The Kendal to Ambleside railway.
When being constructed, there were ideas to carry the railway on from Windermere through to Ambleside; indeed, Windermere was still known as Birthwaite and was a hamlet, the town taking the name from the station (actually, from the post office at the station) whereas Ambleside was already an established (if small) market town.
If the station had been built at, say, Waterhead, then there would have been pretty much direct access to the lake steamers (along the lines of Lakeside, perhaps?), tourist traffic to match or perhaps exceed Windermere (Windermere village and station are a good mile or so from the lake and Bowness, and it's quite a hill), and outbound freight in the form of slate from the Langdale valleys, where one of the slate quarries at Elterwater is still operating today.
If I recall correctly, one of the main reasons that it didn't happen is because of the geography of the area; it would be quite a climb from Ambleside to Windermere. Plus, our old friend Wordsworth was dead against it.
There were apparently two alternatives considered for the routing of the WCML; one up the Lune Valley and the other passing through Kendal, up Longsleddale, tunneling under Harter Fell / Branstree (basically under the Gatescarth Pass) and then following Haweswater and I presume picking up the current route somewhere not far North of Shap.
It's the latter route that interests me as I've spent many a happy day riding / pushing my mountain bike up Gatescarth to ride down the other side and then tackle the awesome / insane Nan Bield Pass. If this route had been taken, then a trip up the WCML would have taken in views such as the ones in the below link. I imagine that the thought of tunneling under Harter Fell was what put them off, but for me the landscape beats that of the climb from Tebay to Shap hands down.
Thing is, it then gets you thinking about whether other routes would have built anyway, or whether because of the lack of possible connections, if the whole railway map of the area would have been different. Without the WCML passing through Tebay, for instance, would the Stainmore route have followed the same course and met with the WCML somewhere near Kendal, would it have been built to connect with the S&C and then beared west to head for Carnforth to still meet up with the all important connection with the Furness Railway and it's very reason for existence (supplying coke to the furnaces of Furness - I like that ), or taken some other route completely?
Of course, these alternatives open up all kinds of possibilities for modelling "could have been" routes in some spectacular scenery. I recall that Kendal MRC looked into a model of Ambleside many years ago, and imagine how stunning a layout of Long Sleddale would be; up there with Blea Moor as a minimum.
Edited by Sandside, 02 February 2012 - 11:11 .