Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
Life in Brampton with the Dandy by David Moorat. History into Print. £8.95.
In 1871, Brampton was feeling cut off. It was the great age of the railway and every town and village in the country seemed to have easy access to the railways. But not Brampton. The Newcastle to Carlisle Railway was two miles away from the town. A passenger from Carlisle, only nine miles away by road, needed to travel the eleven miles to the uncovered station at Milton, where the main line met with the line between Lord Carlisle’s coal mines and the town. The passenger would then be subjected to the indignity of a small Dandy Waggon. The Carlisle Journal of the time described how “first, second and third class passengers were huddled together promiscuously”. The Dandy Waggon was drawn by a horse for about three-quarters of a mile and then it ran the next three quarters of a mile downhill propelled by the force of gravity until it stopped at a coal staithe. Here, the passenger descended and walked the final half mile into the town. It was an unsatisfactory situation.
In the eighteenth century,c Coal was mined from drift mines around Hallbankgate. The poor roads of the time could not cope with the coal traffic. In 1799, Lord Carlisle built a wooden railway to facilitate the passage of the horse-drawn waggons to the coal staithes, where the coal was loaded into sacks for onward transportation.
In 1825 Lord Carlisle began to replace the wooden rails with metal ones. The collieries came under the control of James Thompson, a close friend of George Stephenson. Lord Carlisle and Thompson, with some local support, fought to secure a commercial advantage by having the proposed Newcastle Carlisle intersect the colliery line at Milton rather than follow a line further north nearer the town.
The new branch line to Brampton was opened in 1836. Two locomotives, the ‘Gilsland’ and the ‘Atlas’, provided the motive power for the inaugral train, which carried a brass band to entertain the many V.I.P’s. The “enthusiastic cheers of the assembled multitude” were accompanied by “the discharges of artillery, the firing of guns, the merry music of the bands and the waving of colours”. The train had travelled at twenty miles per hour.
However, Brampton was not to enter the railway age. Within two weeks those proud engines of “beautiful conctruction”, the ‘Gilsland’ and the ‘Atlas’ were to prove too heavy for the track bed. The locomotives were replaced by horses.
Horse-power continued to be the order of the day. Three carriages – they may have been old stage coaches hastily converted for the purpose – variously named ‘Black Diamond’. ‘Mountaineer’ and ‘Experiment’ provided the passenger service. The disgruntled passenger was charge three pence for a one-way ticket.
In 1871, the Carlisle, Brampton and Milton Railway Company surveyed a route for a narrow gauge light railway which would run from Milton across the River Irthing near to Brampton Old Church and then on to Carlisle with stations at Irthington, Crosby and Brunstock.
But this and other plans came to nothing because of vested commercial interests. It was only on 4th July, 1881, that the one-horse Dandy was replaced by a steam locomotive. This “powerful tank locomotive” was named the Dandie Dinmont and was painted green. It hauled three new, comfortable passenger carriages providing first, second and third class accommodation.
Questions of safety were raised and the passenger service ceased in 1890. A new service was introduced in 1911 thanks to the determination of Lady Rosalind Howard, but that lasted only a dozen years and the lines were taken up in 1923.
David Moorat has investigated this little corner of local history in great detail and he supports his account with interesting documentation and pictures. Using this one small piece of the jigsaw, he presents a far larger picture of Brampton in the nineteenth century.