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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Cumbrian treat

Steelwork going up for the new museum structure being erected at Ravenglass railway station. And below an informative poster of the line and its high points.

A family event brought us up to the Lake District this past week - to enjoy the quite remarkable natural beauty of this part of England. Snow capped mountains added their dramatic backdrop to an unspoilt area protected as a National Park - and quite a large one it is too (by England's standards).

Ravages from the flooding had been put right by extensive highway repairs north of Ambleside. These included trimming back of trees and clearing of streams running from the mountainsides into lakes. Cumbria and its earlier constituent parts, Cumberland and Westmoreland were devoid of tramways - the nearest examples being Carlisle to the north and Lancaster in the south. Both systems succumbing early to motorbus replacement. Morecambe never got beyond horse trams (and a short line to Heysham operated by a clutch of Leyland petrol powered trams). So there was little in the way of tramway history to indulge myself in.

I had watched on the Portillo railway journey television series which took in the Cumbrian coast line - and it was by chance that I more or less bumped into it when stopping at Ravenglass to look at the narrow gauge steam railway (15 inch) which has become a much loved attraction. The terminus at Ravenglass boasts a railway station which do Blackpool proud with neat station canopies, restaurant and shops. A new Museum structure was in the course of being erected for the railway to augment its existing building, while at least one locomotive was being 'steamed up' prior to being used on children 'Santa Excursion' runs during December. This came complete with 'sleigh' trailer and red clad crew.

Two vintage Pullman carriages quietly rested next to the station while the track work running into the distance seemed exemplary - no imported pointwork here. A chance encounter on the adjacent Cumbrian Coast Line at Ravenglass Station saw a special diesel hauled train waiting for the southbound 'express' - both having stopped at Ravenglass while I was poring over the narrowgauge infrastructure. Only a run up to the platform managed to catch this encounter as the two trains pulled away from each other. Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway offers a wonderful ride of about 40 minutes along a valley leading to Eskdale from the coastline terminus. Next time I must make a point of catching a visit in season.

Brief Encounter. Ravenglass Station with southbound service and passing special train northwards (below).

Ironically on my way back to Blackpool driving out of Lancaster - another special diesel hauled train literally crossed above us at speed pulling a long train of 1950s BR carriages immaculate in versions of postwar London Midland fleet livery. Below Two preserved Pullman carriages at Ravenglass and an apple green locomotive just getting some tlc from its crew. The 'sleigh' trailer can just be seen behind the tender.

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