Page 15 of 15
THE CLEATOR AND WORKINGTON RAILWAY.
No history of the Furness Railway would be complete without reference to the little company on West Cumberland for which the Furness Railway supplied most of the locomotive power, all the passenger services and a large proportion of the goods workings as well. This was the Cleator & Workington Railway.
The circumstances leading up to the inauguration of the C. & W. are interesting. It will be recalled that during the early 1870's the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway advanced their carrying charges. The L. & N. W. R. did the same, and the Furness followed suit. Not unnaturally the local traders, particularly the ironmasters, were up in arms.. Probably the railways expected this, but thought they needn't worry since they had a monopoly of the local rail facilities anyway. However they underestimated the spirit of the West Cumberland business men, and also the extreme enmity with which the London & North-Western Company had come to be regarded in the district. Euston of course made a much deeper penetration into the industrial area of Cumberland when the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway had responded so quickly to its overtures in 1878, although the spoils were finally shared with the Furness Railway when the joint control of the W. C. & E. R. was finally settled in 1879.
The leading lights in the revolt against "the tyranny of Euston" were the Earls of Lonsdale and Leconfield and MR. H. F. CURWEN of Workington. These three gentlemen whipped up public opinion and got willing support for a scheme to build their own railway from Cleator Moor to Workington and on to Maryport. This was in 1874. A Bill of this purpose was presented to Parliament the following year and came before the Select Committee on March 16th, 1875. About this time, the following commentary on the sins of the North-Western Company in West Cumberland appeared in the local press:
"The history of the L. N. W. R. in the district proves how extremely undesirable it is that the public should be placed at the mercy of a body of men whose only aim appears to be to get as much as they can and give as little as possible in return. No sooner did the company get possession of the Whitehaven Junction and the Cockermouth and Workington Railways than the rates for season tickets were "revised," which at Euston usually means "increased." In a short time there was another revision of season tickets rate. The North-Eastern Railway had a driver's strike for a pay increase: there was none on the L. & N. W. R. but the N.E.R. strike was taken as a pretext for a rate increases on return tickets.
"In 1872, when the iron and coal trades were at their peak, carrying rates were nearly doubled. Now trade is depressed, but the high rates remain. As for the traveling public, they have been humbugged to all intents and purposes, and rickety carriages, condemned for the main line, are considered good enough for West Cumberland.
"Unpunctuality, defective management, high fares, exorbitant rates for traffic, scarcity of rolling stock and 2nd class passengers treated as so much rubbish-these are the leading features of L. & N. W. R. policy in West Cumberland. But the North-Western is not the only sinner, in respect of excessive rates. Both the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont and the Furness Railways are as deep in the mud as in the mire. The West Cumberland Blast Furnaces have to pay £ 9,000 more than a similar company in South Wales for hauling the same traffic over the same distance."
The writer of this pungent commentary went on to refer to the proposed new railway and said: -
"Of course the new line will be opposed tooth and nail, but Parliament will judge the Bill on its merits."
This is precisely what Parliament did do, and in spite of a very lengthy hearing, during which the representatives of both the L. & N. W. and Furness Railways put up a hard fight against their proposed new rival in the Cleator District, the Bill was approved.
On October 8th, 1875, a meeting of protest against the North-Western rates was held at Workington and it was announced that the route to be followed by the C. & W. would be from Cleator Moor, via Keekle and Weddicar to Moss Bay and Workington, and thence to Siddick and Maryport.
The company was incorporated in June, 1876, and the construction of the line by Messrs. WARD, the contractors, was commenced from Cleator Moor to Workington, with branches to Moss Bay and Harrington Ironworks.
By an Act, dated June 28th, 1877, the Furness Railway Company was empowered to work the Cleator & Workington line and should the latter company at any time decide to transfer ownership to any other concern, the Furness were entitled to have the option over all other parties. By a further Act, dated July 21st, 1879, the Furness were empowered to buy shares in the C. & W.
A branch from Distington to Rowrah, 6 1/2 miles long, was authorised in July, 1878, and a short line into Distington Ironworks was made three years later. Powers were also obtained in 1883 to extend from Workington to Brayton (on the Maryport and Carlisle Line,) a distance of 15 3/4 miles, but this line was only constructed as far as Linefoot Junction on the Bullgill-Brigham branch of the M. & C. R. In 1886 the powers to extend to Brayton were abandoned, connection with the main line to Carlisle being made at Siddick Junction (the first station north of Workington) instead. Eventually, the section of the Northern Extension to Linefoot was abandoned beyond Buckhill Colliery, a distance of two miles.
In its final form the Cleator & Workington Railway consisted of the main line from Cleator Moor Junction to Siddick Junction (11 1/2 miles); and the Harrington mineral branch (2 3/4 miles.) There were also three other short mineral lines: The Moss Bay and Derwent Ironworks branches, just over a mile long apiece and a portion ( 1 1/2 miles) of the 3 1/22 mile long Lowca mineral branch from Harrington Junction to Rosehill Junction.
From the latter point to Lowca Colliery and By-product Plant the track was the property of the Workington Iron and Steel Company ( later a branch of the United Steel Company.) All the branches mentioned were single track and were worked by electric tablet, except those to the Moss Bay and Derwent Ironworks, which were operated by train staff and ticket.
Since it ran through a hilly part of West Cumberland, the gradients on the C. & W. were numberous and severe. Starting from Cleator Moor Junction, where the main line diverged from the Joint Line from Moor Row to Rowrah, there is a short stretch of 1 in 284, followed by nearly one mile of 1 in 72 and a further 1 1/2 miles of 1 in 70 to Moresby Parks.
After a short portion of the level, the track falls steeply, with several severe curves, down to Distington, just over 3 miles from Moresby Parks. The ruling gradient is again 1 in 70, with curves of 22 chains radius. The same gradient persists right down to Workington (Central,) futher 3 miles. The intermediate stations between Moor Row Junction were Cleator Moor (C. & W.); Moresby Parks, Distington, and Harrington. There was also a :halt" platform at Keekle, between Cleator Moor and Moresby Parks, for the benefit of miners from that village who worked at Moresby Colliery.
On the Northern Extension there is a practically continuous climb at 1 in 70 from Calva Junction for over 2 miles, broken only by a short lenght of 1 in 150 just before Seaton. The latter was the only passenger station on the line, apart from Great Broughton, on the abandoned section between Buckhill Colliery and Linefoot.
The severe gradients on the C. & W. reached their climax on the Distington-Rawrah branch, which was constructed mainly to link up at Rowrah with a little mineral railway which ran up into the hills close to the northern approaches to Ennerdale Lake. Entitled the Rowrah & Keneonhead Mineral Railway, it was built by the Scottish iron firm of BAIRD Ltd., and served a number of iron ore mines. On this account, the Distington-Rawrah branch of the C. & W. was always known as "Baird's Line." It was taken up, except for the portion between Arlecdon and Rowrah, in 1939.
Leaving the main line at Rowrah Branch Junction, at the foot of the incline down from Moresby Parks to Distington, the branch commenced with a short length of 1 in 70 with two curves, one of 10 chains and the other of 15 chains radius. This was followed by just over 2 miles of 1 in 44, plentifully interspersed with sharp curves up to Oatlands. Here there was a colliery (now closed) and a small station. The latter served the nearby mining village of Pica. After a brief stretch of 1 in 990 there was a mile of 1 in 52 to the summit of the branch, which is about 600 feet above sea-level-the highest point on the C. & W. at 1 in 60 and crosses the "dip" on a high embankment which has a curve of 14 chains radius. This was always known as "Brownrigg's Curve." There is still the eastern side of the valley to be negotiated, so up climbs the track once more on a gradient of 1 in 64 for nearly a mile, before the final run down through Arlecdon to Rowrah. Shortly after leaving Distington, and again before reaching the second summit before Arlecdon, there are some quite deep rock cuttings.
To celebrate the completion of the line to Workington a dinner was given on October 18th, 1879, at the Assembly Rooms, in Workington. the Chairman (MR. H.F. CURWEN) made a lengthy speech at this function in which he referred in the following terms to the working agreement with the Furness Railway:
" The working arrangement was advantageous to both sides. the Furness, having their rolling stock and locomotives in the district (at Moor Row,) would work the railway more cheaply than themselves, and so give them an interest in the development of the traffic which they had the means of turning to their own benefit, because it was by the Furness Railway that they would get access to the Midland and the railways connected with it (cheers.) He had no doubt that the Furness would carry out the arrangement in a fair spirit, and that they would, as they were bound to do under the agreement, avail themselves of the power and authority which the agreement gave them to the benefit of the Company and themselves as well."
Continuing, MR. CURWEN said:
" There is just one hint I would like to let fall in the presence of MR. COOK (The Furness Secretary,) and that is that they might afford us the use of more modern coaches than those in which I have had to travel during the past fortnight (loud cheers and laughter.)
"I noticed one coach labelled 'F.R. No. J.' As the Furness Railway was constituted in about the year 1800 (!!), it is quite clear that this being the fourth carriage, it must be nearly 80 years old (laughter.) I had one satisfaction in contemplating this carriage and that was that it is quite evident that since the time when it was constructed the people of Cumberland must have considerably increased in bulk, as the door of this particular coach was so narrow that I had to enter it sideways (loud laughter.) I throw out these friendly hints for MR. COOK'S consideration and I am glad to see that he is making a note of them while I speak."
Concluding his speech, MR. CURWEN said their agreement with the Furness was "for better or for worse" and he hoped that there would never need to be an appeal for "restitution of conjugal rights." He then proposed the health of the Working Company - The Furness Railway.
On behalf of the London & North-Western Railway, MR. BEDFORD made a friendly speech and the whole proceedings went off well.
Although there was an improvement in the passenger stock provided by the Furness compared with that which drew such uncomplimentary remarks from MR. CURWEN when the line to Workington was opened, the C. & W. rarely saw anything better than 6-wheeled stock. Of course the passenger traffic was a very secondary consideration and rarely consisted of more than five or six trains each way between Moor Row and Siddick Junction. A service was also run on Saturdays and Market Days for Workington to Seaton and from Distington to Oatlands Colliery Halt ( for Pica mining village) and Arlecdon on the Rowrah afternoon and an early and late evening trip back. Miner's trains were also run up the Harrington mineral line and long the private track leading to the Lowca Colliery and By-Product Plant of the Workington Iron and Steel Co. (later the United Steel Company.) The regular passenger trains on the main line were usually worked by the little 2-4-2 Furness tanks which had been re-built from the 2-4-0 tender engines of the '80's. In the very early days some of the 2-2-2 well tanks were employed. Towards 1922, when the 2-4-2 tanks were worn out, a couple of MR. Pettigrew's 0-6-0 tanks did the job, assisted by one of the 4-4-2 passenger tank engines.
Mineral traffic was shared between a number of the ex-W.C. & E. saddle-tanks; one or two "Neddies"; and a number of re-built and un-rebuilt "Sharpie" 0-6-0's. Latterly both versions of MR. PETTIGREW'S "Cleator" 0-6-2 tanks did a lot of work on the system.
On the whole the Cleator & Workington's own engines worked mostly at the northern end of the line and on the branches to Moss Bay and Harrington Ironworks. They were briefly described later in this chapter.
So long as the iron and coal trades were brisk, the line carried a heavy volume of traffic. It served a number of industrial concerns. All the Durham coke for the blast furnaces of Whitehaven Haematitie Iron Company at Cleator Moor was brought from Siddick or Workington, and to Distington Iron Company's plant as well. There was also the pig iron from both these works to be dealt with. The railway also carried all the output from the Moresby colliery, and from pits at Broughton Moor, beyond Seaton on the Northern Extension Line. The branches leading to the ironworks at Moss Bay and Harrington fed both iron ore and limestone into the plants, and coke produced locally at Lowca. On the mineral branch from Distington to Rowrah, via Oatlands and Arlecdon, there was a steady traffic in limestone and iron ore from the pits and quarries between Frizington and Lamplugh.
During the 1914-1918 War some unusual ( and what to-day would be regarded as quite unorthodox) methods of train working from Distington up to Moresby Parks were in forced. In order to cope with the heavy traffic it was customary to couple two goods trains together, when one was working through to Moor Row and the other to Moresby Colliery Sidings. A bank engine was then attached at the rear. Thus the train engine of the load for Moresby Park was also the banker for the Moor Row engine. No definite limit seems to have been set to train loadings on rising gradients, provided the necessary banking power was available. Similar workings were in force from Cleator Moor. The writer recalls seeing a remarkable train proceeding up the incline to Moresby Parks from the south, somewhere around the year 1918. There were two complete trains coupled together. At the head was an exW.C. & E. 0-6-0 saddle tank. Banking this engine's load, and hauling a long train behind it was a "Sharpie" 0-6-0. Finally at the rear were TWO banking locomotives: a 0-6-0 "Neddie" tank and another ex -W.C. & E. saddle tank engine. Unfortunately, no record was made of the total number of wagons which made up this remarkable load, but it must have been pretty considerable.
Apparently the authorities were much more stringent about maximum loads on falling gradients, in case of any possible break-away. The most powerful Furness engines (with 18" cylinders,) were limited to 45 loaded, 65 empties and 50 coke wagons. The smaller engines were restricted to 35 loaded and 50 empty wagons of any description. A single banked load was not allowed to exceed 65 empties. These limits were for gradients in excess of 1 in 70.
There were no Sunday trains on the Cleator & Workington Railway, except on the Lowca and Derwent Works branches and these were worked by the Lowca Colliery engines. They consisted of a couple of workmen's passenger trains and some coal and coke trips from Lowca to the Derwent blast furnaces.
Since the C. & W. was built primarily as a mineral carrying railway the permanent way was substantial, the rails being 88 lbs. to the yard.
The Furness engines working on the line were mostly stationed at Moor Row shed, but there were a number at Workington (Central,) where most of the engines owned by the company were also stabled. The latter were all saddle tanks (0-6-0's,) very similar in design to those supplied to the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway. The first batch were built by Stephenson's and all had 4 ft. wheels; 16 in. cylinders, and 140 lbs. pressure. They all bore names, mostly of the residences of the various directors of the company. In 1922 the C.& W. owned 10 engines, the last three being supplied by PECKETT'S of Bristol (2) and E. B. WILSON'S of Leeds (1). They were named respectively "Hutton Hall," "Millgrove" and "Skiddaw Lodge." They were almost entirely confined to duties on the mineral branches round Workington. "Hutton Hall" and "Millgrove" had cylinders 18x24 ins., wheels 4 ft. 6 ins. dia. and a wheelbase of 14 feet. their saddle tanks held 1,400 gallons of water and their weight was 50 1/2 tons in working order.
In addition to Moor Row shed, there was one at Workington (Central) and Siddick Junction. The former was a small two-locomotive affair. Both were built to the standard Furness pattern.
As already stated, the Furness supplied all the coaching stock for the C. & W., and most of the remaining rolling stock as well. The principal exception was a type of high-sided mineral wagon, with a carrying capacity of 12 or 15 tons, which could be used for carrying iron ore, coal and coke. Stock of this type was painted dark red with "C. & W." painted in large white letters on the sides. There were also a number of 10 ton wagons with wooden buffer stops.
In the year after the end of the 1914-1918 War, the issued capital of the Cleator & Workington Railway was £551,910, of which £ 260,010 was Ordinary Stock.
At the Annual Meeting in 1917 the Chairman (Sir John Ainsworth) said he looked forward to the day when all the small railways in West Cumberland would be amalgamated, and in 1919 it was rumoured that the United Steel Company were anxious to obtain the bulk of the Ordinary Shares. An offer of £80 per £100 of the stock was made to the shareholders about this time, the last official quotation in 1918 being £50. In 1919 the number of passengers carried was 644,835 and the amount of goods and minerals was 804,538 tons.
Both these figures were for traffic originating on the system. Loaded goods train mileage and shunting mileage was almost exactly the same; just under 29,000 miles.
From the beginning of the present century the dividends paid were remarkably consistent, never falling below 3% or rising above 4 1/2%. The average annual income was around £ 25,000 (net.)
The following is a list of the ten locomotives owned by the C. & W. at the end of 1922:
1 Rothersyke 0-4-0T Fletcher, Jennings No. 1 and 2 were
2 Ennerdale 0-4-0ST Barclay contractor's locomotives taken over by the C. & W.R.
3 Brigham Hill 0-6-0ST Stephenson Built 1894
4 South Lodge do do Built 1884
5 Moresby Hall do do Built 1890
6 Ponsonby Hall do do Built 1896
7 Haycroft do Fletcher, Jennings Taken over by the United Steel Co.
8 Hutton Hall do Peckett Built 1907
9 Millgrove do do Built 1913
10 Skiddaw Lodge do E. B. Wilson
No. 1, "Rotherskye," was a side tank and like No. , "Haycroft," was built locally at the Lowca Foundry of MESSRS. FLETCHER, JENNINGS and Company.
All engines carried their name-plates, with raised brass letters, on the tank sides and the number on an oval brass plate on the sides of the cab. The domes were of polished brass. Like the locomotives of the W. C. & E. R. all C. & W. engines were fitted with two sets of buffers for dealing with wagons having wooden buffer stops and those of the chaldron type.
As already stated, it is beyond the scope of this book to go into any detail about the course of events on the Furness system after this absorption into the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923. I am only one among many natives of the territory which the Furness served who feel that the area gained little by the Grouping. In all fairness however it must be stated that the L.M. & S. R. were to experience a long period of trade depression which culminated in a large portion of the ex-F.R. territory being scheduled as a "Distressed Area;" thus a policy of "economy and re-trenchment" was bound to come sooner or later.
Ever since the last war, the iron trade in Furness and West Cumberland has declined steadily. Many mines in both districts have been worked out and others closed down as uneconomical. In 1919, between Carnforth and Workington, there were no less than eleven blast furnace plants in active production: to-day there are only four.
Bus competition also became sever in the late 20's and was most keenly felt by the railway in the Cleator District where many of the stations were some distance from the villages and townships which they served. The result was the closing to passenger traffic of the whole of the Cleator & Workington system and the Joint Line from Moor Row to Marron Junction in April, 1931. Before long the line to Egremont and Sellafield followed suit (in January, 1935,) and the branch from Barrow to Rampside and Piel as well.
Of the closed lines, the following mineral branches have been taken up: The whole of the Gilgarron branch, except for that portion between Parton and Lowca Colliery sidings; "Baird's Line" ( from Distington to Rowrah Junction) and that portion of the W. & W. Northern Extension beyond Buckhill Colliery.
North of Barrow, the direct line into the iron and steelworks of the Barrow Haematite Steel Company was abandoned by taking out the junction at Hindpool. Traffic for the works from the north since then has had to be worked round via Barrow Central and St. Luke's Junction.
For a time the passenger service on the Lakeside Branch was withdrawn, but nowadays (apart from the period of the World War) it has been re-instituted as a summer service only in connection with the Windermere Lake steamers. Since 1940 the passenger trains were also cancelled on the Arnside-Hindcaster branch, but doubtless these will be re-instated when normality returns.
Another more cheerful sign is the restoration after nearly 15 years, of a passenger service on a portion of the West Cumberland Joint Line - between Moor Row, Egremont and Sellafield. Put on again mainly as a result of continued local agitation, it gives this area some measure of direct communication with the south.
But there are already signs that the territory of the old Furness Railway is staging a modest but steady industrial "come-back." This is all the more satisfactory when it becomes evident that the revival is not due to the resuscitation of the heavy industries, but rather to new and varied ones which should bring permanent prosperity to a hard-hit district. Doubtless the L. M. & S. R. Will realise this fact in due course and the railway traveller between Carnforth and Whitehaven will get the facilities which he deserves, whether he be on business or pleasure bent. Meanwhile, all honour to the work started by "Old Coppernob" and her sisters in 1846 and culminating in the "swansong" of the big "jumbos" produced by MR. Rutherford in 1920.
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