The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway is a narrow gauge steam railway which runs seven miles from the coast at Ravenglass to the foot of England’s highest mountains in Eskdale.
The railway is owned and operated by a private company with a small full-time staff. Volunteer members of the Preservation Society supplement the regular staff.
Ravenglass is the only coastal village which lies in the Lake District National Park. The railway terminus is adjacent to the National Rail station. Former railway infrastructure has been adapted to the needs of the line: the former Furness Railway stone-built goods shed is now used by the R&ER as a workshop; the main-line station building is now the railway’s own pub, The Ratty Arms; and the railway car park lies on the old goods yard.
From Ravenglass the R&ER line turns eastward and descends past marshland alongside the estuary of the River Mite. Varied bird-life can be seen on the mudflats of the estuary. The first station is Muncaster Mill, a former water-powered mill which is now a private residence. From here, the line begins to climb steeply through Mill Wood and alongside the northern edge of Muncaster Fell.
At Miteside there is a small halt formed from a boat. The first of the passing loops is here, allowing trains running in different directions to pass each other. The line hugs the northern foot of Muncaster Fell and in winter this section sees little daylight. The remains of the former granite crushing plant at Murthwaite still acts as a permanent way store with its own siding. Further on, the line reaches an impressive point where it rounds a bluff known as Rock Point, high above the River Mite, before turning down into the valley.
Irton Road station is the mid-point of the line and is the second passing loop. The station building is the original from the construction of the line. Modern additions to the building include a toilet and the radio transmitter for passing messages to and from the trains. A series of sidings in the station yard serve as the loading point for ballast for trackwork.
Between Irton Road and Eskdale Green, the railway switches between valleys, leaving the River Mite and entering Eskdale. Eskdale Green station is situated below the village bearing the same name, and is convenient for the Outwood Bound centre. The station was built by members of the Society in the 1960s.
The line climbs steeply up Hollin How bank above the King George V pub. A halt has been created to serve the popular campsite at Fisherground Farm. This is also the site of the third intermediate passing loop. There is also a lineside water tank here, although the water is no longer used for the steam engines since its chemical composition is less suitable for the boilers than mains water.
Beyond Fisherground, the line twists along the valley side, leading to fanciful suppositions that the contractor was paid based on length of railway laid. Notable features include Gilbert’s Cutting, blasted through the rock to remove a sharp reverse bend at Spout House, and the former granite quarry visible cut into the fellside. A halt at Beckfoot serves the Stanley Ghyll guest house.
The upper terminus of the railway is at Dalegarth. The former trackbed of the line to the iron-ore mines at Boot is visible continuing along the valley, and the route can be walked. Dalegarth is a short stroll from Boot village, with its restored water mill and hostelries, the Boot Inn and Brook House Inn.