Cleator Moor Railway


The railway line was one of the fruits of the rapid industrialisation of West Cumberland in the second half of the nineteenth century. The station at Cleator Moor opened to passengers on 1 July 1857 on the line being developed from Moor Row to Rowrah.

Subsidence led the company to build a deviation line which curved round the west side of the station and the growing settlement, in a similar manner to what it was forced to do at Eskett a few miles to the east. They built a passenger station on the deviation line which would go on to be called Cleator Moor East. The railway station was built by the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway.

The station was next to a branch of the dominant ironworks run by the Workington Haematite Iron Company. Iron ore arrived there from the east, via the rival Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway. Coke arrived via the C&WR branch, then Pig iron then went out the same way and headed north along the C&WR, typically bound for Scotland, either via Carlisle or via the Solway Viaduct.

The 'Track of the Ironmasters' ran like a main traffic artery through an area honeycombed with mines, quarries and ironworks. The associated drama was all the greater because all the company's lines abounded with steep inclines and sharp curves, frequently requiring banking.

When the deviation line - known locally as the Bowthorn Line - and station opened in 1866 the original station was closed to passengers and became "Cleator Moor Goods Depot", with its line known locally as the Crossfield Loop. It remained open for goods traffic until the 1960s.
  • The initial passenger service in 1879 consisted of two Up (northbound) trains a day, leaving Moor Row at 09:20 and 13:45, calling at Cleator Moor, Moresby Parks, Distington, High Harrington and terminating at Workington, taking 30 minutes in all. They returned as Down trains, leaving Workington at 10:30 and 16:00. In 1880 the extension northwards to Siddick Junction was opened. The service was extended to run to and from Siddick and an extra train was added, with three up trains a day, leaving Moor Row at 07:40, 10:12 and 14:45, taking 30 minutes to Workington and an extra four to proceed to Siddick, where connections were made with the MCR.
Whilst some Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway (WCER) mineral, goods and passenger traffic to and from Rowrah passed north along the line to Marron Junction, the greater part arrived and left southwards towards Moor Row and therefore passed through Cleator Moor. Mineral traffic was also generated locally from the quarries and mines such as the Iron Works within sight of the station.

In 1922 seven all stations passenger trains called at Cleator Moor East in each direction, with an extra on Whitehaven Market Day. Four were Rowrah to Whitehaven services, the other three plied a long, circuitous route between Workington Main and Whitehaven via Camerton, Marron Junction, Ullock, Rowrah and Moor Row.

Cleator Moor East station's owning Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont company was taken over by the LNWR and Furness Railway in 1879 as a Joint Line, whereafter the section through the station was usually worked by the LNWR.

Mineral traffic was the dominant flow, though this was subject to considerable fluctuation with trade cycles. Stations and signalling along the line south of Rowrah were changed during the Joint regime to conform to Furness Railway standards.

The station closed on 13 April 1931 when normal passenger traffic ended along the line, though workmen's trains were reinstated in March 1940, only to be withdrawn a month later. An enthusiasts' special ran through on 5 September 1954. After scant occasional use the line northwards from Rowrah was abandoned in 1960. The line southwards from Rowrah through Cleator Moor East lead a charmed life, continuing with a limestone flow from a quarry at Rowrah until 1978, after which all traffic ceased. The tracks were subsequently lifted.

Sections of the railway were converted to a cycle network by Sustrans. The Whitehaven to Sheriffs Gate section is 9.5 miles long and takes in a mixture of quiet lanes and stone tracks in the stunning scenery of the Lake District National Park.

Top Photo: The Keekle, C1900
The Keekle, of the Cleator Moor Railway

Cleator Moor Passenger Train, C1920
Cleator Moor Passenger Train, C1920



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Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland: Cleator Moor Railway
Cleator Moor Railway
Cleator Moor | Cumbria: Little Ireland
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