The Railway Over the Stainmore Pass

written by Chris Rowley

We are thrilled that a new book about the line over the Pennines and over Eden Viaducts’ three viaducts (Podgil, Merrygill and Smardale Gill) is published on 14th November 2023.  Lightmoor (the publisher) is taking advance orders already … we are in the queue😊

The Author’s Profits

We are also delighted thrilled and indeed honoured that the author, Chris Rowley, is donating his author’s profits to Eden Viaducts to ensure the restoration of Smardale Gill Viaduct and the continued upkeep of Podgill, Merrygill and Smardale Gill Viaducts. We are enormously grateful.

Click this link to find out more.

Lightmoor Press Books – The Railway Over the Stainmore Pass

About the author and the book

Chris Rowley is Network Rail’s Capacity Planning Director responsible for timetabling on the railway nationally. He has worked in the railway industry for 27 years for Freight operators and Network Rail. He lives with his wife and children in Wimbledon, but with family in the Lakes and the North East spends as much time as he can walking and hiking in the North Pennines and Lakeland. His interest in the Stainmore Line stems from his father’s interest in steam growing up in the North East and the many stories that were shared with him at a young age about trips over the line. In 2021 he hiked the full route from Newbiggin on Lune to Barnard Castle in a day, as a challenge with friends, making use of public footpaths and deviations where walking on the alignment is not permitted. It’s over 30 years since a book dedicated to the Stainmore Line has been produced, so with assistance from colleagues across the industry, some with direct memories of the Line in operation he has produced a 192 page, 170 picture and 65,000 word history of the Line. The book, published by Lightmoor, covers everything from the Line’s origins as part of the industrial development of the North, through to the mid 1950s boom as weight restrictions were removed, new steam locomotives were allocated and post war industrial demand surged. The book culminates with a detailed examination of how fortunes changed at the end of the 1950s and the dawn of the 1960s and how difficult decisions were taken by railway managers and politicians to close this once strategic route, England’s highest railway line.

Post-War Boom and Bust on the North Trans Pennine

The North Pennine range that separates the industrial North East and County Durham from Lakeland and the North West is a remote and beautiful wilderness of moorland and high Pennine fells. It was here that the Stockton & Darlington, the birthplace of public railways, struck out west in the most dramatic of all the Pennine crossings. A main line that rose to 1370 feet – England’s highest. Built to link the blast furnaces of Teesside and County Durham with Cumberland Ore, and the furnaces of Cumberland with Durham coke, the railway was at its heart from first day almost to the last, a working railway built to serve the mining and steel industry of the North. For just over a century the moors around Bowes, the now quiet gills and becks of Smardale and Belah and the lonely source of the Greta River in Westmorland echoed night and day to the sound of steam battling the gradients of this remarkable railway. As the memory of the railway and the vast industries it served begins to pass from living memory, this book examines both origins and history of the railway and the 1950s revival of the Stainmore Line. Equipped with the most modern steam fleet in the country, with post-war industrial output surging and inter-regional leisure passenger traffic strong, the route seemed set for a bright future. The speed with which this bustling railway and strategic East–West link passed from peak operation to complete closure was unprecedented at the time, a casualty of a unique combination of circumstances which this book explores.