On getting nearer, it was suddenly observed that there was a goods train standing ahead on the same line. Every effort was made to stop the engine, but this proved impossible; the fireman jumped off, but the driver, a Preston man, remained on, and directly afterwards a collision took place. The engine was thrown off the rails. Three or four of the wagons of the goods train were turned over, and there was a scene of considerable confusion and destruction.
Fortunately, the passengers were more frightened than hurt. A Mr Swainson, of Kendal, who was travelling to Shap, appeared to be most shaken or bruised, but he was able to leave the station in a conveyance. The fireman also escaped with slight injury, and the driver was unhurt. The road was not cleared for two hours.
PGW 01/17 (from a contemporary newspaper report)
On January 31st the 1625 Carlisle-Leeds was turned back at Blea Moor because of flooding on the line north of Settle. North of Ais Gill in the Mallerstang Valley the two-car Class 156 Sprinter unit ran into a land slip which threw the train over onto the up line.
Passengers were evacuated from the leading car but within minutes the stranded train was run into by the 1745 Carlisle-Leeds, formed by another Class 156, unfortunately resulting in the death of the conductor-guard on the 1625 train and injuries to 26 passengers, mainly on the later train.
Rescue was severely hampered by the extreme bad weather and the remote site of the incident.
Restoration of through services was not achieved until at least a week later with a temporary bus link operating between Kirkby Stephen and Garsdale. Single line working is believed to have continued for somewhat longer.
The line was constructed almost immediately and was 525 yards long, with a gradient ranging from 1 in 5.2 to 1 in 6.6. A passing loop half-way accommodated four wagons and the maximum descending load at any one time was 72 tons. Local people referred to the line as “the brake”, a usual term in the area for such a rope-worked line.
Although Croft Pit was abandoned in 1903, the Whitehaven Colliery Company (WCCo) had by then sunk Ladysmith Pit nearby, and this caused the brake to be brought up to date to cope with the increased traffic, at the expense of the WCCo, who now owned the line, rather than the Furness Railway.
1915 saw the erection of coke ovens at Ladysmith, which meant that both coal and coke travelled down to the main line via the brake.
The industrial climate post-war became extremely difficult for many colliery companies, and the WCCo was forced to close the Ladysmith operation in December 1931, with the brake formerly abandoned in January 1932.
This was not the end of the story however, as the chemical company, Marchon, took over the long-disused brake in 1953, and by 1955 it was back in use, only finally closing in October 1986.
PGW 01/14 (With thanks to Howard Quayle's "Whitehaven" book published by the Cumbrian Railways Association)
The upsurge in both coal and iron mining provided the impetus towards further development of the railway network in this part of Cumbria, as it was thought necessary to have an alternative means of transport other than road for the iron ore being brought out. The early 1850s saw prospecting for ore in the Kelton area, east of Rowrah, but the only means of transportation was by via a road which was virtually impassable in winter - carts became stuck in red, muddy, greasy haematite slurry.
In 1872 the current owners of the mines (William Baird & Co - of Baird's Line fame) decided a branch line was essential to convey the vast quantities of ore being mined from Kelton & Knockmurton. They approached the WCE for permission to build a junction at Rowrah, and an Act authorising construction of the R&KF Mineral Railway was passed in 1874. It was built by Messrs. Harrison Hodgson of Workington at a cost of £25,000 and was anticipated to be of 3.5 miles in length with 11 bridges, climbing from about 177m at Rowrah to 274m at the Kelton Fell mines. This obviously favoured loaded trains, but haulage of empties back to the mines was hard work!
Despite the completion of the line by November 1876, legal disputes with the WCE over the junction at Rowrah continued, delaying the official opening until mid-January 1877. This, and previous issues with the WCE, persuaded William Baird that it should build its own line from Rowrah north to Distington, and eventually via the Maryport & Carlisle Railway to Scotland. "Baird's Line" joined the R&KF near its junction with the WCE, and offered better rates, ensuring that it soon took all the available mineral traffic.
Prosperity for the R&KF was brief, and by 1900 the mines were mostly exhausted. Limestone traffic continued for a while, but from 1927 the railway became virtually disused until it was eventually dismantled in 1934.
The train left Whitehaven on Saturday at 2.20pm, made up of mostly large LNWR coaches with through carriages for London, Liverpool and Manchester. After leaving Bootle, it ran into a very deep bank of snow near the village of Whitbeck, which reached up to the smoke-box. The engine came to a standstill, and although the driver uncoupled the engine and tried to fight through, he could do nothing, and so returned to couple up to the train in order to pass the steam heating to the coaches. The snow continued falling and soon the whole train was able to move neither forwards nor backwards, and was fixed fast.
The passengers numbered fifty, and amongst them was Lady Morpeth, returning from Muncaster Castle to London. According to one passenger account, "she was naturally in a blue funk at the conditions"!
The possibility of leaving the train and seeking shelter across the country was discussed, but in the blizzard it was hard to see far, and not many passengers were familiar with the locality. The guard and officials did what they could as darkness began to fall, and intense cold set in. "They got some refreshments to us from Bootle at about 1.30am on Sunday: it consisted of two "doorsteps, a piece of cheese, and a cup of cold tea", reported one passenger.
Hundreds of workmen were put to work clearing the snow, some 15 feet deep in places. Late on Sunday morning the line was cleared, and the express eventually reached Barrow at noon. None of the passengers alighted there, and the train proceeded on to its destination. By this time, many railwaymen had been on duty for close on 48 hours.
PGW (with help from The Guardian).
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