Contemporary Account of SCR Construction: Lancaster Guardian - 1871, October 21st

The following contemporary account relating to the construction of the Settle - Carlisle railway appeared on page 3 (columns 5 & 6) of the October 21st, 1871 edition of the Lancaster Guardian.

The question marks identify text that was impossible to clearly decipher, either on the microfiche, or in the subsequent handwritten transcription.


Having arranged some time ago to go over the railway works on Bleamoor, one day last week while the weather was fine I determined to carry out my long-cherished purposes. Awakening at early dawn and finding that with quick walking I should barely have time to reach Hornby Station for the first train from Lancaster, I decided at once no to break my fast until I should arrive at Ingleton. The morning was frosty, the air bracing, and the highways were clear, and as my nimble feet were in good walking order, I accomplished the distance, five miles, within an hour and a quarter. None of the farmers at Aughton appeared to have let their homesteads, and their good house wives had not yet kindled their fires. The waning moon and the morning star were the last sentinels of the departing night, and long strips of light-grey clouds stretched across the west like sand banks on the sea coast. While passing Aughton retired church yard on could not avoid thinking about the quiet sleep of Elizabeth Nelson, and contrast it with the troubled conscience of him who ruthlessly crushed her life out of her. As one tripped along the uneven and elevated ground it was pleasant to cast the eye over the distant hills which bounded the horiozon on the north, east and south, and on the low lying valea and rivers within the mountain ranges. Though it was so early in the morning when I reached Hornby, some of the pense were filled with sheep, and men of business habits who believe in taking time by the forstock were pushing their hands into their sides with as much eagerness and delight as if their souls and the bliss were wrapped up in wool and mutton.

After taking some refreshment at Ingleton and paying a few friendly visits, the journey to Batty Green had to be performed on foot. Carts laden with coal and railway material were numerous, but there were no public conveyances for passengers. The road was in a much better condition that it was the last autumn and it was so far even and smooth that the weariness of the journey was lessened by reading at intervals one of the daily papers. The long ranges of limestone rocks which skirted the sides of Ingleborough and Whernside, with the green meadows and pastures at their feet, were beautifully checkered with sunny gleams and the shadows of slowly moving clouds. The little chapel in the dale, with its much improved appearance, its enlarged burial ground, and the snug parsonage adjoining were a light relief in the centre of rocks and mountains. Considering the time of year the lofty moorlands, the high-towering mountains, with a beautiful stream meandering through the grassy dale, and all made bright with sun-light, was a sight to charm the eyes of the least of creation’s admirers. Before reaching Batty Green on might see as well as hear that all was life and bustle from the highway and over the moor to the summit of Bleamoor. Shortly after replenishing the inner man, a friend who was aware of my intended visit accompanied me over the extensive railway works on the moor.


Our first visit was to the brick-making establishment which is under the management of Mr. Rixon. The brick works, which cover a large space of moorland, consist of extensive drying sheds, ovens, a large patent brick-making machine by Porter and Co., of Carlisle, a crushing machine, and a traveller seventy yards long to deliver the bricks in the shed above the ovens where they are dried by the waste heat. Porter's machine when in full work will make about 20,000 bricks a day. At present, as only half of it is at work, it makes from 11,000 to 12,000 a day. There are ten ovens with two fire holes to each oven. An oven holds from fourteen to fifteen thousand bricks, and it takes about a week to burn them. The quantity of fuel consumed at these works is only half the quantity used at an ordinary brick kiln. The bed of clay which lies under a thin strata of peat is a mud deposit and much of it on account of its sandy nature is thrown aside. A crushing machine is employed to grind shale, which being intermixed with the clay used at the works, yields bricks of such a superior quality that when thrown out of the ovens they ring like pots. From 26 to 28 persons are employed at the works. Two girls were busy carrying bricks from the never-ceasing traveller. The large quantities of bricks made at these works are used for lining and arching the tunnel.


Batty Moss Viaduct, which is under the superintendence of Mr. Hurst, is an undertaking of considerable magnitude. This immense structure, when finished, will consist of twenty-four arches, each arch of 45 feet span and 18 feet rise. The piers, which are being built of black marble dug out of a quarry on Mr. Farrer's estate, will terminate at springing with a thickness of 6 feet, the batter on the face being 1 inch in 32. The north abutment and the piers for the first six openings are already raised to heights varying from 10 feet to 25 feet. The foundations for the next six piers are put in and built up to the level. The foundations are taken down to solid rock, which is mountain limestone. The depth from the rail level of the viaduct to the bottom of the deepest foundation will be, when finished, about 118 feet. The lime used at the works is Barrow lime, brought from the neighbourhood of Leicester. The limestone of which the viaduct is built burns to a very good hydraulic lime. The staging for a quarter of the length of the viaduct is to the height of within 20 feet of springing. A steam crane is employed to unload the stone, and two hand cranes and there [sic] travellers to turn the stone and for setting it. The whole of the stone is brought from two quarries under Whernside, at the distance of one and a quarter miles, by a locomotive. The stone requires much labour to dress it. The class of work is 18-lock in course. A ten-horse power engine is constantly employed for mixing mortar. About sixty masons and labourers are employed on this work; the number of workmen varies much, for though good wages are paid some of them generally leave after every pay day; sometimes as many as eight fresh hands are set on the works in a day. According to the opinion of the foreman it will be two years at the present rate of progress before the viaduct will be finished. The work hitherto has been attended with many impeding difficulties — such as the hardness of the stone, the flooding of the quarries by a mountain stream, and the wetness of the moor. The black marble, which is capable of a fine polish, is dug out in blocks... it is in mind to use additional mechanical forces so that double the number of workmen may be employed. A steam pump will be used at the quarry, and two steam travelling cranes on the gantry.

As the foundations of the piers and abutments are laid so deep, a cursory observer will not see the full extent of the progress made. Mr. Ashwell, the contractor, has done much to make the workmen comfortable. On the gantry, the men have boxes to shelter them from the weather and on the ground there are sheds for the comfort of the masons. The wages on these works average from 1s. to 1s. 6d. per day higher than the wages in Lancashire and Yorkshire: many of the masons get 6s. 6d. per day. While lingering about the viaduct an unusual but a very solemn scene came into sight, the funeral of a young man from the tunnel huts in a wagon drawn slowly by an engine on the tramway to Batty Green. The attendants were ??????? and respectfully addressed. One remarkable ??feature?? of the workmen on these works is their sympathy towards one another in sickness and death.

When leaving the viaduct my guide ??hailed?? an engine driver who was about to return with a train of empty wagons to one of the cuttings in the direction of the tunnel; after mounting the engine and taking our position, so as to support ourselves by the brass rail on its side, the snorting steed started off at a tolerably quick speed. No one can imagine the queer sensation which comes over one from the rolling and pitching motion of the locomotive caused by the unevenness and crookedness of the tramway excepting a novice in such a mode of transit. Up and down, heaving on one side and anon on the other, slackening its speed at curves and then accelerating it when they were past, was enough to make nervous persons giddy and to relax their hold. It was a relief when the locomotive had accomplished its journey to alight safe and sound on terra firma. The cuttings on this side of the tunnel are well opened up, the gullets being well driven in advance. About 150,000 cubic yards have been taken out. Two locomotives are employed in conveying the excavated earth to the bank; about 150 men are employed at these cuttings; the number of men fluctuate very much. At present there is ample room for double the number of men. Most of the work on this part of the line is let to Batty Moss gangs, and the men divide their earnings equally among themselves, or in proportion to the hours they work. The men, on account of this co-operation, earn good wages and they might do well but for drink. Drink meets them at every step, and they appear to be powerless to resist the British workman's greatest foe.


At the south end of the tunnel all appeared to be life and activity. The chatter of machinery, the noise of children and men indicated that no ordinary work was going on. As we reached the south end of the tunnel a train of trollies was about to ascend the steep tramway to the summit of Blea Moor. This mountain line is worked by a wire rope and a fixed engine on the hill. Most of the trollies were laden with coal, which were crowned with bags of flour and other domestic commodities. Before an engine was erected, coals were carried up the mountain by donkeys, and heavy railway material was drawn up by crabs. Shaft A, sunk at the proposed entrance to the south end of the tunnel, is 35 yards deep. About 100 yards have been driven or tunnelled northwards. The lining of the arch with brickwork varies from 1ft 6 inch to 2ft 3 inch in thickness completed. At this shaft, a 12-inch winding engine is employed, which also works an 8 inch pump and a Blow George to supply the men below with air. No. 1 shaft is a permanent shaft, and it has been sunk to the foundation level. About 40 yards from this shaft have been tunnelled each way, and the arching of the top has been completed as at A shaft. A 12 inch winding engine is used to draw the debris from the tunnel. A 16 inch engine is employed to pump the water and blow air to the men at the bottom. No. 2 shaft is also a permanent shaft, and it has been sunk to foundation level, a depth of 127 yards, and lined throughout. The shaft length has been mined, and it is being lined with brickwork, so that operations will soon be in full force for taking out the tunnel and driving headings. A 16-inch winding-engine is employed to draw up the debris from the tunnel, and a 20 inch engine is fixed for working the pump, which is a 10 inch one, same as No. 1. The water met with varies from 80 to 100 gallons per minute. It is a curious fact that if the tunnel had been required to be of a few feet lower level, a body of water would be met with that a greater amount of pumping power would be required than is at present employed. Engine power is laid down to raise 450 to 500 gallons per minute.

The heading from the north on Dent Head end has been driven a distance of 750 lineal yards, or nearly half a mile, into the hill and is fast approaching the summit. It has been driven under No. 3 shaft, which has been standing for some time, and down which a bore hole has been driven a depth of ??84?? yards into the heading below. By this means, the water is got out of the shaft and air is supplied to the men below. About ??250?? lineal yards of tunnel have been completed. At this end, the air is supplied to the workmen at the face of the heading by a simple and effectual contrivance, viz, a long column of water in a wrought-iron pipe, which has its outlet through a rose fixed on the tip. The column of water has a pressure of 120lb per square inch. Consequently, the rush of water drives the air up a pipe 11 inch by 9 inch to the face of the heading. The force of the air is so strong that it will blow a candle out two or three yards from the end of the pipe. The whole of the tunnel, with very little exception, is hard rock, such as limestone and grit. The average speed of driving at a face is about four yards per week. Though there are about 160 miners at work in the tunnel, still is sufficient room for twice that number.


This viaduct, when completed, will consist of ten arches of 45ft. span and 18ft. rise. The height from the level of the rails to the bottom of the gill will be about 95 ft. This viaduct will be built from black limestone found in Mr. Farrer’s land on the north side of Bleamoor. The timber staging has been erected one half the length of the intended structure. The mason work is being pushed on for the south abutment and the first pier. A bridge has been built, and the road at Dent Head has been diverted for the length of about 200 yards. The bridge is built of sandstone and is finished off in such a style as to reflect credit on the contractor. Another bridge is also completed near the end of Mr. Ashwell’s contract.

On our descent from the mountain, seeing a trulley train behind us, we waited its approach, thinking that a short ride would be some relief to our wearied limbs. As the men are too apt in their descent from their work to sit on the front of the trullies sometimes, through the jolting, they are tossed off. Just before the train reached is it stopped all at once, when one of the men on the front of the trullies was pitched from his seat head first on the tramway. His presence of mind and quick movements enabled him to quickly regain his seat, but not without drawing blood from one of his hands. There is much said about children having a national right to be educated, but there is a poor chance of the intellects of the rising generation being cultivated in this locality. Very few of the children Sebastopol and none of them at Jericho and the tunnel huts go to either the day or Sunday school at Batty Green. The distance, badness of the road, and the wetness of the road is a barrier to this. Groups of children here and there were sitting on the moor, which must, on account of its swampy condition, be very injurious to their health. Surely the Midland Company might do something towards the education of these neglected children, who through circumstances of the workmen are deprived of the educational advantages of towns and villages. After a long day’s wandering I returned for the night to Batty Green, where I was as well entertained as if I had taken up my abode at a first class inn. Some of the dwellings at Batty Green are well constructed for comfort, and as for the hospitality of the inhabitants, it could not be surpassed in the most refined society. My night’s rest was unbroken until early morn, when I was disturbed by a community of rats that played nice pranks over head. Many of the huts are much plagued with rats, which have left the mountain stream on the moor close by to share the better things of human life. By early dawn next morning I left my comfortable domicile and kind host, well satisfied with my ramble over the railway works on Bleamoor. – Cor.


The text quoted above was manually transcribed from a microfiched copy of the newspaper by Mark R. Harvey during a visit to Lancaster Library on July 10th, 2007.

Section menu for contemporary accounts and memories