Railway Journalism

Discussion in 'Talk' started by Overseer, 27 May 2020.

  1. Overseer

    Overseer Western Thunderer

    I recently came across an article from a 1903 newspaper which I though might be of interest, describing a trip over the Settle and Carlisle line.


    Just about a month ago the cables reported that a new express passenger engine, belonging to the Midland Railway Company of England (of which Mr. Mathieson, late Commissioner for Railways in Victoria, is general manager), had the phenomenal record of 80 miles an hour. A Journalist privileged to ride on the engine whilst running one of her famous trips thus writes of it:—

    One mile in 47 seconds! Only those who have ridden in the cab of a locomotive at this speed can realise what it means—and understand the exhilarating pleasure that accompanies such rapid transit.

    A few weeks ago the writer of this article rode on the footplate of No. 2632, the new compound locomotive of the Midland Railway Company, between Carlisle and Leeds, a distance of 113 ¼ miles. The engine in question was built under the superintendence of Mr. S. W. Johnson, and it is the proud boast of the Midland Railway officials that there is now no engine in the world to equal it.
    It is one of the advantages of the compound class of engines that speed is very quickly attained, and before Scotby, three miles distant,was reached, the mail train was covering the ground at 45 miles an hour.

    An engine-driver and a fireman have plenty to do en route. The former seems to be constantly jerking the regulator, and twisting, turning, and squeezing a mixed-up mass of brass wheels, pipes, and levers. He does it all with a quiet smile, affectionately caresses
    The Vacuum Brake
    with his right hand, and, in some mysterious manner, keeps one eye on the lookout for signals, and the other on the doings of the fireman.

    Now James Sherwin, who stoked No. 2632 on this journey, is a typical Yorkshireman— a veritable Hercules as regards shoulders and biceps— and an expert at coal-shovelling. No sooner was Carlisle left behind than he started operations.

    Seizing a tremendous shovel, with the accuracy of a trained marksman he transferred large amounts of coal from the tender to the furnace in a way only possible to himself and his kind.

    Scarcely once did he deign to open the furnace door to its full width, preferring, instead, to shoot the black mass of fuel through the narrow slit in the door, and always with the greatest success. For the first 45 miles or so the track is an almost continuous incline, with here and there a short level run, or "a bit of a dip."

    A small post with two arms showed as the engine tore through Cumwhinton, five miles from Carlisle that the gradient was 1 in 134, yet the good pace of over 60 miles an hour was being accomplished.

    “She’s finding her stride,” was the comment. But as Cotehill was neared the distant signal was
    Seen to be at Danger.
    An ugly look came over the driver’s face as he applied the brake, and as the “home” signal came in view, and was found to be at danger, too, with a sigh of resignation he brought his engine to a standstill.

    “What’s the matter?” he yelled, as a man with a red flag seemed to emerge out of the side of a towering redstone cliff.
    “Landslip - clear in a minute!” And so it was. A few hundredweight of redstone had fallen from the side of the cliff on to the rails, but, as is always the case, had been immediately discovered by a vigilant staff and cleared away.

    This little delay made No. 2632 15 minutes behind scheduled time. In less than five minutes she was well into a 60-mile-an-hour gait, and at this pace Armathwaite Tunnel was entered.

    The man who enters a tunnel for the first time in his life on the footplate of an engine receives a shock. There is a prolonged shriek from the whistle, a roar from the smoke-stack as the belching steam hits the roof, and a terrible glare at once shoots out of the furnace, giving one the impression that the whole of the train is on fire. If, as was the case in this tunnel, the stoker plies his shovel with might and main, one pictures him as the premier imp of an inferno; while the many shadows thrown on the roof of the tunnel help the imagination to see the fearsome congregation of mocking sprites. A desire to shriek is felt; but somehow before anything more occurs, with what seems to be a mighty leap and a bound and a crash, the engine darts out into the pure country air again. The terrible vision is gone, and instead of a demon one finds a very stout, laughing stoker rubbing his hands with cotton waste.

    “Now she feels it,” and by the time Laxonby, 17 miles out, is reached the watch recorded a pace of over 75 miles an hour.

    As Ais Gill was approached a surprise was in store. No. 2632 rushed headlong into a snowstorm. At a height of 1200ft. above sea-level, a vast panorama of changing scenes was opened up. Below in the valley the green meadows and woodlands were seen, while everything on the same level with the train was snow-clad.

    A mail train gives nobody time to study artistic effects, and on the level stretch to Dent Head, eight miles away, an average of 65 mile an hour was made. Good news was announced, too. Five minutes of that lost time had been recaptured.

    On the Leeds side of Bleamor Tunnel a descent starts for the lowlands. The “dip” to Settle Junction is about 1 in 100 all the way, and the distance 15 miles.

    After the junction another sensation for the guest of the journey. Rattling along at 65 the hour, the stoker apparently committed suicide by bolting suddenly over the side of the engine. But the driver reassured the palpitating journalist that his mate had only gone to “oil up.” And this proved to be so, for in five minutes’ time that worthy appeared with a 2ft. oil-can, and smilingly peeped his head up on the opposite side of the engine from that on which he had made his exit. He had, in fact, taken a walk right round the engine while the speed was between 70 and Eighty Miles an Hour !

    Seven more minutes were regained of that lost time when Skipton Junction was passed, and then on the level stretch to Keighley, ten miles away, No. 2632 put her best wheels foremost. Starting at a mile a minute, the pace increased rapidly until a speed of nearly 80 miles was attained, and when at last the engine slowly steamed into Leeds she was exactly five seconds in front of schedule time, late starting, stoppages, and other delays notwithstanding.

    The entire distance of 113 ¼ miles had been covered in 1h. 53min., exclusive, of course, of hinderances, and ranks, probably, as the record “one engine – platform to platform – performance of the world, all things considered.”
    -“Daily Mail”
    World’s News (Sydney), Saturday, 18 April 1903, p7.

    Midland Railway Compound 4-4-0 number 2632 -
    MR 2632.jpg

    Any other examples of historic reports of railway happenings from newspapers are welcome to be added to this thread.
    jonte, GrahameH, paulc and 19 others like this.
  2. ColourBox

    ColourBox New Member

  3. 76043

    76043 Western Thunderer

    The oiling at speed sounds downright dangerous! Was this due to ineffective lubricating devices of the time? I don't know when the Wakefield lubricator was invented.

    Amazed you can clear a landslip in 15 minutes, must have been very small.

    I like the writing style too.

    john lewsey likes this.
  4. 76043

    76043 Western Thunderer

    Just read the Wakefield was invented in the 1890's so does that mean the Midland didn't use them or the early ones were poor?

    I'm sure someone will advise soon...

  5. Ian@StEnochs

    Ian@StEnochs Western Thunderer

    Oiling at speed was quite common. David L Smith, in his tales of the G&SWR, describes how the driver of the Diner would tie his bunnet on with a bit of string and then disappear round the front to give her ‘ a lick on the slides’ as the climbed up the Nith valley.

    It was also not unknown for driver and fireman to leave the footplate, at the same time, to give the engine a bit of a clean on the trip up the Doon valley with mineral empties!

    john lewsey likes this.
  6. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer

    I remember a tale I read (can't remember where at the moment) of a Caledonian driver who showed his mastery of the Westinghouse brake when entering a station, by setting the brake control then stepping out to the front of the loco to start oiling as it drew up to a halt.

    john lewsey and jonte like this.
  7. Ian@StEnochs

    Ian@StEnochs Western Thunderer


    DLS tells a similar story about Bob Samson! But of course the Sou West was a vacuum brake line.


  8. john lewsey

    john lewsey Western Thunderer

    Wonderful stuff
  9. JimG

    JimG Western Thunderer


    That's the story. :) Not too far out - just the wrong company, wrong station, wrong driver and wrong braking system. :):):) I knew it had the hallmarks of a David Smith tale, but couldn't reconcile that thought with the Caledonian. :)

    Ian@StEnochs likes this.
  10. Overseer

    Overseer Western Thunderer

    To get away from more serious topics, a lightweight piece from December 1875 which was printed in several Australian regional newspapers.


    At the Singlewell (Kent) Petty Sessions, a case that excited considerable public interest was heard by the Justices, of whom Colonel Freeston, of Freeston Hall, Cobham, was the chairman. The facts, which are of a somewhat singular nature, will be gathered from the following narrative.

    The complainant was Mr. James Tremlett, a young officer of marines, about to join at Chatham. The accused was Miss Seraphina Higinbotham, a lady somewhat over the middle age, and at present walking the London hospitals, with a view to practising as a surgeon and doctor of medicine. The complainant deposed that on the previous day he took, a first-class ticket at London Bridge for Chatham, and entered a carriage which he had all to himself, until he reached Woolwich (Dockyard) Station, where the accused got into the compartment ha occupied, and took her seat in the right hand corner, facing the engine, while he sat with his back to the engine on the opposite side, in the far corner of the carriage. He said nothing whatever to the defendant, but was reading in the Saturday Review, an article entitled, “Mistaken Affinities.” He was fully occupied with that article, which seemed, he said, in explanation, to refer in some measure to the case of Colonel Valentine Baker, when the accused, taking off her spectacles, left her seat, looked him full in the face, and said, “You are a very nice young man!” He replied that he had not the pleasure of her acquaintance, when she suddenly seized the Reviewhe was reading, and, throwing herself on her knees before him, exclaimed, “Oh, don't read that!” He respectfully requested her to rise; but as she did not do so, but clasped her hands, and said she was sure she had seen him somewhere before, he left his seat and moved to the other end of the compartment, whither she followed him, holding on by the tails of his coat, and protesting that she must kiss him for his mother's sake. Upon her promise that she would not repeat the offence, he allowed her to kiss him. He was, however, much alarmed, especially as they were passing through a tunnel. Just as they emerged from the tunnel, she made a grab at his whiskers, and declared that she had met his sister at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. She afterwards said she was a lone unprotected female, and he had better take care. He assured her that she need be under no apprehension, when she caught him by the collar, and protested her innocence. He struggled, but she was strong and resolute and, in the end, he put his head out of the carriage-window and called for “help,” just as the train reached the Meopham Station, where he obtained the company of a railway porter, who protected him to the end of his journey. Evidence having been given by the Stationmaster and the porter at Meopham as to the agitated demeanour of the complainant, and to the finding of Miss Higinbotham's spectacles in the coat-tails of Mr. Tremlett, the accused was asked what she had to say to the charge.

    In reply, Miss Higinbotham said that the complainant had greatly exaggerated the alleged assault. She had merely requested him to put down the paper, as she wanted to talk to him. As he would not put down the paper, she snatched it from him and gave him a kiss. All she desired to do was to show her admiration of a handsome young man, against whose moral character she had nothing whatever to say.

    After hearing this explanation, the Magistrates retired, with the clerk, and upon their reappearance the chairman said, addressing the accused that he thought a serious offence had been committed by her. There were many young and inexperienced men travelling by rail, totally unprotected; and it was well known that young officers in the army, joining their regiments, were not always proof, as the complainant happily had shown himself to be, against the blandishments of the other sex. He, and his brother Magistrates, thought the accused had taken an unfair advantage of the complainant, although no doubt her desire to kiss him arose from a motherly or matronly feeling; however, they (the Bench) had come to the conclusion that the justice of the case would be met by the imposition of a small fine, as for a common assault. Miss Higinbotham would therefore be fined £5 and costs, and he (the chairman) hoped it would be a warning to her for the future. It seemed, however, certain to him and his fellow magistrates that it was absolutely necessary to provide carriages - not merely smoking carriages, for some men abhorred smoking - for gentlemen; and he hoped railway companies would take the hint.

    It was understood that Miss Higinhotham paid the fine, and the case ended, the complainant leaving the Court with his friends, some of whom by their demeanor, and to their shame, be it said, seeming to treat the whole affair as a joke. A message of condolence has, however, we understand, been received by the young officer from a high quarter. -Home News

    The story was even discussed in the Victorian Parliament on 22 December 1875 during a debate about allowing female students at universities (from Hansard) -

    "I fully concur with the sentiment which has been expressed that the Legislature should do everything in its power to promote the interests of the female sex; but this Bill makes such an innovation on the existing state of things - it goes so far in advance of anything which has been done in the old world - that I am not quite sure that we shall be on safe ground if we adopt it. An illustration occurred the other day of what a strong-minded female may do if she receives the higher educational development which some honorable members desire that ladies shall attain to. A lady, who travels under the euphonious name of "Seraphina," insisted upon kissing a young officer in a railway train.

    Mr. DUFFY.-That is only a squib.

    Mr. LOCK.-It is an actual fact, for the lady was brought before a police court and fined £5 for the offence. Of course if the House desires to pass this Bill it will do so. All that I am anxious to do is to invite honorable members to consider the grave and important change which it will effect in our educational institutions.'

    Australian universities certainly admitted female students but I don't think special compartments for 'Gentlemen' ever came to pass.
    adrian and jonte like this.
  11. SimonT

    SimonT Western Thunderer

    Gad, the Marines have changed!
    john lewsey and jonte like this.
  12. simond

    simond Western Thunderer

    I wonder how men of the day thought the continued population of the planet was ensured...
    john lewsey and jonte like this.
  13. oldravendale

    oldravendale Western Thunderer

    I'm sure we all agree it's an absolute bugger when that happens.........

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