THE LEEDS - SETTLE - CARLISLE RAILWAY
TEBAY TO INGLETON
Although not actually part of the Leeds - Settle - Carlisle line, the Tebay - Ingleton railway does feature quite heavily in the story of that line, and thus it is appropriate to have it here. You'll see why as the story unfolds, so read on.
I was out one Sunday with Carole and Adrian travelling across the top end of the Dales on our way to Tebay, when quite by accident we stumbled across a most magnificent bridge. Clearly a railway bridge, and almost as clearly on an abandoned railway line. But nevertheless, the bridge was in marvellous condition - well worth an exploration. The line is in fact the Tebay - Ingleton - Settle Railway, and there is a history behind it that will match any modern-day soap opera you might care to mention.
In short, the Midland Railway was a latecomer onto the British railway scene, by which time all of the best routes around the country had been taken. The Midland was left to fight for access to major cities and I write elsewhere about the struggle for access to London.
But if the struggle for access to London was bad enough, the struggle for access to Carlisle and Scotland was even worse. At every turn the Midland was blocked or obstructed, until in the end the company built its own line to Carlisle - the magnificent Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line. But this line here, the Tebay-Ingleton branch, represents one of these earlier Midland attempts at access to Carlisle. It demonstrates vividly the total futility of the war between the London and North Western (LNWR) and the Midland; how a magnificent railway line capable of carrying express traffic on a major trunk route between England and Scotland became instead a quiet rustic backwater.
The passenger service was abandoned on 30th January 1954, a long time before Beeching came onto the scene. All traffic ceased on 26 July 1966, shortly afterwards the track was lifted, and that was that.
The line itself runs from Clapham (down near Settle) via Ingleton to Tebay where it joined with the LNWR's Lancaster - Carlisle line. It promised ths shortest route between London and Scotland, yet such were the costs of building the line that the company, the "little" North Western Railway (not to be confused with the LNWR) abandoned the construction after building as far as Ingleton, and another company, the Lancaster and Carlisle, continued to build the remainder of the line from Tebay to Ingleton. Chaos was assured when the Lancaster and Carlisle was taken over by the LNWR.
The Midland Railway had taken over the "little" North Western's part of the line and had hoped to negotiate with the Lancaster and Carlisle for running rights from Ingleton up to Scotland. But the Midland and the LNWR hated each other with a passion that could not be measured on any scale known to man, due to the issues that had arisen over access to Euston Station that I talk about elsewhere, and it was clear that this hatred would rule out any likelihood of an agreement being reached.
The Midland refused to allow the LNWR access to Ingleton station so the LNWR was obliged to build its own at the other side of the huge viaduct. Passengers wanting to travel the length of the line had to alight at one Ingleton station, struggle down the hill with their luggage, then struggle up the other side of the hill to the rival station, where they would find that the connecting train had just left.
The LNWR of course retaliated, restricting access for the Midland at Carlisle, so the Midland built the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line. By the time the two companies had come to their senses and were willing to negotiate, it was too late. The Tebay-Ingleton line had already lost any importance it might otherwise have had.
But back to the bridge that we had discovered, and which started off all of this.
We are in fact just a short distance away from Sedbergh, where the Pennines and the Dales start to fall away to the coastal plain in the area around Lancaster. This side of the fells is cut by many rivers, the most important of which is the River Lune. The railway follows for a while the river valley, every now and again crossing over the river by some magnificent structures such as this.
It was for that reason that this bridge was built - to cross over the Lune. And we are here at a tiny settlement called Waterside. Hence the name of the bridge - the Waterside Viaduct, although sometimes it is known as the Lune Viaduct.
It's certainly one of the most graceful bridges that I've ever seen. I think that the combination of brick and the cast-iron central span gives it a certain grandeur that it wouldn't have if it were made of all iron or all brick.
It's hard to imagine the Midland building a brick viaduct like this. Up here in the wilds, the Midland went for solid construction, not the spindly kind of viaduct that you see here. The viaduct here was actually designed by Joseph Locke and John Errington, the civil engineers for the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway, and was built between 1857 and 1861.
It's a Grade 2 listed structure, and that is hardly a surprise given its magnificent design and beautiful setting.
The bases of the pillars of the viaduct were made from carved and dressed stone blocks by some evidently quite skilled masons, so given its age, the first thing that Adrian (who had come with me for an exploration) and I did was to go to have a close look at some of the stone blocks at the base of the viaduct to see if we could find some masons' marks.
And, lo and behold! Our luck was in. We found one almost straight away.
And there was also a masons' mark on the next one too. It really was our lucky day.
Back in the days when this viaduct was built, it was still the era of the skilled mason. They travelled around from job to job, and of course with there still being a considerable amount of railway construction in this period there was a good deal of work to be done.
Yet they operated pretty much a closed shop (it's no accident that the Black Art of Freemasonry stems from stonemasons who built the great cathedrals in similar circumstances), hence really good stonemasons were few and far between. They all knew each other and each one had his individual symbol, just as early medaieval knights had their individual symbols, so one mason could see which brother mason had dressed which stone. It's rather similar I suppose to the secret handshake.
This mark on another pillar also caught our attention, but I don't think that this is a mason's mark. it looks very much like the symbol for a trig point - a trignometry mark that the surveyors made to mark the points that they used when they were mapping the UK back in the days of the Ordnance Survey.
How they measured the UK was that they would take 3 distant points that were in view of each other (the top of a railway viaduct would be a good point), sit a surveyor at each one, and each surveyor would measure the angle between the line from his point to one of the other two, and from his point to the second.
When all three angles were plotted, the distances between them all could be calculated by Pythagoras' Theorem. And then they would move back to two of the points previously measured and find a different third point to include in their survey. They went all over the country like that.
The bank up to the track bed at the top of the viaduct was high and steep, but it was well worth the climb, as you can see. The view from up here is tremendous.
This is the view to the north-east, and somewhere over there are the famous three peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent. I don't know the area well enough to say whether or not any of these peaks are any of the aforementioned three, but if you happen to know any of the names of those in the photo, then by all means .
The view from the other side of the viaduct is not so spectacular but it is impressive nevertheless. This is a small settlement called Waterside, after which the viaduct is named. There are a few stone-built farm buildings some of which might have been houses at one time, and a stone cottage that might have been railway accommodation while they were building the viaduct.
From the north end of the viaduct, the track bed continues in the direction of Tebay. It hugs the road for a while and then crosses over the Lowgill Viaduct, joining up with the West Coast mail line just to the south of Tebay, right beside the M6 Motorway.
The track bed here is in excellent condition. It is suggested that there is a gas pipeline running underneath part of the track bed, but I cannot say whether or not it does so around here.
The view to the south, in the direction of Sedbergh and Ingleton, is likewise impressive with the fells in the distance. It's a shame about the large wrought-iron fence and gates. This is the kind of viaduct that I would love to clamber over, given half a chance.
And everywhere on the viaduct looks to be in excellent condition. We were told by the local yokel (and a very vocal local yokel at that) in the old railway cottage that the viaduct had recently undergone a substantial renovation.
Planning application SL/2007/1238 deposited at the South Lakeland District Council is relevant. The British Rail Board Residuary Company Limited (now that's a useful name to know) sought permission to re-mortar some open joints and fractures, to attend to the waterproof membrane on the deck, and to paint the cast-iron span. The waterproof membrane is very important as it stops rainwater seeping down inside the viaduct and pushing the mortar out from the inside.
Wooden scaffolding was quite commonly used when viaducts such as this were being built. The builders had a tendency to put the waterproof membrane on the viaduct around the scaffolding. They would then cut the scaffolding away leaving the stumps embedded in the waterproofing. Over a period of years the wooden stumps would rot away and leave holes in the waterproofing that the water could enter. The viaduct at Ribblehead was badly damaged in this way, and was even threatened with demolition until people worked out what was causing the problem.
They've solved the problem of the decking over the central span - they have removed it. That's the reason why they have put up the fence - to stop people falling down through the girder.
We left the Waterside Viaduct and carried on northwards. As one drives down the hill towards the M6 Motorway, one is suddenly presented with this most magnificent view of impressive Victorian railway architecture. We are pretty close to the junction with the main west-coast line to Carlisle, and just behind the viaduct you can just about make out the gantries of the overhead power lines for the electric traction.
Just above the power lines is the M6 Motorway, and you can see a concrete overbridge. It was when I was travelling relentlessly up and down this motorway when I worked as a coach driver for a holiday company that I first began to take an interest in the viaduct.
Down at the bottom of the hill I bring Caliburn to a halt and wander off into the distance to take a photo of the viaduct in all its magnificence. It is known as the Low Gill viaduct and is another structure designed by Joseph Locke and John Errington. It was built in 1859.
And once more, it doesn't seem to be a "Midland" construction. It's far too spindly for them. All of the grand projects that the Midland had for the railways around here called for construction on a massive scale.
The viaduct measures 620 feet from end to end and has eleven arches, each one said to be a perfect semi-circle with a diameter of 45 feet. It soars to a maximum height of 100 feet across the stream in the valley underneath
You may well be wondering why the viaduct is still here and hasn't suffered the same fate as much other abandoned contemporary railway architecture. This is because like the Waterside Viaduct, it is a grade 2 listed structure and is therefore protected by law.
And quite right too. Much of Britain's Victorian architecture has been needlessly demolished. One magnificent viaduct just outside Hawick was demolished to stop youths standing on it dropping stones onto passers-by. That's what I call a rather extreme method of dealing with the issue.
There will come a time when the powers-that-be will regret much of this senseless destruction as the oil sanctions imposed by the poorer oil-producing nations bites deeper and deeper into the western transport infrastructure, and I don't reckon that this time will be too long a-coming either.
From up here there really are some impressive views - so much so that at times I wondered why it was that people went away on holiday. This particular view is looking north-by-north-east from the north-east side of the viaduct.
As for these two fells in the distance, I do recall on one occasion seeing some sheepdog trials taking place on the left-hand one. I do believe that all the dogs were acquitted. I don't however know what they (the fells, not the sheepdogs) are called. If you have any ideas, please . In fact, please feel free to about anything that you see or read on these pages. I love to interact with my audience.
Some more fells in the distance to the north-east. I would really appreciate knowing their names if anyone can help out.
That line of trees on the middle distance is extremely interesting. It's quite clearly a hedge of some age that has been left to run wild. But I wonder what happened to the rest of it. Did it continue in a straight line? Did it angle off in another direction? Was there a wooden fence, now long decayed, that continued the line? Why was it removed?
I can get quite excited by the presence of a few trees such as these. It's all part of pre-medaeival archaeology, much of which had been lost to us.