The Settle-Carlisle Railway Conservation Area (SCRCA) Project - Introduction and Overview

SCRCA Photo Montage A - © Mark Harvey (2012)

Introduction (SCRCA Project scope and objectives)

The 78-mile section of railway between Hellifield Junction (two miles south of Settle) and Petteril Bridge Junction (one mile south-east of Carlisle) is considered to be an area of special architectural and historical interest. In a bid to preserve the character and appearance of this unique section of railway, it was designated a Conservation Area in 1991. Despite this, the character of the area is gradually changing.

Network Rail is doing an excellent job maintaining and improving the modern railway that runs through the heart of the Conservation Area, but this inevitably results in a need to repair and / or replace key operational structures such as bridges and signalling equipment. Meanwhile, financial pressures mean that redundant structures are either being left to decay and collapse, or face demolition to eliminate safety risks and / or to reduce maintenance costs. Recent examples of the latter include formal planning applications to demolish Bridge 64 at Gauber (a redundant occupation bridge) and to demolish the disused signal box at Long Meg Sidings plus a nearby redundant platelayers’ hut. The fate of Gauber Bridge is still uncertain but the application to demolish the two structures at Long Meg was successful and they were demolished in January 2013.

The FoSCL Committee and the SCRCA Project Team whole-heartedly support Network Rail's efforts to create and maintain a safe and efficient modern railway. However, we are also acutely aware that the unique heritage and historic character of the line have played a significant part in the phenomenal growth in passenger numbers since the formal reprieve from closure on 11th April 1989. The challenge facing everyone involved with the SCRCA is to balance the need for essential (and highly beneficial) improvements to the operational railway, with the desirability of conserving / preserving / enhancing the historic railway engineering and architecture that gives the SCRCA its unique character. However, there are three issues that combine to make this task especially difficult:

  1. The lack of a comprehensive record of the remaining historic structures.
  2. The absence of a detailed analysis of the relative importance of those structures.
  3. The absence of a standard protocol for dealing with requests to demolish or significantly alter those structures.

In a bid to improve this situation, a small team of volunteers is currently working in partnership with Network Rail, Northern Rail, local Conservation Officers, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (and other relevant local authorities), the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line (FoSCL) and other organisations and individuals to:

  • identify, record and assess the current condition of all the standing and demolished railway-related historic structures within the Settle-Carlisle Railway Conservation Area; then to
  • develop and agree a set of questions / assessment criteria (aligned with English Heritage guidelines) against which the relative importance of the standing structures can be assessed; then to
  • assess the relative importance of each standing structure using the agreed criteria; and then to
  • monitor the condition of the 'important' structures on an ongoing basis.

These activities form the core of the Settle-Carlisle Railway Conservation Area Historic Structure Recording Project (a.k.a. the SCRCA Project). In addition to the illustrations on this page, the Introductory Image Gallery on the SCRCA Historic Structure Recording Project: Public Homepage contains a set of six composite images illustrating the wide variety of structure-types that will ultimately need to be recorded as part of this project.

SCRCA Photo Montage B - © Mark Harvey (2012)

Preparatory phase (now complete)

The project's preparatory phase began in April 2012 and the following activities formed a vital part of the preparations:

  • An initial 'scoping survey' has been carried-out and this indicated that the project will need to cover at least:
    • 407 numbered bridges, including:
      • 14 tunnels
      • 21 viaducts
      • 120 overbridges
      • 251 underbridges
    • 22 stations (12 open, 10 closed), including:
      • 44 passenger platforms
      • 22 main station buildings / booking offices
      • 28 secondary station buildings/ waiting rooms
      • 12 goods sheds
      • 17 cattle docks
      • 14 docks
      • 23 yard offices / weigh-houses
    • 49 signal boxes (10 operational, 2 preserved, 37 demolished)
    • 232 former railway workers’ houses (all now in private ownership)
    • 369 other lineside buildings (almost all of which are now disused and in various stages of decay), including:
      • 49 lamp huts (a.k.a. "oil stores" or "naphtha stores")
      • 160 platelayers' huts
      • 56 fog huts (some of which were probably used / re-used as toilets)
      • 104 other buildings including "stores", "coal offices", "blacksmith's shops", etc)
    • 305 Mileposts
    • 118 Gradient posts
    • In the longer term, the scope of the project may be extended to cover hundreds (potentially thousands) of smaller structures including signals, boundary markers, signs, and other miscellaneous railway-related items plus dozens of archaeological sites connected with the railway's construction.
  • The project team has access to - and permission to use - two complete sets of Midland Railway Company land plans, one set dated 1911, the second set dated 1912. These were originally printed at a scale of two chains to one inch, although the versions available to the team are reproductions and their scale varies across the two sets and, for the 1911 set, from sheet to sheet. Despite this difficulty, the 1911 set has been digitally linked to modern mapping and approximate Ordnance Survey grid references have been obtained for every milepost, gradient post and major structure marked on the plans. The location of each of these structures in 'rail miles' and 'chains' has also been extracted. This data was used to compile an initial Draft Structure List.
  • Drivers’-eye view video footage filmed in 1984, 1992, 2002, 2010 and 2012 has been obtained from a variety of sources. This footage provide an invaluable record of the changes that have taken place since the line's nadir in 1984 and the Project Team has been given permission to use it for project-related purposes. The 2012 footage has therefore been reviewed to identify structures that have been added or removed since 1911 and to extract video stills for each visible structure.
  • Network Rail have kindly provided the Project Team with photographs of some of the structures that are not visible from publicly accessible locations. They have also offered to provide similar assistance in the future should this prove necessary / helpful.
  • A set of questions / assessment criteria has been drawn-up to enable the relative importance of individual SCRCA structures to be evaluated. These questions / assessment criteria are aligned with English Heritage guidelines for listed buildings and 'local listing', but reflect the SCRCA's unique position as a linear conservation area straddling and encompassing an increasingly busy, modern, operational railway line.
  • A standard Visual Assessment Report form has been created following English Heritage guidelines and a set of accompanying guidance notes for conducting and recording assessments has been produced.
  • A comprehensive and flexible computerised information system has been developed to provide a combination of secure off-line and online (web-based) storage for all project-related material. One of the project's core objectives is to make this material available to the general public wherever it is appropriate to do so and this is currently being achieved via the the SCRCA Project section of the FoSCL website.
  • Approximately 50 trial 'on-the-ground' assessments were carried out to test the Assessment Report form, to obtain photographs for use in project publicity and to obtain the data needed to develop and test the computer database.
  • All of the information from the Draft Structure List has been entered into the online (web-based) information system and the resulting Master Structure List is now being used to plan and control a rolling programme of on-site structure assessments.

Operational phase (ongoing)

The operational phase of the SCRCA Project began in May 2013 and, to make the most effective use of the extremely limited number of volunteer resources, the project team is currently focussing on the following key tasks:

  • Field assessments: Five members of the SCRCA Project Team are currently conducting field assessments in their spare time. The field assessments for the areas adjacent to each of the open and closed stations have been completed (insofar as this can be done from publicly accessible locations) and attention has now turned to the more time-consuming areas in-between. This is a long-term task and it is expected to take around five years to carry-out the initial assessments for all of structures (or structure sites) that are visible from publicly accessible areas.
    NB: The structure assessments conducted as part of the SCRCA Historic Structure Recording Project are quick visual assessments only. They are usually carried-out from a distance and some are carried-out without a site visit, using only photographs and / or video-stills). These structure assessments are NOT detailed structural or archaeological surveys and they must not be used or interpreted as such.
  • Data processing and upload: The information and photographs obtained during the field assessments are being processed and uploaded to the online system as quickly as possible. However, this is a very time-consuming task and, at the present rate of progress, it too will take at least five years to complete. The stills from the 2012 video are also being uploaded as and when time permits, but the video footage from earlier years will not be reviewed for the forseeable future unless additional volunteer resources become available. (If you think that you may be able to help us with this task, further information is available on the 'SCRCA Project: Getting Involved' page.)
    With the resources currently available, our target is to complete the field assessments for all publicly accessible structures by the end of 2018 and to complete the processing and uploading of the associated Assessment Reports and photographs by the end of 2019. However, this timescale is dependent upon the availability of volunteer resources (and, to a lesser extent, on the weather). If you'd like to help us with this data processing task, please respond to the plea for additional volunteers on the 'SCRCA Project: Getting Involved' page: we would especially appreciate help with the processing and uploading of digital images.
  • Data review and follow-up: All of the material obtained as part of the project is being reviewed by the SCRCA Project Team on a regular basis. One of the objectives of these reviews is to identify historic structures that may be ‘at risk’. Particular attention is being paid to operationally redundant and otherwise unused structures, the goal being to identify any that may warrant:
    • restoration (i.e. sympathetic repair in-situ – preferably for re-use),

    • conservation (i.e. sympathetic stabilisation in-situ), or

    • preservation (i.e. re-location followed by sympathetic repair and ongoing maintenance).

  • Preparation of a 'Knowledge Base': As the project progresses, a publicly accessible 'knowledge base' will be created for the most important and / or the most interesting structures / locations within the SCRCA. Each 'knowledge base' will contain a brief summary of everything that we know (or think we know) about the structure / location concerned. Public input will then be solicited in a bid to expand, verify and generally improve the accuracy and usefulness of these 'knowledge bases'.

Background information relating to the SCRCA

If you would like to find out more about the Settle-Carlisle Railway Conservation Area, the following webpages / documents will provide a good introduction:

Click here to return to the public homepage for the SCRCA Historic Structure Recording Project.



Last updated by Mark Harvey on 08/02/2017
The SCRCA Project section of the FoSCL website was designed and
developed by Mark R. Harvey. Database rights have been asserted.