Friday 23 November 2012

Elegy For The Lost Railways. ("Oh Mr Porter. What will I do?")

My regular readers will know one of my pet rants is the lack of public transport and how we have far too many cars on our roads.  Well today I would like to talk about the loss of so many of our railway lines.

Living In Southern Ireland.  You soon notice the lack of infrastructure.  But it wasn't always like that, oh no.  Not many moons ago there used to be the West Cork Railway.  Which ran from Cork to Bantry (about 56 miles).  It used to deliver coal, milk, passengers, cows and pigs.  In 1961 the 'powers that be' decided to close down the railway because it was running at a loss - SIXTY FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS.  Which was probably a lot of money back then.  Today you wouldn't get an ice cream for it.  Course I exaggerate.  Any Road.  Time for a break.

Think the above video adequately sums up how much we need infrastructure.   The West Cork Railway rails where shipped to Nigeria and most of the land was sold to neighbouring landowners.  So it will never be a railway line again  It's so sad.   Do you know of an old railway line that could be brought back to life? 

I once met an English woman in a pub (where else) here in West Cork.  She was a lovely 'New Age 'Hippy kind of woman.  She told me that she had once walked along Englands' ancient tracks and never touched a single road.  Isn't that incredible?  Imagine if we could construct a sustainable bridle way just for horses and carts, walkers and cyclists? 

I also feel strongly about canals - amazing feats of engineering.  Most of them hand dug by Irish Navvies.  Think the Manchester Ship Canal is the biggest feat of them all - 30 odd miles long and fifteen feet deep and all dug by hand.   

Back to railways.  One of my favourite British comedy heroes is Will Haye.  I have a DVD collection of 9 of his films.  

Here's my favourite:  "Oh Mr Porter."

This wonderful piece of steam train nostalgia was made in 1937.  It starred: Will Haye, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. 

The Plot:  William Porter (Will Haye) inept railway worker is given the job of a remote, rural northern Irish railway station master.  The train station is 2 miles from the nearest bus stop.  What's one of those?  To make matters worse.  The railway line is haunted by a ghost.  So no-one will go near it after dark.   

Porter is woken up by a cow sticking its head through one of the train station windows.  The railway staff breakfast consists of bacon made from a litter of piglets that the railway company was supposed to be looking after for a local farmer.  I won't tell you any more.  You'll just have to see the film, if you haven't seen it already.  I think the whole film is on You Tube.  But you can always buy the collection, I did.

See you folks.


  1. Yeah, Will Hay was a genius, Dave.

  2. Hi Pat, He used to live in Broughton near Manchester and Salford, when he was young. He was also incredibly intelligent and a expert on Astronomy. Think there is a comet named after him?

    I just love those old branch lines and early twentieth century England. It reminds me of that fantastic book you gave me Pat: England: An Elegy: Roger Scruton.

    I do agree he was a genius along with our other hero: Mr Basil Rathbone. Ideas for future blogs perhaps me thinks?

    Thanks Pat. I hope things are great in Poland? It's supposed to freeze here in Ireland tonight.

  3. We have the West Coast Line from Barrow to Carlisle, very scenic route along the coast, but I think they finish the carriages of on this run, they all seem old and a bit decrepit. Also it's the ony railway I've been on to make me feel sea-sick. It stops about every 10 minutes at small rural stations.
    It also served the Workington Steelworks and Docks. The Sleelworks has gone, and the Dock now uses road wagons, so no more rail tracks.

    Used to have a line went from Workington to Keswick, it was lifted in the 60s, most of it just returned to agriculture, but one bit now used as a road.

    And another served the Ammunition Depot (locally known as "The Dump) about 5 miles inland, since abandoned and now a cycle track (start of the Coast to Coast cycle way). This was used as a munitions testing centre during the war, about 1200 acres compusorily purchased from farmersand surronded by a 10' chain link fence aout 8 miles long, it had a small rail system inside and was not accessible to the public. The US Navy used it to stock ammunition until about 15 years ago, when they emptied it with a fleet of helicopters with big nets slung below them onto a big ship in the Solway. It's still there, they don't really know what to do with it, the old field patterns are still discernable on Google satellite. It has a lot of wildlife inside the fence, used to have a lot of deer, but I think the poachers have decimated them now.

    The old Carlisle to Settle line has been rejuvenated by a group of conservation people and now runs a service, described as on of the the most scenic routes in England.

    Sad to see so many rail lines lifted, it must be a viable alternative to road transport for heavy bulk materials.

    No canals though, too mant mountains I guess.

    Day started quite bright, but reverted to rain this afternoon, still cold.
    Raggy cat been out twice, asked to go, lasted about an hour each time, presently back in front of fire.

  4. I think I'm right in saying that it was you who coined the collocation/compound noun: 'to have a Basil Rathbone voice'(or 'to speak in a Basil Rathbone voice'), Dave. My friend Piers was very impressed when I told him about this.

  5. Hi Cumbrian. Thanks for that. It seems that thousands of miles of railway lines have disappeared in the last fifty years in England and Ireland. People don't realise that if you don't 'use it' you will 'lose it'. Thankfully there are volunteer groups and walkers who save preserve some of these routes for future generations.

    It's interesting that I have never had one comment that says cars should restricted to say one car (at the most) per household or that speeds should be reduced. I wonder how many cars there will be on Irish and British roads in ten years time?

    Our self sufficiency hero: John Seymour, said about bypasses. Don't build the by-pass, get rid of the car. I paraphrased him because I don't have the exact quote to hand.

    The Barrow to Carlisle sounds a wonderful journey Cumbrian. Is there any tourist information on this line? It sounds like it just needs some investment for new rolling stock or rails.

    The Inland Waterways Association have done sterling work preserving and renovating so many of Britain's canals. I agree with you that so much freight could and should be transported on the railways and canals.

    I once went on the Channel Tunnel to Calais. It's a marvellous construction. I would love to go on a train journey holiday. Be it the Orient Express or the Rockies. Can't remeber last time I went on a train.

    Good old Raggy Cat.

    Thanks Cumbrian!!

  6. Hi Pat. Can tell you're a master of Arts. I just had to look up what a 'collocation' was. Yeah I coined the phrase along with my 'cultural fascism'.

    Wasn't Basil Rathbone a fantastic actor and a gentleman? Think we could all do with a week or two attending Rada.

    Who is your favourite actor Pat? Let me guess - Clint Eastwood?


  7. In the spaghetti Westerns, Clint Eastwood was incredible as the 'Man with No Name'. If I remember rightly, you were a big Jack Palance fan, Dave.

  8. Try Cumbrian Coast Line, I think the journey takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, with a lot of stops at little-known stations, so to do it there then back would be a full days job.
    And have a look at Carlisle-Settle, I've never done that one but it's on my hit list. I think there's even some old steam engines operate this line, but not sure.

    I remember reading a story, many years ago, of the (nationalised) train service in some Scandinavian country, Sweden I think but not sure, where the train fares had been increased to a point where they were so under-used as to be losing money every year. Then somebody in government had a light bulb moment, let's halve the fares instead of increasing them. So they did, and the year after it made a very handsome profit.
    Like Stelios, of easyJet fame, his business philosophy was "If you make something cheap enough, people will use it". He must have got something right.

    I've only ever seen motorised holiday type barges on our canals, it must have been an impressive sight to see a shire horse towing maybe 40 or 50 times its own weight, I'd love to see one, but think thise times have gone.
    The Dutch have the right idea, they have huge barges, with live-on family accommodation; I've even seen one with a car on the roof, presumably they had a derrick to lift it off as required. But then again, half their country's under sea level so they've learned to use the waterways.

    Restrict the number of cars? No, they're too much of a money earner for governments, I wonder how much tax the politicians manage to extract out of the average £15,000 family saloon that lasts 10 years at 12,000 miles a year? Tax on the factory and employees that made it, tax on the delivery costs, tax on the sales, road fund tax, tax on fuel, tax on the oil companies profits, tax on insurance, tax on cost of MoTs and repairs, and not least all the VAT. And all that's paid for out of money that they've already taxed at scource by Income Tax. Do you really think any politician is so short-sighted to suggest limiting this gold mine?

    Not raining this morning but looks like it's gonna be soon.
    Raggy cat asleep on armchair.

  9. Hi Pat. Yeah Clint Eastwood was brilliant in the spaghetti westerns. I could never understand his characters he played though. If somebody needed shooting - he shot them.

    There used to be tons of Westerns on the television when when we were growing up. Think there could be a few blog ideas there Pat?

    Jack Palance was good. Didn't know I was a fan of his?


  10. Hi Cumbrian.

    I have seen the Carlisle-Settle line on the television. Wasn't 'Brief Encounter' filmed at Carnforth train station. That's another one of my favourite English films. What's yours?

    The Dutch idea is brilliant.

    The Swedish idea of halving the fares is alsobrilliant. My friend Pat tells me in Poland most people travel by train because it's so cheap. Another great things about trains is the scenery. Have you heard any stories of any new railways being built in England? Didn't know the Stelios Philosophy. It makes sense. That's also probably why Ryan Air are so popular?

    Do you think they should introduce road tolls to decrease the number of cars using the roads? I think your right about the revenue the governments make. Smoking is the same. They won't ban it because they make too much from the tax. The capitalist world lets you have ten cars or ten houses if you can afford it and to hell with the consequences or future generations needs.

    China doesn't seem to care about pollution and that's Communism or is it Communist Capitalism?

    What's Raggy Cat look like Cumbrian?


  11. Yeah, the memory deserts us all, Dave, but I guess it's good that there's people always there to remind you of Jack Palance (he always seemed to be dressed in black, didn't he?)

  12. Jack Palance did always dress in black Pat. Wasn't it a so much simpler world when the baddie dressed in black. Think I just saw some tumbleweed blow past the house. Middle age is sat at your computer on a Saturday night or worse still, watching the television.

    What did you think of Monty and the lads performance in India today? I would love to see a real live cricket match again some day.

    There is very little played here in Ireland. Yet they play the other English invented sports like rugby and association football. Did you see they unveiled a statue for Fergie? He's the first person I have ever know to have a statue in their honour, when they are still alive. Good old Sir Alex.


  13. Yeah, it makes a mockery of why they never played Monty in the 1st Test.

    On the subcontinent, Monty and Swann should always be bowling in tandem, but for some reason, England never seem to learn, or as Geoff Boycott might say, 'they don't seem to have much between the ears' (there's another nice idiom for you, Dave.

  14. Totally agree with you Pat. I have only been watching the highlights. Why is there so much turn? Is it because of the Monsoon season? The Indian wickets remind me of the one's in dear old Blighty.

    Sir Geoffrey should work in the ministry of 'Common Sense'. He's a gentleman and he supports Manchester United. Love the idiom Pat.


  15. No, never heard of new railways being built in England.

    I think Mr Stelios and Mr O'Grady must be doing something right, both easyJet and Ryanair have big fleets of new planes, which don't come cheap.
    Maybe our politicians should spend a bit of time studying their approach and methods. Or put them in charge for a few months?

    Don't know what the answer is to getting fewer cars on the road, and neither do the politicians, they've tried everything they can think of, including congestion charges (tax) in some places, but the number of vehicles doesn't seem to be decreasing any. I'd be in favour of a motorway toll for foreign vehicles, we have to pay to drive on their motorways.
    Problem is, everybody thinks their vehicle is essential, "My journey's important, you're only traffic" seems to be the attitude. But to be fair, without cars, rural dwellers might as well be in prison, they can't go far, public transport exists only in their memories.

    Grey, wet cold and breezy this morning.
    Raggy cat back on its Chesterfield throne (fire's not on)

  16. Hi Cumbrian, I am even starting to dare I say it? Go on then I will say it:

    "Is it ethical to fly in a plane or even drive a car?"

    It's generally accepted that Greenland is melting, the seas are rising and 'Global Warming' is taking place. Not forgetting over 200 years of Industrialization, a hundred years of cars, 50 years of nuclear power and lets not forget all the pollution that China makes every day, supplying us with our cheap and nasty plastic...?

    Should we be buying 'organic' and conventional food with global air miles?

    Don't think there is a politician brave enough to say:

    "Lets ration petrol, restrict cars to one per household and put up the road tax so that people can only afford to use public transport."

    It's a none starter isn't it?

    What do you think folks?

    I would love to go back to horses and carts and a then when people travel long distances by bus and train. Do we really care about pollution and future generations energy needs? I promise to bring back some humour in the next post!

  17. That should say:

    A time when people travel long...

  18. "Is it ethical to fly in a plane or even drive a car?"

    A big question, and no easy answer. Individually it's impossible to make a difference, 1 car or 1 plane isn't going to do much harm on its own. It's the accumulative effct, and the only way to halt it is to stop producing so much pollution, and the only people who can do that are govrnments acting collectively.
    I don't think this is going to happen, they all look only to the short term, and since they don't care, why should the inividual.

    We've now gone past "peak oil" so presumably the problem will solve itself as the oil starts to dry up. We won't see it unless they develope a "live forever" pill, and since the globe is over-populated now, so that won't help either.

    So I think we're stuck with oil-fired transport for the forseeable future, ethical or not.

    But Yes, it would be nice to see a return to a more leisurly pace.

  19. You're right Cumbrian. Individually it's impossible to make a difference. Like John Seymour said:

    "I am only one person."

    Governments don't seem to care about the environment. Also I think modern man doesn't seem to want to share transport, washing machines , energy..? I hear tales of people who don't even know their next door neighbour. Interactive social media like this help people communicate and express their concerns.

    We can't change the situation but at least we can talk about it and show that we care about our environment.

    It would be great to return to a more sedate and leisurely pace Cumbrian.

    Thank-you for your thoughts. I appreciate them.

  20. Forgot to say Cumbrian. The Jeddah Gin is excellent. Thanks again for the recipe and how to make it.

  21. That's probably right, we've forgotten how to share, so many people seem to exist in their own little bubble at home and in their car, social interaction is done by means of mobile phone or internet.
    Their chief form of entertainment is washing an already pristine motor car or manicuring an immaculate lawn, their houses inside just like a dolls house, so new and shiney you'd think nobody lived there.
    Sharing a car (or anything else) just wouldn't do.

    Pleased the Jeddah Gin turned out well, it's a nice drink.

    More rain this morning, not showing any sign of letting up either.
    Raggy cat came in all soaked and bedraggled, milk and biccies, on the armchair asleep.

  22. 'Forgotten How To Share.'

    What a brilliant way of putting it Cumbrian. I often think the poorer a person is, the more they will share.

    We all once lived in communities (is there such a thing?) where people would knock on the door for a cup of sugar, share a outside toilet/laundry - wash-house, public transport and the men would get down to the pub for the last hour, to have a couple of pints together.

    Just think how much money we would save if we car shared? Perhaps all new houses should be 'Eco villages' with shared communal facilities for washing..? Could you imagine it?

    "It's my time to use the washing machine."

    I can remember in pre -EEC rural Ireland. Every year the farmers would share the 'miethal' (hope that's the right spelling?) with the neighbours. In other words they would help bring the hay in for free and you would help your neighbour bring there's in. No money would exchange hands and you would share your meals and drink (bottles of cold tea and Guinness and whisky) with them. Another common practice in rural Ireland was the 'Scraitin'. Apologies to anybody who speaks Irish and It's not the correct spelling. Any road. This consisted of walking across the fields and visiting your neighbours for a laugh and a joke, gossip, put the world to rights and of course:

    "A nice cup of tea."

    Said it before Cumbrian. I communicate more with people on the Internet than I do with my neighbours. If they got rid of the credit cards we would all have to help each other, wouldn't we?

    Yeah the Jeddah Gin is great. Just one glass a night and then hit the home brew or 'Newcy Brown' if we have any in.

    Been watching the British news. When will the government invest in jobs and infrastructure to prevent all the flooding? If you cut back services you get devastation.

    I got soaked again feeding cattle this morning. Cattle seem oblivious to a bit of rain.

    Glad 'you're man' I have lived in Ireland too long) Raggy Cat is in his armchair. You have just reminded me. Must give 2 chocolate biscuits to Jack Russell terrier for 'ratting' wages.

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