The Splendour of the Settle to Carlisle Railway

We welcomed David Alison to our April meeting to tell us about “The Splendour of the Settle to Carlisle Railway.”

David started by giving us a potted history of the line with its 72 miles of track, 14 tunnels and 21 viaducts. The Midland Railway had an agreement with the North Western Railway that they could share their track from Ingleton  to Scotland, but this did not work out as there are many stories about the Midland train being delayed because signalmen let slow goods trains go in front, and this agreement was tenuous at the best of times. By 1869 Midland Railway decided to build a line from Settle to Carlisle and applied to parliament, and a Bill was passed to enable the line to be built. A survey was completed on horseback and the board heard that the cost would be about 3 million pounds. This they thought too much and applied to cancel, but Parliament refused the abandonment petition and the Midland were forced to build the line.

Construction began in 1869 and was engineered to follow the natural pathway through the North Pennines. It lasted seven years and about 6000 men worked on the line, the last one in England to be constructed mainly by hand. In 1875 the line opened to freight and a year later to passenger traffic. At this time there were freight trains every hour but by 1982 the line had no through trains for Scotland and only Appleby station was left open. So Friends of Settle to Carlisle Railway was formed to keep the line open. 24,000 people signed the petition (and 1 dog) and 9 weeks before its proposed closure the order was rescinded and the line was saved.

We were now taken on a photographic journey along the line stopping off at places like Chapel le Dale Church where more than 200 workers, wives and children from the railway are buried. These are mostly unmarked graves but are of people who died of smallpox in 1870 or victims of dreadful accidents. Navvies camps were built along the line such as Sebasterpol, Belgravia and Jerico where the navvies, wives and children lived. We also saw Victorian railway workers homes and railway stations. Fantastic constructions such as the 24 arches of Ribblehead Viaduct and the one and a half miles of Blea Moor Tunnel which was dug out by hand and lined with bricks made on site.

An interesting evening along this famous and beautiful line.