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The Kendal & Windermere Railway

Robert Western


The proposal to build the first railway into the Lake District initially envisaged a line which would reach the shores of Lake Windermere and the outcome was a saga which, during the planning stage, was destined to become a very contentious one. This may well have been the only railway over which a war of words involved the Poet Laureate and about which poetry was used significantly as a means of protestation!

The Lake District is a place of outstanding natural beauty. Over the years this beauty has provided the inspiration for writers and artists. But could it be a place where the less sensitive would actually benefit from the experience which it has to offer, or would such people simply disturb this haven of peace and spoil it for those who could properly appreciate it?

Whilst there was the anticipated advantage of a railway being able to bring in and take out commodities with an ease not experienced before, so improving the standard of living for those who lived locally, could this really more than balance the disadvantage (as seen by some) of the better ease of communication which would bring more visitors who could well spoil this idyll?

The early history of Britain’s railways is alive with richly coloured and flamboyant characters, one such was Cornelius Nicholson. He would be destined to be linked for ever with the Kendal & Windermere Railway. He was a man with the gift of rhetoric and one who was not easily distracted from his objectives in the face of opposition or adversity.

For more than 160 years the line has given service, and in present times, its future would seem to be assured. The early days, when the railway was being planned and built and, later, when it became operational, had often proved to be difficult ones, although during the 1880s there were even proposals to extend the line to Ambleside. The coming of the railway altered and enhanced the economic pattern of the region, bringing a level of commercialization which would not have otherwise been possible. The railway from Oxenholme to Windermere continues to play a significant and increasing role in this state of affairs.
All those years ago, the railway enabled businessmen to come and live in the area, whilst being in easy reach of the centres of industry. They brought with them their wealth which bolstered the local economy. In the present era the service from Windermere (and stations along the line) to Manchester International Airport provides not only ‘a gateway to the Lakes’, but at also ‘a gateway from the Lakes to the world’. In a 2011 report, the Kendal and Windermere line was named as being in the top 10 of the branch lines in the country that had enjoyed significant growth. The line with its terminus at Windermere remains highly successful.


The Oakwood Press



Publication Date:

2010 October


Paperback; 210 x 150mm.




A106 images, printed on art paper, with a glossy card cover.

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