Four Minute Warning
It’s still there! Had another day cycling around my old home turf of Hale and noticed that this once ominous relic of the cold war is still in place. This is the the siren that would have given the residents of Hale village the “four minute warning” so we could all scuttle into our makeshift (useless) home-made “Protect and Survive” shelters as megatons of nuclear firepower burst over the city and the nearby airport!
I vividly remember the chilling sound of this very siren being tested and creating a hellish drone beating with our local siren on the roof of the Unicorn (pub) hotel in Hale Barns; a mile up the road. The siren was originally hooked up to a nearby telephone pole and was activated by a special signal sent over the telephone network. This, at the time, secret civil defence system hidden in plain sight was known as HANDEL, the switching circuit in that box on the pole was constantly listening to the speaking clock until this special signal came along to activate the siren and warn us that the unthinkable was actually underway and the end of our technological civilisation and the lives of millions was suddenly a horrible reality — The sight of this thing dose bring back a lot of memories of my youthful anxiety about nuclear war.
- Aperture: ƒ/11
- Focal length: 50mm
- ISO: 100
- Shutter speed: 1/125s
If you are interested in reading more about this intriguing subject or just want to indulge technical geekery with a dose of miserabalism then you may find some of the links below interesting: –
My own piece on the “Backbone” tower at Sutton Common: BT Tower, Sutton Common
A detailed explanation of the HANDEL warning network: British Nuclear Warning System
UK cold war plans & exercises: Struggle for Survival
A few semi-experimental pictures from a night on Hale station. This is a very special location for me, and a place that featured prominently in my childhood. I spent many hours here watching trains, generally relaxing, or occasionally taking a ride to Chester or Llandudno and for many in Hale and Altrincham it was the holiday line. it was also a favourite retreat in my school lunchtimes.
The station is a listed building and quite deservedly so. The beautiful canopies date back to the era of the Cheshire Lines Committee, the organisation responsible for building and operating the Mid Cheshire line in its earliest days. Hale station building, or more specifically the canopies, and the now sadly out of use signal box, are very important townscape features and a focal point in the large suburban village of Hale, much of which was developed around the railway and rapidly became a well-healed retreat for commuting Manchester cotton tots. Though in my life-time the setting has changed a lot!
The route was always very busy with a variety of freight mostly heading to and from the industrial heartlands of west Cheshire, Liverpool and Warrington which included the iconic Tunstead to Northwich stone trains. The line is continuing to see a growth in both freight and passenger traffic today with a dramatic increase in night freight traffic due to a lack of day time capacity – some of this traffic is literally travelling from one end of the country to the other. The mid Cheshire is quite a well connected line and can be used as a relief route for anything heading for any part of the network in the south including London, Wales and the West country but is still designated as a secondary route – not a main line.
- Aperture: ƒ/5.6
- Focal length: 19mm
- ISO: 100
- Shutter speed: 2s