I WAS reading a booklet about the old Push & Pull trains of this area, published in 1966, when I came across a paragraph.
It read: “Shortly after Winwick Junction we pass the remains of the Winwick Hospital Branch.
“This was constructed during the First World War when the hospital was used as a reception centre for wounded soldiers.
“The only access to the branch was via a reversal into a headshunt so short that ambulance trains had to be split into sets of three coaches and worked up to the hospital with a Webb 2-4-2T at each end (often the same locos that worked the local push and pull train services).
“Traffic in later years consisted mainly of coal and after several derailments were served by the more modern Ivatt 2-6-2Ts, a familiar sight locally in the 50s and 60s. The line was declared unfit for use and closed in 1961. The track was lifted by the hospital’s own engineering staff in 1964.”
Somehow, the thought of them building a railway line into a hospital for ambulance trains conveys to me the carnage of war.
My own grandfather, John Coffey of Sutton, was an invalid on one of those trains. He was the victim of a mustard gas shell exploding and was brought back from the front. Later he spent much of his life establishing a British Legion club in Sutton village. I wonder how many other local victims came back that way?
The booklet also reminded me that many of the Push & Pull services, seen several times a day, had nicknames, the ‘Ditton Dodger’, the ‘Junction Bus’, and the ‘Flying Flea’ . Please let me know your memories.
n Paul Seidel writes: “You mention piranhas in the canal.
“My wife is from this town, and she reckons there’s a grain of truth in that. They weren’t piranhas, though, just tropical fish.
“It seems a local pet shop owner released some into the canal in the 1970s, and they thrived because of the water being warm.
She used to live in Hard Lane, and she says that a licensee of the Abbey Hotel used to keep piranhas as a talking point.
She thinks his name was Harold Burrows. Anyway, I love your column. I find the history of my adopted town very interesting.”
Who remembers the compilation album of tracks by local groups called ‘Piranhas in the Canal’? I enjoyed them. I even put several cassette compilations together myself. Whatever happened to the musical collectives that used to work together to produce them?