Incidents at BOCM outside Selby

These dramatic accounts were submitted by Cyril Pickup who worked at BOCM at Barlby, just north of Selby friom 1953 to 1976 before moving to the Electricity Supply industry.

A Near Miss

The year of my story was approximately 1957, because I was an apprentice from 1953 to 1958. I was working with a fitter called Harry Smith. We were detailed to collect 50 bars of “knife bar steel” from the Twitchel stores on the South Side. Steel bars were about 6 foot long 2” x 3/8” bright steel with sharp edges. These were to be cut to length and machined to fit the oil presses. At about 11:30 AM we had loaded the bars onto a flat iron wheelbarrow, lashed with rope and pulled by a Lister truck.

When we got to the crossing, the barriers were down. We waited until about 11:55 AM, no sign of crossing before lunch so we packed up and went for lunch.

On return after lunch we still had to wait a while. Eventually the barriers lifted, the chap in the little cabin shouted to hurry up as the barrier had to come down again quickly.

The surface of the crossing consisted of sleepers laid crossways and very uneven.

We set off but due to the iron wheels and uneven surface the sharp edges of the steel cut through the rope and the whole lot slithered off literally all over the place! Poor chap in the cabin was having a fit!! “Scotman’s coming. Scotman’s coming !!”

It must have taken some little while to start to shift the piles of steel. Next thing, round the bend from York appeared what turned out to be the London-bound Flying Scotsman express, whistle blowing, sparks flying. It actually ran through the stop signal on the gantry (1 on sketch below) and managed to stop about 20 yards short of the crossing. Talk about panic stations. The driver was out of his cab, people were opening windows in the carriages to see why the emergency stop. The fireman must have had a fit because, just before we got clear and the engine could move, the safety valve blew and steam pressure needed to set off was lost.

I don’t know what engine it was then it was a “streak”. Seemingly it was sacrilege to interfere with the running of the “Flying Scotsman” train. There obviously was an inquest into the affair, but only being the apprentice I wasn’t asked my opinion of what happened that day.

Many man hours must have been lost by employees transporting goods from one side of the factory to the other is if the lines were busy a goods train could be stopped by signals on the other gantry (2) thus overlapping the crossing. Half-hour waits were not uncommon.

Another Narrow Miss

Another story concerns a BOCM watchman, Ray Marshall, doing his rounds on a very foggy night. He was crossing the lines by the footway near Barlby North cabin, pushing his bike. A slow-moving engine, literally silent running, appeared and took his bike with it. One very frightened man!


It was always interesting in the days of steam the sit out in the summer lunchtime and watch the rail traffic. Not only the express engines had names but the trains as well had name boards on the carriages and sometimes a headboard on the engine.


The railway company originally had a Sentinel vertical boiler shunter at BOCM for shooting wagons from one side of the factory across, up and down, to the other side. Once at the South Side the wagons would be moved from and to South Side warehouse white star by means of a wire rope and capstan.

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