The history and development of railways in Cumbria have been reasonably well covered in published books and articles, though far from as intensively as some other parts of the country. There are exceptions, the Settle and Carlisle line in particular, and there are shortfalls in what has appeared. There are, for instance, no definitive histories of any of the railways in the west of the county.
Where to find it? Published material has appeared over many years and unfortunately most is now out of print. Local history libraries should hold the most significant works listed in this booklet, or should be able to obtain them on request if not held; many will be available from specialist book sellers from time to time. The Cumbria County Record Office and Library Local History Collections also hold very extensive collections of published works of local interest, though not comprehensively in each of its four area offices. It would be best to make written or telephone enquiries before visiting.
The lists, together with short commentaries, which follow do not pretend to be comprehensive; they make no attempt to list all books on the subject. This page is intended to identify only some of the more useful books to be used as an introduction to the subject of Cumbrian railway history. Some books on related subjects are also included on rail related industries, for example, including the coal and steel industries. Few articles from learned, professional and enthusiast journals have so far been included, but there are great riches therein. As they have not been comprehensively explored. If you have any suggestions as to what could further be included in these lists please email your information to the CRA ARCHIVIST.
Some initial reading will soon start to point the way towards other sources of information, both primary and secondary. Some books give excellent lists of sources and references used. Many articles and notes appear in "Cumbrian Railways", Journal of the Cumbrian Railways Association, which members receive four times a year. For more information on membership, click HERE. If you cannot find a book in your local library try a search for it on the internet - there are many specialist dealers out there who are likely to have what you are looking for.
Some excellent background to the social and economic history of Cumbria generally can be found in the following works:
Bibliographies will help you to find further references to further sources. Unfortunately they soon get out of date and be unhelpful in finding details of recent publications.
The railways in the west of Cumbria and Furness were an integral part of the local economy from the mid-19th century for well over 100 years, built as they were to serve the transport needs of locally based industries, particularly the mining of coal and iron ore, and the manufacture of iron and steel. The railways also brought tourists and visitors to the Lake District, creating not just another industry in itself, but creating the pressures for development which led directly to the formation of the first major environmental pressure groups and eventually of the National Trust.
In the east of the county, north - south rail lines were mainly trunk routes of national importance linking the major cities and industrial areas in England and Scotland. East - west routes provided vital regional links between West Cumbria and Furness and the North East, upon which the Cumbrian iron and steel industry long depended for its supplies of coke.
A large number of publications have appeared in recent years, many of which only give a cursory glance at their history, concentrating more on their visual aspects. Only some of the better of these mainly photographic books have been included.
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