Page 14 of 15
The Joint lines.
As related in Chapter VI. the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway became the joint property of the Furness and London & North-Western Railways in 1879. In this chapter we shall see how the joint working was carried out and the way it which the duties were shared between the two companies.
The Joint Lines comprised the Railway from Whitehaven to Marron Junction; Moor Row to Sellafield; and the following mineral branches; Bigrigg and Pallaflat; Crossfield; Beckermet Mines and Gilgarron.
At Corkickle, the double track of the Joint Line branches off at the end of the platform and runs parallel to the single track of the Furness main line to a point some distance beyond Mirehouse Junction signal-box. There is a cross-over between the two lines at the latter point. Thereafter the joint track turns eastwards and climbs Corkickle bank with its maximum gradient of 1 in 52, to Moor Row Junction. From there the double track continues to Rowrah, 9 miles and 36 chains from Whitehaven. Thence to Marron Junction on the Workington-Cockermouth Section of the L.N.W.R., the line is single. The distance from Rowrah to Marron Junction is 8 miles and 33 chains.
Returning to Moor Row, the line to Sellafield, via Egremont, branches off there. It is single to Woodend, the next station. From Woodend the track becomes double as far as Egremont from whence it is single again to Sellafield. Gradients over the whole system are severe. On the Rowrah line the gradient beyond Frizington steepens from 1 in 100 to 1 to 60 and later to a maximum of 1 in 44. Beyond Rowrah there is maximum falling gradient of 1 in 55 towards Lamplugh. On the Sellafield line there are two stretches of 1 in 80, both rising towards Moor Row.
After the absorption of the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway, most of the stations were re-built as time went on, either partially or entirely. Those of the Moor Row, Sellafield line followed the Furness pattern, but on the Rowrah and Marron Junction Branch, L.N.W.R. standards were followed. Over the whole section the signal boxes and signals were finally North-Western type and on the single track lines the L.N.W. electric train staff was in use. The same company's single wire semaphone absolute block instruments were employed.
Broadly speaking, the North-Western Company worked the major portion of the passenger trains and supplied all the coaching stock. The latter were almost entirely of their four or six-wheeled variety. Beyond Rowrah the L.N.W.R. handled all traffic. This was not heavy, usually consisting of three passenger trains each way between Whitehaven and Marron Junction, with an additional turn in either direction on Thursday for Whitehaven Market; and a couple of goods turns up and down. the platform at Marron Junction was later taken out, and all these passenger turns ran to and from Workington. Where a connection was shown from Whitehaven to both the Sellafield and Rowrah lines, the train usually consisted of two portions to Moor Row, where it was split up.
Those passenger turns worked by the Furness were usually a couple of trips in each direction as far as Rowrah and to Sellafield. The same company also worked a series of iron ore miner's specials between the Beckermet Mines and Yeathouse, near Frizington. Some old Furness six-wheeled coaches were sometimes used for this purpose.
Turning to goods and mineral trains, the division of work was broadly as follows:
On the Moor Row-Marron Junction section, the Furness worked all mineral turns which did not proceed beyond Rowrah. On the Egremont-Sellafield a good deal of iron ore and limestone traffic was worked from the mines and quarries served by the Bigrigg and Beckermet mines mineral branches to the various blast furnace plants in the Workington area. This traffic was handled by the L. & N.W.R. There was also a pretty considerable flow of iron ore from mines near Egremont to the furnaces at Millom, Barrow and Ulverston. This was dealt with by Furness engines.
Moore Row shed was the motive power depot which supplied all Furness locomotive power for the Joint Line, and for some of the Cleator and Workington Railway trips as well. As stated elsewhere, all the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont engines taken over and retained by the Furness Company continued to work in the area. They were supplemented by MR. PETTIGREW'S "Cleator Class" 0-6-2 tanks, a few of his earlier 0-6-0 mineral engines and a rather motley bunch of re-built and un-rebuilt 0-6-0 "Sharpies." Any of the above engines were also used for work on the C. & W. line. The passenger turns were first handled by the little 2-4-2 tanks, re-built from the 2-4-0 tender engines, and when these game little chaps were worn out, MR. PETTIGREW'S neat and efficient 0-6-0 shunting tanks replace them.
All the North-Western's share of the work was done by five types of locomotives; the only L.N.W.R. engines that have ever run in the Cleator district. All were of Webb design. As far as Rowrah and Sellafield, either 2-4-2 tanks or 0-6-2 "coal tanks" handled passenger turns. For the longer run through to Workington via "Marron" Junction, 2-4-0 "Jumbo's" were employed. Among the latter in use just before the grouping were "Marquis Druro," "Skiddaw," "Sir Hardman Earle," and "Merrie Carlisle."
Webb 4 ft. 3 in. coal, and "Cauliflower" 0-6-0's handled all goods turns, supplemented by the 0-6-2 coal tanks.
As might be expected the volume of mineral traffic fluctuated considerably, especially with the series of slumps in the iron and steel trades between 1880 and 1900. Given normal trade conditions, the iron ore and limestone tonnage moved over the Cleator lines was very heavy, anything up to half-a dozen booked runs from Egremont to Millom and back being a regular rule. The traffic handled by the L.N.W. to Workington was on a similar scale. To this must be added the short-distance ore traffic from mines in the Frizington area to the Whitehaven Haematite Iron Company's furnaces at Cleator Moor. By 1922, however, the post-war depression period was setting in and a number of mines in the area were closing or being worked out; thus the mineral traffic was considerably reduced.
Generally speaking the passenger service to Rowrah and to Sellafield gave an average of five to seven trains each way on weekdays only. Beyond Rowrah, as already stated, there were three trains in each direction. There were no Sunday trains on the Joint Lines.
With so many severe gradients, it is not surprising that there was a lot of banking on the system. There were no less than four sections between Whitehaven and Rowrah on which banking was authorised; all but one being in the up direction. There was also regular banking of heavy goods trains from Sellafield to Beckermet and again from Egremont to Woodend. The worst climbs were up Corkickle bank, over 1 1/2 miles long, where a Webb 0-6-0 coal engine or Furness "Sharpie" was limited to 187 tons without assistance, and from Frizington to Winder, where this figure fell to 150 tons for the same class of locomotive. For a standard 0-6-0 Furness mineral engine or a L.N.W. "Cauliflower" the figures were 220 and 175 tons respectively. All loads were of course doubled when assistance was provided at the rear.
In the early part of the present century the London & North-Western Company built a number of 20 ton straight-sided steel hopper iron ore wagons, which were designed specially for the West Cumberland ore traffic. The story goes that some time after they were put in service, one of these wagons had to be dispatched to Euston to be duly inspected by an admiring directorate.
The whole of the former Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway abounds in sharp curves, some of them beyond Rowrah being as sharp as 16 chains radius.
The mineral branches do not cal for any special comment. On account of the running of workmen's passenger trains over the Beckermet mines branch, which originally belonged to the Workington Iron and Steel Company, the electric train staff system was put into operation between Beckermet Mines Junction and Beckermet No. 1 Mine shortly before the 1923 grouping. In 1917 a considerable portion of the Gilgarron branch was closed. Built originally to bring iron ore from the mines in the Lamplugh and Frizington area down to the blast furnaces at Distington, the branch joined the Cleator & Workington Railway at Distington Station and then immediately branched off again beyond. From this point it proceeded down the valley to join the Whitehaven-Workington line of the L.N.W.R. at Parton. Before reaching Parton a short spur ran up to the Lowca colliery and coke oven plant. The Gilgarron branch left the Rowrah-Marron Junction line at Ullock Junction and was 7 miles 32 chains long. It also served Wythemoor colliery, between Ullock Junction and Distington.
The working out of Wythemoore colliery was one reason for the closing of the section between Ullock Junction and Distington Ironworks. The latter were no worse off, as iron ore could still reach them just as conveniently from the same area via the Cleator & Workington mineral branch for Rowrah, via Arlecdon and Oatlands. Originally the sector of the line from Distington to Parton was used for pig iron traffic from Distington to Whitehaven Dock for shipment, but by the end of the 1914-1918 War this line of business had practically ceased and the only regular booked turns on the branch were from Parton up to the spur tapping Lowca colliery and by-product plant. There were also a number of collier's trains which technically used the line, since they ran from Whitehaven to a special "halt" platform which was about 100 yards up the branch off the main line. This meagre traffic was worked by the L.N.W.R. It is believed that some Furness turns were worked over the northern section of the Gilgarron branch in its earlier days.
Before closing this chapter on the Joint Railways operated by the Furness Company, some mention must be made of the Furness-Midland Joint Line from Carnforth to Wennington Junction. This was opened in 1867 and, as stated in Chapter V, was 9 miles and 50 chains long. Its original purpose was to give the Midland Railway access to the sea at Piel, and later Barrow. Although the stations on the branch were built on the Furness pattern, the company never ran anything more than a ballast train over it. They were responsible for the maintenance of the track, but after that they left matters to the Midland who ran all the trains and had their own engine shed at Carnforth. The signal boxes and signals were all of Midland pattern. The "Little North-Western," as it was originally called, made an end-on junction with the Furness, via what was known as "the Furness and Midland curve." This enabled the Barrow boat trains and through goods turns to avoid running into Carnforth station and having to reverse. There was also a line running into Carnforth station where it terminated in a bay platform alongside the Furness one.
In the later part of the 1`9th century, before the Midland Company developed their own port at Heysham, and their co-operation with the Furness Railway was at tits height, as many as a dozen passenger trains were run in each direction between Wennington and Carnforth. Later this number was halved.
Throughout its existence, the Furness and Midland Joint Railway has been a useful route for mineral and goods Traffic between the industrial areas of Yorkshire and Furness. There are a number of short sharp gradients around the 1 in 100 mark, the steepest bit being 38 chains of 1 in 95 between Carnforth and Borwick. Melling tunnel is 1,230 yards long. The intermediate stations, from Carnforth to Wennington, are Borwick, Arkholme and Melling.
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