The Settle-Carlisle Railway opened in 1876. One of the engineering wonders of the route was the construction of the 2629 yard (2876 metre) long Blea Moor Tunnel. Hundreds of navvies dug the tunnel out by hand, using steam engines at the top of shafts along the length of the tunnel to haul out the spoil. Terrible weather took its toll with several men drowned in the cuttings on Blea Moor during a rainstorm in July 1870 and snow and floods holding up the work over the following two years. The first passage through was completed by August 1873 and the arching and lining was completed by November 1874. The 1900 metre long tramway that transported spoil up to six huge spoil heaps is still visible as are two oblong quarries with an associated trackway that terminates close to the tramway. Three shafts were left to ventilate the tunnel and these are still intact. Brick to line the tunnel was produced at the brickworks sited near to the Ribblehead viaduct.
Mitchell, W R (1989) How they Built the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Settle: Castleberg
To view the tunnel requires a walk of some 2 miles.
The route starts as a broad track close to the Station Inn at Ribblehead.
The track first runs parallel to the viaduct. When the track swings left to pass under the viaduct continue ahead on an obvious path, always keeping the railway line on the left. The path passes the Blea Moor signal box and cottages. Further on the path turns left onto a bridge over the railway beside an aqueduct carrying a stream across the line. From this bridge there is a good view of the mouth of the tunnel.
Public Transport Details
Nearest town/village: Ribblehead Station. Call Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 to plan your journey. After the welcome message key in 885 for North Yorkshire information.
The path is generally well made.There is one stile and three streams to cross. The streams can be ankle deep after heavy rain.