Chairman Peter Staples opened the meeting by welcoming occasional visitor Roger Howell. Best wishes to Forum Members had been sent by Mike McKevitt whose ill-health has prevented his attendance this season. A reminder of Christmas Lunch on Tuesday December 13th and the need for orders and payments to John Taylor by Tuesday November 29th was reiterated. Fifty bookings had already been received.
Today saw a returning Speaker Mr Roger Oldfield, a member of Harrogate Men’s Forum, with his talk titled “The Line Over The Top”. He has a keen interest in the history of the Railway Age and this discourse, with an illustrated slide show, told us about the origins and development of the Settle- Carlisle Railway Line and many of the trials and tribulations during its construction. Genesis of the line was initiated by Midland Railway Company who wanted access to Scotland and were in dispute/competition with London and North Western Railway who had the existing tracks. Royal Assent for the line was given in 1866 which proposed the joining of the Ribble/ Eden valley’s. An estimated cost of £2.3 million was set and raised from Midland’s shareholders although actual costs exceeded £3.5 million. Construction took seven years between 1869-1876 employing 6,000 navvies and many other skilled workers. It would transverse different geological surfaces, cover a distance of around 73 miles and see the creation of numerous viaducts and tunnels particularly noteworthy being the Ribble Viaduct and Blea Moor Tunnel. At its peak Dent is the highest railway station on the line at 1150 feet above sea level and whilst the construction period is acknowledged as one of the greatest feats of Victorian engineering there was associated baggage including death, disease and drink fuelled violence amongst the workforce. Two individuals stand out particularly for their efforts in bringing the project to fruition – James Allport Midland General Manager and John Crossley Chief Engineer of the Midland Railway both responsible for originally surveying the railway’s route and then ensuring its design and construction.
Our Speaker shared some of its history since opening in 1875 to initially freight and then passengers; mention was made of some of the accidents on the line and the difficulties that can be caused by extreme weather conditions in this location. Following the merger of Midland into the L.N.W.R in 1923 rundown of the system started and this quickened with nationalisation in 1948 with stations closing and total closure of the line recommended in the 1963 Beeching Report. Campaigns against closure were eventually successful and the line is now a tourist magnet as well as carrying much rail-freight traffic. At “Journey’s End” Roger took a number of questions from his appreciative audience.
The Vote Of Thanks was given by Derek Simpson on behalf of the 43 attendees and Chairman Peter Staples conclude proceedings by advising of the Church’s Christmas Fair on Saturday November 26th for which donations of books, bric a brac and raffle prizes would be welcomed from members.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY