THE last train over Stainmore, Barnard Castle to Tebay, ran on January 20, 1962. There was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; they blamed Ernie Marples.

While the band played Auld Lang Syne, at Kirkby Stephen East station someone had come up with four Victorian velocipedes, to one of which was attached the message that it would now be quicker by penny farthing.

The final scheduled diesel from Penrith to Darlington had left shortly after 8.30pm. Twenty minutes later, a Railway Correspondence and Travel Society special – steam-hauled and lugubrious – headed in the same direction, a double-headed cortege with over 400 people on board.

They included two Royal Grammar School boys from Newcastle, wearing black ties and carrying a wreath; other mourners lined the route. Though the train briefly conked out near Belah – the Echo’s man blamed a dirty fire on the pilot engine – it reached Darlington shortly before midnight.

“Kirkby Stephen’s transport fortune now lies in its being a staging post for charabancs to Blackpool and the Lakes,” added David Spark in the Echo, and long the little Westmoreland town continued along that Primrose path.

The whole thing, of course, had a use-it-or-lose-it irony familiar to this day. Those 400 passengers, said British Rail’s district manager, had probably paid around £600 between them.

“If there’d been more of that,” he added, “the line would never have closed.”

THE Primrose, as many will recall, was a coach service which plied between the North-East and Blackpool.

Kirkby Stephen never did get a bypass, maybe never wanted one.

The primrose path was something else entirely, the phrase – like so many more – attributed to Shakespeare, Ophelia’s advice to Hamlet.

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede.

ALL that’s merely playing for time – a smokescreen as our man with the dirty fire might have said – before a bit of serious breast beating.

The column two weeks ago was also railway-themed, chiefly concerning Thomas Bouch who not only built the Belah and Deepdale viaducts on the Stainmore line but, more infamously, the Tay Bridge, too.

In numbers that might have overflowed the last train over Stainmore Summit, readers – ever gentle readers – queue to point out the errors. They include Gordon Best, whose email address embraces the code 51A. Railway people will understand.

For one thing, the line wasn’t a Beeching victim – as we’d supposed – because the Beeching report on Britain’s railway system wasn’t published until the following year.

Marples was the Minster of Transport.

Belah wasn’t west of Kirkby Stephen – as we said – but to the east between Stainmore and the station; the infamous snowstorm which trapped a steam engine in Bleath Gill wasn’t in 1947 but in 1955 (there’s a film of it).

Then there’s Thomas Bouch himself, unlikely – despite the column’s absurd attestation – to have been the person after whom Bouch Street in Shildon is named.

That’s William Bouch, his brother, who came to the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1854 and for 21 years was locomotive superintendent at Shildon – building, it’s said, some outstanding engines at what became known as Shildon Works.

William Bouch was also engineer to the Weardale and Shildon Water Works Company, chiefly responsible for the design and engineering of reservoirs at Tunstall, Waskerley and Smiddy Shaw.

His wife was reckoned a funny ’un, mind, much given to Homage – probably some Victorian soft drink.

As Parkin Raine points out, there’s now a Bouch Way in Barnard Castle – and that one’s believed to salute the much-maligned Thomas. Quite right, too, says Parkin.

Thanks also to Charles Allenby in Malton, R Goad, Ken Laverick in Crook, A Hawman in Darlington, Chris Lee and Paula Ryder.

“If I’m wrong, I stand to be corrected,”

says Paula – but, then again, don’t we all?

WE all make mistakes, of course. David Burniston, in Darlington, points out that the Echo has twice in recent weeks described former Newcastle Falcons rugby star Jonny Wilkinson, right, as Toulon’s “marquee signing” for 2009-10.

David’s puzzled.

“Does this mean that, instead of playing rugby, they’re hiring him out for weddings instead?”

THE column a fortnight ago had at least been able to debunk the notion that the word “botch” – meaning to make a mess of something – was originally Scottish, coined after the Tay Bridge disaster.

We’d found 14th Century references. Bill Taylor – Bishop Auckland lad, now in Canada – traces it back to the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 28 verse 27. “The Lord shall smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.”

There was much more, and worse.

The Lord, happily, appears to have been more merciful of late.

LIKE the unfortunate locomotive amid the blizzard at Bleath Gill, the column has spent many weeks up to its smoke stack in snow.

Robbie Young, now in Bishop Auckland, recalls a childhood winter in which he and his mum had to walk over the hedge tops from Middridge – where then they lived – to Shildon.

The wind had whipped the wind off the fields into giant drifts. Finally in Shildon – “the big city,” says Robbie, reverentially – young Robbie was left to have his hair cut while his mum did the shopping.

It was only back in Middridge, when someone asked “Where’s Robert?”, that she realised he was still at the barber’s – and had to trudge all the way back again.

NOTHING much else seems to have happened during our week’s holiday, save for an email that no words in the English language rhyme with silver, orange, month or purple. Fascinating stuff.

There’s also a letter from a Newcastle company identifying me as “One of the North-East’s most influential people” and offering wealth management. “It’s paramount to take advantage when markets are low,” it says. They’ll be in touch again to arrange a meeting with one of their partners, and are likely to get a shock.

CLEARLY it’s to be something of a Shildon column for here, finally, is a Wagon Works story from John Winterburn, in Darlington.

John swears it’s true and so it may be. The one about Tommy Taylor and the matchstick definitely was – ask them at Bishop General – but we won’t go into that again.

Those who’d been at the Works ten years or more could get staff status, says John. It meant that after being sick a man need only fill in the appropriate form and be paid.

“This old chap had been off a week and filled in the form. The foreman took it to the medical officer who the following day sent for the old feller.”

The doc was puzzled. “It says here that you’ve been off with swine fever,” he said.

“So I have,” said the