Structure / Site Summary for 247800

Ribblehead Railway Construction Camp: Tramway System

When building a railway in the middle of nowhere, build a tramway system first . . .

To facilitate the contruction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway, an extensive narrow-gauge tramway system was constructed to link Blea Moor with the area now known as Ribblehead. Although the trackwork and buildings have all been removed, the earthworks associated with the trackbed are still clearly visible in the landscape. In the large image below, they appear as darker green lines of smoother grass, curving through the rougher vegetation. The grey-coloured access road also lies on the alignment of a section of the tramway.

The 2½ mile section of tramway between the Hawes-Ingleton Road and Force Gill was constructed in just one month and it was operated by steam locomotives running on the rails. The two steeper sections (from Force Gill, over Blea Moor, then down to Dent Head) were rope- or cable-operated inclined planes. These were powered by a pair of stationary steam engines, one installed at the top of each incline. At the summit on Blea Moor, a short section of relatively level track linked the two inclines, providing a continuous route from Ribblehead to Dent Head. Contemporary sources state that the track-gauge of the inclined plane sections was two-feet and it is highly likely that the loco-hauled sections were the same.

The Crag of Blea Moor Tramway linked the main tramway with quarries on the summit of Blea Moor.


Key details from the SCRCA Structure Record

Brief description: Ribblehead Railway Construction Camp: Tramway System

Assessment status: Assessed

Location 1 - Rail-miles: 247

Location 3 - Position relative to main running lines (tracks): Remote

Is a structure of this type shown at this location on the MR 1911 landplan?: No

Construction / installation period: MR-C

Current Use: Demolished

Visibility: Visible

Accessibility (ease of access): Moderate

In terms of linear distance, the majority of the tramway trackbed between Ribblehead Station and Dent Head lies outside the boundaries of both the Settle-Carlisle Railway Conservation Area and the "Ribblehead railway construction camp and prehistoric field system" Scheduled Ancient Monument. However, the remains of a key part of the tramway system to the northeast of Ribblehead Viaduct lies inside the boundary of the Settle Carlisle Railway Conservation Area and inside the boundary of the "Ribblehead railway construction camp and prehistoric field system" Scheduled Ancient Monument. The latter is covered by List Entry Number (LEN) 1015726.

The relevant entry in "The National Heritage List for England" can be reviewed at:

List Entry Extract(s)

The information contained in the 'SCRCA List Entry Extract' database has been extracted (using the cut-and-paste method) from the relevant List Entries in "The National Heritage List for England" ( Clicking on the List Entry Number in the left hand column will open the relevant SCRCA Project List Entry Extract. However, these extracts may contain errors and the original entry may have been altered since the information was extracted. If you need to use the information for anything important, you are STRONGLY ADVISED to refer to the official List Entry using the relevant link in the right-hand column.

List entry Number (LEN) List Entry Name Protection Category List Entry County List Entry District List Entry National Park List Entry Source URL(s)
1015726 Ribblehead railway construction camp and prehistoric field system      SAM North Yorkshire Craven    YDNP

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Primary / Secondary References

Source: "The Midland railway: its rise and progress. A narrative of modern enterprise" by Frederick Smeeton Williams, published by Strahan & Co London (1876). The following extract is from pages 493-495:

. . . the work of construction commenced by the formation of the tramway across the moors, from the road to the foot of the hill. This was a distance of two miles and a half. As Mr. Ashwell remarked to us," We worked like Yankees, and laid nearly a mile a week. A month after we began, we had a locomotive running over it. We used it till within a month of the opening of the line and some of it was there the other day. It would scarcely, however, have done for a main thoroughfare, for there were gradients of 1 in 25, and of 1 in 16; and there were curves of two and a half and three chains radius;* but up and down and in and out we went till we reached our destination. [* A chain is 66 feet; a curve of one chain radius is therefore a circle of 132 feet diameter. A three chain radius would mean a circle the diameter of which is 132 yards.]

. . . "But how in the world did you ever manage to get that lumbering, ponderous engine up here?" we inquired of our friend, Mr. Ashwell. "Pulled it up with a crab," he replied. "A crab!" we asked, "what's that?" “'Well, a windlass perhaps you call it. We fixed the windlass in its place; laid a two-foot gauge road up the hill-side in places sometimes as steep as one foot perpendicular rise in two and a half feet length, and then dragged it up 1300 feet above the sea. By having crabs placed one above another, we pulled up first the boiler which weighed two tons and a half, and then the engine, the lot weighing very likely six tons. The riveters put it together. It was a strange thing to hear the ‘tap, tap' of the riveters' hammers up there in that howling wilderness. When one engine was set to work, we used it for drawing up some of the others."

"And did you get them all up that way ? " "Well, no; we had to get another up the flatter side of the hill; and that was more difficult still, because of the bogs. We managed that on a drug,—a four-wheeled timber wagon sort of thing. It was an uncommonly strong one, you may be sure. We brought it along the Ingleton road and then, for two miles and a half, we pulled it by means of two ropes working round the boiler; as one rope was drawn off the other was rolled on. And so, stage by stage, we dragged it over the rugged and boggy ground, and up to the top of the mountain on which it stands." And there for four years and more those engines did their almost ceaseless work, the two at either end winding materials or men up the inclined planes from near the tunnel mouths, while the others were lowering bricks and mortar in "skeps" down the shafts, or raising the excavated rock or the water that found its way into the workings, and threatened, ever and anon, to drown them out.

Notes / additional information

For links and references to a wealth of fascinating and useful information about life at - and the sites and structures associated with - the Ribblehead Railway Construction Camp, see "Contemporary accounts relating to the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway".

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