The West Coast main line was extended north from Carlisle by the Caledonian Railway in September 1847 and completed through to Glasgow and Edinburgh on 15th February 1848. From August 1848 the Dumfries line, to become part of the Glasgow & South Western Railway from 1850, made a junction with the Caledonian right on the Scottish border at Gretna, its trains travelling over the latter into Carlisle. However, the railway which was to most effectively occupy the northern fringe of Cumbria was the North British.
The NBR had opened a branch south from Edinburgh to Hawick by 1847. It was to spend much of the 1850s in a battle with the Caledonian over who should build a line onwards to Carlisle. Eventually the North British won powers to construct the Border Union Railway in 1858, and completed what became known as “The Waverley Line” in June 1862, Waverley coming from the associations of the Scottish border counties with the novels of Sir Walter Scott.
When planning its Carlisle extension the NBR found two small local railways struggling to maintain their existence. They had origins dating back to the Carlisle Canal which had opened in 1823 between Carlisle and sea at Port Carlisle. After the opening in the mid 1840s of the Maryport and Lancaster lines, the latter providing access to Liverpool, traffic on the canal had dwindled rapidly and in an attempt to revive their fortunes the proprietors sought and won powers to convert the canal into a railway, opening in 1854. Port Carlisle, however, at the head of the Solway Firth was inadequate as a port for Carlisle to compete with Maryport, let alone Liverpool. A new company was formed to extend the railway from Drumburgh to Silloth, opened in 1856, and a new harbour constructed. To encourage more traffic the company began to develop Silloth as a resort, but soon found itself deep in debt, rescue only arriving in the form of a lease to the North British Railway in 1862.
The final Scottish incursion into Cumberland was by the Solway Junction Railway, conceived to shorten the haul of iron ore from West Cumberland to the blast furnaces of Lanarkshire by means of a cut-off across the Solway Firth, cutting the haul through Carlisle by 25 miles. Completed in 1870, it soon had to face the end of the iron ore boom, and, reduced to an impecunious state, the Solway Junction Railway was taken over by the Caledonian in 1895.
Note: All dates relate to passenger traffic only; goods traffic may have been worked from an earlier date and may have continued after closure to passengers, in some cases for many years. Not all stations were opened with the original opening of the line and some stations may have been moved from their original locations. Not all detail of minor changes is included.