How they built the Settle-Carlisle railway: B - Preamble

This page presents a selection of general contemporary accounts relating to the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway (including the associated Hawes Branch) between 1869 and 1878. They have been extracted from “How they built the Settle-Carlisle railway” by W.R. Mitchell (published by Castleberg in 1989, reprinted in 2001) and the extracts are reproduced here with the kind permission of Dr Mitchell. The extracts are presented as they were written in the original sources, which means there are variations in the spelling of place names and in punctuation. The numbers at the beginning of each extract were not part of the original text: they have been added to aid cross-referencing. The Foreword and Introduction page explains how these extracts were obtained and provides a key to the abbreviations used.


0.1: The first pioneer sent into this remarkable country on behalf of the Midland Company was a young engineer named Sharland. A Tasmanian by birth, he had been for some time professionally engaged on the Maryport and Carlisle Railway, and had become familiar with this entire district. Immediately on his appointment he started off to find the best route for the proposed line and in ten days walked the whole distance from Carlisle to Settle. M.R. (1876)

0.2: The line is now being constructed in Sectional Contracts, under the superindendence of John H. Crossley, Esq., as Engineer-in-Chief of the Midland Railway Co; John Thomson, Consulting Resident Engineer.

  • Contract No 1 — Resident Engineers, R.E. Wilson and Edgar O. Ferguson; Contractor, John Ash well; Contractor's Agents, James Hope, W.H.Ashwell. (The Contract No. 1 is now being carried on by the Midland Co., A. Terry being the agent assisted by W.H. Ashwell).
  • Contract No. 2 — John S. Storey, Resident Engineer; Assistant Engineer, Frank Lynde; Contractors, Benton and Woodiwiss; Contractors' Agent, James Hay.
  • Contract No. 3 — Resident Engineer, Jesse Drage; Contractor, Joseph Firbank; Contractor's Agent, J. Throstle.
  • Contract No. 4 — Resident Engineers, John Allis and Samuel Paine; Contractor, John Bayliss; Contractor's Agents, J. Lambert, E. Williams.
  • Contract No. 5 (Hawes branch) — Resident Engineer, Edward Newcome; Contractors, Benton and Woodiwiss; Contractor's Agent, James Hay. W.A. (1873)

From the Ribble to the Eden

0.3: All the engineering works have been completed in a most substantial manner and steel rails have been laid along the whole length from Settle to Carlisle. The line will accommodate a rich agricultural district in Westmorland and Cumberland but its main object is to afford a new and additional route for the traffic between England and Scotland. W.G. (1876)

0.4: The strata passed through on the whole Line is Limestone, Gritstone, Shale, Clay, Washing and Boulders, Red Sandstone, Sand and Marl. W.A. (1873)

0.5: Mentioning navvies to a man with soiled clothes, he quickly replied: "Do you call me a navvy?" Though the honest labour of the lowest scale of workers on the line is honourable, still as a miner he felt his honour was impeached by being classed with navvies. L.G. (1873)

0.6: A list of head and hand workers connected with railway making may be interesting to the curious. Directors, engineers-in-chief, resident engineers, contractors and sub-contractors, inspectors, clerks, cashiers, gangers, timekeepers, masons, brickmakers, masons' and brickmakers' labourers, carpenters, minders, platelayers, horsekeepers, carpenters, engine drivers, stokers, tippers, saddlers, mechanics, sawyers, quarrymen, cement burners, mortar grinders, engine tenters, and navvies. Lawyers and doctors have a share in the concern, but as one did not know which niche to give them, prudence directed a separate recognition. L.G. (1873)

0.7: How easily in railway construction could money be wasted or spent to misuse if the head direction were faulty; for one day on this line if every man did work that was of no use we reckon the amount of wages alone would equal about £1,200. This is calculating 6,000 men at four shillings per diem. W.A. (1874)

0.8: If the line had been simply a branch line, quicker curves and steeper gradients no doubt would have been adopted and a comparatively light line secured on the sidelong hills, twisting and twirling in and out to avoid cuttings and embankments; but the Settle to Carlisle is to be a trunk link on which the traffic will be of great dimensions and in this case flat curves and as good gradients as possible must be adopted. And when one thinks by the means of curves and inclines the number of routes that could be selected it shews a masterly mind to be able to conquer all the various obstacles and difficulties that retard the way. W.A. (1874)

0.9: From Settle Junction to the termination of the second contract there is not a cornfield on either side of the line. Near Smardale Viaduct is a field of turnips. L.G. (1875)

Series Links

The other pages in the series "How they built the Settle-Carlisle railway" can be accessed via the following links:

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