The 3rd October, 1953, must have been a bright, sunny day in Carlisle. The NBR D30 4-4-0 62420 Dominie Sampson, a Super-heated Scott – that’s a steam locomotive to you and me – was standing in the train shed of the Citadel Station. It had arrived at 12.30 with a train of North British and LNER carriages from Hawick. The sun shone down through that minor triumph of Victorian engineering, the iron arches and girders of the glazed roof. Those determined structural supports spanning the multiple lines cast wonderfully patterned sharp shadows – straight lines, circles, triangles - across the tracks, the platform and the walls and, on the curved body of the locomotive, they articulated a spider’s web of complex curves.
This is just one of the seven thousand railway photographs that the Pearsall brothers have left to the Cumbria Railways Association. Both Alan and Ian were distinguished engineers – marine rather than railway. Their passion was steam trains. Their favourites were the locomotives that laboured up Shap or steamed gaily across the Furness peninsula. The old Lake Counties was a land of railways in the middle decades of the last century and the boys and their father, the well-known naturalist, W H Pearsall, captured the powerful engines as they steamed through the incomparable Cumbrian landscape.
The engines were impressive. The white steam billows out of the City of Coventry as it hauls an endless line of carriages at Yealand on the old “Lanky” line in 1959. As the Royal Scot crests the summit at Grayrigg, the massive City of Glasgow locomotive, having climbed continuously for thirteen miles, is emitting vast clouds of sooty steam.
The Clan Fraser, sending a belch of black smoke into a cloudless sky, looks serene as it securely hauls an endless train of carriages over Orton Moor.
Stations without trains are places of expectation. Two railwaymen stand on the platform at Cockermouth. The station at Bassenthwaite Lake, with its neat hedges and flowerbeds, gabled roofs and white level-crossing gates was one of the prettiest in the Lakes, but strangely eerie bereft of trains and people. Moor Row was a tangle of lines and the points at Moresby Junction make the rails bend and curve with effortless freedom.
One of the finest structures of all was the Belah Viaduct on the Stainmore line. Metal pylons carried the track across a wide valley. In 1952 a slow coke-train appears like a toy as it edges its way across towards the signal box.
Carlisle was the place to be. The Saint Johnstoun rounds the curve at Willowholme at the head of the 9.00 am train from St Pancras to Edinburgh Waverley. The powerful engine had replaced an ex-LMS Jubilee for the long haul over the Waverley route.
On 8th September, 1954, Ex LMS 2P 4-4-0 40412 accelerated away from Aspatria Station with the 4.15 train from Whitehaven Bransty to Carlisle. The steam train seemed an essential part of the landscape.
In 1955 a heavy Diesel electric 10000 was photographed at the head of the Euston to Perth train in Carnforth. There was no steam and no romance.
A photograph taken in the 1930s shows two schoolboys standing in front of the miniature River Irt, one of the locomotives on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Line. Alan Pearsall in long trousers, Ian still in short trousers, both in their schoolcaps and uniforms, both impatiently posing, anxious, no doubt, to go and take photographs for themselves.
This excellent selection of photographs, well supported with precise technical details of locomotives, trains and locations, is a worthy testimony to their life-long enthusiasm.