Lancaster and Carlisle Railway

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Lancaster & Carlisle Railway
Carlisle Citadel
Plumpton (Cumbria)
Clifton Moor
Clifton and Lowther
Shap Summit 914 ft (279 m)
Low Gill
Burton and Holme
Hest Bank
Glasson Dock Branch
Lancaster Castle
Lancaster (Greaves)

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.


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:

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.[1] 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.

Subsequently the L&CR built the Ingleton Branch Line in 1861, from Low Gill, and the Morecambe Branch Line in 1864, from a junction south of Hest Bank.

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]