Photographs relating to the construction of the Settle & Carlisle Railway

All of the photographs listed on this page were taken during or shortly after the construction of the Settle & Carlisle Railway (1869-1876).

The photographs have been grouped into sections based on their source and then sorted by geographic location (progressing from south to north). Set A was almost certainly created as an official record (perhaps to reassure investors that significant progress was being made with the construction works and that they would soon begin to see a return on their investments). Set B was almost certainly created as a private commercial venture (with the subjects being chosen for maximum appeal, hence the inclusion of scenic views as well as construction views).

A brief description or caption is provided for each image and, if a rights-cleared copy of the image is available, the original filename is provided in italics at the end of the description / caption.

All of the displayed images have been carefully edited to increase the amount of visible detail and (where necessary) to remove the sepia colouring. Watermarks have also been added to provide visible acknowledgements to both the source and the SCRCA Project.

A: The Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust (SCRT)

The Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust was formed in 1990 "to help preserve, restore and maintain historic buildings and structures along the line and to promote public knowledge and appreciation of the line". One of its key activities is the development and management of an archive of historic material and the photographs in this section form part of that archive[1]. The available evidence suggests that these photographs were taken 'officially', for use by the Midland Railway Company.

B: World of Stereo Views (WSV)

The photographs in this section were taken during the 1870s (circa 1871 to 1873) and they were originally distributed in the form of a set of stereo slides[5]. The set includes views of at least ten work sites associated with the construction of the Settle & Carlisle Railway, plus general views of nearby scenic areas (although the latter are not reproduced here).

Other known photographs

The following has been published elsewhere, but we do not currently have permission from the relevant rights holder(s) to reproduce it here:

  • A photograph (believed to be a scan of a postcard) showing three men posing outside the open door of a stone building. One of the men is perched on an upturned log, as if being given a haircut by the second man while the third looks on from the doorway. The men are believed to be railway construction workers (a.k.a. 'navvies') and a handwritten caption beneath the image reads "Hair cutting at Ribblehead Viaducts". This photograph was published on page 35 of the May 2011 edition of the 'FoSCL Journal', a digital copy of which can be downloaded from: Magazine May 2011webversion_1.pdf

Can you help?

We would like to make this list as comprehensive as possible. If you have - or if you know of - any photographs relating to the construction of the Settle & Carlisle Railway that we've not listed, we would love to hear from you: please get in touch via the contact form. It is worth noting here that there are no known photographs showing any of the stations during their construction (unless you know different).

Further reading

The following articles provide a valuable insight into the equipment, construction methods and work site conditions associated with railway building in the period leading up to the construction of the Settle & Carlisle Railway (1869-1876):

  • Building railways in the 1860s: two Midland extensions. This includes thirty-six black & white photographs taken during the construction of the Midland Railway's extensions from Rowsley to Buxton and New Mills in northwest Derbyshire (1860-1866) and the London extension from Bedford to the capital (1863-1868). The photographs show a wide range of fascinating details, including the surface equipment above tunnel access shafts, a tramway winding engine and a brick-making machine. They also illustrate the process of constructing embankments, bridges & viaducts, cuttings and tunnels.
  • A brief time-travelling excursion to London St. Pancras. This includes a fascinating set of twenty-five black & white photographs taken during the construction of St. Pancras station (the Midland Railway's passenger terminus in London) between 1866 and 1876.

For additional resources relating to the construction of the Settle & Carlisle Railway, see 'Primary source material and contemporary accounts relating to the construction of the Settle-Carlisle Railway'.

Footnotes & acknowledgements

This list of photographs was been compiled by Mark R. Harvey with the kind assistance of Bryan Gray, Paul Kampen and Nigel Mussett.

[1] The Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust has its own website at

[2] © Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust.

[3] Provided by the Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust, © B. M. Gray.

[4] These two photographs of Ribblehead Viaduct (Images A4 & A5)  can be dated to the spring of 1873 by reference to the progress dates given on a drawing entitled "M.R. Settle to Carlisle Railway No.1. Batty Moss Viaduct at 13 Miles" and newspaper accounts of the period.

[5] This set consists of twenty-nine low resolution black & white images (in the form of 'stereo pairs') derived from photographs taken by an unknown photographer (or photographers) showing the Settle & Carlisle Railway under construction. The images were included in a larger collection of 'stereo view' slides (a.k.a. 'stereo pairs')  purchased by (WSV). WSV recognised the importance of these images as a unique and important historical record and created a set of digital copies. When the physical slides were subsequently sold to a collector, WSV retained the copyright and subsequently licensed the full set of images (which includes scenic views as well as the railway views) to NVM Digital. In 2003, NVM Digital published these images under license (for personal use only) as part of a CD-ROM entitled "Historic Photographs of the Settle to Carlisle Railway". NVM Digital no longer appears to be trading but, on 16th August 2022, WSV kindly authorised us to use the digital images for SCRCA Project purposes.

[6] It is believed that this photograph was first published on page 19 of 'Settle-Carlisle Railway - The Midland's Record-breaking route to Scotland' by W.R. Mitchell & David Joy (Dalesman 1966, reprinted 1967). The caption states that "This is the only known photograph of the Settle & Carlisle Railway under construction. It recently came to light at a farmhouse sale ...".

[7] It is believed that these photographs were first published on pages 9, 22, 35, 44 & 45 of 'Rails in the Fells' by David Jenkinson (Peco Publications and Publicity Ltd, 1973 - revised 1980).

[8] It is believed that these photographs were first published in 'Settle-Carlisle Centenary', by David Joy & W.R. Mitchell (Dalesman, 1975). In August 2022, David Joy kindly provided the following information relating to the origin of these images:

As stated in the Introduction, none of them had previously been published. They came my way via the late David Jenkinson, who advised that he had found them as uncaptioned photos at the BR Derby offices. He recognised both their locations and importance, although greatly regretting that he had not come across them before completing his 1973 book “Rails in the Fells”. Hence all these images were correctly credited to British Railways.

[9] It is believed that these photographs formed the basis of an engraved illustration published in 'The Midland railway: its rise and progress. A narrative of modern enterprise' by F.S. Williams (Strahan & Co London, 1876).

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