By Michael Welch
Operating a railway day in, day out with steam traction was never easy and the fells of north-west England presented an additional, huge natural obstacle. There were the fearsome gradients on the trans-Pennine route up to the 1,370 feet high Stainmore summit, the 15-mile slog of the ‘Long Drag’ from Settle Junction to the boggy wastes of Blea Moor was legendary while the tortuous climb from Oxenholme to Grayrigg was a huge challenge to enginemen. Perhaps the best-known ascent was that up to Shap summit where the constant procession of heavy goods trains required assistance and a railway community was established around the station and shed at Tebay where banking locomotives were available around the clock. Bystanders were transfixed, and terrified, bleating sheep ran for cover as locomotives passed by at walking pace belching smoke high into the moorland air. Using some of the finest action photographs available, this album vividly brings to life the great age of steam in the fells.