This page presents a selection of contemporary accounts relating to the final stages of the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway and its opening to traffic between 1875 and 1876.
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.
With all Speed to Scotland
6.1: On Thursday last, a party of the engineers and contractors went over the northern part of the Settle and Carlisle extension, making a preliminary inspection prior to the visit of the Midland directors, who are to pass over the whole of the new line —Settle to Carlisle —on the 29th inst, without change of carriage. The whole of the works are being pushed forward, now that the weather is so favourable, with all speed, the men being allowed to work all the hours they possibly can in order to effect the opening of the line for goods and mineral traffic by either July or August 1st. W.G. (1875)
6.2: We understand the line is laid through with steel rails, and the station accommodation which has been provided for passengers leaves nothing to be desired. R.T. (1875)
6.3: The first sod of the new line was cut near Anley, in November, 1869; and by the time of our visit, skill, energy and money had brought the work nearly to its completion. M.R. (1876)
6.4: For the purposes of the public sale of contractor's plant, which commenced on Monday forenoon, a special train was run from Leeds, stopping on the way at Shipley, Keighley and Skipton. Upon their arrival at Settle, the company (numbering about 200 passengers) found large quantities of working "plant" arranged in no fewer than 1,200 lots on both sides of the line for a distance of nearly a mile from the new station. The collection, as may be supposed, was a heterogeneous one, including a locomotive, boilers, engines, upwards of 70 wagons, 400,000 bricks, nearly 400 tons of contractor's rails, more than 100 tons of scrap iron, and 800 tons of firewood, as well as other articles less known to the general public, and variously described as "Goliaths", "overhead travellers", etc.
The whole of this accumulation belonged to what is distinguished as the first contract, and its sale is expected to realise something like £10,000. The auctioneers are Messrs. Oliver, Son and Appleton, of Leeds, who will continue the sale during the week. L.G. (1875)
6.5: After five years' hard work and immense outlay of capital, the making of this important new railway is now practically completed. Owing to the somewhat rough state in which portions of it still remain, the line is not yet quite ready to be thrown open for ordinary traffic. It may, however, be inferred that the time for this is not far distant, the fact being that a special train of saloon carriages has passed over the entire length of seventy-two miles from Carlisle to Settle, with the directors of the Midland Railway Company, and that the auction sale of contractors' plant (another unmistakeable sign of the finished of work) was commenced on Monday. This news will be welcomed by the travelling public, and still more by shareholders, many of whom have long been impatient for some return from the enormous cost of the undertaking. L.G. (1875)
6.6: When opened for passenger traffic, the celebrated Pullman Cars will be run from London to Scotland, and vice versa, so that at night passengers will be able to retire to rest at one terminus, and alight refreshed at the other in the morning. W.A. (1876)
6.7: The permanent way is laid throughout with 82lb steel rails, and adapted for heavy traffic and high speed. . . The line is fitted with block signalling apparatus and interlocking points and levers, and the wires to the distant signals are connected with an ingenious compensating apparatus which takes up any slackness due to stretching or expansion, and keeps them always taut. The officials believe that signals so fitted could not be overpowered by snow, as were those on the great Northern Railway on a recent occasion. W.G. (1876)
6.8: Taking the brake apparatus and the signalling together, it may fairly be said that the new line has been rendered as secure as it is possible for appliances to make it. Nor is it only the safety of passengers which has been considered, for in the moorland country, the telegraph wires have been arranged with special reference to the grouse —in some places in a horizontal row, instead of the usual vertical one; in others in a single rope of such thickness as to be easily seen. W.G. (1876)
6.9: On Monday, the stations along the new line were crowded and the trains, as they passed through, were loudly cheered. At Appleby, there was a demonstration in the shape of athletic sports, dancing on the green and a ball at night. W.G. (1876)
The other pages in the series "How they built the Settle-Carlisle railway" can be accessed via the following links: