SCRCA Note: Origin of water cranes relocated to Settle Station

Submitted by mark.harvey / Fri, 27/02/2015 - 21:52
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The two water cranes currently installed at Settle station were originally used for 'watering' steam locomotives at Skipton station. After they became operationally redundant following the withdrawal of mainline steam locomotives, they were dismantled by railway personnel and transported to the railway engineering yard at Appleby for safe-keeping. On 10th November 2011, they were transported to Settle Station by Network Rail, then re-erected on pre-prepared reinforced concrete blocks using the Settle Coal Company's road crane. The water crane that is now located beside the signal box (Structure Id. 236387) was originally located at the south end of Skipton Station, while the one now located in the Tank House Yard (Structure Id. 236595) was originally located at the north end of Skipton Station.

When the possibility of relocating these two structures to Settle was first being discussed, it was hoped that they could be installed on - or very close to - the site of the water crane that originally served Settle Station, namely: 'Up' = Structure Id. 236400, 'Down' = Structure Id. 236580. Unfortunately, this was quickly ruled-out for a range of operational and safety reasons, so alternative locations had to be sought. A site for one was quickly identified beside the signal box, just a few yards from the location of Settle's original 'up' water crane. However, finding a home for the other proved to be much more problematic. After much discussion, it was reluctantly agreed that the Tank House Yard was the best (or, more accurately, the least-worst) of the available options.

The two relocated and fully restored water cranes have been painted using the same palette of colours as the water tank that sits on top of the nearby Settle Tank House (Structure Id. 236387). Although there is no known documentary record of the colour scheme used by the Midland Railway Company for their water cranes, research by the Midland Railway Society and Roy Burrows unearthed a number of black & white photographs that included a water tank / tank house and a water crane in the same shot. Although the photographs were black & white, different shades of grey could be discerned in distinct bands on both the tanks and the water cranes, suggesting that both were painted with a common multi-coloured scheme. Fortunately, the colours used on the tank above Settle Tank House had recently been identified using paint samples obtained from the structure during its restoration. These samples allowed the tank to be painted in an authentic Midland Railway Company colour scheme. This, in turn, allowed the colours of the water cranes in the old photographs to be 'guesstimated' by comparing the shades of grey.

According to Mark Rand (a former Chairman of FoSCL and the proud owner of Settle Tank House):

"Water cranes varied quite a lot in appearance. These Midland Railway cranes are particularly elegant and sculptural. For obvious reasons they were called swan necked cranes. The hoses, or trunks of these cranes were originally made of leather. The present hoses are of synthetic woven material supplied free of charge by Angus Fire of Bentham - makers of fire hoses and other flexible pipelines for fire brigades and industry generally (see [The trunks used at Settle] are the uncoated inner cores of large fire hoses. Normally they would be dipped in rubber and hung to dry in the hose tower alongside Bentham railway station. One interesting fact emerged [during our research]: the horizontal booms [of the water cranes] were colour coded. Cream or white indicated a clean and plentiful supply.  Red indicated a less reliable or contaminated supply of last resort. I think in later years they just got painted silver or red lead, if at all. I [also] found a Midland Railway notice to locomotive crews on how to fill the tender using these cranes. The main message is 'don't drive off with the hose still in the tender and the crane's chain still attached'  Presumably some bitter experience somewhere!"

Unfortunately, it has not been (and will not be) possible to use either of the water cranes for their original purpose. The conversion of the Tank House to a dwelling would have made this difficult enough, but the need to site the structures well-away from the main running lines rules it out completely. However, the installation of these two structures within the station area does enhance the overall 'heritage feel' of the site and, perhaps more importantly, it helps with the conservation area narrative by linking the Tank House back to the railway that it once served.


Text by Mark R. Harvey except for the direct quote taken from an article written by Mark Rand. (© Mark R. Harvey and Mark Rand.)