Longdrag Settle to Carlisle Portfolio by Gavin Morrison Hard Cover 1990
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Longdrag Settle to Carlisle Portfolio by Gavin Morrison Hard Cover 1990
The Longdrag Settle to Carlisle Portfolio by Gavin Morrison Hard Cover 1990 64 pages
That great man of the Church, my friend the late Bishop Eric Treacy, once said in public that in his view there were three supreme man-made marvels in the north of England: Hadrian's Wall, York Minster and the Settle to Carlisle Railway. Treacy gained his love of railways through photography, not least on the Settle and Carlisle which he reckoned his favourite; and it somehow seems appropriate to use his well known comment by way of introducing this book, a celebration in pictures of the line, put together and largely filled by the work of another of his friends who drew his early inspiration from the late Bishop's work and even managed to get Treacy to officiate at his wedding! Thus, when I received Gavin's invitation to compose this introductory essay. I was more than delighted: it brought back many happy memories of a bit of railway whose fascination never palls, for all that has been written about it; while the fact that enthusiasts still keep coming back for more is sure indication of its truly magnetic quality.
Unlike the great railway photographers of this line, however, I came to the subject out of a sense of manifest curiosity when I was a geography student just after World War 2 and a full generation before the growth of the huge present-day interest. I, like many another Yorkshire lad, got to know the rugged splendours of the fell country through tramping over them with field notebook in hand and geological hammer in rucksack! But when my heavily-booted feet first reached Upper Ribblesdale there was amongst all the natural magnificence, this seemingly incongruous man-made element - a full-blown main line railway, clearly built to last yet apparently going nowhere in particular. Mind you, it was doing it with manifestly serious intent, or else why the huge earthworks and massively heavy trains which seemed to serve nobody on the way? I wanted to know why, my teachers could not tell me so I resolved to find out for myself.
It is not that man-made features were absent from this huge and inspiring landscape. They were, it is true, a bit dwarfed by it but the familiar dry stone walls, field barns, isolated houses and farmsteads all bore witness to a long history of human activity. However, these were the things which related to well-established local economic activity, could readily be understood and offered their own instinctive explanation, none of which quite seemed to apply to this railway. It too was quite obviously part of the landscape - and beautifully integrated with it as any of the pictures in this book reveal - but it was not quite :f" it in the immediate and intimate sense of the word. Herein my original curiosity and herein lies its continual fascination both to myself and others: a curiosity which I shall do my best to explain in the next few paragraphs, even though I doubt I was particularly unique in noticing this characteristic or the first to ask the simple question: why here and why so grand?
Of course, it did not take me long to appreciate that every now and then there were stations which attempted to serve the local communities (quite a lot of them in fact and not always too close to their respective villages!). But the fundamental mystery remained and it was not until I studied the larger story of the British railway system that the reason for its presence in these northern wildernesses began to make even remote sense at all. hus, even though the Settle & Carlisle line can be and is taken .)t a variety of levels ranging from the purely emotional to the utterly practical, to really understand or appreciate it, one must first try to comprehend the organisation that built it: the English Midland Railway company. Without the Midland Railway there would have been no Settle & Carlisle in its present form and our present-day enjoyment of railways in the landscape would be immeasurably the poorer for it.
Conceived out of frustration in the 1860s and completed out of desperation in 1876, this railway occupied the mind of the Midland for over 10 years before it carried its first passengers; and even now one can still stand and marvel at the sheer tenacity with which the company pursued its aim. For the Midland wanted to get its trains to Scotland and was disinclined to take 'no' for an answer. Back in the late 1840s, when the British system was developing very rapidly, the fledgling Midland company (established in 1844) formed the essential central portion in the then one and only rather circuitous route from London to Scotland. In very few years time, however (1850), the Midland found itself by-passed by the more familiar East and West Coast routes and was in grave danger of degenerating into a minor provincial system unless something could be done. It had once been part of an Anglo-Scottish route and was determined to be so again.
The Midland (based on Derby) occupied some very strategic heartland but was in need of outlets for its traffic. Working arrangements, possible amalgamations and many other attempts were made over the best part of the next 20 years but they rarely if ever lasted long or proved particularly successful. and the company eventually concluded that the only solution to all its problems was to build its own lines to as many of its key outlets as possible. The year 1867 saw it reach Manchester, more or less independently and by 1868 its own route to London (St Pancras) was established, but the northern outlet remained blocked. The Midland had, in fact, managed to get as far as Ingleton from Leeds and Skipton, but here it had to hand over traffic to a rival concern, the London & North Western Railway (LNWR). The story is well recorded elsewhere but in essence. the Midland, feeling that it was still not getting a fair deal after some 10 years or more of rather acrimonious backbiting at Ingleton, eventually decided to go for its by now standard solution in this sort of situation: a new line altogether.
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