A few short diversions from the usual tourist activities of a Lake District Bank Holiday weekend brought enough information to take something from pipe dream to virtual reality. An unexpected email from RW sound guru Mr Armstrong completed the picture.
You may remember the BBC’s poignant, perhaps hand-wringingly over nostaligic would be a bit cruel, series of documentaries “The Train Now Departing” in 1988.
It was set in the backdrop of BR’s rock-and-a-hard-place attempt to close the Settle & Carlisle. In those days BR couldn’t even spend its own money, love or hate privatisation, at least the S&C has stood tall on its own merit as the sucessful freight route, community railway, world class tourist attraction and key diversion route it was always capable of being.
I mention it for 2 reasons, to highlight that Aunty Beeb have very kindly included it in their archive of all things railway here and also that the title sequence featured a wonderful piece of cine film from 29 July 1965.
The legendary railway photographer Ivo Peters was tipped off by the Low Gill bobby that Workington (12D) Shed’s Ivatt “Doodlebug” 4MT 43017 had been down to Sedbergh to collect empty ballast wagons, and Ivo captured it on its return joining the WCML from the overbridge, having crossed the now listed Low Gill Viaduct. The Ingleton to Low Gill branch had closed a year earlier, but was used for storage of wagons and for the disposal of spent ballast. Ivo had captured one of the very last workings on the line. The sight of a locomotive just 17 years old and only 2 years to withdrawl on a route that in the winter that year had handled all the traffic a snow-blocked S&C could throw at it, rather captured the end of steam.
The Low-Gill – Ingelton – Clapham (not that Clapham!) line was very nearly the Midland’s route to Scotland – their metals ran to Ingleton, the (Little) North Western Railway ran through to Low Gill on the WCML, under operation of the LNWR.
Brinksmanship by the LNWR (then tenants of the Lancaster & Carlisle) played merry hell with the Midland’s attempts to pass traffic to Carlisle. Losing patience, the Midland comissioned and fought parliament to build their own route, the S&C. Having done so, the LNWR decided they didn’t want to lose out on the lucrative traffic, and the Midland didn’t have the appetite for the eyewatering cost of the S&C. A deal was brokered with both the L&C and the Midland to use the Low Gill route to Scotland, and the Midland petitioned parliament to cancel building the S&C. Parliament had other ideas, and forced the Midland to build the S&C against their own will.
So the S&C was born, but the casualty was the (Little) North Western Railway, and the line fell into a decline punctuated only by use as a diversionary route and occasional special working. BR was way ahead of Beeching, having closed the line to passenger traffic in February 1954.
The only exception was Sedbergh, whose station remained open for school traffic at Sedbegh and Casterton schools until 1965.
I’ve been wanted to add this route to my Shap route for some time, but the lack of a gradient profile (and indeed of any substantive written or pictorial information of the route) meant it wasn’t something I felt I had the information to do it justice. Even the only 2 books on the route and the Cumbria County Council’s excellent archive, containing a wealth of BR material donated by the Cumbria Railways Association didn’t provide any joy.
I got an email from Richard last week, who had unearthed a copy of the sectional appendix for the line in the NRM containing details of the gradient. A diversion back from Wensleydale for photographs on Sunday and an old map, and there was enough to go on.
So I could have just said I’ve got the line through to Sedbergh…
…but routebuilding is very little to do with tracklaying and scenery. It’s mostly a history lesson. That’s the bit I enjoy the most.
Anyone fancy making an Ivatt 4MT then? Ugly sods I know, but I’m rather fond of them thanks to Mr Peters and the Low Gill signalman.