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The Track Of The Ironmasters - A History Of The Cleator And Workington Junction Railway

The Track Of The Ironmasters - A History Of The Cleator And Workington Junction Railway

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The Track Of The Ironmasters - A History Of The Cleator And Workington Junction Railway

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Aug 26, 2016


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Lançado em:
Aug 26, 2016

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The Track Of The Ironmasters - A History Of The Cleator And Workington Junction Railway - W. McGowan Gradon




TO appreciate the circumstances which brought the Cleator and Workington Junction Railway into being, a brief survey of the railway facilities as they existed in the industrial west of the county of Cumberland in the 1870’s may help the reader. Linking Whitehaven and Workington with the north and east were the Maryport and Carlisle and the London and North Western Railways. The latter was in the peculiar circumstances of only owning the former Whitehaven Junction and Workington and Cockermouth Railways; but Euston kept in touch with this isolated portion of its domain by means of working the Cockermouth, Keswick, and Penrith Railway, and also having running powers over the metals of the Maryport and Carlisle Company.

Down to 1879, the rich iron ore bearing country lying east and south of Whitehaven was served by the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway, while Whitehaven itself was the northern terminus of the Furness Company.

Between them, these various railways busied themselves in handling the vast output of iron ore, coal, limestone, and pig iron produced from the multitude of mines, quarries, and blast furnaces which not only littered the face of West Cumberland, but stretched in an almost unbroken line from north of Maryport to Carnforth on the shores of Morecambe Bay.

Like the man in the Bible who waxed fat and kicked, the two companies, which had a strangle-hold on the rail traffic between Maryport and Egremont (the L. and N.W.R. and the W.C. and E.R.), were anxious to maintain the double-figure dividends with which they had been regaling their shareholders in the 60’s and 70’s. Furthermore, Euston, in 1878, by acquiring the W.C. and E.R. (modified a year later by joint ownership with the Furness Railway) had tightened its grip on the large and lucrative mineral traffic in the area.

Cumbrians have always been noted for their independence, and when the W.C. and E. increased their freight charges in 1873 (an action promptly copied by the North Western and Furness Companies), the ire of a number of local ironmasters was thoroughly aroused. In 1874 they propounded a scheme for an independent railway from Cleator Moor to Workington and on to Maryport. Their scheme found ready support from the local landowners, Lords Lonsdale and Leconfield, and Mr. H. F. Curwen, of Workington. A Bill was soon presented to Parliament and came before the Select Committee in March, 1876. At a Protest Meeting over the increased North-Western rates, held in October, 1875, at Workington, it had been revealed that the proposed line should run from Cleator Moor via Keekle and Weddicar to Workington and thence to Siddick and Maryport.

Public opinion about the treatment of traffic and the high rates charged was summarised in one of the local newspapers, which made a violent attack on the L. and N.W.R. and other companies for the high rates, poor services, and dirty and inadequate rolling stock provided in West Cumberland.

The C. and W.J.R. Bill was, of course, most strenuously opposed by both the North-Western and Whitehaven and Egremont Companies, but, after a lengthy hearing, it was approved. Sir Edmund Birkett, Q.C., appeared for the promoters of the new line, one of whose principal champions was Mr. W. Fletcher, F.G.S., J.P., of Cockermouth. In the course of his evidence before the Committee, Mr. Fletcher said the presence of coal measures along the course of the proposed line (at Moresby) was even more important than the iron traffic which would certainly accrue. He also made the remarkable allegation (afterwards withdrawn as erroneous) that the Midland Railway had got secret running powers into West Cumberland.

The C. and W.J.R. was incorporated in June, 1876, and soon afterwards the construction of the line, which was entrusted to Messrs. Ward, was started. The initial estimate for the 15 miles of track, for which powers to construct were obtained, was £150,000. Soon it became clear that the line was going to cost a good deal more, and, at the same time, the Furness Railway, the Directors of which evidently realised that the new concern meant business, came forward and offered their support. This took the form, in June, 1877, of the F.R. being empowered to work the Track of the Ironmasters.

It was also agreed that if the C. and W.J. should ever decide to transfer their railway to any other concern the Furness should have the option over all other interested parties. In 1878 the Furness were empowered to buy shares in the C. and W.J.R.

While the construction of the main line from Cleator Moor to Workington was getting under weigh, a branch from Distington to Rowrah, 6 1/2 miles long, was authorised in July, 1878, together with a short line into Distington Ironworks.

The branch to Rowrah was constructed

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