The new Managing Director of Northern, David Brown, opened the refurbished Visitor Centre at Ribblehead Station on Monday 2nd October. David Brown was until recently Chief Executive of Transport for the North, and this was his first official engagement in his new role. He arrived in the driver’s cab of the 12.02 train from Leeds and was accompanied by Paul Barnfield, Chris Jackson and John Kitching of Northern.
The first task was to visit the Waiting Shelter on the northbound platform. This has been refurbished by volunteers, and funded by members of the Settle & Carlisle family. Nick Pearce (Chairman of the S&C Property Company) and David Sides (Network Rail’s route asset manager, LNW) agreed working methods so that volunteers could carry out work on what is an operational railway. Ged Pinder, supported by Matt Field, made and installed new front panels to original Midland Railway designs. Manufacturing was carried out off-site in the workshop at Settle, funded by the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line (FoSCL). Wonder of Wood, based near Settle, supported the project and Robert Handy, the owner, was present to see the finished work.
David Brown, accompanied by Bryan Gray (Chairman of the Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust), then walked to Ribblehead Station to view a new permanent Exhibition. The station is managed by the S&C Trust, which also runs a tearoom and small shop at the station, staffed by volunteers and open daily from March to October.
The Visitor Centre has been refurbished as part of the ‘Stories in Stone’ project led by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. A grant of £2m was secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a total cost of £2.6m to fund 27 individual projects in the Three Peaks area of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The Ribblehead Visitor Centre received a grant of £32,000 with an additional £12,000 provided by FoSCL.
The new exhibition tells the story of the line from its opening in 1876 through to the present day. It describes the building of Ribblehead Viaduct and Blea Moor tunnel and life in the navvy settlement. The exhibition includes an innovative computer model using aerial photography and 3D models. It can be viewed on a touch screen at Ribblehead, and also viewed on-line. Atlantics Geomatics of Penrith developed the model and Managing Director Tim Viney was present at the opening.
Bryan Gray gave a short welcome speech. He thanked the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line for their support. He also thanked the train operator Northern and Network Rail, and said the vision of the S&C family was to see more trains providing a faster service between Leeds and Carlisle. In response David Brown praised the excellent partnership between Northern and the S&C family, and agreed to work together to see if the vision of more and faster services could be achieved. He then unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening.
It was a wet and windy day at Ribblehead but this did not deter fifty guests including representatives from the organizations, which have worked together, and the many volunteers who have worked on the project.