Tag Archives: Ais Gill

Pennine Tornado

Thirteen on and not a Box to be seen. Running 12 minutes late and a long way short of the ‘ton’, No.60163 Tornado is seen here, crossing Lunds viaduct, a couple of miles beyond Garsdale. The weather wasn’t quite  the forecast ‘bright’ day and there was a nippy breeze. Despite the glum weather and the bleak surroundings I wasn’t the only soul on the hill side, such is the lure of steam, even new build.

When you see these wild fells, where even trees are in short supply, you can scarcely believe that men, with little more than picks and shovels, donkeys and dynamite, built a double track railway across them. This section was part of Contract No.2, there were 5 in total. The contract was awarded, in 1869, to Benton & Woodiwiss and covered the 17 miles from Dent Head to Smardale, possibly one of the most difficult and remote parts of the line, Ais Gill summit, Rise Hill and Shotlock tunnels as well as a series of viaducts at Dandry Mire and the oft photographed ones Arten Gill and Smardale are all in this section.

When the diggings were in full swing 1,400 men were at work on this portion of the line, many lived in camps of wooden huts built around Dent Head, Arten Gill, and Smardale. Attracting sufficient labour was a constant source of trouble, as was keeping them at work. Strikes, fights with the locals, militia men, and the police were not uncommon, deaths were a common place, as were spells in Wakefield prison – one book on the subject, by W.R.Mitchell & N.J.Mussett, used the title “Seven Years Hard”‘ – a fitting epithet, for the entire project.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:


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