Building the line: The Construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway


As explained on the initial 'History' page, our long-term objective for this section is to present, summarise, list and / or link-to the best available material relating to the building of the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Our initial offering (to give us a firm foundation to build-on) is as follows:

Recommended reading

A potted history of the Settle-Carlisle Railway - which includes a few paragraphs relating to line's construction - is available on the Settle-Carlisle Partnership web site:

The Wikipedia entry for the Settle-Carlisle Railway includes a bit more detail and is therefore worth a quick read if you are new to the subject:

However, the best sources of information are the publications listed in 'Reference sources for building the line'; the other History Posts that relate to 'Building the line' (see bottom of page); and the Ribblehead Heritage Tours . . .

Ribblehead Heritage Tours

For those able to walk a mile or two over rough ground, the Ribblehead Heritage Tours organised and run by Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line volunteers are a great way to learn about:

  • A class 158 'Norther' DMU crossing Ribblehead Viaduct with Pen-y-ghent beyond

    The history of the famous Ribblehead Viaduct (pictured, right) with its magnificent 24 arches supporting the trackbed more than one hundred feet above Batty Moss. ('Moss' is an Old English word meaning bog - i.e. waterlogged ground).

  • The people who constructed the line and the techniques that they used to do so. Find-out how the navvies lived in this wild and remote location. How they built the cuttings, embankments, bridges (a viaduct is just a long bridge), tunnels, stations, etc - all with little more to assist them than wheelbarrows, pick-axes, shovels, muscle power and, where necessary, dynamite. (The Tour Guides have a few stories to tell about the use - and mis-use of the latter: for example, what happens when you try to dry wet dynamite beside an open fire? . . . !!!)

TThe site of the former tramway, navvy settlement, brickworks, etc at Ribbleheadhe tours also visit some of the archaeological sites in the area, including the evocatively named shanty towns of Inkerman, Batty Green, Sebastopol and Belgravia; the isolation hospital, narrow-gauge tramway and maintenance shed for the narrow-guage steam locomotives; plus the clay-pits, brickworks, lime kilns and stone sorting area. The photograph to the right shows the heart of the area covered by these tours. The routes of some of the tramways are clearly visible as brighter green lines curving across the site.

A longer version of the tour takes-in Force Gill aqueduct and the south portal of Blea Moor Tunnel which, at 2,629 yards, is the longest tunnel on the Settle-Carlisle Railway.

Details of forthcoming Ribblehead Heritage Tours are listed in the printed & online versions of the Guided Walks programme and included in the 'What's Coming Up ...' column of the FoSCL website. A subsetted list showing only the Ribblehead Heritage Tours is available at:

For many particpants on these tours, the close-up and distant views of the viaduct from the adjacent common land are the highlight of the tour, but please note that it is NOT possible to walk along the top of the viaduct as it carries an operational railway. You can, of course, cross it by train. To find-out how, see:

NB: Those wishing to participate in these tours are stongly advised to carry (or wear) warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change significantly in just a few minutes. Participants on the longer tour to Blea Moor are also advised to bring a packed lunch and something non-alchoholic to drink.

Last updated by Mark Harvey on 21/04/2014

History Posts for 'Building the line'

To view the full text plus any images and / or accompanying attachments for one of the 'History Posts' listed below, click on the post title.

History Post written by Mark Harvey. Attached notes written by Peter Davies. These are attached here with acknoweldgement to the National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey.
Date posted: 2014-Jan-21 17:39:05   /   Date last updated: 2014-Mar-17 14:37:30
This list has been compiled by Mark Harvey.
Date posted: 2014-Jan-20 17:00:36   /   Date last updated: 2017-Mar-12 17:40:44
Post written by Mark Harvey
Date posted: 2014-Feb-21 16:31:46   /   Date last updated: 2014-Mar-17 14:35:48