A72 mile railway running across the roof of England, reaching the highest point on any main line railway in the country, carrying not just a frequent and well patronised passenger service popular with local inhabitants and tourists, but heavy long distance freight traffic as well; we are probably lucky it was built at all… and even luckier that it has survived.

It is almost impossible to imagine a 72 mile abandoned trackbed passing through such places as Blea Moor, over Dent Head and Arten Gill viaducts and the legendary Ais Gill summit; worse still it could even be a long distance footpath and cycleway now, with lots of informative signboards, none making any mention of the fact that it was once a railway line. We are lucky that sufficient people felt strongly enough to campaign successfully to stop this happening and keep one of Britain’s favourite railway lines open.

The Settle & Carlisle line was built as part of a rather unnecessary third route from London to Scotland and probably would not have been built at all if an earlier scheme for a route via Ingleton had not failed. It was a tough line to build through wild and inhospitable terrain, but once built the line prospered… and although by then a bit rundown, survived the Beeching axe in the 1960s.

However, by the early 1980s, British Railways made a second attempt to close it and ran services down to a point where only the bare minimum passenger service was operating, with all but two of its stations closed.  Since then, not only was the line reprieved from closure again after an eight-year battle, but train services were expanded even while it was still the intention to close it, and that expansion has continued. Saving the line was not the end of the story, it was just the beginning. The timetabled services have increased in frequency, many closed stations have reopened and even heavy freight traffic has returned in significant quantity. Best of all, at least from many enthusiasts’ perspective, is that steamhauled excursions over the line have gone from strength to strength.

This book looks at the revival in the fortunes of the Settle & Carlisle, its regular passenger and freight traffic, diversions, excursions, its stations and infrastructure and especially the return of steam power.

Author: Brian Sharpe