The Settle to Carlisle train actually starts in Leeds and ought to be called the Leeds to Carlisle train. However, on the section from Leeds to Settle, you feel very much like on any other local train journey in any part of England. Trains which connect those living in one town with places they want to go to work or shop. Once you reach Settle, you leave all the hustle and bustle of everyday 21st-century life behind you.
Although now attached to the rail network to Leeds, its origins lie in building a connecting line from Settle to Carlisle to link the Midlands network to Scotland. In the days before a monopoly track owner, Midlands relied on their rivals to transport people and goods from the end of its network further north. They wanted to reduce their dependence on their rivals so got permission to travel north and built their own line. Not without first changing their mind and nearly not building it!
The origins of the line mean that it is not always particularly convenient for local residents. Unlike the Great Western, which follows the existing travel route along the Thames and resulted in enlargements of villages along the way when stations were built, its purpose was to get as efficiently from Settle to Carlisle. This means that the stations are often not particularly close to the villages they are named after.
The Settle – Carlisle railway was threatened with closure on two further occasions in the 20th century both of which were fought by local residents, despite the stations at times being quite distant from them. Most recently the Settle – Carlisle Railway Development Company was founded which oversaw the restoration and subsequent maintenance of station and other buildings along the line.
The stations along the line are all of similar style, built of local stone. Quite how local becomes apparent as the grey stone of Settle gives way further north to a red stone. Not all stations have Disney characters in their windows either!
The station in Settle is in the town and the conservation efforts along the route mean that old features are retained or have been rehomed here. The Signal Box was moved it its current location in 1997 and is open to visitors on most Saturdays. There remain others along the line which are being maintained although, like this one, not actively used for signaling anymore. The semaphore signal next to the signal box shows the kind of signals that train drivers saw along the route which told them whether to proceed or not.
The water crane next to the signal box is the engine end of the water refill point for steam engines. Further up the hill from the station is the water tower, with another water crane. Steam engines do still travel along the line, but are not refilled at Settle.