Parlington Hall :: The Estate :: The Railway at Aberford

The Aberford Terminus

The header picture is a watercolour by local artist; Heather Walker, it shows the railway outside the lodge on Parlington Lane, just up the lane from the terminus of the railway above the coal staithes in Aberford. The two children sitting on the wall to the side of the line, might have been inspired by the photograph on page one of this section. In any event the picture is included to show how the railway line ran adjacent to the boundary wall, at the foot of the embankment which carried the roadway.

MW Mulciber at Aberford

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The above photograph, a preview of which featured on the home page, from mid December 2010, has now been more carefully scrutinised, given a decent scan I have made of the original photograph. Various people have given their opinions about the picture, not least Graham Hudson, who without doubt is the real expert on all things associated with Aberford Railway. Thus My earlier comments were probably in-accurate, it is now thought that the engine featured in the picture is the MW Mulciber. Certain differences around the front door section beneath the funnel and the shape of the cab roof lend support to the earlier train rather than the MW Empress.

The engines used on the railway during the nineteenth century were all from Manning Wardle a Leeds Engine manufacturer, based in Hunslet. Mulciber was the first, bought in 1870.
On the rear of the photograph it states:
From Garforth to Aberford
Parlington Estate
Gascoigne, name of people, coal mines on estate, this was a new engine, carried coal between these two places at mines on estate.

There are a number of things in the picture which are worth mentioning; the train is sitting at Aberford and in the distant extreme left on the second track, although badly out of focus, is one of the chauldrons used for coal transport. The chauldrons would pivot sideways to tip the coal down from the high level of the railway to the Aberford coal Staithes, below.

The train is awash with passengers climbing on every surface, and on the left on the adjacent track are two small girls dressed in light coloured dresses, watching the spectacle; behind the smaller of the two is a youth, standing with a man. Completely out of focus on the left edge of the photo are more spectators. The train has at least fourteen people either standing or sitting on it. Behind the locomotive is an open carriage full of people, mostly women by the look of them. Then at the rear is the old High Flier with two men standing on the roof!

The photographer is clearly at the venue because it is a special occasion, perhaps the inaugural journey for the Mulciber to Garforth, whether those passengers on the train, would have been permitted to stay for the journey, who knows, but safety was not the issue it is today.

From a technical stand point the photograph has a very shallow depth of field, the area around the centre of the image; of the buffer and the feet, legs and hands of the man sitting next to the firebox, are the only parts in focus. Thereafter the periphery and foreground and background vary in clarity. Even the old gent in centre frame is not sharp. It has been suggested that he could be Colonel Gascoigne, but if it is the inaugeral trip of the Mulciber, then in 1870 the Colonel would have been around 56 years old. The character looks older to me.

The photographer has used a wide aperture in the lens, which has given the shallow depth of field, with a fairly slow shutter speed, by modern standards (2-3 seconds); to be expected at that date, hence the blurring, in particular on the right foot of the old gent, as I termed him and also the head of the man standing on the buffer rail with his left hand part way in his trouser pocket, and his right cupped over his belt. The camera, probably a large hardwood box with Colloidion plate photo process, as the exposure medium at that date, would have been mounted on a tripod for the picture. The resulting print created using an albumen (egg white) coated paper.

The Aberford Railway is covered by another web site here so not wanting to enter a competition about the history, I am content to add this new information as it relates to Parlington Hall. If you are really keen to learn the full history of the railway and the coal mines you need to obtain a book, sadly out of print but still available from time to time on eBay and others, by Graham Hudson titled Aberford Railway and the History of the Garforth Collieries, published by David & Charles.

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