Tag Archives: John Axon GC

Crewe – August 1958

My sister-in-law recently unearthed one of her Dad’s old spotters note books and, not unsurprisingly, handed it to me. On August 2nd 1958 he travelled from Leeds to Crewe for a day’s spotting and shed bashing. There are close to 300 numbers recorded, 12 Coronations and 3 Princess Royals, the ‘preserved’ No.46115 Scots Guardsman was one of 24 Scots and there was a supporting cast of Patriots both rebuilt and original(ish) served with a garnish of Jubilees.

There are also one or two notables in the un-named ‘also rans’ category; the now preserved Black 5s No.45110, of 15 Guineas fame, and No.45305, which was ‘preserved’ by the scrapman who bought her, Mr. Draper of Hull, were both there on the day, along with the 8F No.48188. No.48188 was the engine involved in the accident at Chapel-en-le-Frith, in February 1957, in which driver John Axon died whilst trying to stop his runaway train and avert casualties. For his bravery, in staying at the controls of his stricken engine, driver Axon was posthumously awarded the George Cross, in May 1957, in 1978, his medal was donated to the National Railway Museum.

Three days after the Crewe visit, on August 5th, the notebook records a visit to York, only 60 engines this time, though one of them was the now preserved Fairburn 2-6-4T No.42073. There are also some ‘wish we still had them’ amongst the engines present, including a Midland design 3 cylinder Compound No.41101, former P2 No.60502 Earl Marischal, and lesser lights like K3s, B16s, and, of course, V2s. Can we please have our ‘Green Arrow’ back mister!!

No.48188 did not escape the chop, the photo shows classmate 48624 with the same kind of a loose coupled working that 48188 was on, on that fatefull day in 1957.

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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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