Kelton Fell revisited

Calthrop

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I initiated -- date of first post 13 /5 /2020 --a thread on Railway History & Nostalgia, titled "Rowrah & Kelton Fell Railway -- atlas-featuring". Chiefly looking at "why did this particular 'stand-alone' mineral line, get to feature in the rail atlases showing pre-Grouping ownerships?"; but this line (three and a half miles long, heading eastward out of the Solwayside industrial area, some way toward / into the splendours of the Lake District) can be seen as interesting in its own right -- some discussion of its history, developed in the thread.

Further information on the R&KFR has recently come my way from an unexpected source (an article in the journal of a society with a specialised and altogether ""other" railway focus). The abovementioned thread is now marked "Not open for further replies" -- I would otherwise have "bumped" it; but as things are, must open this fresh one. In the 2020 thread as above, the R&KF's 1877 opening was mentioned: with Rowrah at that time, being served and connection being given, by the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Junction Railway; with following mention of the R&KF's subsequently persuading a different outfit, the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway, to make a branch from Distington to an end-on junction with the R&KF at Rowrah, this line opening in 1882. It was stated that as from 1889, C&WJ locos worked on the R&KF as well as on their own line.

The article which I have chanced upon, amplifies and at a couple of points would seem to disagree with, the above data (not that I am considering the article's content, necessarily to be gospel truth). It identifies as the originators of the R&KF, the Scottish iron company Bairds: who wishing to tap iron ore deposits east of Rowrah, first asked the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Junction Railway to build a branch to those sites -- but unacceptable terms were offered; whereby Bairds built the R&KF line on their own initiative -- with its opening indeed in 1877. Traffic was, as per 2020 thread, exchanged at first with the WC&E; but -- no suggestion here, of "persuasion" from Bairds -- there is implied (broadly, corroborated by Wikipedia) on the part of local industrialists, initiative of theirs to create the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway: its Distington -- Rowrah branch opening indeed in 1882, after which per article, almost all the mineral line's traffic went out over this route.

Locomotive matters -- according to the article, the R&KF was essentially worked by one loco, an 0-4-0ST purchased by Bairds from Neilson & Co.: which when the R&KF ceased to run, was sold into other service; and survives today, preserved, at the premises of the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway. Re the alleged new haulage arrangements from 1889, as above: the article just tells of the 0-4-0ST working most of the traffic, but of C&WJ or Furness Railway (this line's locos doing, per an agreement, much work on the C&WJ's system) locomotives at times "picking up trains from the mines".

The article would seem to indicate that the R&KF's relatively busy and thriving heyday -- especially in respect of the line's more easterly reaches -- covered only its first couple of decades: from the end of the 19th century the iron mines, particularly the further-out ones, declined and traffic fell away. By the time of World War I, the only significant remaining traffic was from a limestone quarry on the outskirts of Rowrah. There was a slight revival of activity during that war, including some stone and iron ore from further up the line; the decade after the war shaped itself as, essentially, death-throes -- other than limestone from the quarry outside Rowrah. Per the article, that quarry closed in 1927; the last train ran in 1928, and the track was finally lifted in 1934. (Consensus of the 2020 thread pointed rather, at the likeliest year of the line's demise being 1926.)

In the 2020 thread, posters surmised that the R&KF became as of the late 1880s, a "quasi-partner or offshoot" of the Cleator & Workington Junction, which was a fully-fledged public railway. I individually went on thence, to assume likelihood of the R&KF's being -- along with the C&WJ -- brought in 1923 into the LMS fold for its last few years. The article would seem much less sure re these matters: seemingly regarding the R&KF as not so much of a "client"" of the C&WJ; and expressing doubt as to whether the R&KF was included in the Grouping, "as it was a private mineral line, [by then] nearly derelict". Its status after 1922, thus seemingly uncertain (this line would appear not to be one of Britain's better-documented railways).

I see an interesting parallel between the history of the R&KF, and that of another, geographically close-by, "ghost line", the Solway Junction Railway. Each came into being to serve the needs of heavy industry; each had a life-span (mutually overlapping) of about half a century, the Solway's being most of a decade ahead of the Kelton Fell's: and for both, prosperity for a rather brief early-life spell, followed by a period of ongoing decline and ultimate closure.
 
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Gloster

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The obvious place to look or ask for information is the Cumbrian Railways Association. There is probably something in one of the journals, but my copies have become somewhat spread about.
 

S&CLER

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I initiated -- date of first post 13 /5 /2020 --a thread on Railway History & Nostalgia, titled "Rowrah & Kelton Fell Railway -- atlas-featuring". Chiefly looking at "why did this particular 'stand-alone' mineral line, get to feature in the rail atlases showing pre-Grouping ownerships?"; but this line (three and a half miles long, heading eastward out of the Solwayside industrial area, some way toward / into the splendours of the Lake District) can be seen as interesting in its own right -- some discussion of its history, developed in the thread.

Further information on the R&KFR has recently come my way from an unexpected source (an article in the journal of a society with a specialised and altogether ""other" railway focus). The abovementioned thread is now marked "Not open for further replies" -- I would otherwise have "bumped" it; but as things are, must open this fresh one. In the 2020 thread as above, the R&KF's 1877 opening was mentioned: with Rowrah at that time, being served and connection being given, by the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Junction Railway; with following mention of the R&KF's subsequently persuading a different outfit, the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway, to make a branch from Distington to an end-on junction with the R&KF at Rowrah, this line opening in 1882. It was stated that as from 1889, C&WJ locos worked on the R&KF as well as on their own line.

The article which I have chanced upon, amplifies and at a couple of points would seem to disagree with, the above data (not that I am considering the article's content, necessarily to be gospel truth). It identifies as the originators of the R&KF, the Scottish iron company Bairds: who wishing to tap iron ore deposits east of Rowrah, first asked the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Junction Railway to build a branch to those sites -- but unacceptable terms were offered; whereby Bairds built the R&KF line on their own initiative -- with its opening indeed in 1877. Traffic was, as per 2020 thread, exchanged at first with the WC&E; but -- no suggestion here, of "persuasion" from Bairds -- there is implied (broadly, corroborated by Wikipedia) on the part of local industrialists, initiative of theirs to create the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway: its Distington -- Rowrah branch opening indeed in 1882, after which per article, almost all the mineral line's traffic went out over this route.

Locomotive matters -- according to the article, the R&KF was essentially worked by one loco, an 0-4-0ST purchased by Bairds from Neilson & Co.: which when the R&KF ceased to run, was sold into other service; and survives today, preserved, at the premises of the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway. Re the alleged new haulage arrangements from 1889, as above: the article just tells of the 0-4-0ST working most of the traffic, but of C&WJ or Furness Railway (this line's locos doing, per an agreement, much work on the C&WJ's system) locomotives at times "picking up trains from the mines".

The article would seem to indicate that the R&KF's relatively busy and thriving heyday -- especially in respect of the line's more easterly reaches -- covered only its first couple of decades: from the end of the 19th century the iron mines, particularly the further-out ones, declined and traffic fell away. By the time of World War I, the only significant remaining traffic was from a limestone quarry on the outskirts of Rowrah. There was a slight revival of activity during that war, including some stone and iron ire from further up the line; the decade after the war shaped itself as, essentially, death-throes -- other than limestone from the quarry outside Rowrah. Per the article, that quarry closed in 1927; the last train ran in 1928, and the track was finally lifted in 1934. (Consensus of the 2020 thread pointed rather, at the likeliest year of the line's demise being 1926.)

In the 2020 thread, posters surmised that the R&KF became as of the late 1880s, a "quasi-partner or offshoot" of the Cleator & Workington Junction, which was a fully-fledged public railway. I individually went on thence, to assume likelihood of the R&KF's being -- along with the C&WJ -- brought in 1923 into the LMS fold for its last few years. The article would seem much less sure re these matters: seemingly regarding the R&KF as not so much of a "client"" of the C&WJ; and expressing doubt as to whether the R&KF was included in the Grouping, "as it was a private mineral line, [by then] nearly derelict". Its status after 1922, thus seemingly uncertain (this line would appear not to be one of Britain's better-documented railways).

I see an interesting parallel between the history of the R&KF, and that of another, geographically close-by, "ghost line", the Solway Junction Railway. Each came into being to serve the needs of heavy industry; each had a life-span (mutually overlapping) of about half a century, the Solway's being most of a decade ahead of the Kelton Fell's: and for both, prosperity for a rather brief early-life spell, followed by a period of ongoing decline and ultimate closure.
According to W. McGowan Gradon's book on the C&WJ, The Track of the Ironmasters, revised and reprinted with additional notes by Peter Robinson, the R&KF was bought jointly by the Whitehaven Hematite Iron Co and Salter and Eskett Park Mining Co in 1920. They spent £600 on improving the track as far as Salter quarry. The line was sold to JW Kitchen of Moor Row (presumably a scrap merchant) in 1933 and dismantled the year after.
 

Calthrop

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Joined
6 Dec 2015
Messages
2,402
The obvious place to look or ask for information is the Cumbrian Railways Association. There is probably something in one of the journals, but my copies have become somewhat spread about.
According to W. McGowan Gradon's book on the C&WJ, The Track of the Ironmasters, revised and reprinted with additional notes by Peter Robinson, the R&KF was bought jointly by the Whitehaven Hematite Iron Co and Salter and Eskett Park Mining Co in 1920. They spent £600 on improving the track as far as Salter quarry. The line was sold to JW Kitchen of Moor Row (presumably a scrap merchant) in 1933 and dismantled the year after.

Thanks for above pointers to info. I find -- a bit embarrassingly -- that the article which prompted my OP does in fact tell of Bairds' selling the line to "the quarry company" in 1920: plainly, this sentence escaped my notice as I was composing my post. The article author's going on to say "I don't think it was grouped into the LMS as it was a private mineral...[etc.]": seems in this context, a bit pointless -- with the situation thus; the line's being included in the Grouping, would have been most odd !

I do find this particular line, and in fact this whole small corner of Great Britain, and its railways; rather fascinating. Having a weakness for "what-ifs" and alternative-history-type scenarios; am musing on how if things had gone differently (i.e. the 15-in.-gauge devotees not latching on to the Ravenglass & Eskdale a little over a hundred years ago) -- the R&E would presumably have been (along with the Solway Junction and the R&KF) another melancholy / "withered on the vine" story from long ago in these parts: especially poignant perhaps, in its having been in its distant-past short life, one of England's rather few "classic" public narrow-gauge lines -- and its initial period of very relative prosperity, having been very brief indeed.
 

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