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Northern England's communications geography; from a non-railway-enthusiast's POV

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Calthrop

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I’ve mentioned before on Rail UK Forums, a much-loved late uncle of mine, born 1918, with whom I spent much time. He was in fairly minor ways, an artist and poet; he wasn’t a railway enthusiast as such, but he “got” what it is about railways that made me and the rest of us, into enthusiasts. With his birth-date and the circumstances of his earlier life – and with his being late getting onto the road-motor-use scene – he also did, from the 1920s to the 50s, a lot of travelling by rail to get where he needed to go.

In a memoir which he wrote decades after the experiences which he recounts therein, he gives something of an opinion on the general shape of the rail system in the north of England – led onto, by his telling of his doings in the Second World War: much of which he spent in the civilian job of fireman (the putting-out-dangerous-fires kind, not the steam-loco-fire-feeding kind), in various locations in north-west England; and rail travel connected therewith. Quoting him on this:

“All familiar with travel north of the Trent know how much easier it is to move up and down our country than to go across it. This must be due not merely to the ever-narrowing shape as one proceeds northward to the Border, but to a magnetic force or polarity dating perhaps from the Wars of the Roses and the still-vigorous confrontation of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It shows today in the motorway system, and was already long-established by the railways. [Around the 1940s] such East – West journeys were not to be taken lightly; they echoed the travels of Phileas Fogg [of Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.]”

I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on these general observations of my uncle’s. Was he perhaps truly “onto something” here – or was he just indulging himself with basically nonsensical arty-farty musings? And is anyone inclined to agree, concerning his remarks on the motorway system? I don’t drive, and am not greatly au fait with motorway matters.

In the more-factual realm: concerning England’s “ever-narrowing shape” as one goes northwards; and the British rail system being based first and foremost, on main lines radiating from London; I see perhaps a grain of truth to his reflections. Mostly, though, I feel that he overlooks the prosaic fact that the Pennines are a big and formidable obstacle, and become more so as one goes further north, until the Newcastle / Carlisle “break” is reached. This strikes me as making more sense than his “Lancashire versus Yorkshire” stuff. That, I feel, is the fantasy-spinning faculty of an impassioned history buff (one of his many avocations) working overtime. In sober fact, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway – an entity of which my uncle probably never heard – would seem to have done a good and impartial enough job of binding the two counties together, in their more southerly reaches.

And further north, in my estimation the rail system – especially involving lines ultimately of the North Eastern Railway – made (before the closures of the 1950s-and-onward) not too bad a fist of spanning the Pennines between east and west. One thing which was perhaps lacking, and might have happened, was a convenient / direct / relatively rapid north-west-to-south-east linking between Carlisle, and the “guts” of the rail system in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Something of this kind might have been achieved by a joint project of the Midland / NER (later LMS / LNER) for a through semi-fast service between Carlisle, Hawes Junction & Garsdale, and Northallerton – maybe with a new line inaugurated between Bedale and Melmerby, to allow a portion of these semi-fast workings quicker and more direct access to Harrogate and Leeds. Largely, though, I feel that my dear uncle was somewhat “away with the fairies” in his ideas about the east-west axis.

His memoir goes on to mention such arduous return journeys which he made in the mid-1940s, in the interests of contact with, and “being there for”, friends. His “bare-bones” descriptions of these (reckon that he’d forgotten the details, and / or didn’t want to bore his prospective readers with them) are: Barrow-in-Furness to Hexham; and Carlisle to Kirby Moorside on the Pilmoor – Gilling – Pickering branch. Reconstructing as far as possible: the former, one takes it, would be accomplished: eastward out of Barrow; Arnside – Hincaster Jun. – Oxenholme if branch train timings worked out favourably, otherwise, round by Carnforth; then up to Carlisle, and Carlisle – Hexham.

And the latter: presumably Carlisle – Newcastle; then south along the East Coast Main (likely involving a change of train en route) to Pilmoor; then the branch train to Kirby Moorside. My uncle had an interesting (in the “Chinese proverb” sense) time in the World War II era – stuff for which I don't envy him at all, though he made light of it – but I can and do envy him for his journeys during those time – especially those on branch lines whose passenger services were to cease not very many years later.
 
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oldman

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I think you are right to distinguish Lancashire to Yorkshire - plenty of links through numerous industrial towns - and north of Lancs to north of Yorks - hardly any links through empty country (apart from Newcastle-Carlisle).

How many people would have wanted to go from what is now Cumbria to County Durham - not many I suspect.

The motorway network reflects the same reality though there are reasonable links in the A65/66/69.
 

edwin_m

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The north-south links on both sides of northern England link the major centres of the south, the north and Scotland with each other as well a providing internal links within the region. The east-west links just carry regional journeys. So the north-south links cater for more journeys, have more traffic and will end up with better infrastructure and in the case of trains better services.

The Pennines also play a part of course, not only because of the physical difficulty of building transport links but also the relative lack of people for them to serve and in more recent years the creation of National Parks. If it wasn't for the Peak National Park we would probably have had a Manchester-Sheffield motorway by now, whereas the Manchester-Leeds M62 crosses the Pennines in a less scenic area outside the Park boundary.
 

30907

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How many people would have wanted to go from what is now Cumbria to County Durham - not many I suspect.

The motorway network reflects the same reality though there are reasonable links in the A65/66/69.

Quite. The rail route over Stainmore was very much for E-W mineral flows only whereas the A66 was always (primarily? also?) a N-S route, the clue being in the name Scotch Corner! The rail equivalent to the A66 is I suppose the S and C. (Intriguing but totally unrealistic thought - what if the Midland had decided on a main line north from the West Riding over Stainmore to Carlisle?).
 

Bevan Price

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As 30907 points out, some east-west routes were built primarily for freight. Most of the intermediate passenger stations served only villages or small towns, and it is doubtful if (for example) Stainmore line passenger services ever approached profitability.

As for the Barrow - Hexham trip, I think the most likely route would be via Workington & Carlisle. The next alternative could have been via Carnforth, then Carlisle via WCML (or possibly via Hellifield) - but only if reasonable connections were available.

You probably don't know the year & time of his journeys, but assuming he left Barrow in the morning, these are some of the possibilities in the LMSR October 1947 timetable.

Barrow dep. 08:15 or 09:55
Whitehaven Bransty arr 10:19 or 12:01
ditto, dep,.11:00 or 12:10(SO) / 13:20
Carlisle arr. 12:16 or 13:43 (SO) / 15:00

OR:
Barrow dep. 10:25
Carnforth arr. 11:37
ditto, dep. 11:49
(previous service at 08:13; next service at 16:08)
Carlisle arr. 13:40
(No service on Arnside - Oxenholme line)

OR:
Barrow dep. 08:28 or 10:25
Carnforth arr. 09:38 or 11:37
Carnforth dep. 09:44 or 12:15
Hellifield arr. 10:58 or 13:51
(Both needing a change at Wennington)

Hellifield dep. 11:23 or 14:52
Carlisle arr. 13:05 or 16:32
So, no advantage via Hellifield, and probably not a valid route.

Carlisle to Hexham (1946 timetable) dep. 13:00, 14:00, 16:05, 17:00, 18:07
most takimg about 60 to 70 minutes to Hexham, but the 16:05 all stations took 90 mins.

As for Kirby Moorside (the incorrect spelling of Kirkbymoorside used by LNER) - the service was very sparse - just 2 trains each way, and requiring him to catch the 18:45 York - Pickering via Gilling (it did not stop at any ECML local stations - not that these had many trains anyway.)
 
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Calthrop

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Thanks, all. Reckon my feeling, generally supported: that my uncle basically wasn't much grounded in reality, in his "historical / mystical" notions about not-too-good east -- west transport links in the North of England -- in part, they've been better, than as per his vision; in part, just the practicalities of north -- south being predominantly "where it's at": east -- west (as you say, edwin m) more localised, and crossing wild, hilly-and-difficult, largely empty, not very productive country -- with predictable results. East -- west seems indeed (as per my OP) to have been accomplished not all that badly: with the Stainmore route (as you say, 30907), chiefly for freight; but also carrying passengers, and available for -- as happened at times -- long-distance passenger.

Also the Hawes Jun. & Garsdale -- Hawes -- Northallerton route (of which as per my OP, more might have been made for long-distance passenger; likely, though, suffering great financial losses); and the "Little North Western" complex running east from Lancaster / Carnforth, toward the West Riding -- with an offshoot heading for Harrogate.

The north-south links on both sides of northern England link the major centres of the south, the north and Scotland with each other as well a providing internal links within the region. The east-west links just carry regional journeys. So the north-south links cater for more journeys, have more traffic and will end up with better infrastructure and in the case of trains better services.

The Pennines also play a part of course, not only because of the physical difficulty of building transport links but also the relative lack of people for them to serve and in more recent years the creation of National Parks. If it wasn't for the Peak National Park we would probably have had a Manchester-Sheffield motorway by now, whereas the Manchester-Leeds M62 crosses the Pennines in a less scenic area outside the Park boundary.

Thanks oldman and edwin m, for motorway-related info. The National Park factor was, reckonably, not one which needed to be considered (pace Mr. Ruskin) at the time when the railways were being built: sparing areas of wilderness and natural beauty from intrusive development, is a concept general acceptance of which lay in the future.

Quite. The rail route over Stainmore was very much for E-W mineral flows only whereas the A66 was always (primarily? also?) a N-S route, the clue being in the name Scotch Corner! The rail equivalent to the A66 is I suppose the S and C. (Intriguing but totally unrealistic thought - what if the Midland had decided on a main line north from the West Riding over Stainmore to Carlisle?).

My bolding above: call me dim, but could you take further, and flesh out, this thought? The A1 and A66 are, if I understand correctly, a way of getting from the flat Vale of York on the east side of the country -- up over the Pennines via Stainmore, ultimately to Carlisle -- the Midland in your "hypothetical", would be starting from further west, running through pretty rough country as with the "real" S & C, and with a greater mileage to build, than the "real" S & C. Anything "might could happen"; but this scenario strikes me as in the wildly-unlikely department.

As for the Barrow - Hexham trip, I think the most likely route would be via Workington & Carlisle. The next alternative could have been via Carnforth, then Carlisle via WCML (or possibly via Hellifield) - but only if reasonable connections were available.

You probably don't know the year & time of his journeys, but assuming he left Barrow in the morning, these are some of the possibilities in the LMSR October 1947 timetable.

Barrow dep. 08:15 or 09:55
Whitehaven Bransty arr 10:19 or 12:01
ditto, dep,.11:00 or 12:10(SO) / 13:20
Carlisle arr. 12:16 or 13:43 (SO) / 15:00

OR:
Barrow dep. 10:25
Carnforth arr. 11:37
ditto, dep. 11:49
(prvious service at 08:13; next service at 16:08)
Carlisle arr. 13:40
(No service on Arnside - Oxenholme line)

OR:
Barrow dep. 08:28 or 10:25
Carnforth arr. 09:38 or 11:37
Carnforth dep. 09:44 or 12:15
Hellifield arr. 10:58 or 13:51
(Both needing a change at Wennington)

Hellifield dep. 11:23 or 14:52
Carlisle arr. 13:05 or 16:32
So, no advantage via Hellifield, and probably not a valid route.

Carlisle to Hexham (1946 timetable) dep. 13:00, 14:00, 16:05, 17:00, 18:07
most takimg about 60 to 70 minutes to Hexham, but the 16:05 all stations took 90 mins.

As for Kirby Moorside (the incorrect spelling of Kirkbymoorside used by LNER) - the service was very sparse - just 2 trains each way, and requiring him to catch the 18:45 York - Pickering via Gilling (it did not stop at any ECML local stations - not that these had many trains anyway.)

Very interesting material from 1947 TT -- my thanks. My uncle's journeys: the Hexham one was, I know, in latter half of 1944 -- those to the North Riding, I get the picture, later; though no greater detail available. Barrow to Carlisle via the Cumbrian Coast would strike me as counter-intuitive -- but I have little first-hand experience of those parts. Doing it that way -- even if it were the least awkward / most timely means -- would, I'd figure, make anyone feel that "there's something wrong with this part of the world" ! Via Hellifield, rather than the west Coast Main, would seem a little odd: but, those were chaotic times...

Services on the branch serving Kirby Moorside would seem, by your info, to have been diabolical: but I've learnt for sure from my uncle (in conversation, and from earlier drafts of his memoir, more expansive than the terse version which I now have) that he did indeed travel to and from there by the branch train. The picture is got that in World War II and shortly thereafter, rail travel was something of an ordeal, and usually not convenient for the passenger -- people just endured what they had to. (Not surprising that when better times came round, many Britons swore that they would never set foot in a passenger train again -- and didn't.)
 

Bevan Price

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One thing to remember is that rail fares at that time were mileage based, although there were a few "easements" for alternative routes differing only by a few miles. Barrow to Carlisle is about 4 miles shorter via the coast than via Carnforth.

I also have a May 1944 LMSR timetable, but most of the times differ only slightly from the 1947 timetable.

The Garsdale - Leyburn - Northallerton route is also mentioned above. That, too, had a pretty poor service - 3 through trains each way, plus a couple of short workings (1946).

From Garsdale at 10:45, 15:26**, and 18:30
(** - change from LMSR to LNER train at Hawes !!!)

From Northallerton at 07:15, 09:55 and 16:05.
Journey times just under 2 hours.

plus
07:36 Leyburn - Northallerton
12:55 Garsdale - Leyburn
15:00 Leyburn - Hawes (change for Garsdale, with 47 minute wait)
19:39 Northallerton - Leyburn

So, not a lot of use for commuting or day trips for leisure / shopping. People living in Hawes could get a maximum of 50 minutes in York for a day trip by this route (or just over 2 hours in Darlington)

The Stainmore route passenger service was equally sparse (1946).

Darlington to Penrith at 06:25, 10:30 and 16:10
Penrith to Darlington at 10:30, 15:40 and 20:10
Journey times anywhere between 142 & 194 minutes, presumably due to waiting time in passing loops.

There were also 2 trains each way between Kirkby Stephen East & Tebay. On summer saturdays, 2 trains ran via Tebay to (I think) Blackpool. And Kirkby Stephen West on the Settle & Carlisle was equally dire, with just 2 trains each way.
 

Calthrop

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One thing to remember is that rail fares at that time were mileage based, although there were a few "easements" for alternative routes differing only by a few miles. Barrow to Carlisle is about 4 miles shorter via the coast than via Carnforth.

Interesting ! Somehow -- to me anyway, and "glancing superficially" -- Barrow to Carlisle via the coast "feels" longer and more toilsome, than to Carnforth and then a perceived quick scoot up the main line. (I'd think that -- 70-odd years ago, for sure -- travelling coastwise would involve stops at umpteen stations of various magnitudes, which would for sure, make the journey seem long and tedious.)

I wonder whether the 1946 and '47 timetables show matters at something of a low ebb: things still pretty tough in the aftermath of the war -- and if I'm right, the winter 1946 / 47 was horrendously long, bitter and cold: disruptive to transport in a big way. Could it be that after nationalisation, service frequencies on some of the branches concerned, were improved a little? -- for a short while anyway, till closures got rolling in the earlyish 1950s: ordinary passenger withdrawn on Kirkby Stephen -- Tebay in 1952, if I'm right; Hawes -- Northallerton in '54, with the ex-LMS / Midland Hawes -- Hawes Jun. & Garsdale bit, lasting slightly longer.
 

Taunton

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Actually I find cross-country journeys are generally easier in the north than the south. Just try things like Taunton to Bournemouth or Gloucester to Bedford, either in the old days or today. You could, looking at an old map and think there were reasonably direct links, but the service pattern and practice of different stations for different companies prevented any meaningful progress.
 

llandaffyard

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Interesting parallels in Wales, where everything is east-west since Beeching. Try getting to North Wales from Cardiff and it becomes very apparent.

I was amazed to discover that a Cardiff to Kings Lynn journey required a trip into London, a tube trip, and a journey north. Practically a perfect right angle, and have to go through the busiest city in the UK to do it! Seemed amazing to me.
 

edwin_m

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Actually I find cross-country journeys are generally easier in the north than the south. Just try things like Taunton to Bournemouth or Gloucester to Bedford, either in the old days or today. You could, looking at an old map and think there were reasonably direct links, but the service pattern and practice of different stations for different companies prevented any meaningful progress.

Interesting point and I think explained by the size of the towns and cities.

In the Victorian era the big cities of the North and Midlands were really the industrial powerhouses of England as well as being the main population centres outside London. So it is unsurprising that they got good rail links between them as well as to the commercial centre in London.

With the exception of London, its commuter belt and Bristol, most of the English settlements south of the Trent were considerably smaller so numbers travelling between them would be far less than those travelling to or from the bigger centres. Hence rail routes tended to be cheaply constructed and slow, and passenger services more or less desultory, unless they happened to be part of a route linking major cities.

When car ownership became widespread from the 1950s onwards the advantages of driving were particularly evident on journeys where the rail alternative was so poor. The result was a vicious spiral of fewer passengers and service cuts, leading to total closure in many cases. Those that survive have seen a renaissance in recent years as traffic congestion and other factors have demonstrated that the regional rail network still has a role.
 

Bevan Price

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I wonder whether the 1946 and '47 timetables show matters at something of a low ebb: things still pretty tough in the aftermath of the war -- and if I'm right, the winter 1946 / 47 was horrendously long, bitter and cold: disruptive to transport in a big way. Could it be that after nationalisation, service frequencies on some of the branches concerned, were improved a little? -- for a short while anyway, till closures got rolling in the earlyish 1950s: ordinary passenger withdrawn on Kirkby Stephen -- Tebay in 1952, if I'm right; Hawes -- Northallerton in '54, with the ex-LMS / Midland Hawes -- Hawes Jun. & Garsdale bit, lasting slightly longer.

In general, there were few improvements to these rural service after 1948 - although a handful of lines got some improvements after dmus replaced steam. A few services even got worse.

Darlington - Penrith remained 3 trains per day (each way) in 1958.
Garsdale - Hawes fell to 1 train each way after closure of Hawes - Northallerton.

The Settle - Carlisle route remained primarily for express services, with a very sparse local service - By 1959, Kirkby Stephen West (and many other stations) were down to 2 northbound amd 1 southbound trains per day.

The Barrow - Carlisle line had some retimings, but fairly similar levels of service in 1946 & 1959. Although probably too late in the day to be used by your uncle, the coast line had a few fastish services - for example, a Euston - Barrow - Workington service calling only at Millom, Seascale, Sellafield, St. Bees, Corkickle & Whitehaven Bransty.
 

Calthrop

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Actually I find cross-country journeys are generally easier in the north than the south. Just try things like Taunton to Bournemouth or Gloucester to Bedford, either in the old days or today. You could, looking at an old map and think there were reasonably direct links, but the service pattern and practice of different stations for different companies prevented any meaningful progress.

It has long struck me that the rail passenger connections particularly in a lot of the general Somerset / Dorset area, have indeed been from the very first, something of a mess: with the GWR and LSWR and their successors after Grouping, seemingly more interested in pursuing their rivalry, than in trying to do some setting-aside of that rivalry, and working together to make things easier for travellers within the area. The passenger rail set-ups involving the two concerns, at Yeovil and at Dorchester, have in my perception always been somewhat chaotic – things at both could have been made more convenient, given the will to do so. And when the Somerset & Dorset Joint line was still in the picture: it would appear to me that a S & D / GWR interchange station at or near Cole – with some attempt to co-ordinate train times accordingly – would have been a good thing.

I was amazed to discover that a Cardiff to Kings Lynn journey required a trip into London, a tube trip, and a journey north. Practically a perfect right angle, and have to go through the busiest city in the UK to do it! Seemed amazing to me.

If determined to avoid going via London, I suppose you could have accomplished the journey: Cardiff -- Birmingham; Birmingham -- Ely by the Birmingham -- Stansted Airport service; and Ely -- Kings Lynn. Would however, I think, have taken a good deal longer than travelling by way of the capital :| .

In general, there were few improvements to these rural service after 1948 - although a handful of lines got some improvements after dmus replaced steam. A few services even got worse.

Darlington - Penrith remained 3 trains per day (each way) in 1958.
Garsdale - Hawes fell to 1 train each way after closure of Hawes - Northallerton.

The Settle - Carlisle route remained primarily for express services, with a very sparse local service - By 1959, Kirkby Stephen West (and many other stations) were down to 2 northbound amd 1 southbound trains per day.

The Barrow - Carlisle line had some retimings, but fairly similar levels of service in 1946 & 1959. Although probably too late in the day to be used by your uncle, the coast line had a few fastish services - for example, a Euston - Barrow - Workington service calling only at Millom, Seascale, Sellafield, St. Bees, Corkickle & Whitehaven Bransty.

Fascinating info -- thanks. For sure, you look to be the "go-to guy", as they say in America, for timetable gen from decades long ago !
 

30907

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My bolding above: call me dim, but could you take further, and flesh out, this thought? The A1 and A66 are, if I understand correctly, a way of getting from the flat Vale of York on the east side of the country -- up over the Pennines via Stainmore, ultimately to Carlisle -- the Midland in your "hypothetical", would be starting from further west, running through pretty rough country as with the "real" S & C, and with a greater mileage to build, than the "real" S & C. Anything "might could happen"; but this scenario strikes me as in the wildly-unlikely department.

It was an idle thought, but something like Normanton-Harrogate-Ripon-Richmond-Brough-Carlisle was what I had in mind, in other words mimicking the Great North Road rather than the A19, but going through the significant towns. It's fairly easy territory up as far as Barnard Castle or so.
This supposes that the MR wanted a direct London-Scotland route (I think, historically, that A1/A66 is that) of its own at an early stage, and had the money, and that the NER let them do it.
None of these is remotely likely - and by 1869 it would have been too late. More like a Railway Mania scheme really!
 

Bevan Price

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Fascinating info -- thanks. For sure, you look to be the "go-to guy", as they say in America, for timetable gen from decades long ago !

I have most London Midland Region (my local region) timetables back to 1955 - even an impoverished schoolboy's pocket money could afford 6d. (2.5 p) twice a year. Other region timetables are far from complete. I have managed to obtain a few older timetables on sale at reasonable prices - but some prices are far too high.

I also have copies of some of the reprinted Bradshaw timetables. If I have time, I always try to answer any timetable-related questions that I spot - but I don't get time to read every single post on this (or other) forums. The problem I find with Bradshaw it that it can be more difficult to distinguish between through trains & connections than in the BR timetables.
 

Calthrop

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It was an idle thought, but something like Normanton-Harrogate-Ripon-Richmond-Brough-Carlisle was what I had in mind, in other words mimicking the Great North Road rather than the A19, but going through the significant towns. It's fairly easy territory up as far as Barnard Castle or so.
This supposes that the MR wanted a direct London-Scotland route (I think, historically, that A1/A66 is that) of its own at an early stage, and had the money, and that the NER let them do it.
None of these is remotely likely - and by 1869 it would have been too late. More like a Railway Mania scheme really!

Ah, thanks – “I get”. As you say – it would need to have happened early, for it to have happened at all. By the time of the genesis of the Settle & Carlisle, the Midland was – with its wheeling-and-dealing with the LNWR and the “Little North Western” – committed to its push toward Carlisle being essentially on the west side of that reach of northern England.

Pure coincidence; but in a board game based very loosely on the railway “Races to the North”, which a brother of mine and I were attempting to devise a few years ago – I projected an imaginary south-to-north main line with some similarity to the one which you postulate. (I mentioned this game in the thread “Trivial: Your Board Games” in “General Discussion”.)

In this case though -- the Midland Railway, and Carlisle, weren’t involved. The game required four rival sets of companies, running competing services between London and Glasgow. Three were “real”: East Coast route (GNR / NER / NBR); West Coast ditto (LNWR and Caledonian); and Midland to Carlisle over Ais Gill, then GSWR to Glasgow. I needed a “fantasy” fourth: for part which devised, a kind of fictional “be-alike” of the Great Central – taking the real GCR London Extension route as far north as Sheffield; then a fictional line from Sheffield to approximately Normanton, skirting Leeds a bit to the east – then via Harrogate, Ripon, and Richmond, and from there north-north-west over the high country to Hexham. (At Hexham, the line would link with a fictional “Border Counties Railway”, and -- partly by rail routes which truly existed, partly by ones which never did – reach Glasgow via Riccarton Junction, Hawick, Selkirk, Peebles, and Wilsontown.) A slight case maybe, of “great minds...”?

I have most London Midland Region (my local region) timetables back to 1955 - even an impoverished schoolboy's pocket money could afford 6d. (2.5 p) twice a year. Other region timetables are far from complete. I have managed to obtain a few older timetables on sale at reasonable prices - but some prices are far too high.

I also have copies of some of the reprinted Bradshaw timetables. If I have time, I always try to answer any timetable-related questions that I spot - but I don't get time to read every single post on this (or other) forums. The problem I find with Bradshaw it that it can be more difficult to distinguish between through trains & connections than in the BR timetables.

With future puzzles that I may have concerning timetables long ago -- I'll know who to ask !
 

Welshman

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That's certainly the case with the older timetables in my collection, where bold and feint print determine the size and importance of the station rather than a through service.

I too, used to spend 1/- from my pocket-money to buy a railway timetable book. The problem was I used to throw them away when their validity ended. Ah well.
 

Taunton

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That's certainly the case with the older timetables in my collection, where bold and feint print determine the size and importance of the station rather than a through service.
Concepts were different then, and timetables often didn't differentiate between connections and through services. Travellers were expected to rely on instructions from platform and train staff. Connections shown in the timetable were seen as "guaranteed" within a certain tolerance - none of today's nonsense of arriving a few minutes down to see the connection sailing out mostly empty. There was also an intermediate level of service between through and connection, that of "through carriages" which would be shunted between trains by a pilot loco at the junction. Sometimes these were remarkably informal, and would be just done if sufficient through passengers were identified on the day.

A different world indeed!

Rail timetables in the USA were different again, and often used faint and bold to denote am and pm in the 12-hour clock - Latin not being normally taught in US schools :)
 

Welshman

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It was an idle thought, but something like Normanton-Harrogate-Ripon-Richmond-Brough-Carlisle was what I had in mind, in other words mimicking the Great North Road rather than the A19, but going through the significant towns. It's fairly easy territory up as far as Barnard Castle or so.
This supposes that the MR wanted a direct London-Scotland route (I think, historically, that A1/A66 is that) of its own at an early stage, and had the money, and that the NER let them do it.
None of these is remotely likely - and by 1869 it would have been too late. More like a Railway Mania scheme really!

There was a branch from Church Fenton to Wetherby and Harrogate making a Normanton- Ripon journey possible avoiding Leeds, but I don't think it was regularly used for long-distance services.

And didn't the MR consider a route via Thornhill and Bradford to the Settle & Carlisle, again avoiding Leeds, but nothing came of it?
 

Darren R

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...And didn't the MR consider a route via Thornhill and Bradford to the Settle & Carlisle, again avoiding Leeds, but nothing came of it?

It did, and the notion of a Bradford Crossrail has been exercising the minds of armchair railway pundits ever since! :lol:

Although we seem to have drifted slightly off topic, it may be worth mentioning that the North Eastern Railway drew up plans for a line from Melmerby (just north of Ripon on the Leeds Northern route) to Hawes Junction via Masham. It was part of a wider scheme of new lines and connections north of Harrogate and York, most of which fell by the wayside. Instead the NER extended its line from Leyburn up Wensleydale to meet the Settle & Carlisle, and a branch connected Masham to Melmerby.

Getting back to the original question posed, I'm not sure I agree with the notion that east to west journeys were always more difficult in the North of England. All of the early railways were built to connect industrial hinterlands with ports, and as such were all east to west routes. However, if we take east to west to mean those journeys which crossed between one side of the Pennines and the other, there was no shortage of routes:

Derby - Millers Dale - Manchester
Hope Valley
Woodhead
Standedge
Calder Valley
Copy Pit
Colne - Skipton
Little North Western
Settle & Carlisle
Garsdale - Northallerton
Eden Valley
Stainmore
Newcastle & Carlisle

Admittedly, the further north one goes the sparser the routes (and train services,) but equally the population gets more spartan too. Individual journeys between specific wayside stations would, in many cases, have been quite difficult. However, the bulk of the population was in the belt stretching from Merseyside, through Lancashire and Manchester, and Yorkshire to the east coast: these areas were served perfectly adequately by rail.
 

Calthrop

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Getting back to the original question posed, I'm not sure I agree with the notion that east to west journeys were always more difficult in the North of England. All of the early railways were built to connect industrial hinterlands with ports, and as such were all east to west routes. However, if we take east to west to mean those journeys which crossed between one side of the Pennines and the other, there was no shortage of routes:

Derby - Millers Dale - Manchester
Hope Valley
Woodhead
Standedge
Calder Valley
Copy Pit
Colne - Skipton
Little North Western
Settle & Carlisle
Garsdale - Northallerton
Eden Valley
Stainmore
Newcastle & Carlisle

Admittedly, the further north one goes the sparser the routes (and train services,) but equally the population gets more spartan too. Individual journeys between specific wayside stations would, in many cases, have been quite difficult. However, the bulk of the population was in the belt stretching from Merseyside, through Lancashire and Manchester, and Yorkshire to the east coast: these areas were served perfectly adequately by rail.

On reflection; it's significant, I think, that my uncle's epic journeys of some three-quarters of a century ago, as recounted by him; were a long way north in England, where as you observe, things were / are overall sparser. It would seem that his various doings back then, were not in your described south Lancs. / Cheshire / south Yorks. belt; if they had been, his rail travelling would likely have been easier, and less prone to be recalled as ordeal-like.

My uncle was a lovely man, but he did enjoy pontificating about things -- often without very much knowledge about them ! I just found interesting, his homing-in on the idea of "travel difficult and cumbersome up north" -- wondered whether he might actually have been "onto something" there, and felt moved to request other railway enthusiasts' perspectives on the issue.
 
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