Get off at Garsdale

Garsdale Station, Settle & Carlisle Railway, Cumbria: Ruswarp statue

Garsdale Station, Settle & Carlisle Railway, Cumbria: Ruswarp statue

There’s really no other reason to get off the train at Garsdale except to go walking in the wild scenery.  There are numerous round walks of varying degrees of difficulty starting from the station.

Nevertheless, Garsdale Station has numerous claims to fame.

Opened with the Settle & Carlisle Railway in 1876, it was originally known as Hawes Junction, because it was the starting-point of the branch line up Wensleydale to Hawes and onwards to Northallerton.  The branch closed to passengers in 1964 and was dismantled west of Redmire.  There are plans eventually to reopen the entire line.

A locomotive depot was planned at Garsdale but never built.  It proved easier to bring banking engines up the line than to service them in such a remote spot:  indeed, the locos would routinely have frozen solid.  The 40,000-gallon water-tower that fed the highest railway water-troughs in the world was steam heated, and its base was used as the village hall with a 200-volume library.  The waiting room was regularly used for church services.

Garsdale was also the location of a legendary incident in 1900 when the wind caught a locomotive on the turntable and spun it uncontrollably until the crew poured sand into the pit.  As a result, a timber stockade was afterwards built round the turntable.  The actual turntable is now installed at Keighley.

Hawes Junction was the site of a collision between a northbound express and two light engines on Christmas Eve 1910, caused by a signalling error, which killed nine people.  The signalman, when he realised the collision was inevitable, instructed his colleague, “Go and tell the station master that I am afraid I have wrecked the Scotch Express.”

The station closed, along with almost all the others on the line, in 1970, and reopened from 1975 to serve the Dalesrail trains by which the Yorkshire Dales National Park and other bodies regenerated the line in the face of government opposition.

The up platform of Garsdale Station has a memorial to Ruswarp (pronounced “Russup”) the border collie which along with 22,265 people registered an objection to the closure of the railway in the 1980s.  As a regular fare-paying passenger the dog was permitted to register an objection with a paw-print.

Named after a railway viaduct and a station near Whitby, Ruswarp was the companion of Graham Nuttall, one of the founders of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line.  Graham and Ruswarp went walking in the mountains above Llandrindod Wells in January 1990 and did not return:  Ruswarp was found, guarding his master’s body, eleven weeks later.  The fourteen-year-old dog was so weak he had to be carried from the mountain:  cared for by a local vet, Ruswarp lived long enough to attend Graham Nuttall’s funeral.

On April 11th 2009, twenty years to the day after the line was reprieved, the statue of Ruswarp, by the sculptor JOEL, was unveiled.  Ruswarp is shown gazing across the line to the bench that commemorates his master.

Mark Rand, chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle line, told the Daily Telegraph [August 29th 2008], “Having a statue there of Ruswarp will symbolise not only the successful fight to save the line but also the loyalty of man’s best friend…This is the silver lining to a very bitter-sweet story.”

The 48-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Waterways & Railways across the Northern Pennines tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £7.50 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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