David Joy, author of over 50 books, breaks new ground by teaming up with one of Britain’s foremost railway photographers. The latest book, Railways and Dales, blends memories with imagery as it captures the ongoing awe of the railways around the Dales and the Settle & Carlisle line over the decades.

OVER forty years have elapsed since I first encountered the superb railway photography of Gavin Morrison.

In 1981 I was books editor at the Dalesman, developing a list that in theory covered all aspects of the Yorkshire Dales but inevitably became slanted towards my obsession with railways. British Rail had just revealed its intention to close the wildly improbable Settle & Carlisle line – and it suddenly seemed to be in its final years.

There was now an insatiable demand for books on the line that grew and grew until it was finally reprieved. There was certainly no shortage of submitted illustrations, but Gavin quickly came to occupy pride of place. He displayed a skilled ability to capture steam in all its glory on the heights of the Dales by depicting trains in the landscape rather than just shots of locomotives.

Gavin went on to supply photos for numerous other books. Unlike many photographers, he did not give up and put his cameras away when ‘real’ as opposed to preserved steam ended in 1968. Instead, he has continued to capture the changing railway scene up to the present day. The result is a collection of over a quarter of a million pictures that is not only amazing in extent but is also fully computerised. Gavin can usually find any photograph within half a minute!

Frequently a harassed editor’s salvation, he has continued to meet numerous challenging requests down the years. We felt it was time to celebrate forty years of working together and take a radically different approach in a new book on railways and the Dales. Rather than my completing the text and then selecting the photos, he would first choose more than 150 of his favourite images concentrating on the period from the 1960s to 2000. I would then write the historical background and detailed captions for each picture. We have found that taking a fresh perspective has been immensely rewarding.

The book covers the whole of the Dales, but inevitably there is an emphasis on the Settle & Carlisle line. A cover picture of “Evening Star”, the last steam locomotive to be built by British Railways, with Ribblehead Viaduct and Whernside in the background sums up the spirit of its content.

Gavin’s favourite images include a remarkable shot of Dent station in January 1963 when it was still an age of serious winter weather. The line was blocked by snow for almost a week, but it proved possible to record one of the first freight trains just after it had been reopened. Never to be defeated, he put scrap metal in the boot of his car in order to get up the 1 in 5 corkscrew road to this most inaccessible of stations!

In complete contrast is an August 1980 picture north of Dent with the Cumbrian Mountain Express emerging from Risehill Tunnel. The locomotive is the streamlined A4 “Sir Nigel Gresley” in its striking blue livery and it is running alongside heather in full bloom. Unusually for the Settle & Carlisle, there was brilliant sunshine and these two photos capture how constantly changing weather is such a memorable feature of the Dales.

Providing a totally different angle on the line is a photo of Settle station bravely taken in 1961 from the footplate of the locomotive speeding north on the Thames-Clyde Express.

This was once the premier service running non-stop from Leeds to Carlisle on its way from London to Glasgow. It gradually declined and slipped away without ceremony in May 1976. A rather sad picture depicts the last diesel-hauled service leaving Skipton, but at least provides a fascinating record of the station before electrification transformed the scene less than twenty years later.

The branch line from Skipton to Swinden Quarry, which once continued to Grassington, receives special coverage in the book. This is because in 1968 it proved by accident rather than design to be the last steam-worked branch in Britain. It briefly became a honeypot for photographers recording the daily limestone train as it headed on its way, but Gavin had the patience to take a sequence of pictures giving a fresh perspective. They show it pausing at Rylstone level crossing with its then magnificent signals. The guard walked forward to open the gates and lower the signal so that the locomotive could ease its train to the other side. Once the guard returned the signal to danger he duly closed the gates and leisurely progress towards Skipton could be continued. The pictures truly capture another age!

Many years later in January 1991, Gavin returned to Swinden Quarry to record an extraordinary sight. An InterCity High Speed Train had brought in a railtour from London for dedicated enthusiasts and looked utterly bizarre against the background of the quarry plant. It is a view that represents the determination of author and photographer to capture railways of the Dales in all their infinite variety. There is far more than just the magnificent scenery – and we feel this has been achieved!

Railways and the Dales by David Joy and Gavin Morrison is published by Great Northern Books, price £19.99.