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

2014: Dog attack on pub landlady sees man in court

The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author

A DOG owner whose out-of-control Staffordshire bull terrier caused “life changing” injuries to a pub landlady has avoided jail.

Gary Edward Moss, 43, of. Bleaswood Road, Oxenholme, was sentenced to a curfew and ordered to pay almost £2,000 when he appeared at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday.

Michelle Hipwell, who runs the Station Inn at Oxenholme, was mauled by one of Moss’s two terriers in an attack that left her dog bleeding and her in need to hospital treatment.

Brendan Burke, prosecuting, said the landlady spent almost a week at the Royal Preston Hospital and started recovery after five weeks following the attack on The Helm at 7.05am on August 8. The court heard Mrs Hipwell had been walking her two dogs on the lead when Moss’s white Staffordshire bull terrier came at her and bit one if her dogs on the ear, followed by the defendant’s black Staffordshire bull terrier Jack which bit and ripped at the fur of her other dog. “The complainant had to prise the white dog’s jaws open from her dog’s neck and then it but her hand,” said Mr Burke. In a victim statement Mrs Hipwell said she is now nervous about going out with her dog, has been unable to work and has had to rely on family members to carry out ever day tasks.

In mitigation David Birrell said Moss was a man of good character and had owned dogs for 20 years. The defendant, who pleaded guilty to being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control and being owner of a dangerously out of control dog which caused injury, had his white dog Rumble put down and said he now keeps a muzzle on his other dog at all times.

Judge Peter Hughes QC said: “This incident demonstrates just how careful dog owners have to be when they take their dogs out and particularly when they let them off their leads in places where other people are likely to be walking their dogs. The obligations on a a dog walker walking two dogs are onerous because it’s naturally an instinct for dogs to hunt in a pack and it’s almost impossible to anticipate an incident like this with absolutely horrific consequences. The injuries sustained by Mrs Hipwell really are quite awful. She could easily have lost the use of her hand.”

Moss was ordered to pay £1,500 compensation to Mrs Hipwell and £340 to cover the cost of vets bills. “It is apparent from these photographs that this figure I’m ordering is the very minimum and she’s probably entitled to significantly more,” added judge Hughes. Moss was also handed a community order with one condition of a 12 week curfew from 8pm-6am.

Westmorland Gazette, Friday 14 November 2014

2013: Oxenholme’s only shop and post office up for sale

Bill Riddell: “I want to stop here.”

Oxenholme’s only shop and post office is up for sale after its owner decided he could no longer afford to cover its losses.

Bill Riddell, 63, ploughed thousands of pounds of retirement savings into Oxenholme Stores but says not enough customers use it. He has now taken up another job and daughter Dawn is running the Helmside Road business until it sells. Mr Riddell re-opened the shop in March 2010 after it been closed for more than a year and re-introduced a vital Post Office service. As well as pensions, letters and parcel postage, he introduced cash withdrawal and bank deposit facilities to encourage shoppers.

An upset Mr Riddell said: “It’s a venture I tried and it hasn’t worked. I’m not making any money here so I’ve got another job. I want to stop here. I’ve ploughed so much into it – cash wise and time. I’ve been doing 100 hour weeks but I enjoy it. The customers are good and we have a good laugh. The children in the village that come in for sweets are fantastic – well-mannered and well-behaved.”

The time-served joiner said the shop’s stock is reducing as he cannot afford to continue filling shelves as before. During their time, the father and daughter team tried new initiatives like hot pies, the National Lottery and over-the-counter Euros as well as stocking old corner shop necessities like safety pins, cotton reels, pegs and puncture repair kits. During the heavy snows and icy conditions of recent winters, Mr Riddell doorstep delivered to many of Oxenholme’s elderly residents when bus services stopped running and village roads and pavements were covered by drifts or sheet ice.

“Unfortunately, when the Post Office goes they [customers] will be back to where they were three-and-half years ago – having to go into town [Kendal],” explained Mr Riddell. “People do want a local shop and post office but don’t use it enough.”

Oxenholme resident and former councillor, John Bateson, said: “It’s very disappointing and naturally I hope someone’s takes it on. It’s very important to have a post office in the village.”

Commercial sales company, Hilton Smythe, described the shop as “the hub of the community” and said the leasehold business has seven years remaining on the 10-year-lease with rent at £14,500-a-year reviewed annually.

Oxenholme is also served by a Texaco garage.

Reporter: Ellis Butcher

Published by: Westmorland Gazette, 22 August 2013

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

2008: Oxenholme Station car park contract awarded

Network Rail has awarded J Murphy and Son Ltd the contract to build a new car park at Oxenholme station as part of a £90m initiative to provide additional car parking spaces at a number of stations on the west coast main line.

Work is expected to start in the autumn and the project is anticipated to be finished by spring 2009, increasing the total number of spaces from about 80 to approximately 130, although precise numbers have yet to be determined.

David Golding, Network Rail’s Route Enhancements Manager said: “More passengers are travelling by train than ever before and the demand for rail travel is set to continue to rise. We predict that a large proportion of these extra passengers will drive to the station, putting more strain on the car park. Awarding the contract is a positive step towards the work actually starting.”

Further details of the project will be available nearer to the start of work. Network Rail and Virgin Trains will advise local residents and users of the car park about the scheme and measures that will be put in place whilst it is underway.

Westmorland Gazette, Monday 21 July 2008

2001: Committee rejects Oxenholme name change

Plans to change the name of Oxenholme Station to ‘Kendal – The Lake District’, have been rejected by South Lakeland District Council’s economic development committee.

Kendal Tourism Group, a think tank of Kendal hoteliers, traders and South Lakeland District Council officers charged with boosting the town’s tourist traffic, has proposed the change for Oxenholme and asked the committee to give its blessing.

The group believes that changing the station’s name to link Kendal more closely with the Lake District would persuade more tourists to see the town as a holiday destination in its own right.
But Coun. Philip Ball, SLDC member for Oxenholme, appeared before the committee to make an impassioned plea to reject the proposal.

Mr Ball said: “When I first read of this in the Gazette I was most upset, because Oxenholme had had no consultation.

“I have since consulted people in Oxenholme and nobody wants it changing.

Kendal Town Council is upset, the Lakes Line action group is totally opposed and both Conservative and Labour prospective parliamentary candidates are totally opposed to it.

I have yet to come across anybody who is happy with a change of name,” he said, “Oxenholme has its own identity.”

Many councillors voiced their opposition to the move and the committee voted unanimously to reject the name change.

Westmorland Gazette, Tuesday 5 June 2001

1965: Public Tributes after Manhunt

From our Correspondent – Kendal, Feb 11

The inquest on Police-constable George William McKinley Russell, aged 35, of Springfield Road, Carlisle, victim of the shooting at Oxenholme, was formally opened at Kendal police headquarters today.

The proceedings, before Mr. L. G. Powell, Coroner for south Westmorland, lasted one minute. Brief evidence of identification was given by the policeman’s father. The Coroner then said he would adjourn the inquest seven days at a time until the hearing could proceed.

Appreciation of the services of those who had taken part in the manhunt on Wednesday was paid at Kendal today by Mr. F. Williamson, Chief Constable of Cumberland, Westmorland and Carlisle.
Mr. Williamson acknowledged the excellent police work. He said he wished to place on record the fact that the police had received a tremendous number of expressions of sympathy and support from members of the public all over the country “which in some measure minimizes the deep distress which we all feel at this time”.

The condition of Police-constable Archibald, of Carlisle, who was seriously injured in the shooting, showed signs of improvement today.

The man, other than the police officers, who was injured on Wednesday, was named yesterday as John Middleton, aged 24, a native of Kendal, recently of no fixed address, whose wife lives in Morley Road, Warrington, Lancashire. Mr. John Dagg, assistant Chief Constable of Cumberland, Westmorland and Carlisle, said that Middleton, who is seriously ill in hospital with wounds, had relatives in the Sedbergh area near Kendal.

The Times, Friday 12 February, 1965