Monthly Archives: December 2019

Sunday 29th December 2019 – Matthew 2: 13-23

Matthew 2:13-23

If I’m honest with you, I hate this Gospel passage, I wish it had not been written. I wish I could conveniently ignore it, suggest it is untrue and set it aside. … I’d keep the bit about Jesus being a refugee. … Now that is a helpful image .. and it has been used down the centuries to infer that God understands the plight of the refugee and the homeless. And rightly so, for I am sure that God does place the needs of the underdog, the dispossessed, the homeless, very high on his list of priorities.

Yes, I like the bit about Jesus being a refugee – I could write about that now. I could use some material from Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tear Fund or CAFOD, perhaps write about the plight of those who are still unable to go home – like the millions of Palestinians trapped in what is one big refugee camp called the Gaza Strip. I could continue to talk about the refugees from the conflict in Syria, starving, this winter, in the Beqaa Valley, or I could talk of the many people who seek asylum in this country in fear of their lives who are not believed by the authorities.

But that is not what horrifies me about this passage. No, what leaves me floundering is the murder of those innocent children and God’s intervention to save his Son, while leaving others to die – at least that’s what the story seems to say. … What kind of God can save one and leave perhaps 30 or 40 (or maybe many more) to die!

Yet God does seem to intervene in favour of one & not the other…. That is the way the story of the Bible unfolds, and it is also the experience of many people around our world. So, if God is able to intervene, and if God sometimes does intervene, why doesn’t God always intervene?

I really do not like this story of the massacre of the innocents, for it holds me to account. I cannot, without discarding the story altogether, talk of a God who does not intervene at all. But if I have any integrity, I must be left with difficult questions about a God that I believe is a God of love and whose love at times seems arbitrary.

I do not like the story. And I’m not sure that I want to try to ‘justify’ it. What I want to do, in just a few short words, is at least to help us reflect on it.

There are two questions that many people ask about faith: Firstly, “Why does God treat some differently to others?” And secondly, “If God could do something, why didn’t he?” … Honestly facing these kind of questions, has to be part of living by faith. … At times, being a Christian is about ‘Arguing with God’. It is about tenaciously holding him to account for what we see as wrong. It has, at times, to be about ‘wrestling with God’ like Jacob did at the Brook Jabbok. Sometimes we argue for ourselves: “Lord, you are treating me like dirt. How can I continue to believe in you, when you allow me to face such injustice?” Sometimes on behalf of others: “Lord, I watch the injustice persistently meted out on the Palestinian people and other refugees – why do you not intervene?”

There is injustice in our world. While human beings exist there will always be injustice. Lust for power, greed, fear & insecurity are all motivators to self-protection. We protect ourselves and our own even at cost to others. And evil is magnified as it is played out on a world stage between aggressive, powerful men (And it is most often men!). Powerful tyrants, who are also insecure & afraid of being deposed. … Herod was just one of these. So insecure that he saw a baby as a threat. So numbed by previous acts of evil that he saw no problem in killing a few young children to extinguish the threat.

One child escapes Herod, and goes on to be God’s answer to the actions of tyrants throughout history, God’s answer to the ugly evil which invades all our hearts. Not an immediate answer. Not a rescue mission to protect the innocents. Not even a political solution that restricted the action of evil people and evil forces. Not much of a solution at all, if you were to judge it by the standards of the world.

God’s answer, to the massacre of the innocents, to all the injustices in life, was to allow the child, that escaped the massacre, … to die. The Bible suggests all history points to this moment – to the death of Christ. “I’ve heard all your questions,” God seems to say, “here is my answer. The death of my Son.”

It’s almost as though God draws a line under the discussion. “This is my answer,” God says. “No ifs, no buts, it’s my last word. I’m happy for you to judge me on this basis – it’s my final word.”

And we shout out, “but it isn’t enough, I still don’t understand.” And God uses no more words, but continues silently to point to the cross. He draws our attention to a shattered, tortured, broken body which has taken the worst that humanity can throw at it. … Even that seems inadequate – just one death among so many. Yet God invites us to question him only in the full knowledge of the suffering of Christ, and on the basis of that suffering. Whatever else we may accuse God of, we cannot accuse him of not caring. We may not want his answer. We may not like his answer. But it is the one he gives us to ponder on.

There is a debate throughout the Old Testament about why God chose Israel – with different authors struggling to understand that they were chosen not for their own benefit, but so that God could use them for the benefit of the whole world. That they were chosen to serve. That they were special because they were chosen, not chosen because they were of themselves special. The New Testament places Jesus at the centre of the story, and he himself says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” … We are left with our questions, even with our anger, staring at the cross and pondering the love which meant that God had to die, pondering the love which meant the break-up of the relationship at the heart of the Trinity.

The Christ-child was chosen, was rescued, in the story of our Gospel this morning, not ultimately for his own benefit, but for ours. The events of the first Christmas are just as messy as the events which ended Jesus earthly life. They are just as messy as the world has ever been, just as messy as our world today.

God calls us to continue struggling with the realities of life in our world, and to do so in the context he provides for us. The death and resurrection of Christ. That is God’s invitation to each of us as Christains, to place the reality, the mess of our world in context, as we come to Holy Communion and as we encounter once again the self-giving love which is at the heart of our faith.

Holy Trinity, Ashton-under-Lyne

A very small congregation in a Church of England Church in Ashton-under-Lyne has been having a dramatic impact in its local community.

Holy Trinity Church in the West End of Ashton-under-Lyne meets for worship on Thursday afternoons. Its regular congregation is less that 10 people.

Visionary leadership resulted in the completion of a Community Centre in the church nave, and has resulted in the Centre being used extensively by the local community.

St. Peter’s Ward, in which Holy Trinity Church is situated, is in the 2.5% most deprived wards in the UK. The area immediately around Holy Trinity Church has a history stretching back to early Victorian times. Throughout much of its history the neighbourhood has been a diverse place to live.

After the Second World War the local community had a high proportion of Ukrainian and Polish Immigrants. More recently the area has hosted a cosmopolitan mix of different nationalities. The local Church of England Primary School has a delightful mix of children for many of whom English is not their first language. Predominantly children come from families that have their roots in Asia.

Church members in the later part of the 20th century became aware of the changing demographics and decided that the building needed to be a place for the whole community.

A series of grants were obtained to allow major work inside the building. Since the millennium, the very small congregation has first enabled significant projects funded by others to use the building and then more recently has sought grants and employed its own staff to address some of the needs identified by the local community.

Holy Trinity Church and Community Centre was awarded its first ‘Reaching Communities’ grant from the Big Lottery in late 2016 for a project to enhance prospects for women in the immediate community. That project has been running since April 2017 and has just received the news from the Community Fund of the Big Lottery that it will receive a further 3 years of grant funding.

Outreach workers employed by the church have been making a significant difference within the local community. Tameside College is now partnering with the Centre to provide much needed education at a level below usual college entry requirements. The local social housing provider, New Charter (Jigsaw), is funding a number of different projects with the aim of empowering local people and developing skills. Other partners provide, or fund, youth-work, martial arts, sewing classes and slimming classes. One group knits to support the work of neonatal units is a number of local hospitals, another provides much needed community space for older Asian women. The centre provided essential advice and guidance, in a number of languages, for those navigating the increasingly complex, often on-line, world of benefits and asylum claims.

The work at Holy Trinity is visionary by its very nature, as no attempt  is made to dictate to the local community. The work is founded on the understanding that a local community has all the skills needed to make its own decisions. Provided wider society, particularly local and national government and the National Health Service, is willing to provide sufficient resources without dictating to the local community then real change is possible. For many people this seems counter-intuitive, but this (asset based community development) approach has a proven record of success.

Dynamic project leadership is resulting in local people effecting real change.  Community members are growing in self-confidence, local people are developing their skills through being at the Centre and through volunteering. For some, moving on through a process we call ‘Grow Our Own’ into employment with the Centre or in the wider local community.

There is real hope and joy in the faces of many involved with this project.

This is Christian Mission at its best! The Kingdom of God is growing. Christians, those of other faiths, and others who profess no faith, working together to bring hope to one local community.

The grant award  secures this work for a further three years, until April 2023.

Copyright

Copyright on Internet Images and Text

The situation relating to copyright on the internet is confusing. The detail of laws in different parts of the world is different and as a result the issue is confusing to most people.

So, for example, the ‘socialmediaexaminer.com’, [1] which is an American page, says the following:

Copyright laws were established not to give the author the right to deny their work to other people, but instead to encourage its creation.

Article I, Section 8, clause 8, of the United States Constitution states the purpose of copyright laws is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

It’s a delicate balance between the rights of the creator and the public’s interest. When in conflict, the balance tips more heavily toward the public’s interest, which is often contrary to what the creator believes to be fair or just. [1]

However, The UK government [2] says:

Sometimes permission is not required from the copyright-holder to copy an image, such as if the copyright has expired. Permission is also not required if the image is used for specific acts permitted by law (“permitted acts”, or sometimes referred to as “exceptions to copyright”).

People can use copyright works without permission from the copyright owner, such as for private study or non-commercial research, although some exceptions are not available for photographs. Further details are available here:

http://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright

If permission is required to use an image, permission will need to be obtained from all the copyright owners, whether it is a single image with numerous creators, a licensed image, or an image with embedded copyright works. Sometimes there will be one person or organisation that can authorise permission for all the rights in that image; in other cases separate permission may be needed from several individual rights owners.
The creator of a copyright work such as an image will usually have right to be acknowledged when their work has been used, provided they have asserted this right. If you are unsure whether or not the creator has asserted this right, then it is recommended that you provide a sufficient acknowledgement when using their work. [2]

The key question for many of us who write blogs and who both quote from other sources and make use of pictures from those sources, is what is meant by the words in bold italics above.

1. Text on the Internet and in other primary sources

The first question to address is what is meant by ‘fair dealing’. Another government website [3] talks about ‘fair dealing’:

Certain exceptions only apply if the use of the work is a ‘fair dealing’. For example, the exceptions relating to research and private study, criticism or review, or news reporting.

‘Fair dealing’ is a legal term used to establish whether a use of copyright material is lawful or whether it infringes copyright. There is no statutory definition of fair dealing – it will always be a matter of fact, degree and impression in each case. The question to be asked is: how would a fair-minded and honest person have dealt with the work?

Factors that have been identified by the courts as relevant in determining whether a particular dealing with a work is fair include:

  • does using the work affect the market for the original work? If a use of a work acts as a substitute for it, causing the owner to lose revenue, then it is not likely to be fair
  • is the amount of the work taken reasonable and appropriate? Was it necessary to use the amount that was taken? Usually only part of a work may be used.

The relative importance of any one factor will vary according to the case in hand and the type of dealing in question. [3]

‘Fair dealing’ is one element of this issue.  A more critical question is: What is meant by ‘Non-commercial research‘? One place to look for answers is with Wikipedia (Creative Commons) and specifically their comments relating to this matter. [4]

Non-Commercial (NC) “means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation. The definition is intent-based and intentionally flexible in recognition of the many possible factual situations and business models that may exist now or develop later. Clear-cut rules exist even though there may be gray areas, and debates have ensued over its interpretation. In practice, the number of actual conflicts between licensors and licensees over its meaning appear to be few.” [5]

However, this site, which makes images widely available on the internet and specifies the licence on each item, is an American website and so governed by US Law rather than EU law. A while back I joined the ‘Copyright Aid’ forum so as to be able to check whether particular activity on my blog met the requirements of the law. My usual practice in relation to images is to ask the photographer or copyright-holder for permission to use the image. There are however circumstances when this is unnecessary or it is impossible. Under these circumstances two matters are important, first, a commitment to ‘fair-dealing’ as discussed above. And second, the status of any blog as a non-commercial activity.

Before turning to the advice provided Copyright Aid, here are the comments about these issues carried by the Jisc in the UK (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee) whose role is to support post-16 and higher education, and research, by providing relevant and useful advice, digital resources and network and technology services. [6] Their website comments as follows (the emphasis is mine):

However, in addition, an image may appear on a blog even if no specific authorisation is provided by the copyright-holder provided a hyperlink is used rather than ‘copy and paste’.

References

  1. https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/copyright-fair-use-and-how-it-works-for-online-images, accessed on 15th December 2019.
  2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/481194/c-notice-201401.pdf, accessed on 15th December 2019.
  3. http://www.gov.uk/guidance/exceptions-to-copyright, accessed on 15th December 2019
  4. https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/NonCommercial_interpretation, accessed on 15th December 2019.
  5. This conclusion is borne out by the “Defining Noncommercial Study,” https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/Defining_Noncommercial, accessed on 15th December 2019.
  6. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/copyright-law/exceptions-to-infringement-of-copyright, accessed on 15th December 2019.
  7. https://artuk.org/about/copyright-exceptions#, accessed on 15th December 2019.
  8. https://www.copyrightaid.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2788&p=8043#p8043, accessed on 15th and 16th December 2019.
  9. https://artuk.org/about/what-is-non-commercial-use-vs-commercial-use, accessed on 15th December 2019.

Horwich Loco Works 18” Gauge Railway – Part 1

Horwich was transformed by the building of the Locomotive Works. [11]Horwich Locomotive Works in 1930. [12]

76, Wight Street, Horwich was my grandparents’ home right in the centre of the old village of Horwich, between Chorley Old Road and Chorley New Road. I stayed there frequently as a child (Google Streetview).

For a number of years in the 1920s and possibly also the 1930s my grandfather worked as a blacksmith in Horwich Loco Works. The works have always, as a result, had a specific interest for me. It has been somewhat saddening over the years to see their gradual deterioration and eventual closure.

Horwich Locomotive Works “was the last major British railway works to be established on a green field site.  There were traditionally very strong links between the Lancashire & Yorkshire and London & North Western railways, and John Ramsbottom, late of the LNWR was in 1883 appointed consultant to the LYR regarding the planning of Horwich Works.  He advocated an 18in gauge internal transport system similar to that he had earlier installed at Crewe. Originally extending to 7½ miles, this enjoyed a longer life as the last surviving locomotive built for it, ‘Wren’, was not retired until 1962. The system was used for moving components around the works.” [10]

I am at present (November 2019) reading Issue No. 27 of the Railway Archive Journal published by Black Dwarf Lightmoor Press of Lydney, Gloucestershire.

I have enjoyed reading Jeff Wells article in the journal about the Manchester Exhibition of 1887. [1] The article highlights a number of railway exhibits on display at the exhibition. Among these exhibits was ‘Dot‘ a Beyer Peacock 1ft 6 inch gauge 0-4-0T engine. ‘According to the official catalogue, Dot was ‘specifically built for working on tramways in yards and workshops, and also adopted for tail-rope shunting of ordinary wagons‘. After the exhibition, ‘Dot found work at the L&YR’s Horwich Works, joining two other Beyer, Peacock 18 in engines, Wren and Robin, which had arrived in April 1887. Such engines were considered necessary to convey materials around the seven miles of internal works’ railway.’ [1: p67]Jeff Wells was unable to find a picture of Dot but could find a picture of Robin which is reproduced here along with the accompanying text from his article. [1: p68] The image included in Jeff Wells article is the Beyer Peacock works image of the locomotive from 1887. Some limited further details of the image can be found on ‘picclick’ and in an edition of the Model Engineer. [17][19] Drawings produced in 2012 can be found on the site ‘Laurel Today’. [20]

This short excerpt from Jeff Wells article prompted further investigation of the internal railway system at the Horwich Loco Works. …

An 18-inch (460 mm) gauge railway, with approximately 7.5 miles (12.1 km) of track was built to carry materials around the works complex at Horwich. It was modelled on a similar system at Crewe Works. John AF Aspinall ordered two 18″ Gauge 0-4-0 tank engines from Beyer Peacock of Leeds at a cost of £250 each. They both arrived at Horwich Loco Works on 7th April 1887 and were named ‘Wren‘ and ‘Robin‘ respectively. A third Locomotive was ordered on the 8th November 1887 at a cost of £300 and on arrival was named ‘Dot‘. A further five similar locomotives were built at Horwich Loco Works and were named, ‘Fly’ ‘Wasp’ ‘Midget’ ‘Mouse’ and ‘Bee’. From 1930 they were gradually withdrawn from service, the last, ‘Wren’, was withdrawn in 1961/1962 and was originally renovated and placed on display in the Erecting Shop. [2][3] It is now preserved at the National Railway Museum. [4: p 215][5: p128-129]

The excellent book by M.D. Smith about Horwich Locomotive Works [6] has a picture on its front cover of the diminutive ‘Wren’ as can be seen in the adjacent image.

As noted above, this locomotive is now preserved at the National Railway Museum as a public exhibit illustrating the use of industrial and military railways. Photographs of ‘Wren’ at work in Horwich follow below. The first comes from the D. Prichard Collection and is in the public domain. [7] The second from Steam World Magazine. [9] ‘Wren’ was fitted with a strongbox on the tender for distributing wage packets. [10]

 

‘Wren’ Horwich Works in the 1950s. [18] A similar picture was in Steam World Magazine. [9]

The name of the loco shown in the adjacent image cannot be picked out in the picture. Radii were tight and locomotives had to manouvre around many different obstacles. The picture was taken in 1905 within the Locomotive Works (© National Railway Museum / Science & Society Picture Library) [13][18]

M.D. Smith’s book about the Works is a comprehensive review of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Loco Works in Horwich and contains a myriad of monochrome pictures of the works which. Illustrate maintenance and construction practice at the Works over the years. In many of the photographs an 18″ gauge railway can be seen running down the central corridor in each workshop. In some shops the 18″ gauge track runs between the rails of a standard-gauge track serving the workspace. Two images will suffice to illustrate this point. The first shows the north side of the Smithy in 1902 with  the 18″ gauge track running down the centre of the workshop. The second shows the Wheel Shop in 1920 with both track gauges present. [6: p52-53]. Smith’s book is a fantastic exploration of the Works of great interest to anyone with connections to it or with a desire to better understand its workings.Horwich Locomotive Works: The Smithy 1902 [6: p53]Horwich Locomotive Works: The Wheel Shop 1920 [6: p52]

ZM32 (in ‘wasp’ livery) and ‘Wren’ at Horwich works on 4 March 1961. [8]

In 1957 a Ruston & Hornsby Class LAT 20Hp diesel locomotive (ZM32) was built for the system and arrived in British Railways Green with Yellow and Black ‘Wasp’ warning panels.

With works number 416214 it worked up until 1965 when the 18″ gauge railway was abandonned and the diesel loco was put into store.

It had been intended for this loco to be sold to a railway in British Honduras but this fell through and in 1971 it was sold to RP Morris.

The loco was re-built and re-gauged to 2′ gauge and worked at Pen-Yr-Orsedd Quarry, Nantlle and Gloddfa Ganol.

It was finally acquired for preservation in 1997 by The Steeple Grange Light Railway near Wirksworth in Derbyshire. It was fully overhauled and the 18″ gauge wheels were re-instated. It received original British Railways Green and in its honour was named ‘Horwich’.

The Steeple Grange Light Railway website comments that “In the summer of 2004, ZM32 topped an informal poll amongst narrow gauge enthusiasts to determine the ten most popular non-steam locomotives in the UK.” [8]

Other relevant resources:

Notes on RMWeb: ‘An Illustrated History of 18 Inch Gauge Steam Railways’, by Mark Smithers (OPC 1993) devotes 13 pages to the Horwich system, with photos, drawings and a track plan. There are 2 photos in “Lost Lines, British Narrow Gauge” (by Nigel Welbourn, published 2000) on pages 95 & 96 showing Wren and ZM32. A model of ‘Wren was produced in “O-9mm” and can be found here: http://www.springsidemodels.com/id153.htm. [14]

The GN15 Forum: Notes and pictures of a model in GN15 can also be found at the end of a discussion on this forum: http://gn15.info/forum. [21]

Blackrod Station: owed its ongoing existence into the late 20th Century to the Works. [15]

The Condition of the Works in January 2011: is illustrated on the 28 Days Later Urban Exploration forum. The pictures on that site provide a very atmospheric look at the old buildings of the Works. As well as modern monochrome images, the site also has a number of archived images of the Works. [16]

References

  1. Jeff Wells; The Railways Involvement in he Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1887; in Railway Archive Issue No. 27, June 2010, Black Dwarf Lightmoor Press, Lydney, Gloucestershire, p57-69.
  2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horwich_Works#, accessed on 15th November 2019.
  3. “Motive power miscellany: Midland Region Central Lines”. Trains illustrated. Vol. XIV no. 154. Hampton Court: Ian Allan. July 1961. p. 441.
  4. John Marshall, B.W.C. Cooke (ed.), “Notes and News“, The Railway Magazine, Westminster: Tothill Press, vol. 110 no. 759, July 1964.
  5. John Marshall; The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, Volume 3; David & Charles, Newton Abbott, 1972.
  6. M.D. Smith; Horwich Locomotive Works; Amadeus, Huddersfield, 1996.
  7. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LandYR_Horwich_Works_locomotive_%27Wren%27.jpg, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  8. http://www.steeplegrange.co.uk/locos-zm32.htm, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  9. https://steamworldmag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/sw321-horwich.compressed.pdf, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  10. https://preservedbritishsteamlocomotives.com/wren-0-4-0st-lyr-horwich-works-narrow-gauge, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  11. https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/13573684.how-the-loco-works-transformed-a-town (5th August 2015), accessed on 10th December 2019.
  12. https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/17827041.loco-works-changed-horwich-sleepy-village-hive-industry (19th August 2019), accessed on 10th December 2019.
  13. https://www.ssplprints.com/image/117089/locomotive-at-horwich-works-c-1905, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  14. https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/50746-horwich-works-narrow-gauge-railway, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  15. http://www.blackrod.org.uk/industry_locoworks.html, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  16. https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/horwich-loco-works-nr-bolton-jan-2011.57166
  17. https://picclick.co.uk/LNWR-loco-ROBIN-at-HORWICH-WORKS-built-BP-142881232407.html, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  18. http://britbahn.wikidot.com/horwich-works-railway, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  19. Jim Robinson; Prototype Locomotives and Railway Practice; in Model Engineer Centenial Celebration Collection, Volume 1 No. 3, 1997, p13. https://www.model-engineer.co.uk/sites/7/documents/me-cen-3-pt1.pdf, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  20. https://laurell.today/prototypes/uk/horwich.html, accessed on 10th December 2019.
  21. http://gn15.info/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6983, accessed on 10th December 2019.

Appendix No. 1

The Bolton News: 5th August 2015 [11]

“Horwich Loco Works was a major source of employment for local folk. It became synonymous with the town. You could barely mention Horwich without reference being made to the Loco Works.

Prior to the building of the works Horwich was described as a “sleepy village” with far fewer residents. It would be transformed into something few could have imagined and this transformation was not without its concerns. According to Horwich Heritage Society chairman Stuart Whittle, fate played a hand in the arrival of the works 130 years ago and, ultimately, in the formation of the popular local society too.

“It is remarkable to think that I wouldn’t be writing this article but for two major twists of fate that completely changed the fortunes of the town of Horwich,” says Stuart. For a start, Horwich was not even on the list of possible sites for a new Loco Works when the directors of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company met on May 21 1884.

However, with those sites on offer not looking promising, the company’s surveyor and land agent, Elias Dorning, mentioned an announcement in that very morning’s paper that 650 acres of land was for sale in the village of Horwich. This land was to be auctioned at the Mitre Hotel in Manchester in six days time so time was of the essence to decide whether it was suitable.

John Ramsbottom and William Barton-Wright were the two men charged with reviewing the whole of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company’s railway system and, together with Dorning, they visited the area and reported back favourably, explains Stuart.

“Although the area of land on offer far exceeded their requirements, the directors authorised Dorning to attend the auction and purchase the site for not more than £65,000.

“In the event, Dorning was able to acquire this major part of the village of Horwich for only £36,000 and that Tuesday afternoon, May 27 1884 marked the beginning of a remarkable transformation for the sleepy village. “Within four months site drawings had been approved and in December detailed plans for the buildings were submitted by Ramsbottom.”

The land allocated for the works, south of Chorley Old Road, was relatively flat and presented few problems with the exception of the hill on Old Harts Farm.

“Site works commenced in January 1885 and by the end of July the erecting shop foundations were nearing completion. On November 15 1886 Horwich Loco Works was officially opened and work began immediately.”

The existing Horwich population of fewer than 4,000 most of whom lived on the “top side” (Church Street) were both intrigued and appalled by the prospect of a major influx of new residents and they were right to be concerned, adds Stuart.

“The population more than tripled in 10 years as navvies and new employees came from all over the country to work on and at the new works.

“Such an increase put an incredible strain both on the town’s physical and social infrastructure as the Local Board, Railway Company and local builders struggled to build enough houses, shops, schools, churches and other social facilities.

“This strain was bound to tell and there was increasing tension both on the works’ site and in the town, particularly amongst the navvies.”

Apparently the local police presence had to be increased but this did not prevent a major incident breaking out in 1886 when ill-feeling between English and Irish navvies (allegedly provoked because of different rates of pay) erupted into fighting which extended over a wide area of the town and lasted on and off for a week. “Weapons used in the violent incidents included bricks, pokers, blocks of wood, belts and a scythe,” explains Stuart.

Within the works industrial relations were generally good in the early years but, with so many trades represented by newly-established unions, strikes and lock-outs did occur. The worst was a 12-week strike in 1906 which resulted in real hardship for workers’ families. Soup kitchens were provided by local shopkeepers followed by a bitter nine-week dispute in 1911 which involved a full scale riot and the drafting in of hundreds of extra police to deal with the local unrest. Despite this turbulent start the works quickly got into its stride. Initially it catered for locomotive repairs but on February 20 1889 the first designed and built loco, No.1008, steamed out of the erecting shop.

“The locomotive production age at Horwich had begun. “At its peak the works employed around 5,000 men and would go on to build 1,830 steam locos, 169 diesels and five 18 inch gauge locos.

“Some 50,000 locos were repaired there. The Loco Works effectively built the town of Horwich we know today and many Horwich families have ancestors who arrived from all over the country to work there. The works became the educational, social and recreational centre of the town through the building of the Railway Mechanics Institute and even today, many local clubs and societies still bear the famous RMI initials,” adds Stuart.

The second twist of fate occurred on December 23 1983 when the unthinkable happened — the works closed down almost 100 years after that fateful day in 1884 when the decision to buy the site was taken and 97 years after the first locomotives were taken in for repair. This left a whole community devastated. A hard campaign had been fought to save the works but to no avail. The town had lost its main employer and the industry that was synonymous with the town. So what would the future hold?

It was in the middle of this devastation that Horwich Heritage was formed to raise the spirits of the townsfolk and help them believe that they still had a wonderful town to be proud of. Remarkably, without the closure of the works, there may not have been such an urgent need to recognise the town’s history, particularly its great railway legacy and Horwich Heritage may not have happened at all, says Stuart. “So in a perverse way, we have the closure of the works to thank for everything we have achieved and enjoyed over the past 30 years. Quite a thought!”” [11]

 

 

British Railways: 1948

I have recently purchased the six copies of The Railway Magazine which were issued in 1948. The first of these coincides with the formation of British Railways, and the January/February 1948 issue of the magazine [1] highlights for the readers a little of the history of railways in Britain which led up to that momentous occasion. A copy of the article is reproduced in Appendix 1 to this article.

The Railway Magazine was not alone in seeing the 1st January 1948 as a significant landmark in railway history. The Guardian carried an article on 30th December 1947 which said: “Of all the landmarks in Britain’s railway history, January 1 1948 will probably be outstanding. It is over a hundred years since railway nationalisation was first advocated. Since then enthusiasts for State ownership have never ceased to proclaim the benefits to be obtained, though in 1867 Sir Rowland Hill in a minority report as a member of a Royal Commission on Railways gave a warning of the “undue enlargement of expectation”. The clamour became louder towards the end of last century when the trade unions took it up strongly and after the first world war nationalisation nearly became a fact. Since then the pressure has continued to grow, culminating in the Transport Act of last August which provided for the transfer of the railways to the State on January 1. Thus after more than a century of controversy the decision has been taken.” [2]

That article in the Guardian asserted that: “Originally, the main planks in the argument were private versus public ownership and the effects on production and distribution supported by allegations of railway inefficiency: now the emphasis is placed on coordination of all forms of transport.” Indeed, apart from political dogma, that does seem to have been a significant factor in the decision-making of the time. The article in The Railway Magazine states that on that day: “The four mainline railways, the various joint lines, and those minor railways … under government control since the outbreak of the recent war, pass into the ownership of the British Transport Commission, under the provisions of the Transport Act, of August 6, 1947.” [1: p1] … “The Act provides for setting up bodies called Executives, … to assist the Commission as its agents. … As at present contemplated there will be the following: Railway Executive; London Transport Executive; Docks & Inland Waterways Executive; Road Transport Executive; and (from a date to be fixed) Hotels Executive.” [1: p2]

Interestingly, The Railway Magazine article suggests that the history of public railways in Great Britain up to 1948 (a period of around 150 years) could be divided into a series of eras each about 25 years in duration. [1: p1]

First, a period of horse-operated railways; second, the transition to steam-power; third (1848-1873), an era of competition; fourth, was a time of increased desire on the part of the industry to reduce competition through amalgamation which was not supported by Parliament; fifth (the early 20th century), was largely non-competitive with an increased tendancy towards grouping. [1: p1]

The last quarter-century before 1948 followed the Great War. The government’s outlook was changed by the War. Grouping was imposed by Statute, amalgamating 123 existing companies into the Big 4 of the GWR, The Southern, the LNER and the LMS. [1: p2]T.R. Gourvish, writing in the mid-1980s [6], said: “The origins of some of the difficulties facing nationalised railways when the newly created British Transport Commission took over in January 1948 lie in the inter-war years and, indeed, in the industry’s position before the First World War.” [6: p1] Government intervention in the industry and other factors, from 1900 on, limited railway companies freedom to choose and charge for the traffic they carried:

  • A public service obligation was laid on railway companies.
  • Labour costs were the subject of government control
  • A steadily increasing capital burden.
  • Lower and lower operating margins

Interestingly, “Such realities were masked by the railways’ continuing dominance of inland transport and their ability to provide reasonable returns to investment. In 1910-12, for example, the net rate of return on capital raised (excluding nominal additions to capital) averaged 4.23 per cent, and this was much the same as 40 years earlier when interest rates were higher.” [6: p1][7]

Increasingly, after the Great War, and particularly after the years of depression which followed, “the transport environment changed radically. Road transport began to challenge rail successfully in a number of markets, but especially in short-distance passenger and short- and medium-distance freight. Although the railways retained their traditional predominance in the long-distance freight business, even here profits were reduced by the instability and shrinking output of Britain’s staple industries which came with the slump in world trade. Coal output, for example, which had averaged 270 million tons in 1909-13, was 16 per cent lower in the ‘recovery’ years, 1934-8.” [6: p1]

However, these changes were not reflected in any relaxation in government control of pricing and marketing policy. “The Railways Act of 1921 had rejected outright nationalisation in favour of regulated regional monopolies; the four ‘main-line’ railways, the Great Western, London & North Eastern, London Midland & Scottish and Southern, established in 1923, represented the amalgamation of no less than 123 companies. This search for the efficiency believed to be inherent in regulated, large-scale business units marked the end of the government’s faith in inter-railway competition as a protection for consumers.” [6: p2]

Inevitably, “the continued obligation to accept traffic, publish charges, provide a reasonable level of service, avoid ‘undue preference’ in the treatment of customers and submit to government regulation of wages and conditions, left the railways vulnerable to their more flexible and less constrained competitors.” [6: p2]

Gourvish goes on to explain that by 1938, “the main-line companies were pressing vigorously for more equitable treatment. In that year net revenue fell by nearly 25 per cent. Although the trade depression was primarily responsible, the railways put some of the blame on the government’s one-sided control of freight traffic charges. The ‘Square Deal Campaign’, initiated by the ‘Big Four’ railway companies in November, demanded an end to the legal disabilities under which the railways were operating in comparison with the road hauliers – classification, publication of rates, etc. – and the case had been accepted in government circles before the outbreak of war interrupted the legislative programme.” [6: p2]

The Second World War made matters much worse. Railways were “placed under the control of 88the Ministry of Transport (from May 1941 the Ministry of War Transport), but operational management was retained by a Railway Executive Committee of railway managers. An agreement with the government established the basis of payment for traffic carried, but charges were frozen and maintenance and renewal were largely sacrificed to the war effort. The final agreement with the government, reached in September 1941 and back-dated to 1 January, gave the railways a guaranteed net revenue of £43.5 million. The government were to take any surplus earned above this figure, but it was agreed that an accumulating trust fund would be established to meet deferred repairs and renewals. Fares and rates were stabilised at the level of April 1941.”[6: p3][8]

In 1944 the net ton-mileage of freight carried was 50% higher than in 1938, and passenger-mileage was up by 67%. However, these statistics “obscured the underlying realities of the industry’s weakening financial position as wear and tear increased sharply without adequate provision being made for replacement and renewal. When the companies’ net earnings fell from £62.5 million in 1945 to only £32.5 million in 1946, there could be no doubt at all as to the potential severity of the post-war situation.” [6: p3]

Gourvish comments that labour costs had risen during the War by 75% coal by 92% and materials by 83%, yet charges which could be levied by the railway companies were not increased form 1939 until 1946 and then only by between 7 and 14%. However, “whatever the government had decided to do about profits and prices, there would still have remained a serious problem of under-investment as a result of war-time shortages. The companies were probably in a weaker position to initiate early provision for repairs and renewals than they might have been, and there is good reason for criticising the extent to which the railways were allowed to run down during the war, not least because Ministry officials were themselves aware that post-war replacement costs would be both high and incapable of being cleared in the short run.” [6: p4]

The results of war-time use and neglect were clear. “By 1945, there was a large backlog of repairs and renewals, and this greatly impaired railway operations for the rest of the decade. Despite the considerable increase in traffic, renewal of the permanent way in the years 1940-4 was reduced to under 70 per cent of pre-war levels, and by the end of 1945 the deficiency amounted to nearly 2,500 track miles, or about two years’ work under normal (i.e. pre-war) conditions. A similar reduction was evident in the work on structures — tunnels, bridges, buildings, etc.” [6: p4]

One example of the drastic impact of the war years on the railways is in the condition of rolling stock. According to a British Transport Commission internal memo, before the War rolling stock awaiting repair or under repair was: 6% of Locomotives; 6.5% of Coaching Stock; 2.8% of Wagons. By the end of 1946, the same memo indicated that these figures were: 8% of Locomotives; 12.5% of Coaches; 10.8% of Wagons. Respective increases of: 32%, 92% and 281%!  (Sir Ian Bolton, memo., 21st November 1947, B.T.C. 517-1-1A, B.R-B. ) [6: p5]

The difficulties of maintaining the stock of freight wagons were greatly exacerbated by the requisition and pooling of about 563,000 privately owned vehicles at the beginning of the war. These were markedly inferior to the railway companies’ own wagon fleet. At the end of 1946 over 50 per cent of them were more than 35 years old, as compared with less than 10 per cent of the companies’ own wagons; so of the total pool of stock nearly 28 per cent were over 35 years old.” [6: p5]

Gourvish comments: “The postponement of essential maintenance and renewals, coupled with the more intensive use of the network and the effects of war damage, proved to be a most unfortunate legacy for post-war managements. The results were felt well into the period of nationalised railways.” [6:p5]

The years 1946 and 1947 presented difficulties which were certainly as acute, if not more acute, than those experienced in wartime. In the words of Christopher Savage, the official historian of inland transport during the war: the problems of restoration and organisation which faced British inland transport when the war ended were scarcely less formidable than the transport problems encountered in the most difficult war years. [6: p6][9]

Four months after the Labour Party took office, a clear commitment to nationalisation was made public by Herbert Morrison in a statement on 19 November 1945.[6: p6][10] The railway companies, together with the London Passenger Transport Board, remained under formal government control until they were vested in the British Transport Commission on 1 January 1948.  In 1948, the British Transport Commission delegated to the Railway Executive its functions in relation to the 4 railway companies, their steamships and other ancillary businesses but reserved to itself engagement with parliament and the government and the issue of stock. … The Executive did not have “powers to acquire undertakings, or to borrow money, nor any power to hold investments.” [1: p2]

The Railway Magazine article, with which we started this post and which appears in the Appendix below, looked forward from January 1948 to the way in which The Railway Executive would organise its responsibilities. It envisaged the creation of six regions on the mainland of Great Britain, with the railways of Northern Ireland being delegated to the London Midland Region. [1: p2, p72]

‘British Railways’ came into existence as the business name of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission (BTC). “The first priority of the new British Railways Board was to repair the infrastructure of the railways damaged by bombing, clear the backlog of maintenance that had built up, and make good losses in locomotives and rolling stock.” [3]

Though there were few initial changes to the service, usage increased and the network became profitable. [4]

The decades after nationalisation in 1948 brought major change in the railway network. Successive governments were committed to the elimination of steam in favour of diesel and electric traction. “Over time, with the growth of the road haulage sector, passengers replaced freight (especially coal transport) as the railways’ main source of income, and, as rationalisation took hold in the 1960s, one third of the pre-1948 network was closed.” [5]

References

  1. British Railways; The Railway Magazine, Vol. 94, No. 573, January and February 1948, p1, 2, 72.
  2. State Ownership of Railways – The Passing of and Era; The Guardian, 30th December 1947, https://www.theguardian.com/world/1947/dec/30/transport.uk, accessed on 3rd December 2019.
  3. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Great_Britain_1948%E2%80%931994, accessed on 3rd December 2019.
  4. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Great_Britain, accessed on 3rd December 2019.
  5. http://www.rail.co.uk/british-railway-history/british-rail, accessed on 9th December 2019.
  6. T.R. Gourvish; British Railways 1948-1973; Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986.
  7. T.R. Gourvish; Railways in the British Economy 1830-1914; Macmillan, London,1980, p52ff.
  8. Sir N. Chester; The Nationalisation of British Industry 1945-51; H.M.S.O., London, 1975, p701.
  9. C.I. Savage; Inland Transport; H.M.S.O., London, 1957, p639.
  10. Parliamentary Debate (Commons), Volume 416 (Session 1945-6), 35.

Appendix No. 1