La’al Ratty in olde Cumbrian dialect means Little Railway and is an affectionate name of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway. It might be a little railway, but it has a very big heart and was the biggest revelation for me on my recent trip to the Lake District. This 15in gauge railway deserves a lot of respect. The locomotives may be narrow gauge, but they’re impressive all the same. The railway has all the facilities of it’s full size cousins, as evidenced by the impressive ironwork in the station canopy at Ravenglass – this is every inch a proper railway in every sense.
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway runs through one of the most beautiful routes that I’ve had the pleasure to ride. The eastern terminus at Delgarth is within sight of the Scafell mountain range – the highest mountains in England and it connects with the landlocked harbour of the Ravenglass Estuary, a contrasting landscape but nevertheless of interest and designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI.) The line was a favourite of the most famous fell walker of them all – Alfred Wainwright, which is as good a seal of approval as you could get in the Lake District! It runs through stunning mountainous countryside, with buzzards soaring above and red squirrels in adjacent trees. Hopefully the slideshow below will go some way to illustrate how incredible it is!
The railway is historically significant too. It was the first public narrow gauge Railway in England, built in 1873 at 3ft gauge to haul hematite iron ore. It was closed in 1913 but re-opened by WJ Bassett-Lowke and R Proctor-Mitchell to test their 15in gauge locomotives. Slowly the line was re-laid and by the 1920’s it was once again being used to haul freight – this time granite. By the 1950’s the fortunes of the line had faded and after some failed attempts to sell it, the line was eventually purchased by Colin Gilbert and Sir Wavell Wakefield and moved on into the Wakefield family business. Since then it has gone from strength to strength.
The locomotives on the line are worthy of note and you can read more in the blog posts listed below. In the meantime I’ll leave you with my favourite photograph from my visit to the line. Thanks for reading folks!