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The Ribblehead Viaduct

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle Railway across Batty Moss in the valley of the River Ribble at Ribblehead, in North Yorkshire, England- United Kingdom.

The viaduct, built by the Midland Railway, is 28 miles (45 km) north-west of Skipton and 26 miles (42 km) south-east of Kendal. It is a Grade II* listed structure.

History : The viaduct was designed by engineer John Sydney Crossley. The contract for the viaduct and Blea Moor Tunnel section was £343,318 in 1869. The first stone was laid on 12 October 1870 and the last in 1874. One thousand navvies built the viaduct and established shanty towns on the moors for themselves and their families. They named the towns after Crimean War victories, well-to-do districts of London and biblical names. There were smallpox epidemics and deaths from industrial accidents. Around one hundred navvies were killed during its construction. There are around 200 burials of men, women, and children in the graveyard at Chapel-le-Dale dating from the time of its construction. The church has a memorial to the railway workers.

The line over the bridge was opened to goods traffic on 3 August 1875, but passenger trains did not commence running until 1 May 1876, following approval of the works by Colonel F. H. Rich, an Inspecting Officer of the Board of Trade.

Description : Ribblehead Viaduct is 440 yards (400 m) long, and 104 feet (32 m) above the valley floor at its highest point, designed to carry two tracks. It is made up of twenty-four arches of 45 feet (14 m) span, with foundations 25 feet (7.6 m) deep. Every 6th pier is 50% thicker to mitigate against complete collapse should any pier fail. The north end of the viaduct is 13 feet (4.0 m) higher in elevation than the south end leading to a gradient of 1:100. 1.5 million bricks were used in the construction and some of the limestone blocks weigh 8 tons each

Location : Ribblehead Viaduct is the longest on the Settle–Carlisle Railway. Ribblehead railway station is less than half a mile to the south and to the north is the Blea Moor Tunnel, the longest tunnel on the line. It is near the foot of Whernside. The Settle–Carlisle Line is one of three north–south main lines, along with the West Coast Main Line through Penrith and the East Coast Main Line via Newcastle. British Rail attempted to close the line in the 1980s, citing the reason that the viaduct was unsafe and would be expensive to repair. A partial solution was to single the line across the viaduct in 1985, preventing two trains from crossing simultaneously. A 30 mph speed limit is also in force. The closure proposals generated tremendous protest and were eventually retracted. The viaduct, along with the rest of the line, was repaired and maintained and there are no longer any plans to close it.

Usage : In 2016 the line and viaduct carries seven passenger trains from Leeds to Carlisle per day in each direction, plus periodic long-distance excursions, many hauled by steam locomotives. Regular diesel-hauled heavy freight trains also use the route to help reduce congestion on the West Coast Main Line. Colas Rail operate a timber train most Friday afternoons which passes over the Viaduct when it departs its yard opposite Ribblehead railway station. The combination of the rarely seen timber train and the British Rail Class 56 locomotives used to pull the train has built quite an enthusiastic following. Another regular traffic flow to use it is the limestone aggregate train from Arcow quarry sidings (near Horton-in-Ribblesdale), which runs to various stone terminals in the Leeds and Manchester areas on different days – this has to reverse in the goods loop at Blea Moor signal box (north of the viaduct) because the connection from the quarry sidings to the main line faces north.

Access : Coordinates: 54.210436, -2.370231 / Park in the car park where the B6255 (Blea Moor Road) meets the B6479 (Gauber Road) (SD 7654579289). Cross over the B6255 and follow the footpath across the edge of Batty Green to the Viaduct (you can go right up to and underneath it).

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