BERLIN BOUND - Isobel Daws secures place at Karajan Academy

Issue 6125

SCOTTISH FUNDING - SBBA receives Creative Scotland award

CONTEST CANCELLED - West of England Regionals off

CURTAIN RISING - RNCM Festival set for take-off

PUSHED BACK - Australian Nationals postponed

Brass bands and the railways

Thursday 13 January, 2022

Brass bands and the railways have long been entwined. From bands marking significant milestones on railways to trains carrying bandspeople up and down the land, the two have been inextricably linked from the early days of the musical form. Julia Winterson comes from what was once a railway family, with associations going back to the nineteenth century. Her lifelong interest in trains comes from idyllic childhood holidays staying at Pool-in Wharfedale station where her grandfather was the station master.

Julia, who combines part-time lecturing in music with a career in writing and has had more than 20 books on music published, examines the connections between railways and brass bands.


When the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, it was the first steam-powered railway to carry passengers. Since then there has been no shortage of music connected with trains and railways: orchestral pieces and popular songs describing railway journeys; those that celebrate the opening of a new line; work-songs and blues describing the hardship of building the railroads, even the first use of sampled music used railway sounds as its source.

Railways and brass bands have long been associated. The first association, and one familiar to many, is the long tradition of brass bands playing at railway stations to mark significant occasions such as the opening of a new line. When Holmfirth station opened on July 1, 1850 the first branch train was scheduled to leave the terminus on its way to Huddersfield. Church bells tolled throughout the Holme Valley from early in the morning signalling the importance of the day and the Holmfirth Band played a series of pieces on the station platform. A locomotive left the station, with the band placed in two open carriages, playing all the way to Huddersfield, ignoring the torrential rain, and pausing only when the train ran through tunnels.

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Issue 6122 digital January 6, 2022