Carlisle rail station roof photos show how times have changed in 50 years


They’re incredible pictures that tell a tale of two eras.

In one, hard-hatted workmen wearing full high-visibilty jackets, trousers and safety boots put the finishing touches to one of the biggest engineering projects seen in Carlisle in recent years.

The other - pre-dating the first by more than 50 years - flat-capped rail workers carry out a similar task in the same roof space at Carlisle Railway Station, dressed in just a pair of overalls, in an age before health and safety ruled.

It was the first photograph, published recently and revealing the £14.5 million project that has transformed the roof space at Carlisle railway station, that sparked a touching tale of memories of a much-loved dad’s work in the 1960s.

One of the black-and-white photographs taken by Cumbrian Newspapers’ former chief photographer Billy Walker in the 1960s bore a remarkable resemblance to one featured in our sister paper the News & Star.

It was spotted by Billy’s daughter-in-law, Angie Walker, who by coincidence works at Carlisle railway station as a conductor team manager.

The family lost a large amount of Billy’s photographic collection when their Carlisle home was flooded during Storm Desmond.

“But I remembered the photograph of work painting the steelwork in the roof space at the station was one that was not ruined in the floods. It’s a beautiful photograph,” said Angie.

A search of Cumbrian Newspapers’ archives uncovered a collection of photographs taken by Billy and fellow photographer Jim Turner, on January 15, 1964, when they clambered up into the roof space using only a wooden ladder - and not one hard-hat or high-visibility jacket between them.

“We think the workmen must have been painting the steelwork.

“When you think how they didn’t bother with health and safety in those days and look at how the workmen working on the new roof had to be kitted out,” said Angie, 40.

Billy’s son, Liam, 51, said he was not sure how the old photograph came to be in his dad’s collection but he had his own views on that.

He said: “Dad was always promising people copies of photographs he had taken and on this occasion it was probably one that was meant for one of the painters.

“But they only ever got as far as one of the drawers at home.

“We had laid out all the photographs we had saved from the floods and Angie recalled seeing one taken by dad that was almost a replica of the one in the story in the News & Star.”

Recalling his father’s career, Liam, an engineer, added: “Dad was very adventurous during his time at the paper.

“He climbed Dixon’s Chimney and took photographs from the top.

“Heights didn’t bother him and it was all part of his job.”

The new roof installed at the station is big enough to cover the pitch at Carlisle United’s Brunton Park one-and-a-half times over.

The project has also seen work on beams high above the tracks and platform.

Scores of glass panels that have been part of the roof for decades have now been removed and replaced with the latest ethylene tetrafluoroethylene panels.

The material, which has already been installed at Manchester Victoria and Birmingham New Street railway stations, has also been used on the Eden Project in Cornwall as well as the Allianz Arena, in Munich.

Network Rail, which owns the station and leases it to operator Virgin Trains, says the new roof will make the building safer for both staff and passengers. It will also provide improved and safer maintenance access.

New lighting has also been installed, which it is hoped will make the station brighter and more welcoming.

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