Bygone Days of Derwent Valley Blackberry Specials.
Q. What was the origin of the affectionate colloquial name, "The Blackberry Line?"
The name Blackberry Line seems like the perfect name for a rural railway. So, was the name just a whimsical fancy? The name invokes thoughts of idyllic pastoral scenes in which trains made their way between farms, from village station to village station, on lazy hazy days of late Summer, past bushy stands of blackberry canes laden with ripe black jucy fruits glowing with dew as the the smiling sun drove off the enveiling morning mists. Passengers' anticipation heightened as every puff of steam from the engine counted down the time to an enjoyable day of picking those ripe fruits. Judging by how much passengers were reported to have enjoyed themselves, on certain days in 1928, it may have been just like that! The DVLR Archives tell us the following about the "Blackberry Specials" in 1928:
Here's the story:
Passenger trains ceased (rather abruptly it seems) in August 1926. Following this, a number of special trains were run from Layerthorpe Station to Skipwith Station in the late 1920s, all because the area around Skipwith was rich with blackberries. Pressure from York residents resulted in the DVLR running three excursions on Bank Holiday Monday 6th August 1928. These became known as the "Blackberry Specials." Trains departed from York (Layerthorpe Station) at 9.50 am, 1.00 pm, and 7 pm, returning from Skipwith at 10.45 am, 5.45 pm and 8.00 pm. Further specials ran on Saturday 25th August, Saturday 8th September and Wednesday 12th September. In total, the trains carried 1916 passengers.
Leeds Mercury reported, "Passengers were carrying all kinds of bags, baskets and tins...even buckets. At Skipwith, the passengers split into two groups. The stationmaster's wife led one party down the line, while the stationmaster directed others to the best areas for blackberries.
Six hours later at the station, every basket, tin and bucket was full. Babies, "flappers" (Ed, "a fashionable young woman of the 1920's, especially one flouting the conventions of her mother's generation") and old people made up the happy crowd. One old lady of eighty declared it had been one of the most enjoyable outings of her life.
The stationmaster declared, "Next season we shall cater for holiday makers. A special train can be obtained for a party of twenty five upwards and people need not be millionaires to get a special."
The Innocent Enjoyable Pleasures of Blackberry Pies and Homemade Jam.
Of course, the fun wouldn't have ended when the passengers alighted from the special trains in Layerthorpe. After the passengers had so enjoyed their collective days out as reported in the newspaper, what would not have made the newspapers
were the individual decisions as to what to do with with the delicious fruits of their labours, defying the thorns to lift their prizes. Those were the days of "bottling," homemade fruit pies and homemade jams. Surely many of the blackberries went into pies to be eaten straight away. Others no doubt went into jars as jam to eat on into the Winter in continuing reminder of those very special (Blackberry Special) days out.
Fortunately, we can still see the station which was the specials' destination. The station building at Skipwith was restored but there is no forseeable way in which the DVLR heritage line could ever reach it again. The station is the private home of the operators of the self catering holiday centre, with guests staying in three former BR main line Mark Two coaches also seen in the picture. Photograph by Jonathan D. Stockwell (DVLRS Archivist).
See more of what the former station is like today at http://www.skipwithstation.com
Derwent Valley Light Railway,
c/o Yorkshire Museum of Farming,
Murton Lane, Murton, York, YO19 5UF.
Derwent Valley Light Railway Society is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
Registered number 116162