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