Gauge: 3ft (915mm) and 15in (380mm)
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in Cumbria was built to transport iron and copper ores from the Nab Gill Mines near Boot, and slate from the local quarries, to the main line railway at Ravenglass, about 8 miles away.
Originally opened as a 3ft gauge railway in 1875, it was converted to 15in gauge in 1915, becoming more of a tourist railway. The upper terminus was moved next to the main road at Dalegarth.
Today the Railway carries in excess of 100,000 visitors between Easter and the end of October each year, and also offers a limited winter steam service. Passengers are rewarded with a spectacular journey from the coast into the Lake District National Park.
The first public narrow gauge railway in England, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway was opened in 1875 to 3 foot gauge. Known locally as the “Ratty” its major purpose was to transport iron and copper ores from the Nab Gill Mines near Boot about 8 miles away, and slate from the local quarries, to the main line railway at Ravenglass. The line was extremely scenic and after much improvement of the line passenger trains were introduced in November 1876. After a hesitant beginning, and despite becoming a tourist attraction, it was uneconomical and within six months the railway was bankrupt. For the next few years it struggled on in the hands of the receivers. The mines ceased working in 1884. The last goods train ran in April 1913. In 1915 the line was bought by the well known model engineer, Wynne Bassett-Lowke and R. Proctor-Mitchell, (representing Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd).
By 1917 the entire line had been re-gauged to 15 ins and a service was established using locomotives designed and built for use in pleasure parks. Bassett-Lowke’s locomotives, built as models not for hard work, proved too flimsy and underpowered for their task. The new Company was fortunate to acquire most of the equipment, and all of the locomotives, from Sir Arthur Heywood’s Duffield Bank railway following Sir Arthur’s death in 1916.
A major part of the railway’s traffic was from the re-opened Beckfoot Granite quarries, transporting stone to a crushing plant at Murthwaite. To cope efficiently with both stone and passengers a new locomotive, River Esk, was designed and built in 1923. Four years later the ex-Heywood tank locomotive Muriel, which had arrived at the Railway in 1917 was rebuilt at Ravenglass and renamed River Irt. The Irt and the Esk proved to be the mainstays of the Railway for many years to come. The line was one of the first in Britain to use internal combustion engined locomotives. From the 1920s a high proportion of the trains were worked by petrol and then diesel power.
As well as passengers, the line transported goods and mail to and from the valley. In 1922 a granite quarry was opened at Beckfoot, and the railway was used to transport the granite between Beckfoot Quarry and a crushing plant at Murthwaite. To cope efficiently with both stone and passengers a new locomotive, River Esk, was designed and built in 1923. Four years later the ex-Heywood tank locomotive Muriel, which had arrived at the Railway in 1917 was rebuilt at Ravenglass and renamed River Irt. The Irt and the Esk proved to be the mainstays of the Railway for many years to come.
From 1929, the track between Murthwaite to Ravenglass was converted to dual gauge, with standard gauge track straddling the 15in gauge rails. A standard gauge 0-6-0 diesel locomotive built by Kerr Stuart No.4421, was obtained to work the Ravenglass-Murthwaite section.
The line was one of the first in Britain to use internal combustion-engined locomotives. From the 1920s a high proportion of the trains were worked by petrol and then diesel power.
Both quarries and railway closed in 1953 and five years later the then owner, The Keswick Granite Company put the railway up for sale. No purchaser was found and in desperation a public auction was proposed. If an acceptable bid for the whole was not forthcoming, the railway was to be broken up into 60 lots. The railway was rescued from this fate with a bid from a new operating company formed from, and supported by a Preservation Society. Under the chairmanship of Lord Wakefield of Kendal many improvements were made, a policy perpetuated by members of his family today. In addition to extensions at Ravenglass, new buildings at The Green and Muncaster Mill, and a radio link for train control, new locomotives joined Irt and Esk, and covered carriages became a priority.
|Number / Name||Manufacturer||Type||Notes|
|Devon||Manning Wardle & Co. of 1874||0-6-0T||Scrapped 1915|
|Nabb Gill||Manning Wardle & Co. of 1874||0-6-0T||Withdrawn 1908. Scrapped 1915|
|Number / Name||Manufacturer||Type||Notes|
|1 Sans Pareil||Bassett-Lowke of 1912||4-4-2||Arrived 1915. Withdrawn 1920s|
|2 Colossus||Bassett-Lowke of 1913||4-6-2||Arrived 1916. Dismantled 1927|
|3 Muriel / River Irt||Sir Arthur Heywood of 1894||0-8-0T, later 0-8-2||Arrived 1917. Rebuilt 1927|
|4 Ella||Sir Arthur Heywood of 1881||0-6-0T||Arrived 1917. Rebuilt 1927 as ICL 2|
|5 Sir Aubrey Brocklebank||Hunt & Co. of 1919||4-6-2||Dismantled 1927|
|6 Katie||Sir Arthur Heywood of 1896||0-4-0T||Ex Eaton Hall Railway 1916. To Southport 1919, then Fairbourne. Returned 1992.|
|7 River Esk||Davey Paxman of 1923||2-8-2||Powered 0-8-0 tender fitted 1928, but removed shortly after and stored.|
|8 River Mite (1)||Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway 1927||4-6-0-0-6-4||Parts from 2 and 5. Scrapped 1937|
|9 River Mite (2)||Clarkson of York of 1966||2-8-2||Used Poultney tender chassis from River Esk.|
|10 Northern Rock||Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway 1976||2-6-2|
|11 Bonnie Dundee||Kerr Stuart & Co. of 1900||0-4-0WT, rebuilt 1982 as 0-4-2T, rebuilt 1996 as 0-4-2||Ex-Dundee Gasworks 1976|
|12 Whillan Beck||Krauss No.8457 of 1929||4-6-2||Ex Spain 2016|
|Synolda||Bassett-Lowke of 1912||4-4-2||Arrived 1978|
|ICL No.1 Bunny||Ford c1914||4w PM, rebuilt 1926 as 2-B PM||Arrived 1923|
|ICL No.2||Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway 1927||2-6-2 PM||Withdrawn|
|NG 41||Muir-Hill of 1929||4w Petrol/TVO||Withdrawn 1953|
|ICL No.4 Passenger Tractor / Perkins||Muir-Hill of 1929||4w Petrol/TVO. Rebuilt 1933 as 0-4-4|
|No.5 Quarryman||Muir-Hill of 1926||4w Petrol/TVO|
|No. 6 Royal Anchor||Charles Lane of 1956||B-B DH||Ex Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch 1961. To Steamtown 1978|
|No. 7 Shelagh of Eskdale||Heathcotes / Severn-Lamb of 1956–7||4-6-4 DH. Rebuilt 1998 as 4-6-4 DM.|
|Silver Jubilee||Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway 1977||Diesel Railcar||Converted to hauled stock|
|No. 8 Lady Wakefield||Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway 1980||B-B DM|
|Greenbat||Greenwood & Batley No.2872 of 1957||4w BE||Ex Storrs Bridge Fireclay Mine 1982|
|No. 9 Cyril||R.A. Lister of 1932||4w DM||Ex Moseley Railway Trust 1985|
|Blacolvesley||Bassett-Lowke of 1909||4-4-4 PM Steam outline||Ex Lightwater Valley 1994. To Cleethorpes 2010|
|No. 10 Les||R.A. Lister of 1960||4w DM||Ex Bredegar & Wormshill|
|No. 11 Douglas Ferreira||TMA Engineering of 2005||B-B DH|