Maryport and Carlisle Railway

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Maryport and
Carlisle Railway
West Coast Main Line
to Glasgow and Edinburgh
West Coast Main Line
to London
Solway Junction Rly
High Blaithwaite
Arkleby (closed 1852)
Dearham Bridge
Cumbrian Coast Line
Linefoot Junction
Cleator and Workington
Junction Railway
Dovenby Lodge
Cockermouth and
Workington Railway
Cockermouth and
Workington Railway

The Maryport & Carlisle Railway (M&CR) was a small but highly profitable railway formed in 1836[1] to connect the town of Maryport to the county town (strictly speaking, city) of Carlisle and to allow the output of collieries inland of Maryport to be more cheaply transported to Maryport for onward movement by sea. Its headquarters and locomotive works were at Maryport.[2] After overcoming early mismanagement,[3] its limited extent, the large volume of coal traffic, and the absence of competition made it one of the most profitable (and most consistently profitable) pre-grouping railway companies in Britain. At grouping in 1923 the M&C became a part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. The main Carlisle- Maryport line (completed in 1845) remains open and forms part of the Cumbrian Coast Line between Carlisle and Barrow in Furness.

Remains of Brayton railway station in 1961
Goods and Coal Depot, Carlisle

Construction and extent[edit]

George Stephenson was the engineer of the line.[2] The Act of Parliament (obtained in 1837) required the railway to be built in alternating sections from the two ends. The line from Maryport to Arkleby (1 1/4 miles short of Aspatria) was opened in July 1840 and extended to Aspatria in April 1841; the section from Carlisle to Wigton followed (May 1843); the intervening gap was then narrowed by minor extensions, the line being finally open throughout on 10 February 1845.[3] The line was originally single track, but was soon doubled (Maryport to Arkleby by 1847, to Carlisle by 1861) to accommodate the volume of mineral traffic (340,000 tons of coal were shipped through Maryport in 1857).[3] In due course the total length of railway was 42.75 miles, consequent on the opening of a loop line (1866), known as the Bolton loop, through Mealsgate and Baggrow (to serve collieries in the area, but with a passenger service known locally as the 'Baggra bus'), and a branch (1867) from Bullgill to Brigham to take haematite traffic . The Brigham branch connected with the Cockermouth and Workington branch of the LNWR; from Brigham the M&CR had running powers to Cockermouth. The Great Depression hit West Cumberland industries badly (the unemployment rate in Maryport reached 76.7% in 1931); in response to this the Bolton loop was closed in 1930, and the Brigham branch in 1935.[3]

Remains of Bullgill Station in 1961

Economic aspects[edit]

The local market for coal from pits in the West Cumberland coalfield was very small, and profitable operation depended upon cheap transport to local ports and onward transport by sea to more distant markets (largely to the east coast of Ireland, and Dublin in particular). Local interests exerted themselves to develop the northern end of the coalfield; the inadequate harbour arrangements at Maryport were remedied by a new dock (completed in 1837) and the high cost of carriage tackled by the promotion of the Maryport and Carlisle.[1] The support given by local landowners is reflected in the fact that there were 3 private stations serving their homes on the less than 50 miles of M&C track.[3]

In 1842, the general manager of Whitehaven Collieries reported "The promoters of the Maryport & Carlisle Railway had the avowed object in view to injure Whitehaven, in which they have been successful".[1] It now cost Brayton Colliery 4 shillings per waggon[4] to transport their coal to Maryport by railway, when road transport had formerly cost them 9 shillings per waggon; Gilcrux colliery were now paying half the 7 shillings per waggon road transport had cost them. At that time Whitehaven coal was being sold to the shippers at 16/6 delivered on board[1]
As a consequence of this reduction in costs, output from the northern coalfield increased rapidly, and with it the tonnage of coal shipped from Maryport (a Carlisle paper claiming in 1844 that it had trebled). By 1846, almost as much coal was being shipped out through Maryport as through Whitehaven.[1] The coal traffic was to be a major contributor to M&C revenues (and profits) for many years to come, but by the 1880s as much coal was travelling east over the M&C as was being shipped out through Maryport. For a few years in the 1860s profits were boosted by traffic taking haematite from West Cumberland (suitable for steel-making by the Bessemer process) to ironworks outside the region, and the M&C was declaring dividends over twice the average for UK railways.[3] The haematite traffic dropped as steelworks moved to the area, but profits remained high (and dividends averaged over 10%) until the mid-1880s when processes were developed which allowed high-quality steel to be made from other iron ores (and in more convenient locations).[3] Between 1850 and 1922 the M&C dividend averaged over 7%

Locomotive superintendents[edit]


The first locomotive, Ellen, began the tradition of railway engineering at local firm Tulk and Ley of Lowca (and was sent to Maryport by sea on a raft)[1] The M&CR also had at least one Crampton locomotive built by Tulk and Ley in 1854. This was works no.17 and M&CR no.12.

George Tosh was the second Locomotive Superintendent for the railway, and pioneered the use of steel (instead of iron) in the construction of the company's locomotives, notably the boiler/firebox and wheels. This was the first such use in Britain.


The 1912 statistics of the line included the following information,.:[9]

  • rolling stock: 28 locomotives, 56 coaching vehicles and 1667 goods vehicles of various kinds
  • colours: locomotives - green; carriages - cream with green bodies; wagons - lead colour

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Wood, Oliver (1988). West Cumberland Coal 1600-1982/3 (Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Achaeological Society Extra Series XXIV). Kendal: Titus Wilson. ISBN 0-9500779-5-X. 
  2. ^ a b "Railway Yearbook 1921". 2011-09-05. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Joy, David (1983). The Lake Counties - (A Regional history of the railways of Great Britain). Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 270. ISBN 0-946537-02-X. 
  4. ^ a measure of capacity, not weight, up to 1836; after that a weight corresponding roughly to the average waggon load - in 1842 at Whitehaven 48 hundredweight
  5. ^ "Brief Biographies of Mechanical Engineers". Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  6. ^ "Brief Biographies of Mechanical Engineers". Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  7. ^ "Brief Biographies of Mechanical Engineers". Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ , Railway Yearbook 1912

External links[edit]