On one platform sits a woman with a young child on her lap, on the other a camera man with his tripod, set to record the scene. This picture of seeming rural tranquillity, is from Sunday’s “On the waggon” event at the Tanfield Railway. When I see or hear the phrase ‘on the wagon’ – I don’t picture a drinker going teetotal, but what does pop up is a line from John Cooper Clarke’s poem, about the back streets of his native Salford, “Beezley Street” – ‘ the boys are on the wagon, the girls are on the shelf, their common problem is, that they’re not someone else’. The verse continues; ‘the dirt blows out the dust blows back, you can’t keep it neat, a fully furnished dustbin, 16 Beezly Street.
It’s like the opening credits from early versions of Coronation Street, a thousand smoking chimneys – ‘keeping the home fires burning’ – and keep them burning coal. Yes we love a coal fire, but all the attendant mess? I spent the last 18 months of my railway life at 56A Wakefield and coal was the depot’s bread and butter. Colliery yards, the daily routine, empties in full ‘uns’ out. Everywhere, everything, everybody, covered in grime and yes Grimethorpe colliery was on the roster, Sharlston, Denaby and Manvers too.
The locomotive in the photo No.3 Twizell, spent her working life hauling wagons at the pit – now like some old pony put out to grass she hauls passengers and gleams like a new pin.
If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:
or: To celebrate the author’s up coming 70th birthday, you could grab yourself an eBook copy of “Gricing, The Real Story of the Railway Children”, for just £2.99 – offer ends 13 / 03/ 2017.
This is the link to Amazon for your copy: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011D1WBWY