Railway Magazine (1908) - Railway Sculptors and their Handiwork

The following is a transcription of a historic article and may contain occasional errors.

Several modern railway stations possess distinctly artistic architectural features; few stations, however, have received attention at the hands of sculptors, and amongst those that have been so treated, it will be difficult to find places where the sculptor has honoured a railway subject with the skill of his chisel.

Such a case does, however, exist, and, as our illustrations show, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway is the line that has thus received attention at the hands of the sculptors — for, strange to say, Berry Brow, as the station thus honoured is called — is decorated with the handiwork of at least two sculptors, whilst legend already credits three artists as having been engaged upon the carvings.

Probably the circumstance that first suggested the idea of decorating the station by sculpture, was the fact that the station is in a rock cutting, and the almost perpendicular sides of which offered a natural mass of material upon which the artist could work.

Like many important events in railway history that occurred in the pre-Railway Magazine era, no record appears to have been made of the circumstances under which the first carvings at Berry Brow came into existence.

From enquiries that Mr. C.W. Bayley, the Chief Traffic Manager of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, most kindly had instituted for the purpose of this article, it appears that the carving was executed during the six years 1860-1865. The date is thus fixed, because at that period the engines working on the Huddersfield and Penistone section of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway on many occasions came to a stand at Berry Brow station, which would give the sculptor opportunities to study them, and thus correctly reproduce the type of engine on the stone he was carving. As will be seen from the photo, the engine had a very large dome over the firebox, and was without a cab, as is provided on modern engines on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

Further, the tender is a four-wheel one, and the passenger coaches are distinctly of a type not constructed within the past 40 years.

The sculptor, who was named Thomas Stocks, was at this time quite a young man, carrying on his profession in Berry Brow, and, like most, young professional sculptors, had plenty of spare time on his hands. We can imagine he was an ardent railwayac, and, therefore, made frequent journeys to the station, then in course of construction. Being struck with the idea that a model of a locomotive engine would be a lasting example of his skill, he took a pencil sketch of it, and afterwards set himself the task of carving it out of the stone. When completed, he offered his work to the late station master, Mr. McKie and Mr. Boothley, Inspector of Way, who accepted it, and had it placed in the rock with rough stones piled round it in the position now occupied by the more recent model, but, when the latter was carved, it was given the position of honour at Berry Brow, and the older carving was removed to the less prominent position it now occupies.

We are glad to be able to place on record the fact, that the older carving was the work of Thos. Stocks, because, some few years after it had been executed, another sculptor, named Kitson, arose in the district, who afterwards emigrated to America, and became famous there. The circumstance caused local pride to encourage the suggestion that, the carving of this engine was the work of Kitson. This erroneous idea has now become fixed in the locality, Berry Browians thinking it adds importance to their local station, when they tell enquiring strangers that “the old carving was done by a lad of 16, named Kitson, who resided in the district, and emigrated to America, where he became a famous sculptor — of course, you have heard of him, Sir?”

We will now proceed to trace the history of the more modern carving.

Thos. Stocks having in the meantime died, his son, J.C. Stocks, who also followed his father’s profession, having noticed that his father’s handiwork at Berry Brow station attracted so much attention, decided to carve another engine, and having procured the necessary stone from Crosland Moor, which is adjacent to Berry Brow, and obtained a photo of a modern Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway engine, set to work and produced the model engine and train emerging from the tunnel. The officers of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway already mentioned decided that the new carving should occupy a prominent position at Berry Brow, so the old carving was removed and placed between two rocks near to the position occupied by the more recent model, and the latter took its place. The frame work of stone in which the original carving was placed had for a keystone a striking mythical head. This head, however, was carved by the late Toms. Stocks, and some little time after being placed in position, Mr. J.C. Stocks, the carver of the more recent model, decided, as his model was now below the keystone, to substitute a carving of his own for a keystone, in place of the one carved by his father, and ultimately the striking face was placed in its present position.

It will interest readers of the Railway Magazine to learn that this latter head is supposed to be a likeness of the late Mr. Thos. Swinburn. who came to Lancashire from Newcastle with the late George Stephenson, and was in the service of the London and North-Western, Preston and Wyre, and East Lancashire Railways; the latter line afterwards became the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, and Mr. Swinburn was. at the time of the carving, an engineer on the Huddersfield and Penistone section of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, and it was probably this circumstance that caused J.C. Stocks to reproduce his face on the keystone.

Mr. John and Mr. Thos. Swinburn, two sons of the late Mr. Thos. Swinburn, above referred to, at the present time hold responsible positions in the engineering department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the first-named having been in that railway’s service for a period of 40 years, and the latter for about 30 years.

It is, perhaps. worthy of mention that the late Mr. Mark Markland, the superintendent of the locomotive department at Peterborough, on the Midland Railway, who was in that railway’s service tor 60 years, was brother-in-law of the late Mr. Thos. Swinburn, and his son, Mr. Joseph Mark land, is at present locomotive superintendent at Newton Heath on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

Mr. Joseph Markland, another brother-in-law of Mr. Thos. Swinburn, held the position of locomotive superintendent at Blackburn on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, for many years, so that, apart from the considerable general interest that these railway carvings must raise in the mind of travellers, the keystone, in particular, is of unusual interest to many railway officers, and to a wide circle of friends and acquaintances of these gentlemen.