Lancaster and Carlisle Railway
The Lancaster and Carlisle Railway (L&CR) was a British railway company authorised on 6 June 1844 to build a line between Lancaster and Carlisle in North West England. The line survives to the present day as part of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) route between Glasgow and London.
When the directors of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway were choosing its route in the 1840s, one possibility considered was a route through Kendal and along Longsleddale, with a 2-mile tunnel under the Gatescarth Pass into Mardale and thence towards Bampton. This route had the support of the Kendal Committee of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway; other alternatives under consideration included a line over a barrage across Morecambe Bay and round the Cumbrian coast, routes bypassing Shap to the east and west. Thomas Bouch was approached to be an adviser on the Longsleddale route and if this route had been chosen, in all probabilities Thos. Bouch would have been appointed as the civil and railway engineer. Bouch was the engineer for the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway and rose to fame in later years, for it was his design of the Tay Railway Bridge that was torn down in a severe storm.
The gradient of the Longsleddale route would have been somewhat less than the 1 in 70 gradient of the climb up and over Shap Fell and the use of banking engines could have been reduced if not entirely eliminated. An interesting scenario emerges that if the route had been chosen and the railway passed through a tunnel under Gatesgarth Pass, emerging onto Mardale Common and passed alongside the lake of Haweswater; would the Mardale valley have been flooded to form Haweswater reservoir?
It has been said that the Longsleddale route, "had it ever been built, would have been as dramatic and awe-inspiring as any in Britain". After a lengthy Parliamentary inquiry the longer and steeper route through the Lune Gorge and over Shap Fell proposed by Joseph Locke was chosen. The Shap route was however compromised by the inability to directly serve Kendal, for this reason a station at the nearby village of Oxenholme was built for this purpose.
The first sod was cut at Shap Summit (the highest point on the planned route, 914 ft / 278.59 m above sea level) in July 1844. The original intention was to build a single line, but in January the following year it was announced that the line would be double track.
The railways opened in two sections:
- 22 September 1846, Lancaster to Oxenholme, 20 miles (32.2 km). On the same day a branch line from Oxenholme to Kendal was opened, part of the Kendal and Windermere Railway (KWR). The latter was completed to Windermere station on 21 April 1847
- 17 December 1846, Oxenholme to Carlisle.
The engineer for the line was Joseph Locke who had been surveying routes between the two cities since 1836. George Stephenson had surveyed other routes in 1835: one was to skirt the Cumberland coast. The project was the largest single railway contract of the time (69 miles in length) and the contractor was Thomas Brassey in partnership with William Mackenzie and John Stephenson. At its peak 10,000 men were involved and it was an incredible achievement to complete such an undertaking in only two and a half years. The main engineering features of the railway are the bridge at Lancaster; three substantial viaducts; and a high embankment between Grayrigg and Low Gill. The embankment south of Tebay was laid in the bed of the River Lune, which had been diverted from its course. Locke's course through the Lune Gorge would be used again by the engineers of the 1960s for the construction of the M6 motorway which runs in a split level cutting above the railway.
The cutting at Shap Summit was cut through rock, is about 0.5 mile (0.8 km) in length, and 50–60 feet (15.24 m to 18.29 m) in depth. The approach from the south, 30 miles (48.3 km) away at Carnforth, is in two sections:
- Carnforth to Grayrigg, 20 miles (32 km), the final five miles (8 km) being at 1 in 131/1 in 106
- Grayrigg to Shap Summit: the first five miles (8 km) to Tebay relatively level, followed by five miles (8 km) at 1 in 75
The approach from the north is again of 30 miles (48.3 km):
- Carlisle to beyond Penrith, 20 miles (32.2 km) at gradients varying between 1 in 131 and 1 in 228
- thence to Shap Summit, ten miles (16.1 km) mainly at 1 in 125
The L&CR connected at the south with the Lancaster and Preston Junction Railway a mile (1.6 km) to the south of the town; the new station was Lancaster Castle. In the north, trains ran into Carlisle (Citadel), opened on 1 September 1847.
Whilst independent the Lancaster & Carlisle was very profitable and usually made returns on its shares of around 10%. In 1859 the L&CR was leased to the London and North Western Railway; it became part of the latter in 1879 - thus integrating it into the West Coast route, and after 1923 the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) through to the creation of British Railways in 1948. BR electrified the route in 1974 as part of the WCML modernisation scheme of the period.
- Joy, David (1968). Main Line Over Shap: the story of the Lancaster-Carlisle Railway. Clapham: Dalesman. p. 14.
- Helps, Arthur The Life and Works of Mr Brassey, 1872 republished Nonsuch, 2006. pages 106-114 ISBN 1-84588-011-0
- Encyclopedia of British Railway Companies, Christopher Awdry, Guild Publishing, London, 1990, CN 8983
- The Railway Magazine, August 1951
- George Samuel Measom (1859), Official Illustrated Guide to the Lancaster and Carlisle, Edinburgh & Glasgow, and Caledonian Railways, London: W.H. Smith and Son