Today’s much-maligned railway is beset by complication, not least thanks to its vast array of component parts. Coordinating the entangled mass of operators, regulators, contractors and consultants is a costly business and the quest for consensus can induce paralysis. Inevitably, passengers pay the price - both literally and metaphorically.
Viewed through rose-tinted spectacles, the railway of yesteryear was devoid of such failings. Yet we forget that our integrated network was once a disjointed mishmash of lines, owned by dozens of companies with shareholders to placate. In a climate of cut-throat competition, any opportunity to scupper a rival would be grasped with both hands after the passenger’s needs had been thrown from the window.
One such conflict spoilt the party in the northern Pennine hills. Battlelines were drawn between the ruthless giant of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) and its challenger, the ambitious Midland. Each operated a station at Ingleton, either side of the valley, with a sandstone viaduct of 11 arches spanning the divide between them. It carried the contentious route from Clapham to Lowgill 80 feet over the River Greta. Built as an express link between the West Riding and Scotland, the line spent a hundred years as a quiet rural backwater, its relegation caused by corporate squabbling. The story of the Ingleton Branch is one of unrealised potential.