Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Last Train from Bacup

Before I embark on the song list for 29th April, I am inclined to say how moved I was by Mave’s song about those last trains in the Rossendale Valley.

Oh, those sounds of loose shunting, the rattle of three-link couplings, the screech of wheels as decaying wagons traversed impossible bends, the exhaust of steam from tired shunters: these are such fond memories of my childhood in Bacup.

Those were proper trains!
By night they brought raw cotton for the mills, and coal to power their machinery. They took away the finished products of a local workforce who had no hope of more gainful employment.

The sounds of those trains were a reassurance.
They were good noises in the night that echoed around the valley.
"All is well in the world!" they said.
They were pure lullabies that could be heard through every bedroom window.
Children would sleep and dream of owning a Hornby Dublo train set.

In those days we believed in Father Christmas.
All I wanted was that little pick-up goods train hauled by an ex-LMS Fowler 3F 060T, on a small-radius oval of track, but times were hard then.

Thanks for that delightful memory, Mave.



parkingspaceman said...

I think you'll find that today's trains are fairly similar, (they have/had carriages, wagons, etc.), to the ones you describe as 'proper'. The engines, however, are somewhat different. 'Power units'? - a rose by any other name... (as the Bard puts it).

Colin said...

Proper trains were steam hauled, even though I had to go to school on a 2-car lightweight Derby DMU introduced by Mr. Riddles in 1954.
Proper trains carried freight.
They comprised interminable promenades of five-plank coal wagons and the occasional hopper. At intervals, and at the rear, the train would have a brake van because continuous vacuum braking was not universal.
(When did you last see a ‘Queen Mary’ brake van?)
On lines that had steep gradients you would sometimes find a double-headed train, and we small boys would delight in collecting the locomotive numbers.
In similar circumstances you might come across a ‘banker’. That’s a loco at the back of the train that assists in pushing a load uphill.
Once in a while you’d see a Beyer-Garratt articulated loco.
“Wow!” we would say, “That’s a PROPER train!”
Anyone of my generation who never wanted to be an engine driver, or finds this new knowledge, has wasted their childhood!

Boo Long said...

The tragedy, and the point of the song. is not the loss of steam power but Beeching's mid '60s closure of the lines, and in Bacup's case the local council's eagerness to have bridges etc needlessly demolished ensuring it could never be reopened.

Colin said...

Many thanks for your erudite comment, Bob.
I do not doubt the historical veracity of what you write.
Kindly forgive my embarkation into romantic nostalgia of my childhood.
And whatever happened to the no-go land of 'Plant Back'?