We woke to yet more rain, but were booted and spurred ready to leave at 08:30 for the walk up to the station. By the time we got there the rain had gone and the sky was showing signs of blue. The train was not due until 09:10, but we had allowed plenty time to get there and, most importantly, to do battle with the machine that would give us our tickets (we hoped) that had been purchased on line. Thankfully it all worked to plan and once in receipt of many bits of card we headed for our platform to discover that the train would be late.
The reason - 'the crew were delayed by service delays due to Bank Holiday rail works'. The big question was 'how delayed would we be and would we make our connection to Ravenglass at Barrow in Furness'? By the time it did arrive we were certain we would not which would mean a total delay of over an hour. At least there was plenty of space and we were able to spread ourselves out and get window seats for the view.
The guard arrived to check our tickets and said he would call ahead and see if he could delay our connecting train at Barrow. Much to our amazement and delight he succeeded. The instructions were 'when we left Roose (the penultimate station) we were to make our way to the front of the train which would stop by the overpass and we could alight go as quickly as possible to the train that would be waiting for us the other side'. To be fair, it was not just us - I reckon there were a dozen or so people in the same plight, but still pretty impressive service, so hats off to Northern Rail. Mind you I am not sure whether they redeemed themselves in Ken's eyes after the fiasco of trying to buy our tickets from their website. We had to specify which station we wanted to pick them up from and Carnforth was not an option! The order had to be done all over again via Trainline, which did at least work, but cost us £1.50 more. You can see we are not seasoned travellers.
The journey was to take the best part of two hours including the wait for the connection (or not in our case) in Barrow. 8 stops on the first leg and 7 on the second calling at all stations - quite a few of which I had never heard of - Silverdale, Arnside (we were now in Cumbria), Grange-over-Sands, Kents Bank, Cark & Cartmel, Ulverson, Dalton and Roose, then Askam, Kirkby-in-Furness, Foxfield, Green Road, Millom, Silecroft and finally Bootle.
Once we were comfortably seated we settled back to enjoy the views and they were many and delightful only to be marred photographically by wet and none to clean windows! No blotches on my camera this time!
The tops of some of the hills were covered in ominous grey cloud - just how wet would we get?
A links golf course shared with sheep and cattle
Green and red are the preferred colours for the stations - this is Grange-over-Sands
Interesting artwork at Kents Bank
and more at Ulverston (why or why to some folks feel the need to spoil others work?)
A discarded hitch hiker's sign maybe? Did they give up and get a train?
The one thing you could say was that without a doubt the tide was out
Once at Ravenglass it is a very short walk over a bridge to Eskdale Steam Railway. Tickets had been purchased on line (at a savings of £2 a head), except they weren't actually tickets! Ken dashed off to the ticket office to get the 5 bits of paper swapped for tickets. Even Monty had to have his own and he got a goody bag - 4 small biscuits and a black poo bag! The train was in the station ready to go.
Would Ken get back in time and if so, would we get a seat?
He did and we did! It was an open carriage, but did at least have a roof to keep the worst of any rain off
What surprised us in this day and age of H & S was that there was no door or even a chain across the open side that allowed entry and exit. Monty was quite happy and adopted his boating pose of peering out to see what was going on. I hasten to add that Chris was at the other end of his lead holding tight!
We were off and over (by way of a change) a viaduct rather than an aqueduct.
It is a very picturesque 40 minute journey to the end of the line at Dalegarth for Boot, made all the more atmospheric by the wafts of steam floating past.
I know rhododendron is invasive, but at this time of year it does look stunning.
There are seven request stops - tell the driver before you board and he will stop to let you off.
We wound our way some 200 foot up
past attractive houses and many sheep
Here comes the train with
people taking pictures of us taking pictures of them!
Some looking decidedly cold and we knew the feeling! It was, however, NOT raining.
Large lines of dry stone walls
a campsite - I am sure tents are a lot bigger than they used to be
Trains or boats - it is obligatory to wave
Near the top we passed this magnificent house - it is Stanley Ghyll House, which Trip Advisor call 'an upscale B & B'! What jumped off their page was the first review and oh dear, predictive text has a lot to answer for. The person concerned hired all the rooms for friends and family for their 'vowel' renewal! Sorry I could not resist that. It is certainly in a fantastic setting.
The views are breathtaking.
Once we had arrived the engine is uncoupled and turned round on a manual turntable
before having its water supply topped up - much like a boat, only we need a much longer hose! According to the plaque on the side it was built at Ravenglass in 1976 - a good year as it marked the birth of the Cleddau crews' daughter and our son. An extremely hot one as I remember.
The cafe at Dalegarth allows dogs downstairs, so a light meal was enjoyed by us all before we caught our next train to take us back to Ravenglass. As we were waiting the rain started - we had been very lucky that it held off that long. We managed to get a closed carriage right behind the engine, so it was a warmer journey back down and the big bonus - it was dry.
Those outside were very wet as you can see from this photo. The one thing I missed both ways was the Water Mill.
Once back at Ravenglass the rain had stopped and we made our way to the Museum - Chris and I had to take it in turns as dogs were not allowed, so it was a bit of a whistle stop tour, but long enough to get the feel of the place.
We had been on an 15" gauge track.
The railway was opened commercially in 1875. It's main purpose was to transport iron ore that was mined in the hills above Dalegarth down to Ravenglass where it was transferred to the mainline. It was open to passengers in 1876 and was the first public narrow gauge (3 foot) railway in England.
It was forced to close in 1913 due to diminishing amounts of ore as well as passengers. In 1915 two passionate miniature railway engineers (WJ Basset-Lowke and R Proctor-Mitchell) acquired the railway as a base for testing their little locomotives under difficult conditions. It was these two who laid the 15" gauge track and their first train ran to Muncaster Mill on 28th August 1915.
Quarrying recommenced in the 1920's - this time for granite. Quarrying stopped in 1953 - see below for the final outcome for this rather wonderful railway.
Apparently 13 year old Sandy Hamilton sent 2s 6d with a letter that said "This isn't much compared with the £20,000 you want, but if everyone did something the railway would escape the breaker's hammer."
It is certainly worthy of a Red Transport Trust Plaque
The line is known locally as La'al Ratty and its 3ft gauge predecessor as Owd Ratty. It was a great day out and well worth a visit if you are in the area whether by car, boat or train.
Once we were back on the mainline station we discovered the train was going to be a few minutes late. The conundrum was would there be time to go and get take away hot drinks from the cafe and make it back in time? Sue and I were dispatched and stood somewhat anxiously in the queue watching the minute hand move round the clock face. As we edged nearer and nearer the front of the queue we were willing people to be quick and not buy too much. We made it, placed the order, paid, picked up the cups and moved as swiftly as possible across the car park back to the main line platform just in time
The journey back was just as pleasant, but with more water to be seen this time
and I managed to get a photo of this pier head at Arndale where Chris had stood, as advised by a local, one evening around 10pm in the 1980's. Why you might wonder - that was the time for high tide. At first there was nothing, then what sounded like a train thundering towards him and then the tide became visible as it flew across the sand in a matter of minutes. A sight one is unlikely to ever forget.
Once back in Carnforth we all retreated for a quiet evening and an early night after such a long, but really great day.