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

Family Service

After 20 years’ service as stationmaster at the busy Westmorland junction of Oxenholme, near Kendal, Mr. Robert Raffels has retired, with the good wishes of colleagues, and hundreds of rail-users, to Tibicar-lane, Heysham.

At the age of 60, he has completed 46 years’ railway service and has maintained a family tradition. His father, the late Robert Raffels, spent 45 years with the old Maryport and Carlisle Railway, 32 as stationmaster at Curthwaite, Wigton and Carlisle (Crown), and it was in the stationmaster’s house at Curthwaite that Mr. Raffels was born.

Altogether these two Robert Raffels spent a total of 91 years working for the railway, 63 of them in the position of stationmaster.

Mr. Raffels started his career at the age of 14 in the parcels and booking office at Citadel Station, Carlisle, and worked in other departments in Carlisle before being transferred to the District Traffic Superintendent’s Office at Lancaster in 1896. He was appointed stationmaster at Glasson Dock in 1909., and two years later took up a similar position at Southwaite, near Carlisle. He spent several years as a relief stationmaster, occupying the position, temporarily, at nearly every station between Preston and Carlisle., and 20 years ago was appointed to Oxenholme.

He has a fund of reminiscences about railway incidents and passengers. People of all nationalities have changed at Oxenholme on their way to tour the Lakes, and Royal trains have frequently passed through the station.

Mr. Raffels told a colleague that with one exception he had been on the station on every occasion a Royal train had passed through in the last 20 years. The only time he missed, he said, was when he was on leave.

One of his most pleasant recollections was being introduced on the station to the King and Queen (then the Duke and Duchess of York) when they were visiting Kendal.

His worst experience was during the snow hold-ups early this year. “I have never seen anything like it.” He said. “We worked nearly 24 hours a day and it was an ordeal I would not care to repeat.”

Railways have changed since Mr. Raffels early association with them, for when he first started at Carlisle, seven different railway companies, The L.N.W., the Midland, North-Eastern, the Maryport and Carlisle, the Caledonian, the G. and G.W.,and the N.B. all ran into Carlisle.

One of this hardworking stationmaster’s few hobbies is collecting photographs, and he has a rare collection of snaps of engines, including modern “crack” locomotives and those of a type now obsolete.

Passengers having cause to change regularly at Oxenholme will miss the big, cheery official who always had a smile and a joke for evryone.

Lancashire Evening Post 07 May 1940

1906: Presentation

Mr Henry Preston, the new night stationmaster at Holyhead has been presented with a gold watch and chain, and gold studs and sleeve links, by the staff of Oxenholme Junction and some friends. A case of pipes was also presented to him by the telegraph department at the same station.

Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald , 12 January 1906

1901: Presentation at Tebay

A very interesting ceremony took place at the Cross Keys Hotel, Tebay, on Saturday evening, when Mr. James Taberner, late locomotive foreman at Tebay and Oxenholme, who was recently transferred to a similar position at Manchester, attended to receive a handsome marble timepiece, together with a pipe and case and pouch, which had been subscribed for as a mark of esteem by his fellow workmen and a few outside friends. The timepiece bore the following inscription: “Presented to Mr. J. Taberner on his promotion to Ordsall Lane, as a mark of esteem by friends and L. & N. W. Ry. Employees at Tebay and Oxenholme steam sheds.” There was a very good attendance, presided over by Mr. Tideswell, permanent way inspector. Mr. R. Robinson, in the absence of Mr. Beech, chief clerk, made the presentation, which was suitably acknowledged by Mr. Taberner. Excellent relations had always existed between himself and the workmen of Tebay and Oxenholme, and he had left them with the kindliest of feelings. Mr. C. T. Brockbank spoke on the progress of railways, &c., and shewed the great improvements which had been made in the railway system during the past twenty years. Messrs. W. Lindsay and W. Fackerley also spoke.

Penrith Observer, 14 May 1901

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