All posts by Michael Clarke

The Princess and the Saw” Simon Barclay 4th March 2019

                                      

 

Our speaker this week, Simon Barclay, is a former GP and Medical School lec­turer.  Since retire­ment, he has developed a keen interest in the Economic History of Sheffield and has been much involved with the devel­op­ment of Kelham Island Museum and espe­cially its col­lec­tion of hand tools. He was to gain a PhD for his researches.  As he put it, “I moved from leg sores to hand saws!”.  He is author of sev­eral books and magazine art­icles on the sub­ject, with saws at the cut­ting edge.  Simon’s interest in this once over­looked area led to a long stand­ing friend­ship with Ken Hawley (1927–2014) of Earl Street (off the Moor) tool shop fame.  When Ken’s shop finally sur­rendered to the likes B & Q and his retire­ment beck­on­ing, Simon was instru­mental in cata­loguing and moving the bulk of Ken’s tool col­lec­tion to Kelham Island, where it can be admired today. The invent­ory amoun­ted to over 100,000 items, many acquired by the boxful for the cost of a few pounds and removal as dein­dus­tri­al­isa­tion hit Sheffield hard from the 1970s onwards.   But we were to be absorbed in the story of just one tool, a rather spe­cial hand­saw.

In Victorian times unin­hib­ited private entre­pren­eurs would go to great lengths to pub­li­cise their products and not only in cata­logues or trade magazines.  They would par­ti­cip­ate in the great exhib­i­tions of the era which were blessed by royal pat­ron­age.  It was with the latter in mind that many firms sought the “by appoint­ment” Royal Warrant.  It was at one of these exhib­i­tions in early 1851 that Victoria (Princess Royal 1840–1901) met her future hus­band, Crown Prince Fredrick III of Prussia (1831–1888).  By that time Prussia was by far the dom­in­ant German state, occupy­ing two thirds of that country’s ter­rit­ory.  Notwithstanding the dis­ap­proval of the Kaiser and the Chancellor, Bismarck, the match was seen in London at the time as a good way of ensur­ing good rela­tions between Great Britain and this ascend­ing power.

 

                                      

The mar­riage of Fredrick and Victoria in late 1858 was the wed­ding of the year.  Held in the chapel at St James’ Palace, the couple were showered with presents to fill their home at Potsdam, out­side Berlin.  Apparently European Royalty liked to acquire dec­or­ated tools and not least among the gifts was that of a spe­cially made back saw.  While the back was brass, the twelve inch blade was made from the finest Sheffield cru­cible steel.  It brought together the supreme skills of the saw maker’s art of shap­ing, pol­ish­ing and fin­ish­ing steel and brass, but also the designer and etcher dec­or­a­tion on the blade.  The present­a­tion etched in bas-relief on either side of the Royal arms reads:

May God’s bless­ing attend the mar­riage of His Royal Highness Prince Frederick William of Prussia with Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal of England”

 

 The dec­or­a­tion includes the two national sym­bols of oak leaves and laurel leaves, and the toe end of the blade is cut out in the form of a swan –a bird that sym­bol­ise mar­ital con­stancy.  The handle of carved ivory includes a sym­bolic cor­nu­copia (horn of plenty) and a dol­phin, and is attached to the blade by two nickel-plated screws. The brass back is engraved with the words “Presented by Messrs Taylor Brothers, saw man­u­fac­tur­ers, Adelaide works, Sheffield.” The firm was well known for its dec­or­ated saws, being the first in Sheffield to employ a firm of engravers and print­ers (James Bagshaw) to make the increas­ingly elab­or­ate designs to dec­or­ate the blades. Their fee for this mas­ter­piece was 14/6.

 

 It is unlikely that such an unusual gift would influ­ence the thirty-year happy mar­riage of Frederick and Victoria, which ended in the former’s pre­ma­ture death (of throat cancer) in 1888.  The couple were to have seven chil­dren, the eldest, Wilhelm, becom­ing Germany’s last Kaiser.   Frederick and Victoria shared a lib­eral and demo­cratic approach to public affairs and dis­cour­aged the country’s increas­ing mil­it­ar­ism which was to do so much to sour rela­tions with Great Britain and others.  This atmo­sphere encour­aged Victoria to leave Berlin and build a new home near Frankfurt am Main which she aptly named Friedrichshof Castle in memory of her hus­band. The castle was even­tu­ally to become a luxury hotel, which it remains today.

At the end of World War Two, the Castle was taken over by the American Military.  Under the cir­cum­stances it is not sur­pris­ing that easily car­ried items ‘went miss­ing’.  It is thought that a US ser­vice­man going on leave spir­ited away our unusual saw and sold or pawned it in a Paris flea market. There it remained unloved for some time before being spot­ted and pur­chased by a Swiss col­lector, Luigi Nessi.

After Nessi’s death in 2012, the saw was pur­chased by a dealer in Austria.  Our speaker was instru­mental in rais­ing the £13,000 required (by Crowd fund­ing, indi­vidual gifts and grants from vari­ous char­it­ies) to allow the Ken Hawley Collection Trust to secure this much trav­elled (but never used) treas­ure. In turn, The Kelham Island Trust is indebted and grate­ful for being able to bring back to the city of its man­u­fac­ture one of the most remark­able tools ever made here.  It is on dis­play in the Saw Wall in the Gallery- go and have a look!

 

MICHAEL CLARKE

Follow the link below for more inform­a­tion on Kelham Island Museum:

http://www.simt.co.uk/kelham-island-museum

 

                       

 

 

 

 

 

BRITONS & BREXIT” Professor Anthony Taylor 7th January 2019

 

Our speaker this week, Antony Taylor, was Professor of Modern History at Sheffield Hallam University, a spe­cial­ist in polit­ics and cul­ture.  His topic could not have been more top­ical, as the cur­rent Brexit debate raged around us in Parliament and the media.

Tony emphas­ised from the start that his talk was not about the pros and cons of leav­ing the European Union and that he would try to give an even handed inter­pret­a­tion of events.  The present impasse, he argued, owed much more to long term traits in our (four) coun­tries’ char­ac­ter­ist­ics than to more recent con­cerns such as back­stops and con­trol of bor­ders. Brexit raised mul­tiple issues around British iden­tity and cul­ture and promp­ted ques­tions about the forces that shaped it.  It could even be argued that British atti­tudes to Europe go back to the events of 1066 and the Norman Conquest; the influ­ences from which still res­on­ate on Britons today.

Brexit had emphas­ised the frac­ture lines between London, its met­ro­pol­itan elite, and the rest of the coun­try, between cities and towns, sea­side and inland, the Celtic nations, young and old, gradu­ates and non-graduates.  There was now a crisis of ‘Britishness’ and con­fid­ence in many British Institutions had waned.  Many of our national insti­tu­tions com­manded the respect they once did.  The BBC, the Civil Service and the NHS were  under scru­tiny and even the Monarchy had had its dif­fi­cult moments.  At the same time we have wit­nessed the rise of Celtic nation­al­ism.  The 2015 General Election saw the SNP sweep the board in Scotland while the two main national parties emerged weaker with their pos­i­tion more fra­gile and divided.

At the same time there has been a revival of ‘Englishness’ if not entirely of the ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ or rose-covered cot­tage, Morris dan­cing vari­ety.  A recent poll showed 70% of those who self-identity as English voted for Brexit; 70% of those who self-identify as British voted remain, espe­cially people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic back­ground. Englishness, Tony thought, was a more vis­ceral iden­tity than Britishness, quot­ing from Daniel Defoe’s ‘Trueborn Englishman’ :  “From this ill-born amphi­bi­ous mob began/that vain, ill-natured thing, an Englishman” and less the left felt neg­lected, from George Orwell and Billy Bragg.

Nothing has become of a pro­posed Yorkshire Parliament that could argue its case along the lines of those in Cardiff, Edinburgh or Belfast.  Tony thought that the absence of bind­ing, gov­ern­ing insti­tu­tions that could be described as truly ‘English’ were a factor in Brexit voting and issues of regional con­cern were not being addressed in devolved Government agen­das: there had been a rebel­lion against power­less­ness.

Having com­pared the impact ‘Englishness’ and ‘Britishness’ on Brexit, Tony Taylor turned to events in our own life­time.  The present crisis of British nation­hood, he argued, began in the 1950s and 1960s. Again, there were ref­er­ences to lit­er­at­ure of the period which our speaker con­tras­ted to that writ­ten only eighty years earlier.  Sir John Seeleys “Expansion of England” (1883) and Joseph Chamberlain’s speeches with their pat­ri­otic talk of ‘Imperial fam­il­ies and mis­sion’ and ‘sons of Britain and Empire’ were matched against an era of with­drawal and decline, depic­ted in such offer­ings as John Manders “Great Britain or Little England?” and Kingsley Martins’s “Britain in the Sixties: The Crown and the Establishment” (both Penguins cost­ing 17.5p!).  The sun was set­ting and winds of change were blow­ing Union Jacks down, not just over Suez but in over 40 colon­ies around the world. Aden in 1967 was the last ‘colo­nial war’. It is unlikely today that any Dominion Prime Minister would declare him­self, like Sir Robert Menzies, ‘British to the boot­straps’. But it was, per­haps, an American, Dean Acheson, who summed it all up in 1962 “Britain is a coun­try that has lost an Empire but not yet found a role”.

And so we arrived at post-imperial Britain along with nos­tal­gic ‘Dad’s Army’ and Bruce Forsyth’s “Backing Britain” (both 1968). On the polit­ical front, Britain saw its future in Europe’s then Common Market finally join­ing in 1973.  It has always been a frac­tious rela­tion­ship with a ref­er­en­dum pro­du­cing the narrow ’Brexit’ vote of 2015.  Tony con­sidered that neither Europe nor the Commonwealth had been a sub­sti­tute for Empire, inter­est­ingly its loss of oppor­tun­it­ies being felt dis­pro­por­tion­ately in Scotland which could no longer feel part of the imper­ial endeav­our. Several prom­in­ent UKIP mem­bers such as Douglas Carswell, had an Imperial back­ground. Post-imperial Commonweath per­spect­ives how­ever, never entirely dis­ap­peared.  Michael Shanks, in “The Stagnant Society” (1961) believed that entry into the EEC had to be coun­ter­bal­anced by con­tinu­ing pref­er­en­tial trade with the Commonwealth.  That view per­sisted to this day but the world has moved on.

Tony Taylor con­cluded his talk with a brief resume of other factors which might have impacted on the Brexit vote.  These included broader and emer­ging trends in the modern world. Despite recent Russian resur­gence, the end of the Cold War in 1990 has led to a weak­en­ing of the old Atlantic view and the ‘spe­cial rela­tion­ship’. The US is now strug­gling to con­trols its interests and, in common with Europe, the rapid rise of China is an emer­ging threat.  National cul­tures are being washed away by glob­al­isa­tion lead­ing to enfeebled state sys­tems that struggle to con­trol mil­it­ant region­al­ists from Spain to Scotland.

Professor Taylor con­cluded his present­a­tion at that point and invited ques­tions. A ses­sion of about 30 minutes fol­lowed when a ride range of issues were dis­cussed, many being of the ‘how do we get back con­trol of our borders/money/laws’, ‘where do we go from here’ and ‘what hap­pens if’ ‘vari­et­ies.  It was a most stim­u­lat­ing and inter­est­ing morn­ing, for which our speaker received warm applause.

 

MICHAEL CLARKE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: CLUES FOR A CURE — Dr Rosie Staniforth 3rd September 2018

 

 

 

There has a notice­able increase in media atten­tion in recent years to the matter of ageing and it asso­ci­ated health prob­lems and espe­cially mental health.  We all know people suf­fer­ing from the symp­toms includ­ing memory loss, con­fu­sion, mood changes and com­mu­nic­a­tion skills and will have observed that Alzheimer’s becomes more common with advan­cing age.

Our speaker this week is a lec­turer in Sheffield University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.  Perhaps because her sub­ject was so rel­ev­ant to our mem­bers’ age group she not only spoke to a full house but cap­tured the interest of those present.

Dr Staniforth com­menced her present­a­tion with an out­line of her subject’s his­tory and a sum­mary of past research.  It was a story of much achieved but, like a long jour­ney, still much to be dis­covered before the des­tin­a­tion is reached.

Alzheimer’s Disease –the most common (about 70% of cases) form of Dementia- is now one of the lead­ing causes of death, still behind Cancer but now edging ahead of chronic heart dis­eases.  There are around 850,000 suf­fer­ers in the UK, a figure set to rise to over two mil­lion by 2050.  Despite this rapid growth, research fund­ing –both public and private- is pro­por­tion­ately way behind those dis­eases, com­mand­ing only 3% of med­ical research and expendit­ure in this coun­try. Dr Staniforth wondered if this was a symp­tom of an ageist soci­ety or faith in our abil­ity to under­stand the brain.  Despite the fund­ing prob­lems, the sci­ence into the causes and mech­an­isms of Alzheimers’s dis­ease is ongo­ing and we know that mul­tiple factors con­trib­ute to the devel­op­ment of the dis­ease.  These include dam­aged pro­teins, genet­ics, neur­onal energy fail­ure, inflam­ma­tion and vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

The dis­cov­ery of Alzheimer’s dis­ease is attrib­uted a German Scientist of that name.  Alois Alzheimer (1864–1915) was a Psychiatrist and a Neuro Pathologist who worked in the fields of epi­lepsy and lunacy, ini­tially in Frankfurt am Main.  Drawing on the work of the Polish-born sci­ent­ist, Rudolph Virchow (1821–1902) and others, Alzheimer was the first to dis­cover the import­ance and impact of the build-up of nat­ur­ally occur­ring pro­teins on the func­tion of the brain.  He found there were two main types of pro­tein which, as the dis­ease pro­gresses, cause more and more nerve cells to become dam­aged:

  • Amyloid. This pro­tein forms plaques or clumps that can ‘mis­fold’ and which accu­mu­late in the brain, caus­ing dis­rup­tion to normal mental pro­cesses, and
  • Tau. This pro­tein accu­mu­lates into tangles within nerve cells in the brain, caus­ing massive dis­rup­tion and cell death.

The aim of research is to dis­cover ways of remov­ing the amyl­oids which are toxic to the body’s nervous system and nor­m­al­ise the pro­duc­tion of Tau, together with redu­cing neuro-inflammation and other symp­toms.  Our Speaker showed us photos and dia­gram­matic examples of the brain in vari­ous stages of decay. 

Dr Staniforth con­tin­ued her present­a­tion by expand­ing on some of the research cur­rently under­way to try to find a cure for this dis­abling dis­ease.   Such research is greatly assisted by the devel­op­ment of mag­netic res­on­ance and micro­scopy equip­ment that can reveal the detail of how pro­teins clump together to form amyl­oid.  The impact of amyl­oid modi­fy­ing agents is a major area of study while another is improv­ing our under­stand­ing of how amyl­oids become toxic to the body’s nervous system.  Brain cells do not regen­er­ate as easily as other cells in the body and there was a fur­ther need to under­stand more of how the body trans­ports amyl­oids, spread­ing the toxin through the brain. Interestingly, modern drugs have not been the com­plete answer.  Everyday plants such as mint, rose­mary, sage and tea con­tain help­ful anti-oxidants but are also excel­lent at dis­solv­ing away these amyl­oids.  A great deal remains unknown and not under­stood but she was con­fid­ent that, given time and resources, cures could be found.

In con­clu­sion, our speaker touched on how we might reduce the like­li­hood of con­tract­ing Alzheimers’s and others related such as Parkinson’s and Hodgkinson’s.  She sup­por­ted the well- rehearsed advice of med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers applied to these afflic­tions as to many others: a bal­anced diet, reg­u­lar exer­cise, reduced weight, stress avoid­ance, no smoking and modest con­sump­tion of alco­hol.

Dr Staniforth’s talk stim­u­lated an unusu­ally long ses­sion of ques­tions and answers which ranged from redu­cing the disease’s effects, its early detec­tion, to the use of Marijuana.  She was warmly thanked for provid­ing a most inter­est­ing and well- presen­ted ses­sion. Hopes were expressed that a future return visit might be made to update us on research devel­op­ments in this import­ant field.

Michael Clarke

AMRC — the first fifteen years — Rab Scott 9th July 2018

Our speaker this week, Professor Rab Scott of Sheffield University, is the Head of Digital and vir­tual real­ity at AMRC, loc­ated at Orgreave on the Rotherham/Sheffield bound­ary. Not so long ago this was the loc­a­tion of a major indus­trial dis­pute which looked to the coal-dependent past but now looks to the future and the begin­nings of a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

 Rab was to revive memor­ies of a fas­cin­at­ing visit made to the Centre by sev­eral mem­bers about three years ago.   A geo­lo­gist by early aca­demic back­ground at Glasgow and Sheffield Universities, his career has taken him all the way from study­ing the earth’s raw mater­i­als to lead­ing research –appro­pri­ately in Sheffield -at the cut­ting edge of present and future indus­trial devel­op­ments which seek to max­im­ise the poten­tial of mater­i­als and man­power.

Rab began his present­a­tion with a brief resume of the indus­trial envir­on­ment and the deep routed weak­nesses in the British eco­nomy which AMRC and other centres of excel­lence are seek­ing to over­come. Although we could do with more James Dysons, British invent­ive­ness and research was alive and well.  Persisting prob­lems, included a lack of com­pet­ive­ness and grow­ing trade defi­cit in man­u­fac­tured goods, low pro­ductiv­ity in per­son­nel and plant.  He thought other factors were inad­equate public infra­struc­ture, the gap between aca­demia and wealth cre­at­ing industry, ignor­ance and lack of interest in the work­ing world and ‘hands on’ occu­pa­tions by too many par­ents and teach­ers. While we need to encour­age more girls to con­sider a career in engin­eer­ing there have been a number of pos­it­ive ongo­ing responses such as the STEM ini­ti­at­ives in schools and a recent improve­ment in Treasury and local author­ity atti­tudes.

Our story began in 2001 when a small local com­pany was trying to sell Sheffield made cut­ting tools to Boeing who at the time were seek­ing to get out of the direct man­u­fac­tur­ing of com­pon­ents and move to a ‘just-in-time’ supply chain.  Having been shown the door sev­eral times the per­sist­ent owner finally per­suaded his cus­tomer to trial his cut­ting tool. Boeing finally agreed and were so impressed that they offered to go into a research part­ner­ship and in due course accep­ted the basis that other part­ners ( includ­ing rival man­u­fac­tur­ers) should be involved and make a fin­an­cial con­tri­bu­tion. Other, smal­ler firms, were also encour­aged to join. At this point Sheffield University came on board, and, armed with the spe­cified risk fin­ance what became AMAC was able to draw Government ‘match fund­ing’.

Such enter­prises as joint industry-academic centres of excel­lence in peace­time take, like seeds, a little time to grow and mature. The first build­ing, on the site of the Orgreave coking plant, was opened in 2004.  We were shown pic­tures of the deliv­ery of new machinery which was man­oeuvred through the entrance with a margin of 10cms -a good omen for an organ­isa­tion ded­ic­ated to pre­ci­sion and accur­acy!

AMRC was now to enter a period of encour­aging growth and over the next ten years or so was to add over 100 par­ti­cipants to its port­fo­lio. It was to gain a Queen’s Award in 2010.   More photos were shown of the devel­op­ing site , includ­ing the now redund­ant wind tur­bine which had design prob­lems of its own!  The Centre began to fea­ture on the vis­it­ing list of the great and good includ­ing Royalty (more pic­tures). Prince Andrew has taken par­tic­u­lar interest, open­ing ‘the fact­ory of the future’ in 2006.  Research facil­it­ies or high value or ‘ Catapults’ were to mul­tiply over the years from the ori­ginal ‘cut­ting’ tech­no­logy to cover such fields as cast­ings, com­pos­ites (such as graph­ine), digital elec­tron­ics, robot­ics ( includ­ing arti­fi­cial limbs and hands), cobots,  nuc­lear, and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence all housed in their own spe­cial­ist facil­it­ies.  These have now spread to the other side of the Parkway onto the Airport site.  

 Rab  out­lined sev­eral examples of the research being under­taken. In the air­craft industry, weight equates to fuel costs (one kilo­gram equals US $ I mil­lion over the life of an air­craft)  res­ult­ing in much effort to reduce the weight of everything from seats, engine cast­ings and land­ing gear  while improv­ing strength and reli­ab­il­ity.  Here there are cros­sov­ers with auto­mot­ive and it is thought that Maclaren’s decision to open a car pro­duc­tion nearby was much influ­enced by the Centre’s impact (they are moving pro­duc­tion of com­pos­ite panels from Austria to Sheffield).  Major firms involved in col­lab­or­at­ive pro­jects have grown from the ori­ginal Boeing (who now sup­port 20,000 engin­eers in the UK) to include BAE, Rolls Royce, Renishaw, Seimens and Toyota.  (see logo col­lage at top).  Some of these firms are involved in high secur­ity defence research and are not open to vis­it­ors.

In con­clu­sion our speaker  shared his vision for the future, telling us about AMRC’s latest devel­op­ment, ‘Factory 2050’ . This devel­op­ment will look over cur­rent hori­zons to anti­cip­ate the impact of cur­rent and anti­cip­ated tech­nical devel­op­ments and trends into the longer term.  It will lead research into the impact of a switch from a man­u­fac­tur­ing to a ser­viced based eco­nomy in the sense that most goods will become ser­vices. Supply will move on from ‘just in time’ to anti­cip­a­tion of require­ments. It will become data driven world.  He gave the example of Xerox copy­ing machines, linked to their pro­duc­tion facil­ity, that will auto­mat­ic­ally result in supply of con­sum­able powders etc based on paper usage.  Appropriately for hot weather, brew­er­ies will be able to fine tune the pro­duc­tion of lager instead of build­ing up unsale­able sup­plies. It will be a world, he pre­dicted, where con­trol sys­tems and soft­ware engin­eers at long last received the same sort of status as Doctors and Lawyers.  This was begin­ning to be reflec­ted in the improved salar­ies they received.

Professor Scott’s present­a­tion was warmly received by mem­bers, reflec­ted in the many ques­tions asked which ranged from the impact of Brexit to the out­look for industry in our city.  His responses were encour­agingly optim­istic and pos­it­ive.  We were left with the feel­ing that while the future might not be orange it could be bright for Sheffield.

 

MICHAEL CLARKE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Central Railway East Of Sheffield — Stephen Gay — 9th April 2018

Sheffield Victoria to Kiverton Park

It seems there is some­thing about rail­ways in the genes of gen­tle­men of our age group which is rather more than nos­tal­gia.  Our speaker this week, Stephen Gay, is a master of this vast sub­ject, coming on his nine­teenth visit.  Having taken us to far flung Cornwall only a few weeks ago, this time our excur­sion  was to be rather nearer to home and a jour­ney of rather shorter distance- about ten miles.

It is easy to focus on the west­ern side of our city with its obvi­ous attrac­tions; Stephen invited us look east where there is much of over­looked interest.  Opening up his usual cor­nu­copia of slides we were to be treated to scenes largely for­got­ten or neg­lected during a pho­toghrapic tour of a short part of the old Great Central Railway (GCR): Sheffield Victoria to Kiverton Park.  Most of the 36 slides came from unused mater­ial from his book “Through Kirton Tunnel”, pub­lished in 2004.  We were reminded that there was no ‘direct’ route into Sheffield until the Midland Railway provided this in 1870.  The GCR and its pre­de­cessors  ori­gin­ally ran ser­vices into King’s Cross via Retford but added, from 1899 Marylebone, the year it opened it’s ‘London exten­sion’ via Aylesbury and the Metropolitan line.  The Company sprang from the ambi­tious Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway which aspired not only to rival the Midland and Great Northern but to run ser­vices to Paris.  Hence its con­struc­tion to ‘Berne’ gauge and strict  align­ment and grad­ing stand­ards allow­ing, from 1903, a three-hour timing non-stop from Sheffield to London (163 miles).  Direct ser­vices were offered to sev­eral des­tin­a­tions to the East and South, includ­ing Bournemouth (via Banbury) and Harwich and Immingham/New Holland to con­nect with Continental boats.

Sheffield Victoria, as seen in 1957

The GCR system was to reach peak traffic in the 1950s, which at one point was so intens­ive (over 400 train move­ments per day) that elec­tri­fic­a­tion via a new Woodhead Tunnel was under­taken between Wath and Manchester.

Sheffield Victoria rail­way sta­tion, September 1969

A vast auto­matic mar­shalling yard was built at Tinsley.  Much of the track was quad­rupled and given multi aspect sig­nalling.  But the impact of the private car, lor­ries and motor­ways in the early 1960s rap­idly took their toll and this, with the later demise of the steel and coal indus­tries, removed its raison d’etre.  The later was ser­viced at Annersley, which provided a col­lec­tion hub for col­lier­ies in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Now only the stretch between Sheffield, Lincoln and Cleethorpes sur­vives Dr Beeching’s ration­al­isa­tions.

So what remains of this once busy and mod­ern­ised route?  We star­ted our jour­ney east­wards at Sheffield Victoria and the Wicker via­duct with its penny lift (opened 1851, finally closed 1983 when ser­vices to Huddersfield were diver­ted to start at Midland).  Engineered by Sir John Fowler of Forth Bridge fame, we pro­ceeded to view shots of the line and its adjoin­ing envir­on­ment.  These included the modern Nunnery Supertram depot, a June only weed-killing train in action, Bernard Road and Woodburn Road depots.  Parkway market sid­ings came next with a photo of the last rail deliv­ery van in 1983.  Then a shot of the now demol­ished Craven’s Engineering works which pro­duced everything from mil­it­ary equip­ment to the city’s ori­ginal trams.  Next stop was to inspect the unsightly and, at night, unsafe bus shel­ter at Darnall which replaced the ori­ginal four can­op­ied plat­form premises that more than once won the “best kept sta­tion” award.  A pit stop fol­lowed, where we were shown the remains of a sig­nal­mans’ toilet block –last flushed in 1971!

The lin­eside post-industrial coun­tryside was now begin­ning to open out. Slag heaps had now been removed and ‘greened’, inter­spersed with fields of yellow rape­seed.  We pro­ceeded via Orgreave of miners’ strike infame (1983).  We were pleased to learn that one of the few ‘double Pavilion’ style GCR sta­tions at Woodhouse has been restored, a sur­vival in a sea of destruc­tion. We con­tin­ued past the site of Beighton sta­tion (opened 1849 closed 1954) and its level cross­ing, the scene of a bad acci­dent involving a mil­it­ary train in 1942, when steel sheets, dis­lodged from wagon, caused derail­ment. (See poem at end)  Our next stop was the site of the Beighton track main­ten­ance yard built by German POWs in 1942. Stephen worked here as a yard­man between 1979 and 1992, when he was made redund­ant. He was thus able to take and share pic­tures of when the yard was oper­a­tional with its steam crane, piles of sleep­ers and 60ft lengths of track. There was a happy shot of a rotund Polish col­league ‘Ted’ and a sad one of 1920s wooden car­riages being des­troyed –how con­ser­va­tion­ists would have liked to have acquired those!

We were then shown an aerial photo of the area sur­round­ing what is now the Rother Valley Country Park with its lakes and river diver­sions.  A whole miss-mash of lines of com­pet­ing lines squeezed (and fre­quently cross­ing over each other) through the valley which in future will also take the HST2 ser­vice towards Leeds. The area also hosts Beighton Junction where the GCR divided east­wards towards Worksop and Southwards towards Annersley and the London Extension via Nottingham Victoria. The remain­ing rival  Midland Railway goods line is still used as a relief route.

Approaching the end of our jour­ney we still had sur­prises in store.  We were shown the remains of a buried tunnel, which had once provided a time saving short cut for Grimsby fish trains. Next came a recent nat­ural dis­aster: shots of the rail­way embank­ment col­lapse near Waleswood, due to a com­bin­a­tion of rabbit war­rens and flood pres­sure in 2007.  This left an unusual ‘sus­pen­sion’ bridge of track over a fifty foot gap which for­tu­nately was repor­ted by an alert driver. The line was out of action for six months.   And so to our final whistle stops: the ‘new’ (1929) sta­tion at Kiverton Bridge and Kiverton Park. By now at risk of run­ning late we regret­fully had to call a halt.

Stephen included examples of his own rail­way poems in  his most inter­est­ing and enjoy­able present­a­tion includ­ing:

 A Soldier Down The Line
(Click on the link to down­load the poem.)

Like a change from the Peak District?  Kiverton Park Station (with pub oppos­ite) is the start of a delight­ful three mile flat walk along the Chesterfield Canal to regain the rail­way at Shireoaks.  There is an hourly ser­vice to/from Sheffield which enables you to see many of the sites men­tioned in this blog.  It’s espe­cially pleas­ant during the blue­bell season.

 

 

EDALE MOUNTAIN RESCUE TEAMANDY CASS — 22nd January 2018

Edale Mountain Rescue Team, cour­tesy of Edale Mountain Rescue.

We are lucky to live on the edge of one of the most beau­ti­ful parts of the coun­try.  Many  mem­bers who enjoy walk­ing, biking or just motor­ing through the Peak District were famil­iar with the Edale Mountain Rescue team (EMRT) facil­ity loc­ated at the foot of Stanage but knew less about its ori­gins, activ­it­ies and the expert­ise required to man the local arm of this vital national ser­vice.

Our (Stand-in) speaker this week, Andy Cass, had been a member of EMART for over 30 years.  He divided his talk between out­lining the Charity’s his­tory loc­ally and demon­strat­ing samples of the wide range of always ready pre-packed equip­ment tailored for dif­fer­ing emer­gency situ­ations and weather con­di­tions.

EMART roots go back to the 1950s and the form­a­tion of the Peak District National Park.  The increase in rights of way, signed foot­paths and the motor car were to give easier access to often wild and remote coun­try expos­ing the grow­ing num­bers of vis­it­ors to both its delights and dangers.   In response, the Peak Park Planning Board and local rescue volun­teers met in 1956 to estab­lish the present organ­isa­tion. In the early  years equip­ment was kept in a damp hay loft at North Lees moving to the cur­rent site in 1986 owned by the then  Blue Circle Cement Co.  Various improve­ments have been made, gradu­at­ing from two ex NHS por­takabins to the present pur­pose built facil­ity opened in 2007.  This can securely house all the team’s modern equip­ment and 3 Land Rover ambu­lances.

EMART cur­rently has 48 team mem­bers plus one dog. 15 mem­bers are qual­i­fied medics includ­ing junior doc­tors. They respond to an aver­age 120 ‘call outs’ annu­ally, mostly in North Derbyshire but occa­sion­ally fur­ther afield such as the Carlisle flood emer­gency, major motor­way acci­dents and more than one crashed hang-glider. A repor­ted air crash at Ladybower turned out to be a false alarm.  In these they called upon to assist the Emergency Services. IN dif­fi­cult cases the team can call on Helicopter assist­ance from East Midlands and Humberside Airports.  About 60% of cases are deal­ing with trau­matic injur­ies (espe­cially falls from rock faces etc, frac­tures, cyc­ling acci­dents), 25% are other med­ical con­di­tions (inc Cardiac, hypo­ther­mia epi­leptic fits, dia­betes incid­ents) and 15% miss­ing per­sons. People are often found ini­tially by the team  dog having no map, com­pass, suit­able cloth­ing or foot­wear.  Despite poor recep­tion in some areas, the mobile phone has trans­formed team assembly, con­tact and hence speed and effi­ciency of response. On receiv­ing a call, the rota team leader makes an assess­ment of the man­power, expert­ise and equip­ment required and alerts mem­bers who are often on scene within 30–40 minutes.  Great emphasis is given to pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the use of rescue and first equip­ment with fre­quent famil­i­ar­isa­tion and updat­ing of expert­ise which is extern­ally assessed.  The team par­ti­cip­ates in civic emer­gency exer­cises such as a sim­u­lated crash in Totley rail­way tunnel.  EMRT has an annual budget of £60000 but receives no Government fin­ance. Some equip­ment, drugs and med­ical dis­pos­ables are provided by the NHS.

Andy then moved on to show us some of the equip­ment used in the field.  This is typ­ic­ally car­ried in ruck­sacks etc which can weight up to 15  Kilogrammes.  An amaz­ing array of good­ies emerged, some­how squeezed into the bags: a radio hand­set, a loc­a­tion com­puter, vari­ous types of splint (both low and high tec) vacuum bags and pumps, a pulse reader, a defib­ril­lator not men­tion vari­ous gas can­is­ters, band­ages, emer­gency rations and what looked like drug phials.

In con­clu­sion, while such jaunts may now be a bit much for some of us,  Andy gave us some tips on how to pre­pare and sur­vive our next foray into the wild world beyond Ringinglow. These included:

  • Get the fore­cast: If Snow on the Snake avoid Kinder!  Always go pre­pared for the expec­ted and unex­pec­ted weather: con­di­tions can rap­idly change. Take warm, vis­ible water­proofs and foot­wear suit­able for the ter­rain
  • Take map and com­pass and learn how to use them includ­ing provid­ing ref­er­ences. Put likely loc­a­tion area ref­er­ence on your mobile. Give police mobile no before set­ting out
  • If you need to guide a heli­copter, wave a red coat, your back to the wind, hands raised in the ‘Y’ pos­i­tion. (Diagonal Arms for not required)
  • Take Elastoplast, Mars Bars and drink.

This most inter­est­ing ses­sion drew to a close with a wide range of ques­tions and obser­va­tions.  It was clear that many people owe a great debt of grat­it­ude this this small band of volun­teers who give of their time and expert­ise, turn­ing out 24/7, no matter the weather.  On such was a member who shared with us that he owed his life to the splen­did folk who make up EMART.  More inform­a­tion on the organ­isa­tion can be found at www.edalemrt.co.uk.