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Joseph Henshaw - Ashley Hall Esq - Derailment

"A Mine of Local Information"


Ashley and his mate were often wandering the extensive surface infrastructure of Shipley Woodside pit. His mate was apparently fascinated by a flag (or flags), which stood in a receptacle, made from a piece of pipe. This was set in the ground adjacent to the railway level crossing at Shipley Village; near the entrance to what was the pit manager's house - "The Coppice", (later the Coppice Inn and Restaurant, and now Counter Solutions). You can still see a short section of the old mineral railway set in the road there, I believe.
Over time, Ashley's mate developed an obsession with waving this flag, and after some deliberation, could not hold back any longer. He waved the flag. Shortly afterwards a trainload of fully loaded coal wagons came trundled down the gradient from Woodside No.1 (Drift) screens, colliding with a full set of loaded wagons sitting on the mineral line running parallel with the road between the Coppice Inn and Restaurant and Osbournes Pond.

Ashley and his mate made a run for it. Coal and wagons were scattered all over the road, and what is now Counter Solutions car park. There was obviously a major mess to clean up and an accident investigation to hold. Coal was backing up at both Woodside and Coppice pits. It was big trouble.

It transpired that the flags were the signalling mechanism whereby workers at the screens were informed to release full wagons, and by gravity they would come to rest down on the empty section of line. This section of line was out of view from the screens themselves.
Normally a pit locomotive, possibly the now preserved Cecil Raikes, would haul these wagons away down the valley to Nutbrook Sidings, where they would be marshalled for their final destinations. However, when Ashley's mate waved the flag, the previous set of wagons had not yet been dispatched.

It sounds amusing now, but I doubt it was as funny at the time.

The investigation reached stalemate, with the screens attendant adamant that he had received the signal, and the "authorised" signalman equally adamant that he had not given it. Many years after Woodside shut (1966), Ashley's mate admitted to his involvement in events.
Knowing Ashley, I still wonder which one actually waved that flag, and if either of them were actually in total ignorance of its purpose.

Another Derailment

Ashley and his workmate, maybe the same one as the previous episode, were removing a lengthy section of conveyor from Woodside drift for maintenance. I'm not sure of the exact methodology, but somehow they had got it on wheels, and proceeded to manhandle it towards the workshops, possibly at Woodside 2 and 3 (what used to be the American Adventure and car park). There were extensive railway sidings to negotiate, and the conveyor section got stuck fast.

In a scene that sounds as close to a real-life Will Hay film as its possible to get, a locomotive was shunting wagons straight towards the conveyor. The curve of the line made it invisible to the driver. Ashley and his mate, also blind-sided to the driver, frantically pushing, pulling, then finally running for it (again), were unable to alert him to the danger. Off came the wagons - another fine mess.

Ashley always reminded me of a younger version of Moore Marriot from the classic Will Hay films. His vernacular and general manner was sometimes very close to that of Will Hay himself, but with expletives that would not have made it to modern colour television, never mind monochrome film, included.

Night Fishing

Apparently, a favourite pastime for the engineering department during slack periods was night fishing in the nearby Shipley Reservoir.

A big sheet of steel hung on chains outside the mechanical fitter's workshop, which would be clouted with a hammer if the fishermen were required to attend to their professional duties. Maybe also to signal that the tea was mashed. . .

Pit Terminology - Glossary


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