The Settle-Carlisle Railway by Paul Salveson. Crowood. £24.00
Scotby closed in 1942, Cumwhinton in 1956, Cotehill in 1952, Little Salkeld in 1970, Culgaith, Newbiggin and Long Marton in 1970. The list goes on of the stations that have been closed on the magnificent railway line that runs the seventy-two miles from Carlisle to Settle. But Armathwaite, Lazonby and Kirkoswald, Langwathby and Appleby are still proudly there. It’s the highest mainline in England. It runs through wonderful scenery and it offers what is, in the opinion of many, one of the world’s great railway journeys.
It runs over seventeen viaducts and through fourteen tunnels and it has survived. It survived, thanks to the determination of enthusiasts and volunteers, the governments attempt to close it in the 1980s and, more recently, in 2016, it survived a landslide which closed it for a whole year.
For Paul Salveson it is an extraordinary and very special line. He first visited the line in 1966. He recalls catching the steam-hauled “stopper” to Ribblehead and walking up to Blea Moor to take pictures of the freight trains. In the 1970s, as a railway guard, he used “to work freight trains over the Midland” and he came to know the line intimately.
His account of the Settle-Carlisle Railway Line is one of the most thorough to have been written. He describes the line in affectionate detail and concludes his journey at “Milepost 301, a cosy real ale bar next to Platform Six” on Carlisle Station.
The line was never a truly commercial proposition, but this difficult route north was chosen to fulfil the ambitions of the Midland Railway Company. “It was an exceptionally difficult project involving the construction of a high-speed main line railway through exceptionally inhospitable country.” The contemporary engravings and photographs of the construction work involved in building the Arten Gill Viaduct and the Smardale Viaduct demonstrate the ingenuity with which the Victorian engineers accomplished their challenging task. Gravestones and memorials to the navvies in Chapel-le-Dale and Cowgill indicate the price that was paid.
The trains look magnificent as they haul their coaches through the bare landscape or halt at the cosy village stations. But there is also a pride in the men who worked the railway. One photograph shows station-master Jim Taylor waving off a train at Settle in the 1960s. Another shows the “resident female signaller” who was responsible for the Selside signal box in the war years.
In many ways, for Paul Salveson, the story of the line is the story of its people. He regrets that he lacks the information to record something of the navvies who built the line, but he does recall men like Charles Sharland, who surveyed the line, Ritson Graham from Carlisle, who worked at the Durran Hill depot, and Bill Cameron from Maryport, a councillor for 47 years and a great servant of the line, who had a locomotive named after him.
There are many book son the Settle Carlisle line. This is one of the best.