2016: Oxenholme residents kept awake all night by ‘horrendously noisy’ engineering works

by Katie Dickinson

Works being carried out on Sunday, November 14

OXENHOLME residents have been kept awake all night for two weekends running due to ‘horrendous noise and vibration’ caused by works on the rail line.

Villagers described being ‘almost thrown out of bed’ in the early hours of Sunday morning as Network Rail engineers carried out noisy ‘pile driving’ on the track-side. The loud metallic banging awoke people on Helmside Road at 1am and continued intermittently until 5am. It marked the second Sunday in a row that residents had been woken up by the racket, with several leaving their beds to go down to the station and complain to the workers.

Helmside Road resident Stephen Warner said he had ‘never heard anything like’ the din in 22 years of living in the village. “We recognise that living next to a rail line and station brings some disruption and noise from time to time but this was beyond anything ever experienced in the past,” he said. Mr Warner’s wife Lizzii Nicholas said: “It’s not just the noise – the whole house was shaking and we worry about what it’s doing to the property foundations and the pipes.”

Stephen Warner and Lizzii Nicholas in their back garden, overlooking the site of the noisy engineering works

Since receiving several complaints, Network Rail has written to residents confirming that piling work will take place again over the next two weekends, and could continue for an extra weekend on March 6. The letter, from Community Relations Manager Sarah McArdle, said: “Please accept my apologies for the lack of notification in regards to this activity – we aim to be a good neighbour and pre-warn communities of such noisy activity.”

The rail company said that the work could only be done outside of train travel time and that pile driving – the cause of the noise – was necessary to install new gantries. Residents have been told that the usual installation process was to place the gantries on concrete platforms, but workers have had to resort to piling due to flooding on one side of the line making it impossible to control the water in the excavations.

But Ms Nicholas said: “It’s not good enough – we should be told what times the pile driving will be taking place. “We understand it has to be done outside of travel time but why can’t they do the most noisy work between 10pm and midnight, rather than keeping everyone up all night.”

Another Helmside Road resident, Ellis Butcher, said: “Network Rail has failed spectacularly with its community relations and have undermined any respect we had for them. “People in Oxenholme love living next to a railway but surely the first rule of being a good neighbour is you don’t wake next door up at 3am on a Sunday. And certainly not two weekends in a row.”

Westmorland Gazette, Thursday 18 February 2016

2016: Confusion over electrification of the Lakes Line

The Lakes Line

CONFUSION surrounds the long-awaited electrification of the Lakes Line – as a new report could delay work until 2024. The line, connecting Windermere with the West Coast main line at Oxenholme, had been due to be electrified by 2017. Now, a document called the Hendy Review has prompted an announcement from Government that work will be pushed back to ‘Control Period 6’, meaning electrification will not be finished until between 2019-2024.

But a Kendal-based train enthusiast has cast doubt over the announcement, saying that the decision has been made based on incorrect information. Malcolm Conway, chairman of TravelWatch North West, said that the Hendy Review puts the Lakes Line in the same bracket as other railway lines, such as the Bolton to Wigan service, where electrification work has not yet begun. But Mr Conway says work has started at Oxenholme, with more scheduled for April and May 2016, according to the Network Rail electrification timetable. He feels it is unlikely that if those behind the Hendy Review knew about this they would be happy to allow the work already conducted to lay idle for what could be close to a decade. TravelWatch NW is attending a meeting in Manchester on February 18 with Network Rail to discuss the issue.

The electrification of the Lakes Line was initially agreed during the previous coalition government, when Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Baroness Kramer announced a £16m investment package in the rail network.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron is deeply unhappy about the Hendy Report’s revelations, criticising the impact it could have on the local economy and infrastructure. “The electrification of the Lakes Line is an important infrastructure upgrade which will provide a real boost to the local area,” he said. “It makes economic and environmental sense, and will enable the line to be better integrated with the main line routes. “There is a sense of déjà vu in once more making the case for this to happen – it was given the go-ahead by the Lib Dems in government, but has now been delayed by the Conservatives. Once again, much-needed infrastructure investment in our area is being overlooked by the government, but I will continue to campaign for this.”

Westmorland Gazette, Friday 12 February 2016

2014: NOSTALGIA: A significant day for the railway community at Oxenholme

The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author

Fifty two years ago Oxenholme Engine Shed – or Locomotive Depot to give it its official title – closed. It was a very minor event in the great scheme of things, but very significant for the small railway community for whom the shed was a major source of employment for over 100 years.

In the days of steam locomotion engine sheds of various sizes existed in large numbers across the country. Steam engines, though glamorous and characterful, were notoriously difficult to maintain, and the railway industry was extremely labour intensive.

Oxenholme was a small shed of only four roads with a nearby turntable and water and coaling plants, dwarfed by the larger sheds which provided giant locomotives to pull the major inter city expresses. Nonetheless it employed 120 men in its heyday and could stable up to 13 locomotives, and as late as 1962 still employed 50 staff and 12 engines.

oxenholme shed taken early in 1962 wg

Oxenholme Shed taken early in 1962

Its primary purpose was as a banking depot to assist the climb up Grayrigg bank of heavy goods and passenger trains (Shap summit was covered by the shed at Tebay). A driver requiring assistance would indicate on arrival at Oxenholme and the ‘banker’ would dutifully push the giant train as far as Grayrigg and return light engine. Bank engines were available 24 hours every day and duty shifts would begin at 06.00. 14.00 and 22.00. Shed personnel would work shifts on a three weekly basis. As well as the bank duties, local trains to Windermere, Morecambe and Penrith were operated from Oxenholme depot, making it a very busy place indeed. Staff consisted of a Shed Master and his deputy, drivers, passed firemen, firemen and cleaners; at one time there were knockers up, who walked through the village tapping on upstairs windows with a large pole to wake up the early shift.

The village itself was largely a creation of the railway, and the railway company provided tied cottages for its workers initially at the Station Cottages, but later at Helmside, Natland Terrace and Hill Place. The Bolefoot estate, built in 1921 was, initially, occupied almost exclusively by railway men and their families, who ensured a lively spirit of community flourished at all times.

By 1962 dieselisation of British Railways was well advanced and the days of small banking sheds such as Oxenholme were coming to an end. Steam still had a few years to run, and personnel were offered transfers to other depots. A small number of older staff were maintained until the end of steam locomotion in 1968. The shed was demolished in 1965 and with its extinction went a way of life for railway families which had endured for several generations and provided lifelong employment and security for railway men and their families.

Westmorland Gazette, Saturday 22 November 2014

2014: Oxenholme railway station to get new revamp

Virgin Trains are investing in Oxenholme Railway Station

The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author

OXENHOLME railway station is to benefit from thousands of pounds of improvements in the New Year.

Tim Farron MP says the station will be developed to see a new cafe on platform 1 of the southbound-side. Mr Farron said he met with directors from Virgin and the general manager of the West Coast Main Line and pressed the case for investment. The cafe provider has not yet been announced, but Mr Farron said it will be based in the old oil stores – described as an under-utilised Victorian room. Other features will include better provision for cyclists and improved signage.

Train operators Virgin have confirmed the new improvements. They also include fitting and installing new automatic doors in the booking hall and waiting room on platform one. The existing ticket machine and replaced with two new ‘Fast Ticket’ machines. Waiting customers will also benefit from new Wifi zones. A new customer information screen will go in the subway for customers arriving from the Windermere branch line. There will also be heating in the booking hall for customers waiting and ‘more visible’ customer service points.

There are hopes the toilets and waiting rooms will also be ‘refreshed’ and new hand rails for the subway. There have also been calls for the canopy on platforms two and three to be extended to help passengers avoid the rain and for more information stands for local tourist attractions.

Mr Farron said he is also pressing the tourism minister and Treasury to devolve more cash to Cumbria via Visit Britain to help promote the area. It came after Mr Farron said he discovered that Marketing Manchester receives £20 million a year. “Manchester is a great place,” said Mr Farron, “but after London, we are England’s second ‘attack’ brand,” he said. “Visit Scotland get £60 million and Cumbria gets around £900,000. We get next to no funding and I’d like to see a more level playing field.” Of Cumbria County Council’s recent proposal to withdraw the £89,500 annual funding to Cumbria Tourism, Mr Farron said: “I’m very sympathetic to the council’s plight with funding but with the county council being one of the founding partners of Cumbria Tourism, I think it’s only right they have some financial involvement in it.”

Westmorland Gazette, Thursday 20 November 2014

2013: When steam engines were seen at Oxenholme

From 1846 until 1968, steam locomotives were stationed at the Oxenholme Shed, to assist trains up the bank to Grayrigg. This photograph features the last steam engine to perform this duty on May 4, 1968. The engine was a British Rail Standard Class 5.

2013_oxenholme train.jpg-pwrt3

A heavy-laden train coming down from London often stopped at Oxenholme for a locomotive from the shed to be run to the rear of the train to help it up Grayrigg Bank. A whistle signal was given on the approach to Oxenholme Station to alert the staff for the need for a ‘banking’ engine. Once up Grayrigg Bank the banker would then return to Oxenholme to await its next job. Engines to help the train go over Shap Fell were situated at Tebay Junction. The last steam engine withdrawn from service on British Rail was in August 1968.

Westmorland Gazette, Thursday 3 January 2013

1890: Porter killed at Oxenholme Junction

Another of those shocking accidents, which have during the past few years been numerous at Oxenholme Junction, occurred on Thursday evening. The unfortunate man was named William Langhorn, he was 25 years of age, and lived at Helmside, leaving a widow and three children to mourn his loss. The circumstances are very simple and are easily told. It appears that about 7-40 p.m., Langhorn was engaged in shunting operations at the north side of the station, near to the signal box, when he became caught between a horse box and a railway carriage. He was very much crushed, and expired almost immediately. Mr. Moffatt, station-master, and the foreman porter (Armitage) both witnessed the sad affair, which was quite an accident. The body was removed to one of the waiting-rooms to await an inquest.

Westmorland Gazette, 18 October 1890

1880: Fatal Accident at Oxenholme Railway Station

An accident of a very distressing nature occurred on Saturday last at Oxenholme Railway Station, to a man named Stewardson Martin, who was employed at the works now going on there, and who sustained such injuries that he died the same night, after being conveyed to the Kendal Memorial Hospital. On Monday an inquest was held at that institution, before C. G. Thomson, Esq., coroner, and the following evidence was given:-

Mary Martin, of Yard 94, Kirkland, widow, deposed: The deceased, Stewardson Martin, was my husband. He was 50 years of age. He was a waller by trade, and in the employment of the contractor for the additions to Oxenholme Station.

Joseph McKenna, of 118, Silk Street, Manchester, joiners’ labourer, deposed: I am working at Oxenholme Station. At a few minutes past 12 o’clock at noon on Saturday last, I was standing at the south end of the platform at Oxenholme Station, near the Booking Office. I saw the deceased, he had just received his wages at the office of the contractor at the south end of the station, and proceeded to cross the line. He walked into the six-foot, and appeared to be counting his money. When in the six-foot he suddenly stopped and appeared to be going to turn around to go back the same way. Just at that moment a train came up, and as he turned round he saw it and endeavoured to proceed to get across and out of the way. Just as he was getting on to the parapet wall on the west side, the engine caught him and knocked him down between the parapet and the rails, and he lay there until the train had passed. I went to his assistance, and deceased was immediately removed to this hospital. The train from the South was slackening speed as it came up to the deceased. It stopped within forty yards of the place. I was too far away I could not hear any whistle. I did not see the train coming from the south until it was close upon the deceased. The subway is not yet completed. If deceased had been looking south he could have seen the train at a distance of 500 yards.

John Thomson, M.B., of Kendal, deposed: I attended deceased from the time of his being brought to the Hospital on Saturday, until his death. When he was brought to the Hospital on Saturday, until his death. When he was brought to the Hospital he was suffering from a broken arm, internal injuries, and one of his legs was all but severed from his body. Dr. Leeming amputated the leg in my presence, and, although he was very ill during the operation, he rallied well, and lived about eight hours after the operation. I saw deceased at eight o’clock on Saturday night last. I attributed deceased’s death to shock and internal injuries. I asked deceased how the accident happened, but he did not seem inclined to talk, and said he did not know anything about it until he found himself here. When I saw deceased on Saturday night, I was of opinion deceased might die of collapse at any time.

James Wilson, of South Street, Carlisle, engine driver, deposed: I was driving a passenger train from Preston to Carlisle, on Saturday last. We were timed to reach Oxenholme at 11.59, but we did not arrive until 12.9. Before coming to Oxenholme I shut off steam below the distance signal, and on coming to the Station I should be driving at the rate of between four and five miles an hour. I did not see deceased upon the line, but just as we were stopping I saw a hat and heard a crack in front of the engine. I took up the hat and gave it to one of the porters, and gave information. So far as I could see the line was perfectly clear. I blew my whistle just before the iron bridge which crosses the line, a distance of about 60 or 70 yards from where the accident happened.

Thomas Mitchell, of Carlisle, extra fireman, deposed: I was on the engine with the last witness on Saturday last. Just before entering Oxenholme Station, on looking out I saw the line was clear. I saw a man standing in the six-foot, and when we were about an engine length from him he made a rush across the rails on which we were travelling. The engine buffer plank struck him and knocked him down.

Helena Dickie, Matron of the Hospital, deposed: The deceased was admitted into Hospital about half-past 12 o’clock on Saturday afternoon last. Deceased died about 20 minutes to 10 o’clock in the evening.

Verdict: “Died from injuries received by being accidentally run over by a passenger train at Oxenholme Railway Station.”

Kendal Mercury Friday 17 September 1880


Note: Stewardson Martin was around 4 years younger than his widow stated.  They had six children ranging in age from 1 up to 16 years. 

1871: A Gatekeeper killed at the Oxenholme Level Crossing

On Saturday last an inquest was held at the railway-station, Oxenholme, by C. G. Thomson, Esq., on the body of James Armer, gatekeeper at the level crossing at Oxenholme, who had been struck down and killed that morning by a luggage train, as detailed in the following evidence: –

Matthew Armer, of Old Hutton, labourer, deposed. – The deceased James Armer was my son. He was 21 years of age. He was not married. He was the gatekeeper at Oxenholme Station on the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway. He had been in the employment of the London and North-Western Railway Company for several years, but had only acted as gatekeeper at Oxenholme for about five weeks. Deceased had been on day duty for the last fortnight. His hours were from six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening. He took all his meals with him to work.

Robert Armstrong of Carlisle, deposed: – I am an engine driver in the employment of the London and North Western Railway Company, and have been in the service of the company for nearly 23 years. I was this morning driving a luggage train which leaves Carlisle at 3.30 a.m. It is due at Oxenholme at 6.18 a.m., but is it not marked to stop at Oxenholme. We were rather more than an hour late this morning, and approached Oxenholme about 7.30 a.m. We ran through Oxenholme Station at about a speed of fifteen or twenty miles an hour; certainly under twenty miles. Just before the engine reached the cabin on the south side of the gates, on the east side of the line, I saw the deceased come from the direction of the cabin and went right in front of my engine. It was not quite light at the time. I whistled, but could see nothing of the deceased. I looked at the other side and saw his cap fly off, and I was sure the engine had struck him then. I stopped the train and came back, and found deceased had been removed to the porters’ room. He was not dead, but insensible. There was a train on the down line running north as we passed the level crossing. My engine would be about ten or fifteen yards from the deceased when I first saw him, and I think that if he had gone direct across the line he would have cleared it. I saw no one near deceased. The signals were all right for our passing through the station. I afterwards examined the engine and found marks on the ash box as if it had come into contact with deceased.

James Robinson, of Upperby, near Carlisle, deposed: – I acted as fireman on the engine driven by the last witness this morning. We passed through Oxenholme Station at a speed of about twenty miles an hour. The driver whistled just before we reached the level crossing, and I saw deceased’s cap flying off as we passed the gates.

Henry Nelson, of Oxenholme, deposed: – I am a foreman platelayer in the employment of the London and North-Western Railway Company. About half-past seven o’clock this morning I was in deceased’s cabin, with himself and John Park, the pointsman and signalman at the south end of the station. We were all talking. We had not been more than two or three minutes in the box when the north end signalman gave four gongs, which is the signal that a goods train is approaching from the north. Park returned the signal with one gong, which means all right – that the road is clear. Deceased asked me to open his gates, and I said “well, when I have more time,” and he then took down the gate keys and went and opened the goods yard gate on the east side of the line, and I afterwards heard him run down past the cabin, but I did not see him. The next thing I heard was the goods train passing and whistling for breaks. After the train had passed we found deceased lying in the four foot about twenty-three yards below the gates. He was lying with his face downwards. We lifted deceased into the six foot, and then went for assistance and removed him into the porters’ room, where he remained and died in about twenty minutes. Deceased was very much injured uponhis head, and one foot was smashed. He was never sensible after we found him.

Verdict – “Accidentally killed.”

Westmorland Gazette, 16 December 1871

1857: Correspondence – Oxenholme Level Crossing

To the Editor of the Westmorland Gazette

Sir,

It is now time to ask whether the Board of trade or the Judges of Assize will allow a turnpike road to be crossed on the level where at least ten passenger trains, and probably as many more luggage engines and trains are passing during the twenty-four hours: – where a branch line also comes in which has to communicate with the main line over the level crossing, where the crossing is between the goods’ station and the passengers’ station, and where the watering and cokeing of the goods’ engines has to be done by passing over the level crossing.

Nothing need be said about the traffic to and from the railway station, although I don’t see that ought to be endangered, but to a person going along the highway there could scarcely be a more dangerous crossing place, and when taking the steep road into consideration, and the amount of traffic, I don’t think there is so dangerous a railway crossing to be found in the United Kingdom.

I shall be very glad, as one who has to cross the Oxenholme road to some extent, to put down my mite to a fund, if such be required, to compel the railway company to give the public a bridge over or under the line.

I am, your obedient servant,

Hutton, sen., not Old Hutton.   R.R.

Westmorland Gazette, 7 February 1857