There are times when we get to wondering how much better things might be if history had turned out differently. Of course, it always could have turned out worse too so we need to be careful with our wishful thinking. In that vein, sticking with change the present for the better rather than wishing that the past was different is the better path to be taking.
What has taken me down this train of thought is the sight of an unused viaduct in Ingleton over the weekend. Until 1954, there was a railway line that served places like Ingleton and Sedbergh and the path that it took eerily shadowed the Settle-Carisle (Ribblesdale) line. In fact, that should never have needed to be built but for a dispute between two railway companies disrupting passenger travel arrangements and Ingleton’s viaduct was at the heart of the dispute, so much so that passengers needed to walk from Ingleton to Thornton-in-Lonsdale and there a railway connection between them! Just imagine if you will what the uproar this would generate today.
The outcome of all this was that the Ingleton-Sedbergh (Lonsdale) line became diminished in status with the Ribblesdale one taking over and surviving all attempts to close it (there were a few but it looks secure for now). In the former’s heyday, 6,000 folk descended on Ingleton of a day to wandering by its waterfalls. Mercifully, it’s a much quieter spot now and provides generous respite from the madness of modern life. If the Ribblesdale line never existed, the Lonsdale line might have survived and become the way to get to Yorkshire’s Three Peaks. You only can imagine how isolated places like Horton would feel with occasional bus services being the sole means of getting there; it could have made the Pennine Way feel so much more wild than it does. The Wensleydale line might still be there to allow trains to travel between Leeds and Carlisle via the East Coast Mainline.
All of this theorising might seem pie in the sky thinking but it’s decent fun to do stuff like this without taking it seriously and it allows an escape from the strictures of modern living for a little while too. It all goes to show how the non-existence of something bequeathed to us by history, even a single train line, can cause things to be so different. Taking out the Settle-Carlisle railway would have us going around by Lonsdale or Wensleydale rather the routes that we actually do take to get to immerse ourselves in peaceful countryside.