The Ratty

It really is quite some time since I have written anything really about a railway. Indeed, it is quite a time since I have done anything railway or really taken in any trains. But today I shall remember a railway visit back in 1972.

Now the world was different back in 1972. I was a teacher, working full time and my annual – yes, for a whole year – salary was less than one thousand pounds. My wife was a student although by the summer she, too, was a qualified teacher but hadn’t started work. We had bought a house and had a mortgage. We ran a car. We had virtually no spare money for fripperies, but we did manage camping holidays. We went to The Lake District. I recall that we looked at the outside of places. We couldn’t afford to go in. We walked when the weather permitted but of course ‘The Lakes’ is not the driest part of England. We enjoyed lakes, mountains and beaches when we could.

And I enjoyed ‘The Ratty’.

The Ratty is the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Of course, we couldn’t afford to actually ride on it, but railways do provide action pretty cheaply. We could certainly see it. The original line opened in 1875 and it was built to a three feet gauge. Its purpose was to carry iron ore from quarries up the valley of the River Esk to the main railway at Ravenglass. It closed in 1913. But in 1915 Bassett Lowke, a name renowned in the model railway field, re-opened it on a fifteen inch gauge. Although pretty well down to toy size, the Ratty even continued to carry freight as well as passengers. After World War II the line was bought by the Keswick Granite Company but the quarry it served closed in 1953 and the line became a ‘heritage’ line in 1960.

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And here is a train at Eskdale Green in 1972. I do believe that’s my car on the left. I bet that parking area has long since been made inaccessible to passing tourists. As we can see, the train was popular and the loco clearly has steam to spare.

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Another Ratty train. The countryside is, of course, splendid.

It must be quite tough being footplate crew on these little locos.

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The driver looks out over the top of the cab.

For the record, poor weather and a shortage of cash made us cut short this holiday. But it is still remembered with some affection.

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2 Responses to “The Ratty”

  1. izzwizz Says:

    Lovely. I’ve travelled on Ratty a few times in the last decade. Always exciting! And gorgeous up there. I’ve walked a lot round there, and nice pubs too.

    • locksands Says:

      I think I was last there in 1988 with my young children. Do you know, I had forgotten, but my son remembered! I really don’t know the Lake District all that well but I do love the wild west coasts. Mind you, at the moment I’m happy to be home, well away from coasts and well away from any potential floods.

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