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A Day on the Settle & Carlisle Railway


Note added 08 March 2010

It is almost eight years since the memorable day recorded here and much has happened to me in that time. You may ask why I retain this page on our website and the simple answer is that the day still ranks as one of the happiest and most memorable in the past few years.

1st August 2002


A Sixtieth Birthday Present from Kathryn Rich and Daisy

This Journal is Dedicated to Them With Love

The loco pulls in with a smoke-swilling lumber
And I make a note of its infinite number
I’m very excited, my hand is unsteady
And then I remember, I’ve got it already.

The most spectacular railway through the Yorkshire Dales is undoubtedly the Settle & Carlisle Railway (known by railwaymen as the Long Drag) which was built between 1869 and 1876 by the Midland Railway Company.

Direct Route to Scotland
Construction was undertaken primarily in order to give the Midland Railway a direct route to Scotland and to avoid having to use the line from Ingleton to Lowgill (near Tebay, Cumbria) which was owned by its great rival the L&NWR (London and North Western Railway). The Settle - Carlisle Railway was one of the last great building projects of the Victorian railway age. The Parliamentary Bill authorisng construction of the line, received its Royal Assent on 16 July 1866 and the line opened for passenger traffic over ten years later on 1 May 1876.

Ribblehead Viaduct
Shortly after leaving Ribbleshead Station, the famous 24 arch and 104 feet high Ribblehead Viaduct is reached. The viaduct is a quarter of a mile long and each sixth pier was designed with increased strength. The first stone was laid by William H Ashwell on October 12 1870. The piers were sunk 25 feet below moor level and set in concrete in order to provide a suitable foundation. It has been said that the viaduct was “built on wool” alluding to the fact that the Midland Railway’s backers included some of the wealthy Bradford wool merchants of the day. In 1984 the track over the viaduct was singled and slewed to the centre. The viaduct became the focus of a determined attempt by British Rail to abandon the line, using the excuse that due to its deteriorating condition, expenditure of several millions would be needed for refurbishment. This triggered a concerted campaign by lovers of the line and resulted in the formation of a pressure group to oppose plans for its closure.

Train I Ride...
I became interested in the line at the time of the closure plans and long wished to take the train. What follows is an account of the granting of that wish - a 60th birthday present, given in May by my daughter Kathryn, her husband Rich and grand daughter Daisy and enjoyed with them and my husband Tez on what started as a gloomy day on 1 August 2002.


Getting to Settle
It is six thirty am and I am wide awake. Today is the day! I peer out of the window and the view is grim: thick low cloud and the promise of much rain. My enthusiasm is undimmed.

At half past seven I decide to get up and have a hot shower. The view from the bedroom window is a little lighter but not a great deal better.

We are all up and having breakfast at eight o’clock. We are in good spirits and ignore the weather. It is rather hot and sticky for all the absence of sun.

At nine thirty we climb aboard Rich’s Toyota RAV4 and off we go! I am sitting between Daisy and Kathryn in the back of the car and the morning is still dark and cloudy. Jim, Rich’s brother, says that the journey time to Settle is one hour and seven minutes and we laugh at the confidence behind such precision. I note Rich’s gleam and have a strong feeling that today may well be different!

The journey is a delight: from Colton to Otley, through Ilkley, on to Skipton and there is a noticeable difference in the colour of the cloud that changes from a dirty to an off white although there is no blue sky to be seen.

SettleMo.jpgSettle Station
We arrive at Settle at ten forty after a very pleasant one hour and ten minutes’ journey (Rich says the lights must have been against us!!). The station is absolutely wonderful and we marvel at the neatness of the flower beds, pots and baskets and the absence of the tiniest piece of litter. There are not even the usual weeds between the track rails.

We queue for the loo and I get talking to a very nice chatty lady. She is in her sixties and lost her husband a few years before. She has found a new man friend and they have spent the summer going on various trips. Today they are bound for Carlisle. I tell her about my birthday and the trip (it was quite
a long queue!) and then we say goodbye and wish each other a lovely day.

Settletown2.jpgPicturesque Scenery
The information Kathryn provided on my birthday, tells me that Settle is a bustling market town in the foothills of the Pennines amongst some of the most picturesque scenery in North Yorkshire. The town stands beside the largest outcrop of limestone in Britain - in a region of scars, cliffs and potholes. Apparently, at the rear of the town a zigzag footpath leads to the summit of Castleberg crag offering a vantagepoint of the town in its dale and fell. It also tells me that Settle is a good base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales.

We browse the shop and buy postcards. Rich buys me a Settle Station logo fridge magnet and a superb commemorative slate coaster. Tez buys a beautiful sunset print of the Viaduct which we shall frame. We have plenty of time before the train so decide to have a closer look at Settle.......

tsb.gifThe Shamble

The town centre is dominated by the Shambles, a historic three storey building with shops on two levels and houses above, and the town hall, built on the site of the toll-booth which I learn was pulled down in 1820. The cloud is still overhead but the day is very warm. I fancy a “teested toecake” in the Settle Down Café and we all look for the “Settle Up” betting shop and the “Settle Inn” hotel without expecting success.

We pile into the café and explain to the proprietress, a portly dark haired lady who oozes authority, that we are to catch the eleven forty six to Carlisle and ask if we have time for a toasted teacake. “I’ll get you one” was her reassuring response.

It was delicious and the coffee was excellent too but we are a little anxious that time is creeping on and we must retrieve the picnic bags from the car before we board the train.

Eleven Forty SixDiesel.jpg

We reach the station in plenty of time and at eleven forty five the train pulls into a crowded platform. I have not mentioned that there has been a slight disappointment attached to the trip. The plan had been for a steam engine excursion on the Dalesman which had been cancelled by the organisers, Ribblesdale Railtours, owing to insufficient subscription. So we have weathered that small setback and opted for the regular service diesel. Perhaps not so impressive to look at but just as exciting for this loving journey.

We are at the back of the train now and I am given a welcome surprise by Rich whom we follow to the front as he tells me he has reserved our seats. They are occupied of course but by two elderly ladies who seem reluctant to take their bottoms elsewhere. A meaningful look and a flourish of the seat reservations finally ousts the interlopers and we make ourselves comfortable.


It is barely noon and the clink of the refreshment trolley brings a smile. The clink of the gin and tonics which Kathryn and I imbibe also bring a smile. Rich and Tez sip their beer with contented grins.

And the next stop is Horton in Ribblesdale where we are again treated to the sight of a spotless station and a fair few new passengers none of whom try to unseat us.

We are all glued to the windows except Daisy who seems to be particularly endowed with artistic inspiration today and is drawing many different aspects of the impressive scene.

Daisypic.jpgHighest Railway Station in England

Shortly we pull into Dent which we are told is 1150 feet above sea level, the highest railway station in England. The views are breathtaking and as we climb we are sure the cloud is thinning. There is a patch of blue, perhaps not quite big enough for a pair of trousers but definitely promising.

I am scribbling in my notebook and Daisy signs it to Granmo. She draws a picture of the oak tree swing in what Daisy refers to as her Farnham Garden and Daddy takes a picture of us both to mark the moment. Granmo has difficulty taking her eyes off the view.

aqua.gifThe Viaduct

On we go, over the viaduct and as we look back at the magnificent feat of engineering I experience a definite tingle factor.

Down below in the valley, walkers looking like Lowry matchstick men and women clad in brightly coloured cagoules, have stopped to take in the magnificent sight and to wave to our tiny train high above them.

Triple Trumping Train!
We wave back happily and I feel special. Up here, cosy in the train with loved ones and the stark sight of nature all around us: a hill with its head in the clouds and its feet in the station. Then we are through the dark tunnel. The train’s whistle gives three hoots one after the other and we all wear rueful grins at the poor train having to relieve itself of such obviously desperate flatulence, Daisy is highly amused and so is Granpo who came up with the following:

The train was chugging down the track
And rode across a bump
Then suddenly out of nowhere
There came a triple trump.
Was that you said the driver
To the engine in his care
There’s suddenly an awful smell
Lingering in the air.
It wasn’t me, the train replied
But surely he’d not forgotten
That when he went across the bump
A triple trump blew from his bottom!

Cow.gifJust Sheep and Cows

We see no more people just sheep – lots of not very woolly sheep huddled against a wall for shelter from the breeze which up here reigns free. And one or two cows. Daisy likes the cows and draws a picture for me of a very self satisfied member of that clan.

I scribble in my journal that we are passing a smoky mountain with black clouds for a hat and swathes of green for a skirt. The contrast in weather is amazing. Then it’s Garsdale, Kirby Stephen and the train is at last making its way down the hill to our destination – Appleby-in-Westmorland and toward what looks remarkably like the midday sun! We see lots of pink sandstone cottages and larger buildings. The little blue and white diesel train is on time and as we alight, a gust of wind blows our hair about and seems to send the, by now, puffy white clouds over the hill and far away. Suddenly it is summer and we skip our way down into the town feeling specially chosen for the sun to shine upon today.

Appleby in Westmorland, my printed leaflet tells me, is the former County-town of Westmorland and is one of the most picturesque in the North. We can give testament to this as we walk along the river in the by now, hot, bright sunshine.

It is hard to believe that less than an hour ago the sky was overcast and rain looked a certainty.

Eden.jpgRiver Eden

We choose a place to picnic by the river and are soon joined by a flock of fine mallard ducks with whom we (with Daisy’s help) share our lunch. The mini muffins seem to go down very well. With me too and I have four (admit to having four!!).

The town is lovely and I read with interest that it is set in the natural loop of the River Eden, protected on the fourth side by Appleby Castle which dates back to Norman times. Rich takes more pictures, Kathryn relaxes on the river bank and Tez takes Daisy for a play on the nearby swings. I take everything in from the sweep of the trees into the river and the intermittent sounds of logs falling into the water. Logs drift downstream and a passer-by tells us about the horrendous storms and torrential rain of the past weeks, the consequences of which are there to be seen in the fallen trees and collapsed river bank.

memorial.jpgLow Wiend

The little beers are drunk, the sandwiches and pork pies eaten and the mini muffins hidden from view so we collect our bags and walk towards the town centre. Appleby-in-Westmorland is having a quiet day today when compared to the small town where Tez and I live; a silent day when compared to the big city that is home to Kathryn, Rich and Daisy.

We stroll down a lane with medieval buildings on either side which we note is called Low Wiend and find out later from the Tourist Information Bureau that this is a Saxon word for winding lane.

Then we make our way up the Borough and Rich stops to admire a picture in a shop window of about twenty five different breeds of sheep, “Is that the Appleby equivalent of the Pirelli calendar?” he asks innocently and Kathryn, Tez and I roar with laughter. This was the first but not the last sheep crack of the day!

A pause for a photo opportunity and I sit under the Appleby town memorial with its statue and words of wisdom pictured here.

Castle.jpgThe Castle
On up to the castle gates where we spot a small herd of goats in a field to the right who trot inquisitively towards us and prove to be partial to stroking. They are strange looking creatures with rakish goatee beards and ornate horns. They are kindly and we pet them but the musky, strange, though not really unpleasant smell stays with us for the rest of the day. I can even smell those goats now , many months later as I pause in the transcription to typescript of the journal I wrote that day. We called one of them Cecil and he reminded me of the long ago-read novels by Dennis Wheatley which invariably featured a satanic goat and the maxim “Do what thou wilt be the whole of the law.”

Gallery.jpgCourtyard Gallery

The wind which had earlier given short shrift to the midday clouds gathers up speed and we put our jackets back on and stop for a beer at the White Hart Hotel. We drink outside in the front garden before making our way in glorious sunshine to the souvenir shop next door which is aptly named the Courtyard Gallery.

I can recall passing through the splendid wrought iron gate and climbing the steps on the outside of the building to reach the Aladin’s cave on the upper floor. It was full of the usual mementos but with some really good prints and sculptures crafted locally. Daisy is crying and as I enquire the cause she sniffs and Rich comforts her with reassuring words.

Tezzie buys me some really beautiful delicate green dangling earrings. I give him a squeeze and feel very pleased and very blessed, I buy myself a commonplace book for the purpose of writing up this journal.

2cat.jpgA Present from Daisy

Then into the street again, calling in at other shops and from one, Daisy buys me a pottery figure of a dear little sleeping cat, a friend, she tells me, for my larger wooden sleeping feline which has a permanent place back home on the bookshelf under the sitting room window. Apparently the tears were because she couldn’t find anything appropriate for me in the Courtyard Gallery but she is dry eyed and happy now and can see that I really love the little chap, pictured here because he is so special a reminder of that day. And he does indeed now rest with his bigger brother on the book shelf at home and cat-naps the days away.

Applebybridge.jpgReturn Journey

The feeling of blessedness intensifies as we slowly and happily make our way back to the station for the return train to Settle. As we walk, the clouds roll back to the place they had been so quickly blown from some four hours before. The sun is hidden and it looks like rain.

Back to Appleby station, so clean and delightfully olde worlde. We pose for photographs, I am perched high on the bridge and Daisy runs up the steps to join me. Tez and Rich are happily taking pictures from the platform below. The day clouds over and the rain really threatens. Time stands still in Appleby. Or does it race ahead? The clock shows five minutes past six but the time is actually five o’clock.

We sit on the platform awaiting the four minutes past five train, chatting to a family sitting near and then spot Daisy’s Cindy mermaid doll lying on the ground by the entrance. Rich runs over the bridge to retrieve it and a station tannoy announcement tells us that the train will be late due to “a landslide in the Armthwaite area” I am glad that I have never had a landslide in the armthwaite area!. Blue-black, inky thumbprint clouds scud across the darkening sky. The rain begins with spray-like drops. I don’t mind at all.

The mist is down and the tops of the hills barely visible. The evening grows steadily darker although it is not yet six o’clock. We pull into Garsdale. The lights are on and the reflection winks up from the shiny rain-soaked platform surface. As the train heads for Denton, Kathryn and I make sure that we have a good view of the viaduct and need to sit at the other side of the train to do this. A man is sitting alone speaking on a mobile telephone. He is loudly bemoaning the fact that the train “is miles from anywhere and nowhere near
Leeds yet".

Kathryn and I realise that he is not looking out of the window and the memorial to the “navvies” of 1870 has totally failed to make an impression. Not with us though and we again take in the lonely splendour as the train snakes its way forward, bringing into view the magnificent structure, side-on in its starkest glory.


Granmo.gifBack to Settle

We are quieter than on the outward trip and Rich nods off only to be wakened by Daisy who is drawing a picture of Granmo looking out of the train window. We make the return sortie through the tunnel to the shriek of the rude trumplike whistles. The rain lashes more heavily and the cottages as well as the sheep, race past the window, hugging the hillside and we indulge in one last mini muffin. Rich telephones his mum, Cheryl, who tells him that her day has been one long downpour and she is pleased and surprised and can hardly credit the tale of our sunny afternoon.

Daisysig.gifThe End of a Perfect Day

Soon we are pulling into Settle, sheep replaced by humans and I am surprised and touched when Daisy, arms open ,says “Come here Granmo” and indulges me with a wonderful cuddle and we rub noses. Through the rain to the car, stuff piled inside and feeling very cosy, we head for home singing “I know a Song That’ll get On Ya Nerves”. It doesn’t in the least

An hour or so later the wonderful day is brought to a close with Fish ‘n’ Chips and bubbly at Bryans’ restaurant in Headingley and we are all agreed that we have had an absolutely fabulous Mo’s 60th Birthday Present Day!

So ends this journal entry which recounts with much love, the adventures of the day of the family trip on the Settle & Carlisle Railway.

Where is the whistle
That sounded through the valley?

Where is the cry
That echoed through the night?
Where are the stations
Where people once would dally?
Where are the trains
What’s happened to our life?
Where is the steam
That rose above the cuttings?
Where are the engines
The thunderous beasts of steel?
Where are the porters
Whose uniforms were stunning?
Where are the people
Oh, how could they not feel?
Where are the houses
The stationmasters dwelt in?
Where are the rails
The grass has overgrown?
Where are the waiting rooms
Where people once would meet in?
Where is the feeling
The lifestyle we have known?
Where are the freight yards
That once would be so busy?
Where are the cattle
That once would ride aboard?
Where is the transport
To take us to the city?
The country way of life
That politicians have ignored.



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