at Carlisle No.3 signal box, was one of the most explosive northbound runs over the Waverley Route. The performance of Sir Nigel Gresley on that ascent of Whitrope was described as simply magnificent, an all-time record for the Waverley Route with the load of 450 tons. Even nowadays it is difficult to comprehend such a feat.

Timed for twenty-one minutes from Newcastleton to Whitrope, the actual time was reduced to fifteen minutes for the ten miles up the constant grade with only three minutes taken for the two miles to the summit from Riccarton Junction. From Hawick, where a water stop was made for ten minutes, the tour continued to Niddrie West Junction. Here 60009 Union of South Africa took over for the run back to Carlisle via Glasgow St John’s and the Glasgow & South Western.

At Carlisle 46256 once again took charge, for its final ever run over Shap, back to Crewe. It was then withdrawn and scrapped. The fate of 60007 & 60009 was quite different. 60007 is currently under overhaul at the National Railway Museum in York; 60009 has just retired from mainline duties and is spending its final year in traffic at the East Lancashire Railway.

The following is an extract from the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society’s railtour report.


We set off from Crewe at 0915 with 46256 Sir William Stanier F.R.S. hauling twelve bogies of 416 tons tare and 450 gross. On the short runs to Warrington and Preston the engine displayed a liveliness that promised well for the sterner tasks to follow.

Tebay was passed at 60mph and speed increased on the initial 1 in 146 to 61mph at Tebay North I.B.S. This involved an estimated drawbar horsepower (e.d.b.h.p.) of 2400. Shap Summit was passed at 38mph in 6¾ minutes from Tebay. With 450 tons such a time is worthy of a Duchess at its best. The descent to Carlisle was delayed and restrained but the net time of 90½ minutes for the 90.1 miles from Preston was excellent.

002_carlisleHaving come off the train at Carlisle Citadel 45256 Sir William Stanier FRS heads through platform 4, whilst 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley waits in platform 3 to take the tour north over the Waverley Route. Photo EN Bellas / M.G. Stoddon Collection


The sensation of the day was still to come, however. 46256 was very appropriately replaced by 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and the train set off six minutes late and was promptly put on the wrong road at Carlisle No.3. After setting back we restarted passing Canal Junction 12½ minutes late.

003_carlisle60007 simmers at Carlisle Citadel waiting time. Photo EN Bellas / M.G. Stoddon Collection

003b_carlisleAfter being wrongly routed onto the main line to Glasgow at Port Carlisle Branch Junction the train ground to a standstill and after a short delay was reversed until clear of the junction and then restarted on the correct route, seen here. Photo Geoff Plumb


There were gloomy forebodings on the train as 450 tons was a heavy unaided load for the Waverley Route and anyway wasn’t an A4 a flyer rather than a climber?

Rounding the curve just north of Penton, 60007 puts on a fine sight as it heads north. Photo Geoff Plumb

Seen from the train, 60007 is blazing away just north of Steele Road on the climb to Whitrope Summit. Photo Geoff Plumb

Again seen from the train, 60007 passes Riccarton North signal box. Photo Geoffrey Robinson

2020-05-06-0001Just after milepost 65, 60007 is about to cross bridge 203 on the climb between Riccarton Jct and Whitrope. Photo Paul Riley / M.G. Stoddon Collection


We thought we could hardly hope for much recovery but how wrong we were! 60007 ran like an engine possessed and was 7½ minutes early at Niddrie Junction after a ten-minute stop at Hawick.

A recorder travelling alone could hardly expect others to accept a net time of 58½ minutes from Carlisle to Hawick, and 15 minutes 14 seconds from Newcastleton to Whitrope Siding. It was as well that this was a rail tour with many confirmatory timings.

It is safe to assume that the e.d.b.h.p. was in the 2000 to 2100 range and the effort was sustained for fifteen minutes! This would appear to be the highest power output ever recorded by an A4 in this particular speed range and is as great a tribute to the designer’s masterpiece as this same engine’ many high speed exploits.

In the whole history of steam railroading is there any other major incline where the heaviest published unaided load also made the fastest recorded ascent?

Driver Maclaren and Fireman Whiteman of Kingmoor are to be congratulated on proving that, even at almost the eleventh hour it was possible to write another brilliant page in the history of steam.

The photographers made full use of the Hawick stop where 60007 stood blowing off against the background of a stormy sky. Then good running continued with an ascent to Falahill nearly as notable. There have been slightly faster climbs up the Gala Water but never with such a load.

Photographers swarm the tracks at the north end of Hawick station whilst 60007 takes on water. Photo M.G.Stoddon Collection

008_hawickSimmering away at Hawick, 60007 takes a well-deserved rest following its record breaking run. Photo M.G.Stoddon Collection


A long engine change at Niddrie West Junction delighted the photographers but used up the early arrival. Our new engine 60009 Union of South Africa negotiated the Edinburgh Suburban Line at a moderate pace. As we took the Glasgow line we had distant views of the two Forth Bridges, the comparisons favouring the railway bridge (was there some bias here?).

Some passengers were delighted to get a number of Claytons in Scotland, but one member who thought that a Clayton was a steam wagon (one of which still exists in Norfolk) was bitterly disappointed! A special stop was made at Lenzie Junction to set down a passenger who had joined at Carlisle in mistake for the Glasgow train behind us. Perhaps ordinary trains at Carlisle always disgorge 200 stampeding photographers!

In 1937 when these classes were new, Mr. C.J. Allen wrote that the speed contest had reached the stage of “honours easy.” We could ask for no better assessment of the hill climbing contest dated 26th September, 1964.

009_timingsTimings of the record-breaking run, as reported in the RCTS journal, The Railway Observer.


This article was originally published in the WRHA members’ journal “The Waverley” issue 12, spring 2008. It has been reproduced here together with additional material as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Written by Matt Stoddon, with thanks to the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society for the railtour report, Geoff Plumb for the use of his photos and Dave Smith for additional info.
Further observations from the day can be found online at https://www.sixbellsjunction.co.uk/60s/640926sl.html
More of Geoff Plumb’s photos can be found at http://www.plumbloco.co.uk

Copyright WRHA 2012 & 2020. Photos copyright of the respective photographers. No part of this article may be reproduced without express permission.

Posted by: wrha | April 25, 2020

Tales from the Signal Cabin – Roy G. Perkins

Alexander Robson was my grandmother’s brother and therefore my Great Uncle, but more significantly for our present purposes he was one of the signalmen at Newcastleton Signal Box. The many exploits of Sandy or Sned as he was almost universally known throughout the Borders, are still recounted by older villagers of the Holm and elsewhere, to this day; some involving the railway and others not. For this was one of those people who richly earned the soubriquet ‘larger than life’.

From an early age I was taken to the box to visit Uncle Sned, but by the time I was eight years old I was judged, in those now far off and gentler days, to be old enough to go there on my own. And so I did.

Sned took a fairly robust view of childhood and I was quickly initiated into the workings of the Signal Box such that I knew how the box worked, the ‘bell codes’, which levers had to be pulled in which order, how to work the level crossing, and the meaning of engine whistles at different points on the line. So I knew how to do it, the problem for this small boy was that I wasn’t strong enough to pull off some of the levers. The development of my physical strength was roughly monitored by the great man himself from time to time as I was ‘invited’ to try pulling off the ‘up’ advanced starter, at this stage with little success.

My first moment of glory however was to arrive sooner than I expected. I remember the evening particularly for it was a Thursday night in autumn 1958 and I was in the box with Sned and his son Bryan, my Cousin, when the ‘Riccarton pilot’ came rattling into the village unannounced. The crew of the pilot gently ambled their unhurried way to the box and notified all of us that they were intending to wend their way to the bar at the Liddesdale hotel; a journey of about 100 yards.

Sned grunted his approval and off they went into the darkness having put their mount into the goods yard in order to clear the running line. Even at my tender age I had more than a suspicion that such action was contrary to the rulebook, but such was the way of things in those days on the Waverley that nobody seemed to care or to come to any harm.

The Riccarton pilot of the day was one of those then new fangled, and strange-looking British Railways ‘Standard’s No 78046 which had replaced old friends like ‘Wandering Willie’, ‘Cuddie Headrigg’ and the ‘Laird o‘ Monkbarns’. From the time the engine crew had left the signal box about half an hour must have elapsed before Sned received the message that there was a train on the way that would require the services of the ‘pilot’. Without further ado Bryan and I were despatched to the goods yard charged with blowing the whistle and by this means recalling the engine crew from their recreation.

So we set off along the ‘down’ platform’ and across the running lines to the goods yard and the locomotive. As was customary, the pilot had arrived from Riccarton tender first so we had to walk past the tender in the dark before being able to climb into the cab. We scrambled up the steps into the cab which seemed positively cavernous after what we were used to and to our horror it was even darker in the cab than it was outside, the fire door being shut. We groped around in the unfamiliar surroundings without success, for neither of us had possessed the wit to equip ourselves with a torch and the whistle seemed amazingly elusive. Eventually conscious of the train advancing from the south we had to make our way, shame-faced, back to signal box and own up to our failure. Our admission was greeted with a great deal of descriptive language which I was not familiar with in those days, as Sned exchanged his slippers, which he invariably used in the box, for a pair of stout boots for the short walk to the goods yard.

It was then only a few minutes before we heard the shrill whistle break the evening silence and only a few minutes more before the two breathless enginemen arrived at the signal box to find out what was afoot.

They were quickly appraised of the situation and it was resolved to put the loco into the down refuge in readiness for the train’s arrival. This involved releasing the loco from the goods yard pulling off the up Starter, having previously opened the gates of the level crossing, then switching the cross-over, opening the points to the down refuge, putting the loco in and then returning everything to normal before the train arrived. Quite a tall order.

Nevertheless all was accomplished with that unflappable air of the long-term delinquent to which I would become accustomed. The train and its pilot continued on their way and nobody was any the wiser;… until now. And so I made my way home over the fields to be greeted with a sound ticking off for being late for supper.

sned

‘Sned in his lair’ Alexander Robson in Newcastleton Signal Box. Photo Roy G. Perkins

It must have been the following year when my next adventure occurred. I was once again in the box but this time with Sned on his own, and during a very warm afternoon. This time a man whom I didn’t know arrived on the road outside the box. He and Sned exchanged banter for some minutes before Sned turned back to me and asked if I could ‘mind the box’ for a few minutes whilst he went to look at a beast that was evidently sick.

At this point I should perhaps explain that foreby his signalman duties Sned was also a smallholder and acted very much as the local vet. I assured him I could do everything except pull off the two distant signals, which he seemed to regard as of little account. So with an admonition to ‘keep an ear out for the bells’ he disappeared I knew not where. Like, I suppose any other small boy in similar circumstances, I immediately started to worry myself about what might happen. What would happen if … An inspector arrived, unusual but not unheard of; there was a runaway, if Carlisle Control phoned, indeed if any of the other signal boxes phoned. Eventually it dawned on me that in any of these circumstances there was nothing to be done. I was unable to go for help because I couldn’t leave the box completely empty, inadequate though my presence may be.

The bells rang from time to time four or five trains trundled through under warning distant signals and I sat back with some trepidation to await the arrival of the ‘up’ Waverley express for that would expect a ‘clear’ road and questions night be asked as to why the distant was not pulled off. Either by good luck or by impeccable judgement Sned arrived back, some two hours after his departure and at almost the same moment that Steele Road sent through the signal asking me to accept the express. I was saved almost literally by the bell as Sned belled back and pulled off the distant. Over the next few years I was to experience the same situation many times but never again did it hold the same fears for me as on that first occasion.

I can’t say that I remember Sned having much to say about locomotives, either a class of locomotives or an individual one. To this general rule there was one decided exception, the Gresley A3 Pacific of Class A3 60096 Papyrus. Quite what this engine had done to earn Sned’s displeasure was never clear to me but it never passed without a ‘guid sweerin’. Perhaps the engine was at fault or perhaps a driver of it had caused Sned some real or imagined hurt at some time in the past. I remember in particular one frosty night when Sned accepted an Edinburgh bound freight and was shortly afterwards advised by control that it would require the services of the pilot. The pilot was already in the down refuge in readiness because it was not uncommon for this particular train to require assistance. The freight made good time to Riddings and was ahead of schedule at Kershopefoot. By the time it came into view under the Muckle Knowe bridge we could see why, it had a good head of steam on and was going like the proverbial ‘bat out of hell’. She was travelling at a good 60m.p.h. as the train approached the box. It was obviously not going to stop for assistance, a fact that was soon made clear by the enginemen waving from the footplate that they weren’t intending to stop as they passed the refuge where the pilot waited.

I remember remarking to Sned that all seemed to be well and the loco doing fine. For my trouble I received only the curt reply: “We’ll see about that. Yon bu**er’ll be blowin (whistling) at Steele Road afore twenty minutes”

The minutes ticked by and in due course we could just make out the mournful whistle of the A3 rapidly followed by a telephone call from the fireman to tell us that ‘Papyrus’ was indeed stuck on the 1 in 68 at Steele Road platform. Ian Armstrong, the signalman at Riccarton South Box would have been told at much the same time no doubt.

The driver of the pilot engine, who seemed to share Sned’s disdain for this particular locomotive, or its crew, was called to the Newcastleton Box, advised of the situation and told to proceed under caution to Steele Road all this taking place with much use of ‘industrial language’. So the pilot engine left Newcastleton under, it seemed to me, very little caution and that was the last I saw of her that night. I suppose another twenty minutes must have passed before we got the section clear signal from Riccarton.

I then made a futile attempt to get more information from Sned about his attitude to this particular A3, but found out only that, in his opinion Sir Visto or Flamingo two of Carlisle Canal’s long standing regulars would have managed but “Yon bu**er just slips to a stand every time”. So it was that I never discovered what the problem was or whether Sned just put a ‘hex’ on the loco, anyway thereafter I adopted Sned’s opinion despite the loco’s great history.

[‘Papyrus’ held the World Speed Record for steam of 108 mph until 1935 when it was beaten by the streamlined A4’Silver Link at 112m.p.h]
robin_barbour_newcastleton

Newcastleton signal box and level crossing in the 1960s. Photo Robin Barbour, courtesy of Bruce McCartney

The day of September 28th 1965 had passed, so far as I can recall, uneventfully, as days at Newcastleton usually did. I was enjoying a few days relaxation at the ‘Holm’ having finished my schooling and waiting to take up a place I had been awarded at the London School of Economics. I was due to return to London on the 29th in order to register at the University and at the time regarded this appointment as ‘sacrosanct’. In fact, as I was later to realise, it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d turned up the following week.

At about 6.00a.m. on the morning of the 29th I was disturbed from my slumbers by the sound of the front gate being opened, rapidly followed by a fearful banging on the glass of my bedroom window such that I thought the glass must surely give way. Then came the voice at what seemed about 3000 decibels, “Is yon Boy oot o’ his bed yet, Jen?” Without waiting for a reply Sned continued, “C’mon boy rouse yoursen, I’ve an important message for ye.”

Still stunned by the rudeness of my awakening and anxious as to what the message could possibly be I staggered into the lounge scarcely ‘compos mentis’, to find Sned slumped in one of the armchairs. He explained to me that there had been a railway accident at Shankend and that if I wanted to go up, he had the breakdown train held at the Holm pending his return and that I could travel up on that. I was severely torn because on the one hand I wanted to go to Shankend but on the other I needed to get back to London. I explained my dilemma, which was met with a characteristic shrug of the shoulders. “Just hurry and make your bl**dy mind up, I canna hold the crane  all bl**dy day”. In the end I judged London to be more important particularly because if I went to Shankend there was no telling when I would get a ride back. I announced my decision and was answered by some fairly robust comments about the fact that he had wasted his time and that I was a waste of space. Undaunted, he cycled back to the Signal Box, at what passed for high speed, but in reality was little more than ‘hyper-amble’ to resume his duties.

It was nearly four hours later that I strolled reluctantly down North Hermitage Street toward Montagu Street and the station clutching my suitcase. Leaving my suitcase on the platform I crossed the bridge and walked into the Signal Box to enquire what the situation was with trains, only to be advised that there was nothing running at all and that the accident involved one of the new diesel locomotives which had not previously been used on that 2.22a.m. turn from Edinburgh and of which Sned had formulated the same low opinion that he reserved for most modern developments.

I explained my problem to Sned who immediately resolved to take action. Before I knew it he was on the phone to Carlisle control. The conversation was typically brusqe. “What the **** is gaen on?” he enquired, “I’ve a platform full o’ passengers here and nae ****** train tae tak them ta Carlisle.” There followed a full and frank discussion about the parentage of each of the men involved in the conversation. Which culminated in Sned saying “ Weeel, we’re no all sae ****** useless, you just send the ****** train and I’ll get it back to you.”

About an hour later the ‘Train entering section” message was received from Kershopefoot box and in due course a ‘Peak’ Class 4 diesel and single coach hove into view under the Muckle Knowe Bridge. I must confess to some disappointment at this development because I had hoped in the circumstances for some form of endangered steam propulsion. However it was not to be and I had to content myself with the knowledge that I was to be the sole passenger on this one coach special train, at least on leaving Newcastleton. In the end I was to be the only passenger all the way to Carlisle and disembarked from ‘my’ coach at Citadel with an air of ‘splendid isolation’, watched in awe by a number of station staff.

My introduction to ‘Sned’ (Alexander Robson) must have come when I was only hours, days or weeks old but my first memory of him dates from when I was four or five years old. As I have recounted in earlier editions of the Journal, Sned was for many years one of the regular signalmen in the Holm Signal box, he was also the local unofficial vet, a small-holding owner and sometime livestock dealer. Fore by that he was a ‘bull of a man’, not very tall but built rather like a concrete pillbox with a larger than most appetite for alcohol in virtually any of its forms to say that he was as broad as he was tall would be an exaggeration but it would definitely convey the right impression.

The first occasion I want to relate to you I was travelling with my mother and father to Copshaw Holm by car for once. My mother didn’t drive, women generally didn’t in those days, which meant that my father had to do all the driving, anything up to 10 hours sometimes more. We battled our way north through all the traffic of Birmingham, Manchester, Preston, Kendal, Penrith and Carlisle until we got to Longtown. Here we ground to a dead stop. Dad muttered something about the level crossing and the rest of us settled down to wait. Mother busying herself with making sure that we children were presentable, in readiness for presentation to her family.

Ten minutes or a quarter of an hour went past and still we were motionless. Finally my father decided it was time for action. He left the car where it stood in the middle of the Main Street and walked purposefully toward the level crossing to find out what was afoot. After a few minutes he returned wearing a mischievous smile. Turning to my mother he said quietly “Might have known it’d be your bl**dy family.”

Starting the car once more he pulled out of the long and ever growing line of queuing traffic and overtook it until we came to a position more or less outside the Graham Arms. There in the middle of the A7 road and seated on a bar stool he had sequestered from the aforesaid hotel was Sned. Apparently he had arranged with a local farmer who had bought some chickens, that he would dispatch them to avoid the farmer’s somewhat squeamish wife from witnessing the dreadful deed. Having been refused permission to dispatch them in the grounds of the hotel he had resorted to the main road. Not a man to be thwarted he now sat in the street, picking up chickens by the neck, dealing with them and now surrounded by a growing mound of corpses some still flapping their wings or taking a last few faltering steps before collapsing. When we got to it the level crossing was open, having been blamed for nothing and we continued on our weary way to the holm.

GNT0073 copy

Newcastleton station and signal box on a chilly winter’s day. Photo GN Turnbull

The second occasion was a somewhat more prosaic affair though it had considerably more to do with the railway. In those days the ‘overnight Pullman’ or ‘sleeper’ as British Rail insisted on calling it whilst not scheduled to stop in the holm could be stopped by notice to the guard at St.Pancras. Whether this was an official arrangement or not I’ve never been sure, or was it one of those unofficial arrangements which abounded on the Waverley. For as my good friend Bruce McCartney and I have often discussed the ‘Waverley Route’ particularly the south end of it really had very little to do with British Rail, it was run by the men on the ground and with men like Sned to deal with who could blame the faceless ones for keeping out of the way.

Anyway as I recall, the ‘overnight’ stopped or passed through the holm about 5.30a.m. This particular night we were awakened by the Guard to tell us that we were just leaving Carlisle so it was time to get dressed in readiness for our arrival in the holm in about 40 minutes. 40 minutes or so later the train ran under the Muckle Knowe bridge and past the Lakes before pulling in to the station at Copshaw.

Three times the train was beckoned forward by a square figure carrying a flash lamp. It was Sned, still sporting his carpet slippers which he habitually wore when in the box or on the station. Nothing very odd about that except that there were about 3 inches of snow on the ground. Eventually we disembarked, having delayed the train by about 10 minutes. My father having been in the army for most of his life before, during and after the war (WWII) spoke with a rather ‘far back’ and distinctly clipped accent. He apparently gave the impression of being ‘Lord of the Manor’ especially amongst this rural community.

‘Sned’ greeted us in his own inimitable style with “I might ha’ ken’d it was the bluidy gentry”

Welcome to Copshaw Holm.


This article was originally published in the WRHA members’ journal “The Waverley” issues 15, 16 & 17 in 2010 and 2011. It has been reproduced here as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Roy Perkins sadly passed away in 2015. He was a founding director of the Border Union Railway Company, the bold project to take on running the Waverley Route as a private venture following its closure by British Rail in 1969. Roy was also a past chairman of the Waverley Route Heritage Association.

His obituary was featured in The Scotsman and can be read online here.


Copyright WRHA 2010, 2011 & 2020. Not to be reproduced without express permission.

 

Posted by: wrha | April 18, 2020

Working on the Waverley Route – Bill Blake

It was 1946 and I was 16 years old when my uncle sent word to my mother that there was a job going on the railway. I went to see the inspector at Hawick and he arranged for me to go to Edinburgh for a medical exam, which I passed, and started work the next day as a surfaceman on the Stobs Camp to Whitrope length.

I had to cycle 9 miles every day, in rain, hail or shine from Hawick to Stobs Camp and back. If it was raining we’d go to the hut, but if we were soaked and the rain had stopped when we arrived, we had to get straight on with the work.

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Bill Blake, back row, second right – Photo courtesy Bill Blake / WRHA Archive

My first job was riddling the ballast to remove the muck and ash. It was my job to hold the riddle and catch the ballast shovelled at me from a few feet away. I’d shake the muck out over the bank and throw the clean ballast back, level it and tail off the edge. It was a hard job and my back ached. I don’t know how I managed to cycle back to Hawick! The blisters on my hands were like sixpences when I got home. I put gloves on the next day but my hands soon got hardened up.

You had to turn your hand to nearly everything; knocking keys in, realigning, repairing, mowing, fencing, ballasting, drainage. It was just hard labour, nothing else. Every man had a length to look after and I spent a lot of time mowing and raking the embankments before hoeing and clipping the edges to keep them neat.

A lot of pride went into the work and the appearance of the line. Tailing the edge of the ballast was one of the nicest jobs you could see when it was all finished. One man would lay a shovel from the rail and mark a rut in the path at the side and lay a line of single stones along it to mark the edge of the tail. Then two men would work the ballast to you and with your shovel you’d pack it up to the sleepers creating a perfect slope.

Once a year we had to walk along all the fence backs and pick up coal. When an engine was climbing up the bank and the firemen came to a hard lump he couldn’t be bothered to hammer, he’d throw it down the embankment. It was our job to go and bring it back up again. Mind you, ninety per cent went to the huts and our houses! We did give some back though.

Instead of walking to a job we would sometimes cheat. If a goods train was coming up the bank we would gesture to the driver, “Whitrope?”. “Nay problem”, he’d reply and we would jump into the guard’s van. I remember one day we were going up through the tunnel and I could feel the long train picking up speed. By the time we reached the signalbox at Whitrope we were over the summit and were travelling at over 20mph. We were waving like mad at the signalman who realised what had happened and stopped the train 2 miles down the line at Riccarton. Just by luck there was a pilot coming up and we got a lift back to Whitrope, but we would have been in trouble if we’d got caught!

Sometimes I would be given the job of walking the track in our gang’s section from Stobs Camp to Whitrope Tunnel and back checking for cracked fishplates, knocking in loose keys and looking for anything out of the ordinary.

One day I had just passed Shankend when I noticed a long dip stretching the length of three of the sixty foot rail panels. I couldn’t work out what had caused this so I went back to find my Uncle Rob the signalman at Shankend box who agreed to come up and take a look. When he saw the dip in the line he realised the embankment was sinking and went back to call the Inspector at Hawick who came up immediately on a pilot engine.

When he arrived he declared it an emergency and sent for the Newcastleton and Hawick permanent way “flying squads”, about 80 men in total. Just by coincidence, there had been relaying taking place nearby and there were some spare rails left over. Eight of these rails were taken and chained together on the ends of the sleepers to strengthen the track temporarily.

After a few weeks, the order came through to sort out the embankment on a Sunday. Cranes were brought in from both Carlisle and Edinburgh and the track was taken up from both sides and the gangs started digging. They dug and dug, deeper and deeper to a depth of about ninety feet and never did find the cause of the problem so the boss gave orders to fill it back in again with some extra rubble brought down from Edinburgh which must have done some good because it didn’t ever sink again.

Every distant signal on the line had a fog hut and when needed I would be called out for fog signalling. I would cycle from home up to the signalbox at Stobs Camp, collect a red flag, a green flag and some detonators then make my way to the distant signal, just north of Stobs station. I’d make a fire in the brazier and sit in the fog hut watching to see if the weight at the bottom of the signal post changed position.

If the signal was at clear you’d just let the train pass but if it turned to danger we had to lay detonators on the track which would crack when the engine passed over them letting the driver know the distant was against him so that he could slow down for the next signal.

We would sometimes work in Whitrope tunnel ballasting and line gauging. We worked by lamplight and one of the tricks some lads would play was to throw a piece of ballast at the lamp to knock it over and put out the flame, then in the darkness they’d wipe the soot from the tunnel walls across people’s faces. When they came out they’d be black with soot but it was all done in good fun.

If a train came while we were working there was always a mad scramble for the recesses in the walls, or sentry boxes as we used to call them, but you would actually be alright if you stood flat against the tunnel wall.

One day we were working in the tunnel with an inspector called Jim Wilson. When it was time for a break, Jim would blow his whistle and everyone would make their way out of the tunnel to the permanent way hut near the summit hut where they kept their bags. Jim always liked to make sure he got a seat and this day he and I were the last to arrive at the hut so he said to me, “Boy, go and cut me a big sod”. So I went and cut a sod and brought it back and Jim said, “Now go and put it on top of the chimney”.

Well it wasn’t long before the men came scuttling out coughing and spluttering on the smoke fumes. Jim said, “You can take it off now”, then went into the empty hut and sat down in his favourite seat!

Another bad trick we used to play involved faulty detonators with broken straps which could no longer be fixed to the rail. These duds were kept in the huts and sometimes somebody on their way out would throw one on to the fire blowing it clean out, making everyone jump!

 


This article originally appeared in the WRHA members’ journal “The Waverley” issues 5 & 6, Spring & Autumn 2004 and has been reproduced here as part of our historical articles series during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interview transcription for WRHA by Andy Stoddon.

Bill Blake sadly passed away in 2015. Throughout the time we knew him at WRHA he always kept in touch and often visited Whitrope to see how we were getting on, having become a member of the association. He was always made welcome and became our honorary permanent way man, often giving advice as we laid track and ballasted.


Copyright WRHA 2004 & 2020. Not to be reproduced without express permission.
Posted by: wrha | March 16, 2020

Saturday 29th February

Work across the site was again somewhat restricted by poor weather.

The main focus of activity was to complete the coupling together of 142020, which was successfully achieved.

Joe was up for a few days and he was focused on getting the beds on the platform ready for the spring, with bedding plants.

Work continued on a couple of other inside jobs, but the persistent rain this month has somewhat slowed progress across the site.

Posted by: wrha | February 23, 2020

Pacers arrive

The railway has been successful in bidding for two recently withdrawn Pacer units from Northern. The two units were collected from Worksop, where they had driven to themselves upon their withdrawal. The units were collected by Reid freight. The first three units made their way up to Newcastleton. Unfortunately they were then caught out by the weather. By the time they had made their way from Steele Road to Whitrope snow had started falling and the drop off had to be cancelled, with the units left on the low loaders. The next window in the weather did not arrive until a week later, with Storm Dennis reeking havoc in the area. With the Reid crews back on site the units were unloaded without any further issues. The final part of the second unit will be delivered shortly.

A big thank you to Reid’s and the volunteers who worked very hard in some very challenging weather to ensure that the units were safely delivered. A great deal of time was spent both on site and on administrative tasks to ensure the purchase and delivery of the units. These tasks go unseen by most members but are vital to the success of the association.

Posted by: wrha | February 9, 2020

Saturday 8th February

After a couple of early showers we had a cool windy day that allowed outside jobs to be done.

The team working on the 26 removed a number of the control cubicles to allow access to the body work behind. Again areas of heavy corrosion were cut away to be replaced by new steel. It is amazing just how much corrosion is present within the cab. This side of the cab is starting to come together although there is still plenty to do before re-assembly can start.

Ian carried out more work on the repairs in the buffet coach with the doorway partition in place.

The locking frame was put in place on the signal frame along with the covers. Once this was all secured the top covers were put in place. This is the signal frame complete for a moment.

One of the level crossing gates was retrieved from storage down by the Saxa van. It was transported up to the compound on one of the pw trolleys. These gates are very heavy so the least amount of lifting and moving is the order of the day. The gate will be repaired and painted before hanging on one of the restored gate posts.

More work was done on the generator, unfortunately this was not meet with any success, so it is back to the drawing board.

All being well new stock should be arriving during the week, so the blog will be updated when they appear. The railway is featured in an article in this Sunday’s Scotland on Sunday.

Posted by: wrha | February 3, 2020

Saturday 1st February

A grey but mild day with some drizzle saw another good turn of volunteers attacking a number of the current list of ongoing jobs.

In the coaches Ian and John progressed the work they have been doing to repair the damage caused by water ingression in the buffet coach. The boards that were cut and glued last week were fitted.

The site tidy up team continued their work to get the site looking as good as possible an removing some of the potential trip hazards there are around the area. There was no fire this week as the steady rain put paid to that.

The 26 crew continued there work in the cab, the amount of steel-work going into the cab must surely be helping the ailing British Steels balance books! Further work was done on the cab door area. Most of the work is now done on this area and the steel work will be primed and painted before the focus changes to the other side of the cab.

The generator on the hand trolley was stripped to try and identify the problem that is causing it to fail to start. Despite a number of components being removed and checked nothing was really identified as being at fault so the investigation is on-going. All a little frustrating but we will get to the bottom of it.

The smaller section of the locking frame was cleaned up and then trial fitted back on the actual frame. The top covers were also put in p[lace on this part of the frame and it looks really good. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks the whole thing can be assembled.

Whilst all this was going on a shunt of some of the stock in the siding took place so that everything is ready for the fore-coming stock delivery.

As the day was drawing to a close the sun came out and the rain clouds drifted away, such is the delights of working at Whitrope.

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