The Grand Allies


Rusting iron, paint all but peeled, on the grey hopper wagon, the whole picture reminded me of a snatch of a line from an old folk song, ‘the mining gates closed and the red iron rotted’ and, as one thing leads to another, as it so often does, I got to thinking about music and railways, especially music with explicit railway links, one of which, ‘Johnny Green’s Trip to ‘Owdam to see the Liverpool Railway’, has its origins in the Liverpool & Manchester, which opened in 1830. My guess is, that most of you weren’t around when that one was top of the pops.

The line, or rather part of a line, I quoted, was from the Bob Dylan song ‘North Country Blues’, about a mining community, the closure of the mine and its effects on the inhabitants – most of which will be depressingly familiar to many folk in mining towns in the North of this country too. In the song, the mine had closed because production had moved to South America, where the miners work ‘almost for nothing’ – a trend which still continues, in many other industries.  Dylan’s near contemporaries, The Grateful Dead, rendered a version of the classic American folk song, about an American railroad engineer – engine driver to us Brits – Casey Jones, in which Casey Jones was, ‘driving his train  –  high on Cocaine’   – that South American thing again? Here in Britain, Ewan McColl was rendering the heroics of Driver John Axon, in song, back in 1958. Driver Axon was posthumously awarded the George Cross, for his bravery.

0-4-0ST Sir Cecil Cochrane is being banked by 0-6-0T No. 3 Frizell. and the pair are en route to Sunniside on the Tanfield Railway. Alongside the Tanfield Railway is Causey Arch, an arched bridge, built in 1725 – 6 to carry the Tanfield waggonway, which was part of a network of colliery waggonways operated by the Grand Allies.

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