The Lost Days of Steam
A programme about various aspects of the railway industry featuring stories from railway workers and songs from folk singers who have an interest in railways past and present
A Job for Life - Start at 14 and finish at 65.
Stories of railway life - Life as a fireman on the footplate and how to handle runaway trains.
An accident at Parbold station in Lancashire as told by an eye witness porter and two signalmen.
'The Romantic View' and 'The Rundown to Privatisation' - Stories and songs about trains such as Altcar Bob and how the Beeching Axe affected workers in the railway industry.
Welcome to 'The Lost Days of Steam', a documentary inspired originally by the 40th anniversary of the end of regular steam operation on British Railways. It serves as an aural record of music, poetry and recollections of railway workers and enthusiasts alike and offers a balanced view between the romantic and the realistic standpoint held by those who cared for what now seems a lost way of life
Folk music has always had a resonance with the railway world. There are those who have lived in both worlds and through this medium drew on their experience to create classic songs, some of which we include in this presentation.
Railway workers themselves recount tales which are never mundane but can be humorous or tragic. Their work was often a job for life and we talked to those in signal boxes, on the stations or on the footplate to grasp a clear picture of those far off days.
"A Job for Life" – This was a phrase that came up on many an occasion when we were talking to people and is illustrated by the song 'A Servant of the Company' by the late Paul Connor of Manchester and sung here by Mark Dowding and Chris Harvey from their CD "The Old Potts Railway"
Dave Goulder - one time fireman who wrote many songs about life on the railway
"Footplate and Runaways" – Dave Goulder and Arthur Bennett recall stories of how working on the footplate wasn't always the best job in the world if the fireman didn't get on with the driver – especially if it was your first day on the footplate and you couldn't raise enough steam to keep the engine rolling thus delaying all the traffic behind you or hanging on to the brake for dear life whilst a hundred tons of engine tried to resist gravity going down a steep incline and coming off worst. A couple of Dave's songs are used here – "The Footplate Song" and "The Day We Run Away"
"Accidents" – Parbold is a small station on the Southport to Manchester line and in 1971 a freight train ran through the gates taking a car up the line with it. This story is recounted by the station porter who was on duty at the time and two of the signalmen who worked in the signal boxes in the area – but not on this day. Another song of Dave Goulder is used here sung by Mark Dowding and arranged by Chris Harvey Pollington – "Ais Gill" – which tells the story of a tragic accident on the Settle-Carlisle railway on Christmas Eve in 1910.
"The Romantic View" – There has always been a rose tinted view of the railway in some people's eyes but the Axe wielded in the wake of Dr Richard Beeching's controversial report "The Reshaping of British Railways" published in 1963 brought into sharp focus the amount of jobs that would be lost and also produced some of the best songs including Michael Flanders' and Donald Swann's "Slow Train" (sung here by Mark and Chris) and more lately "Altcar Bob" by Paul Mackenzie, "Midland" a poem by Les Barker and "Last Train" by one-time station master and now folk singer Stanley Accrington.
"Rundown to Privatisation" – Railway workers from stations, signal boxes, footplate and engineering works tell how the effects of the Beeching Axe and the subsequent rundown to privatisation in the 1990's made its mark on their lives. "In the Sidings" by Cyril Tawney is a song he wrote about the Beeching Axe in contrast to the more usual songs about his Naval career.
The Programme Makers
Chris Harvey Pollington and Mark Dowding have been collaborating on folk music projects for several years now. Their first project was about the songs of Lancashire folk singer Harry Boardman which resulted in a CD called "A Mon Like Harry". This led to their first programme for the Music Well "Harry Boardman - The Man and His Music" which is available to listen to on the archive section of this website.
Their mutual interest in railways led to a CD commissioned by the Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust featuring a song written by the pair of them called "The Old Potts Railway"
The 40th anniversary of the ending of the Steam Age inspired them to record conversations with working and retired railway workers and folk singers with an interest in railways with a view to putting together this programme which they hope you will enjoy listening to.
Chris Harvey Pollington and Mark Dowding
The Lost Days of Steam ©2009 Cock Robin Music
For more information about this programme email Chris on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org