Friday, November 16, 2012

The Apocryphal Cow

I find Wikipedia to be a useful jumping off point when looking something up, but, as I've often told students, it really isn't to be treated as a trusted resource, and should never appear in the references section of an academic work. As an example of why this is true I present to you the tale of the apocryphal cow.

When we first moved to Penistone I knew nothing about the areas history. It was clear though from my first commute on the train that there used to be a lot more railway lines and infrastructure than the single remaining line between Barnsley and Huddersfield. After a quick session with Google I'd found quite a lot of interesting information, including this Wikipedia page which details a number of railway accidents that have occurred in and around Penistone.

As with many Wikipedia articles this one doesn't go into lots of details about each accident, mostly just providing a short summary for each one. My interest, however, had been piqued and so I've been slowly looking into each accident to find out more, and there may well be more blog posts on this subject in the future. This post focuses on the first accident which occurred in 1845, the year the first line to Penistone opened. The Wikipedia article currently states that:

In one of the promotional meetings for the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway a local farmer asked George Stephenson "what would happen if one of your locomotives hit one of my cows." Stephenson is reputed to have replied in a very broad, almost incomprehensible Geordie (Newcastle area) accent, "I would'na gi much chance for the coo!" At that time, Penistone Station was set on the line just below the parish church, which was adjacent to the cattle market. (The station was moved to the present site with the opening of the line to Huddersfield).

On 6 October 1845, Stephenson's thoughts were put to the test. The evening train from Dunford Bridge to Sheffield was running down the gradient towards Penistone Station when the train met a cow which had escaped onto the railway track from the cattle market. The drover was unable to move it out of the way and the train hit the cow. The locomotive and coaches were derailed and damaged, the guard injured and passengers shaken but Stephenson was proven right; the cow was almost cut in two and killed on the spot.

The accident took place on the line towards Dunford Bridge, somewhere in the Bullhouse area and was considered to be caused by "Cattle Drover's neglect".
Now while I find this interesting there were a number of things in this short description that started to ring alarm bells.

Firstly I couldn't see how there would be room alongside the old line (the accident occurred on the Woodhead Line which was closed in 1981 with the track being lifted a few years later) for a station building, however small, to have been built. Most of the track bed below the Church is on a narrow raised embankment and includes a bridge. Fortunately I was able to find a map from 1851 which shows the original location as being west of the Church, next to the still existing Penistone showground, which is where I assume the cattle market was held in 1845.

Knowing where the station was doesn't help me pinpoint the site of the accident though. Firstly the article states that the cow ... had escaped onto the railway track from the cattle market and that it happened somewhere in the Bullhouse area. The problem is that Bullhouse is around 2 miles along the line from the old station and cattle market (the old line is now the Trans-Pennine Trail, and on Google Maps this is a cycle way, so you can easily calculate the distance). While I'm sure that cows can roam a long distance, I would assume that if one had escaped from the cattle market it would have been captured well before it had managed to get 2 miles or more up the line.

The second problem with the Wikipedia description is that it mentions George Stephenson being involved with a promotional meeting for the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway (SA&MR). As far as I can tell while Stephenson was involved in the plans for the original Sheffield and Manchester Railway, which was never built, I can't find him being involved with the SA&MR. That isn't to say he wasn't at a promotional meeting but at this point I was beginning to wonder if any of the Wikipedia description was at all accurate.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, while I don't class Wikipedia as a trusted resource I do find it a useful jumping-off-point, and in this case a single reference was given for this accident; page 52 of George Dow's 1959 book Great Central. Volume One: The Progenitors 1813-1863. Working in a University with a good library can be very useful and after wondering around the stacks I eventually located the book. The relevant passage reads as follows:

Nevertheless, the Sheffield--Dunford Bridge section did sustain one series accident during its period of physical isolation from the older part of the SA&M, this nearly disproving George Stephenson's classic observation that in the event of a collision between a train and a cow "it would be very awkward for the coo". Soon after leaving Dunford Bridge on the evening of 6th October 1845 a passenger train ran into a cow which had strayed on the line owing to the negligence of a drover from Penistone market. The locomotive and all the carriages were derailed and damaged, severely injuring the guard and thoroughly shaking up the passengers. The cow was almost cut in two and killed on the spot.
Dow wrote this over 100 years after the accident, but he references a contemporary source; the 11th of October 1845 issue of The Illustrated London News. After a lot of hunting around I managed to get my hands on an electronic copy, and the news article reads as follows:

Accident on the Sheffield and Manchester Railway.--Owing to a cow having negligently been allowed to stray on to the above line, by a drover from Penistone market, after dark, on Monday night, an accident occurred, which had well nigh been the destruction of a whole train of passengers. Shortly after the train had left Dunford bridge, and while it was dark, a shock was received which threw both engine and train off the line, seriously injuring several of the carriages, and almost crushing the guard to death. As soon as the passengers could be got out of the carriages, it was ascertained that a cow had got upon the line, and the engine had come in violent contact with it. The poor animal was nearly cut in two, and, of course, killed on the spot. Information was immediately sent to Sheffield station, and a pilot engine promptly dispatched at ten o'clock at night. It returned at midnight with a portion of the passengers upon the tender, and immediately on setting them down, started again for the remainder, with Sufficient carriages, arriving again at Sheffield about two in the morning. The passengers, who, as might be expected, were much alarmed, bore the inconvenience with considerable fortitude--not a syllable of complaint being uttered by any of them. Happily none of the passengers were injured beyond some slight bruises, and all reached their homes in safety, between midnight and two o'clock on Tuesday morning.
Both of these reports agree on a number of issues. Firstly it would seem that the accident occurred shortly after leaving Dunford Bridge, and neither claim that the cow had escaped from Penistone cattle market. Both of these facts differ from the Wikipedia article, and given the contemporary report are more likely to be correct. I think the escaped cow probably comes from misreading that it was the drover involved who was from Penistone market, and not the cow.

The journey from Dunford Bridge to Penistone is about 5.5 miles, and according to the August 1845 issue of Bradshaw's Monthly Railway and Steam Navigation Guide (the relevant excert is shown on page 53 of Dow's book) took 12 minutes. The 6th of October 1845 was a Monday, and as sunset was at approximately 17:15 (I used to determine sunset for Penistone), then it must have been either the 18:07 or 20:07 departure from Dunford Bridge that was involved in the accident. Given that, according to the timetable, it would normally take 45 minutes for the train to make the entire journey from Dunford Bridge to Sheffield, and the newspaper article states that "and a pilot engine promptly dispatched at ten o'clock at night" then I would assume that it was the 20:07 departure, giving almost two hours after the accident for news to reach Sheffield.

From the original Wikipedia article, the one outstanding issue is George Stephenon's response to the question: what would happen if one of your locomotives hit one of my cows? Interestingly Dow refers to Stephenson's response as a "classic observation" and makes no attempt to link it to the SA&MR.

It would appear that the quote has nothing to do with the SA&MR but was actually from a parliamentary committee investigation into the proposed building of the Liverpool and Manchester railway. In 1884 Grant Allen published a book entitled Biographies of Working Men. Chapter 2 was devoted to George Stephenson and contains the following passage:

A long and severe fight was fought over the Liverpool and Manchester railway, and it was at first doubtful whether the scheme would ever be carried out. ... Stephenson himself was compelled to appear in London as a witness before a parliamentary committee ... One of the members of the committee pressed Stephenson very hard with questions. "Suppose," he said, "a cow were to get upon the line, and the engine were to come into collision with it; wouldn't that be very awkward, now?" George looked up at him with a merry twinkle of the eye, and answered in his broad North Country dialect, "Oo, ay, very awkward for the COO."
A similar story is also reported in Oscar D. Skelton's 1916 book The Railway Builders.

The directors of the new [Liverpool and Manchester] railway had found great difficulty in obtaining a charter from parliament. ... What would become of coachmen and coach-builders and horse-dealers? 'Or suppose a cow were to stray upon the line; would not that be a very awkward circumstance?' queried a committee member, only to give Stephenson an opening for the classic reply in his slow Northumbrian speech: 'Ay, varra awkward for the coo.'
Having finally tracked down the quote, I think I can now safely state the following:

  • the accident occurred just after leaving Dunford Bridge
  • the train hit a cow that a drover from Penistone market hadn't been able to clear from the line
  • the cow was killed instantly, giving proof to George Stephenson's classic answer to a parliamentary committee that such an accident would be "very awkward for the coo"

So with these facts in hand I'm intending to re-write the Wikipedia article as follows:

During a parlimentary committee meeting to debate the building of the Liverpool and Manchester railway, George Stephenson was asked what would happen should a train hit a cow. His now classic reply, given in his broad Northumbrian dialect, was to state "Oo, ay, very awkward for the COO!".

On the evening of the 6th of October 1845 this assumption was dramatically put to the test. Shortly after leaving Dunford Bridge the Sheffield bound train struck a cow, which a drover from Penistone market had been unable to remove from the line. The impact caused the locomotive and carriages to derail and the cow was killed instantly. Such was the force of the accident that the cow was almost entirely cut in half.

None of the passengers suffered any injuries other than some minor bruising, although the guard was more severely injured. A replacement train was dispatched from Sheffield and the passengers all completed their journey by two o'clock the following morning.
I think that this is much more accurate description of the accident and unless anyone points out any obvious mistakes in the next day or so, I'll update the Wikipedia article.

Any well researched article should always end with a list of sources, so here are the full details of the items quoted above:
  • Grant Allen. Biographies of Working Men. 1884.
  • Frederick William Naylor Bayley, editor. The Illustrated London News. William Little, 11 October 1845.
  • George Dow. Great Central, Volume One: The Progenitors, 1813–1863. Ian Allan, 1959.
  • Oscar D. Skelton. The Railway Builders. 1916.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

As Near As Makes No Difference

When I started this blog I mentioned that the posts would be "a mixture of historical posts, based on what I'm learning about Penistone as well as my Dad's slides, modern trips to preserved railways, and some modelling". So far most of the posts have been about modelling, but I've recently started to do some more in depth research for a sequence of historical posts. I'm still quite a way from having any of those posts ready, but while hunting out a few details I came across an interesting photo that I thought worth sharing.

This photo shows Cammell Laird's Penistone steelworks. The factory closed in 1930 and was eventually completely demolished. The site was eventually re-developed with the building of a housing estate; a housing estate in which we bought a house. That, however, wasn't why I found the photo interesting.

Some of you may remember that my first recent foray into railway modelling was the construction of a couple of open coal wagons, both of which were finished with transfers for local collieries. The second wagon depicted an 8 plank, 12 ton open coal wagon belonging to the Dodworth branch of Old Silkstone colliery. Given that Silkstone Common is the first stop south on the railway from Penistone, I'd assumed that the Old Silkstone wagon would have been a familiar sight in Penistone, but I'd yet to see any actual proof.

Now if you look closely at the photo you should be able to see that the third wagon from the left is an Old Silkstone wagon.

Strangely the relative sizes of the lettering is different from the model I built, but this is good enough proof for me that the wagon definitely represents something that would have regularly been seen in and around Penistone.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Brass Knobs

After finishing the smokebox door I was going to take a small break from modelling, but I made the mistake of leaving the bits sat on my desk. It turns out that they were way too enticing to leave alone.

Just like the handrails on the cab sides, the moulded version that ran around the boiler was fairly horrid looking, but improving this handrail was going to be a bit more involved though; I was going to need some handrail knobs.

Fortunately along with the smokebox door handles I'd ordered a set of medium brass handrail knobs from Eileen's Emporium. So just like with all the other improvements I drilled holes for each handrail knob and then cut away the moulded version. Fitting the new handrail knobs was more difficult though. I used a small offcut of brass wire to fit and align the knobs down each side of the boiler. I then formed a piece of brass wire into the right shape to fit around the boiler. On to this wire I threaded the final handrail knob which fits above the smokebox door. The wire was then threaded into each pair of handrail knobs one at a time, until it was in position and the final knob could be slipped into the hole. For a first attempt I'm really happy with it, although the photo shows that the wire has ended up quite badly kinked. Fortunately this doesn't real show when looking at the actual model.

The eagle eyes amongst you may also notice that I've trimmed the smokebox door handles slightly. I felt that they were a little long, and I also wanted them to be slightly different lengths to better match the original moldings.

Smokey Darts

So having improved the cab side hand rails yesterday, today I turned to improving the smokebox door handles. The technique was essentially the same; drill a hole (using 1.2mm drill bit), cut off the plastic moulding, and then add the new handles.

The final result is, I think, a lot better than the original moulding. Now while I could have made up the smokebox darts (why the door handles are called darts I don't really know) from brass wire, I decided that would be pushing things slightly so instead I bought a ready made set from Eileen's Emporium (where I also bought the brass wire for the hand rails). They actually come as three separate pieces which means you can easily position the hands in any orientation you want. The downside is that they are very small pieces of brass that require rather good eyesight to fit together. It took me a couple of attempts to get them on right, but I think it was worth the effort.

You'll have noticed that I've also drilled a hole and cut off the moulded hand rail across the top of the smokebox door, but fitting that around the boiler will have to wait for another post.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Brass Hand Rails

One of the first improvements I've tried while building the static Dapol pug kit, which I talked about in the previous post, has been to replace the hand rails on the cab sides.

The hand rails were simply moulded plastic and as you can see from the first photo below were fairly ugly and oversized.

So I started by using a 0.45mm drill to drill small holes in the centre of each handle right through the plastic. I then used a sharp craft knife to remove the mouldings before polishing up the plastic using a small amount of T-cut on a cotton wool bud. The result of all this you can see in the second photo.

Having now removed the original hand rails, it was easy to fit a small piece of 0.417mm brass wire into the holes. I used a piece of cardboard to keep the wire away from the surface while I glued it in place. I then trimmed the extra wire from the back and removed the cardboard to give the final result you can see in the third photo.

This turned out to be very easy to do and I think you'll agree that it drastically improves the look of the cab side.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recycled Welsh Plastic

While I definitely enjoyed building the two open coal wagons (here and here) and re-numbering a pug, I would like to move on to building more complex models. My intention is to eventually be able to build etched brass kits of large complex locomotives. The problem is that these models aren't cheap and I'm not sure if I really have the skills to build them well enough to make it worth spending the money on a kit versus buying a ready-to-run locomotive. So while I'd like to dive straight into building an etched brass kit, I'm starting off with a pile of recycled Welsh plastic.

What you can see in this photo is a Dapol pug kit which set me back all of £7.65. It isn't a working model but rather it builds into a static model. It is, however, to the same scale (4mm to the foot) as the rest of my railway models. So once built could be used almost as scenery on a layout. My intention is to use it to practice as many modelling and painting techniques as possible. If I mess it up so badly that it has to be thrown away I won't have wasted huge amounts of money and will still hopefully have learnt something along the way.

I'm not intending to simply build the kit as it comes; I'm going to hopefully improve it. For example, the handrails are molded in plastic, I'm going to try removing them and fitting brass replacements. I'm also going to try fitting a proper handle to the smoke box door, and possibly remove the extra sandboxes from the running board. If I manage to build a reasonable model then I'm also going to practice painting techniques that I didn't use on the coal wagons, such as weathering. There is going to be lots of small parts, lots of drilling small holes and hopefully it's going to be a lot of fun. There will of course be blog posts as I go so you can all share in my triumph/disaster (delete as appropriate).