Ribblehead Station Visitor Centre

Visit the Ribblehead Station Visitor Centre and take a holiday at a former station on the World famous Settle to Carlisle Line. The Settle and Carlisle Railway Trust’s (S&CRT) stated purpose is ‘Conserving and interpreting the Heritage and History of The Settle and Carlisle Railway’ and in 2012, they are providing short breaks to sample the railway’s atmosphere.

Most Complete Piece of Victorian Railway Engineering and Architecture in the UK

Visit Ribblehead station in 2012 to see the expanded facilities on offer by The Settle and Carlisle Railway Trust.

The S&CRT has described the Settle & Carlisle Railway as representing the most complete piece of Victorian railway engineering and architecture in the UK. This is acknowledged by the authorities who designated the 72 mile long route as a linear Conservation Area in 1992.

From Bust to Boom

This, ironically, was within a decade of the line being proposed for closure in 1983 but as has since been well documented, the line was reprieved by Michael Portillo in 1989. Subsequently in operational terms, the route has seen much investment and a huge increase in traffic with stations reopening. So far, 10 of the original 20 intermediate stations are again operative along the line.

The Work of the S&CRT

Since its establishment in 1990 the S&CRT has directly funded full restoration and re use of the station buildings at Horton in Ribblesdale, Kirkby Stephen and Ribblehead as well as providing funding contributions to works such as the restoration of Hellifield station in 1994 at a cost of £500,000, the provision of a new platform and waiting shelter for northbound passengers at Ribblehead, period style station lighting and clocks along the route improving both passenger facilities while reinforcing the historic Victorian nature of the line for today’s passengers.

Ribblehead – an Iconic World Famous Location

Ribblehead station houses the S&CRT run hugely informative and welcoming Visitor Centre, opened in 2000 and refurbished last year. The original restoration work won a major award for converting the derelict station building into a well-used amenity by thousands of visitors annually.

The Visitor Centre currently has information panels that major on the adjacent world-famous 24 arch Ribblehead Viaduct, Blea Moor Tunnel and the station itself. Each of these displays is housed in a separate room within the visitor centre.

The viaduct display panels detail construction, it’s near terminal decline and subsequent restoration following trial repairs in 1988. The viaduct panels also however tell something of the fascinating story of the shanty towns and their inhabitants between 1871 and 1875 along with details of the associated narrow gauge railway used to bring stone from local quarries and also how bricks were made on site with local clay.

Ribblehead’s Chapel and Sheep Facilities

The Station information panels explain why a station was constructed in this wild and lonely place. it’s history not only as a railway station but as a chapel, weather station and a freight terminal in an era prior to the advent of the motor vehicle from which sheep and cattle were taken by rail to market in Hellifield 16 miles away.

The Settle and Carlisle line, being constructed in the high fells, is a heavily engineered route boasting 14 Tunnels, 22 viaducts and 168 bridge spans. The longest and perhaps the most famous tunnel on the line runs under Blea Moor between Ribblehead and Dentdale and is 2629 yards long. The tunnel information panels explain why they were needed, how the Victorians built them and how the waste material generated as a result of construction was disposed of locally on the moor.

Network Rail has allowed the S&CRT to use official diagrams to explain about tunnels. These are used for example to show that Blea Moor Tunnel had seven air shafts, which had a dual use. During construction for excavation exits and today, four remain to provide much needed ventilation whilst the other three have been filled in!

Through the Roof of England

The line runs through the roof of England and Dent is the location for the highest mainline station in England, at 1150 feet altitude. The S&CRT is proposing to provide information panels in the waiting shelter. These will explain the history, construction and use of the nearby soldier-like snow fences and is expected to cost around £2000.

The line has a reputation for being steeply graded and incorporates a sixteen mile stretch climbing at 1 in 100 widely known as ‘The Long Drag” between Settle Junction and Blea Moor. The Visitor Centre at Ribblehead has a gradient profile of the route along with archive pictures, replica station totems, steam nameplates and locomotive smokebox number plates on display.

In 2012, the Visitor Centre will be open from the end of March to October as a minimum from Wednesdays to Saturdays inclusive, between 1000hrs and 1500hrs. However depending on staff availability opening days, as in 2011, may be extended. The visitor centre is staffed by knowledgeable volunteers. However the S&CRT always welcomes additional volunteer support.

Day Trip or Short Break at Ribblehead Station?

Although the Visitor Centre underwent limited refurbishment and development in 2011 the S&CRT has imaginative plans to significantly expand the displays over the next 2-3 years to more full interpret key facets of the Settle & Carlisle in this iconic location. Plans for this are still under development and updates will be published from time to time both on the Trust’s website and regular news updates. The Visitor Centre proposals are expected to cost between £500,000 and £1m depending on the final scope of the proposals.

The S&CRT received planning consent in June 2011 to return the station masters house at Ribblehead to its original Midland Railway 1870s condition. This is important in conservation terms as it will be the only station master’s house on the line to be taken back externally to its original appearance. The aim once restored is to use the house as resident caretaker accommodation allowing the existing caretaker accommodation in the main station building to be re allocated for Visitor Centre use. For this reason it will be fitted out internally to modern standards.

Phase 1 of the restoration to the station master’s house commenced in November 2011. To enable the plans to be realized, the S&CRT has already raised £125,000. However, it urgently needs to raise another £50,000 this year to complete the project, the Trust’s priority project in the Olympic year.

Take a Break at Kirkby Stephen

The S&CRT as landlord for the station buildings at Kirkby Stephen has recently taken over the operation of the ‘booking office’ cottage holiday let. It is actively pursuing provision of a second holiday let in the north end of the station building which it hopes to have available from March 2012 subject to securing the necessary consents. The S&CRT will also open a small café, retail and display area within the building. This is a key part of the SCRT’s plans and will provide funds for future upkeep of stations as well as future investment plans.

World’s Highest Water Troughs

Garsdale is another iconic Settle & Carlisle location. The S&CRT aim over time to fully interpret the history of this location and to provide information of the legendary spinning turntable there. This work is targeted to commence in 2013 subject to availability of funding and will also provide information on the 1910 Christmas crash and the highest main line water troughs in the World. Costs for the proposed works at Garsdale have still to be finalized but are likely to be in excess of £50,000.

Conservation on the Line

The SCRT spends around £20,000 annually on maintenance and upkeep of its buildings which are all around 135 years old. The often severe weather conditions encountered on the line are such that timber, such as decorative station barge boards, need regular repainting or replacement, as well as the need to protect the fabric of the buildings.

So, The Settle and Carlisle Railway Trust has a proven record of conservation and restoration gained over the last 20 years and which has done much, to transform the appearance of the buildings on the line from the near derelict state they were in immediately post reprieve.

The SCRT has a large archive which is currently housed by Cumbria County Council. However in the long term the Trust would like to relocate its archive materials to a suitable location on the line to allow public access to them.


The S&CRT now needs further financial help if it is to achieve its aims and objectives for the future. Funds raised will both support conservation and interpretation projects in line with the S&CRT’s aims and objectives as well as providing vital income to ensure buildings already restored remain in first class condition.

The Trust has so far raised over a million pounds. However it urgently needs funding support to continue to conserve and promote the world famous line for the future. The Trustees and officers are unpaid so administrative costs are low so donations or legacies are put to good use. The Trust looks forward to your support.

Partner Organisations

The SCRT is one of the three groups set up to work closely with the rail industry post reprieve of the line from closure. The Friends of Settle and Carlisle was set up in 1981 to save the line from closure. Post reprieve of the line FoSCL has become a successful support group with a membership in excess of 3,000. The Settle & Carlisle Railway Development Company was established in 1992 and currently runs the on-train trolley service plus the station café at Skipton.

It also manages group travel bookings for Northern Rail for Settle & Carlisle services and staffs the booking offices at Settle and Appleby. All three organizations work together under the umbrella of the Settle & Carlisle Railway Partnership as well as working closely with Network Rail and Northern. The S&CRT also has close working relationships with the Railway Heritage Trust and other key conservation bodies.

2012 marks the start of a major fundraising effort by the S&CRT and will allow them to take its conservation and interpretation objectives to the next level for the next generation to enjoy. Once you’ve visited, you will be hooked and want to return!

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Ribblehead Railway Station
Chapel Le Dale LA6 3AS

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