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CHAPTER V.

 

Having dealt in the preceding chapters with the three companies taken over by the Furness between 1862 and 1866, we return to consider the development of the parent company during the next 20 years.

The period 1860-1865 was one of notable expansion.  Not only were the three other railways just described taken over, but plans were made for taking over the rapidly developing Barrow harbour from its commissioners and vesting it in the Furness Railway.  A big dock scheme for Barrow was also prepared, together with a new joint line with the "Little North-Western" from Carnforth to Wennington Junction on the Midland.  The idea behind all this was to obtain a through route to Yorkshire and the Midlands,  thus bringing more sea-borne traffic to Barrow.  Both plans went well.  Parliament approved the dock scheme and the joint line to Wennington in 1863 and construction on both started immediately.  In order to tap an adequate supply of stone for the construction of the dock walls and quays at Barrow, the Hawcoat Quarry branch, 52 chains long, was opened in the same year.

During the next five years (1865-1870) good progress was made.  MESSRS. BARASSEY & FIELDS, the contractors for the Devonshire dock, pressed on with their job and water was admitted on August 1st, 1867.  In the same year the Joint line with the Midland (9 miles and 50 chains long)  was opened to traffic.  As soon as MESSRS. BARASSEY & FIELDS had completed the work on the Devonshire dock, they commenced operations for a second one, to be named after the Duke of Buccleuch.  With the opening of the Wennington Carnforth line, the Midland Company transferred their steamer services to Belfast and the Isle of Man from Morecambe to Barrow (or to Piel Pier, to be more exact.)  The steamers used for this service had been run by the Morecambe Shipping Company, which was owned by the Midland.  On moving to Piel, the Service became jointly owned by the Midland and Furness Railways and Messrs. Little & Co., of Barrow.  In order to deal with this new sea traffic as expeditiously as possible Piel pier was extended and re-built so that the "boat trains" could run alongside the steamers.

September 19th, 1867, was notable occasion in the annals of the Furness Railway.  On this day the Devonshire dock was officially opened by MR. W. E. GLADSTONE. 2,500 feet in length, the new dock had a water space of 30 acres.

In Barrow (now boasting a population of over 20,000, compared with just over 2,000 in 1847)  the event was celebrated by a General Holiday.  All streets and shops ere decorated and the programme commenced with a gather in the Market Square.  Here an address was presented to the Duke of Devonshire and a gold medal to the Mayor of Barrow (MR. JAMES RAMSDEN.)

Following the ceremony, a Drinking Fountain, the gift of the Duke of Buccleuch, was inaugurated.  From the Market Place a procession, which included no less than three brass bands, paraded through the town and eventually drew up on the drawbridge which connected the Devonshire and Buccleuch docks.

After the official opening by MR. GLADSTONE, a lengthy inspection of the Harbour and surrounding work was carried out, after which the official party adjourned to the large goods shed near the station which had been transformed into a banqueting hall.  Here some 1,350 guests sat down.    The Furness Railway had decided to carry out the dock opening ceremony in "a big way."  Some 1,500 invitations had been sent out and free travel vouchers from any part of the system were issued.  In addition, the mighty London & North-Western had provided special carriages for those visitors to Barrow who travelled from stations on their railway.  It was estimated that nearly 5,000 persons came into Barrow by train for the opening and the ceremonies where witnessed by some 10,000 people.

At night there were large-scale illuminations, which included the sending up of a balloon which had a magnesium flare attached to it.  This gave off multi-coloured lights for a considerable period.  A gigantic bon-fire had also been prepared and was lit at 8 p.m. No less than 200 cartloads of material were used for it and the blaze was visible for many miles around.  In the words of a contemporary newspaper report:  "Not a few benighted strangers made their beds in the warmth of its vicinity."

The Buccleuch dock, which appears to have been opened at the same time as the Devonshire, was slightly larger than the latter.  Length was 3,000 feet and the water space 33 acres.  A timber pond of 35 1/2 acres was also constructed.  The whole scheme cost £ 200,000.  the engineers, were MESSRS. McLEAN &  STILEMAN of London.

While all these developments at Barrow had been going on, a start had been made on the branch from Ulverston to Newby Bridge.  This left the main line at Plumpton Junction (about 1 1/2 miles beyond Ulverston.)  Work on the construction commenced in 1867.  MESSRS. BANTON & WOODSIDE were the contractors.  The intermediate stations were Greenodd and Haverthwaite.

Meanwhile the question of bridging the Duddon Estuary cropped up once again.  It will be recalled that the Furness took over the obligation to carry out the scheme, when they absorbed the Whitehaven & Furness Junction Railway in 1866.  In 1867 the tender of MESSRS. D. BENNET & CO. was accepted for the work and the latter firm began to assemble material to carry out the job on the southern side of the estuary-near Askam Point.  But in the following year (1868) the Furness got "cold feet."  The size and cost of the scheme worried them.  The whole matter was gone into once again and it was decided that the "cons" outweighed the "pros."  So this time the Duddon crossing was abandoned for good.  The fact still remained that the Company were failing to carry out their obligation, and some kind of :face-saving" had to be devised.  The result was the fixing of a railway fare between Askam and Millom based on the distance across the estuary between the two places.  This fare (4d. single) persisted throughout the existence of the Furness Railway.

Another mineral branch was opened in 1868.  This was from Crooklands to Stainton and tapped a big limestone deposit which was to be worked to supply the Hindpool blast furnaces.  Over the branch, 1 mile and 56 chains long, some 65,000 tons of limestone were moved in the first year.  By 1919, 115,000 tons of limestone were obtained annually from Stainton Crown Quarry.

It was also decided in 1868 to extend the Newby Bridge branch to the foot of Lake Windermere, at Lakeside.  Up to this time the chief importance of the branch had been the traffic to and from the charcoal blast furnace at Backbarrow.  By extending to Lakeside the Company anticipated obtaining a good slice of the Windermere tourist traffic.  The final length of the branch was 7 miles 73 chains.

During the period under review, there were certain directorial and staff changes.  In 1865 MR. JAMES RAMSDEN, after 20 years' service as General Manager, became Managing Director.  In 1866 the Duke of Buccleuch joined the board of directors.  In the same year MR. HENRY COOK, who had been Secretary of the W. & F. J. R., was transferred from Whitehaven to Barrow and appointed Secretary to the Company.  MR. JAMES RAMSDEN had previously held the post.  MR. COOK was also appointed Traffic Manager.

During the next decade ( 1870-1880 ) various developments took place which finally cemented the Furness Railway into the size and form which it retained down to 1923.

The period opens with considerable extensions to the Barrow ironworks.  Here manufacture of steel rails and plates was commenced.  This brought a still greater volume of traffic to the Furness.  This is reflected in the 10% dividend which was paid in 1870 and the two succeeding years.  The boom in trade which followed the Franco-Prussian War brought still greater traffic.  Hodbarrow iron mines and the ironworks at Millom were also making a big contribution to the prosperity of the Company.  Nearly 1,000 additional wagons were put into traffic about this time.  The Hodbarrow iron mines produced haematite from big deposits which were discovered between the town of Millom and the seashore.  Preliminary shafts were first sunk in the 1850's.  The original Millom furnaces were completed in 1866 and another single one was erected in the same year on the opposite side of the Duddon estuary at Askham.  The latter went out to blast in 1919 and has since been dismantled.  The works at Millom are still "going strong" to-day.

Only one more passenger branch remained to be constructed.  This was from Arnside to Hindcaster Junction, on the L.N.W.R. Main Line from Preston to Carlisle.  Joining the latter just south of Oxenholme, the Furness obtained access to Kendal, and were granted running powers to the latter from Hindcaster Junction.  Most of the branch trains started from Grange-over-Sands.  The line, 5 miles and 25 chains long, was opened for traffic on June 26th, 1876.  Sandside and Heversham were the intermediate stations.

Another important event occurred in 1873.  This was the establishment of the Barrow Shipbuilding Company, which fifteen years later was to become the Naval Construction and Armaments Co. Ltd., and finally the world famous firm of Vickers Ltd.  With such a concern as this finally established at Barrow, the Furness Railway were bound to continue their development and expansion of Barrow docks and the harbour facilities generally.

Meanwhile the Furness Railway Act of 1872 had given the company powers to construct two further docks at Barrow:  the Ramsden and the Cavendish.

In 1873, two short mineral lines had been opened.  These were from Salthouse Junction to Stank (1 mile and 74 chains)  and from Barrow Old Station to Ormsgill (1 mile and 70 chains.)

Another ironworks was established at Ulverston in 1874.  This was the North Lonsdale Company and their blast furnaces were erected about a mile south of Plumpton junction.  A branch was laid into the works and extended on the Conishead Priory, near the village of Bardsea.  For a time a passenger train service was run, but for some years before the 1914-1918 was this had dwindled to an occasional excursion working and the line fell into disuse beyond North Lonsdale ironworks.

Throughout this expansion period, the main line had not been neglected.  By 1875 the track had been doubled through to Sellafield and two-thirds of the system re-laid with steel rails in place of the iron ones originally provided.  Actually the first steel rails were laid as early as 1863.  This was on the Ulverston and Lancaster section on which the iron rails were almost completely worn out after a life of only five years.  Evidently the original ones must have been of pretty poor quality.  Expansion of Barrow docks continued.  The Buccleuch dock was deepened in 1876 and work on a further one, the Ramsden dock, almost completed.  The latter was opened in 1879.

The close of the decade brought the conflict over the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway.  This concern, whose history is outlined in the next chapter, had built an extension in 1869 from Egremont to join the Furness line at Sellafield in order to obtain an outlet to the south for the Cleator district iron traffic.  The W. C. & E., although a small company, had prospered exceedingly and its shareholders had come to regard dividends of 10% as commonplace.  In 1878, the W. C. & E. found their considerable north-bound mineral traffic threatened by the newly formed Cleator and Workington Railway.  Furthermore the local traders were pressing for a reduction in the carrying rates.  Just about the same time the mighty London & North-Western Railway made overtures to the little Cleator Company.  The L. N. W. had their stake in West Cumberland in shape of the line from Whitehaven to Workington, Cockermouth and Maryport, as well as their working of the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway, and it is possible that Euston were getting "windy" about the damage which the Cleator & Workington line might do to their traffic, once the new line "got going."

For much the same reason, the W. C. & E. accepted Euston's offer and was leased to the L. N. W. R. in the same year (1878.)  In spite of this, the Furness Company did not allow the matter to rest.  They protested vigourously to the L. &. N. W. and also threatened to build their own line into the Cleator District by way of Seascale, and Gosforth to Egremont.  This spirited action had its effect on Euston and the whole affair was amicably settled in 1879.  The W. C. Y. E. R. became the joint property of the Furness and L. &. N. W. companies.  The shareholders of the little West Cumberland line didn't object, as they were guaranteed 10% perpetuity.

When the Cleator and Workington Railway was opened in 1879, the Furness Railway entered into an agreement with the new company to supply the bulk of the locomotive power and also supply all passenger rolling stock.  The history of this mall company, which survived as an independent concern down to 1923, is related in chapter XIV.  Being so closely connected with the Furness Railway throughout its existence, it seems fitting to include a chapter about it in this book.

Two other items deserve mention during the period under review.  In 1859 a steamer service was commenced on Coniston Lake.  The vessel employed was described as a "steam gondola" and was named "Lady of the Lake."  She did faithful service until 1908, when a larger version was put in service.  The steamer services on Windermere did not commence until 1871.

In 1862 the company opened the one hotel which they owned and later managed, at Furness Abbey.  Some details about this establishment will be found in Chapter X.

In 1879 the total mileage of the company (not including sidings) was 170 1/2 miles, and the authorised capital nearly £ 7,000,000.