The 14th July may mark the anniversary of the French Revolution, however further north it marks the less traumatic revolution on the Settle and Carlisle railway.
14th July 2011 was the 25th anniversary of the reopening of eight stations on the famous Settle & Carlisle line. The stations on the line were decorated with bunting as supporters turned out to celebrate.
A quarter of a century ago the rail route over the roof of England from Settle in Yorkshire to Carlisle in Cumbria was under threat of closure. For a number of years there had been little investment in the line. By 1970 the stations – all but Settle and Appleby – had been closed.
By 1986 many of the station buildings had been sold to private concerns.
Then a partnership of local authorities and campaigning groups striving to save the line introduced the ‘Dalesrail’ summer-weekend service aimed at giving walkers access to the Yorkshire Dales National park and beautiful Eden Valley.
As a result eight stations were reopened, albeit without anything much in terms of station facilities.
The eight included Armathwaite, Lazonby & Kirkoswald, Langwathby, Kirkby Stephen, Garsdale, Dent, Ribblehead and Horton-in-Ribblesdale: names familiar to generations of train crews and rail enthusiasts.
Since that fateful day on 14th July 1986 the train service has improved out of all recognition.
As well as the two Summer-Sunday ‘Dalesrail’ services from Lancashire there is now a year round weekday timetable of seven services each way between Leeds and Carlisle, and a further three on Sundays.
The line is now an officially designated Conservation Area, and all of the stations have been lovingly restored.
In 2009/10 a total of 133,000 journeys were made to or from the 8 stations, the number rising steadily year on year.
The Friends of the Settle Carlisle line is among the biggest rail support groups in Britain, with 3,500 members.
Says Richard Morris, Chairman of FoSCL, “25 years ago, when the fate of the line was in the balance, none of us would have dared hope that such a complete transformation could take place.
“These eight reopened stations are now a delight to visit and a pleasure to travel to or from. If only all rail stations were as good as this!”