The Glencoe Railway Children

by

The Glencoe Railway Children
By Former Glencoelian
David Harris
Note: ‘Click’ on pictures and map to enlarge
(It should be pointed out that the ‘Glencoe’s in this tale were a series of streets in old East Leeds and not the lovely Scottish Glen)
In the early 1950s I attended St Hilda’s School in East Leeds and lived in Glencoe View. The ‘paddy train’ ran at the top of our street behind high wooden boards. My first job after school was to climb over the boards with a bucket and go ‘coiling’ for the fire. We would even, irresponsible I suppose, dangerously knock out and pinch the wooden blocks that held the lines in place in aid of the fire. Then, after tea, it was over the boards again to play balancing on the train lines and see who could walk the furthest without losing their balance. On one occasion a bogey appeared on the line, like the ones you see in the American films. We would all pile on and have a great time. Another time we found some detonators and we put them on the line so that the train set them off with a series of great bangs. We

were always getting chased by the ’lines man’ but he never caught us – we knew all the bolt holes.Sylvia with caption

We all enjoyed going to the pictures in the 1950s. I used to clean Aunt Elsie’s steps to get my picture money. In our local picture house ‘The Easy Road – fondly nick named the ‘bug hutch’, the cheapest seats, which were our domain, were made of wood and often had protruding nails. The ‘bug hutch’ was within a couple of hundred yards as the crow flies but it was either over the boards again and the boards at the other side of the lines which protected those who lived in the ‘May’s’ and the ‘Pretoria’ streets or a more lengthy trip to ‘the ginnel’ which passed under the line for safety, but this was not for us it was too far away, so it was over the two sets of boards for us and the same coming home after the show.
Our outside toilets were at the top of the street facing the railway and would ice up in winter requiring a bucket of hot water to thaw them out – even so the pipes would usually burst requiring a plumber. Happy days! Many a time we would sit on the toilet roof facing the railway and when the paddy train came past on its way to the coal staithe at the bottom of Easy Road we would shout for the driver to throw us a cob off, and most times he would comply. Then we would tumble down to retrieve it with our buckets. Another favourite of ours was to hitch a ride on the paddy train on its way down Black Road to Waterloo Pit. Often on these occasions we would start a brick throwing fight with the soldiers from the army camp who manned the Ack Ack guns and barrage balloons during the war and later guarded the German and Italian prisoners. Then we would steal a ride on the dust-carts for the return ride. They had a four inch board at the back that you could jump on as the dustcart slowed for a corner, and then we would jump off as the cart slowed to enter Cross Green Lane near the Bridgefield Pub. The driver who always knew you were on the back and didn’t like it would accelerate into Cross Green Lane if there wasn’t any traffic coming the other way, which meant you had to jump for it accounting for quite a few grazed limbs’.
We were well off for railway lines for there was another railway line which ran under a bridge at the other end of our street this one was over an eighty foot drop! It carried goods trains from the main line at Neville Hill to the Hunslet Goods Yard and beyond. This cutting was locally referred to as ‘The Navvy’. Modern Health and Safety laws have now secured the bridges and approaches with eight foot high metal fences. They make the navvy look more sinister than it really was. The navvy was never a sinister place for us, it was a playground a dangerous one sure, but still a playground. We’d never heard of Health and Safety laws and wouldn’t have taken any notice of them anyway. We were adventurous in the forties and fifties no iPods for us, you were a ‘sissy’ if you came home without a cut or a bruise. We were up and down that ‘navvy’ like monkeys, especially at weekends when there were no railway personnel around – all eighty foot of it. Some maniacs even walked along the parapet of the bridge where a sudden gust of wind would have resulted in almost certain death. There were various features on the way down the navvy which will bring memories to any old East Leedser: ‘Ginner Rock’ and the ‘Town Hall steps’ are but two. One brave but foolhardy lad: David Wilson, once famously jumped all the way down the navvy for a bet of six pence and forty comics. Some say it was an arm he broke some say it was a leg others say got the comics but not the six pence. David is alas no longer with us but his name will live on in folk law as ‘The one who dared to jump the Navvy’ There was one particular descent which was a rite-of-passage for we Glencoe View lads, this was a vertical channel located hard up to the brick work of our Glencoe View bridge with rock on the other side, if I remember we called it ‘the devil’s drop’. You could let yourself down on a rope but the climb back was like climbing up a chimney, feet on one side of the channel and back on the other and inching yourself up slowly. You had to satisfy this climb before you could become a full member of the gang.01-02-2014 19;52;47

Another game was to place tin cans on the railway lines and fish for them with a magnet on a long piece of string. And who can forget the iron ‘Monkey Bridge’ where the paddy line crossed over the navvy and where diehards would attempt ‘daring do’s’ with ropes and all manner of death defying manoeuvres. Finally there was one part of the descent composed of loose pebbles where we would ski down just like on scree. Amazingly we survived to tell the tale.
In October we would assail the paddy train again off down Black Road, this time to ‘chump’ – collect wood for the Bonfires (no council arranged bonfires for us) while we were down there we would indulge in our staple diet of Tusky (rhubarb) and ‘oss mangles and likely have ‘sprout fights’.
Oh Happy Days!
p.s does anybody remember the ‘pig farm fish pond’?The Navvy Today for Blog

Navvy for blog

Great tale Dave. Have you anymore? Here’s a bit more info from Dave. Reportedly Joe Ball rode across the parapet of this bridge on Sandra Marshalls two wheeler bike. Good heavens!
Navvy BridgsNote: click on pictures to enlarge

 

Navvy before railings fitted    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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3 Responses to “The Glencoe Railway Children”

  1. Douglas Says:

    Thank you for those memories David. It is a wonder that any of you are alive to tell the tale. A few of you got broken a bit, but it is a marvel that you survived. I particularly appreciated the map. It must be a very old one because many of the streets around Ellerby Lane School no longer existed (except in outline) when I was there in the early 1940’s. It was nice to spot Aylesford Terrace where my grandma lived, and next door my best mate Eddie Blair – who I learned later lost his life on some motor bike stunt probably as mad as some of your Navvy adventures. And my aunties used to live at the end of Fewston Street near the paddy train tracks – so I have hurried through the dripping Ginnel many a time making it ring with my shouts to scare the ghosts away.

  2. peterwwood Says:

    Brilliant comment, Doug. You’re memory of the old area is happily un-diminished

  3. Eric Says:

    An interesting tale about some of the hair raising escapades and highways & byways of old.
    The map is interesting, it must precede the ’50’s because many of the streets I remember are missing , some of the Copperfields & Cautley Rd which ran from Copperfield View to Glencoe View, an area fairly well known as I used to deliver the Sundays all around there.
    Although the Navvy was also well known to us, I don’t remember any of the “access” routes having a name i.e. Devil’s Drop etc. Our usual access point was from the Bridgefield car park alongside the bridge, slithering down a well worn slide path at breakneck speed & so far as I know, it never had a name ( except perhaps “Bloody Hell”), David may remember diferently

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