North Westmorland: Railways

The Later Records Relating To North Westmorland Or the Barony of Appleby. Originally published by Titus Wilson and Son, Kendal, 1932.

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John F Curwen, 'North Westmorland: Railways', in The Later Records Relating To North Westmorland Or the Barony of Appleby( Kendal, 1932), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

John F Curwen, 'North Westmorland: Railways', in The Later Records Relating To North Westmorland Or the Barony of Appleby( Kendal, 1932), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

John F Curwen. "North Westmorland: Railways". The Later Records Relating To North Westmorland Or the Barony of Appleby. (Kendal, 1932), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

In this section



Now part of the L.M.S. system.

At the first projection of railways the inhabitants of Kendal were among the earliest to perceive of their advantages for the development of trade, but the physical configuration of the county presented serious obstacles to the would-be promotors. From the first it was evident that local subscription would not be sufficient for such expensive engineering and that it would become necessary to seek the assistance of established railway companies whose interest might be promoted by the extension of their lines. To the unremitting efforts of Cornelius Nicholson we owe the practical turn that was given to the dream when he called a public meeting in Penrith on 7 November and another in Kendal on 19 December, 1837.

At the former meeting Nicholson presented three alternative routes for consideration, viz.:—

(a) The coast route as proposed by George Stephenson, the father of the locomotive system, which was proposed to run from Lancaster to Ulverston, Whitehaven and so to Carlisle, a distance of 102 miles. It was objected that this avoided Kendal and Penrith and ran on the hem of the counties with no population on the sea side.

(b) The Eden valley route which was to run from Lancaster to K. Lonsdale, Sedbergh, Ravenstonedale and thence by the vale of Eden, a distance of some 72 miles to Carlisle.

(c) The Shap route as proposed by Joseph Locke, the engineer of the Grand Junction Railway which had brought its lines from Birmingham to Preston and contemplated extending it to Lancaster. This was a far more ambitious scheme, necessitating a rise of 1000 feet without a single tunnel, but it was thought that the extra engineering cost would be balanced by the 6 miles shorter length of line.

In March, 1838 a deputation of Kendal gentlemen waited upon the Directors of the projected Preston to Lancaster Railway to confer with them for the purpose of influencing them to continue their line to Kendal.

But almost immediately great rivalry appeared between the East Coast and the West Coast railway companies as to which should receive running powers between London and Scotland. At length the matter came before Parliament, and on 27 March, 1841, the Commissioners appointed by Government reported that the best line of communication with Scotland would be between Lancaster and Carlisle. This decision was of momentous consequence to the inhabitants of Westmorland and stimulated their scheme.

The final determination to adopt the Shap route was brought about by the landowners of K. Lonsdale issuing on 3 February, 1842, a pronouncement of their hostility to the railway passing through the Lune valley and their determination to give the measure every opposition in their power.

The same newspaper that gives this uncompromising declaration advertises that the Caledonian Railway company intended to apply to Parliament for an Act enabling it to make a railway from Lancaster, via Kendal to Carlisle. By March the plans were deposited with the various Clerks of the Peace and by November all the drawings and estimates were lodged in the Private Bill Office in London. On 23 January, 1843, John Wakefield as chairman of the local committee issued a notice that toward the £1,000,000 required by the Caledonian company, the London and Brighton and the Grand Junction, together with other leading railway companies, had resolved to subscribe £500,000 on condition that £250,000 should be raised by the landowners and others living adjacent to the proposed line. To meet this large sum it was proposed to issue shares of £50 each, and so enthusiastic were the promoters that in one day 550 shares were taken up in Kendal and about 400 in Carlisle.

On 24 May, 1844 the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Bill passed through both Houses of Parliament; the first sod was cut at Grayrigg in September of the same year; General Pasley, the Government Inspector examined the work and gave his certificate for a single line as far as Oxenholme on 18 September, 1846; and finally the whole railroad to Carlisle was opened for traffic on 15 December following.

The embankments and cuttings in the solid granite rock near Tebay and Orton Street vary in depth from 50 to 60 feet. The viaduct that crosses the river Eamont consists of five arches, each of 50 feet span and seventy feet in height from the surface of the water. Perhaps there is no other example in England of so difficult a country having been furnished with a railway at so small a cost per mile. The genius of Joseph Locke planned it all; one contractor executed it all, kept within the estimate and was only beaten a few weeks as to time of completion.

By an Act, 35 Vict. c. 87 (1872) leave was given to the L.N.W.Ry. to make a new road, instead of the existing level crossing "commencing from and out of the turnpike road leading from Sedbergh to Borrow Bridge at a point thereon 80 yards north of the point where that road crosses the railway on the level and terminating by a junction with the same road at a point thereon 20 yards south of the said level crossing. They may stop up and discontinue as a turnpike road and appropriate to the purposes of their undertaking so much of the before mentioned existing turnpike road as extends for a distance of 5 yards on each side of the railway."


The South Durham and Lancashire Union Railway, having its junction with the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway at Tebay, was promoted by an independent company and became absorbed by the North Eastern Railway. The first sod was cut at K. Stephen on 25 August 1857 by the Duke of Cleveland and the line was opened for passenger traffic on 7 August, 1861. It is worthy of note that the pioneer engine which led the way across the country bore the name of Edward Pease so honourably associated with the Stockton and Darlington line.

Rising from a mean elevation of about 585 feet at Barnard Castle the line enters the county on Stainmore, 1374 feet above sea level; the scenery quickly changing from luxuriant herbage to grazing land as at Bowes Moor and then to the wild and sombre moorland of the summit. After passing the Rere Cross and Maiden Castle the first station met with is at Barhouse, now Barras. And then the line passes over the river Belah, 200 feet below, by an immense iron bridge which, with the other viaducts that span the gorges, renders this line a remarkable achievement of engineering skill.


For long the construction of this line formed a bone of contention between rival railway companies. What was known as the Little North-Western Railway Company, whose line started at Shipley and came up the Craven valley to Ingleton, promoted the extension to Tebay and termed it the 'Orton Branch.' At once it excited the jealousy of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Company who were anxious to protect their own traffic from undue competition. Finally in order to keep the new line out of the Eden valley and prevent it becoming a serious rival as a route to Carlisle and Scotland, an agreement was arrived at and by the Bill of 1852 the point of junction between the two railways was fixed at Dillicar Low Park which is about one mile north of the present Lowgill station. Notwithstanding, in 1856, the Little North-Western applied to Parliament for power to deviate the point of junction and for extensive running powers northward. This again was opposed as it was alleged that it was seeking powers of which it could not avail itself and that the object was to transfer the line, strengthened by these powers, to some other railway company such as the Midland. The Bill was dropped.

In 1857 the Lancaster and Carlisle Company decided to make the line themselves in order to retain control of the West Coast route to Scotland. They purchased the foundations of the large viaduct at Ingleton, which had been laid by the Little North-Western, and in the summer of 1858 the works were commenced. Mr. Errington was the engineer-in-chief. The line was opened for passenger traffic on Monday, 16 September, 1861.

The Lowgill viaduct consists of eleven semi-circular arches of 45 feet span. The height above the stream is 100 feet and its extreme length is 620 feet. Even in these days great difficulty was experienced in obtaining labour, the navvies finding the district too dull for their tastes.


On Saturday, 7 June, 1862, the first passenger train passed over the line from Kirkby Stephen to Clifton, a distance of 22 miles, and back again, stopping at all the intermediate stations, and any who felt inclined to take the journey were accommodated with free seats.

Great exertion had been made to have the line opened in time for the fairs at Appleby, which commenced on the following Monday and lasted till the Thursday. Wednesday being the principal day special engines kept plying from Appleby to Clifton and Kirkby Stephen for the accommodation of the public and many trucks were at hand for receiving cattle and sheep.


For some time before 1866 when the Midland Railway Company obtained Parliamentary powers for this line, it was a constant source of complaint that the Midland was shut out from any share in the Scotch traffic. The Company had been able to obtain a lease for 1000 years of the Little North-Western Railway which ran from Shipley to Ingleton, but its forward move to Carlisle was blocked by the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway gaining control of the Ingleton to Tebay branch. Therefore this line was built at the great cost of £3,600,000, or an average of £50,000 per mile, being probably the most expensive ever made in the country. Of the 72 miles nearly 29 lie in Yorkshire, under 20 in Westmorland and 24 in Cumberland. The first sod was cut in November, 1869, and it was opened for passenger traffic on Monday, 1 May, 1876. The Company had the comfort of The Times when it remarked that "the opening of the new line will not only afford the inhabitants of the south-western parts of England increased facilities of access to Scotland, but will also enable all travellers from the south to make their journey with a degree of comfort, and even of luxury, to which they have been hitherto strangers."

Beginning at Settle the line rises about a thousand feet in the first fifteen miles and then runs for about ten miles over the summit of the pass through some of the grandest scenery. There is a tunnel on Blea Moor a mile and a half long, and another almost as long on Rise Hill before reaching Hawes junction, and thence descending down the Mallerstang valley the line passes through Wharton Park to the stupendous viaduct over the Darlington and Tebay Railway at Smardale. From here it continues an undulating course via Appleby to Newbiggin, where it enters Cumberland, and finally joins the Newcastle and Carlisle section of the North Eastern Railway at Petteril Bridge about a mile from Carlisle station.

The Smardale viaduct, designed by Mr. Crossley the engineer, is 710 feet in length and between 120 and 130 feet in height above the stream level to the rail. The building was commenced in the autumn of 1870 and was completed by 8 June, 1875.