Or in local ‘speak’ La’al Ratty (Little railway).
A trip both ways along the ‘Ratty’ was one of the highlights of a short break taken in Cumbria.
Actually getting there by train from Carlisle is very much part of the day. For many miles the train runs alongside the coast and although it is not the prettiest of coasts it is certainly impressive.
The ‘Ratty’ is a 15 inch gauge ‘tourist’ line that was laid on the trackbed of a defunct 3 foot gauge mineral line.
The original 3 foot line opened in 1875 and closed in 1913 only to be re-gauged and re opened in 1915.
At one time the track was dual gauged with standard gauge track straddling the 15 inch gauge line.
After the second World War, the line was bought by the Keswick Granite Company who’s quarries closed in 1953 and the railway was sold in 1960.
Preservationists and locals got together to form the ‘Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Preservation Society’.
Today the the railway is owned by a private company and operates with the backing of the preservation society.
My first contact then with the ‘Ratty’ was this sign in the backyard of the mainline station at Ravenglass.
My first view of Ravenglass station. The sign in the second picture is on the back wall of the building on the left which looks out onto the Cumbrian coast main line.
My first impressions were that the railway looked to be well set up and organised. I was surprised at the sophistication of the operation. The quality of its buildings is obvious. The track is well laid and the overall feel is one of organisation and competence. The staff I spoke to were friendly and welcoming and when I asked for permission to visit the sheds I was treated like a responsible adult and not like some wayward child.
In all my (many) years of railway visits this is the first time I have ever been tempted to volunteer at a line. If only it was 170 miles further South !!
Look at this trackwork, beautiful !!
The signal box at Ravenglass and the station signal gantry at the back of which are two former Pullman coaches which are used as holiday lets during the season.
Although it was early late in the year, There were three trains in operation and all seemed to be well loaded.
The locomotives in service on the day were.
This 2-6-4T named Wroxham Broad which was visiting from the Bure Valley Railway (BVR) in Norfolk.
Originally conceived in 1964 for use on a sugar plantation in the Bahamas. This fell through and the loco was eventually completed as a steam outline petrol hydraulic loco.
Between then and 1991 it worked on a number of lines including the ‘Fairbourne Railway’ and the ‘Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway’ (RH&DR).
Purchased in 1991 by the BVR it was rebuilt again in 1992 this time as a true ‘steam’ loco.
Sold again in 2008 to ‘The No. 1 Preservation Group’, the loco is normally on long term loan to the BVR.
Usually found on works trains, ‘Perkins’ was doing a stint on passenger duties. A 4 wheel diesel mechanical, it dates from as far back as 1929 being built on the frames of a Muir-Hill Fordson tractor. Classifiied as an 0-4-4.
The other loco in service was ‘Northern Rock’. I only saw it in passing and was not able to photograph it myself. This image was kindly supplied by Rachel Bell of the R&ER and also shows the rural nature of the line.
A 2-6-2 tender loco built by the R&ER and completed in 1976. It has worked on other railways including a line in Germany. Currently painted in the livery of the ‘Highland Railway’.
It was named after the Northern Rock building society who provided most of the funds for its construction.
Two similar loco’s have been built for the Shuzenji Railway in Japan. They are named ‘Northern Rock ll’ and ‘Cumbria’
Tucked away in the loco shed were two other steam loco’s.
‘Hercules’ is a 4-8-2 on loan from the RH&DR.
Built by Davey Paxman to a Henry Greenly design it was delivered to the RH&DR in 1927 to work heavy ballast trains.
This powerful loco became famous during the Second World War when it was used for hauling the lines armoured train.
The shed’s other resident was ‘River Mite’.
A 2-8-2, it was built by Clarkson and Sons of York in 1966 for the R&ER. The tender used the frames of another tender formerly fitted to the ‘River Esk’ in the late 1920’s.
The loco is styled in the manner of Sir Nigel Gresley’s 2-8-2 ‘P2’ class and painted in the Indian Red livery of the former ‘Furness Railway’.
Apart from ‘Perkins’, there were two other diesels locomotives to be seen.
Also painted in ‘Furness Railway’ Indian Red is B-B configured diesel-hydrulic ‘Douglas Ferreira’. Named after a former General Manager of the line who served from 1961 until 1994.
The loco was built in 2005 by TMA Engineering.
To me, the styling of the cab is reminiscent of the Class 66’s that currently work on the main line.
The other loco was this 4 wheel Diesel Mechanical loco which is used as station pilot at Ravenglass.
It was built in 1932 by R.A Lister and is called ‘Cyril’ after former employee Cyril Holland.
Originally built to a gauge of 2 feet , It was re-built and re-gauged following its arrival on the R&ER in 1985.
Coaching stock is a mixture of closed, semi closed and open air and there is an observation car which was hiding in a shed.
Named ‘Eskdale Belle’ it is very well appointed and as the sign says, It can be hired.
The coaches each have a number of compartments which seat two people side by side facing two more. They are a bit tight for those of us with a ‘fuller’ figure (including me) but they are perfectly adequate for the journey.
The only sign of a non passenger carrying vehicle was this wagon at Ravenglass. With the spare sleeper and paint pot being present, I would guess that it was for the use of the engineering department.
A quick look at the other end of the line shows the substantial building that provides the shop, cafe and toilets etc. While the name board speaks for itself.
One charming feature at ‘Miteside Halt’ is the provision of a shelter that appears to be the bows and mid ships section of a boat.
The piece that I have written is a memory for me of an excellent day out on a lovely little railway in marvelous surroundings.
Inevitably, it only scratches the surface of the reality. If you want more, go to the website of the R&ER. If you want more than that, go to Ravenglass. You will not be disappointed.
Finally, a look at the surroundings that the railway enjoys. As I said at the start. It’s a pity it isn’t 170 miles further South.
Although the more I look at the pictures, the more I am tempted to return .........................................