Welcome to the first of a series of regular articles written for Looking Back by Paul Salveson.

Paul is a historian and semi-retired railwayman. He was born and bred in Bolton, within sound of Crescent Road locomotive sheds, where he spent much of his childhood and youth. Most of his working life was spent on the railways, as a guard at Blackburn depot and then as a signalman in Bolton.

He moved on to adult education and worked at senior level in railway management, originating the ‘community rail’ movement. He was awarded an MBE in 2009 for ‘services to the railway industry’.

His doctorate is in Lancashire dialect literature, with a particular focus on Allen Clarke - the Bolton mill-lad who went on to edit several newspapers and write over 20 novels. He is a visiting professor in ‘Worktown Studies’ at the University of Bolton and has published several books on aspects of Bolton and Lancashire history.

His most recent production is a novel, set in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s. The Works was published by his own imprint, Lancashire Loominary, in March this year.

Paul is chair of Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and has been closely involved in the restoration of historic parts of Bolton station, transforming it into a community arts hub.

IT was the fastest train through Bolton but you weren’t allowed on. It left Victoria at the unearthly time of 3.45am, taking newspapers to Bolton, Darwen and the East Lancashire towns through to Nelson and Colne.

It was also the fastest train worked by Bolton footplatemen. The ‘job’ was split in two. A driver and fireman would sign on the previous evening at Crescent Road sheds and work a parcels train to Stockport, then go to the Red Bank carriage sidings to collect the vans. At about 3.30 the train would drop down to Platform 11 for loading.

The Bolton News:

The men would work the train as far as Bolton and get relieved by another Bolton crew to take the train on to Colne.

Victoria, in the middle of the night, was a another world. A succession of trains took newspapers from the Manchester presses to Scotland, Yorkshire and most Lancashire towns.

Vans displaying the famous national titles –the Daily Mirror, Express, Telegraph and many more - would screech down to the station from Withy Grove (‘The Other Fleet Street’) and drive at a furious pace along the platform to be sure of getting the papers loaded in time.

‘The Colne Papers’ was one of a handful of newspaper trains that had staff on board, sorting out the bundles of papers for each town. The men had to work fast to get the papers ready for collection at each station.

The Bolton News:

Once the signal for the 3.45 cleared, the guard gave the ‘right away’ and they were off. The timing from Manchester to Bolton was 17 minutes, quicker than any other train on the line. The driver had to run fast after negotiating the complex track work coming out of Salford.

It was usual for the newspaper men to offer ‘free samples’ to the railwaymen on arrival at Bolton and copies were taken back to the shed.

On one occasion the ‘perk’ was refused. Tommy Sammon was booked on the first part of the job and he was determined to get to Bolton in record time. According to his fireman, he set off ‘like a bat out of hell’.

The Bolton News:

On arrival at Bolton Tommy went to the van to see the newspaper staff and asked for his free copies. He was met by a burly red-headed Scotsman who told him in no uncertain terms that as long as he drove the train like that, he’d be getting no papers. So that week, Bolton loco shed messroom was devoid of its newspaper supply.

In the early 1970s ‘The Colne Papers’ was cut back to Blackburn. All newspaper traffic on British Rail ceased on July 10, 1988; and ‘The Other Fleet Street’ is no more.