Bolton School Senior Boys

History Boys' Railway Lesson

  • Story of Railways (1)
  • Story of Railways
  • Story of Railways (2)
  • Story of Railways (3)

A busy Bolton School Boys’ Division’s History Society enjoyed a fascinating lunchtime presentation on the story of the railway by Professor Paul Salveson MBE, who works as UK Trains Group Advisor on Society and Communities for Arriva plc. 

The young historians learnt that the Bolton and Leigh Railway (B&LR) was the first public one in Lancashire, being up and running two years before the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR). Professor Salveson told the pupils that the first trains had run as early as the 1600s in the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Trains on the L&MR got faster and faster and some could travel at up to 40mph! The boys, some of whom had a good knowledge of railways, learnt about the incredible work of George Stephenson, the “Father of the Railways”. He had the foresight to believe that early tracks would one day be joined up and his gauge for the tracks (4ft 8½ inches) was subsequently widely adopted around the world. 

Professor Salveson spoke about the building of the railways by the “navvies”, who often came from Ireland and Scotland. Their work was labour intensive and they led a hard life, often there could be violence in navvy camps between sectarian groups but pay could be good. The life of a navvy working on the Settle to Carlisle railway was recently portrayed in the tv programme Jericho, which was set in a shanty town at Ribblehead. Professor Salveson told how the development of the railway allowed for the growth of factories and the Industrial Revolution and reminded the audience that Bolton had been at the heart of the textile and cotton industries and received coal and cotton via the canal and railway from Liverpool. The British railway system was also exported to the colonies and large networks appeared across Africa and India. 

The boys were also informed about a special celebration taking place at Bolton rail station and interchange on Saturday 30 June, which marks 50 years since the last steam locomotive puffed out of Bolton loco sheds on Crescent Road, Great Lever. The day, which is being supported by Bolton School, will showcase rail’s positive role in the community and will include stalls and contributions from local groups and businesses as well as an exhibition on Bolton's railway history and a vintage bus giving tours around the town. Professor Salveson, who is chair of the Bolton Station Community Development Partnership, said there was also an intention to develop ideas, longer term, for making Bolton station a real community hub for the town.

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