Tag Archives: John Axon GC

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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On the bright side


After yesterday’s 100th anniversary piece, on the Quintinshill tragedy, something in a similar, but slightly lighter vein, Black day to Black 8 could be the theme. There are connections, in a strange way, some of the Black 8s were shipped to foreign fields to help the war effort in World War 2, not all of them made it, a dozen or more being ‘lost at sea’. Closer to home, there’s Driver John Axon and his heroic actions on the footplate of 8F No.48188, which won him the George Cross, posthumously, sadly.

Take the 8 ball in a game of pool, and win, take 8 black on the roulette wheel of life’s lottery and who knows what the outcome will be. Those 215 Scottish soldiers, bound for the mud, death, and destruction of the First World War trenches, consumed instead, in a conflagration, not in some Flander’s field, but in a windswept passing loop, on a railway line near Gretna, such are the twists of fate, cruel fate. A roll of the dice, and No.48624 survived, 48625 didn’t – anyway moving on.

In the shiniest of shiny Black liveries, No.48624,  at her first public outing in her new black coat,  after so long in maroon, makes a fine sight in the spring sunshine, as she clears Loughborough’s advance starter. At the opposite end of the train, literally and figuratively, is No.78019, who was making her last Gala appearance before her boiler certificate expires and she takes her place in the overhaul queue.

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