Smardale Gill Viaduct

(Photo 9 © Simon Ledingham)

To the west of Kirkby Stephen, the Stainmore route remained largely single line throughout its operational life although the section's most spectacular structure, Smardale Gill Viaduct, was built to handle two tracks. Crossing the valley over Scandal Beck, it was constructed by Preston-based contractor Mr Wrigg who was rewarded for his trouble to the tune of £11,298. Its engineer was the ill-fated Sir Thomas Bouch.

The structure, which includes a curve at its eastern end, comprises 14 arches each 30 feet in span and carried its line for 184 yards at a maximum height of 90 feet. Around 25 feet wide, it is built of locally quarried 'pink' sandstone blocks with dressed arch soffits and tapered piers. The first mineral train crossed it on 4th July 1861.

Closure came in January 1962 and, by the mid-1980s, masonry was falling from one of Smardale Gill's piers. The desire of British Rail Property Board to demolish it drove the formation of the Northern Viaduct Trust in 1989. Grants were secured which helped towards the cost of renovation, approaching £400.000. The work was completed in 1992, enabling a permissive path to the opened across the deck. Since December 1984, it has been protected by a Grade II* listing.

In 2010, the Trust launched an appeal for funds to rewaterproof the deck and carry out additional repairs to the masonry, notably at the foot of one pier on its northern face.

(Many thanks to Simon Ledingham for his glorious snowscape.)
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