Ribblehead Viaduct
Ribblehead Viaduct

The Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the great Victorian feats of engineering in England, a triumph of 19th-century know-how - but a triumph that came at a tragic cost to human life. The viaduct carries the Settle to Carlisle Railway line across Batty Moss (giving it the alternate name of Batty Moss Viaduct).

History

The viaduct was designed by John Crosby for the Midland Railway in 1869. Crosby was the company's chief engineer and was responsible for most of the railway line's construction.

The huge viaduct required a workforce of some 2,300 navvies, who lived in three hastily-constructed shanty towns at the base of the structure, many of them with their wives and families. The shanty towns were dubbed Belgravia, Sebastopol, and Batty Wife Hole. The area where they stod is now part of a scheduled ancient monument.

The massive viaduct piers
The massive viaduct piers

The Ribblehead Viaduct may have been an engineering triumph but it was a deadly dangerous structure to build. Over 100 men died during the construction of the Viaduct, so many that the railway company had to pay for extensions to local graveyards to accommodate the dead.

Not all died in construction accidents; some were killed in fights and others from an outbreak of smallpox. Over 200 workmen, their wives, and children were buried in the churchyard at Chapel-le-Dale.

The Settle to Carlisle line was the last major railway in England to be built primarily with manual labour.

The Viaduct was begun sometime before July 1870 and finished in late 1874. The first train ran on 1 May 1876.

A train passes over the Viaduct
A train passes over the Viaduct

Facts and Figures

The Ribblehead Viaduct is 1320 feet (440m) long and rises 104 feet (32m) over the valley below. The Viaduct is carried on 24 arches each spanning 45 feet (14m). The arch foundations are 25 feet deep (7.6m). Every sixth pier is 50% thicker as insurance against any single arch collapsing. The north end of the Viaduct is 13 feet (4m) higher than the south, or station end. That makes for a gradient of 1:100.

The Viaduct is built of a combination of red brick and limestone blocks held together with lime mortar. Over 1.5 million bricks were used in construction and the largest of the limestone blocks weigh in at a remarkable eight tons.

The Viaduct is the longest on the Settle to Carlisle line, though not the tallest; the Smardale Viaduct is 131 feet (40m) tall and the Arten ill Viaduct is 117 feet (36m) tall.

There is a small visitor centre in the Ribblehead railway station where you can learn about the history of the viaduct and the Settle to Carlisle railway line. Beside the station is the Station Inn, a traditional country pub with free parking and wonderful views of the viaduct.

Getting There

There is a small car park on the B6255 just south of the viaduct. From there you can either walk out onto the low ground beneath the viaduct or pop into the railway station where you get a good view of the viaduct from above.

Most photos are available for licensing, please contact Britain Express image library.

About Ribblehead Viaduct
Address: B6255, Ingleton, Yorkshire, England
Attraction Type: Historic Building - Railway Viaduct
Location: Parking just south of the viaduct on the B6255 or at Ribblehead Station or the Station Inn. The nearest postcode is LA6 3AU.
Location map
OS: SD760793
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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