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Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway

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Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Ravenglass, Cumbria, CA18 1SW.

They hold numerous events throughout the year. For visitor information please see their website.

The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway is a 1 ft 3 in narrow gauge heritage railway in Cumbria, England. The 7 mile long line runs from Ravenglass to Dalegarth Station near Boot in the valley of Eskdale, in the Lake District. At Ravenglass the line connects with Ravenglass railway station on the Cumbrian Coast Line. Intermediate stations and halts are located at Muncaster Mill, Miteside, Murthwaite, Irton Road, Eskdale Green, Fisherground and Beckfoot. The railway is owned by a private company and is supported by a Preservation Society. The oldest locomotive is the River Irt, parts of which date from 1894.

The original Ravenglass and Eskdale Railways was a 3 ft 0 in gauge line opened on 24 May 1875 for the transportation of hematite iron ore from mines around Boot village to the Furness Railway standard gauge line at Ravenglass. Passengers were permitted to be carried from 1876 and were carried until 1908. The railway had the distinction of being the first public narrow gauge railway in England.

The line was declared bankrupt in 1897 although it continued to operate for many years afterwards.

1913 The line was eventually forced to close in April 1913, due to the decline in demand for iron ore and unsustainable small volumes of passenger traffic in the short summer season

1915 Wynne Bassett-Lowke and R. P. Mitchell, two well-known model makers of the day, took over the line and began converting it to the 1 ft 3 in gauge that it is today.

By 1917, the entire line had been converted and trains were running along the whole length again. Initially, services were operated using the Bassett-Lowke-built, to-scale 4-4-2 Sans Pareil. Rolling stock was augmented by additions from Sir Arthur Heywood's Duffield Bank line, following Sir Arthur's death in 1916. These additions included the 0-8-0 locomotive Muriel, whose frames and running gear were later rebuilt as River Irt. As well as passenger traffic, the line was used to transport granite between Beckfoot Quarry and the Murthwaite crushing plant.

From Murthwaite to Ravenglass the track ran as dual gauge for a time, with standard gauge track straddling the far smaller 1 ft 3 in (381 mm) gauge rails. The line also carried much of the goods and produce for the valley. By the mid-1920s, the line had been extended to its present terminus at Dalegarth Station. Passenger trains did not run during World War II.

Following the war, the line was purchased by Keswick Granite Company, but the quarries were closed in 1953. With the railway up for sale, 1960 was to be the last season that passenger traffic would run.

1960 The Railway was put up for auction in September. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Preservation Society was formed by enthusiasts seeking to take over the Railway but hopes of purchasing the linbe were not high. Fortunately, two interested parties (Colin Gilbert a midlands stockbroker and Sir Wavell Wakefield a local landowner) stepped in on the day of the auction with the balance of the purchase price, £12,000, and the Railway became theirs.

By 1968 the Railway had become an integral part of the Wakefield family business in the Lake District. Much work had already been done to catch up with the backlog of maintenance, new coaches had been built and the Preservation Society had funded the building of a new locomotive, the River Mite. Further major works included re-modelling of Ravenglass station and construction of a further locomotive, Northern Rock, in the company's workshops, which entered service in 1976. The Preservation Society has also funded the diesel locomotive, Douglas Ferreira, named after a long serving General Manager.

2005 Work started on the building of a new station and visitor centre at the Dalegarth terminus, the building was officially opened by Pete Waterman in April 2007.

2011 the old cafe on Platform 1 was renovated and extended, officially opening in 2012.

The Ravenglass Railway Museum was renovated; the building was opened by Paul Atterbury and is full of great new interactive exhibitions.

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