The Track of the Ironmasters, by William McGowan Gradon

£11.99
The Track of the Ironmasters, by William McGowan Gradon
Subtitled 'A History of the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway'

Book published by the Cumbrian Railway Association in 2004, 72 pages. Large A4 size softback (N7294)

Brand New Book

From the foreword: When McGowan Gradon wrote "The Track of the Ironmasters" over fifty years ago, the line of the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway was more or less as it had been built some 70 years earlier. Only a few sections had been lost, and although the sparse passenger service had disappeared in the early 1930s, the line still fulfilled at least some part of its original purpose - to serve the transport needs of the coal, iron and steel industries of West Cumberland.

Since the 1950s the iron and steel industry in West Cumberland has shrunk to a shadow of its former importance, coal mining has disappeared, and, of the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway, only a few earthworks and bridges remain, known solely to those interested in local industrial history. How many of the bargain hunters at Workington market today realise that the site was once the thriving heart of a locally-based railway company which, at its peak, employed some 300 staff? Over eighty years on from the disappearance of the railway company itself, none of its one-time employees remain with us, and those with memories of its decline get fewer by the year.

The main period of contraction was in the early 1960s, after the closure of Walkmill Colliery at Moresby in November 1961, and of local goods stations on the line, the last of these being Workington Central which closed in May 1964. Traffic also ceased from the High Duty Alloys plant at Distington, leaving only the section between Siddick Junction, Calva Junction and Buckhill for traffic to the former Royal Naval Ammunition Depot (known locally as "The Dump"), and steel works traffic from Moss Bay via Harrington Junction and over the one-time "Lowca Light Railway" to Micklam and Lowca. This survived the closure of Harrington No.10 Colliery in July 1968 as the pit's washery continued to handle coal from Solway Colliery - at Workington - until that in turn closed in May 1973. Closure of the line from Moss Bay to Lowca followed quickly, on 23 May. However, the link from Siddick was to live on precariously for another 21 years until 4 June 1992, with the final closure of the arms depot.

Now much of the line is lost and forgotten. Cuttings have been filled by the tipping of waste, other parts built or ploughed over. The occasional degraded embankment or bridge abutment may raise a query in the minds of a few. At Keekle the viaduct stands as a silent monument to the stirring sights and sounds which once frequented its tracks as heavy mineral trains with three or four engines barked their slow progress up the 1 in 70 grade to Moresby Parks. One section, however, of the Cleator & Workington seems destined to live on as a route - though for walkers and cyclists only - through central Workington and Calva Junction to Siddick, where a new bridge over the A595 has for ever removed the former hazard which necessitated the operation of generations of "Iow-bridge" buses by Cumberland Motor Services.

When McGowan Gradon was writing "The Track of the Ironmasters" in the early 1950s few sources were available to the railway historian other than local newspapers - and he had close business and family links with the Whitehaven News at the time which was, as he acknowledges, one of his principal sources of information. Since then a myriad of railway history sources have become available which were then closed to McGowan Gradon. Nevertheless McGowan Gradon's books on the railways of Cumbria were fairly pioneering in their coverage of railway companies which were small in the national scene. Despite the passage of some 50 years since he was actively writing his books, neither this one, nor his book on the Furness Railway, have yet been fully supplanted by more recent works. In its re-publication, 125 years after the opening of its main line, "The Track of the Ironmasters" therefore stands as a memorial to local West Cumbrian enterprise and industry of a long past era.
Chapters include

THE FIRST TEN YEARS
1887 - 1923
DESCRIPTION OF THE LINE
BAIRD'S LINE
THE LOWCA LIGHT RAILWAY
THE LOCOMOTIVES
THE TRAIN SERVICES
INDUSTRIAL LOCOMOTIVES
THE END OF THE RUN
EPILOGUE
Appendices:
CHRONOLOGY OF THE CLEATOR & WORKINGTON JUNCTION RAILWAY
RAIL TOURS OVER THE CLEATOR & WORKINGTON
DISTANCE TABLES & TRACK DIAGRAMS
GRADIENT DIAGRAMS
DIRECTORS OF THE CLEATOR & WORKINGTON JUNCTION RAILWAY
OFFICERS OF THE CLEATOR & WORKINGTON JUNCTION RAILWAY
STATION OPENING & CLOSURE DATES
SERVANTS OF THE CLEATOR & WORKINGTON JUNCTION RAILWAY