A day in the life of Hellifield South Junction Signal box

By Stephen Rabone - This article appeared in Steam Days January 2005

It’s just after midnight on the 14th December 1960 and the southbound “Condor” container train rattles south through Hellifield on its way to Hendon from Gushetfaulds in Glasgow , behind a pair of the ill-fated Metrovick Co-Bos. Three minutes later a Class D freight heads north on its way from Leeds Hunslet to Carlisle Canal yard. Just before half past midnight the signalman sets the road for a Hellifield to Heaton Mersey Class H freight to leave the Low Level former Lancashire and Yorkshire yard. The locomotive, No 48557 of Heaton Mersey depot in Stockport , ran light from the shed down to the yard just before midnight. Almost simultaneously another northbound Class C express freight leaves the High Level Yard by the signal box. This is a Manchester Ancoats to Carlisle train, which arrived at Hellifield at a quarter to midnight and has been involved in some shunting in the yard. Finally a locomotive, probably No 43585 or 43576, and one of Hellifield’s two 3F 0-6-0s, comes off the shed and crosses over the main line to shunt in the High Level Yard.

This account of a typical half hour, nearly half a century ago, is the story told by a fascinating document, the Hellifield South Junction Signal box train register. As one would expect it lists all train movements recorded by the signalling staff with bell-code, and the times these were sent, together with occasional cryptic notes. However, what makes the register particularly interesting is that the signalmen also recorded the locomotive numbers of most trains. Between 6am and 10pm virtually every locomotive is identified, whilst a surprising number are also noted during the night shift. Hellifield was a reporting box, along with Ais Gill and Skipton on the main Leeds-Carlisle line.

Hellifield also received details of freight and passenger trains from Blackburn . Passing or departure times of the principal services were reported by these signal boxes and are recorded in the register. Clearly the signalmen at Hellifield were also carrying on the old Midland Railway tradition of recording the locomotive numbers. The register gives us a fascinating insight into the sheer volume of traffic still being handled on Britain ’s railways at the beginning of the sixties. On this day there are over 300 entries in the train register and the box required double manning throughout the twenty-four hours.

In compiling this article I have used the Freight Trains Working Timetable details for Winter 1959/60 and Summer 1962, in an attempt to identify those freights not specifically mentioned in the register. In addition I have drawn on information from former railway employees. Sadly, I have not been able to trace a WTT for the winter of 1960/61 but, at this time, it appears that train freight train patterns were still fairly stable. Now let’s return to that winter’s night on the, no doubt, wet, windy and cold platforms of this north Yorkshire junction.

At eighteen minutes to one a northbound Class F heads north en route from Skipton to Lancaster New Zealand Yard. Down in the Low Level Yard an Agecroft Crab, No 42868, pulls out at a quarter to one with a Class H Carlisle to Brindle Heath train, conveying an unspecified “out of gauge” load. Next, a Class Five No 44660 of Saltley shed, at the head of the 8.05p.m. Class H from Carlisle to Stourton, comes to a stand in the Up Loop where it takes on water. Almost immediately the northbound Down “Condor” roars through the station having taken just 13 minutes for the 10 miles from Skipton. This train had left Hendon at 7.23pm at the beginning of its long journey to Gushetfaulds.

The reason for looping the Carlisle to Stourton now becomes apparent when, just before one, a parcels train from Carlisle to Sheffield pauses briefly in the platform. The signalman didn’t identify the locomotive on the 14th December but the following day it was Kingmoor’s Jubilee No 45731 “Perserverance”. The pace of movements continues unabated for the next two hours with hardly a minute passing when the signalmen are not busy; the bell codes “is line clear for” or “train entering section” ring out in the South Junction box almost continuously.

The 8.38pm Rotherham Masborough to Glasgow College Class C pauses briefly at seven minutes past one. It’s running two hours late and isn’t scheduled to stop at Hellifield; perhaps there’s a crew change necessary. Four minutes later a stranger, No 44994 of Edinburgh Dalry Road, rumbles through on a Class F from Lancaster to Normanton. Next to appear from the Skipton line is the 10.40pm Hunslet to Carlisle Class H freight, which is running close behind the Glasgow . At twenty-three minutes past one, a light engine, Holbeck’s Jubilee No 45608 “ Gibraltar ” draws to a halt opposite the signal box before going on shed. It seems possible that it has come from Heysham, probably after working the previous evening’s Leeds to Heysham express.

Meanwhile, across in the High Level Yard the shunting engine has been busy assembling a Class E freight bound for Lancaster that departs at twenty-four minutes past one via the Back Road loop. There’s a short pause in the action until just before twenty to two when a Class J mineral train passes en-route from Skipton to Carnforth Furness and Midland Junction. No doubt the train is loaded with coal for the Furness or west Cumbria area steel works.

There hasn’t been any train off the Settle and Carlisle line for over an hour but now train No 10, the 9.00pm sleeping car express from Glasgow St. Enoch to London St. Pancras roars through the station shortly before ten minutes to two. The locomotive is probably one of Holbeck’s A3s but it could equally well be on of the shed’s Royal Scots or a Britannia, both types appearing on other expresses in this December week. The train passed Ais Gill box at twenty-two minutes past one so clearly the driver hasn’t been “hanging about”.

Just thirteen minutes behind the express comes another of the night’s principal express freights, headed by Warrington Dallam’s No 45334. It’s the 6.18pm Glasgow College to Washwood Heath Class C. This train was thirteen minutes ahead of the sleeper at Ais Gill and was clearly put inside the loop at Blea Moor to be overtaken. There’s a short lull now before Hellifield receives three northbound trains within eight minutes. First to appear at sixteen minutes past two is Class J freight, probably a Stourton to Carnforth working. A few minutes later a Class F empty anhydrite hopper train from Widnes to Long Meg yard, north of Appleby, runs into the Middle Road off the Blackburn line. The locomotive isn’t recorded but it will almost certainly be a Stanier 8F or a            WD 2-8-0. The signalman had received a report from Blackburn that it had “20 on”. Almost simultaneously, train 351, the 1.15am Leeds to Carnforth post and passenger train, having taken just seventeen minutes from Skipton, runs in. As soon as the postal train has cleared Long Preston the anhydrite is on its way north. There’s another “call attention bell” from the North Box, this time for yet another Class C express freight, the 12.10am Carlisle to Leicester . Meanwhile the signalman has set the road for an Manchester Ashton Road to Carlisle Class D with “21 on” which pulls into the yard at one minute to three; this train won’t go forward to Carlisle until twenty five past five.

At long last the signal staff can have a rest as there’s now a period of thirty five minutes without a train. However, the respite is short lived. A Carnforth to Grimethorpe (Firth Yard) Class H rattles south at twenty five to four.  The High Level Yard shunt locomotive returns to the shed via the crossovers at the south end of the station. A slow moving Class J freight from Skipton to Lancaster heads north having taken nineteen minutes for the six miles from Gargrave. Hopefully, this will have cleared Settle Junction before the next train catches it up. The late running 9.10pm St Pancras to Edinburgh Waverley train 185 comes to a stand at ten to four, and pauses for four minutes, before heading north. According to the train register it had left Leeds at 2.54am and Skipton just thirteen minutes before arriving at Hellifield.

Hard on the heels of the Edinburgh comes yet another Class C, this time the 8.25pm Burton (Wetmore yard) to Carlisle , no doubt loaded with beer kegs. At twenty past four the 1.37am Carlisle to Bradford Class E freight pulls into the Up Loop where it waits for fifty minutes. The signalman notes ruefully in the register, “waiting fireman”. The next train to appear is something of a stranger in the camp, an overnight passenger train off the West Coast route. Train 299 was reported leaving Blackburn at six minutes to four and passes through Hellifield thirty two minutes later; not a bad time for the twenty four mile twisting route through the Ribble valley. Train 299’s identity is a bit of a mystery but is probably the Birmingham to Glasgow sleeper, which was routed via the Settle and Carlisle line for a period in the early 1960s. Although the signalman doesn’t record the numbers of the locomotives this morning, a few days later he does; then the train engine was a Royal Scot and the pilot a Class Five. One minute after the express has passed the 9.20pm Nottingham to Carlisle Class C accelerates northwards, having been halted at Hellifield’s Home Signal for six minutes awaiting the passage of the “Wessie” express.

Meanwhile the Ashton Road to Carlisle train, which has been in the yard now for nearly two hours, pulls out onto the Middle Road . As we shall see, its crew are going to have a long wait before the train is let out onto the main line. Just before a quarter to five the shed rings through to the box, to say that the engine for the 6.05am local to Garsdale is ready. Hellifield’s No 42132 heads south of the station and then runs through the northbound platform, to couple to its coaches in the north end bay platform. One suspects  that on a December morning, they will need some time to warm through before departure. No. 42132 will appear again several times this morning. Almost immediately another light engine leaves the shed en route to Bolton . As soon as this engine has cleared the junction the 4.00am Skipton to Lancaster New Zealand Yard Class F runs through the station. It’s nearly five o’clock and no less than 37 significant movements have taken place since midnight.

The next train to trundle through Hellifield’s still dark platforms is a Workington to Carlton empty mineral train, which left the west Cumberland steel town at 6.40pm yesterday evening. The train engine is No 48710 from Royston shed. At ten past five the Carlisle to Bradford train, which has been sitting patiently in the Up Loop, finally gets its fireman and follows the 8F up the hill towards Bell Busk. Almost immediately, the North Junction Box offers the 2.42am Carlisle to Halifax Class D freight, which passes Hellifield just eight minutes later. Once again the bells from the North Junction Box ring as soon as the “train out of section” bell has been sent; this time for the 2.02am Lancaster to Carlton Yard, another Class F train. The engine needs water and stops for eight minutes in the platform line, as there’s nothing close behind it.

Over on the Down line the principal overnight passenger service, train 191, the 9.25pm St. Pancras to Glasgow St. Enoch is running very late as it hurries north, having taken just thirteen minutes since passing Skipton. Following the express is a Class C Parcels train from Bradford to Carlisle , which pulls into Hellifield at sixteen minutes to six. Station work for this train is obviously significant, as it doesn’t leave until six o’clock, just as the night shift signalmen H. Brow and H. Richardson hand over to R. Leak and J. Allen for the morning turn. Two more movements occur before six and, from now on, almost every train has its locomotive number recorded. At ten to six a Carlisle to Derby parcel pauses for three minutes. It’s one of Holbeck’s A3s, which have recently taken over most of the principal Settle and Carlisle express passenger train duties, No 60082 “Neil Gow”. Finally, Newton Heath’s No 45232 comes off shed and runs along the Up Loop to the carriage sidings at the north end of the station ready to take the 7.10am express to Manchester Victoria .

The next hour sees a succession of northbound trains. The 6.05am Hellifield to Garsdale local leaves the north end bay behind No 42132, whilst three minutes later No 48732 from, of all places, Llanelly shed, pulls into the loop at the head of the 20 wagon Heaton Mersey to Hellifield Class E freight. One wonders whether the signalman has actually read the locomotive number correctly. Two minutes later Holbeck’s Caprotti Class Five No 44753 passes, heading a Class D from Hunslet to Carlisle . Just before half past six, two freights appear from the south almost simultaneously: No 48157 of Holbeck shed pauses for a crew change whilst working the 3.00am Stourton to Carlisle Class H, whilst a Carlisle Upperby Class Five No 45297 brings the 4.07am Brindle Heath to Carlisle Class E into the High Level Yard; the load is a respectable 30 wagons.

At twenty to seven a Skipton locomotive, No 44007, trundles through the platform at the head of Trip 90, otherwise known as the “Tanny”. This curious name was bestowed on the Skipton to Horton-in-Ribblesdale pick-up freight after the Skipton town councillor who was the regular driver.  After setting back into the yard from the North Junction Box and undertaking the necessary shunting, the train was handed back to the North Junction signalman just after seven. Meanwhile Hellifield’s No 43756 leaves the shed and heads down to the Low Level Yard for another bout of shunting. At long last, after over an hour’s break, there is a southbound train. The 5.55am Heysham Harbour to Leeds “Boat Train” runs into the Up platform, just before seven, behind Ivatt 2-6-0 No 43112 from Lancaster Green Ayre shed.

The first passenger train of the day along the Blackburn line, the 7.10am Class A to Manchester Victoria , appears out of the carriage sidings behind No 45232. As soon as this has cleared the junction a Stourton locomotive, No 44028, rolls north at the head of the 5.30am Hunslet to Barrow Class D. Meanwhile Skipton has reported that train 353, the 6.04am Leeds to Morecambe and Carnforth, has left. It appears just after half past seven but the locomotive isn’t noted as the signalmen appear more concerned about dealing with the 4.25am Carlisle to Brindle Heath Class D which has arrived in the Up platform behind another Newton Heath locomotive, No 44893. Once the junction is clear the Class Five pulls across the Down line and into the Low Level Yard, where it will stay for the next two hours.

A Bradford Manningham 4F No 44170 appears on the Up line with a Class H, just before eight o’clock, followed immediately by the return working of No 42132, the 7.12am from Garsdale. The train is offered by the North Junction Box to the South Junction and accepted, but as the stock is set back into the carriage sidings the NorthFF Junction sends a cancelling signal on his bells, of three pause five, as soon as the train reverses. This move has to be carried out very smartly as, only five minutes after the Garsdale train has arrived, train 352 the 6.46am Morecambe to Leeds appears behind a second Lancaster Ivatt, No 43115, which takes water during its four minute stop.

Another Hellifield loco, 43585 appears from the shed and heads off to work a ballast train from the carriage sidings. These yard were also used for some freight workings that terminated at Hellifield. We’ll see this engine return from its duties later this afternoon.  Almost immediately, a Lancaster Crab No 42928 rolls north on the 4.30am Stourton to Lancaster Class J freight. There’s a twenty minute lull now before the arrival of the Up “Residential”; the 7.40am Morecambe to Leeds and Bradford business express. The train loco is No 45138 from Carlisle Kingmoor shed. This train is important enough to warrant the reporting of its passage past Clapham signal box. The locomotive will take the Bradford portion forward from Skipton and will reappear on this evening’s “Resi”. As soon as the express has left, No 42132 appears from the carriage sidings with the stock for the 8.40am local to Skipton.

Over on the Down side the Haverton Hill to Heysham ICI ammonia tanker trains trundles through behind a Mexborough based WD, No 90612. Another Hellifield locomotive, No 44276, climbs up from the Low Level Yard with some wagons to form Trip 83 from Hellifield to Lancaster . After some shunting in the High Level Yard it heads off just after nine o’clock. Two Class C express freights now arrive within four minutes of each other both pulled by Stanier 8Fs. A Carlisle to Oxley train stops in the platform behind No 48389 of Longsight shed, whilst the 7.15am Hunslet to Heysham, no doubt loaded almost exclusively with containers for Northern Ireland , behind Holbeck’s No 48454 makes use of the water crane on the northbound platform.

Bang on the dot of nine o’clock a Kingmoor Crab No 42836 heads south on the 6.00am Carlisle to Stourton Class D express freight. As soon as the Crab has passed, the signalman allows a Newton Heath 8F, No 48372, to leave the shed and cross over to the yard to collect a brake van before heading north to the quarries at Helwith Bridge . After standing for over two and a half hours, the Brindle Heath to Carlisle freight, now running as a Class D, pulls away from the yard through the Back Road behind No 45297. Meanwhile Lower Darwen ’s No 44119 leaves the shed for the Low Level Yard to shunt the wagons for the Hollins trip. It’s not due to leave until just before twelve with traffic for the Blackburn area; its load will include traffic for the paint and wall paper industries around Hollins and Darwen.

Another Lancaster Ivatt Class 4, No 43007, runs in at a quarter past nine on a combined Carnforth and Lancaster to Leeds train. Down at the Low Level Yard No 44893, which arrived at twenty to eight, pulls out with the Carlisle to Brindle Heath Class D. The load is 34 so the signalman rings Blackburn to request a banking locomotive up to Sough Tunnel.  Across at the shed Hellifield’s No 42648 is involved in shunting empty and loaded wagons to the coal stage from the carriage sidings. A succession of northbound trains appears next. First is the 7.50am Hunslet to Carlisle Viaduct yard Class C express freight; the signalman didn’t note the engine but it’s likely that it was another Kingmoor or Holbeck Class Five. Immediately behind is the Skipton to Carlisle pick up freight behind a Kingmoor Class Five, No 44672. This train runs non-stop through Hellifield and isn’t scheduled to pick up traffic. Next to appear is a Lancaster Crab No 42893 on train 371, the 8.38am Leeds to Morecambe local.

Whilst this is standing in the station one of the principal Class C freight’s of the day, the Carlisle to St. Pancras rushes south behind No 44669, yet another Kingmoor locomotive. The train passed Ais Gill twenty-eight miles up the line from Hellifield thirty-eight minutes ago at 9.12am. A few minutes later a Royston 8F, No 48540 on a lowly Class F train of coal empties from Heysham Moss to Carlton South Yard follows the St. Pancras freight, no doubt having been held at Settle Junction, to allow the London train an unchecked passage south. Whilst this train is passing through the Up platform No 42648 is moving wrong road along the Up Goods loop towards the North Junction box ready to release the stock of the morning Carlisle to Hellifield local which will arrive in about forty minutes.

It’s ten o’clock and the signalmen have the luxury of a quarter of an hour without any trains – time for a cuppa I think! The next train to appear is the Blackburn to Hellifield pick up Class K freight, which runs into the yard behind Lower Darwen ’s ex Midland Railway No 43976. The 7.25am Barrow to Manvers Main Class F coal empties from Barrow to Manvers Main behind a Skipton 4F, No 44567 heralds another busy hour with no less than eleven trains and numerous light engine workings. Hellifield’s No 42132, the locomotive that worked the Garsdale locals, returns light engine from Skipton and goes on shed just before half past ten, its day’s work done.

Meanwhile the first diesel locomotive of the day appears. It’s D276 from York depot working train No 580 the 9.31am Leeds Neville Hill to Appleby crew training special. Almost immediately another diesel appears: No D5079, based at Carlisle Upperby, which has been rostered to work the 8.05am Carlisle to Hellifield every day for some weeks. The shunter uncouples the type 2, which then runs down the Blackburn line before running north into the Middle Road loop. Meanwhile No 42648 pulls the empty stock out of the Up platform and then propels it into the bay platform at the north end of the station. Eventually the Type 2 will run forward and couple on to the coaches it’s brought from Carlisle, to form the 11.50am stopping train to Carlisle .

Just before quarter to eleven, No 42485 from Lower Darwen shed runs in on a Blackburn to Hellifield train and ten minutes later goes on to the shed. Presumably No 42648, now acting as station pilot, is involved in the shunting of the stock to the carriage sidings, but we can’t see what’s happening from our vantage point at the South Junction. Meanwhile the 9.33am Morecambe to Leeds train No 370 has run into the Up platform behind Holbeck’s No 45597 “ Barbados ”. As soon as the train has left the signalman notes that he has given the crossing lever to the crossing keeper just south of the station to allow him to open the gates on this lane. One minute later the lever is restored.  (The writer recalls sheltering in this crossing keeper’s hut in a thunderstorm, aged five!)

Next on the scene is another important freight train, the 3.50am Water Orton to Carlisle Class D, which has run the eleven miles from Skipton in just seventeen minutes, pulled by Saltley’s No 44888. Another local from the Blackburn line, the 10.19am departure, and running as a Class A train, appears behind a Wigan L&Y shed Stanier tank, No 42569. Once again the train engine goes on shed and the station pilot moves the stock to the carriage sidings.

As a result of the Blackburn stock occupying the Down platform the next train northwards has to be held at the outer home signal. Eventually a Normanton 4F No 44170 pulls through the station at the head of a Skipton to Carlisle Class H and then sets back into the Middle Road . There is some shunting to be done, but the Class H won’t be allowed north until the next two Settle and Carlisle line passenger trains have left Hellifield, and several other freights have passed. At twenty past eleven, No 42278, another of Hellifield’s Fairburn tanks, pulls out of the south end bay for Blackburn . Another English Electric Type 4, No D281 now passes through on train N51 the 9.30am Stourton to Lancaster van test train. As if to prove conclusively that motive power variety on the Morecambe line passengers is the order of the day, Liverpool Bank Hall’s unnamed Patriot No 45517 pulls into Hellifield on train 380, the 10.35am Carnforth to Leeds.

Excitement is mounting on the northbound platform as the time draws near for one of Hellifield’s principal services, Train 43, the 10.35am Leeds City to Glasgow St. Enoch. We are not disappointed when No 60072 “Sunstar”, recently reallocated to Holbeck from the East Coast Main Line, rolls in at the head of a rake of Mark 1 coaches; the time from Skipton just 15 minutes.  As the express awaits departure time No 43871 from Stourton shed trundles south at the head of the 6.20am Carlisle to Stourton Class H freight.

Immediately it’s cleared the junction the signalmen sets the road for No 42569 to run light engine back to its home shed at Lower Darwen . Simultaneously an Edge Hill Class Five, No 45381 runs into the High Level Yard with a Bescot to Carlisle Class D express freight routed via the Blackburn line.  It will depart via the Back Road just after twelve, following some shunting work. The 10.47am Leeds to Morecambe and Carnforth pulls in at five to twelve behind No 43115, which we saw earlier this morning on its southbound, working to Leeds . Meandering southwards, No 44007 reappears on the Horton to Skipton “90 Trips” Class J freight, whilst down in the Low Level Yard, No 44119 has finished its shunting and heads off to Hollins yard with its Class H freight.

The first movement of the afternoon comes just three minutes after noon, when No 45381 pulls out of the High Level Yard via the Back Road, on its way north with  the Class D freight from Bescot to Carlisle. No 44170, which has also been in the yard shunting the Skipton to Carlisle Class H, follows it along the Back Road as soon as the section is clear. However, the crew of the 4F are going to have to wait until five to one before they can resume their slow journey north: their train will have to await the passage of three more important northbound freights. The first of these, a Hunslet to Carlisle Class H, appears just after quarter past twelve pulled by a Kingmoor 8F, No 48536. The train pauses for four minutes, probably for a crew change.

Another crew change is also happening in the Up platform; a Newton Heath Caprotti Class Five No 44746 rolls in on the Carlisle to Oldham Glodwick Road Class D, before heading off down the Blackburn line. Meanwhile another northbound Class H, probably a second Hunslet to Carlisle, has been stopped at Hellifield’s Outer Home signal, just south of the station, to allow the Oldham freight to cross over onto the Blackburn line. After a wait of six minutes, Kingmoor’s No 44675 restarts its train across the junction, no doubt with some fist shaking at the signalman for the delay.

One of the features of the register is the inclusion of some special bell codes, used to communicate with the Low Level Yard, as Hellifield South Junction box controlled the exit from the yard. These are entered in the register as  “Stage”. At twenty to one  “2 Stage” and “233 Stage” are rung and herald the passage of No 43756 on a Class K trip working to the High Level Yard. These cryptic register entries appear throughout the register, recording the request by the staff at the Low Level Yard for a train to leave the yard, either as a main line or trip freight working or as a light engine to the shed. The final working before one o’clock is the appearance of yet another Kingmoor Class Five, No 45012, on a Hunslet to Carlisle Class C express freight. Only now can No 44170 proceed on its way to Carlisle with its train from Skipton.

There’s a slight lull in the proceedings until No 48372 returns light engine from Horton quarries and goes on to the shed. Running immediately behind the 8F is a Leicester 9F, No 92122, at the head of a Carlisle to Stourton Class D express freight, the only 2-10-0 recorded that day, although no doubt at least one more appeared in the hours of darkness. At one twenty-eight No 44197, of Skipton shed, pulls into the Up Loop with a Lancaster to Manvers Main empty coal train. However, the train now sets back into the carriage sidings and after a few minutes the 4F trundles back into the loop having deposited its train. Presumably, for whatever reason, Control has decided this train is going no further today and the locomotive is duly sent back to Lancaster ; we’ll see it again later this evening.

Meanwhile train No 140, the Up “Thames Clyde Express”, from Glasgow St Enoch to St Pancras, hurries through behind No 60088 “Book Law”, another Holbeck A3. This train left Appleby at 12.44pm, passed Ais Gill at 1.11pm, and has taken 28 minutes to pass Hellifield at an average speed of 60 mph. At eight minutes to two a Green Ayre Crab, No 42893, rolls to a stop at the head of train No 398, another of the combined Carnforth and Morecambe to Leeds trains. As soon as the Crab has departed, the North Box rings through with another Class A train. It’s another diesel test train with D281 at the head of train No 580 from Appleby to Neville Hill, which has taken no less than 41 minutes from Ais Gill, considerably slower than the A3 on the “Thames Clyde”!Whilst all this has been going on the signalmen have been threading various pilot workings, powered by No 43756, across from the High Level Yard to the Up Loop and carriage sidings.

However, it’s now time for the 2.00pm shift change and signalmen Leak and Allen sign off, to be replaced by signalmen Dixon and Shorrock. The handwriting in the register changes but, fortunately, they continue to record locomotive numbers just as meticulously. They carry out various tests; the light indicators are tested, locks on points are checked and the detonator machines are found to be in working order

The next hour is comparatively quiet; the station pilot No 43756 uses the lull in the main line traffic to indulge in shunting, both in the carriage sidings and the High Level Yard, crossing over from one side of the station to the other several times. Shortly after two o’clock, the daily Heysham to Haverton Hill Class F ICI ammonia tanker train heads south behind Normanton’s WD No 90664. Its train, known to railwaymen as the “Snowballs”, apparently because of the white crystals sometimes to be seen on the tanks, is shown in the Working Timetable as only going as far as Skipton. However, it was actually handed over to the North Eastern Region at Skipton before going on to the North Eastern Region via Ilkley, Otley, Harrogate and Northallerton.

A few minutes later, an English Electric Type 4 diesel passes through on the return 2.15pm Lancaster to Stourton test train of vans. The signalman records this as a different locomotive, No D285, to the one that headed north to Lancaster earlier in the day. I suspect that he may have misread the locomotive’s number, especially as there’s also some apparent confusion over the workings of No D281; did it really go north at 11.26 on the Lancaster vans and return at 1.59pm from Appleby on the Class A test train?

At quarter past two a Brindle Heath to Carlisle Class H, loaded to 35 wagons, runs into the High Level Yard behind No 48089 from Hasland shed. The crew bring the 8F across to the shed, presumably for coaling, before returning to the yard about half an hour later. No 42648, the passenger pilot locomotive, now brings the stock for the 4.10pm to Blackburn from the carriage sidings, along the loop and then sets back into the south end bay platform. We’re now approaching the time when Hellifield plays host to two expresses within ten minutes of each other. As if to herald this, a lowly Class F freight from Carnforth to Skipton grinds to a halt in the Up Loop powered by No 44579, a Hellifield locomotive.

Over on the Down platform Holbeck’s A3 No 60082 “Neil Gow” rolls in at a quarter to three, twelve minutes after leaving Skipton with the Down “ Waverley ” from St. Pancras to Edinburgh Waverley. After a stop lasting six minutes, during which water is taken, train No 71 heads north, just as the call attention bell is received for the Up “ Waverley ”, train No 150. Twenty-six minutes after passing Ais Gill a Jubilee, 45659 “Drake”, one of Holbeck’s stalwarts, pauses briefly at the Up platform. As soon as the “ Waverley ” has cleared Bell Busk, No 44579 is given the signal to pull out of the loop on the last leg of its journey to Skipton. As soon as this has departed, No 42648 trundles back through the Up Loop to the carriage sidings to collect another rake of coaches for an early evening Blackburn service.

The next two hours, from three o’clock, see a constant stream of traffic. First to arrive is Bank Hall’s unnamed Patriot No 45517, at the head of train No 405, the 1.54pm express from Leeds to Carnforth. We saw this locomotive earlier, heading a morning Carnforth to Leeds train, so the locomotive has clearly had a rapid turn round at Leeds . Just as this train leaves, a Widnes to Long Meg empty anhydrite train rolls into the Middle Road headed by No 48708, a Kingmoor locomotive. Ten minutes later, after a crew change and taking water, the 8F heads off north.

At eighteen minutes past three, the 1.05pm Carlisle to Longbridge van train pulls into the Up platform behind a Kentish Town Jubilee, No 45712 “Victory”. The WTT shows this train is allowed fifty-eight minutes from Ais Gill. However, that box had reported the train passing there at 2.47pm. The time of thirty-one minutes for the twenty-eight miles, shows that the driver had obviously decided to make up the late running of his train. The train is scheduled to stop at Hellifield for a crew change so perhaps he wants to finish his shift on time. The Jubilee now takes water but, for some reason, sits in Hellifield until just before a quarter to four. We will see “Courageous” again later this evening on another southbound express freight from Carlisle . Quite how I think it got back to Carlisle will be explained later!

There are now two northbound freights through Hellifield. First to appear is No 90357, a Normanton locomotive, at the head of a Class H Carlton to Falkirk coal train. Next we see the most unusual working of the day; an ex LNWR 0-8-0 No 49449, of Carnforth shed, wheezes through at the head of a Stourton to Carnforth Class J freight, probably loaded with coke for the Furness line. Whilst these locomotives are not unknown on the Midland line, they are relatively uncommon.

A Hellifield Fairburn 2-6-4T, No 42051, comes off shed and couples to the 4.10pm to Blackburn in the south end bay platform. The ballast train locomotive, No 43585, having deposited its wagons in the carriage sidings, runs along the Up Loop and goes on shed, its days work done. Over on the Down side the 2.59pm from Blackburn runs in behind Newton Heath’s No 45232. There now has to be some slick station work, as two expresses are due in the next quarter of an hour.

The first of these runs into the Up platform at twelve minutes to four for a two-minute stop. The train is the mid afternoon combined Carnforth and Morecambe to Leeds , train No 41, pulled by Green Ayre’s Standard 4MT No 76051. As soon as this has left the stock of the Blackburn local is moved across to the Up Loop, as the Down “Thames Clyde Express” is due imminently. Almost immediately, the South Junction rings the bell code “is line clear for Express Passenger Train” to the North Junction. Five minutes later No 60080 “Dick Turpin” roars north at the head of train No 81 on its way from St Pancras to Glasgow St Enoch. As soon as the express has cleared Long Preston, No 48089 follows, leaving the Back Road with the Brindle Heath to Carlisle Class F.

Meanwhile, two parallel movements are taking place in the Up direction; No 45232 has deposited its stock in the carriage sidings at the north end and is running along the Up Loop before going onto the shed, whilst the afternoon Long Meg to Widnes loaded anhydrite train trundles through the Up platform, behind Lostock Hall’s No 90331, and runs down to the Low Level Yard. Almost immediately, the station pilot No 42648 brings the coaches for the 6.22pm to Blackburn from the carriage sidings into the Up Loop. At ten past four No 42051 sets off for Blackburn with its local train. As soon as this is clear, the station pilot propels the carriages for the 6.22pm into the bay.

Just to add to the almost incessant activity, one of Hellifield’s 2-6-4Ts, No 42484, leaves the shed. It runs along the Up Loop to pick up the stock for the 4.45pm express to Manchester , whilst No 90331 runs light engine from the Low Level Yard to go on shed for coaling and servicing. Simultaneously an Agecroft Crab, No 42868, climbs off the Blackburn line and into the Middle Road with the Class C Salford to Heysham express freight, loaded to just seventeen wagons. The train is going to have a wait of over an hour before it continues its journey.

The station pilot now leaves the bay and runs back along the Up Loop to the carriage sidings. Skipton’s No 43999 now appears at the head of a Class F freight from Skipton to Lancaster , followed six minutes later by the afternoon Leeds to Hellifield parcels train pulled by a Green Ayre Ivatt 2-6-0, No 43112. There’s obviously some station work to do for this train as it stays at Hellifield for ten minutes. Quite often some vans are detached, and are added to the Bradford to Carlisle local, which is due in about half an hour. Over on the Up side of the station No 44149, a local Hellifield engine, appears on the return 83 Trip working from the small yard at Wennington. The train is propelled back into the carriage sidings and, no doubt, contains some wagons loaded with lime from the quarries at Giggleswick. The 4F then heads off to the shed, its duties finished for the day.

Just after half past four, No 42484 pulls the empty stock for the 4.45pm Manchester train into the Up platform, to await passengers off the connecting northbound 3.14pm Leeds to Morecambe and Carnforth, train No 411. For some reason the signalman fails to record the locomotive number on this train. Neither does he enter that of the light engine from Skipton, which runs through to the North Junction box and reverses into the Back Road to take the “Limey” Class J pick up freight from Hellifield to Carlisle . Another unidentified locomotive heads a Class J freight northwards, probably a late running Stourton to Lancaster train. A mystery surrounds the locomotive heading the next train through Hellifield: the 3.40pm Bradford Forster Square to Carlisle stopping train. The number is recorded as 455xx but was it a Patriot or a Jubilee?

Let us digress slightly from telling the story of this December day in 1960 and try to unravel this puzzle. The writer’s suspicion is that the locomotive may have been No 45712, which appeared earlier in the afternoon, and will be recorded again just before midnight on a southbound freight from Carlisle . Was the Jubilee detached from the Longbridge van train at Skipton and sent north again on the local, and if so why? Was the long delay holding the train at Hellifield significant? The Bradford to Carlisle train was due into Carlisle at 7.29pm and the Class C freight from Glasgow to St. Pancras left Durran Hill yard in Carlisle at 9.35pm, so it would be possible for the locomotive to have been turned and serviced in that time. Forty-five years on I suspect we won’t find the answer!

After a stop of nine minutes, perhaps to add vans left behind by the Leeds to Heysham parcels, our mystery Jubilee departs north, closely followed by the late running “Limey”. Meanwhile a Kingmoor Class Five No 44669, at the head of a Hunslet to Carlisle Viaduct Class C freight, has been halted at Hellifield’s Inner Home signal. Eventually, after a wait of six minutes, the Class Five gets the road and, with a few blasts on the whistle to the signalman, heads north. There is now a succession of locomotives leaving the engine shed. The first of these is the WD No 90331, which runs down to the Low Level Yard to take its anhydrite train off down the Blackburn line. It leaves at twenty five to six; a message is sent to Blackburn that the load is twenty wagons and a banker is needed up to Sough Tunnel. No 43756 now comes off the shed and runs up to the carriage sidings ready to bring “Trip 81” down to the Low Level Yard. The wagons on this trip working have been accumulated during the day from the various freights that have terminated at Hellifield. Finally, No 42485 crosses over to the bay and couples to the stock of the 6.22pm local to Blackburn . The last train to appear before six o’clock is train No 426, the 4.30pm Morecambe to Leeds and Bradford , which runs in behind Green Ayre’s No 43115.

Following this is a light engine move, which runs into the Up Loop and appears to have gone on the shed. The locomotive isn’t identified but I suspect that it is actually No 44276 returning from Lancaster , after working Trip 83 earlier in the day. No 44276 will appear later in the evening leaving the shed to do some shunting at Hellifield and this seems the only explanation of how it returned to Hellifield.

Two minutes after six o’clock, one of Holbeck’s Ivatt 2-6-0s, No 43117, runs in on train No 428, the 4.55pm Carnforth to Leeds stopping train. As this train awaits departure time, the northbound “Residential” express, train No 419 from Bradford and Leeds to Morecambe, pulls in for a brief stop. The train locomotive, No 45138, has spent the day at Manningham shed before bringing the Bradford portion to Skipton, where it was combined with the Leeds carriages. The signalman now allows No 43756 to bring a trip freight, from the Low Level up to the High Level Yard. Seven minutes after the “Resi” has left a Normanton Ivatt, No 43116 comes to a stand at the head of the 5.50pm Skipton to Morecambe local. Almost certainly this engine will have worked the Leeds coaches of the “Resi” as far as Skipton. From Skipton its two-coach train serves the wayside stations that the express ignores.

At six twenty-three No 42485 pulls out on time with its local to Blackburn . Almost immediately the 5.42pm Blackburn to Hellifield, recorded as “Lanky Express” in the register, rolls into the northbound platform behind No 42278. The engine uncouples and runs to the North Junction box, but has to await the passage of a Saltley Class Five, No 45265, which heads south at the head of a Class D freight, the 2.40pm Carlisle to Stourton. Once this has cleared the section the 2-6-4T runs across to the Up Loop and then goes on shed for the night. It’s twenty to seven, and another engine now leaves the shed; No 45232 from Newton Heath is returning to Lancashire at the head of the Hellifield Low Level Yard to Bury Class H, which will depart at twelve minutes past seven. The station pilot, No 42648, now moves the stock of the train from Blackburn across to the carriage sidings. Just before five to seven, Skipton’s No 43893 rattles south at the head of the 1.10pm Carlisle to Skipton pick up freight, the “Lodger”. Hard on its heels comes yet another Saltley Class Five, No 44963, on a Carlisle to Washwood Heath Class C freight. It’s taken forty-seven minutes from Ais Gill, slightly longer than the schedule in the WTT so possibly the “Lodger” has delayed it.

Ten minutes behind is the 4.37pm Carlisle to Bradford stopping train. Kingmoor’s No 44883 is at the head of the usual motley collection of carriages and vans that form this service. A wait of seven minutes ensues for traffic purposes, before the train heads off into the dark. The number of the locomotive on next passenger train, the 5.42pm Leeds to Morecambe and Carnforth train No 423, wasn’t noted but it was probably one of those seen heading south earlier in the day. In a superb example of missed connections, no sooner has this train departed, than the 5.40pm Manchester Victoria to Hellifield Class A express runs in, one minute after the main line train has left! The train’s locomotive is Bolton ’s No 42653, which promptly uncouples and goes on shed to be prepared for its return working later this evening. Once again, the station pilot moves the stock across the southbound line to the carriage sidings. It is now just after half past seven and a Holbeck 8F, No 48158, crawls cautiously past the Down platform before reversing its Class H Skipton to Carlisle freight into the High Level Yard. After whatever shunting  is required the train will continue north just before eight o’clock.

At twenty to eight another Kingmoor Class Five, No 44898, grinds to a stop in the Up platform with the 1.30pm Class H Carlisle to Skipton. This train also conveys wagons for the Low Level Yard, so after a brief pause in the platform it creeps down the hill to the yard. (It’s possible that any through Carlisle to Skipton wagons were moved to the carriage sidings during this stop but it’s impossible to deduce this from the register.) The locomotive then returns light engine to the carriage sidings where it picks up traffic for Skipton before departing at a quarter past eight.

The final movement before eight o’clock is another  anhydrite train from Long Meg, running as Class J behind Kingmoor’s No 48321. This train stables overnight at Adlington, before going forward to Widnes tomorrow morning. Before the train is allowed down to the Low Level Yard for its crew change, there is a slight delay whilst the crew of No 44898 complete their shunting work. There’s something of a lull now broken only by the departure off No 44898 to Skipton. Finally, at twenty past eight, yet another Saltley Class Five appears; No 45253 is at the head of train No 434, the evening Morecambe and Carnforth to Leeds service. The Newton Heath 8F, No 48372, that we’ve seen in action several times today, runs off shed and down to the Low Level Yard to take over the Carlisle to Aintree Class E freight, which is due from the north shortly. Following this off the shed, is Bolton’s No 42653, which trundles along the Up Loop to the carriage sidings to collect the stock for the 9.00pm to Blackburn . As we shall see later this train is going to be delayed quite heavily.

For some reason the signalman forgets to record the number of the locomotive on the 7.29pm from Blackburn, although I suspect it is actually No 42051 returning after working the 4.10pm from Hellifield to Blackburn . As this train runs into the Down platform Skipton’s No 44220 scuttles south at the head of the Carlisle to Skipton Class K pick up freight. It is followed by the Blackburn train engine running light to the shed.

There now follows one of those juggling activities, by the signalmen, that have occurred several times today. Before the station pilot is allowed to move the empty stock to the carriage sidings, the Carlisle to Aintree Class E freight comes to a stand in the Up platform behind a Newton Heath WD No 90338. A northbound Class H freight, the 5.20pm Hunslet to Carnforth, is approaching Hellifield behind a Stourton 4F, No 44368. Before this can stop for a crew change in the Down platform, the North Junction signalman has to move the Blackburn empty stock over to the Up Loop. As soon as the 4F has pulled into the platform, the signals come off at the South Junction to allow the WD to ease its train down the hill to the Low Level Yard. Four minutes later Holbeck’s No 48399 rolls south at the head of the 3.05pm Class E freight from Carlisle to Stourton, identified in the register as a “Maltese” express freight. Just before nine o’clock, there are two light engine moves; first is the station pilot, No 42648, which, having completed its days work, goes on shed, whilst seven minutes later No 90338 comes up from the Low Level Yard having been replaced on the anhydrite by No 48372.

The next hour from nine o’clock is relatively quiet with only seven trains. The first train to appear is a Class D express freight from Rochdale to Hellifield, which runs into the High Level Yard, at twenty past nine, behind a Heaton Mersey Standard 2-6-0, No 76087. Its return working isn’t shown in the register but is almost certainly a Class H freight, which leaves the Low Level Yard at five to midnight bound for Heaton Mersey yard in Stockport . The Up line passenger services this evening have been thrown into some confusion by the late running of the afternoon Glasgow St Enoch to Leeds express, train No 174. Scheduled to arrive at 8.44pm the train eventually rolls in behind another of Holbeck’s A3s, No 60092 “Fairway” at twenty-five past nine. The train has lost four minutes on the scheduled time from Appleby, so possibly the crew are having problems with the locomotive. As soon as the train has departed, No 42653 pulls in from the carriage sidings with the stock for the connecting 9.00pm service to Blackburn , which leaves thirty two minutes late.

As the evening wears on, we now start to see the succession of northbound express freights that will pass through Hellifield in the next few hours. The first to appear is at twenty five to ten when Newton Heath’s Crab, No 42871, comes to a stand in the Middle Road at the head of train No C785, a Bescot to Carlisle Class C train. Whilst the crew changes and the locomotive is watered, the 7.45pm Bradford Valley to Carlisle Class D runs into the Down line platform for another crew change. The Crab leaves first, followed three minutes later by the train from Bradford . As the evening progresses the signalman only records a few locomotive numbers. Readers can no doubt fill in the gaps; Class Fives, Crabs, 8Fs and the odd Jubilee or 9F,  from sheds all over the north of England and Midlands , will dominate the night express freights.

At twenty to ten, a Hellifield 4F, No 44276, crosses over to the High Level Yard  to perform the night’s shunting duties, whilst No 48372 finally pulls out of the Low Level Yard with its Carlisle to Aintree Class H. The next train to appear is a Class D, from Lancaster to Stourton, hauled by No 44679, a Crewe North locomotive, which pauses in the Up line platform for a crew change and to take water.

At ten o’clock the signalmen on the night shift sign on; signalmen Brow and  Richardson come on duty and  Dixon and Shorrock sign off. The next hour, until eleven o’clock, will see the signal staff at Hellifield working the block instruments and heaving on the levers almost without a pause, as no less than seventeen movements take place. The first train is a lowly Class J from Avenue yard to Heysham, presumably with coke for Northern Ireland . On the Up line the Carlisle to Cricklewood milk train spends seven minutes attaching wagons in the carriage sidings before heading off through the night to London .

The 8.35pm stopping train from Leeds to Hellifield , train No 427, runs into the Down line platform at ten minutes past ten running a few minutes late, closely followed by the final Blackburn to Hellifield train which has been held at the Home Signal on the Blackburn line since ten o’clock. Part of this train continues as the 10.09 parcel train to Heysham, although we can’t see what happens to the passenger stock. Possibly the train engine shunts it to the north end bay platform for tomorrow’s Garsdale local train.

Meanwhile, the 4.45pm Water Orton to Glasgow Class C freight has come to a halt at the Home signal on the Leeds line, waiting for the road northwards. On the Up line a Class E freight from Heysham to the Manchester Ship Canal has also stopped, for a crew change and to take water, before running down to the Low Level Yard. Finally, at ten twenty-eight, following the removal of the Blackburn stopping train to the carriage sidings, the signal is cleared for the Water Orton freight to accelerate through the station. Simultaneously a Lancaster to Skipton Class H runs south bringing a hectic half hour to an end.

The light engine from the Blackburn train, probably No 42485, goes on shed as two trains arrive together at the south end. A Blackburn to Lancaster Class D freight, loaded to twenty-five wagons, runs into the High Level Yard at ten thirty five, whilst train No 429, the 9.25pm Leeds to Heysham Harbour boat train, comes to a halt to pick up any passengers for Northern Ireland . In the next twenty minutes there are two more freight in both directions. The first is a Carlisle to Stourton Class D followed ten minutes later by the 8.40pm coal empties from Carnforth to Oakenshaw colliery. Going north is another Class C, the 4.55pm Water Orton to Kingmoor, which has taken just eighteen minutes for the ten miles from Skipton. Finally, at one minute to eleven a Brindle Heath to Carlisle Class C, with a load of thirty-five wagons, runs into the High Level Yard for a stay of just under one hour.

Two more northbound freights, both Class C freights, follow each up the line from Leeds just ten minutes apart. Bang on eleven o’clock the 4.25pm Leicester to Kingmoor rushes through, followed exactly ten minutes later by the 8.38pm Rotherham to Glasgow . Once again both trains have taken eighteen minutes from passing Skipton, a creditable time, which includes the climb to Bell Busk. In between these two trains Skipton’s No 44197, makes its third appearance of the day as it ambles south on the 9.20pm Lancaster to Normanton Class F.  Following this, at just after half past eleven, another train off the Little North Western line comes south. It’s No 42702, of Manningham shed, at the head of the 8.05pm Carnforth to Stourton Class E freight.

Down at the Low Level Yard the Heysham to Ship Canal train pulls out at twenty five to midnight; a message is sent to Blackburn that the load is forty wagons and, not surprisingly, requesting a banker up to Sough Tunnel. A couple of light engine movements now take place off the shed; the first is one that goes first to the carriage sidings and then shortly afterwards down to the Low Level Yard. The second is shown in the register as the Heaton Mersey engine, almost certainly No 76087 returning home. At ten to twelve the final southbound train of the day runs through, behind the Kentish Town Jubilee that we’ve seen twice before today, No 45712 “Victory”. It’s finally on its way home at the head of the 5.42pm Glasgow to St. Pancras Class C freight.

At five to twelve, the Brindle Heath to Carlisle Class C eases out of the Middle Road , on its way north. As we turn to leave the platform we see that the signalman has pulled off the signal for another northbound freight. A minute or so after midnight the 10.18pm Hunslet to Carlisle Canal Class D freight rolls north. Another busy day at Hellifield is starting.

What conclusions can we draw from this day at Hellifield in December 1960? The first observation I would make is the relatively limited geographical spread of sheds that the locomotives came from. Almost all are based at the sheds associated with the Midland route; Hellifield, Skipton, Holbeck, Stourton, Manningham, Kingmoor, Lancaster Green Ayre and Saltley or from sheds in Lancashire and Cheshire such as Lower Darwen , Newton Heath and Heaton Mersey. The next point is the dominance of three locomotive types, the 4F 0-6-0, the Class Five and the 8F. This is hardly a surprise, of course, but for any railway modeller the preponderance of these three classes is particularly significant.

Readers with knowledge of Hellifield’s locomotive allocation at this time may wonder why no mention is made of Hellifield’s sole 2P, No 40685. I suspect  it spent all day on shed; however, the following Monday the locomotive was in action on breakdown train duties.

Finally, I must thank Peter Dunford and Stuart Taylor, whose assistance in providing background notes when compiling this article has been invaluable. Above all I must remember that it was my father, G.E.Rabone, who introduced me to train watching at this most charismatic of Yorkshire junctions back in 1957 and 1958.