14 August 2022

Local historians to celebrate centenary of wind power innovation

By Rebecca Hannant

A formerly popular Spurn favourite, the land bogie, is set to make a rare appearance at the Spurn Discovery Centre.

Since its origins, the land bogie has been dubbed “an unusual method of transportation”, but it once played a key role in getting from Spurn to Kilnsea in a hurry. It could also be said that the land bogie was a pioneer of wind power in Holderness.

During the First World War, the UK Government produced a light railway along the sands from Spurn to Kilnsea for the purpose of serving the battery at Kilnsea. But from 1919 onwards, the railway and its surrounding fortifications saw less use. One day, Kilnsea resident Charles Hailes wanted to travel quickly from Spurn to Kilnsea. Spotting a small disused bogie on the line, he had an idea. However, the propelling force would be a problem. Consulting with his friend and Kilnsea resident Edwin Hodgson, they got to work on finding a sail that could be attached to the bogie.

Fortunately, at the nearby YMCA, Mr Hailes found a sheet that had been used as a cinema screen for those stationed at the garrison. He nailed the sheet to a mast, and, as reported by Hull Daily Mail, they stepped aboard while “a gale was blowing from the south, and almost before they had realised it, they were off like a shot from a gun, at a mile a minute”.

But the winds failed to stop and, as the bogie approached the Kilnsea battery, they realised that they had no brakes, and were likely to crash. Thinking quickly, Mr Hailes took out his knife and slashed the sail free, and the bogie retained its strong momentum, rushing along a considerable distance before eventually coming to a halt.

The prototype underwent several changes between the wars including the addition of working brakes. Several bogies were created, serving the people who worked in the area, including lifeboatmen, lighthouse keepers and any visiting civilians. Following the success of the Spurn landship, as it became known, an article was written by the Hull Daily Mail on October 5, 1922, describing it as “an adventure to the stranger, but the residents are getting used to it now”.

It is said that the bogies were in use up until 1939.

During the renovation of the Spurn Discovery Centre created for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in 2016, a replica of the bogie was suggested to go into production. Local historian Phil Mathison, and Torkel Larsen, former chairman of the Withernsea Pier and Promenade Association, made a new bogie, and set about using it for events, to give people a chance to experience the pioneering invention.

Mr Mathison said: “With the Humber region being at the forefront of wind turbines and green energy, we felt that to be appropriate.”

To mark the centenary of its creation, the replica bogie will make an appearance at the Spurn Discovery Centre from 10.30am to 4pm on Saturday, July 16.

Mr Mathison has also written a book about Spurn, titled Sails, Paddles and Rails, which documents how the nature reserve became a popular tourist destination. Copies, priced £8.99, are available from the Gazette office in Seaside Road, Withernsea.