For years there have been rumours that a steam locomotive and three open goods wagons disappeared into Bingley Bog during the construction of the Bingley to Keighley line in the 1840’s and that it is still buried where it sank. The train and its trucks were said to have been swallowed up by the bog somewhere in the area once occupied by Bingley Auction Market.
Local historian Alan Cattell has been approached by several Bingley residents asking him if the rumour is fact or fiction. This article explores his investigation to date.
Telegraph and Argus Investigation in January/February 1988
In response to an enquiry from regulars at the Glen pub in Gilstead in 1988 the Telegraph and Argus investigated a number of sources to find out if there was any truth to the rumour.
Despite contact with British Rail, The National Railway Museum, local libraries and historians no written or hard evidence was forthcoming and the newspaper concluded that “A persistent and long standing piece of a towns’ folklore has been scotched.
The then landlord of the Glen, David Hardiman said in response to the findings of the investigation “So the engine in the Bingley Bog is just a lovely little story that’s developed down the years”.
Despite the Telegraph and Argus enquiries 24 years ago the rumour still persists…. so is there any other evidence which might suggest a solution to the mystery?
Other Sources of Information
To try to answer the question I have searched 19th Century newspaper articles from 1846/47 when the rail line through the bog was being built.
I have also checked all local history books relating to Bingley by authors, Cudworth, Dodd, Speight, Horsfall-Turner and Firth.
There is no record in these sources of a locomotive sinking into the bog at any time.
WHAT MAY HAVE HAPPENED?
Building the Rail Line 1846/7
- Horsfall-Turner records that when the line was being built in 1846 “Great difficulties were experienced in finding a solid foundation for the line owing to the existence of an insatiable quagmire bog. This morass was forty five feet deep, composed of turf, bog soil and swamp which yielded to the pressure of the embankment, so readily that the ground was rent into fissures, engulfing and capsizing the line”.
- The railway inspector of the time was very complimentary about the way the line had been constructed at Bingley, including how the problem of negotiating the bog had been successfully resolved.
Had a locomotive sunk into the bog during the construction of the railway this would have been recorded in newspaper reports of the time.
Two significant reports made in the months leading up to the opening of the railway, talk of the problems of construction but not of any incidence of a sinking locomotive:
Daily News February 1 1847 An Insatiable Bog –
The railway between Shipley and Keighley is progressing rapidly with the exception of the part near Bingley Church called the Bingley Bog. Sixty tons of earth and stones are cast into this bog every hour of the day. The earth and stones on the east end are conveyed from Nab Wood and from the west by horses.
Notwithstanding this immense quantity being dropped into the gulf at both ends by three lines of rails, all is swallowed up every morning, the heavy matter sinking thus, forces the lighter up and makes a black spongy embankment on both sides.
Bradford Observer March 8, 1847
The Directors Opening –
We are now going over the much talked of Bingley Bog: it seems now quite firm… It ought to be satisfied as no fewer than 100,000 cubic yards of solid earth and stone have been poured into the insatiable maw of this bog”
Building the Grammar School 1853 Speight (1898)recorded:
In 1853 a new Bingley Grammar School was built, but in a few years it had to be abandoned as it showed signs of giving way; the site unfortunately being close to the treacherous Bingley Bog which gave the railway contractors so much trouble.”
The School was built in the same position as the rumoured place that the locomotive was said to have sunk and in making comment Speight made a link between the School, the Bog and the Railway.
Firth (1977) records :
In 1853 the new grammar school was constructed on land that now houses the Bingley Auction Market. …This building was declared unsafe by a government inspector in October 1860. The Bingley Bog on which it had been erected soon caused structural distortions and the school was actually rebuilt on its present site”
Collision at Bingley Railway Station 1867
The only specific mention of a locomotive problem at Bingley I can find was recorded in the Lancashire Gazette of 2nd November 1867 under the heading Collision at Bingley Railway Station:
At about eight o’ clock the goods train from Leeds to Lancaster came up at the rate of about twenty miles per hour and ran into the wagons which were on the main line, three were broken into atoms and a fourth much damaged. The engine was thrown off the line and badly damaged.”
A Possible explanation
History and urban myth can often develop or become distorted over a period of time where seemingly unrelated facts are combined to present what is then regarded as fact.
- The Capsizing of the Railway line into the bog when it was being built.
- The sinking into the bog of the Grammar School building at the Auction Mart location.
- The derailing and damage of the locomotive and three wagons at Bingley Station.
Each of these may have been combined to present what then became known as local fact e.g That a locomotive had sunk into the bog at Bingley.
All the events described above occurred within a twenty-one year time frame during a period when the railway system was young, unknown and mysterious and still becoming established in people’s lives and minds.
These are my suggestions on what may have happened…
But do any readers know differently? Please comment below:
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First published 2011 ©Alan Cattell, 2011
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