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DAVE GOULDER- The Golden Days Of Steam

DAVE GOULDER- The Golden Days Of Steam
 Fellside FECD221

The songs on this CD (a compilation of 1988’s The Man Who Put The Engine In The Chip Shop and 1971’s Requiem For Steam) could scarcely have been written by anyone who hadn’t served his time in the old British Railways.  Dave ‘January Man’ Goulder certainly paid his dues, as a station porter, engine cleaner and fireman - then it was back to the sheds when eye trouble removed him from the footplate.  He’d left the service before Dr Richard Beeching was appointed chairman of the British Railways Board, but that didn’t stop him lamenting the end of steam in Requiem and the butchering of the network in Shut-down Of The Pinxton Line.  There’s a tale of a mishap in Turntable Song and of a hair-raising footplate experience in The Day We Run Away but the prevailing mood is one of pessimism.

By the time Goulder recorded the Chip Shop collection (which comprises the first 25 tracks on this CD) the situation was more hopeful, with preservation societies springing up throughout the country and reopening sections of track. Goulder was moved to celebrate the great days of steam in Race To The North and The Settle & Carlisle and workhorses of the network in Eight Freight Blues - but he counterbalanced their optimism with Stanley Accrington’s elegiac Last Train and Cyril Tawney’s In The Sidings Now and The Dinosaur The Railway Left Behind remembers the old railwaymen who failed to manage the transition into Beeching’s brave new age.

It is good to have these recordings available once more, but they are a stark reminder of what was so casually destroyed, which might now have come into its own.  ‘Never speak ill of the dead’, my mother cautioned me.  In the case of Beeching, arrogant, overpaid and ultimately so shortsighted, it’s tempting to make an exception.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.