GEOFF CRAMBIE: The legendary Chaffer’s Siding signal cabin in Nelson

It is quite simply a classic picture of an iconic scene of old Nelson that has sadly gone forever.

Yes indeed, here, captured by our local celebrated cameraman, convivial Colin Bean, is the lost, legendary Chaffer’s Siding signal cabin, complete with its overhead bridge, as it looked in the year of 1980. Colin took many dozens of photos of the ancient Barkerhouse Road level-crossing over the years with this week’s column picture surely one of the finest.

Chaffer’s Siding was named in 1869 from Thomas and Benjamin Chaffer signing an agreement with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway company to facilitate the loading of stone from the nearby Catlow Quarry. By the year 1876, Chaffer’s Siding cabin had been built and the Victorian Saxby and Farmer-type signalbox was to be at this corner of Nelson for the next 113 years.

In 1904, a new 24-lever frame was fitted and, during the Edwardian era, a grand total of 175 steam locomotives a day were passing the Chaffer’s Siding cabin! This included 91 passenger trains running on both the up and down lines and 34 goods trains, plus the many cattle, coal and mineral trains, some with 120 fully loaded wagons over a quarter-of-a-mile long.

It is now almost a half-century since I worked at Chaffer’s Siding cabin during the summer of 1963. Turning the huge metal wheel to open and close the level-crossing gates was hard work indeed, however, when a mighty Jubilee or Patriot class steam locomotive went flashing by in a glorious cloud of smoke and steam, it made the job worthwhile indeed.

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Now today, no more do steam trains run past that unique signalbox. Those of us who remember those days mourn their passing.