The Clerk in the Country

Friday 21st April 2023

Steam v Snow

Not every remarkable performance by steam locomotives entered the record books.  In the very severe winter of 1947 the Settle to Carlisle line was blocked several times by drifting snow filling the deep cuttings.  Engines fitted with snow ploughs ran up and down the line between scheduled trains or rescued stranded trains by clearing one section of the line at a time in front of them.  In 1984 Mr F Slindon recalled using two engines to plough through a complete blockage.

“We got both engines blowing off and at Mallerstang signalbox we were going at full speed.  Here we were completely blotted out and with all of us prepared for the shock took no harm.  We were slowing down quickly and our engine, which was leading, got its motion completely blocked up and started sliding, being propelled by the rear engine which was ramming us from behind.  We came out of the drift at walking speed but very soon our engine got going again and continued at a steady pace, running into and out of the drifts.  Then we sighted Ais Gill’s up distant signal and our next problem was to hit the drift outside the home signal with enough momentum to clear the way.  We had agreed a special code to do this which worked perfectly and so we were through. … On arrival at Garsdale the officers’ coach from Leeds was there and we were congratulated on our efforts.  But to say that the lines were ‘clear’ is rather misleading for only the space between the rails was free of snow.  On each side of the tracks and in the space we know as the ‘six-foot’, snow was piled several feet high.  Viewed from the signal box the up and down lines looked like two canals.”

F Slindon, “Snows of 1947” in The Settle and Carlisle Route (A Railway World Special), 1984