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Spring 2024

Yes, I remember Huttons Ambo - a station named in a Yorkshire Auctioneer's catalogue

With due acknowledgment to Edward Thomas's classic poem "Adlestrop" (p1914) - and the humorous writings of Flanders & Swann in their "Slow Train" response to the Beeching Report of 1963 (although their pronunciation "Mort-ee-hoe" - just five miles from here - remains cringeworthy to this day!). We have been blessed that Britain's railway geography and historical naming policy has been the source of much entertainment, as well as stimulating academic research, over the years.

To return to "Huttons Ambo", a former station on the original York & North Midland Railway route between York and Scarborough, located between Castle Howard and Malton, that had closed to regular passenger traffic as long ago as 1930. Opened in 1845, to serve the twin villages of High Hutton and Low Hutton (historically known as Hutton on the Hill and Hutton on Derwent) and Menethorpe, the station had been originally named "Hutton" but renamed in 1885, using its Latin-derived suffix to emphasize the association being with both villages!

Just three miles further on, we would come upon the historic market town of Malton, once an important railway crossroads in the area. Situated on the River Derwent, it was a natural hub for the widespread agricultural activity of rural North Yorkshire - and supplied traditional services to the farming community of the region. Cundalls had been established in 1860 as estate agents and auctioneers, providing a broad range of livestock, machinery and farm sale facilities. In more recent times, one of its partners had begun to identify a growing interest in local history memorabilia, with a wide range of material being offered for inclusion in the company's periodic general sales. By encouraging vendors to locate and consign items of transport interest, he was able to develop the market for local railway memorabilia - and soon could begin promoting a series of dedicated auctions for such items.

For readers of a certain age, that man should be instantly recalled - as the indefatigable Harry Dimmey! Harry had been trained, as a traditional livestock and general auctioneer - and possessed the stamina and expertise to handle both catalogued and uncatalogued sales - with up to 1000 lots on offer. With limited town centre space available, as the popularity and scope of these Saturday morning sales grew, larger premises were needed for the number of visitors attending - and their associated car parking. A suitable solution was to be found just across the river, at St. Peters Church Hall, Norton-on-Derwent. No longer appearing in our Events Diary (although a somewhat derivative sale is still available, not far away, at Thirsk), Harry - and Cundalls Railwayana Auctions - should be acknowledged much further afield than their North Yorkshire roots.

For instance, did you realize that he had also officiated at the initial Myers Grove auctions in Sheffield? Or that he was retained as auctioneer for the Matlock Railwayana Auctions? You didn't know that there had been auctions at Matlock in the 1990s? The approach of retirement age, serious illness - or the untimely death - of a sole trader, would characterize the most common causes for the demise of a regular event. The spirit of free enterprise might soon fill that void - with new auctions being created or "marriages of convenience" arranged. Some churn within railwayana circles has been essential to maintain its growth and interest; 'twas always thus!

Leaving aside those rather glitzy "Fine Art" establishments with international recognition - and fees to match, there are literally hundreds of other general auctioneers covering the UK having similar expertise and local reputation as Cundalls, who occasionally receive instructions from executors of deceased estates to dispose of railwayana material. Those general auctioneers would often feature material with connections to local commerce and industry, agricultural history, country life and the hunting fraternity. Only a few would have built any lasting reputation for regular offerings of interest to railwayana collectors - and certainly not acquired comparable specialist knowledge, as Cundalls had.

Yes, I well remember Huttons Ambo - and that Gentleman from Malton, who did so much for our hobby!
DW

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January 2023
Writing during the last week of December, it would be quite natural to look forward with some optimism to the year ahead; and especially so, when we have all had to endure three years of restrictions to our travel plans and hobby interests. In fact, New Year's Day 2023 should be a particular celebration for students of Britain's railway system and its place in recent history. For it will be 100 years since the introduction of the "Big Four" Grouping of Companies and also 75 years from the nationalization of British Railways in 1948.

With a current fashion amongst independent Operating Companies to resurrect vintage names and initials for marketing purposes, we can see once again LNER, Great Western and Southern trains - amongst others - being restored over their original routes. So, with modern rolling stock and various plans in the pipeline for the reopening of previously closed lines, everything should be positive for the rail industry in the future, shouldn't it? Well, not exactly. Not when you have strident unionism, which appears to nurture a death wish towards its own industrial survival.

I was a railway employee at the time of the much-vaunted Modernization Plans of the late 1950s - as an Engineering Apprentice at Swindon Locomotive Works. Having joined the service as a railway enthusiast, I have maintained that status ever since. But I have also collected Railwayana and memorabilia for well over 50 years. And that is another area of concern for the future, in that so many others of my generation, who collected material, supported preservation or organized auctions and fairs are reaching the end-of-the-line.

Recent correspondence with David Brindle provided some salient facts about the viability of running Events these days. His letter "Carnforth Railfair, An Obituary" (see copy attached) brings it into perspective. So there are no more "Brief Encounters" to be had there in 2023. And the well-known TOBAZ partnership (Tony Hillman and Barry Jones) has completed its final event, where once it had provided venues in Stafford, Burton, Bristol, Bracknell and Chiswick. Reports would also suggest that the Quorn Swapmeet might also be about to lose some of its steadfast clientele; its regular March date appears to be "unlikely" in 2023 - as the Great Central Railway will not be operating that month, due to major bridgeworks - and more negative comments have been noted, with regard to substitution of the less-convenient "Field" location, as a replacement for its well-established Quorn & Woodhouse "Station Yard" setting.

There may be willing new promoters out there prepared to take on the challenges but, as things stand, there is little for collectors and traders to be excited about in a post-COVID 2023. There is not even the likelihood that the major railwayana auctions could come to the rescue by reintroducing more "Live" auctions (with side tables), since they have discovered that online and telephone auctions have exceeded all their expectations - and also offer significant cost savings for their business models.
DW

PS. An alternative date for you will take place at Peak Rail's Rowsley South Station on Sunday 12th March - and, in the North West, why not visit the Stainmore Railway Company's 2nd Railwayana Fair at Kirkby Stephen East Station, Cumbria CA17 4LA on the 12th August 2023? - See Events Diary for details.

Carnforth Railfair, An Obituary

With great regret, after 18 years, the above railfair in my mind has reached its natural conclusion and will be discontinued.

The reason being that, in recent times (Covid hasn't helped), we have suffered a reduction in regular stallholders, who have attended on a regular basis for the last 15 years or more. We have come to a point where many stallholders (myself included) have reached an age and, coupled with ill health, they feel that they cannot guarantee to stand - and some have simply run out of items to sell.

Another Factor to affect us is that over the last 3 years some have tragically passed away; coupled with which, the points outlined above also apply to our buyers and visitors.

Our railfairs were originally the brainchild of the late Roy Hacking, a larger-than-life character, who will be remembered by many, who used to attend the auctions at Sheffield and Malton. Roy's first venture was to hold a railfair in 2002 on the platforms at the then refurbished Hellifield station.

After a couple of years, in 2004 he transferred the fairs to what became the Brief Encounter Exhibition & Visitor Centre (at Carnforth), which was set up in the derelict but now rebuilt centre island platform buildings, which at that time was an unstaffed halt but still a junction station for Barrow, Leeds and Lancaster. Within a couple of years, we had a capacity of around 35 stalls on the fenced-off platform area and the Great (f&m) Hall of the museum.

Over the years, many stallholders have travelled from far-flung places, such as Suffolk, Wiltshire, East Midlands, County Durham, Yorkshire and, not forgetting, the North West, comprising Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire.

The highlight of these years was the two-day event in August 2008, which coincided with the Open Days at Steamtown - commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the end of steam on British Rail - which sported many trade stands alongside our railfair on the station.

In March 2013, Roy Hacking after a long illness sadly passed away, leaving yours truly to carry the baton and continue his good work, which involved organising a railfair at short notice - and two days later moving house - lock, stock and barrel - to my present home near Otley in Yorkshire, which will always be remembered as a very stressful period.

By this time, stallholder numbers were slowly diminishing, and the Great Hall of the Museum ceased to be part of our trading area, which reduced us to 25 stalls on the platform, that we managed to fill until Covid struck.

In August 2021, between the two lockdowns, we held an event which, considering the circumstances, was reasonably successful but, as I mentioned earlier, regular stallholders were falling by the wayside, especially hardware sellers (loco items, lamps & signs). This downward spiral continued into our fairs in May and July this year, which highlighted - in these post-Covid days and troubled times - the position of Carnforth, with its small catchment area between the hills and the sea, involving traders and punters travelling some distance to visit us, usually at a greater cost due to the energy crisis.

Finally, I would like to thank everybody - buyers and sellers alike - who have been loyal to Roy and myself, which made Carnforth a must-go-to event - and the past success is down to you.

Anybody who would like to organise or take over the railfair - or reinvent it with a different theme or content, please don't hesitate to call me on 07796-184694 where I will give you as much help and advice as possible.   Thank you all again.   David Brindle

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This site also provides access to a substantial photographic and reference facility of worldwide transport interest. Of special note is the showcase offered for the railway photographs of the late A.E. "Dusty" Durrant.

   The Prorail UK Photographic Archives   

Some of the lists and representative images are already available but more content and information is being added on a regular basis.

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