The Rowsley Association

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by Fred Morton

I recently had the good fortune to have a chat with a remarkable lady, Miss Schofield, who was born in 1906 and has lived in the Midland Cottages at Rowsley for the past 88 years.

Miss Schofield's family originated from Skipton and her paternal grandfather was a Midland man, being Pump House Attendant at Garsdale watertroughs on the famous Settle & Carlisle line. Her father was born in 1877 and joined the Midland Railway at Hellifield in 1891. At the age of 18 he moved to Buxton and then to Rowsley as a shunter, where for most of Miss Schofield's childhood his wage was 14/- a week or less. Her brother Norman, who was born in 1908, followed in his father's footsteps and joined the railway as a lamp boy at Rowsley, before moving to footplate work at Barrow Hill.

Having moved into the Midland Cottages a mere 15 years or so after they were built, Miss Schofield is probably our last link with the Midland Railway. Her father, John, was eventually made yard foreman in the Old Yard. Miss Schofield can remember as a small child going with him to feed Duke the dray horse in the stables and feeding and watering the many cattle that passed through the cattle dock near to the A6 bridge.

Unfortunately, her father did not enjoy the best of health and the family often had to endure hard times with no money coming in when he was ill. This was when the neighbours, mostly railway families, rallied round and helped each other. When the Second World War started her father, now enjoying his best health for a long time, was asked to stay on at work over the retirement age, but a week before Christmas 1943 he was killed while working the afternoon shift in the Sidings.

Talking with Miss Schofield brings to life another era. She told me how, along with a friend, she would catch a train to Matlock then walk up Salter Lane and over Bonsall Moor to see another friend who lived in Bonsall. They would run back over the moor after dark to catch the last train back to Rowsley.

In those days everything you needed came by rail to the Old Yard goods shed. Farmers brought in two or three churns of milk to catch the milk train, while you could ride on the railway dray pulled by Duke as it delivered barrels of Burton beer to the Devonshire Arms at Beeley. How everyone would stand in Chatsworth Road after the arrival of the Royal Train to catch a glimpse of the Royal visitors on their way to Chatsworth for the New Year parties.

When asked about the bookstall I had seen on a recently discovered photograph of the station, Miss Schofield replied "Oh yes. It was owned by W.H. Smith and Photo Joe Elliott's son Harold ran it before he joined the railway as a cleaner at the Shed. He later moved to Leeds Holbeck." The bookstall closed when World War One started. Photo Joe Elliott had three daughters, Ethel, Violet and Lillian, who died in one of the flu epidemics. Miss Schofield remembers Photo Joe well and when after his death his house was cleared out recalls piles of glass plate negatives being thrown away! Quite a lot of Joe's work has survived, but to think what a rich inheritance of Rowsley life we could have had had his total collection survived.

The photograph of the Up platform at Rowsley Station with the W.H. Smith bookstall on the right, which Miss Schofield can still remember. The shot was probably taken by Photo Joe Elliott, who was a Rowsley Goods Guard. Postcards were very popular in Edwardian days and these would have been obtained from the bookstall. It is known that the station held sets of the Midland Railway's own postcards, which were probably dispensed from a machine. An example of one of these (at Matlock Bridge) is illustrated on the left.


Ken Conquest started his railway career in 1942 as a 14-year old control reporter in the South Junction box. It was a bad winter and, to make things worse, Ken suffered with toothache for quite some time. Even the wearing of a scarf round his neck in the box did not help. Tim Epton, the signalman on duty one night, was fed up with Ken being miserable, so he decided to do a little dentistry himself. Taking a piece of insulated wire from under the instrument shelf, he connected one end to the tapping key, put the other in Ken's mouth, and tapped the key. The combination of 6 volts through the wire, the saliva in Ken's mouth, and the shock of the incident, cured the toothache instantly!


In the late 1950s, Rowsley men had a job which started as light engine to Millers Dale Station Sidings. Here they picked up a train of coal slack for Branston, near Burton-on-Trent, which had been loaded at a coal tip just north of Peak Forest Junction signalbox. Derek Newton tells us of the occasion when, as a Passed Cleaner, he was firing with Billy Hodkin, then a Passed Fireman. They had hooked onto the train with a No.4 Goods engine and departed from Millers Dale right time.

As they approached Monsal Dale's Up colour light distance signal, which was situated between Cressbrook and Litton Tunnels, it turned from green to yellow. "That's funny" said Bill, as he started to brake for the home signal. "The express in front of us should have passed Bakewell by now." Then a thought came to him. "Did you change the lamps Derek?" asked Bill. "Oh!" replied Derek, "I forgot, but don't worry". Before Bill could stop him he was over the tender, reached down and grabbed the lamp off the tender buffer beam bracket, back into the cab, then out and round the frame to the front of the engine, where he placed the lamp on the smoke box top bracket and moved the other lamp to the middle buffer beam bracket. He was then back into the cab where a relieved Bill shook his head in disbelief and told Derek what he thought of him.

Monsal Dale's home signal was pulled slowly off and as they approached it signalman Charlie Unsworth appeared at the box window with the red flag. "Lime Sidings said you had the wrong lamps and one on the tender", he shouted. "He must want his eyes testing. Be on your way".


Traffic LDC

The last meeting recorded in Newsletter No.14 was on 5th September 1928. Unfortunately, the minutes of the subsequent meeting are missing, and the next copy is for Thursday 13th June. The representatives were unchanged, except that A.B. Chandler had replaced J. Barber as District Inspector.

The management side expressed concern about traffic being diverted to road transport and asked that special attention be given to connections in the Sidings. The staff were also asked to encourage people to send traffic by rail. This they would do, but pointed out that there was a tendency for sports and other parties to travel by road at holiday times due to the inadequate accommodation on excursion trains. A particular example was the Hinckley Thursday Cricket Club which had visited Rowsley for its annual Whit Monday fixture and had complained of an uncomfortable journey due to overcrowding. The members were contemplating using road transport in future.

Other matters considered at the meeting were complaints about the rough handling of parcels traffic and a slight accident to Lampman G.H.T. Wesson on 15th May. Again, not everything remains, for the file copy does not contain sheet 2 of these minutes. Thereafter, records appear to be complete.

At the meeting on 15th October 1929, J. Barber was again the District Inspector, and this remained the case for another two years. One can only speculate why A.B. Chandler was covering that position at the previous meeting, but it may well have been the result of sickness or leave. As well as now standard subjects such as road transport competition, shunting statistics, and gas and water consumption, two new matters were discussed. One concerned the absence of a Junior Lampman on night duty and the inadequacy of the arrangement for filling spare brake lamp vessels, due to the various types not being interchangeable. It was suggested that this problem could be overcome by the requisition of a 'gallon feeder'.

The other matter would ultimately have a major impact on operations over the Peak line. The staff side said that they were not satisfied with the weight a train was expected to convey between Rowsley and Peak Forest / Buxton with a heavy brake and no bank engine. Reference was made to a test which had taken place on Sunday 1st November 1903 with a train of 13 ten ton and 12 eight ton loaded wagons, which was deemed to be the maximum a brake would hold, and it was asked that this matter be reviewed. This had been raised as a reaction to an incident with the 7.35pm express freight from Ancoats to Rowsley, which had become divided between the engines and the first wagon a few months earlier and had run through to Rowsley in two portions at a speed of 50 miles per hour, the guard's brake being useless. While no mention was made in subsequent LDC minutes, a letter exists, dated 5th March 1930, which stipulates that trains in the Down direction should have a banker in the rear whenever the load exceeded that of a Class 4 freight engine.

by Peter Taylor

Jack Nadin was a Special Class relief signalman. One day he was ordered to go to Ambergate North Junction box to relieve the train lad on nights. Jack had not been to Ambergate before. However, it was not necessary for him to receive prior training if all he was doing was recording and reporting trains. Indeed, it was not unusual for relief signalmen to undertake such duties when there was no signalling work for them.

On arrival on the Monday night Jack met up with Ross Porter the resident signalman. Being conscientious, Jack asked Ross what cleaning duties he had to perform on the night shift. "None" replied Ross, "other than emptying the toilet bucket on Friday".

Tommy Segar was a signalman in the West Junction box and his wife ran the telephone exchange, so nothing that happened at Ambergate was kept a secret. On the Friday night in question the police sergeant from Ripley was proceeding to Ambergate and Belper in his car to meet his constables on duty when he became aware of a mess in the middle of the road. He therefore contacted the night soil men regarding the mess they had made on the road at Ambergate. They insisted that they had not been to Ambergate all night, but the police sergeant still made them go there, under protest, to clean up the mess.

You will know doubt guess where the mess came from. Ross had instructed Jack to tip the contents of the bucket over the bridge into the river ­ but he had not actually told him which bridge. It was dark of course and Jack had emptied the bucket at the first bridge he came to. Poor Jack; he had to suffer the leg-pull for years. He could only reply that he did not hear a splash when the bucket was emptied.

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