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Railway Roundabout

Hebden Bridge History Society meeting report.
Speaker: Paul Kenny

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Restoring a Unique Organ

Clouds of smoke billowing across the sky, the raw power of the engine - there is something about the old steam trains that is essentially photogenic, and captures our imagination. Paul Kenny, by profession a signal-man (including at Hebden Bridge) is also a keen photographer, and shared his slides and his stories with the Hebden Bridge Local History Society.

Some of the names of engines he has captured on camera are familiar even to non train buffs - Mallard, Sir Nigel Gresley, The Duchess of Hamilton - but other engines also have interesting stories. One engine that ended up at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway had travelled through Iran and Egypt; others have taken part in films, like the Railway Children, and even ended their lives in spectacular explosions all for the sake of a film adventure. Nellie was an engine that pulled the trucks carrying waste from the Esholt Sewage works on a private track, and is now at the Bradford Industrial Museum.

The railway age left its mark on the landscape, not only with the tracks, but with often quirky architecture, with castellated towers and elaborately decorated tunnels enhancing a practical structure. Where railway men lived there are often rows of cottages provided by the company, with names like 'Midland Terrace' giving a clue to their origins. Where they died they are sometimes commemorated – in the churchyard at Otley is a Navvies' Monument for the 23 men killed; close to Ribblehead Viaduct a chapel honours the 200 men women and children who died in the shanty villages during the construction of the line.

Inevitably, signal boxes featured in Paul's show - from the Hebden Bridge signal box, now a listed building, to the garden hut that had unexpectedly replaced his usual signal box at Kildwick when he returned from a holiday!
Finally there were the animals - the statue to a faithful collie on the Settle Carlisle line, who uniquely was allowed to sign a petition to save the line by paw print because it was a fare-paying passenger. There was also the Hebden Bridge Signal Box Cat, who lived there for 14 years, and who became something of a celebrity for train passengers.

It seems that steam trains and all things railway have a safe place in our affections even now, with enthusiasts pouring their energy and time into keeping up the engines, and special steam excursions still attracting thousands of keen passengers. And people like Paul taking photographs to share.

The next meeting of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society will feature David Cant talking about Calder Connections to Magna Carta. This will be the first annual Alan Petford Memorial Lecture, commemorating valued local historian Alan Petford who died a year ago.

All are welcome to the talk at Hebden Bridge Methodist Church at 7.30 on Wednesday 24th February. Further details of the programme can be found in local libraries and at www.hebdenbridgehistory.org.uk

With thanks to Sheila Graham for this report

Previously, on the HebWeb

Restoring a Unique Organ with speaker Peter Jeffery (31 Jan 2016)

Tales along the Packhorse Way with speaker John Billingsley(18 Jan 2016)

Vanishing for the Vote with speaker Jill Liddington (17 Dec 2015)

Widdop and the Shackletons with speaker John Shackleton(1 Dec 2015)

The History of Calrec: part 2 with speaker Stephen Jagger(19 Nov 2015)

What's in a Name: with speakers Keith Stansfield and Barbara Atack. An insight into local dialects and surnames of the Calder Valley. (9 Nov 2015)

The Lost Kingdom of Elmet (1 Nov 2015)

When Oxford University Came to Hebden Bridge (29 Oct 2015)

The dam that isn't and the great floating plug of the Colden (1 April 2015)

Gruelling Experiences - in the workhouse (16 March 2015)

Pre-History on our hill tops (9 March 2015)

Growing up in Sowerby (16 February 2015)

Patterns in the Landscape: the evolution of settlement and enclosure in the Upper Calder Valley (5 February 2015)

Wakefield Court Rolls for Family History: Sylvia Thomas (18 Jan 2015)

Happy Birthday Stoodley Pike: by Nick Wilding (16 Dec 2014)

Wills, Inventories and Economic Activity in the Parish of Halifax at the end of the 17th Century: Alan Petford (30 Nov 2014)

Local History Society Archive explored - Following the 65th AGM, members of Hebden Bridge Local History Society were treated to a sample of some of the treasures to be found in the Society's archive. (19 Nov 2014)

Views from two communities on the outbreak of war in 1914 - Mike Crawford, Wolfgang Hombach and Nick Wilding (27 Oct 2014)

The Listed Buildings of the Hebden Bridge area with Peter Thornborrow. (14 Oct 2014)

Valley of a Hundred Chapels by Amy Binns (29 Sept 2014)

History Group Study Day report: Power and Potability (11 Sept 2014)

Whose land is it anyway? How parliamentary enclosure shaped the landscape of the Calder Valley: speaker, Sheila Graham. Read more (6 April 2014)

Yorkshire Life between the Wars: speaker, Ian Dewhirst. Read more (20 March 2014)

Industrialisation and the Calder Valley: Communities in a unique landscape - Talk by Dr Stephen Caunce Read more (3 March 2014)

Quarrying in Calderdale: George Bowers gave a talk on the history of stone quarries in our local area. Read more (15 Feb)

Calder Valley Buildings of the Seventeenth Century: the craftsmen and their patrons Read more (27 Jan)See Small Ads (12 March)

Some thoughts on historic buildings and their repairs by Alan Gardner


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