'There was a time, in 1879, when you could catch a train in Moor Row above Whitehaven, and in half an hour you would find yourself coming to a halt in Workington Central Station.
If you did your shopping quickly you would be able to catch the return train at 10.30 and be back home at 11 o.clock.
It would have been a splendid journey. Your first stop would have been in Cleator Moor, then a rapidly expanding, thriving industrial town, one of the powerhouses of the west Cumberland economy. The station itself was set in a shallow cutting about a quarter of a mile from the town centre.
Outside Cleator the railway crossed a seven span stone viaduct over the river Keekle and then halted alongside the row of miners cottages at Keekle itself. (This book includes a splendid early photograph of the Keekle Viaduct under construction with a crane perched on one of the spans hauling up the stone.) A branch line led from here to Walkmill Pit, one of the collieries, along with iron ore mines, that the line was built to serve.
The next stop, three miles and ten chains from Moor Row, after the line had gone through a mile long rocky cutting, was Moresby Junction. A branch line led from here to Moresby colliery.
The line continued to climb to Moresby Parks station and then levelled out at a height of about 400 feet to run along the top of the valley, offering superb views of the coast and out across the Solway towards the coast of Galloway. A further three miles, swooping down a fairly steep gradient and taking several tight curves, brought the train to Ddistington.
The line here was joined by the branch line from Rowrah which brought the ore from the iron mines at Kelton and Knockmurton and limestone from the quarries at Salterhall and Rowrah and coal from Oatlands colliery. The Rowrah line actually crossed over a bridge above the Cleator line in order to join it on the downside.
Distington was a busy place. The ironworks was a major industry and there were junctions with the Furness railway and the Gilgarron Parton line.
Further along at Harrington the line was joined by the Lowca Light Railway and eventually the train stopped alongside the substantial stone buildings of Workington Central Station.
The Cleator and Workington Junction railway, a busy local industrial line, was typical of many railways in Victorian England. It was built to meet the needs of a bustling economy and it provided cheap, convenient and rapid transport for the local population. It was to thrive for fifty or so years until the inter-war years and the decline of heavy industry and the development of road transport and then went into a slow decline. Cleator Moor station closed on 13th April 1931. Workington central was closed to passengers on the same day but remained open to goods traffic for another thirty years or more. The last part of the system to close, and that only twelve years ago, was the line that ran from Siddick through Calva junction to Broughton Moor.
Fifty years ago, the Cumbrian railway historian, William McGowan Gradon published a history of the line, together with many photographs of the railway itself and the buildings, and the indefatigable little trains that hauled their heavy loads of iron and coal along the coast of west Cumberland. This book, supplemented with useful notes and appendices listing the directors, officers and servants of the railway and useful diagrams of tracks and gradients, has now been re-issued by the Cumbrian Railways Association.
The cover portrays an engine puffing its way valiantly across the Keekle Viaduct hauling numerous wagons heavily laden with coal. In the background, set against the distant greenery of the Cumbrian fells, are the towering smoking chimneys of Cleator Moor.
It should be a delight to all railway enthusiasts.' - Steve Matthews, Bookcase.