By Ian Everett
Think of railways in the Yorkshire Dales and what comes to mind? Certainly the Settle and Carlisle Railway, possibly the preserved tourist attractions in Wensleydale and Bolton Abbey and maybe distant memories of Richmond station.
But what may surprise many is that the Victorians proposed, and usually gained, Acts of Parliament for scores of railways, which if built would have criss-crossed every dale in a complex network of major and minor lines.
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One would have been a major trunk route from Manchester to Newcastle upon Tyne, running through Wharfedale and Bishopdale, linking them with with a long tunnel. Sadly (with the hindsight of a railway buff) John Ruskin objected to the large viaduct which he thought would have ruined the peace and beauty of Aysgarth Falls, so, like most of the others, it was never built.
But many were built and served nearly every dale, carrying people, coal, livestock and other goods, for a century or more, before buses and lorries took their traffic away and they were declared redundant, some even before Dr Beeching gave them the coup de grace.
This fascinating and complex history is described in a new book by respected railway historian David Joy: Rails in the Dales is published by the Rail and Canal Historical Society, www.rchs.org.uk.
David will be talking about his book at a meeting in the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes at 11am on Saturday, May 20.