The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England, known affectionately as La’al Ratty meaning “little railway“ in Cumbrian dialect. It began life as a 3 feet gauge line serving small ironstone mines in the 1870s closing in April 1913. Despite the onset of the Great War it was reopened as a 15in gauge line in 1915with some mineral traffic, but mainly with an eye to tourism . The line is seven miles long with a journey time of 40 minutes each way offering spectacular views over the estuaries and countryside with England’s highest mountains in the distance. There are great walks between and from the seven intermediate request stops.
The 15” gauge modernisation was the work of a group of gentlemen including W, J. Bassett-Lowke, He, nry Greenley and Capt. J. Howey (which last would go on to develop the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway). All had been involved in running miniature passenger carrying lines at holiday resorts in Britain and on the Continent as businesses. Also involved was Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, third Baronet, Cumbrian landowner, a director of the Cunard Steamship Company, of the Suez Canal Company and of the Great Western Railway. It is not quite clear how given wartime conditions including requisitioning of railway materials, and the Ministry of Munitions directing work to quite small engineering shops like Boston Lodge on the Festiniog and the machine repair department of Bermondsey biscuit makers Peak Freen. Perhaps the small scale granite quarrying operation at the lower end of the line was sufficienjt to justify what was essentially a tourist ride,
It is interesting to note that two locomotives, some rolling stock and track materials came to Ravenglass following the closure of Sir Arthur Heywood’s Duffield Bank and Eaton Hall Railways.