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The Ulverston and Lancaster and The Coniston Railways


The first proposal to make a railway from Ulverston to link up with the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Carnforth was made, oddly enough, by the Whitehaven & Furness Junction Company.  A Bill, embodying the scheme, was presented to Parliament in 1845.  Unfortunately it failed to comply with Standing orders and got no further.  As the Furness Railway had already been authorised at this time and was in the initial stages of construction, it seemed rather odd that the latter company were not perturbed by the enterprise of the W. & F. J. R.  Apparently they were not worried, for they expressed their regret to the Whitehaven Company when their Bill failed.

As related in the preceding chapter, the overtures made by the Furness to Ulverston regarding the extension of their line to that town were coldly received by the inhabitants.  It was not until 1851 that the Ulverston & Lancaster Company was incorporated and then largely due to the energies of a Manchester family by name of BROGDEN.  One of this family, MR. ALEXANDER BROGDEN, lived at Ulverston.

The U. & L. met with difficulties from its inception.  The district through which it passed was largely agricultural and sparsely populated and the course which it followed involved the bridging of the Leven and Kent Estuaries.  Many miles of embankment to prevent damage and encroachment by the sea had also to be constructed.  After meeting with a number of snags, the line was eventually opened in 1857.  The two estuaries were bridged by wooden viaducts.  The latter were regarded as marvellous feats of engineering and were described as "sufficiently strong to resist any weight or strain that would ever be put upon them. "  The total length of the line when opened was 19 miles and 35 chains.

From its inception. The U. & L. R. was closely linked with the Furness.  On several occasions when financial crises arose, the company was "tided over" by loans from the Duke of Devonshire and Buccleuch.  Moreover the Secretary of the Furness Railway, MR. JAMES RAMSDEN, was also Secretary of the U. & L.

The Ulverston & Lancaster never owned any locomotives, motive power being provided by the Furness on a hire basis from the opening of the line.  Some coaches and wagons do appear to have been owned.  This is borne out by the fact that in 1860, following the declaration of a 5% dividend, the Company proposed to erect workshops at Cark where repairs to their own rolling stock could be carried out.  Before this the Furness had under-taken all repair work.

A small dividend was paid in 1859, but it was not until 1861 that the U. & L. got out of financial low water.  Prosperity came to the little concern through MESSRS. SCHNEIDER & HANNAY'S blast furnaces being set up at Hindpool.  This brought a steady flow of traffic to the South and was mainly responsible for the 5% dividend in 1860.  However this new flow of traffic benefited the U. & L. is shown in the traffic returns for one week in 1861.  The carrying of 1,878 passengers brought in 132 pounds 5s. 6d.  and goods traffic earned 592 pounds 18s. 5d.; making a revenue for the week of 725 pounds 3s. 11d.  This showed an increase for the week of 250 pounds over the corresponding period in 1860.  but the days of the U. & L. were numbered as an independent concern and in 1862 the Furness took over on a 6% basis.  The latter also acquired the Ulverston Canal which had been constructed as far back as 1793 and was partly owned by the BROGDEN family.

Although known as the Ulverston & Lancaster Railway, the line did not extend beyond Carnforth, where it made connection with the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway, which was in turn absorbed into the London and North-Western.  There were five intermediate stations on the line; Cark, Kents Bank, Grange-over Sands, Arnside and Silverdale.

Like the Ulverston & Lancaster, the Coniston Railway was closely associated with the Furness Railway from its birth.  The company was formed in 1857 and that redoubtable pair, the Duke of Devonshire and MR. JAMES RAMSDEN were once again Chairman, and Secretary and General Manager respectively.  Eight miles and 67 chains long, the line from Broughton to Coniston was opened for passenger traffic on June 1st, 1859.  There were two intermediate stations at Woodland and Torver.  There is a continuous climb from Broughton through Woodland to within a short distance of Torver, with a maximum gradient of 1 in 49 starting out of Broughton-in-Furness station.

The line was originally projected to link up with the Furness Railway at Broughton and thus offer a through route for transporting copper ore from the Coniston mines to the sea for shipment.  As mentioned in the previous chapter this traffic had previously been sent to the foot of Coniston Lake by barge and thence by road to Piel.

From the opening of the Coniston Railway locomotives were supplied by the Furness and the two concerns were amalgamated in 1862.  The only traces of the original company to be seen to-day are one or two old rails and chairs in sidings labelled "C.R."  The copper ore traffic ceased many years ago and to-day the Coniston branch relies, as it has done for a long time, on passenger traffic which is pretty considerable to the tourist season.

Between Woodland and Torver the line reaches a height, of 345 feet above sea-level, which is the highest point on the Furness system.