Coalport Incline – Ironbridge

The Hay Inclined Plane at Coalport, Shropshire

On a visit  to Ludlow in late October 2020, my wife and I drove down through Ironbridge Gorge on the River Severn. Just North of Ironbridge we drive through the village of Coalport and over a bridge which spanned a steep inclined plane – two steeply graded parallel railway lines. I suppose it is arguable whether the Inclined Plane really constitutes a railway as it was used for transporting boats between a Canal and a river.

This was the Hay Inclined Plane which provided access from the Shropshire Canal to the River Severn. As far back as 1788 the owners of the canal held a competition to find the most effective way of lowering and lifting loads between the canal and the river.

The winning proposal was submitted by Henry Williams and James Loudon, which was also used at a number of other places in Shropshire. Construction was completed in 1793. By 1820 it was in poor condition and major repairs were needed. (This was also the case in the 1940s.) [1]

In 1857 the Incline was taken over by the LNWR (London and North Western Railway). In 1858, the LNWR closed the Shropshire Canal between the Wrockwardine Wood and Windmill inclined planes, leaving only a short section of canal to serve the industrial area of Blists Hill.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Blists Hill was an industrial region consisting of a brick and tile works, blast furnaces and coal, iron and fire clay mines operated by the Madeley Wood Company. A short section of the Shropshire Canal ran across the site to the Hay Inclined Plane, which transported boats up and down the 207 ft (63m) high incline from Blists Hill to Coalport. [2]

By 1861, the LNWR had opened their Coalport Branch from Wellington to Coalport which passed across the bottom of the Hay Incline. It seems as though the last use of the Hay Incline was in the year 1894 and it was formally closed in 1907. [1]

The Incline was restored in 1968 and once more in 1975. Rails were reinstated as part of the creation of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. [3][4]

The video below was taken by DJI Spark. It gives an excellent overview of the location. [5]


  1. Ironbridge Gorge Museum information boards.
  2., accessed on 21st October 2020.
  3., accessed on 21st October 2020.
  4., accessed on 21st October 2020.
  5., accessed on 21st October 2020.

The Railways of Jamaica

I have just enjoyed reading, ‘The Railways of Jamaica’, written by Jim Horsford. It is a Locomotives International publication, published by Paul Catchpole Ltd, St. Austel, Cornwall. [1]

This is an excellent study on the history of the main lines of the railways in Jamaica and also reflects briefly on some of the still open lines serving the Bauxite industry. The book results from a visit by Jim Horsford in 2006 to Jamaica and includes photographs from his own collection and those of other enthusiasts and past residents of Jamaica. In addition some aerial views taken from a helicopter show the condition of various sites on the old network in 2006.

In addition to a review of the network, Jim Horsford provides details of the majority of different locomotives and railcars used on the system together with passenger and good stock.

I managed to pick up the book on offer from Mainline and Maritime [2] for £5. It is at present on offer on their website for £10 and they offer to include a volume about the Sugar Cane lines of Cuba along with it. The RRP is £25.

Each of the main lines and branch lines on the public network are described in detail. The system used to link the capital Kingstown with Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Ewarton, Frankfield, Fort Simonds, Port Esquival and the Pleasant Valley. The featured image shows the network at its peak before Bauxite Mining operations began.

The book was a delightful read.

Wikipedia [3] provides provides a relatively strong study of the railways of the Caribbean island through until final closure of the network in 1992. [4] It does not seem necessary to reproduce significant parts of that article in this post. The full Wikipedia article can be found here. [3]

The first colonial railway for both freight and passengers opened in Jamaica in 1845, only twenty years after George Stephenson’s Stockton and Darlington Railway commenced operations in the United Kingdom.

By the 1890s expansion had reached its peak, with 216 miles of main and branch lines. Railway services contributed greatly to the development of the island “by providing efficient and inexpensive transport and by opening up the interior to the cultivation of old and new plantation crops, encouraging the intensification of peasant agriculture, promoting the establishment of agro-industries and creating new townships.” [5]

Jamaica 1970 Jamaican Railways SG 326 [6]

In the 1930s the failure of the banana industry and competition from motor transport drastically reduced revenue. By the 1970s the railways had become a liability. In 1975 two of the mainlines closed. This was the beginning of the end, although the railways struggles on until 1992.

Four private industrial lines continue to operate in the 21st Century, in part using Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) lines. [7] Of the total of 272 kilometres (169 miles) of standard-gauge lines operating in 1992, 207 kilometres (129 mi) of public lines belonging to JRC closed, leaving 65 kilometres (40 mi) in private hands. [8].

Wikipedia tells us that the JRC still exists in the early 21st century. It is responsible for management of the JRC interests and property, and maintaining its locomotives but not the rolling stock. [9] In November 1990, the JRC signed a 30-year Track User Agreement with Alcan Jamaica, which was renegotiated with the successor Windalco in December 2001. [3]

“The company makes J$40 million per year through track user fees for the hauling of alumina and bauxite, and the residual from the rental of real estate and its three operable locomotives. The company has a staff of 76, who fulfill contractual obligations to users of the company’s facilities” [3][10].

It seems that, “during the 1990s, a plan was considered which would see commuter services between Kingston and Spanish Town, later extended to Linstead. It was proposed to cost US$8 million and be running by January 2001, with the government holding 40% of a public-private venture.” [3] This proposal appears not to have come to fruition.

A further revival of rail services was considered in the very early years of the 21st century. Discussions were held with a series of different partners: the Canadian National Railway; the Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES); and then with the China Railway after a deal was signed by the Prime Minister P J Patterson with Chinese vice-president Zeng Qinghong in Jamaica in February 2005. [3]

On 16th April 2011 an inaugural train ran from May Pen to Linstead. [11] This service was short-lived, running until August 2012, [12] and it was December 2016 before “the government signed a memorandum of understanding with Herzog International to study the resumption of passenger and freight services. The Ministry of Transport & Mining envisaged a three-stage reopening process, with Phase 1 covering Montego Bay to Appleton, Phase 2 Spanish Town to Ewarton and Phase 3 Spanish Town to Clarendon.” [13]

The bright colours of the refurbished/new stock for Jamaica Railways. [19]

The 2016 initiative foundered “in late 2017 because Herzog Jamaica Limited failed to meet the deliverables of a non-binding ­memorandum of understanding brokered with the Ministry of Transport and Mining.” [12]

At the beginning of 2020, the Jamaica Observer reported that the Government was “to try a new approach to restore passenger rail service to Jamaica, almost 28 years after the trains stopped rolling. Minister with portfolio responsibility for information Karl Samuda … announced a change in the approach to the privatisation of the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC). ” [14]

The Jamaica Gleaner reported in June 2020 that the Government was still committed to reviving a rail service. [15]

There is an educational video about the line. The film was made  in the mid-1960s: [16]

The next video was shot during the brief window of activity starting in 2011. it covers a length of the line between Bog Walk and Angels on a journey on 9th August 2011. [17]

One final link takes you to a .pdf produced by the Jamaican government. It tells the story of the railways. We need to forgive the incorrect captions under the first two pictures, (the captions have been transposed). The .pdf can be downloaded by clicking here. [18]


  1. J. Horsford; The Railways of Jamaica; a Locomotives International publication, published by Paul Catchpole Ltd, St. Austel, Cornwall, 2010.
  2. Mainline and Martime:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  3., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  4. For more details see: Veront M. Satchell & Cezley Sampson (University of the West Indies); The rise and fall of railways in Jamaica, 1845-1975′; in the Journal of Transport History; Volume No. 24, Issue No.1, March 2003;  p1-21.
  5., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  6., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  7.  Jamaica Transportation Encyclopædia Britannica:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  8. Jamaica Transportation Archived 2007-12-30 at the Wayback Machine Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
  9. The Privatisation of Jamaica Railway Corporation stalls and sputters Radio Jamaica – April 24, 2007;, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  10. Jamaican trains may never roll again The Jamaica Observer – February 25, 2007:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  11., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  12. Railway Corporation to end passenger services. Jamaica Gleaner:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  13., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  14.;t_announces_another_plan_to_get_trains_rolling_again?profile=0, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  15., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  16. The film is made available by the National Library of Jamaica on YouTube:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  17. A short length of railway viewd from the train in 2011:, accessed on 8th October 2020.
  18., accessed on 8th October 2020.
  19., accessed on 8th October 2020.

Co. Donegal Railways, Ireland – Part 5 – Strabane to Letterkenny (Part B – Raphoe to Convoy)

As we noted at the start of the previous article about this line, Wikipedia gives us a very short history of the line from Strabane to Letterkenny and provides a single image – the Railway Clearing House map with stations in Strabane and Letterkenny:

The Railway Clearing House map with stations in Strabane and Letterkenny. [3]

This series of articles seeks to expand our understanding of the route of the various Co. Donegal Railways through combining old images and modern views. Satellite images also give us a good understanding of what remains of the infrastructure of these lines.

A Journey Along the Line – Strabane to Letterkenny – Part B – Raphoe to Convoy

A sketch plan of Raphoe Railway Station by Steve Flanders from the book ‘The County Donegal Railways’ [1: p43] This drawing is included by kind permission of Steve Flanders.Railcar No. 20 at Raphoe Station, heading for Letterkenny in 1959 (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) The Crossing-keepers cottage at the level-crossing to the East of the Station can be picked out to the right of the railcar. By this time, the passing loop shown in Steve Flanders sketch plan above had been lifted. [7]

Having enjoyed a stopover in Raphoe, we start the next stage of this journey back at the Railway Station at Raphoe and pick up the last image (above) from the previous article about the line:

Before we climb aboard Railcar No. 20 as it sets off for Letterkenny we look at the condition of the station site in the 21st century. The two pictures immediately below were taken relatively recently by Kerry Doherty. The first shows the location of the old station platform, the second looks from the West through the station site.

All that remains of the platform of Raphoe station. You can clearly see this shed is built on top of it (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]This picture appeared at the end of the last article about this line. It shows the site of Raphoe Station in 21st century taken from a similar position to the Roger Joanes image above. The Station Master’s House on the left is the only building remaining on the site. Kerry Doherty comments that ‘it was difficult to get a photo of the site as many lorries now occupy the yard’, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]

There are also two excellent photographs of Raphoe in Anthony Burges Album of the line. [8: p32-33]

Now we set off towards Convoy from Raphoe Railway Station. …….GSGS 1940s Map of Raphoe and its Southwestern approaches. [2]The site of Raphoe Railway Station in the 21st century. [4]The route continues through Aughnakeeragh (Google Maps).

The three images immediately above show that the line began, gradually, to curve round to a Southwesterly direction as it left Raphoe Railway Station, before turning almost directly South at Aughnakeeragh.

At location ‘1’ on the map immediately above, the road turned sharply to the south so as to cross the railway on a bridge.The narrow road crossed the old railway on a stone arch bridge. The railway cutting has now been infilled and the road alignment marginally improved (Google Streetview). This view shows the approach from Raphoe.Crossing the bridge location and turning to look back towards Raphoe, this is the view (Google Streetview)

At location ‘4’, an accommodation bridge provided access across the old line.

The location of the old bridge is difficult to pick out on this image from Google Streetview.

This image, taken by Kerry Doherty from the top of the bridge at location ‘3’ above gives a better impression of the remains of the old bridge. The S&LR was in cutting at the bridge but the land drops away towards the foreground and at the point of the modern access road in the middle of the picture, the line went from being in cutting to being on an embankment, (c) Kerry Doherty [6]

As noted under the picture above, at location ‘2’, the old railway was almost at the same level as the surrounding land with cutting to the East and embankment developing to the West.A modern farm access road crosses the old line at the approximate location when natural land levels and the formation of the S&LR matched (Google Streetview).

At location ‘3’, close to Aughnakeeragh, the railway was carried over a road on a stone arch bridge.This Google Streetview image shows the bridge viewed from the Southeast.The Google Streetview image of the bridge taken from the Northwest shows it heavily overgrown by ivy.In this recent photograph, the bridge has been stripped of vegetation and is much more clearly visible, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]This Google Streetview image is taken from the road on the North side of the line, immediately to the West of the above bridge and shows the Railway embankment disturbed to allow vehicles to access land to the South.The next extract from the GSGS 1940s series of Maps shows the line to the West of Aughnakeeragh. [9]

After passing immediately to the West of Aughnakeeragh the line headed South for a Short distance before curving to the West once again.

There was an accommodation bridge which carried a lane across the S&LR at Tullyvinny. The location appears on the adjacent Google Maps extract to the Southwest of the road junction at the centre of the satellite image. The lane ran parallel to the S&LR for a short distance on the East side of the railway cutting before turning West across the line. The closest we can get on Google Streetview is shown in the first image below.

The next track to cross the line was that leading to Figart Upper Farm. The Lane appears in the bottom third, on the left-hand side of the next Google Maps satellite image below. The farm is on the left-hand side of the image close to the top.From Figart Upper Farm to Kiltole the old line was alternately in cutting and at the same level as the surrounding land but on the hill above the road which ran parallel to it to the South. An accommodate bridge over the line is marked by the black circle on the above plan and appears to relate to another structure which can be seen on the Goggle Streetview photograph below and which is taken from the road a little to the West of the accommodation bridge.A lime kiln adjacent to the accommodation bridge referred to above. It seems as though the bridge permitted access to the lime kiln.  (Google Streetview).

Very kindly, when I first asked about this structure in very early October 2020, Kerry Doherty offered to investigate. He took his camera with him as he endeavoured to walk the line from the West. He gained access to the old line through a field adjacent to the Kiltole Quarry . His first photograph shows the formation to the East of the quarry.

The formation of the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway to the East of Kiltole Quarry, (c) Kerry Doherty [6]

Kerry’s trek along the line increasingly required him to struggle through bushes, small trees and thick under growth. The next picture is taken looking West from close to the lime-kiln and its bridge.

Looking West towards Convoy close to the Limekiln, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Kerry Doherty says: “It got almost impassable approaching the bridge beside the lime kiln. The bridge pillars can just be seen through the trees,” (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Kerry says: “I climbed the cutting to get a better shot of the bridge,” (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Some original boundary fencing adjacent to the bridge parapet, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Looking across the accommodation bridge and then across the Lime Kiln to the South, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]Adjacent to the Lime Kiln the two approach walls to the bridge parapet railing can be seen. That to the East is curved in plan, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]

Three pictures of the Lime Kiln follow. All again taken by Kerry Doherty:The Lime Kiln from the South, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]The view from the Southwest, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]A close-up shot of the mouth of the Kiln, (c) Kerry Doherty. [6]

Immediately to the west, the road and old railway ran close together. This can be seen in this next Google Streetview image.In this picture the formation of the S&LR can be seen in the trees immediately at the back of the land belonging to this bungalow (Google Streetview).

The line ahead now approaches Convoy. Although the formation is completely lost as it crossed the site of the now defunct Kiltole Quarry. The railway station was in the part of Convoy referred to as Milltown (to the East of Convoy itself), sited just to the North of the old mills.The Village/Town of Convoy (Milltown) on the GSGS 1940s Series of Maps. [10]

Convoy on the Header National Townland and Historical Map Viewer. The route of the old railway has been imposed on the map as a thin red line. [11]The approximate route of the old line through Convoy (Google Maps). The locations of the Gatehouse and the two road over rail bridges are marked.

The closest view of the Railway Station site at Convey that is available on Google Streetview. The last remaining structure on the site is the goods shed.

Convoy Railway Station 1959 (c) Roger Joanes, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

This second length of the Strabane to Letterkenny line finishes here at Convoy, the remainder of the line to Letterkenny will follow in another post.


  1. Edward M Patterson (original author), Joe Begley & Steve Flanders (authors of additional material in the Revised Edition); The County Donegal Railways; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down 2014. As noted in my first article about the Co. Donegal Railways this was to have been my holiday reading while walking different parts of the network, but 2020 has been a strange year!
  2., accessed on 25th July 2020.
  3.,_Cavan_%26_Clara._LetterKenny_Strabane_RJD_113.jpg#/media/File:Athlone,_Cavan_&_Clara._LetterKenny_Strabane_RJD_113.jpg, accessed on 14th July 2020.
  4., accessed on 25th July 2020.
  5. Edward M Patterson (original author), Joe Begley & Steve Flanders (authors of additional material in the Revised Edition); The Lough Swilly Railway; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down 2017. This was also to have been part of my holiday reading, but 2020 has been a strange year!
  6. Kerry Doherty of Ballindrait very kindly sent me a series of pictures of the Strabane and Letterkenny Railway route. Each of these, in this article, bears the reference number [6] Later, and also referenced [6] Kerry scrambled through the undergrowth along the old line to find evidence of the accommodation bridge and the rear of the lime kiln.
  7., accessed on 22nd July 2020.
  8. Anthony Burges; The Swilly and the Wee Donegal; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down, Second Impression, 2010.
  9., accessed on 8th August 2020.
  10., accessed on 9th August 2020.
  11., accessed on 5th October 2020.

Matthew 21: 23-32 – True obedience.

You’ll have noticed two different parts to the Gospel reading set in the lectionary for 27th September 2020. ……

The first, a challenge to Jesus’ authority coming from Jesus’ religious enemies – the chief priests and elders. Jesus confronts some of the highest-ranking, most powerful authorities within Judaism. These chief priests and elders, members of a “scribal elite” class, played important, visible roles in the life of their community and in particular within their religion. Jesus’ catches them out in their duplicity. They are more worried about how they look in front of the crowd than they are about what was true and just and right.

The second, a story about two sons who vacillate between obedience and disobedience to their father. Listening to this second story about the two sons — one who verbally refuses his father’s command to work in a vineyard but later changes his mind and obeys, and another who agrees to toil in the vineyard but does not keep his promise — we might be tempted to moralize it. We may assume its message is simply “Actions speak louder than words!” or “Don’t be such a hypocrite!” or “Obey your father!”

In Jesus’ day, it probably was seen differently. For to refuse your father’s demand made in public would be to shame him and yourself, so you’d say ‘Yes’ even if you had no intention of obeying him. Public face was everything. Jesus challenges this assumption and his listeners pick up on the challenge. Of course, say the chief priests and elders, the one who initially said ‘No’ was the one who did the will of his father. The culturally appropriate behaviour of the son who said ‘Yes’ did not produce obedience to the father. It was the son who started off behaving in a way that shamed him and his father who was ultimately obedient.

So, says Jesus, to the chief priests and elders who have joined the crowd listening to him. You’re the ones who talk publicly about faith and about obedience to God’s will, but you fail to follow through on those public statements when it comes to the crunch.

John the Baptist came preaching and teaching, his message was from God, but it wasn’t you, the religious people, who listened to him, it was the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the outcasts. It was the ones whom you condemn, who listened and who acted on John’s words and whose lives were changed through their obedience.

Being religious gives you a standing, a place of honour, in your community but when it comes to the crunch, that place of honour matters more to you than obedience to God’s will!

So, if John the Baptist was the focus of debate in our Gospel reading; if John provided the catalyst to challenge religious dogma and to bring about change; if John’s message drew new people to faith, but left the religious people standing watching on the side lines. What might be this Gospel’s challenge to us, the religious people of our day?

Where might God be at work in ways that we who are religious struggle to comprehend?

Because, if God is active or discoverable in the efforts of someone like John, a wild-eyed long-haired prophet who sets up camp in the wilderness calling for a new world to come into being, a world marked by justice, changed lives, and a recognition that God intends for more than just things staying as they are …… then perhaps people who care about religious language, symbols, practices, and truth should be curious people, bent on keeping their eyes open for new ways in which God might be made known, or ways in which the God’s purposes might be expressed.

We have that responsibility to our wider world – to work for justice, fairness and peace, and to meet human need. … But where might God be asking us to be at work in our own towns, communities and parishes, and in what ways might we act obediently to the Father here?  How might those of us who have said ‘Yes’ to God, be people who come through on our commitment.

Many Churches have Mission Action Plans or equivalents which highlight many things that local parish communities see as the way in which they can make  that ‘Yes’ become real. Does your church have one? If so, are you familiar with what it says? Perhaps, if not, you could ask your church leaders for a copy, explore what it says and perhaps offer to assist with the implementation of the Plan,

Alternatively, you might read the Plan and feel that it needs to change to reflect the circumstances of your own local community at the time you read it.If so, you might want to offer to participate in a review of the Plan.

Or, if your Church has not thought about these issues in the past and as a result has no Plan, You might even want to help to develop one.

But it is not just what our parishes/churches do that constitutes our ‘Yes’ to God. There will be more than this, there will also be things outside the activities of our parish where you see God at work and where a ‘Yes’ to following God will need to become real for you in obedience to God’s will. There may be a community activity which you can participate in, or a gap in necessary provision within your community which you might seek to fulfil as part of your discipleship as a follower of Jesus.

What is God asking of you/us today?

Matthew 21: 28-32 – Shame and Two Sons

An excellent illustration of the dynamics of shame and honour in the parables of Jesus is found in Matthew 21:28-32 where Jesus tells the story of two sons asked by their father to work in the vineyard The first adamantly refuses, but later changes his mind and goes to work. The second agrees to work, but never actually does.

Tennent comments: “Most Western readers do not sense the real tension in the story. Certainly the first son, who refused to work but eventually did, is being honored by Jesus and compared with the tax collectors and sinners who initially refused to honor God, but were now repenting and entering the kingdom. Western readers find Jesus’ question patently obvious and the whole construction seems to lack the tension that is so ‘often present in parables. However, the tension of this parable is felt when heard within the context of a shame-based culture. From an honor and shame perspective, the son who publicly agreed to work is actually better than the son who publicly shamed his father by refusing to work and telling him that to his face. Even though the one who refused to work later changed his mind and worked while the former never actually obeyed the father, the public shaming of the father is still a greater sin than not performing the task.[1] The first son may have eventually obeyed the father, but the father lost face. The second son may have not obeyed the father, but he protected the father’s public honor.”[2]


[1] J. H. Neyrey, “Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew,” Westminster John Knox Press, 1998: p31.

[2] Tennent; “Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology;” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007: p87.

Matthew 20:1-16 and Jonah 3:10 – 4:11 – A Good Sulk!

One thing I really like about the Old Testament in our Bibles is that we see people in the raw. Nothing seems to be covered up. The Bible refuses to focus only on people who have positive, fulfilling relationships with God. It shows both bad and good in even its greatest heroes – even when they would rather hurl abuse at God than sit quietly and at peace in his presence. The story of Jonah is a case in point.

In the reading set for 20th September 2020, Jonah is sulking; angry & resentful that the enemies of his people should be let off the punishment he thinks they deserve, just because they have repented. Jonah has a problem with God!

Do you remember the story of Jonah? God tells him to go & preach in Nineveh. Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, a hated enemy of Israel, so he jumps on a boat to Spain. God brings about a storm, Jonah realises that he’s the cause and gets the sailors to throw him into the sea.  A big fish swallows Jonah, and three days later spews him out onto the shore – by now a chastened man, ready to do what God wants of him.  He goes to Nineveh, still wanting the city to be destroyed – and tells them that they have forty days in which to repent.  And Nineveh listens, its people repent – God is merciful and does not destroy the city.

This makes Jonah really angry, livid – that God should be merciful to the sworn enemies of his people. Like a sulking child, Jonah spits out his contempt of God – “I knew it would end up like this! If you’d listened to what I said, this would never have happened.” He even has the gall to quote the psalms he knows:- … “You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” … Jonah’s not praising God, but saying that God’s love is irritating and inappropriate.

“Let me die – I’d be better off dead,” says Jonah”.  You can just see him, can’t you, sitting down with a sulky face, arms crossed, not looking God in the eye.

We’ve all done it, we’ve all been there.  Self-righteous indignation makes us boil, and we take it out on those around us.  Whether that’s our parents when we were younger, our spouses or very good friends, I guess they’ve all been on the receiving end of our sulks.

How does God deal with it? There’s no attempt at self-defence. That would be my natural instinct in the same situation.  God knows where his prophet is coming from and he loves this angry ball of resentment just as much as ever.  Loving parents on the receiving end of anger and resentment from their children, know that usually it’s a lack of understanding or experience that is behind the outburst.  They know that, if possible, they should stay calm and loving and pick up the pieces once the child has got over their sulk.  So too with God.   He gives Jonah a little time, a little comfort and a little experience in the shape of the vine that enables Jonah to see things from God’s perspective.

The point Jonah had completely missed, that we often forget, is that God doesn’t only love and care for those we think he ought to.  He doesn’t share our lines of demarcation which make some (usually including ourselves) “deserving” and others not. When Jesus started to live out God’s love in practice: spending time with gentiles, tax collectors and prostitutes, religious people were disgusted that God might choose such people for his friends.  Time and again in the Gospels, Jesus tries to help us understand that God’s love is so much wider and more far-reaching than we seem to grasp.

Look at the Gospel reading set for 20th September 2020. In this parable,the first lot of workers see the generosity of the employer to those who started work late, as a raw deal for themselves and resent it. … If our basis for reckoning in life is simply what we’re worth on an hourly rate, then the longest working labourers have a point.

But the owner sees things differently, he sees the needs of those left in the market place, just as God sees all people with their needs and is concerned to provide for them all.

Both in our own lives, and in the life of our churches we can fall into the trap of wondering why God blesses some people and not others.  It’s not fair – why does life seem to go so right for someone we know who never darkens the door of the church, when my life’s difficult?  It’s not fair – why do other churches seem to be growing, when this church is not?

Life doesn’t always seem fair.  But step back, look at the bigger picture, what is God doing in other people’s lives, drawing them back to him.   Perhaps in doing this we will gain deeper understanding into why certain things are happening, that will enable us to see God’s purpose.

Whenever we see God’s generous love in evidence, however much of a surprise, we mustn’t question or quibble, but should rejoice with the angels at the amazing love of God.

The Forest of Dean – Milkwall Tramway at Dark Hill

In early September 2020, while staying in Bream in the Forest of Dean we walked around the Titanic Steel Works and the Dark Hill Ironworks of father and son David and Robert Mushet. These two establishments sit adjacent to what was the Coleford branch of the Severn and Wye Joint Railway. They were also served, in its time, by the Milkwall branch of Severn and Wye Tramway.

The location is significant in the development of the Bessemer Process for making hardened steel. Robert Mushet took the relatively novel ideas of Bessemer and refined them to the point where the process became functional in an industrial context. [3]

The tramway closed when the Coleford Branch opened as the route of the new railway closely followed the old tramway. There are only a few places where the route of the old tramway diverged from the newer railway and one of these locations is in the area of the Mushet owned works. The next few OS Map extracts come from the very early series of 25″ OS Maps which were drawn in the period from 1873-1888, nonetheless, the old tramway was by this time only a memory,

At the Eastern end of the Dark Hill Iron Works site, the old tramway diverged from the line of the Severn and Wye Joint railway. The loop shown here was no doubt provided to lessen the gradient. Steam power enabled the newer railway to take a more direct route. The Severn and Wye Joint Railway is shown by the double black lines which curve from the right of the map extract to pass through the words ‘Darkhill Iron Works’ at the bottom of the extract. [1]

The tramway route shown by the thin red line ran across the North side of Darkhill Iron Works and then on the Northeast side of the Titanic Steel Works. The  Severn and Wye Joint Railway looped round the South side of the two sites. [1]

The two distinct red lines which appear on this map extract are both part of the old Milkwall branch of the Severn and Wye Tramroad. That to the West of the Map extract became the Sling Branch which left the Coleford Branch of the Severn and Wye Joint Railway at the small Milkwall Station to the North. That railway can be seen running to the West side of the Titanic Steel Works. The other red line is just to the Northeast of the Titanic Steel Works. [1]The two arms of the tramway which are seen as red lines on the map extract prior to this one are shown coming together just to the South of the Milkwall Station on the Severn and Wye Joint Railway which is sited just off the North side of this map extract.

We followed a Heritage Walk route which took us around Milkwall and Dark Hill areas of the Forest. [2] We encountered a significant section of the old stone sleepers which were used to support the cast-iron L-shaped plates which the trams ran on. Pictures I took at that location follow. I have also included a photograph taken the same week at the Dean Forest Railway which shows how the plates were keyed-in to the stone sleepers using  purpose made ‘chairs’.

Generally the modern footpaths which follow the routes of these old tramways are not wide enough to allow both rows of stone sleepers to be seen.

The different gauges used at different times in the Forest can be seen clearly in this picture taken at the Dean Forest Railway at Norchard on 2nd September 2020. The tramway gauge and construction can be seen in the foreground. Tramways in the forest were of 3’6″ to 3’8″ track gauge. Each plate was fixed in place by a metal chair which in turn was supported by an independent stone block/sleeper. All the photographs above are my own.

As we noted when looking at the map extracts above, the Sling branch of the Severn and Wye Joint Railway followed the line of the older Milkwall Tramway. Our walk took us, for a short distance, along the line of the Sling Branch. The more modern rails of the branch were supported on concrete blocks similar in size to the stone blocks which once supported the tramway. My picture below shows these concrete blocks where they are still visible outside Fairview Cottage which appears in the third of the four map extracts above.


  1., accessed on 3rd September 2020.
  2. There is an app which can be downloaded to mobile phones which provides access to a number of different Walks, one of these is the Coleford Heritage Walk, part of which we followed:, accessed on 3rd September 2020.
  3. David and Robert Mushet:, accessed on 8th September 2020.



The Forest of Dean – Bream Heritage Walk, the Oakwood Tramway and Flour Mill Colliery

We are in the Forest of Dean again for a week away from work. On 1st September 2020 we followed a sign-posted circular walk which started in the centre of the village of Bream on the Southwest side of the Forest. The route was planned with the support of the Big Lottery Heritage Fund and featured a series of different heritage locations around the village. An overview plan appears below. [1]

Bream was one of a number of villages which sat on the edges of the old Royal Forest of Dean and in pre-industrial times had a population of around 300. The industrialisation of the Forest brought relatively rapid expansion to many of these villages. Bream’s population in the early 21st century is over 3,000.

The walk, including the different detours that we chose to make was about 7.5 miles in length. The first sections of the walk were along modern roads but we soon found ourselves walking along one of the access routes that would have been used by the workers in the iron ore mines in and around Noxon Park.

We passed a number of caves and sink-holes which were created by early iron ore miners. The area is riddled with underground workings and a number of relatively large caves have, over the years collapsed to create large and deep depressions (or scowles) at the surface. These can be found between locations 11 and 14 on the walk route map.

Initially, these workings were served by packhorses that carried the iron-ore away to be refined, but by the 19th century, plateways or tramways were being built to improve the transport of the ore.

The walk took us first along the route of the China Bottom Branch of the Oakwood Tramway which was covered in an earlier post about the tramways in the Forest ( [2] The branch ran between the approximate locations 13 and 14 on the map above. The track shows up on the old map below as two dotted lines leading from the bottom left of the map towards China Bottom.

When we reached China Bottom, we joined the route of the Oakwood Tramway which can be seen running left to right across the map extract below. The early China Bottom Branch served the small mines in the Noxon Park. These were superseded by the larger mines at China Bottom and Princess Louise and the early tramway branch was then abandoned and the cast-iron rails were lifted.

Extract from the OS 25″ Map on the mid 19th Century. [5]

China Bottom takes its name from a large iron-ore mine which once occupied the site which was called ‘China Engine Pit’. Its name indicates that the mine had a powerful steam engine which lifted iron-ore to the surface and pumped out water from the mine. “These engines were usually beam engines of the type used in Cornish tin mines, as seen on the TV series Poldark.” [7]

Close by was another large iron-ore mine called the ‘Princess Louise’ which had a 180 metre deep shaft. For more information, see the ‘Derelict Places’ Website. [3]

Princess Louise Pit, OS 25″ Map from the mid 19th century. [6]

The Oakwood Tramway

From location 14 through to between location 20 and 21 our path followed the route of the Oakwood Tramway. We picked it up again by taking a diversion northwards from location 24.

Oakwood Tramway ran, at first, on the Northern side of Oakwood Brook,  between locations 14 & 15.  The brook was culverted under the tramway and then supplied water power for Oakwood Mill which sat close to the brook between it and the road between Sling and Bream. [1]

At location 16 on the walk we passed Oakwood Mill Land Level, another iron ore mine.

“The land level was driven from 365 feet O.D. at the entrance. It is an adit or tunnel driven into the hill side for a distance of 1650 feet (500 metres). From the far end of the tunnel further levels were driven at right angles to facilitate mining and removal of the iron ore.  The level also allowed water to drain from the iron ore measures above 365 feet, allowing previously underwater deposits to be exploited. The level can be seen on Sopwith’s Map of 1835“. [11]

In 1827 David Mushet the metallurgist laid the earliest length of the Oakwood Tramroad from this area to Parkend. “Within a short distance you can observe a series of large flat stones in the pathway. These are sleepers for the Oakwood Tramway which terminated at Parkend and was used to transport mainly iron ore for transfer to the railway at Marsh Sidings (near Parkend’s Fountain Inn).” [11]

To the left and right of the walk route we came across dry mill ponds which originally “fed the water wheel at the Oakwood Corn Mill. The mill occupied the old buildings to the left and the waterwheel which drove the machinery was situated in a sunken chamber at the side. The sluice gate, which released the water onto the wheel, can be seen in the far corner of the stone-lined pond. It is probable that the operation of the mill was sporadic and dependant on the mill ponds containing sufficient water to drive the wheel.” [11]

The route of the Oakwood Tramway between locations 14 and 15, 1st September 2020.The different gauges used at different times can be seen clearly in this pisture taken at the Dean Forest Railway at Norchard on 2nd September 2020. The tramway gauge and construction can be seen in the foreground. Tramways in the forest were of 3’6″ to 3’8″ track gauge.

The Oakwood Tramway most probably consisted of L-shaped cast-iron rails resting on stone blocks or sleepers, as shown above, which served to spread the load over the ground, and to maintain the gauge. We located a number of these stone blocks along the first length of the tramway between 14 and 20. Each had two or three holes into which the rails or ‘plates’ were fixed. A few photographs taken on 1st September 2020 at different locations along the path, follow. …

There were long lengths of the route where usage and time have resulted in these stone blocks/sleepers being covered. “From this point, the tramroad did not plunge down the slope to the bottom of Mill Hill, it ……. went to the right and took a level path that hugged the hillside as it continued along the valley.” [12] It then turned to the Northeast following the valley.

In the valley bottom is what, in the 21st century, is a large white rendered private house. This was, until 1969, the ‘Oakwood Inn’.

At location 19 on the walk we passed what was once Oakwood Mill Deep Level iron-ore mine. It was driven in the early 1800’s by “David Mushet and it drained water from the earlier surface workings, both draining the mine of water and allowing a much easier extraction of ore.” [13] And at location 20, we passed the remains of Bromley Furnace.

The next significant location on the walk is the Oakwood Chemical Works and Flour Mill Colliery. We will return to look at the route of the tramway after we have looked at the Flour Mill Colliery site.

Flour Mill Colliery and its present use.

At locations 21, 22 and 23 on the walk we passed the site of Flour Mill Colliery. The walk runs immediately alongside the remaining colliery buildings on the line of the old tramway.

A while ago, the Colliery and the current use of its remaing buildings featured on my blog. [4]

The buildings of Flour Mill Colliery sit immediately alongside the route of the Heritage Walk, 1st September 2020.The Electricity Generating Hall/Building of the old colliery is now in use as an engineering works, 1st September 2020.

These buildings are now in use for the repair and refurbishment of steam locomotives. We spent a while wandering around the boundary of the works.

For more pictures please click here, [9] and for more information about the engineering works please click here. [10]

The route of the walk deviates away from the tramway alignment approximately at the entrance to the modern works, just northeast of the electricity generating hall. The tramway route begins to drop away heading for the transshipment wharves at Parkend.

When Flour Mill Colliery was expanding in the late 19th century it had to bridge the Oakwood Tramway which ran through the enlarged site. The later 25″ OS Map extract below shows the site of Flour Mill Colliery towards the end of the 19th century. The Oakwood tramway can be seen bridged by a relative wide man-made land bridge. [15] This is approximately at location 23 on the walk. The Oakwood Tramway leaves the map extract in the top right corner heading for Parkend. A rope-worked incline runs away to the right just to the South of the Oakwood Tramway. That incline led to what was most recently known as the Princess Royal Colliery.  ……

The 25″ OS Mapping of the late 19th century shows that Flour Mill Colliery had two shafts. The more southerly of the two had required a bridge between the shaft and the colliery spoil heaps. The more northerly of the two shafts, later required a land bridge over the tramway which was first culverted before the land was built up to provide access across the Oakwood tramway to a rope worked incline which took coal from Flour Mill Colliery to Princess Royal Colliery. [8][14]

The Oakwood Tramway again

25″ OS Map extract [18]

To the Northeast of the land bridge, Oakwood Tramway was in deep cutting. Its route could only be found by taking a deviation from the Bream Heritage Walk at location 24 on the walk route shown above. It was a delight to find significant remains of the tramway between this point and the Parkend Road.

The Oakwood Tramway was a single-track line with passing places. The two pictures immediately below were taken to the North of location 24 on the Bream Heritage Walk. They show the location of one of these passing places. A shirt loop of line left the main route and returned back to join it in a very short distance. Just long enough to accommodate a train of trams and their motive power (a horse or two)! The map extract below shows the location. [16]

The two pictures show the northern end of the passing loop which can be seen on the OS Map above. The first looks north, the second looks South. Both pictures were taken on 1st September 2020.The rope-worked incline passed under the Bream to Parkend Road at this location. The barrier protect the drop into the cutting, (Google Streetview). 

Our walk turned away from the Tramway just North of the location of the passing loop shown in the pictures above. We walked up to the Parkend Road and turned back towards Bream. We were able to make out the point where the rope-worked incline passed under the road. The last picture above was taken from the Bream to Parkend Road at location 25 on the Bream Heritage Walk,


  1., accessed on 1st September 2020.
  2. The Oakwood Tramway ran West to East before turning Northeast towards Parkend.
  3., accessed on 1st September 2020.
  5., accessed on 2nd September 2020. 
  6., accessed on 2nd September 2020.
  7., accessed on 3rd September 2020.
  8., accessed on 2nd September 2020.
  9., blog post completed on 4th September 2020.
  10., accessed on 2nd September 2020.
  11., accessed on 1st September 2020.
  12., accessed on 1st September 2020.
  13., accessed on 2nd September 2020.
  14., accessed on 3rd September 2020.
  15., accessed on 3rd September 2020.

The Flour Mill Colliery and The Flour Mill Ltd again!

We were staying in the Forest of Dean in September 2020 and followed the Bream Heritage Walk. Details of the walk can be found on my blog, [1] and independently on-line here. [2]

The walk passes alongside the engineering works at Flour Mill Colliery. [3] We spent a while walking round the industrial site before continuing our walk.

“The Flour Mill is a listed building which was converted to a railway workshop in 1995 – 1996, and used as such since 1996. The Flour Mill Ltd operates the business in the building undertaking work repairing and overhauling steam locomotives.” [3] Please note that this is a working site and not a visitor attraction.

It was possible, from outside the boundaries of the site, to take a number of photographs which might be of interest. …..

Locomotive boiler and driving wheels/axles. Others may be able to give an idea of the provenance, 1st September 2020.








These two photographs show Locomotive TDK 4015 ‘Karel’ outside the main works building. This locomotive was imported to UK and moved to the Avon Valley Railway. It was withdrawn in 2013, and sent to the Flour Mill in the Forest of Dean for overhaul. It returned to traffic September 2016 but was back under repair again in 2020. It was made by Fablok, Poland in 1947. [4][5] (1st September 2020).

Another locomotive boiler and the site crane, 1st September 2020.

These two images show a railway crane awaiting refurbishment. I will have to rely on others to provide more information! (1st September 2020).

The next series of images are all taken from the North boundary of the site.

More information about the site can be found on The Flour Mill’s website. [3]


  1., published on 4th September 2020.
  2., accessed on 1st September 2020.
  3., accessed on 2nd September 2020.
  4., accessed on 3rd September 2020.
  5., accessed on 3rd September 2020.

Matthew 16: 21-28 – 30th August 2020 – Take Up Your Cross

I first met Graham Turnbull in 1994. In the previous couple of years he’d felt God calling him to work in Rwanda. He’d left his job as a solicitor & trained to teach English as a Foreign Language. He left the UK in 1994 to travel overland to Rwanda – taking a landrover to the place he’d be working there.

As he was travelling, the genocide started in Rwanda and many people were killed. Graham was unable to enter Rwanda and I shared a house with him for two weeks in Kisoro in Uganda.

When the troubles subsided, he taught for 2 years in a place called Cyangugu in Rwanda. But he began to feel that he should be working for the UN as an ‘observer’. Observers travelled round Rwanda ensuring a visible international presence and so keeping violence to a minimum, a risky venture. His friends and family prayed it through with him, and in spite of the dangers agreed that God did seem to be calling him to this role.

Less than two months after he joined the UN there was an item on the BBC evening news – 5 UN observers had been killed in an ambush. Graham was the one Briton in the team. He was 37 years old when he died. …………..

God called Graham to Rwanda and led him to work with the UN. Graham gave his life in God’s service.

I wonder, is this what Jesus means in our Gospel reading when he says: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Is he calling us to his kind of sacrificial lifestyle?

For many Christians around the world, this does indeed seem to be the case. The majority of saints who fill the Anglican calendar were martyred for their faith. There were more Christians tortured and killed in the 20th Century than throughout the whole of the history of the Church before that. But is Jesus calling us to that level of self-sacrifice?

Last week (on Sunday 23rd August 2020) those of us following the Anglican lectionary heard Peter acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. Now we hear Jesus talking of his death, placing the Cross right at the centre of what it means to understand him as Messiah. Jesus is saying, very clearly, that his disciples, that we, will not understand him unless we understand the cross, and in some incomprehensible way take it on board for ourselves. In this passage, Jesus isn’t calling us to martyrdom, but rather to making the Cross central in our lives.

Why is the cross so important, so crucial in our understanding of Jesus as King, as Messiah?

Lesslie Newbigin says that the Cross “is the supreme parable: the kingdom of God, both hidden and manifest in the dying of a condemned and excommunicated man.”

Jesus says: “Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it will bear no fruit.”

Paul talks of the cross as demonstrating God’s weakness, a mystery that shows that God’s weakness is stronger than our strength.

The cross was the place where sin was defeated, where redemption was won, where Jesus opened a door for us back into God’s presence. The Bible claims that at the place of seeming weakness, the greatest victory was won.

So what does Jesus mean when he talks of us taking up our cross?

Let me suggest three different things: the Cross is about identification, about self-denial/sacrifice and about weakness.

Firstly, we can identify with those who are suffering.

In Phil. 3:10, Paul says: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.” Graham, whom I mentioned earlier, and others like him have paid the ultimate price for commitment to Christ. Persecution continues throughout the world and we are called to ‘identify’ with those who are experiencing Christ’s sufferings. To read their stories, to pray for them, to write to them and to their persecutors, to demonstrate Christ’s love in action.

Secondly, self-denial/sacrifice.

Do we really understand as individuals and as congregations, what Jesus means by self-denial? Is there any evidence of the Cross in our life together? Are we prepared to make ourselves vulnerable so that others might know God’s love? Are we willing to let our guard down – let others see our weaknesses, our fears, perhaps let others know about how God has helped us? Perhaps, for us, self-denial means giving time or energy to serving Jesus in different ways in the Church family.

Thirdly, weakness.

Some of us are very conscious of our weakness, conscious of pain, and of suffering. The Cross of Christ, the Cross we are called to take up, makes it clear that Christ identifies with our weakness and pain. It promises that in facing our weakness we will find God. Not when we are strong, not when life is wonderful, but most clearly, most real-ly, when we are at our point of greatest weakness, when the night is dark, when everything seems to be destroying us. Then, when we are weak Christ not only walks alongside us, but in the words of the poem ‘Footprints’ so loved by many, it is then that he carries us.

Finally, another quote, this time from David Runcorn, in a book called “Touch Wood: Meeting the Cross in the World Today.”

The Cross shows us a God: “who comes to us from beneath. He enters our world through its weakness, its wounds, its places of rejection. He shares our emptiness. He enters the absence of all we long for and becomes it. He makes it his own. He enters our desolation so completely that he makes our deepest cry his own, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?'”

The cross is central. We are very unlikely to be called, like Graham Turnbull, to sacrificing our lives for the Gospel. But in the Cross, Jesus calls us to service, to self-denial, to sacrifice – and with every fibre of his being, Jesus understands and identifies with our sense of weakness.