Category Archives: Comment

The Micklehurst Loop once more. …….

Extract from EAW010807 (c) BritainfromAbove

While on holiday in September 2021, I was reading older copies of the magazine BackTrack from the turn of the millennium, from, at that time, Atlantic Publishers. (More recent editions are published by Pendragon Publishing.)

Volume 14 No. 3, March 2000 included an article by Jeffrey Wells [1] about the Micklehurst Loop (p142ff). Wells highlighted the congestion which led to the development of the LNWR line between Huddersfield and Stalybridge which was opened in 1849. The single-line ‘Nicholson Tunnel’ was the first impediment to the free flow of traffic. This was rectified with the construction by 1870 of the ‘Nelson Tunnel’. “Both tunnels were in use by 24th April 1871 following a period extending from the previous February when only the ‘Nelson Tunnel’ was in use during repairs to the ‘Nicholson Tunnel’.” ( p142)

Wells goes on to explain that ongoing problems with congestion between Stalybridge and Diggle led to alleviating alternatives being considered. Quadrupling of the line was ruled out on grounds of inadequate space.

The LNWR first addressed the length of line to the West of Stalybridge when it opened (in 1876) a line from Heaton Norris to Guide Bridge. It then decided that the construction of an alleviating relief line between Stalybridge and Diggle was the only feasible solution to congestion. The Act authorising the construction of the relief line received authorisation on 3rd July 1879. The route was in two parts – Railway No. 1 was the Hooley Hill Line “which left Denton Junction and joined the MSLR at Dukinfield Junction and Railway No. 2, the Micklehurst Loop Line stretching from Diggle to Stalybridge.” (p143)

Later, the LNWR opened its Stalybridge Junction Railway (1st August 1893) which provided a first link from Heaton Norris to Stalybridge.

The cost of the Micklehurst Loop was estimated at £213,000. The successful tender from Messrs. Taylor and Thomson of Manchester was £177,949 8s 2d. The work was completed and the line opened on 1st May 1886.

Wells talks of three utilities being connected to the Loop. …

The first was a 3ft gauge tramway which served the construction of high level reservoirs. Exchange sidings and the tramway were completed in 1908, “six contractor’s locomotives plied between the sidings at Roaches and a suitable stopping place short of the site.” (p146)

The second was the allocation, in 1916, of 26 acres of land between Stalybridge and Mossley for the construction of a power station. The plant finally opened in January 1927 and Millbrook Sidings were enlarged to accommodate a number of sidings. In addition, “In the 1930s the coal was moved from the sidings by a conveyor which passed under the line. This was later followed by an overhead steel-braced conveyor which stood on tall concrete piers.” (p146) In the summer of 2021 part of the conveyor structure remains standing as does the cavernous goods she’d which graced the sidings. In 2021, the sidings area at Millbrook was heavily overgrown with substantial trees having colonised the site. Plans were afoot for redevelopment of the area and some clearance and regrading had taken place.

The final utility which Wells points out was connected to the Loop was Mossley Corporation Gas Works. “The Works had its own internal rail layout and a complement of small standard gauge locomotives.” (p146) Movements in and out of the site were controlled by Friesland Gas Sidings signal box.

Some excellent monochrome photographs accompany the article, one of which is included here.

This excellent black and white study shows a Fowler 0-8-0 7F tender locomotive proceeding tender first towards Stalybridge. The caption above misidentifies the location. The goods shed visible on the right of the image is actually Micklehurst goods shed. It remains visible today on the site of a pallet works which occupies the old railway sidings. Two of these large goods sheds remain standing, this at Micklehurst and the one referred to in the caption above at Millbrook. As noted by Wells, the Millbrook shed was in a parlous state in 2021.

The article is also accompanied by two diagrammatic representations of the Loop line and the other lines referred to in the text. One of these maps is included here.

In a letter to BackTrack magazine carried in the June 2000 edition Vernon Heron points out that the reservoir tramway shown meeting the Loop line North of the Gas Works actually served exchange sidings near to half a mile South of the Gas Works. [2]

To finish his article, Wells points out that the Loop line suffered a gradual demise with passenger stations closing in the years prior to the end of the Great War. Rumours of final closure attended every significant maintenance problem on the line as the condition of the line’s brick bridges and viaducts began to deteriorate. The last train was to run on Sunday 30th October 1966 with the line gradually being dismantled in the following ten years. The final portion closed when Hartshead Power Station closed. That portion was dismantled in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Jeffrey Wells completed his study of the line in the next edition of the magazine with a short series of pictures of Diggle Station which stood at the Western end of the Standedge tunnels. [3]

References

  1. Jeffrey Wells; The Micklehurst Loop Line; in BackTrack Vol. 14 No. 3, Atlantic Transport Publishers, March 2000, p142ff.
  2. Vernon Heron; The Micklehurst Loop; in Readers’ Forum in BackTrack Vol. 14 No. 6, Atlantic Transport Publishers, June 2000, p370.
  3. Jeffrey Wells; Through the Lens at Diggle; in BackTrack Vol. 14 No. 4, Atlantic Transport Publishers, April 2000, p235ff.

Holiday Reading Again!

Two more books which are worth taking with you on holiday.

Chris Arnot; Small Island by Little Train; ISBN 978-0-7495-7849-7.

Tom Chesshyre; Slow Trains to Venice; ISBN 978-1-78783-299-2.

The first of these two books, by Chris Arnot, is the story of a meandering journey round some of the narrow-gauge railways of the UK. It is published by the AA in hardback. The dust jacket says: “From stalwart little locomotives of topographical necessity to the maverick engines of one man’s whimsy. Britain’s narrow-gauge steam trains run on tracks a world apart from it regimented mainlines. They were built to carry anything from slate to milk churns, and go where mainline trains could not go – around sharp bends, up steep gradients, or rolling downhill for miles all the way to the sea. And they have not just survived against the odds, but thrived.”

Chris Arnot has been a freelance journalist and Author for around 30 years, writing for the Guardian on everything from arts and travel to education and social issues. His material has also appeared in most of the other broadsheets and he has written a number of books of his own. In this book he provides a delightful, gently observed commentary on his own journeys along narrow-gauge lines around the UK. The most northerly line he visits is the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway in Lanarkshire, the most southerly, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway. Five chapters cover lines in Wales. A short chapter covers a day visit to Graham Lee’s amazing private 2ft/2ft 6 inch dual gauge line, the Statfold Barn Railway, with his extensive collection of narrow-gauge locomotives.

Two long-lost favourites warrant a chapter each – the Leek and Manifold Railway and the Lynton and Barnstaple. As do the South Tyndale Railway, the Bure Valley Railway (Wroxham to Aylsham in Norfolk) and the Southwold Railway.

The Bure Valley Railway is in private ownership and now returns a significant profit. The Southwold Railway continues to look forward to a day when a line can be relaid between Southwold and Halesworth but has managed to create Steamworks, a Visitor Centre building with cafe, shop, toilets, museum and engine shed, a 7¼ inch gauge miniature railway plus 11 chains of three foot gauge track, including a run parallel and close to the site of the original track as it approached Southwold Station. [1]

Map of the Southwold Railway drawn by John Bennett. [2]

Arnot comments: it is easy to think “that the UK is becoming more uniform. But trundling around its more remote parts has proved to be a way of reminding myself that … This small island was anything but uniform. It remained a place of infinite variety, and its contrasts, from Devil’s Bridge to Dungeness, Wroxham to Ravenglass, were best savoured through the window of a sedately paced narrow-gauge railway.” (p251)

Arnot further reflects: “I’d seen a desire to get close to those [narrow-gauge] engines among many who’d visited these railways, and not just among those old enough to remember when steam trains ran on the main line. … [I] met people of all ages and both sexes who’d become fascinated by a precious part of our history. And while I may have sometimes cursed the lengthy journeys to visit those lines, I’d revelled in meeting most of their passengers as well as the volunteers and indeed the paid staff who kept them running. … Just as enjoyable had been sitting back to savour the scenery beyond the windows confirmation that, when viewed from a little train, this small island still has breathtaking variations in landscape, a marked contrast to the corporate and municipal uniformity that has taken hold of large parts of our towns and cities. But then, unlike so many of our towns and cities, rural landscapes have remained largely unscathed. … And those parts of the landscape that were ‘scathed’, particularly by mining, have largely blended back into their natural surroundings, adding layers of fascinating industrial history in the process. Those contrasts in landscape … struck me forcibly. … Were we still on the same small island?

In the second of these two books, Tom Chesshyre heads abroad, seeking to wander his way through Europe to Venice with his route dictated by whim and the availability of trains. This ends up being a 4,000 mile adventure. “Escaping the rat race for a few happy weeks, … [he] indulges in the freedom of the tracks. From France ( dogged by rail-worker strikes), through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland, he travels as far east as Odessa by the Black Sea in Ukraine.” He then heads back, “via Hungary, the Balkans and Austria. Along the way Tom enjoys many an encounter, befriending fellow travellers as well as a conductor or two.”

Simon Calder (The Independent) says that Tom, “relishes the joys of slow travel and seizes every opportunity that a journey presents: drifting as a flaneur in Lille, following in the tracks of James Joyce in a literary exploration of Ljubljana, cosseted in luxury on a trans-Ukranian express, all decorated with a wealth of detail and intrigue.”

I enjoyed his humourous reflections on his encounters. I found the manifest nationalism (if that is the right word) of some countries enlightening. Most of all, however, I found that I discovered a sense of freedom in following his meandering tale. An entirely appropriate thing while on holiday myself!

And finally. …. One short section of the book took me back to a holiday in Slovenia quite a few years ago. We were staying in Bled, not far from Lake Bled which Tom Chesshyre missed out on. We travelled a few times to Ljubljana. On one of those occasions, we found our way to the Railway Museum of Slovenian Railways which Tom Chesshyre also stumbles across. We arrived at the gates of the museum, which happened to be open even though the museum seemed closed, and decided to try our luck and ambled in. After a short while, we came across someone who invited us to wander round the whole site. We managed to get through every door that we tried but we did not get chance to speak to the Professor!

Some reflections on Slovenia can be found at:

References

  1. https://www.southwoldrailway.co.uk/trust-projects/southwold-station, accessed on 8th September 2021.
  2. https://www.southwoldrailway.co.uk, accessed on 8th September 2021.

Holiday Reading!

Two great paperbacks!

Michael Williams; The Trains Now DepartedSixteen Excursions into the Lost Delights of Britain’s Railways; ISBN 978-0-099-59058-3.

Tom Chesshyre; Ticket to Ride – Around the World on 49 Unusual Train Journeys; ISBN 978-1-84953-826-8.

Two excellent paperback books for an enjoyable read on holiday! I picked up both second-hand at very reasonable prices.

Tom Chesshyre starts, seemingly, from a lack of knowledge about the railways and finds that it does not take too much effort to begin to enjoy speaking with railway enthusiasts. Tom is a journalist who is on a quest to find out why people seem to love trains so much. His idea, as the back cover of his book explains, was to find the answer, “by experiencing the world through train travel – on both epic and everyday rail routes, aboard every type of ride, from steam locomotives to bullet trains, meeting a cast of memorable characters who share a passion for train travel.”

So, Tom embarks on a whistle-stop tour around the world. His adventures are recounted in a humorous and entertaining way. The different chapters are held together by the common theme of the railways an people that he encounters. Beginning at Crewe, his journeys take him to: Kosovo and Macedonia; Sri Lanka, India and China; Turkey and Iran; Finland and Russia; Australia and America; North Korea, Italy, Poland, Peru, Switzerland and Spain; Kaliningrad and Lithuania. After such a smörgåsbord of different railway experiences he returns to three UK railways to complete the book – two lines in Scotland, the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line and the Mallaig to Glasgow line, and finally the Kent and East Sussex line in England.

Reading this book in early Summer 2021, interested me in exploring some of Tom Chesshyre’s other books. Perhaps further reviews will follow.

Michael Williams’ approach is similarly eclectic, although he restricts his perambulations to the United Kingdom. Thoroughly absorbing chapters focus on a variety of different railway-related loses. The Spectator says that ‘‘Williams celebrates the best of what is gone from our railways in 16 vivid, highly-readable chapters.’’

It was a delight to read of specific lines long-closed, such as Somerset & Dorset; the Stainmore line over the Pennines; the Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway; the Lynton & Barnstaple; the Withered Arm; the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Light Railway*; the Liverpool Overhead Railway; and the Waverley route. Among these was a saunter through Metro-land to what was the furthest outpost of the line from Baker Street. Verney Junction was, what Williams refers to as the Shangri-La of the Metro-land paradise, invoked by the skilled advertising gurus of the Metropolitan Railway.

William’s reflections on long-lost lines are supplemented by chapters on other great losses: the Night Ferry from Victoria to the Continent; the myriad of named trains which used to invoke a sense of glamour, speed and luxury; the dining car; the destruction, in a spate of wanton vandalism, of some of the architectural gems of railway heritage.

He includes reflections on: Parliamentary trains; engineering marvels sent for scrap; seaside specials which carried millions from industrial centres to holidays on the coast.

Williams introduces his book by talking of ‘‘the ghosts of trains now departed – lines prematurely axed often with gripping and colourful tales to tell, marvels of locomotive engineering prematurely sent to the scrapyard, and architecturally magnificent stations felled by the wrecker’s ball,’’ and ‘‘the lost delights of train travel.’’

C. Hamilton-Ellis, in concluding his book, The Trains We Loved, says:

‘‘These were the trains we loved; grand, elegant and full of grace. We knew them and they belonged to the days … when the steam locomotive, unchallenged, bestrode the world like a friendly giant.’’

Williams’s book does not pretend that everything was perfect in those nostalgic days of yore, but it does invoke the ‘essential flavour of the railways of the past,’ and draws the reader back into that world which, in some inexplicable way, seems to define the British spirit even in these days of websites, apps, air-conditioning, speed and frequent rail services.

*The Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Light Railway features in short series of articles on this website which can be found on the following links:

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2019/05/18/the-shropshire-and-montgomeryshire-light-railway-and-the-nesscliffe-mod-training-area-and-depot-part-1

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2019/07/21/gazelle

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2019/07/27/gazelles-trailers

https://rogerfarnworth.com/?p=21699

https://rogerfarnworth.com/2019/08/12/the-shropshire-and-montgomeryshire-light-railway-and-the-nesscliffe-mod-training-area-and-depot-part-2

The Owencarrow Viaduct Accident in 1925. ….

The featured image above shows the Viaduct in good condition. [7]

In the February 1963 edition of The Railway Magazine there was a letter from L. Hudlass which said: “The accident on the Owencarrow Viaduct, on the Letterkenny & Burtonport line, Ireland, of January 30, 1925, involved a westbound train running from Londonderry to Burtonport, on the Burtonport extension of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway. The 380 yd.-long viaduct, sited between Kilmacrenan and Creeslough in County Tirconaill is in wild and open country and, on the day in question, a gale of 100mph caught the train broadside on and one carriage plunged through the parapet, pulling another with it. The couplings held and neither of the vehicles fell into the valley, but roof destruction caused several passengers to be thrown out, three people being killed outright, a fourth dying later in hospital. Being situated on a north-south section of the line, the 30ft.-high viaduct, across Glen Lough and over the Owencarrow River, caught the full force of the westerly gales. When the line was in operation a wind velocity of 60mph meant the exclusion of open wagons from the train, while a wind speed of 80mph caused the suspension of all traffic. The breach in the viaduct parapet was still visible in 1949. Other derailments due to gales gave been recorded on the west coast of Ireland.” [1]

One day, I will get round to covering the route of the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway (L&LSR) which ran from Derry to Burtonport through some of the wildest of Co. Donegal scenery.

This article is by way of a taster and focusses on an incident at Owencarrow Viaduct in the 1920s.

The Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway ran from Derry to Burtonport via Letterkenny. [2]

The Owencarrow Viaduct was sited between Barnes Gap and Creeslough and was, other than earthworks, the major civil engineering structure on the L&LSR.

The Owencarrow Viaduct with a Burtonport train crossing. From an old postcard. The photographer is not known. [8]
 

The Google Maps satellite image and Google Street view images below show what remains of the structure in the 21st century.

The Owencarrow Viaduct in Co. Donegal. [Google Maps]
The remains of the Owencarrow Viaduct, seen from the Northwest on the L1332. [Google Streetview]
The remains of the Owencarrow Viaduct seen from the West on the L1332. [Google Streetview]

Wikipedia/Wikiwand covers the accident in a single paragraph: “Disaster occurred on the night of 30 January 1925 at around 8pm at the Owencarrow Viaduct, County Donegal. Winds of up to 120 mph derailed carriages of the train off the viaduct causing it to partially collapse. The roof of a carriage was ripped off throwing four people to their deaths. The four killed were: Philip Boyle and his wife Sarah from Arranmore Island, Una Mulligan from Falcarragh and Neil Duggan from Meenbunowen, Creeslough. Five people were seriously injured. The remains of the viaduct can today be seen from the road (N56) which carries on from the Barnes Gap on the road to Creeslough.” [2]

The scene of the accident. This picture was taken on 31st January 1925, the day after the disaster. The photographer is not known. [3]

There are a number of accounts of the accident available online which provide a bit more detail of the tragic events of 30th January 1925.

Walking Donegal looks at the event through the eyes of fireman John Hannigan who was on the footplate that day. [4] Long after that day Hannigan recalled “vividly the events of the night, the passing years ha[d] not erased the memory of the harrowing scenes or stilled the sound of the screams of agony. He still relive[d] the feeling of hopelessness he endured as he surveyed the scene of desolation in the fleeting moments, oblivious to his own danger, he scrambled over the wreck-strewn terrain to run the two odd miles to Creeslough to raise the alarm.” [4]

Hannigan was interviewed in 1984. [5] He was 85 when he gave that interview, a few years before he died in 1987 at the age of 88. Much of the text of the interview was reproduced in a Donegal Daily news item on 14th November 2019 and was extracted from a Christmas Annual published by Letterkenny Community Centre in the 1980s.

Hannigan spoke eloquently of his experience of working on the railway, first joining the staff of the L&LSR when he was just 15 years old, he was just 26 the night the train left the rails in the storm. After years of efficient service on the footplate, he realised his youthful ambition and was promoted to the position of driver the following year.

John Hannigan. [5]

Speaking of the first part of the journey from Derry, Hannigan said, “We left Derry that evening around 5.15pm, we had two wagons of bread next to the engine. They were sent out from Derry by Stevensons and Brewsters Bakeries. After that was three carriages, a first, a second and a third class, behind that were six wagons of general merchandise and the guards’ van at the end. Neilly Boyle was in charge as guardsmen who was from Burtonport, who later was a conductor on the buses.” [5]

When the train reached Letterkenny a bit of shunting was required to remove the six wagons and replace them with others. Hannigan remembered that they were using locomotive No. 14 which was a 4-6-2T and is shown below.

Locomotive 4-6-2T No 14 seen here at Pennyburn, Derry, 1931. Donegal Railway Heritage Centre (DRHC) Collection. [8]

By the time that they reached Kilmacrennan Station the wind was starting to blow hard and Hannigan and the train driver, Bob McGuinness, consulted about the state of the weather, wondering about whether it would be safe to go ahead.  Hannigan commented: “I had often gone over the viaduct in a smaller engine. We decided to proceed. Bob slowed down to a snails pace and as we crossed the bridge we did not think that the storm was all that bad.”

From Hannigan’s recollection of the evening it seems as though a freak gust of wind hit the train close to the end of the viaduct. He said:  “The carriage behind the two bread wagons was raised up on the line, it was like a hump on its back. It then fell against the parapet and the roof was smashed, two passengers were thrown out, Phil Boyle was killed, his wife was injured and died afterwards.” [5]

“A Mrs Mulligan also lost her life, they had fallen through the roof and into the river below. Another man, Andy Doogan, was found dead near the viaduct, he must have also been on the train.” [5]

As the minutes ticked by, the wind continued increasing in strength, the hostility of the gale made it hard for voices to be heard. Hannigan remembered managing to stumble across the bridge to the end of the train to free Neilly Boyle jammed against the bridge railing. He then trekked the two miles to Cresslough Station for help. “Between running, walking and falling I finally made it. On the way, I called at the homes of the two-level crossing men and brought them with me. We told John Gallagher the Station Master what had happened. Next we alerted the local guards and doctors. I got a lift back to the scene. It was about quarter to eight. A young priest, Fr. Gallagher was attending to the dead and injured.” [5]

The ‘Why Donegal?’ Facebook page carries a less personal account of events. [6] The train apparently left Letterkenny at 7:05PM. The journey to Kilmacrennan was uneventful, but “by the time they reached Barnes Gap, the driver remarked that the wind was bad. As the train approached the Owencarrow viaduct a strong gale was blowing. He slowed down to 10m.p.h. and was a few dozen yards from the Creeslough side of the viaduct and almost clear of it, when a sudden gust came so strong that it blew the carriage nearest to the engine off the rails. Two were derailed in all. One somersaulted and the roof was smashed. The four occupants of the coach were thrown through the roof into the rocky ravine forty feet below. The victims were Philip and Sarah Boyle from Arranmore Inland, Una Mulligan from Falcarragh and Neil Duggan from Meenbunowen, Creeslough. Duggan’s home was only a stones throw from the crash.” [6]

“Six of the injured were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital. Of the 14 passengers, just one was unhurt, a young woman who was flung from the upturned carriage and landed on the soft boggy soil.” [6]

The ‘Why Donegal’ Facebook page includes a few photographs of the viaduct as it remains today which were taken by Jacqui Reed.

The Owencarrow Viaduct in the 21st century (c) Jacqui Reed. [6]
The Owencarrow Viaduct in the 21st century (c) Jacqui Reed. [6]

References

  1. L. Hudlass; Owencarrow Viaduct Accident; a letter in The Railway Magazine, February 1963, p148-149.
  2. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Londonderry_and_Lough_Swilly_Railway, accessed on 30th May 2021.
  3. https://www.monreaghulsterscotscentre.com/owencarrow-viaduct, accessed on 30th May 2021.
  4. http://www.walkingdonegal.net/owencarrow-viaduct-disaster-by-john-hannigan
  5. https://www.donegaldaily.com/2019/11/14/dd-motoring-brian-mcdaid-recalls-the-owencarrow-viaduct-disaster, accessed on 30th May 2021.
  6. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=416203555247099&id=358197231047732, accessed on 30th May 2021.
  7. https://twitter.com/Donegalcomuseum/status/956480040069488640?s=09, accessed on 30th May 2021.
  8. https://donegalheritage.wordpress.com/2020/01/31/the-owencarrow-viaduct-disaster, accessed on 30th May 2021.

The Railways of Jamaica again. …..

I have been reading historic copies of the Railway Magazine again. This time it was a bound copy of the magazines from 1963. …….. I came across an article about the Railways of Jamaica in the September 1963 edition which was written by H. G. Forsythe. [1]

My previous article about the Jamaican network can be found at:

The Railways of Jamaica

Forsythe visited the island’s railways in the early 1960s and quotes figures from the late 1950s as part of his article.

In 1959, the Government “transferred ownership of the railway to a statutory corporation – the Jamaica Railway Corporation – which now [1963] operates the system.” [1: p644]

Forsythe talked in 1963, of the network having “some 205 route miles open to traffic, 112 miles being in the mountain sections. Mainline standard rail [was] 80 lb. per yd. and was laid on native hardwood sleepers. The highest point reached [was] at Green Vale, on the Montego Bay line, 1,705ft above sea level. This altitude [was] reached rapidly from the foothills and there [were] long stretches at a ruling gradient of 1 in 30 and right curves of a minimum radius of 320ft.” [1: p644]

Forsythe noted that the mountain sections of the network had a total of 41 tunnels which were cut straight through solid rock were generally unlined and had no portals.

Later in his article, Forsythe points out that the Jamaican railways “cover some of the most difficult standard-gauge mountain sections in the world. The schedule on the Montego Bay line [was] a generous 6 hrs and 45 mins allowed for the 112-mile run.” [1: p649]

He also commented that there were a total of 234 bridges/viaducts on the network. Some of these were combined road/rail bridges. He mentions 46 fully-staffed stations and 41 unmanned halts. The station buildings were to a standard design.

Wikipedia provides a full list of all the stations on the network on this link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_railway_stations_in_Jamaica

That link also includes a map of the rail network, [2] which appears below. …

784px-Map_of_the_Jamaica_railway_system_at_its_pre-bauxite_peak_(1945)_-_small_borders

When Forsythe was writing his article, the latest available statistical reports for the railway network were dated 1959. By that date the Bauxite industry on the island had become well-established. In 1959, the railways on the island carried passengers on 1,084,588 journeys [1: p645] and 900,000 tons of freight, [1: p644-645] including:

380,000 tons of Alumina; [3]

210,000 tons of Alumina processing materials; [3]

94,000 tons of bananas;

125,000 tons of sugar cane;

5,000 tons of citrus fruit;

15,000 tons of sugar; and

71,000 tons of general goods.

Rolling stock was largely of an American style. Forsythe notes that goods wagons were bogie-wagons with buck-eye couplings and Westinghouse air-brakes. He comments: “Box cars have the familiar American high handbrake wheels and ‘catwalks’ for the brakeman on top, the sides carrying gaily painted advertisements.” [1: p645] He also remarks on the Jamaican practise of converting goods wagons into ‘market cars’ which had seating provided inside a box car with added windows. On market days passengers were able to travel with their goods.

Train control used the block telegraph system, ” three telegraph lines emanate[d] from the Train Controller’s office at Kingston. … A dispatcher [was] in charge of each line and [was] linked by telegraph and telephone with each station … each station was similarly linked with every other station on its line.” [1: p645]

Signalling was “carried out by hand-held flags or lamps. Trains [could not] enter station areas until a yellow and green flag [was] displayed.” [1: p646] An additional precaution was employed at busier centres. … Trains were not permitted to move unless the pilotman was on-board. There was only one pilotman on duty in such centres. His duties included, “setting and locking points for incoming trains before walking to station limits to meet them.” [1: p646]

At the time of Forsythe’s visit, dieselisation of the motive power on the network was taking place. However, the steam locomotives were all oil-powered, so rather than seeing coaling stages, oil tanks and hoses were in place across the network.

Forsythe provided an update on the locomotives available on the network at the time of his visit. He wrote: ” Motive power comprises, first and foremost, a rapidly vanishing group of superb-looking Canadian-built 4-8-0 steam locomotives. Designated classes ‘M1’, ‘M2’ and ‘M3’, they are all of the same general design and were built by the Canadian Locomotive Company between the years 1920 and 1944. Originally coal-burners, they were converted to oil after the last war when good quality coal became far too expensive. The maximum locomotive axle loading which the line can accommodate is 15.4 tons and the sharp curves restrict the rigid wheel-base to little more than 15ft.” [1: p647]

sljmjgrM2Built in Canada, these 4-8-0 locomotives were, according to Forsythe, the main stay of the Jamaican steam loco fleet. [5]

Forsythe continues: “These ‘Mastodons’ are typically American in appearance and are fitted with bells (now inoperative), ‘cowcatchers’, and electric headlamps. Cowcatchers are a very necessary piece of equipment, much livestock straying into the largely unfenced main lines.” [1: p647]

In addition to these 4-8-0s, there were a couple of US-built 0-6-0 tank shunting locos which Forsythe observed in Kingston Goods Yard working alongside a General Electric Bo-Bo 360 horsepower diesel-electric shunter.

US-built 0-6-0T locomotive. [5]

He also came across an elderly 0-8-0T built by Liston & Co. of Leeds standing used in the roundhouse of Kingston MPD.

These steam locos are tabulated by J.D.H. Smith on this link: [4]

https://jdhsmith.math.iastate.edu/term/sljmjgr.htm

Forsythe also pointed out the innovative attitude of the management of the Jamaican railways. As early as 1938, “the internal combustion engine was in use in the form of s small fleet of 110-hp railcars supplied by D. Wickham & Co. Ltd., Of Ware. Some of these railcars are still in use and performing well. At least one has been thoroughly refurbished and painted in silver. It operates a popular and interesting rail tour from Montego Bay, known as ‘The Governor’s Coach’.” [1: p649]

More information about the developing use of Modern Traction in Jamaica can be found via Wikipedia: [6]

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Rail_transport_in_Jamaica

Forsythe refers to delivery of some Kalamazoo railcars from the US during the war. The name ‘Kalamazoo’ is now used in Jamaica to refer to any diesel railcar. He also mentions Metropolitan-Cammell units which were being delivered at the time of his visit, and a series of ten English Electric general-purpose Bo-Bo 750-hp diesel-electric locos. These EE locos were apparently mist successful under Jamaica’s arduous operating conditions.

References

1. H. G. Forsythe; The Railways of Jamaica; in The Railway Magazine, September 1963; p642-649. The full article can be accessed in the Railway Magazine Archive which is available for a subscription over and above the regular magazine subscription price.

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_railway_stations_in_Jamaica.

3. Alumina is produced from bauxite, an ore that is mined in various tropical and subtropical regions. Jamaica’s bauxite occurs in a series of deposits across the middle of the island, east to west. The largest deposits are in the parishes of St. Ann, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, and Trelawny. … The Bayer process, discovered in 1887, is the primary process by which alumina is extracted from bauxite. To produce pure aluminum, alumina is smelted using the Hall–Héroult electrolytic process.

4. https://jdhsmith.math.iastate.edu/term/sljmjgr.htm. Smith has tabulated a whole series of different locomotive rosters. This is just one table of many!

5. https://jdhsmith.math.iastate.edu

6. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Rail_transport_in_Jamaica

 

Easter Day – John 20:1-18

Mary Magdalene is in the Garden of the Tomb – mourning the loss of the person who turned her life around. The one who loved her when no one else did. The one who brought her healing when she was filled with demons and mentally disturbed. The one who gave her dignity. The one who made her feel loved and accepted. But now he was gone, Jesus is gone, he is dead. Nothing can bring him back.

And what makes it worse for Mary is that someone has removed his body, stolen his body. She no longer has somewhere to go, somewhere to express her grief, somewhere to place her memories. For her, this theft, this desecration, is the greatest of cruelty – it brings despair.

At Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. So easily, we rush past Good Friday and the long hours of Saturday, we rush past the pain of death and mourning and move as quickly as possible to the resurrection. It is uncomfortable to stay too long with death, with the cross – we prefer to think about new life, new hope – about resurrection.

The story of Mary in the Garden of the Tomb reminds us of the pain of grief, but it also of the need to allow grief to run its course. However much we long for the darkness to pass, for the feelings of anger, of guilt, of despair to go away, we cannot just brush them under a carpet of false hope. Nor can we talk glibly of the Christian hope of resurrection without experiencing the reality of loss.

If we are not careful, as Christians, we become so concerned to emphasise resurrection hope that we forget that it has always been a hope borne through the pain of death and loss. Resurrection can only follow death and loss – just as it did on that first Easter morning. Our resurrection hope is not just a general hope of resurrection, nor is it just about heaven, nor is it a denial of the reality and power of death,.

Christian hope of resurrection is specific and personal it relates to me and those I love. It is not an abstract, general, hope of resurrection.

Christian resurrection hope does not deny the reality and power of death. It is, in fact, is born in the midst of death, Calvary precedes Easter, and in a very real sense over this Easter season we are called to feel something of the power of death, to struggle with the disciples through death, through the uncertainty and fear for the future that Jesus’ death left them with. It is, in a very real way, intended to be a struggle for us to move through Good Friday into Easter Saturday and then on to Easter Day and ultimately, finally, resurrection hope. Hope born out of death.

Christian hope is for now as much as for the future, the impossible is possible with God, new things can be born out of the shell of the old, new things can spring to life, the phoenix can rise from the ashes of despair. We can be renewed, made new, have new life now, as individuals and as communities. This too is resurrection hope.

Mary Magdalene discovered resurrection hope not through dismissing her grief and putting on a brave face, but rather in her grief – Jesus himself drew alongside her, he reached out to her with one word of comfort – “Mary.” Hope, real hope, was born from the darkness of despair. This was no false dawn that would fade, this was a new day in which the brightness of the sun would warm Mary’s heart.

In some words that have at times been very special for Jo and me. Isaiah promised Israel:

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and through rivers they shall not overwhelm you.” ‘I will stand with you’ says Isaiah, speaking for God, ‘I will stand with you in the pain, … you are not alone’.

For Mary, resurrection still meant loss – Mary could never have Jesus back as she had known him. “Do not hold on to me,” he says. “Do not keep clinging onto me.”    Mourning and grief are about letting go – letting go because we have confidence that we can trust our loved ones to God – letting go because we cannot hold on to them, letting go because we also trust in God’s love for us.

Jesus resurrection does not deny death, it fulfils it. Jesus resurrection assures us of all God=s promises not to leave us or forsake us – neither in life nor in death will he let us go. He draws near to us in darkness and despair, he speaks our name and gently draws us to himself where true hope begins.

Palm Sunday and Holy Week (Mark 11:1-11)

palm-sunday-31

One of the early experiences I remember well is watching Doctor Who. I always sat on the settee, with a cushion close at hand – and when things seemed to be getting to frightening I’d bring the cushion up to my face and peep over the top. If things looked really bad I’d hide behind the back of the settee – peeping out occasionally – with my imagination running riot!

I’ve carried this forward into adult life – some friends and I went to the cinema to watch Braveheart. The film has some very graphic and dramatic battle scenes. I was unaware of how I was responding. Each time an axe hit someone’s torso I was apparently jumping in my seat. At one point, I looked along the row of friends to find that they were all watching me rather than the screen.

I always get engrossed in what I’m watching on TV or at the cinema – and I find that I can usually anticipate the story line. My imagination works overtime – and if I’m not careful when I am watching TV, I find that the anticipation has got the better of me – I’ve got up from my seat and left the room. Before I even realize what I’m doing, I am in the kitchen putting the kettle on to boil!  In some things we watch on TV it is easy to get ahead of the action, anticipate what is going to happen and react accordingly.

We have a similar, but greater, problem with Holy Week and the Easter story. We can anticipate everything that is going to happen. It’s not that the plot is predictable or easy to anticipate – for us it’s the problem of hindsight.

We know that Palm Sunday’s jubilation was followed by the despair of Good Friday. We know that the seeming failure of Good Friday was quickly overtaken by the triumph of the first Easter Day. Hindsight is supposed to be beneficial – but in the case of the Easter story it robs us of the possibility of living through the events as they happened.

img_mouseover3What was going through the disciple’s minds as they came into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday? What was Jesus feeling as he rode into Jerusalem on that donkey? Our danger is that knowing the outcome we minimize the intensity of the events and feelings of Holy Week because we know it turned out OK in the end.

What was Jesus feeling as he entered Jerusalem knowing what the week ahead would hold? Was he was already feeling that overwhelming sense of loneliness that comes when we are completely misunderstood.

How many times had he told his disciples that he was going to Jerusalem to die? How often had they failed to hear what he said?

Palm Sunday dramatizes for us the chasm in understanding which existed between Jesus and everyone around him – his disciples and the happy shouting crowds. … Jesus was alone. Really alone – no one understood what he was doing – no one grasped what was about to happen!

When we talk of Christ’s suffering – we think primarily of the Cross. We miss the agony of the anticipation, the loneliness of the last week of his life. The shame of abandonment and torture. … And because we miss his anguish we minimize the significance of many of the events of that last week. With the benefit of hindsight we rush on to the resurrection – to the good news.

1dc2b2a68ab7fd0b323a3e9778c579faAs Jesus repeatedly talks about his death his disciples remain at best confused, at worst oblivious to what he is saying. And the loneliness Jesus felt in the crowd of Palm Sunday, gets replaced by the loneliness of the garden of Gethsemane. Only he can walk this road. No one will walk it with him!

When we grasp this, we will begin to be able to believe that Jesus understands our loneliness. … He knows the loneliness of the cell for those in solitary confinement; those condemned to die for their faith. But more than that – he feels the dark loneliness of depression; he is with us in the loneliness of the hospital bed; he knows the loneliness of watching other people=s pain; and he knows the loneliness of being misunderstood. It=s not just that he cares – he knows what we go through. He is the one that has gone before – he is the one who calls us on – in spite of the darkness or the pain – to continue to serve, to continue to love, to continue to hope.

So, as we live through this Holy Week, lets not get to far ahead of the plot anticipating the final outcome. Let’s rather to the best of our ability stay with the story watching and feeling it unfold. For then, perhaps only then, will we really begin to understand how much God loves us.

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John 2:13-22 – Jesus in the Temple.

Have you ever experienced what it is like to be an outsider? The first time I went to Uganda in 1994, I had people’s warnings ringing in my ears. “Be careful travelling on the buses.” … “Everyone’ll be out to get what they can from you.” “Don’t walk around on your own at night.” I also had had my own fears about going to a different culture. And, yes, I did feel like an outsider. I was white, everyone else was black. I was treated like an oddity because I was different. A reversal of what many black and Asian people felt in coming here.

You may have experienced something like this – perhaps joining a new club, going to a new job, or a new town/city, going to the hospital for the first time. Unease in unfamiliar surroundings is something many of us experience. Often it isn’t helped by the way that those in the know, those who already belong, behave.

What would it have felt like as a Gentile coming into the temple in Jerusalem for the first time? An unfamiliar place with strange customs. It can’t be too hard to imagine some of the confusion and uncertainty that any Gentile must have felt.

The temple had its barriers even at the best of times – there was the Holy of Holies at the centre – where only God and the occasional male priest could go, next, separated by a richly embroidered curtain was the Holy Place where offerings to God were left by the priests (all of whom were male), next was the court where the altar sat – Jewish men were welcome here – then there was an outer court where Jewish women were allowed, and out beyond this – in the outermost court of the temple Gentiles were permitted. The temple system reinforced these divides, both gender and nationality. A place that was intended to proclaim God’s welcome had become a place where barriers obstructed access to God.

No doubt the Temple was a place of familiarity and comfort for those who attended regularly, particularly Jewish men. Everything had a structure and a place – it was somewhere safe and secure. But those very structures created barriers for others and a hierarchy of access to God. Rather than seeing the different outer courts as places of welcome for the outsider, Jews began to see those courts of lesser significance – and the Gentile Court, rather than being a place for worship, had become a place of business. The place where Gentiles could worship had become a market place.

In our reading, Jesus erupts into this outer court, turning over tables and setting animals and birds free. And his comment in Mark’s version of the story reinforces his concern for the outsider; “It is written,” he says “God’s house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The temple, says Jesus, is not to be a barrier to worship but a place of worship. The way the temple is run, the way things are done, needs to draw in the outsider.

Later, Matthew’s Gospel tells us that, at the moment of Jesus death, the curtain in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom – opening the path for everyone directly into God’s presence. No longer could anyone justify barriers which restricted access to God.

The Jews had allowed their place of worship to become a place that created barriers between God and those who came seeking him.

These short verses In John’s Gospel seem like a window into what it was like in the temple in Jesus’ day. But they are not a window, they are a mirror allowing us to see what we are like, they are a direct challenge to us:

How open are we to welcoming the outsider? Are we as welcoming as we think? What barriers do we place between God and those who seek him? Are we no better than the temple authorities?

How hard is it for new people to get their heads around our liturgy? How keen are we to have people in our services who don’t know what to do? What do we do to help those who are new? In a lot of our churches you can tell who is new … the regulars pick the seats at the back of church. I’m not sure why we see those as the best, but we hardly ever sit on the front row, do we. Often a guest will come into church and see the front seats clear and chose to sit there – anywhere else they’d be the best seats! It is only once the service starts that they realise their mistake – which bit of paper am I supposed to look at now, which book, do I stand or sit at this point in the service? Our guests end up feeling embarrassed. …. Is it any surprise that they choose not to return?

What happens after our services? Who talks to whom? Who seeks to include the outsider? One of our previous suffragan bishops, told a story about his wife Early in his ministry in the Diocese of Manchester he attended one church to preach and his wife went with him. At the end of the service she went to get her coffee and was very politely served and then she stood to one side, quietly drinking her coffee, and no one spoke to her.

When the Bishop introduced her to a few people, one woman said, “If only I’d known you were the Bishop’s wife, I’d have come over to talk to you.”

I wonder whether she had any real idea what she had just said about her own, and her church’s, attitude to the outsider.

How do we respond when children are noisy? How do we cope if someone sits in our regular seat? Do you have baptisms in your main church service? If so, what do you feel about Baptism families? Are we quicker to comment that they are bound not to return – rather than to welcome them, understanding just how alien the service must feel to them? How welcome do we make people feel? Are we really as helpful and welcoming as we=d like to think we are? We need to try to imagine what a newcomer sees and feels as they enter our buildings.

These short verses in our reading challenge each of us to take a step back to look at we do in God’s church, God’s temple. To try to look at what we do through the eyes of the outsider.

Jesus gave priority to the Gentile, to the outsider. He explodes in anger over the ugly barriers that religious people had created almost without thinking.

If nothing else, these short verses in our reading demonstrate that Jesus longs that we and all his followers will give priority, not to our own hopes and desires, but to those of our community and the wider world. Priority to drawing them into relationship with God.

The Transfiguration – 2 Kings 2:1-12; Mark 9:2-9; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (and Colossians 1:15-20)

The Transfiguration.

Our Lectionary ensures that we encounter the Transfiguration twice this year. On the Sunday Next Before Lent (14th February 2021) and on the Feast of the Transfiguration (6th August 2021).

The lectionary readings set for 14th February 2021 are:

2 Kings 2: 1-12, 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6; and Mark 9: 2-9.

The first of these readings is the story of Elijah’s transfiguration in the moments before his death. In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks of a kind of transfiguration in our hearts as we see Christ revealed in his glory. Mark’s short account of the Transfiguration, places Jesus, Moses and Elijah together at the top of a mountain.

Not in 2 Corinthians but elsewhere in the letters attributed to him, Paul struggles to impress on us the nature and importance of  Jesus as God’s Son. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul writes:

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Paul and others like him were doing Christ-centered theology for the first time. They had met with the risen Jesus, some had lived alongside him for at least three years, and they were all struggling to put into words and ideas the reality of what they had encountered.

Paul talks, in that letter to the Colossians, of Jesus as the image of the invisible God, as someone in whom the whole Godhead dwells bodily. … He has begun to realise just exactly who Jesus was and is, and it excites him. And in that passage from Colossians it’s as though, words tumble out as Paul realises just what it all means. We can almost feel his longing that his readers will understand too.

The story of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-9) is part of the same kind of process going on for Peter. Up to this point, he has seen Jesus healing, he has felt his own poverty and sinfulness alongside the richness of Jesus character, he has listened to Jesus speaking, he has seen his wisdom and listened to his parables and gradually it has become clearer to him that Jesus is more than just a special person, but try as he might he can’t get his head around it all. In the verses immediately preceding our Gospel reading he has hesitantly voiced what is inside his head. “You are the Messiah, the Holy one of God,” he says to Jesus.

But ultimately he still isn’t sure what he means … and then comes the Transfiguration. He sees Jesus and Moses and Elijah together and he believes he’s worked it out. He places Jesus on the highest pedestal that his mind can comprehend. Jesus is the equal of Moses and Elijah, perhaps the greatest prophet ever. And for a Jew, that was saying something!

And Peter wants to build booths, small shrines, little churches. His leader, his master, is in his mind the equal of Moses, the equal of Elijah. This needs to be marked.

And then he hears God speak: … “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.” Listen only to him.

Peter discovers that he has not gone far enough. His own mind just was not big enough to comprehend who Jesus was, who Jesus is. The truth was just so much bigger than he ever thought.

And we are left with the same revelation – Jesus is bigger than our own ideas of him. God is beyond our comprehension and we will only begin to understand God, to relate to God if we relate to Jesus. And we will only do that if we allow ourselves to see God’s revelation of Jesus. The lesson of the Transfiguration is that creating our own image of Jesus, of God, achieves little. All it does is bring God down to our own level. And depending on our own perspective we create a Christ who is meek and mild, or a Christ who is white rather than a Jew, a red-haired handsome specimen of humanity; or perhaps we might create Christ as the freedom fighter, the revolutionary, the liberator, or we see him as the social reformer.

“No,” says God, “Jesus is bigger than all of this – he is my Son. You can’t pin him down. You can’t domesticate him. He is there to challenge you, to save you, to draw the best out of you. Listen to him.”

We are intended to be dazzled by the light of Jesus face. To be drawn to him, and to see the world fade into dimness. And in that encounter, God expects us to be changed, to be renewed, to be challenged, to be shaken out of our present categories, our concepts of the way things are.

By meeting with Christ, we begin to understand God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but more than that – we are challenged to move out with hope into our world, believing that God’s kingdom in Jesus is all that other’s really need, looking to bring that kingdom into being, looking for the signs of God’s presence in the world around us. Longing to serve our Lord, longing to be changed still more. Longing to be Transfigured in our encounter with Jesus.

For as Paul says in our reading from 2 Corinthians:

It is the God who in creation said “Let there be Light!” “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has also shone into our own hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Into 2021 with God! – Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:4-11 – 10th January 2021

The authors of our lectionary placed the Old Testament reading alongside the Gospel reading for  10th January 2021 for a reason. They wanted us to see them in parallel.

In both cases God is doing something new.

I am not an expert in classical music, a bit of a Philistine really, but as I thought about these two readings from Genesis and Mark it seemed to me that they could be described as two different movements from the same symphony. I’m told that the classical composers used variations on the same theme to develop their composition and that if you listen carefully to the music you can hear the main theme being repeated. …..

Perhaps you can imagine a heavenly orchestra playing the first 5 verses of Genesis. Dark, brooding music portrays an overwhelming sense of chaos and darkness. I imagine that the composer would use discordant modern themes to convey a sense of disorder. Then over this music comes the main theme of the symphony – quietly at first, starting with flute and piccolo, and gradually engaging the whole orchestra. Like a wind gradually rising from a gentle breeze to a violent gale. God’s mighty wind (his Holy Spirit) sweeps across the universe. God is speaking, and his very words change the universe for ever. “Let there be light” and light appears. God saw that it was good, and Night and Day were born.

God breaks into the history of the universe with a powerful word of creation.

Our second reading comes much later in the same symphony. The main musical themes are now well developed – we=ve heard them over and again throughout the symphony. When John the Baptist appears we return to that same discordant, abrupt and harsh theme that we heard right at the beginning of the symphony. His harsh manner, his odd clothing, his strange habits all seem to echo the chaos and darkness of Genesis. The sound from the orchestra builds and noise of the crowds coming to John for baptism shake the concert hall and then John’s voice can be heard as a sharp solo, perhaps, by the oboe cutting through the surrounding noise.

Then quietly at first the main theme appears again. The theme that represented God at work as Creator gradually supersedes the chaos of the early part of this movement. Jesus has come for baptism. The Word of God, from the beginning of John’s Gospel, is beginning his work. And as Jesus comes up out of the waters of baptism the whole orchestra joins the theme – the heavens are rent open, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus and God speaks, a strong solo voice: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”.

Can you see the common themes in the two passages?

  • The milling crowd, longing for God to act in their lives; and the universe awaiting God’s creative action.
  • The wind of God, and the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the deep and the waters of baptism.
  • The word of God bringing creation, “Let there be light”; and the Word of God, Jesus, God’s Son, whose ministry brings redemption.

God’s delight is obvious in both passages. Looking at creation, ‘God saw that it was good’. Looking down on his Son, God said, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”.

The theme from each movement of our symphony is the same. God creating his world and God redeeming that same world. All part of the same plan. In our symphony, both represented by the same theme.

And now, early in 2021, we are participating in what the Bible calls the end times, the days between Jesus’ first and second coming. We are participating in what we might call the final movement of the symphony.

In the first movement, God saw that everything was good. What does he see now, at the start of this new year, in Ashton, in our churches, in our families and personal lives? Where are the signs of new creation? Where are the dark, formless voids that still await God’s creative action?

In the later movement God expressed overwhelming pleasure at the baptism of his Son. What things in our world, our town, our churches or in our lives today, give God pleasure?

Where might we begin to hear that same musical theme of God’s intervention here in Ashton-under-Lyne? What do we long that God would do in our town and in our world?

At this moment the pandemic looms increasingly large and we can feel the discordant notes of fear and anger. The discordant music seems to dominate our lives, yet quietly, almost unheard in the chaos of noise that theme of hope is still present quietly picked out again by flute and piccolo bringing a measure of calm in the midst of the noise.

How might the final movement of our symphony be being played out? What should I do? What should we do to participate in God’s work here? Now, in these difficult times? Which of the musical voices are we contributing to? The discordant chaos or the still, small, haunting voice of calm and hope?