However, other routes clearly had tourist potential, and the Lakeside and Coniston lines turned increasingly to this source of revenue. The Furness Railway also encouraged the development of select seaside resorts at Seascale and Grange. At Seascale a grandiose design never came to fruition, the location being too remote. However,Grange became quite a success as a retirement resort, although it never took off as a centre for family holidays; it was essentially a genteel seaside version of residential Windermere.
Rail closures began in the 1920s and continued through to 1972 with the final closure of the Penrith to Keswick line. Tourism was not the saviour of the railways, chiefly because the companies did not rise to the challenge it presented. Perhaps if the closures had been postponed only a few years, more lines would have survived, for some of the railways once feared by Wordsworth and Ruskin have come to be revered as tourist attractions in their own right.
If many lines were short-lived, their impact on the landscape was immense; within a few years green fields sprouted mines and quarries, with all their buildings and spoil tips. The arrival of the railways allowed the minerals to be mined and then used in industrial processes; mining villages and industrial hamlets sprang up in the landscape, and some settlements such as Aspatria, Harrington, Frizington and Millom grew into sizeable towns. The established towns such as Maryport and Workington grew as well; Whitehaven by contrast was already a town of 20,000 in 1851, and grew more slowly.
The effects of the railways were complex; they did not always allow rural industries to survive, but agriculture benefitted by being able to send milk, butter, cheese and meat to the industrial towns. They allowed local people to migrate out of the Lakes, whilst allowing other workers to migrate in (notably to Cleator Moor); tourist access was meanwhile dramatically improved. They provided employment both in the construction and the running of the lines, yet their impact was concentrated on the industrial development of the mining areas and the ports, to the detriment of much of the rest of the area; in a few years the whole social and economic pattern of life in the Lake District, and more especially around the Lakeland margins, was radically altered.
Little now remains of many lines; some are neglected and overgrown, rapidly disappearing into the landscape, with their station buildings converted into houses, whilst others have suffered the indignity of having roads built over them (notably the Keswick to Cockermouth line). The wheel has now come full circle, and the brief intervention by the railways in the provision of transport in the Lake District is essentially over.