It is not always realized that there were over 1500 miles of primitive railway, worked by gravity, cable, horse or manpower operating in Britain by 1800. After Waterloo in 1815, the country entered an economic depression, and various schemes for similar lines over more ambitious distances were proposed to reduce transport costs and boost trade. A group of local industrialists and landowners in Nidderdale subscribed to employ the leading civil engineer of the day, Thomas Telford, to advise on the feasibility of either a canal or railway, linking Pateley Bridge and Knaresborough with a navigable stretch of the river Ouse. Telford was expert in the construction of turnpike roads and canals, but with limited personal railway experience, and after a brief visit to the area, selected a possible line of falling gradients suitable for a canal. He sent an assistant, Henry Robinson Palmer (1795-1844) to make a more detailed study. As the report states, he pronounced in favour of a railway, leaving open the question of whether locomotives might be employed. Sadly, the promoters were unable to raise capital for the scheme. Palmer went on to invent corrugated iron and a mono-rail system. He became secretary of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In the event, it would be the 1840s before Knaresborough was connected to a railway, and Pateley Bridge had to wait until the 1860s.
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