Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Shap and its Quarries - By Ben Yates

Shap, both famous and infamous in railway circles, is a market town with a population of 1264, situated in the fells just east of the Lake District National Park boundary and 10 miles south of Penrith.

Its folklore as a battleground for engine crews against the gradients and weather came largely to an end in 1974 with electrification – with northbound trains BRAKING for the speed restriction for the summit! The line here has a rare flat section, drops for a mile or so with another flat section through the station, cutting though the rock east of the village in a spectacular curved cutting and starts the long drop of 1 in 125 to Penrith.

Shap remains an important railhead for mineral traffic today, with 3 quarries plus lime kilns producing 1/3rd of the UK’s lime output. 

A lesser known issue affecting Shap was the Beeching Report and its subsequent implementation by Ernest Marples (the villain of the pantomime if ever there were one) which led to the loss of the stopping services on the WCML between Lancaster and Carlisle in 1968. Stations at Hest Bank, Bolton-le-Sands, Milnthorpe and Shap closed in 1968.  The mainline platforms at Carnforth were taken away in 1970 following the loss of traffic. Other intermediate stations at Burton & Holme, Grayrigg and Clifton & Lowther succumbed earlier in 1954. Traffic was light, the 1955 and 1966 WTT with 2-3 trains a day depending on the season and timetable. Stopping trains typically a class 4 tank engine and load 4 seemed to be regular, though the 1955 timetable shows the 10.35 ex Euston (presumably the relief to the Royal Scot) forming the later afternoon service, and the southbound Lakes Express (Workington to Preston portion) forming a morning service. There is some photographic evidence that DMUs took over these turns.

One regular unadvertised working was a short workers train from Shap Station to Shap Summit platform known as the “Tommy”, taking quarry staff to Shap “Blue” Quarry situated just west of the summit. The WTT shows a light engine ran from Tebay shed, picked up stock stabled in the short siding on the Up side of the station, and ran the 1 mile,  5 minute trip to the Summit, returning in the evening (midday on Saturday). The stock was reportedly brought back into the siding by rope and capstan. There is no record of the stock other than there was a first class section for office workers, but it is fair to assume this would have been at the historical end of the spectrum. The train doesn’t show in the 1966 timetable, so presumably had ended by then.

Shap “Blue” Quarry (also known as Summit Quarry) just west of the summit produces blue granite for hardcore and the former “Pink” Quarry produced architectural granite some 2 ½ miles south, at Wasdale Head, linked to the blue quarry by a narrow gauge railway, which can still be seen. Operating at 1320ft, this was narrowly shy of Corrour station on the West Highland line. Gordon Edgar captured this in operation - as seen HERE - and his book(Available Here) is highly recommended.

Shap Beck Quarry (sometimes known as Sweetholme) is located around a mile north, and produces limestone for the steel industry. The rail connection was brought in around 1942 is known as “Harrisons Sidings” and forms a loop and spur on the down side of the WCML before the line dives through the oblique diagonal crossing of the A6 (the main road to Scotland until the 1970s) forming the 70 yard “Shap Tunnel”. There was a signal box here from 1942 of the later LMS type, which controlled the loop and also formed a block post with Thrimby Grange, either box being able to control the intermediate block signals. Traffic from here included workings by rail to Shapfell / Hardendale on the shortest modern regular freight flow, being an exercise in avoiding heavy lorry traffic through the village.

Shap Fell Quarry (also known as Hardendale) was opened in 1962, and quarried limestone from the huge quarry behind Hardendale Fell – behind which is now very little! This quarry was established to provide limestone to Ravenscraig in Motherwell, and was further expanded in 1970 to become a limeworks (stone also being supplied from Shap Beck) with an additional kiln added in 1990. With steam operated freight being normal here until the end of 1967, 9Fs were regular motive power here. Diesels took over, and double headed electrics followed from 1974 for the heavy traffic to Motherwell, though this ceased in 1992.

Whilst the overlap with Stainmore in operations is at best fleeting, I decided to include the quarry in the route, but in its original state without the lime kilns.

Phil has previously made some quarry conveyor assets, which I have put to good use here at Shap Fell.

1 quarry down, 2 to go.

More Screenshots:

More Soon. . . . . . . .


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  2. Looking wonderful.... Thank you for all your hard work over the years, this is going to be something special!

  3. I have watched this with interest and joy since the very first posts. Wonderful work on the sadly missed Stainmore project, but, no surprise really, Penrith-Keswick-Workington is STILL my to 'go to' route for detail, warmth, colour and and a real sense of place and time. Thank you. Paul Robinson.

  4. It good to see this route is still in progress. I don't know how far you have got with Bowes station, but I've just uploaded picture of it to my Flickr page. They were taken in 1974/75 and hopefully they will be of some use to you: