.... or 4 foot 8 and half

Updated 4 March,2008

"Would Mr Cass like to say a few words?"

LNER's new streamlined A4 locomotives started their scheduled services from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Kings Cross in 1935 but Monday 4th July,1938, must have been a special day for Charlie when LNER 4468 Mallard A4 locomotive broke the world steam engine record with a sustained speed of 125mph near Peterborough.

The school week consisted of Monday to Friday, plus Saturday mornings - Boarders probably had a bit more! One of Saturday's features was the Railway Club, more of a lesson really. A Chairman was elected for a Term and his job each Saturday morning was really to welcome everyone then say, "Would Mr Cass like to say a few words?" - then his job was over. This then enabled Charlie to give us a talk about railways that were, then, the vital source of transportation for the country. The railway industry was also an huge export business for the UK and in the days when the word 'motorway' had yet to be coined, the whole country depended on the network that covered almost every village.

The Rocket school magazine of May,1946, reported that:

This term Norwood started a Railway Club. So far, I am glad to say, it has gone down very well and we have managed to get about a dozen members. We are very grateful to Mr Wilson, the Harrogate Stationmaster for kindly consenting to be the President of the Club.
R A Collings

In 1947, one visitor to the Club was Driver L A Earl of the Royal Scot 6224. He handed out photographs of himself and here he is. Mr Earl was quite a celebrity in the days of the LMS and there is more about him on
his own page.

    Photo courtesy of the Daily Herald

On page 22 of The Rocket of January,1948, John Perrett reports,

The Railway Club is continuing to function. We have at last found a definite time for it. This new time will be Saturday after break, and we would be pleased to anybody who is interested in railways.

Various school outings were took us on railways that, until the late 1950s, were the backbone of Britain's transportation system, and on these Charlie was in his element. We travelled to Leeds, then Sheffield and through the Woodhead Tunnel under the Pennines to Liverpool; the overhead electric railway was still in operation and a ride alongside the docks showed us the vast amount of shipping using Liverpool in those days. When British Railways decided to move into the twentieth century and put diesel railcars on the Harrogate-Leeds-Bradford run, Charlie arranged for a group of us to travel with the Mayor of Harrogate on the first public journey from Harrogate to Leeds then Bradford; I recall that the terminus in Leeds was the now-demolished Wellington Street LNER station. Little did we realise when passing through Sheffield that a certain schoolboy by the name of Michael Palin was probably on a day out by train to see the Valley Gardens in Harrogate.

The following photograph was provided by Michael Levine; it shows Driver Earl with a gathering of the Railway Club in 1952.
To the right of Mr Earl is John Mikelsburg, Michael Levine, ?, Malcolm Walker, ?
Second row: John lever; Ian Chippendale?: Rex Tipping?; ?;?; and the three in the striped Norwood jackets, Anthony Eden; Charles Bell, Robin Sellers?; ?.
Henry Goldstone is stood, last figure on the right.

A newspaper article in 1999, recalling some facts about Norwood, said:

"Mr Cass was a railway enthusiast, who liked to meet parents, pupils or visiting dignitaries arriving in Harrogate railway Station. On occasion, if the train was late, the top hatted stationmaster suggested to Mr Cass that he would send an engine out to see if it could be of assistance!
Mr Cass also allowed the Harrogate Model Railway and Experimental Railway Society to use the cellars at Norwood College, so doubtless railway allusions often figured in the headmaster's speech."
Charlie had met up with Mr Mark Haddesley, a member of the club, and when the subject of model railways was mentioned, apparently Charlie jumped at the chance of offering the club members free use of the Norwood basement for their layout. A OO gauge layout was made in the basement, even to the extent of cutting small apertures in some walls to allow the track to go from one room to another. This arrangement lasted for about ten years and came to an end in 1971. When this account was relayed to me, the Railway Club member, Mr R Prattley, said, "We went up to his study and there was a huge inflated weather balloon!"

An old boy of Norwood has a Christmas card that was sent to Charlie showing an L.M.S. Class 5 leaving Harrogate on a steam hauled passenger train shortly before their termination in Spring 1967. The card is from Harrogate Model Railway and Experimental Engineering Society and signed by Frank C. Haddlesay (Chairman).

A long, dark corridor connected the rear of the Tewit Well Ave part to the Leeds Rd part of Norwood and at the Leeds Rd end an equally dark staircase lead down to the enormous basement. Curiously, this basement, that must have been constructed in about 1907, was perfectly smooth concrete and was used for gym when the weather was too bad to be in the playground. However, under the staircase was a pile of O Gauge railway track, made, I think, by Bassett Lowke; this could have been a left-over from the Model Railway Society events mentioned above. When no.3 Leeds Rd was added, this track and various O Gauge engines were put to use in a common room.

Charlie had a considerable number of British Railways posters in mint condition; they were originals and not mere reproductions so would now have been of considerable value.

Whilst Norwood College Railway Club was having its sessions, across the Atlantic in West Virginia, the Cass Scenic Railroad was operating with steam engines. Perhaps that was too far away for a day out with Charlie!

By John Perrett:
When Charlie took us for one of his less interesting classes, it was fairly easy to divert him towards one of his favourite subjects; Railways, Aviation, anything inflatable, travel or food. This would proceed well until he saw someone paying less than 100% attention and he would say, "Oh well if you're not interested, we'll do algebra," whereupon the class would turn its wrath on the disinterested boy and plead with Charlie to continue which he usually did.

By Tony Eden:

Doing my duty as Chairman of the Saturday morning Railway Club, I asked in the usual fashion if "Mr Cass would Mr Cass like to say a few words?". One day Charlie turned to me and said, "No, thank you!" and left me to it! As usual, his face was beaming with his wide smile.

Charlie often mentioned the Bradshaw guides during and out of Railway Club Meetings - just like we would refer to Expedia or Google these days. In November,2004, I stayed at Audleys Wood Hotel near Basingstoke and found that the house was built in 1880 for Sir George Bradshaw, famous in Victorian times for publishing British and Continental Railway (and canal) Guides. These guides became very famous and Charlie would have been thrilled to have had the opportunity of staying in Bradshaw’s house albeit as a hotel.
However, one puzzling detail is that he died in 1853 but several sources say the house for built for him in 1880. Hmmm.

Photo by Tony Eden

As a footnote to this page, I wonder whether Charlie had heard of the Harrogate Gas Works Railway? Its no joke! See A History of the Harrogate Gas Works Railway or Back To Square One.

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