Category Archives: Railways Blog

N Gauge Hereford 2022

It has been a while since I posted about my layout.

We have now moved to Telford and the powers that be have generously allocated a relatively large bedroom for the layout. Some compromises are inevitable as the space is smaller than the loft in the Vicarage in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Staging has been built and my library is close to being sorted out. I will need one new fiddle yard, the electrics will need connecting board to board for the layout and some damage will need to be rectified.

Completing the staging is a good step forward!

Just a few pictures …..

The wiring above is new connections from the board I am supposed to be working on which will connect sections which originally relied only on the track connection across the board joints!

Ancient Tramroads near Telford – Part 3 – Ketley Tramways/Plateways/Waggonways and Canal – Part 1. …

This is a first look at the Ketley area just a few miles from where we live in Malinslee.

This was a short walk which encompassed a variety of industrial remains. The route taken is shown by the thin red line on the satellite image below ….

I parked close to the church of St. Mary the Virgin in Red Lake and walked North up Shepherd’s Lane, turning left into Hill Top. Hill Top becomes Red Lees. The route of Red Lees was crossed by a high-level tramway which probably linked a colliery to what is now called Ketley Paddock Mound and was a colliery slag heap. the extract from the 1882 25″ OS Map below shows the location.

Tramway Bridge abutments or piers shown on the 1882 25″ OS Map. [1]

It seems to me to be unlikely that the tramway which used this bridge was directly associated with a larger network of tramways in the area. The map extract shows other short sections of tramway immediately at the colliery location and is seems highly likely that there was a need to cross Red Lees at high-level to reach the large slag heap to the North of the lane.

The view Northwest on Red Lees on 2nd June 2022. The shaping of the stonework to the right of this image suggests that it was a pier and that the bridge was therefore a two span structure. [My Photograph]
The view Southeast along Red Lees on 2nd June 2022. [My photograph]

Recently, reading ‘A Ketley Mon’ by Terry Low, I came across an older photograph at this location. It was taken in 1906 and shows the pier probably at its fullest height. It seems as though it was originally built in masonry and, at a later date, extended upwards in brick. Whilst it is impossible to be sure what this means, it suggests that there was a need at some stage to lift the line of the tramway. An obvious explanation for this would be the growth of the slag heap which is to the right of the picture below.

Red Lees in 1906, looking Northwest. The old colliery was to the left of this image, the slag heap to the right. In all probability a timber deack was used to carry the tramway rails. Each span would have been made up of a horizontal deck supported at third points by raking timber props. [Photographer not known – Alan Harper collection][2: p27] The image also appears on the Historic Ketley website. [5]

Walking Northwest from the location of the tramway bridge, it was apparent that this section of Red Lees followed a straight course. Possible explanations for this include:

  • the development of the colliery and the slag heap required an established right of way to be redrawn to accommodate the work. I cannot find maps early enough to look at what predated the industry at this location; or
  • Red Lees itself, may have been part of the route of a tramway.

It would be interesting to be able to test these ‘theories’, if earlier detailed maps were available.

Red Lees to the Northwest of the tramway bridge remains looking to the Northwest on 2nd June 2022. [My photograph]

We know from early maps that the Ketley Canal once crossed Red Lees to the East of Ketley Hall.

A extract from a hand drawn map which was posted on The Ketley History Group on Facebook. The Ketley Canal is shown in blue on the sketch map and crosses Red Lees immediately adjacent to Ketley Hall which appears far-left on this extract.[3]
This image appeaars on the website of the Friends of Ketley Paddock Mound. It also shows the canal route passing under Red Lees just East of Ketley Hall. [4]
In this image taken from the National Library of Scotland’s website the 25″ OS Map, published in 1902, is placed immediately alongside precisely the same area on modern satellite imagery. The canal arm is right at the top of the image. The wider area at the western end of the remaining canal was a wharf. [6]
This image shows the two images above superimposed on each other. The old wharf can be seen to be under the site of modern housing on the North side of Red Lees, with the Hall to the South. According to the earlier images, the canal continued down the East side of the Hall passing approximately through the first ‘e’ in ‘Ketley Hill. It will then probably have run along the property boundary line which is shown leaving the image to the bottom left. [7]
This picture shows a map of Ketley Paddock Mound which is on display on the South side of the nature reserve. The blue dotted line, superimposed on the image, shows the approximate line of the canal as it passes under Red Lees. The present length of the canal arm is shown in light blue on the original sign board. The Friends of Ketley Paddock Mound’s website can be found here. [My photograph, 2nd June 2022]
A view from Red Lees footpath looking Northwest to where it widens out to become a road. There is a slight rise in the road surface just in front of where the pedestrian is walking. This is the most likely location for what would have been an arched bridge, now buried and inaccessible. [My photograph, 2nd June 2022]

I followed Red Lees down to the junction with the B5061, before walking back along Red Lees following what probably was a tramway route which then drifted away from Red Lees to the Northeast as shown on the satellite image below. The Ketley History website says the following: “Behind the Victorian school building that is now Ketley Community Centre, there is a footpath that leads down to Red Lees and this is also the line of a tramway, probably to serve the coal wharf that was situated on Ketley Canal where School Lane meets Red Lees now.” [5]

Tramway route(s) imposed on a satellite image of Ketley. [Google Maps]
The view Northwest towards the junction with the B5061. [My photograph]
The view from Red Lees along the line of the probable tramway. [My photograph]
The view Northeast along the line of the tramway. [My photograph]
Further along the tramway route with what was Ketley primary school in sight. [My photograph]
Looking along the route of the tramway to what was the Canal Wharf area. The old school buildings are on the left. [My photograph]

I walked along School Lane to the B5061, which, incidentally was the A5 and so was Thomas Telford’s trunk road to North Wales, and so it carries the name ‘Holyhead Road’.

The Ketley Canal

The Ketley Canal was about 1.5 miles (2.4km) long. It linked the Shropshire Canal, in the small town of Oakengates, with Ketley Iron Works. It was built in the late 18th century (around 1788) and required the construction of an inclined plane to lower and raise tub-boats a little over 70ft between the level of the Works and the higher ground that it travelled over from Oakengates. [8]

The inclined plane was the first effective inclined plane in the UK. [9]

The canal predominantly carried coal and ironstone in horse-drawn tub-boats. These tub-boats where in use across Shropshire and beyond. They “were rectangular in plan, 19 feet 9 inches long x 6 feet 2 inches wide made of wrought-iron plates rivetted together. An inclined plane consisted of two rails laid parallel to each other, on each of which ran a cradle raised or lowered by a wire rope and capable of carrying one tub boat at a time. The descending cradle assisted in balancing the weight of the ascending one and the extra power required was supplied by a stationary winding engine. A boat descending an inclined plane entered a chamber where it was manoeuvred over a submerged cradle. Once in place, the boat was secured to the cradle in readiness for its journey down the plane. The cradle was then hauled up over a sill and onto the plane, at which point it was still inside the chamber. When everything was ready it commenced its descent, which required just a few minutes, and a small number of workmen were able to complete the whole operation.” [12]

The inclined plane lasted in service until 1816, closing with Ketley Iron Works. The length of canal between Ketley and Oakengates remained open for more than 60 more years until the 1880s.

“One tub-boat is preserved in the Blists Hill Victorian Town museum. It was rescued from a farm in 1972, where it was in use as a water tank. Before its discovery, it was thought that all tub boats on the Shropshire Canal were made of wood.” [13]

This tub-boat is on display at Blists Hill Museum near Ironbridge in Shropshire.

The canal ran on the north side of Holyhead Road. A few hundred yards to the West of Shepherd’s Lane the canal passed under the Holyhead Road. It “clung to the southern side of the main road for a few hundred yards … but then it moved away from the road, heading westward at the backs of what are now gardens on Holyhead Road until it reached Shepherd’s Lane.” [9]

The Eastern portal of Shepherd’s Lane Tunnel is still visible in a private garden. [4]

The canal entered a short tunnel under Shepherd’s Lane and emerged into Ketley Paddock Mound (as it is now called). The length of canal which is preserved in the nature reserve can be reached from a number of directions.

The route I took was to walk East along Holyhead Road to the bus stop adjacent to one entrance to Ketley Paddock Mound. The bus stop is a delight! It was painted in 2018 by Fran O’Boyle and funded by the Ketley Parish Council and the Friends of Ketley Paddock Mound. [10][11]

The bus stop which is owned by Ketley Parish Council is outside Ketley Paddock Mound was decorated in 2018. It was created by Fran O’Boyle and funded by the Parish and the Friends of Ketley Paddock Mound. [10][11]

And I then entered the nature reserve through the gate visible in the photograph above. Immediately inside the gate is another public information board. The image below is an extract from my photograph of the board. …

Entering the nature reserve from Holyhead Road, the path climbs through open meadow and paddock. It curves round a small pond before the remaining section of the Ketley Canal is reached.

This next sequence of phots shows the walk up to the remaining section of the Ketley Canal.

The path from Holyhead Raod. [My photograph]
Buttercups in flower in the paddock to the East of the footpath. [My photograph]
The footpath winds gently up hill to the old canal. [My photograph]
The Ketley Canal. This remaining section of the tub-boat canal is now given over to nature. Just before taking this picture I watched a Kingfisher fly along the length of the water. Behind the camera is the cutting which led to the tunnel under Shepherd’s Lane. [My photograph, 2nd June 2022]

The walk back to my car took me over the top of the Paddock Mound which was the slag-heap made up of arisings from local pits and mines.


  1., accessed on 2nd June 2022.
  2. T. Lowe; A Ketley Mon; British Bus Publishing Ltd., Wellington, Shropshire, 2000.
  3., accessed on 31st May 2022.
  4., accessed on 2nd June 2022.
  5., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  6., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  7., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  8., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  9., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  10., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  11., accessed on 3rd June 2022.
  12., accessed on 4th June 2022.
  13., accessed on 4th June 2022.

The Fintona Tram

The featured image above shows Fintona Railway Station from Main Street, Fintona in June 1957, (c) Wilson Adams. The image is used here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license (CC BY-SA 2.0). [7]

The Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway [2] opened the railway station in Fintona on 5th June 1853. A short time after the Londonderry to Enniskillen Railway completed its mainline to Enniskillen (in 1854 [2]). mainline services were withdrawn from Fintona (in 1856 [1]), and the link to Fintona became a branch from the mainline at Fintona Junction railway station. [3] Most passenger services on this branch line were then provided by a horse-drawn tram car. [1] Since the line’s closure, the tram has been preserved at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra, County Down. [2]

Wikipedia notes that the branch line to Fintona was taken over by the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) in 1883 when it took control of the Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway. [1]

The branch-line and the station at Fintona were closed on 1 October 1957. [1] The whole area comprising the Fintona Train station is now a car park and public toilet. [4]

As we have noted, “Passenger services on the half mile Fintona branch were worked by horse traction throughout the 104 years of its existence up to closure in 1957.” [4]

Timetables were worked out on what a horse could reasonably be expected to achieve. This meant that rail authorities “allowed 10 minutes for the slightly downhill trip to Fintona, and 15 minutes for the return working. Seven trips per day were scheduled in summer 1951.” [5]

The tramcar which was used for the majority of the life of the service, “entered service in 1883, had longitudinal seating, back to back on the upper deck and with seats facing each other on the lower deck. Originally the latter was divided into 1st and 2nd class, and the top deck was 3rd class. The car is estimated to have covered 125,000 miles in its ambulation’s on the branch.” [5]

“Goods wagons for Fintona were worked by a steam engine which, in later years at least, made a return trip in the morning before passenger services started.” [5]

The Line between Fintona and Fintona Junction

The first image below shows the route of the line on an extract from the GSGS maps of 1941-1943 produced by the British War Office at a scale of 1″ to 1 mile. [6] The second picture is a matching 21st century satellite image which shows how little of both the mainline and the branch remain in the 21st century.

The Fintona Branch: a map extract from the British War Office (G.S.G.S 4136) 1″ to the mile survey published 1941-1943. [6]
The location of the Fintona Branch on modern satellite imagery. [6]
A similar area on the Satellite imagery with the route of the mainline (The Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway) and the alignment of the Fintona Branch illustrated by redlines. [6])

Fintona Junction

The next image below shows the approach road to what was Fintona Junction Railway Station from the B46. Immediately to the right of this road was a level-crossing which took the mainline across the B46. The Londonderry and Enniskillen Railway ran under the location of the bungalow on the right, parallel to the station approach road.

The access road shown above now only provides access to a farm. At one time it was the public access to the junction station.

Fintona Junction Station site. The line of the railway to Enniskillin can be seen crossing the B46, Dromore Road in the bottom left of this satellite image. The line to Fintona is indicative rather then accurate. [Google Maps]
Fintona Junction: GNR 4-4-0 goods engine No.73 of Class ‘P’ stands in the bay, having shunted its train to await the passing of the two passenger trains of the evening of August Bank Holiday Saturday, 1954. [12]
A Still image from a 1950s cinefilm which shows the signal box, station sign and porters trolleys at Fintona Junction, (c) The Huntley Archives, Film No.96367. [13]

The line

AS we have already noted, the journey from Fintona Junction to Fintona Railway Station was timetabled as just a 10 minute journey. The tram was usually waiting for connections at Fintona Junction as in the first picture below.

0953-4 Horse Tram Fintona Ireland (JW Armstrong)  102
The view from the mainline of Fintona Junction Station. The tram is waiting to offer a connection for the train arriving from Londonderry, (c) J.W. Armstrong/ARPT – this link is to the image as held on Ernie’s Railway Archive on Flickr. [8]
The tram for Fintona with horse”Dick” (apparently all the horses used on the service were called ‘Dick’) waiting with the branch connection at Fintona Junction, while PPs class 4-4-0 No.44 arrives with 1.45pm Omagh – Enniskillen local train (c) L.King,5th July 1955. [4]
Fintona Junction Railway Station in April 1964 (c) Roger Joanes. The image is included here under a creative Commons Licence, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [9]

In the picture above the line can be seen to be in a shallow cutting soon after leaving the railway station. As can be seen below, this was a very shallow and short cutting.

Lookin ahead down the line from Fintona Junction in the 1950s, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
The tram transporting military personnel leaves Fintona Junction and runs along the section of track being inspected in the image above, (c) Mr Gallagher c1941-45. [4]
Now just beyond the cutting mentioned above. The line continues to curve towards Fintona, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
Leaning out of the tram window, we can see the line continuing to curve westwards, just ahead, shrubs are beginning to encroach on the line, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
This satellite image shows the current landscape around the next section of the old railway linejust south of the junction station. [Google Maps]
A hazy view from the top deck of the tram looking back along the line towards Fintona junction, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
Postcard View circa 1930 which shows the tram rounding the curve after leaving Fintona Junction Station on the way to Fintona. It is in the midst of the shrubs mentioned above, (c) Public Domain. [1]
A little further ahead along the line is again in a shallow cutting, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
The next length of the line sees the old railway leave the curve and straighten up heading for Fintona in a southeasterly direction. [Google Maps]
Over this next length of the old railway it is much more difficult to determine the precise alignment of the line. The redline cannot be taken as accurate in anyway. The vast majority of the buildings shown to the southwest of the line all postdate the removal of the old railway. [Google Maps]
The north end of Sherwood Close. The old railway probably ran approximately on the line of the green fence between the two properties shown here. [Google Streetview]
A view from the north on Ashfield Gardens. The farm access track referred to on the image appears in the bottom right of the satellite image above. It can also be seen at the top left of the satellite image below. [Google Streetview]
This final satellite image shows the approximate line of the railway as it enters the station throat and runs through to the terminus buffer stops. The station used to front onto Main Street. The area is now the premises of Lisdergan Butchery (, Eurospar and the town car park. The building which fronts onto Main Street being Fintona’s public toilets. [Google Maps]
A short distance further along the line, the land has dropped away once again and the station at Fintona is in sight, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
GNRI 1952-06-26 Fintona station 049
The view Southeast towards Fintona Station from along the line. The permanent way between the two rails is filled with earth up to sleeper level or just above to create a suitable surface for the horse. Notice how, at the point ahead, hoof marks show that the horse has avoided crossing the switch rail until the last possible moment, (c) Ernie’s Railway Archive – this link is to the image as held on Ernie’s Railway Archive on Flickr. [8]
Arriving at Fintona. The tram is a few yards closer to the station than it was in the image above, (c) David Bradley, September 1957. [4]
Closer again to the station platform now. Do not be deceived by the platform visible close to the camera, this was a goods loading point which is described on the plan below as ‘The Beach’, (c) The Huntley Film Archive Film No. 96367. [13]
We are now close-in to the covered station platform at Fintona. This a picture of the Railway Station in April 1964 a good few years after the closure of the line, (c) Roger Joanes. The image is included here under a creative Commons Licence, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [9]
A similar image to the Roger Joanes’ photograph above, this time in colour. As the vegetation encroachment is greater on this image it is probably a summer-time image. [Public Domain] [11]
A plan of Fintona Railway Station as shown on the Irish Railway Modellers Forum. It is taken from from Norman Johnston’s book on the Tram, “The Fintona Horse Tram.” [10]
Fintona Railway Station as shown at the head of this article, (c) Wlison Adams. The image is included here under The image is included here under a creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [14]
This is approximately the same view but taken in 2007. (c) Kenneth Allen. The image is included here under The image is included here under a creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [15]
Approximately the same location but this time in June 2021. The toilet block has been replaced with something which looks a little more as though it belongs in the heart of Fintona. [Google Streetview]

The Return Journey to Fintona Junction

Just a few photographs now which show the return journey to Fintona Junction.

The line’s horse stands in Fintona station ready to depat with a baggage truck and the tramcar in 1926. This consist does not appear in any other images but it is how the tram is displayed in the Museum at Cultra, (c )the Tramway and Light Railway Society. The image was seen on the Tramway Badges and Buttons website. [16]
“Dick” leaving Fintona with the 4.14pm to Fintona Junction, (c) N.W.Sprinks taken on 25th June 1952. [4]
GNRI 1952-06-26 Fintona CURC trip 052
The journey back from Fintona to Fintona Junction on 26th June 1952 (c) Ernie’s Railway Archive. This link is to the image as held on Ernie’s Railway Archive on Flickr. [8]

And finally. …

After closure of the line, Fintona’s tram was preserved and now sits in Ulster Transport Museum, Cultra.

Fintona’s tram on display in Ulster Transport Museum, Cultra. [11]


  1., accessed on 24th May 2022.
  2., accessed on 24th May 2022.
  3., access on 24th May 2022.
  5. Irish Railway Record Society; Irish Railways in Pictures No.1 – Great Northern; Irish Railway Record Society [London Area],1976.
  6., accessed on 26th May 2022.
  7., accessed on 26th May 2022.
  8., accessed on 26th May 2022.
  9., accessed on 26th May 2022.
  10. Norman Johnston; The Fintona Horse Tram; Omagh: West Tyrone Historical Society, 1992;, accessed on 26th May 2022.
  11., accessed on 26th May 2022.
  12., accessed on 26th May 2022.
  13. The Huntley Archives:, accessed on 27th May 2022.
  14., accessed on 24th May 2022.
  15., accessed on 27th May 2022.
  16., accessed on 27th May 2022.

The Elan Valley Railway – Part 1

The Elan Valley Railway was built to make the construction of the Birmingham Water Corporation Dams in the Elan Valley possible. It transported equipment, materials and men to the different dam sites. It was also used by visitors from Birmingham and it carried King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra for the official opening of the dams on 21st July 1904.

Work on the construction of the line began in 1893 and was completed in 1896. It was built to standard gauge in four separate stages.

The four separate sections of the railway were numbered 1 to 4.

Railway No. 1 extended from Elan Valley Junction, the junction with the Cambrian Railway Southwest of Rhayader, just beyond Rhayader Tunnel, to what is now the Elan Valley Visitor Centre. These buildings were then the location of workshops and sheds of the contractor and sat below the site of the proposed Caban-Coch Dam.

Railway No. 2 left Railway No. 1 close to the Baptist Church in Elan Village and followed a higher alignment on the North side of the Elan Valley. It passed above the site of the Caban Dam and on westward to the site of the Careg-Ddu Dam

Railway No. 3 ran from Careg-Ddu Northeast to Pen-y-Gareg Dam.

Railway No. 4 travel North from a junction to the Southeast of Pen-y- Gareg Dam to Craig-Goch Dam

This post provides an introduction to the railway and covers the route of Railway No. 1.

The sharp ruling radius of the tracks required short wheelbase locomotives. “The locomotives were all named after rivers and streams on the Estate. The first two were acquired in April 1894 and were named Elan and Claerwen. These were joined by Nant Gwyllt and Methan in October 1894 and Rhiwnant and Calettwr in 1895. … By 1898 the steep 1:33 gradients of some sections of the railway had taken their toll on the original locomotives, so Coel and Marchnant were bought.” [1]

The Elan Valley Railway Branch Line was inspected and passed by a Board of Trade Inspector in July 1894 and the Elan Valley Railway branch was available for use from that date. Railway No. 4 took the route to the furthest away Craig-Goch Dam. Blasting the cutting mid-way along this route held up the construction by 3 months. This resulted in the cutting being given the name, ‘The Devil’s Gulch’!

At its fullest extent, the railway had approximately 53 kilometres (33 miles) of track. In all, 17 coaches were used for transporting men to the work sites. In addition to the steam locomotives operating in the Elan Valley, steam-powered cranes, power drills and crushers were also in use. To facilitate the works arrangements had to be made to accommodate around 1000 tons of materials being moved every day!

The line was only provided for construction work and in 1906 the Birmingham Corporation Water Works locomotives were sold. In 1908, the junction with the Cambrian Railway was removed. However complete closure of the railway occurred as late as 1916. [1]

Before looking at the route of the railways in detail, it is interesting to note that In 2004, to mark the centenary of the opening of the dams, the only surviving locomotive (Rhiwnant) was brought back to the Elan Valley from a private owner in South East England. [1]

It is also worth noting that there is a detailed treatment of the railways in the Elan Valley in a book by C. W. Judge; ‘The Elan Valley Railway’, published by Oakwood Press. [2] The route is described in detail in the fourth chapter of Judge’s book. [2: p79-111]

Rhayader Railway Station

A panoramic colourised postcard view of Rhayader Railway Station in its prime. [36]

The Cambrian Railway through mid-Wales was a single-track line with passing loops. Rhayader Station sat between the stations of Moat Lane Junction and Brecon on the Cambrian mainline. Llanidloes was to the North of Rhayader and Builth Wells to the South.

Rhayader Railway Station was opened in 1864 in Cwmdauddwr, a village on the opposite bank of the River Wye. The line, which took over 5 years to build, was closed in 1962 and dismantled within months. [3]

Rhayader and Its Railway Station – The Railway Station was on the West side of the River Wye
with the town on the East side of the river. This extract comes from the 6″ OS Maps published just after the turn of the 20th century. [4]
This extract comes from the earlier 6″ OS Mapping released in 1888. [37]

The station site in the 21st Century is a Highways Depot for Powys Council. It is access along the station approach road which is in the same location in the 21st century as that shown above. The station building on the above map is fully shaded and sits close to the words ‘Corn Mill’, the goods shed which is on the West side of the mainline, is shown hatched.

The same location is shown immediately below on Google Earth’s satellite imagery in the 21st century. The station approach is also shown below in an image from Google Streetview…

The site of Rhayader Railway Station.
The approximate alignment of the Mid-Wales Line of the Cambrian is shown in red [Google Maps].
Rhayader Railway Station Building as it appears in 2022. [My photograph]
Rhayader station building, platform side.
This shows the platform side of the ex Mid Wales Railway station building, as modified for use as a council maintenance depot office. The new walling (with windows) would be to enclose what used to be a minimal outdoor sheltered waiting area.
© Copyright Nigel Brown and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [22]
Rhayader old railway goods shed, north end:
this shows the north end of the ex Mid-Wales Railway goods shed, now part of a council maintenance depot. Note the simple but massive design. The track went in through the double end doors; goods were moved to and from road vehicles in a bay accessed through the double side doors (one of which is missing).
© Copyright Nigel Brown and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [23]
Rhayader old railway goods shed, south end:
this shows one end of the old Mid-Wales Railway goods shed at Rhayader, now used as part of a council maintenance depot.
© Copyright Nigel Brown and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)[24]
Rhayader railway station: the Brecon to Moat Lane Junction afternoon train pauses briefly, shortly before closure of the line
© Copyright Flying Stag and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0) [25]
Local Mid-Wales line train at Rhayader station,
View SW, towards Builth and Brecon: the Builth Road (Low Level) – Moat Lane train is headed by one of the few remaining ex-Cambrian Class 15 0-6-0s, No. 893 (built 3/1908, withdrawn 2/1953).
© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [26]

The Route up the Elan Valley

Immediately to the South of the station, the Mid-Wales line crossed the road which led up the Elan Valley. Google Streetview shows the embankment beyond the bridge location to the South. Pivoting round through 180 degrees to look towards the Railway Station, does not provide a productive image. ….

Looking South from the Elan Valley Road (B4518). The over-bridge and its abutments are long gone, the railway embankment is still visible. Alongside it, to the left of this image is the start of the Elan Valley Trail, which for a couple of hundred yards runs parallel to the old railway, climbing gradually to a summit above the Rhayader Tunnel further to the South. [Google Streetview]

My wife and I walked the Elan Valley Trail in August 2021. Some of the photos which follow were taken on that walk. The first photograph below shows the start of the Trail. …. From that point the footpath climbs slowly alongside the old railway embankment before rising above the old line which was in cutting as it approached the northern portal of Rhayader Tunnel. The second picture below shows the Northern Portal.

The entrance to the Elam Valley Trail [My Photograph – 9th August 2021]
Rhayader Tunnel: North Portal (c) Chris Parker. [5]

A small nature reserve sits on the land immediately above Rhayader Tunnel which the footpath crosses and the South Portal of the tunnel can be glimpsed to the right of the path through the undergrowth. (The nature reserve is intended to protect the different species of bats which have made the tunnel their home.)

The bricked up South Portal of Rhayader Tunnel see from the Elan Valley Trail which runs along the top of the railway cutting’s Eastern batter. [My photograph – 9th August 2021]
The South Portal of Rhayader Tunnel: The picture is taken from the spot of the Elan Valley Junction, the beginning of the Elan Valley branch. There is no public access to the tunnel, which is now part of a small Nature Reserve of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. The Reserve was created to protect the bats which use the tunnel to hibernate. The Elan Valley Trail is to the right at the top of the cutting, © Copyright Wim Kegel and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [6]

A better view of the closed South Portal can be seen at track level. The picture below is taken from the track-bed approximately at the location of the first point of the Elan Valley Junction.

The Rhayader Tunnel and the Elan Valley Junction as shown on the OS 6″ series of maps dated 1905. On this map, the junction is shown as a single junction. The map is dated after the completion of the main work on the dams. During the period of construction traffic was such that a double junction was provided at this location. [7][8]

C. W. Judge provides a copy of Birmingham Corporation Waterworks’ drawing of the double junction with a note indication that the double junction was provided at the insistence of the Board of Trade. [2: p81] He also provides an extract from c. 1900 Ordnance Survey which shows the double junction in place. [2: p84]

The signal box at the Elan Valley Railway junction in around 1900. The private Elan Valley Railway, can just be made out behind the signal box steps on the righthand side of the image. The railwayman on the right is holding the token for entering the single line track system. This image is a copy of the image held by the People’s Collection, Wales and is reproduced here under their Creative Archive Licence (see Reference 11, below) which permits its use on a Non-Commercial basis. [12] Judge also provides a copy of this image which has a slightly better contrast which means that the Elan Valley line can also be made out much more clearly heading away from the mainline behind and to the left of the signal box. [2: p85] Judge has another, much better, view of the junction and signal box [2: p83] but I have not been able to find that image available to share on the internet.

Within a very short distance from the Elan Valley Junction the branch line was provided with storage/exchange sidings. Some of these sidings are clearly shown on the map extract below. Judge refers to these sidings as the Down Noyadd Sidings. the Up Sidings which are evident on the OS Map c. 1900 [2: p84] are no longer shown on the 1905 extract.

The Elan Valley Railway exchange/storage sidings to the West of Elan Valley Junction as shown on the OS 6″ series of maps dated 1905. The location plan showing these sidings provided by Coflein (below) appears to place the Down Sidings to the West of the under-bridge visible on this extract. The Up sidings are not shown on the 1905 OS map and so must have been lifted soon after the completion of the main works. Incidentally, the straight dotted line which crosses this map extract is the line of the aqueduct running from the Elan Valley to Birmingham carrying the water supply. The road under-bridge is now a farm access track. [9]
This length of the old railway has been paved as a footpath. This image is typical of the scenery here. [My photograph – 9th August 2021]
Coflein identifies the location of the sidings with the blue flag on this plan,© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey 100020548 . [10]
Along this length of the line trees now crowd the bituminous path. [My photograph – 9th August 2021]

Travelling on along the line, the next point of interest is that shown on the map extract below. At the turn of the century the line passed over a narrow lane leading to a ford in the Afon Elan at Rhyd Wen.

The first of these two images is an extract from the 6″ OS Maps from the turn of the 20th century. [13] The second is a satellite image of the same location in the 21st century. The most obvious significant difference is that a bridge has been constructed over the river. However, when the railway was active the road down to the ford was spanned by a masonry arch bridge. [2: p85-86, Plates No. 32 & 33] As the view below shows that bridge is long-gone. [Google Maps]
The view across the river from the Southeast showing the modern Bailey Bridge which has replaced the ford across the River Elan. As can be seen here, there is no longer a railway bridge spanning the road. [Google Streetview]
The view from the Northwest shows that one of the bridge abutments remains in position. [Google Streetview]

Continuing in a Southwest direction the railway and the road ran immediately next to each other with the Afan Elan slightly to the South. There is little of note on the next few extracts from the 6″ OS Map.

The old railway and the adjacent road ran passed Coed-y-mynach, Ty’n-y-coed, Llanfadog Lower and the Elan Valley Hotel. [14][15][16]
The only point worth noting is that there has been significant development at the site of the Elan Valley Hotel. [16]
The route of the old line continues beyond the Elan Valley Hotel with little worth noting until it approaches Elan Village. [17]
The police station and the Bethany Chapel suggest that we are now very close to Elan Village. [18]
The satellite images show significant developments from the time of the 6″ OS Map above. The first significant building which appears relatively close to the top right of this image is the Baptist Chapel. Once there was only one road here which led to a suspension bridge over the river. That road has been widened to provide access to the Elan Valley Visitor Centre another road follows the formation of the higher branch of the railway – the two roads while running parallel to each other diverge significantly in height. [18]
The Baptist Chapel (Bethania Baptist Chapel), viewed from the access road looking across the embankment which carried the railway. The red line clarifies its route. [Google Streetview] This length of the old railway is shown in Plate 35 of Judge’s book about the line. [2: p87
Looking Southwest toward Caban Coch Dam. The line of the railway is marked by the red line. The properties in this picture were built after the railway had been dismantled and their gardens extend across the line of the old railway to the highway boundary. [Google Streetview]
This photograph was taken from a point a little further to the Southwest. On the extreme left of the image, the boundary fence or the properties visible in the last picture can be seen. The old railway alignment is marked, once again, by the red line. The wall at the top of the embankment to the left supports a series of rectangular pools, some of which were visible on the 6″ OS Map. These are on the line of the aqueduct which supplies Eden Valley water to the Birmingham conurbation. They are part of the Water Treatment Works which ensure the quality of the water passing through the Aqueduct. [Google Streetview]
View from the footpath on the line of the old railway. The structures associated with the Water Works can be seen more easily. [My photograph – 9th August 2021]

Sadly, the 6″ OS Maps from the turn of the 20th century that we have been using do not give us a good impression of the railway network in the Elan Valley during the construction of the dams. They do show the main line of the railway as it was in around 1902 when the survey for the maps published in 1905 took place.

The next length of the line shows little of great interest. The lower line giving access to the base of the Caban-Coch Dam which was to be part of ‘Railway 1’ is not shown, as it was constructed after the Survey was undertaken. There is a level area on the North side of the line at the 800ft contour which would accommodate the buildings of the new Water Works. [19]
The equivalent satellite image shows the Water Works buildings. The formation of the contractor’s main-line can be seen to the Southeast of the Water Works, paved and in use by modern vehicles. [19]
This short section of the journey on the 6″ OS Maps shows a road/track down to the river and a suspension bridge. The line continues high on the valley side. [33]
The modern satellite image shows the route of what became ‘Railway 2’ high on the valley side. The route lay under the footpath which can be seen on the South side of the access road. In the valley floor, the road to the Visitor Centre runs from the top right to the bottom left of the image. Two bridges immediately adjacent to each other span the Afon Elan. The more northerly of the two is a modern Bailey Bridge. The other is an old suspension bridge which is in the same location as that shown on the OS Map immediately above. There were three different suspension bridges at this location over the years. [33]
This photograph shows the earliest bridge across the Afon Elan © Radnorshire Museum,
Llandrindod Wells. [34]

During the construction period, access to the construction village was over the suspension bridge shown above. “The navvies village can be seen on the far side of the river to the left, and the accident hospital is to the right of the bridge. The road on this side of the river leads to Rhayader to the left” and further up the Elan Valley to the right. [34]

The current suspension bridge (the third on the site) “is no longer safe, and modern traffic entering Elan Village now crosses the river by a rather more functional bridge alongside.” [34]

The now unsafe suspension bridge which provided access to Elan Village before the adjacent Baily Bridge was built. [My photograph – 9th August 2021]
The modern Bailey Bridge which sits just downstream of the suspension bridge. [My photograph – 9th August 2021]
The contractor’s main-line (which was to be designated ‘Railway 2’) continued at a high level. The lower level line is not in evidence. [20]
The modern satellite imagery shows the visitor centre on the right of this image and the dam and river protection and training works in the bottom left. The road at high level continues to mark the line of the old railway. [20]

Caban-Coch Dam, the first dam encountered in a journey up the Elan Valley, was the first at which construction work commenced. The digging and blasting of the foundations for the dam started in August 1894, and work on the masonry structure of the dam itself began in 1896. [29]

The 6″ OS Map from the turn of the 20th century shows the construction of the masonry structure well underway.

The dotted lines just visible in the top left of the map extract mark the line of the aqueduct which, once the reservoirs were filled, would supply water to the Birmingham conurbation. [21]
The completed dam and associated works are evident on the satellite image. The modern road continues to follow the approximate line of the old railway. [21]
Caban Coch Dam: an early stage in the construction of the first of the dams to be built in the Elan Valley, Caban Coch. A view looking upstream on the River Elan probably photographed around 1895, with a huge steam-powered crane at work on the site. Many of the massive stones used for this dam were quarried nearby. The track on the right of the image is the prepared formation of the soon to be completed main line of the Elan Valley Railway. A branch line followed the valley floor to provide access to the contractor’s compound and the foot of the new dam, © The People’s Collection Wales, used under their Creative Archive Licence [27]. [28]
Black and white photograph of Caban Coch dam, taken early during its construction © The Edward Hubbard Collection at Coflein. [31]
Progress continues at Caban Coch. [35]

The Elan Valley website tells us that building work began in 1893. “100 occupants of the Elan Valley had to move, only landowners received compensation payments. Many buildings were demolished, 3 manor houses, 18 farms, a school and a church (which was replaced by the corporation as the Nantgwyllt Church). … A village of wooden huts was purpose-built to house most of the workers on the site of the present Elan Village.” [30]

“New workers spent a night in the dosshouse to be deloused and examined for infectious diseases, only then were they allowed across the river to the village. Single men lived in groups of eight in a terrace house shared with a man and his wife. A school was provided for those under 11, after this they were expected to work. The village employed a guard to look out for illegal importation of liquor and unauthorised visitors. There was a hospital for injuries and an isolation hospital. A bath house which the men could use up to 3 times a week but the women only once! The pub was for men only. Other facilities included a library, public hall, shop and canteen. There was even street lighting (powered by hydroelectric generators).” [30]

The dams were built in two phases, firstly construction in the Elan Valley and later the Claerwen. The foundations of Dol y Mynach Dam were laid in phase one as the site would have flooded once Caban-Coch had filled up.” [30]

It is clear that local rock was not of a suitable quality for dressing the external faces of the dams. It was used as structural fill inside of the dams. The hand-chiselled facing stones were transported from Glamorgan. [30]

Caban Coch dam construction from an early
glass slide of 1901. Note the broad-gauge tracks provided for the steam crane(s). The trestles supporting the tracks can be seen under the rails at the right of the picture © Powys County Archives. [29]
This superb picture shows a train steaming towards the wall of Caban-coch dam much later during its construction. The contractor used trackways like this fixed to all the dams, supported by a wooden framework high above the bottom of the valley. Access to the higher levels of the Caban-Coch Dam would have come from ‘Railway 2’ which can be seen running across the bottom right corner of this image adjacent to the access road. [32]

“The Caban Coch dam contributes to the supply of water to Birmingham when water levels are normal, but it also provides compensation water to ensure that adequate flow is maintained in the Elan and the Wye downstream from the dams.” [29]

I have asked for permission from the Oakwood Press to reproduce sections of the fold out map at the rear of Colin Judge-s book (see below) as these illustrate the density of the rail facilities at the construction site of the Caban Coch Dam. I await their response with interest.

We have cover Railway No. 1. The next article in this series will begin at the junction between Railway No. 1 and Railway No. 2 a little to the East of Caban Coch Dam.

Further Reading

As we noted much earlier in this post, the accepted authority on all things associated with the Elan Valley Railway is Colin Judge. Anyone with any interest in this railway should regard the purchase of Judge’s book as a good investment. Second-hand copies are relatively easy to come by. It is important, when buying a copy, to check whether the fold-out map (referred to above) which was attached to the back cover of the book is still present. My copy is the latest reprint of the book, as shown below, which was published in 2001 and has a sticker on the front marking the centenary of the formal opening of the reservoirs which was celebrated in 2004. [2]


  1., accessed on 20th March 2022.
  2. C. W. Judge; The Elan Valley Railway; Oakwood Press No. 71; Usk, Monmouthshire, 1987, latest edition, 2004.
  3., accessed on 23rd March 2022
  4., accessed on 23rd March 2022.
  5., accessed on 6th April 2022
  6., accessed on 26th March 2022.
  7., accessed on 26th March 2022.
  8. “A double junction was built to join it to the Cambrian Railway near Rhayader;” quoted from, accessed on 20th March 2022.
  9., accessed on 6th April 2022.
  10., accessed on 6th April 2022.
  11., accessed on 20th March 2022.
  12., accessed on 6th April 2022.
  13., accessed on 28th April 2022.
  14., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  15., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  16., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  17., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  18., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  19., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  20., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  21., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  22., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  23., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  24., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  25., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  26., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  27., accessed on 15th March 2022.
  28., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  29., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  30., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  31., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  32., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  33., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  34., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  35., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  36., accessed on 20th May 2022.
  37., accessed on 20th May 2022.

The Port Carlisle Railway – Part 3

Towards the end of its life the Port Carlisle Branch was served by two Sentinel Steam Railmotors, ‘Nettle’ and ‘Flower of Yarrow’. The featured image above is part of the Bruce McCartney Collection. It shows a Sentiel Steam Railcar calling at Burgh-by-Sands on a service to Port Carlisle in around 1930. Station Master Walter Tait is posing alongside the railcar on the platform. Bruce McCartney comments: “The Sentinel is thought to be No. 31 ‘Flower of Yarrow’ which was built in 1928 and operated on the Port Carlisle Branch up to the time the branch was closed from Drum burgh in 1932, although, being on the ‘main-line’ Burgh-by-Sands kept going until 1964.” (c) the Bruce McCartney Collection, used by kind permission. [1]

‘Nettle’ and ‘Flower of Yarrow’

After 50 or so years being served by a horse-drawn Dandy. Port Carlisle was given a replacement steam service in 1914. It was envisaged that providing a good reliable service from Carlisle, the village of Port Carlisle would develop as a seaside resort.

In 1914, Port Carlisle was once again given its own steam service to Carlisle. [2]

Sadly the hoped for development did not occur and Port Carlisle remained a backwater, but one with a significant history as a port where ocean-going vessels could dock. For a time it was a ‘ferry’ terminal and a place where goods could be transshipped onto smaller craft heading up the canal to Carlisle. Later the canal was replaced by a railway and for a time a reasonable flow of goods passed through the port. However, by 1863, goods services on the Port Carlisle branch were terminated and for a time passengers were served by a horse-drawn Dandy.

As the early 20th century unfolded the steam service was unable to pay its way and eventually, hoping against hope, that some service could be retained to Port Carlisle steam engines and carriages were replace by a pair of Sentinel Steam Rail Cars, No. 31 ‘Flower of Yarrow’ (Sentinel Diagram No. 96) and No. 35 ‘Nettle’ (originally, LNER No. 2133 – Sentinel Diagram no. 93). [3]

‘Nettle’ was built in 1928 and originally carried the LNER number 2133 which was later changed to 35. ‘Flower of Yarrow’ was a slightly later build by Sentinel and only ever carried the LNER number 31.

‘Nettle’ at Port Carlisle [3][4]
Flower of Yarrow at St. Margaret’s Shed, Edinburgh. [3]
Sentinel Railcar ‘Nettle’ at Carlisle, probably on the service to Port Carlisle. It appears to be running with at least another carriage attached. Photographer not known. [5]
‘Flower of Yarrow’ also at Carlisle. Photographer not known. [6]

These railmotors/railcars saw out the remaining years of the passenger service on the line to Port Carlisle and were moved elsewhere when it closed between Drumburgh and Port Carlisle in 1932.


  1., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  2., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  3., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  4., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  5., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  6. Paul Atterbury; LNER: The London and North Eastern Railway; Shire Publications, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, Oxford, 2018;, accessed on 19th May 2022.

The Port Carlisle Railway – Part 2

The Dandy!

The featured image at the head of this post was taken on 24th February 2017 at the National Railway Museum in York. The ‘Dandy’ Car was horse-drawn and provided the branch service between Port Carlisle and Drumburgh until 1914 when the service was enhanced and steam-power was used, (c) Glen Bowman (Attribution 2.0 Generic – CC BY 2.0) [1]

The Science Museum, of which the Railway Museum is a constituent part describes the exhibit: “This is one of four horse-drawn Dandy cars built by the North British Railway at its St Margaret’s Works, Edinburgh. The North British Railway, one of Scotland’s major railways, operated the branch extending from Carlisle to Silloth and its sub-branch to Port Carlisle. Freight services on the latter branch were discontinued as early as 1899, but a horse-drawn passenger service instituted in 1863 remained until early 1914, when it was finally superseded by steam.” [2]

After the reintroduction of steam power on the branch line, the “railway company gave the old Dandy coaches to the village. For many years, they served as pavilions for the local bowling green and tennis club. In 1925, there was an exhibition at Darlington to mark the centenary of the world’s first railway there.” [3] The organisers thought that one of the old Dandy cars “would prove a popular exhibit and entered negotiations with the bowling club for its return. Repainted in its original colours, the Dandy took pride of place in the Darlington show. When the exhibition closed, it was taken to Waverley Station in Edinburgh where it remained until it was moved to its present location, the National Railway Museum in York.” [3]

So, where does the name ‘Dandy’ come from?

One possibility is that the ‘Dandy’ on the Port Carlisle branch derived its name from the Dandy Waggons (‘Wagons’ or ‘Carts’) which were used on old waggonways for the carriage of horses. They were “usually used on the down-hill sections of horse-drawn railways and waggonways. George Stephenson is credited for having proposed the idea for dandy wagons, building these carriages for the horses, for use on the Stockton & Darlington Railway, which opened in 1825. [4] However, they were particularly associated with the Ffestiniog Railway where they were in use until 1863. [5]

A Dandy Wagon and a Cauldron from 1825 on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, © National Railway Museum / Science & Society Picture Library. [6]
A drawing from the Stockton and Darlington Railway. (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) [4]
A similar Dandy Waggon in use at Throckley Brickworks in 1909. Photographer unknown.

The term Dandy Wagon was also used during the 19th century in the USA to refer to a horse-drawn private buggy. [7]

It might be that the combination of these two ideas resulted in the name ‘Dandy’ being applied to a horse-drawn vehicle particularly on the Port Carlisle Branch. Small two- or four-wheel carts could often be called a ‘Dandy’ as an image search on the internet will illustrate. ….

Various ‘dandy’ carts appear when searched for on the internet. []

None-the-less the term ‘Dandy’ was used for the passenger carrying rolling stock on the Port Carlisle branch. The horse-drawn service was long-lived, lasting from 1863 to 1914, over 50 years in all!

We finish this short article with some photographs and postcards showing the Dandy in operation!

A panorama showing the whole of the Port Carlisle Railway Station, the bowling green and many of the properties that made up the village – and at the centre the horse-drawn Dandy! [11]
The Dandy at Port Carlisle. Photographer unknown – Lancaster University Local History Resources for Schools. [8]
The Dandy at Port Carlisle again. Photographer unknown – Lancaster University Local History Resources for Schools. [8]
The Bygone Cumberland Facebook page carries this picture of the Dandy at Port Carlisle Railway Station in a prominent position. [9]
A postcard image for sale on eBay in May 2022. [10]
This image is valuable in that it shows that there were at least two Dandy carriages in use on the line. [12]
Solway Past and Present says: “On April 4th 1914, the horse-drawn ‘Dandy’ coach made its last trip along the railway line to Port Carlisle. Two days later, steam locomotives were chuffing along the quiet country line for the first time in over fifty years.” [3]


  1.,_York(36243983596).jpg, accessed on 18th May 2022.
  2., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  3., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  4., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  5., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  6., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  7. Franklin Keagy; A History of the Kägy Relationship in America; Harrisburg Pub. Co., 1899, p610.
  8., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  9. The Bygone Cumberland Facebook Group:, accessed on 18th May 2022.
  10., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  11., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  12., accessed on 19th May 2022.

The Port Carlisle Railway – Part 1

The Canal and the Railway that replaced it.

The Carlisle to Port Carlisle Canal opened in 1823. It was approximately 11 miles long. It linked the city of Carlisle to the Solway Firth. [1]

Prior to the 16th century, coal from mines at Ellen Foot (now Maryport) was brought up river to Carlisle and other locations by boat. However, in 1720, duties began to be levied on all goods carried around the coast by sea.As a result, the local coal trade switched to land-based transport.

It took the actions of a small group of local traders to secure an Act of Parliament in 1721, which allowed coastal duties to be waived. While the Act enabled them to build wharves and warehouses and erect cranes, even allowing the dredging of the river and the charging of tolls (for 31 years), it did not permit them to improve the river in any way. [2]

The Canal was a long time in coming … a public meeting which sought its construction did not take place until 21st May 1807. “The principal aim was to provide the city with a better and cheaper supply of coal, and a committee was appointed to push the plan forwards. They asked the engineer William Chapman to advise them, and he proposed a route from Carlisle to Maryport, which he had also promoted in 1795 as part of a coast to coast route. He estimated that it would cost between £90,000 and £100,000 to build, but conceded that a terminus near Bowness on the Solway Firth would be cheaper. £40,000 would pay for a canal suitable for 45-ton boats, but a larger canal, suitable for 90-ton boats that could cross the Irish Sea or reach the Forth and Clyde Canal, would cost between £55,000 and £60,000. The larger canal could still be part of a coast to coast route. The options as to the size and destination of the canal were put to subscribers by the committee. In August 1807 Chapman suggested that a ship canal for the Irish, Scottish and Liverpool trade, and a 50-ton canal to Maryport for the coal trade could both be built, with both finding support in the newspapers.”[2][3: p337–339, 456]

With a range of options on the table, the Committee sought a second opinion from Thomas Telford. He produced a report on 6th February 1808.

Telford “described a Cumberland Canal, which would allow sea-going vessels to reach Carlisle, but would also be part of a grander plan to link Carlisle to other parts of the country, and could be incorporated into the coast to coast waterway. He suggested that locks should be at least as big as those on the Forth and Clyde Canal, with a width of 20 feet (6.1 m) and a depth of water of 8 feet (2.4 m) over the lock cills. His canal would leave the Solway Firth about 1 mile (1.6 km) upstream of Bowness-on-Solway to reach Carlisle, and would cost £109,393. In order to provide a water supply, a navigable feeder would continue onwards to Wigton, which would be suitable for 7-foot (2.1 m) wide narrow boats, and would cost an additional £38,139. He also quoted two other prices for narrower canals, but noted that these would require goods to be transferred to smaller boats, with the inherent costs and inconvenience.” [3: p339] 

Sadly, no further progress was made at that time.

After a further eight and a half years, another meeting was held at Carlisle. The result of that meeting on 7th October 1817 was that Chapman was asked “to produce a survey for a canal suitable for vessels of at least 70 tons. He was to ensure that it could become part of the coast to coast link. His canal started at Fisher’s Cross, subsequently named Port Carlisle, … It would feature locks 74 by 17 feet (22.6 by 5.2 m), while the channel would be 50 feet (15 m) wide by 8 feet (2.4 m) deep, and would cost £75,392. A link to Newcastle-upon-Tyne could be built on a smaller scale, and another link could be built along the valley of the Eden to serve slate quarries near Ullswater. His plan was accepted, money was raised locally, and an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1819, which authorised the Carlisle Canal to raise £80,000 in capital, and an extra £40,000 if required. The chairman of the committee, Dr John Heysham, suggested they look at other canals before starting work, and visits were made to the Lancaster Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. [2][3: p339-340]

Contracts to build the entire canal were awarded by early 1820. The Canal opened in March 1823. It was “11.25 miles (18.11 km) long, had a surface width of 54 feet (16 m) and was 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. At Fisher’s Cross, a basin 250 by 80 feet (76 by 24 m) had been built, which was connected to the Solway Firth by a sea lock with a long timber jetty. Seven more locks raised the level of the canal by 46 feet (14 m), and at Carlisle there was a second basin, 450 by 100 feet (137 by 30 m), complete with wharves and a warehouse. The locks were 78 feet (24 m) long and 18.5 feet (5.6 m) wide, and water supply was provided by a reservoir on Mill Beck near Grindale.” [2][4: p128]

The cost of construction was just over the estimated £80,000. [2][3: p341]

In 1825 the Carlisle & Liverpool Steam Navigation Company paid for the construction of an exclusive berth at Port Carlisle. The Canal Cpany purchased their own packet boat to transport passenger from Port Carlisle to Carlisle. Both passenger services commenced in 1826. Goods  carried from Liverpool to Port Carlisle were carried along the canal by lighters. The Solway Hotel opened in Port Carlisle soon afterwards. [2][3: p341-342]

“The Solway at Port Carlisle” (1859) by Samuel Bough (1822 – 1878), National Galleries Scotland. Use permitted under a Creative Commons Licence. [34]

Times were beginning to change. … In “August 1824, there were public meetings in Newcastle, to consider again the idea of a canal to Carlisle, or possibly a railway. William Chapman, who had surveyed a route for a canal in 1796, suggested that the route was also suitable for a railway, and was asked to cost both options. He quoted £888,000 for a canal and £252,488 for a railway. A company was created to build a railway, although they did not obtain an Act of Parliament until 1829. There was support in Carlisle, and an agreement was reached that the railway would terminate at the canal basin.” [2][3: p342-343]

The opening of the railway to Newcastle in the 1830s brought a significant upturn in profits on the canal. Its imminent arrival resulted in another shipowner starting a service between Carlisle, Annan and Liverpool.

“However, the boom did not last long, and the company found that it was in competition with the railways. The Lancaster and Carlisle Railway was authorised in 1844, and was a direct threat to the steamer service and canal. The Maryport and Carlisle Railway had been authorised in 1837, but opening was delayed until 1845 by financial difficulties. It was extended to Whitehaven in early 1847 by the opening of the Whitehaven Junction Railway, and at the end of the year the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway opened. The Caledonian Railway opened in February 1848, running northwards from Carlisle to Scotland.” [2][3: p345-346]

“In March 1852, the company decided that the best option was to convert the canal into a railway, raised some money from shareholders and loan holders, and sought an Act of Parliament. Work began in June 1853, although the Act was not obtained until 3 August. An omnibus service was used to ferry passengers between Carlisle and the steamers at Port Carlisle, and the canal closed on 1 August 1853.” [2][3: p347-348].

The Act both wound up the canal company and created the Port Carlisle Dock and Railway Company. Further details about the history of the Canal can be found here [35]

Construction was completed within a year and opened to goods traffic on 12 May 1854 and passengers on 22 June. [2]

The Port Carlisle Railway Company had filled in the canal basin at Carlisle and built sidings and a passenger terminal there. Passenger services between Port Carlisle and Carlisle were short-lived. Two years later the line from Carlisle to Silloth opened. The through passenger service to Port Carlisle was replaced by a horse-worked service between Drumburgh and Port Carlisle. This horse-drawn service lasted until 1914 when it was replaced by steam-power. In due course a steam railmotor service was introduced which lasted until the branch closed in 1932. [2][5]

The Route of the Line

The rail network in Carlisle in 1914 as drawn by the Midland Railway. The Port Carlisle line left the Caledonian main line at Port Carlisle Junction (top left of this drawing), passed through Canal Junction and then set off West just South of the North British Railway Engine Shed shown in the far top left of the drawing. [36]
Wikiwand comments: “Port Carlisle Junction was a railway junction between the lines of the former Caledonian Railway and North British Railway companies lines to the north of Carlisle Citadel station in, what is now, Cumbria, England. It opened in July 1863. Port Carlisle Junction railway station was a very short lived station that first came into use in July 1863 and there was some untimetabled use until 29 October 1863, but the station closed as early as 1 July 1864. After closure, the up (northbound) platform was retained for use by those crews requiring change and also for passing messages on to crews.” [37][38: p78][39: p80][40: p16]
The route of the Port Carlisle Railway. [44]

The Port Carlisle Branch left the main Caledonian Railway line at Port Carlisle Junction, which was just to the North of the River Caldew, and curved way to the Southwest.

Extract from the OS 6″ Series published in 1901. Carlisle Goods Station can be seen on the West side of the extract. [6]
Satellite image showing the same area as the 1901 map above. Point ‘A’ marks the junction with the route of the Branch sketched in red. [6]
This image is a closer view of the line of the old railway and shows the location of the junction and the route of the line. Although the line has been closed for many years its alignment is still dictating land boundaries! [Google Earth]
The remains of the railway embankment. This picture shows the rail alignment and is taken from the junction of Willow Holme Road and the access road to Carlisle Wastewater Treatment Works. A historic lane was bridged by the railway at this approximate location. Trees have colonized the embankment. [Google Streetview]
A short distance to the West, Carlisle Corporation Sewage Works was access by means of a bridge which carried the Port Carlisle Railway. the railway is indicated by the redline at high level over the access road. [Google Streetview]
Just to the West of the Sewage Works was a Manure Works which had its own siding. On this map extract also from the OS 6″ 1901 survey it can be seen that this immediate area was given over to railway sidings and the North British Railway Engine Shed. The myriad of tracks entering the extract from the bottom right are those associated with Carlisle Goods Station. The branch we are following is now marked as the ‘Carlisle & Silloth Branch’. This is the better name for the branch in 1901. As we will see later, the line was extended beyond Port Carlisle on a different alignment and the line to Port Carlisle became a short branch from the longer line. The line leaves the map extract in the bottom left. [7]
As this current satellite image shows the area of the motive power depot has reverted to nature, colonized by many trees. Not on our line, but worthy of note, is the viaduct crossing the River Eden. [7]
The viaduct mentioned in the notes relating to the image immediately above. It used to carry trains on the “Waverley route” across the River Eden at Carlisle. The trains crossing the viaduct ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh through the Scottish Lowlands. © Copyright Malc McDonald and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence – (CC BY-SA 2.0). [8]
Nick Catford writing about the Post Carlisle Junction (the ‘Canal Junction’ on the 6″ OS Map above) on the Disused Stations website comments: “MR Compound 4-4-0 No. 1032 passing Canal Junction signal box in June 1908 with the 10.30 from Edinburgh Waverley. In the background the disused up platform of Port Carlisle Junction station can clearly be seen. At this date it had already been closed for 44 years. 1032 gave over 45 years service before being withdrawn from Nottingham shed, 16A, on 31.3.1952 and cut up at Derby
works shortly afterwards. Photo from Bill Lynn collection.” [43]
West of the NBR Shed the line can be seen running roughly East-West before swinging to the North and crossing the line of Hadrian’s Wall. The NBR Shed was built across the line of the wall! [9]
The line of the railway is still clear on the modern satellite images. It appears as a line of trees on the matching satellite image which curve to the North before running through what is now a farm premises and then passing under the modern A689. [9]
Looking South from the A689 along the approximate line of the railway which is shown by the red line. [Google Streetview]
Looking North from the A689 along the old railway alignment. The hedge visible on the left of this image appears to be along the boundary of what was railway land. The red line shows the approximate route of the line. [Google Streetview]
The railway then curved round to the West, crossing the line of Hadrian’s Wall once again. Towards the left-hand side of this map extract the road from Carlisle to Port Carlisle crossed the line. Incidentally, don’t get too excited by the presence of a distillery close to the line. This was actually Grinsdale Tar Distillery which had its own short siding. The Bone Manure Works shared the connection to the main line and had a trailing connection to the Distillery’s siding. [10]
Once again, the old railway’s alignment can clearly be made out on modern satellite images. The road has not been realigned and the bridge remains in position. To the West of the bridge the rail alignment is still visible as a line of trees. The site of the tar distillery and the manure works is now a caravan/motorhome sales establishment. [10]
The southern approach to the bridge carrying the road and cycle route over the old railway. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The Northern road approach to the old bridge. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
An extract from satellite imagery showing the site of the road bridge with the approximate line of the railway under the bridge marked in red. [Google Maps]
Two images of Grinsdale Bridge – the first was taken just prior to closure of the line, the second was taken in 2003, (c) Brian Irwin. The image directly below was taken from approximately the same location as the image from 2003. [13]
This final view at this location shows the view from the access road to the caravan centre shows the West elevation of the bridge which has been sealed with a brick wall. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
Continuing to the North West the line served another Bone Manure Works, which also had its own private siding and passed under an accommodation bridge. [11]
The alignment of the railway is a little less distinct on modern satellite imagery. I have added the red line to show the route. AS can be seen the site of the Bone Manure Works has developed in size. It is, however, no longer primarily an agricultural establishment.
The building shown from above in the last image. Rattlingate Lane is paved in concrete from the North to the line of the old railway (which runs behind the buildings in this picture. The site is now used by the Scouts as ‘Rattlingate Scout Activity Centre’. [Google Streetview]
The line turns North to pass through Kirkandrews-upon-Eden where there was a railway station with a single platform on the East side of the line. At Kirkandrews, the line crossed Hadrian’s Wall and passed under the road again. [12]
The route can clearly be seen on modern satellite images. [12]
The cutting remains. This picture is taken from the fence bordering the minor rod to the South of Cycle Route 72 and looks towards the Southeast. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
Kirkandrew-upon-Eden Railway station in use in the 1950s, (c) Brian Irwin. [13]
Kirkandrews-upon-Eden Railway Station buildings in private hands in October 2016. [Google Streetview]

Wikipedia tells us that Kirkandrews-upon-Eden railway station “sat close to the village in the cut of the old canal; it had a single platform, and a shelter. … A substantial station building was present. A large seed warehouse was located at the station. In common with other stations on the line, it had its name picked out in sea shells on a raised area opposite the station building.” [14][15]

Continuing on from Kirkandrews the old line curved round to the Northwest. As can be seen on the next extract from the 6″ OS Maps of 1901, there are a couple of things which show that the old railway line followed the Carlisle Canal along most of its length.

Northwest of Kirkandrews Station the railway and the older canal diverge for a short distance. This is one of a few locations along the line to Port Carlisle where the historic route of the canal was in evidence on the ground after the construction of the railway. North of Monkhill was further evidence of the old canal – a lock keeper’s cottage remained alongside the railway where it passed under the lane between Monkhill and Beaumont. [16]
On the modern satellite imagery, the routes of the old railway and the earlier canal are still very much in evidence. [16]
The site of the old lock-keeper’s cottage seen from the Monkhill to Beaumont road. The alignment of both the railway and the canal are represented by the red line. The lock house remains in private hands, extended and refurbished. [Google Streetview – August 2021]
The generally East-West direction of the line continues towards Burgh Head, both canal and railway following the same alignment. At Wormanby the road to Port Carlisle crossed the line again by means of an overbridge – Hallstones Bridge. [17]
On modern satellite imagery the majority of the old line’s route is clear from the alignment of field boundaries and the presence of trees. At Hallstone’s Bridge the road alignment remains as it was when the railway was active, the bridge has gone and the land either side of the road has been regraded. [17]
The location of Hallstone’s Bridge at Wormanby. Remais of the retaining walls supporting the road embankment approaching the bridge can still be seen on the right of this picture. [Google Streetview, October 2016]
The view West from just to the North of Hallstone’s Bridge with the line of the old railway indicated by the red line. The trees on the line sit on a low embankment which has not yet been regraded as of May 2022. [Google Streetview, October 2016]
The railway ran along the South side of Burgh Head and Burgh by Sands, passing under Ludgate Bridge and then through Burgh by Sands Railway Station and then under another two bridges at the West end of Burgh by Sands. [18]
The route of the line is again picked out in red on this modern satellite image. [18]
The location of Ludgate Bridge with the approximate line of the old railway shown in red. [Google Streetview]
Burgh by Sands Station Building in 2022. The picture is taken looking East from Station Road which is an un-adopted highway. The station platform and tracks were to the right of the building. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
Burgh by Sands Railway Station in 1903. The postcard view looks from the Southeast. [18]
Burgh-by-Sands Railway Station looking West along the platform. [48]
This monochrome image looks from the Southwest and shows the Station Buildings to good effect. [18]

Wikipedia tells us that Burgh-by-Sands station “sat close the village, reached by Station Road that branched off the mainstreet; it had a single platform, a shelter and a signal box. … A substantial station building was present, together with a station master’s house.” [19]

Burgh-by-Sands Station. Viewed from beyond the station looking eastward, towards Carlisle. The line and station closed completely on 7/9/64, Note that in this image a short siding is shown at the near end of the station platform, on the North side of the line, serving a loading bay. (c) Ben Brooksbank. Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0 (CC BY-SA 2.0) [19]
These houses on Southfield stand on the line of the old railway to the West of the station building which is behind the camera. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The line of the railway where it passed under Lawrence Lane. Just to the north of the line Lawrence Lane now becomes a private driveway. [Google Maps]
Lawrence Lane looking towards the old line which would have been just round the corner ahead. [My photograph]
The final bridge in Burgh-by-Sands can be seen looking South along the Thurstonfield, Great Orton Road from the Main road through the village. [Google Streetview]
This view is taken from the Southern end of the bridge. The bridge is typical of a number on the route with decorative metal parapets and stone abutments. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
This picture was taken through vegetation from an unmetalled lane on the Southwest side of the old railway line. The bridge has been strengthened by steel column supports at the third-points of the span and longitudinal steel joists. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
A similar view from the Southeast. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
Looking east over the decorative bridge parapet towards Burgh-by-Sands Station. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
Looking West along the old line from the same location. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The train from Carlisle to Silloth leaves Burgh-by-Sands behind J39 64895 in June 1960. (c) Brian Irwin. [13]
This next length of the line takes us from Burgh-by-Sands to Dykesfield and just out onto the Marsh. [20]
The approximate line of the old railway is again marked on the modern satellite image with a red line. Over this length the canal and railway followed the same alignment. The bridge at Dykesfield still remains. [20]
The bridge at Dykesfield (West Green Bridge) from the South. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The bridge at Dykesfield (West Green Bridge) from the North. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The bridge remains acting as a bridge by strengthened in the same way as the bridge at the West end of Burgh. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]

After passing through Dykesfield the railway broke out onto the marshes on the South side of the Solway Firth. A long straight stretch of line carried trains on to Drumburgh. The picture immediately below gives an impression of the lay of the land and shows that the railway was indeed built within the old canal.

A train from Silloth to Carlisle is crossing the Marsh between Drumbergh and Dykesfield. The date and the identity of the photographer are not known. The highway is to the right of the image and the railway can be seen to be within the old canal walls. [18]
The 6″ OS Map shows the railway crossing the marsh running to the North side of the hamlet of Boustead Hill. Our B&B was at Boustead Hill and the proprietor was telling us of the lift bridge which once graced the canal at the point where the access road crossed the canal. Apparently much of the lifting mechanism is still; buried at the site despite the canal having close in the mid-19th century. [21]
The route of the railway line is again marked by the red line on the satellite image. [21]
The line continues on from Boustead Hill towards Drumburgh. [22]
The line is shown, once agin, as a red line on the satellite image. [22]
A view along the marsh road looking West from Boustead Hill. The embankment to the left of the road protected the line of the old canal and later railway from the high tides. High spring tides can cover the road to a depth of up to 3ft, © Copyright M J Richardson and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [24]
Looking East from a point some distance to the West of Boustead Hill. The Solway Firth is off to the left, the embankment protects the line of the railway and canal from the sea, © Copyright Jonathan Thacker and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [25]
Drumburgh Junction is the point at which the Port CarlisleRailway and the later Silloth Railway diverged. Our interest at the moment is in the line to Port Carlisle which was the line as built after the closure of the canal. Drumburgh Junction Station appears at the centre of this extract from the 6″ OS Maps of 1901. [23]
The red line on this satellite image is the line heading for Port Carlisle. The blue line is the later route to Silloth. [23]
Looking West towards Druburgh along the line of the old railway. The Solway Firth can just be glimpsed across the marsh on the top right of the picture, © Copyright Rose and Trev Clough and licensed for reuse under a a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [26]

Wikipedia informs us that Drumburgh Railway Station “was the junction station for the Port Carlisle Railway branch and the Silloth branch, serving both as a junction and transfer station and also serving the small village of Drumburgh. The station closed on 4 July 1955; nothing now remains of the station. The line to Silloth closed on 7 September 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts. Port Carlisle was two and a half miles away by train and Glasson was one and a quarter miles away. The journey time was nine minutes, although Glasson was a request stop.” [27][28] The service to Port Carlisle was horse-powered.

Two photographs taken at Drumburgh. The first shows the island platform with waiting shelter and the signal box. The second looks from the platform towards the junction. Trains to Port Carlisle took the right-hand line, (c) Brian Irwin. [13]
The route to Port Carlisle turned away to the North from Drumburgh Station and then West again, passing under the road to Port Carlisle. [29]
The route of the line is again marked in red on the satellite image. The bridge which was shown on the top left of the OS Map extract immediately above was not retained when the line was dismantled. The revise road alignment can be seen at the top left of this image. [29]
Looking East along the route of the old canal and later railway from the location of the bridge on the Port Carlisle road mentioned above. [Google Streetview]
To the Wst of the road the route of the old railway is hidden in the trees shown here. [Google Streetview]
Glasson was the only station between Drumburgh and Port Carlisle. [30]
While the bridge at the bottom left of this image was removed, the one adjacent to what was Glasson Station remains into the early 21st century. [30]
Glasson Station was just to the right of this photograph. The bridge carrying the lane into the village remains, although the aperture height is much reduced. The same support arrangements as at other bridges on the line have been used at this location. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The lane into Glasson village viewed from the Northeast. [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
One final picture at this location gives a reminder that the railway was built on the line of the old Carlisle Canal [My photograph, 14th May 2022]
The line gradually drifted closer to the tide line as it approached Port Carlisle. It is shown passing under the road close to the shore in the top left of this map extract. [31]
The route of the old railway is clearly visible on this satellite image. The bridge which took the road over the railway was removed and the road was realigned. [31]
On this Google Maps image the trees have grown to smother the line of the old railway, the road junction has been realigned and the Hadrian’s Wall Path takes close order with the line of the old railway and canal. [Google Maps]
The approach to Port Carlisle. [32]
The approach to Port Carlisle as it appears today on satellite images. [32]
Port Carlisle as it appears on the 6″ OS Map of 1901. [33]
Port Carlisle in the 21st century. Schematically, the railway is shown in red. [33]
Photograph of the signboard at the Port of Carlisle which gives more detail of the extent to the railways at the site in the early years before Silloth opened as a port.
Wikemedia Commons comments: “This map of Port Carlisle after 1854 shows the filling in of the Carlisle Canal and the arrival of the railway, which was built along the canal bed. Some port trade was continued using the offshore jetty, but used the railway.” [41]
The remains of Port Carlisle station in 2010. The photographer comments: “The railway opened in 1853 and closed in 1932. Passengers were first carried in 1854 and it wasn’t until 1914 that regular steam powered trains were introduced. Prior to that time what was in effect a rail mounted stage-coach was hauled by a horse.” © Copyright Jonathan Thacker and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [42]
Google Maps shows the platform edge of the Port Carlisle Railway Station in 2021. The station building is long gone.

Griffiths and Hooper tell us that Port Carlisle had two locomotive sheds: “Firstly, a 32ft x 14ft one-road dead-end building, in brick with a tiled, pitched roof and having a central smoke vent, was erected to the east of Port Carlisle station. It stood at right angles to the station and could only be entered via 24ft turntable accessed by an approach spur; a water tank stood near the depot but it is not known what facilities were available for coal.” [45]

Once the steam-hauled service was replaced by the horde-drawn Dandy it seems as though “the engine shed remained in situ – assumedly it was utilised for stabling the horses and possibly also to shelter the small tramcars, but that needs confirmation.” [45]

A steam hauled service was reinstated on “6th April 1914 when an inaugural passenger train was run from Port Carlisle to the city of Carlisle … behind a North British Railway Drummond ‘165’ class 0-6-0T, No. 22, that engine having been taken off its previous regular duty on the Langholm branch to run the passenger service from Port Carlisle. However, less than three years after the upgrade of Port Carlisle passenger services World War I brought an economy measure whereby the branch closed to all traffic
from 1 January 1917 and until reopened from 1 February 1919.” [45]

Griffiths and Hooper believe that the second engine shed we built not long after 1914, when a locomotive-hauled service was reinstated “or it may have appeared with the post-war reopening. It was a single road through building in wood on dwarf brick walls and with a pitched tiled roof, scaling 34ft x 16ft. It was positioned over the approach spur south of the turntable, which then, or earlier, had been reduced in size to 16ft diameter. Being of such modest dimensions it was realistically of little use anyway so it probably did not matter that engines had to pass through the shed to access the ‘table.” [45]

The 25″ OS Map series from the turn of the 20th century shows the first engine shed on a spur off to the side of the mainlines and accessed only via a small turntable. [46]
The 1925 edition of the 25″ OS Maps show the replacement engine shed. [47]
Port Carlisle’s second engine shed. This view looks back down the branch towards Carlisle and was taken after the closure of the line. The platform face of the station is visible on the right of this image. [45]


  1., accessed on 14th May 2022.
  2., accessed on 14th May 2022.
  3. Charles Hadfield, Gordon Biddle; The Canals of North West England, Vol 2 (pp.241-496); David and Charles, Devon, 1970.
  4. Sir Alec Skempton, et al.; A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: Vol 1: 1500 to 1830; Thomas Telford, London, 2002.
  5., 14th May 2022.
  6., accessed on 14th May 2022.
  7., accessed on 16th May 2022.
  8., accessed on 16th May 2022.
  9., accessed on 16th May 2022.
  10., accessed on 16th May 2022.
  11., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  12., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  13., accessed on 17th May 2022. {NB: this site is still live but closed in 2012 and I was unable to find a way of contacting the site owner to seek permission to use these images]
  14., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  15. Stephen White; Solway Steam. The Story of the Silloth and Port Carlisle Railways 1854-1964; Carel Press, Carlisle, 1984.
  16., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  17., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  18., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  19., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  20., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  21., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  22., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  23., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  24., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  25., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  26., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  27., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  28., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  29., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  30., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  31., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  32., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  33., accessed on 17th May 2022.
  34., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  35., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  36., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  37., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  38. C.H. Ellis; The North British Railway. Ian Allan, ………………….. 1955.
  39. David Joy; A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: The Lake Counties. David & Charles, Newton Abbott, Devon, 1983.
  40. P.W. Robinson; Cumbria’s Lost Railways, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine, 2002
  41., accessed on 15th May 2022.
  42., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  43., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  44., accessed on 18th May 2022.
  45. Roger Griffiths and John Hooper; Carlisle’s LNER Engine Sheds: West; in Steam Days, January 2021, Andrew Kennedy Ed.; Mortons Media Group Ltd;, accessed on 19th May 2022.
  46., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  47., accessed on 19th May 2022.
  48., accessed on 19th May 2022.

Bailey’s Tramroad Part 1, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal and an Introduction to the Heads of the Valley Line …. or more succinctly – A Short Walk at Govilon!

Bailey’s Tramroad and the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal by Michael Blackmore. This sketch is included on the information sign at Govilon Railway Station which is now disused and lives on in an extended and altered form as a private dwelling. The drawing shows the Tramroad bridge over the canal which led to the Wharf. Notice the plateway itself which is formed of L-shaped cast iron plates resting on stone blocks. (Extracted from my photograph of the information board taken on 25th April 2022)

It was actually quite a short walk, I only had just over an hour spare in a trip to Abergavenny. I took the opportunity to have a look at the Wharf at Govilon and the first few hundred yards of Bailey’s Tramroad.

The location plan on the information board at Govilon Railway Station. Note the red dotted line which shows the route of Bailey’s Tramroad; the location of Bailey’s Wharf and Govilon Wharf at the right side of the image; the route of the canal shown in blue; and the route of the railway in cream on the right half of the map and in green as part of one of the village trails.
A closer view of the map. The bridge which carried Bailey’s Tramroad over the Canal is marked ‘A’; the Railway Station site is marked ‘B’, ‘C’ and  ‘D’. The route followed left this location in an Northeastward direction (cream), crossed the railway bridge over the canal and followed the line of the railway on the North side of the sailing club wharf. I then crossed the tramway bridge and wandered a short distance along the canal towpath to view the wharf building to the southeast of the road. To complete the walk I followed School Lane back to the Railway Station.

Bailey’s Tramroad from the Nantyglo Ironworks to the Canal at Govilon opened in 1821. Michael Blackmore’s illustration depicts the tramroad as it crosses the canal to enter Govilon Wharf. Here iron, coal and limestone were taken from the horse-drawn trams onto narrowboats bound for Newport and the wider world.

My first port-of-call was Govilon Railway Station and the information board which includes the sketch above. Govilon railway station was a station on the London and North Western Railway’s (LNWR’s) Heads of the Valleys line. After the grouping in 1923 it became part of the LMS.

After a quick look at the station site I walked down the railway line to the point where it crossed the canal, then along the back of the site of Bailey’s Wharf.  Walking over the canal bridge which is sketched by Blackmore I was the able to spend a short time at Llanvihangel (Govilon) Wharf before walking along the first few hundred yards of what was Bailey’s Tramroad.

Tramroads at Govilon

The Govilon History website tells us that “A network of tramroads were developed in the Govilon area. One of the earliest was the Blorenge Quarries Tramroad built as a plateway around 1795. Due to geological problems the Blorenge Limestone Quarry soon closed and the tramroad fell out of use by 1804.” [1]

The Blorenge Quarries Tramroad was the precursor to three other tramways which were established in the first quarter of the 19th century. Bailey’s Tramroad was one of these.

“In October 1820, Crawshay Bailey applied to the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal Company for the construction of “…a railway from the canal at Llanwenarth to our iron furnaces at Nantyglo”. It took just 7 months to build the twin track tramway. Much of the route into Govilon is still plainly visible with School Lane following the original route. Despite the mountainous route from Nantyglo the tramway managed to keep to a shallow gradient throughout its length. Siop Newydd, just outside the village, was a smithy serving the tramroad. At its peak up to 14 blacksmiths were employed for repairs and maintenance. This included shoeing horses used to pull the trams. The path of the tramway is clearly recognisable here, along with the many sidings to accommodate trams.” [1]

Other highly significant tramways in the area included:

  • The Llanvihangel Tramroad which initially ran from Llanfoist to Llanvihangel Crucorney. In 1818 it was extended to Govilon wharf and to Grosmont. Ultimately, this tramroad extended all the way to Hereford.
  • The Blaenavon Ironworks Tramroad ran from Pwlldu to the Ironworks. It was completed in around 1815. Worthy of note is a 1.5 mile tunnel as part of the length of the Tramroad connecting Blaenavon with Pwlldu.

Bailey’s Tramroad

Bailey’s Tramroad was of 4′ 4″ gauge, or thereabouts. [2] Later in this article is a description of my walk back along the route of the old Tramroad.

The Heads of the Valley Line and Govilon Railway Station.

The Wikipedia article about Govilon Railway Station [3] tells us that “the first section of the Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway (MTAR) from Abergavenny to Brynmawr was opened on 29 September 1862. [4: p18] The line was leased and operated by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) which acquired the smaller railway company on 30 June 1866. [5: p93][6: p63] The LNWR was itself amalgamated into the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) Railway in the 1923 Grouping.” [5: p88-89]

Three pictures of Govilon Railway Station. The larger image shows it as it appeared in 2010, © Wikipedia. [3] The lower lefthand image is a picture of the site in 1987, © Blaenavon Railway Shop [18]. The last of these images is a picture of the station staff in the mid-1950s before the closure of the station. © John Bartlett [19]
Govilon Railway Station in April 2022. (My photographs)
Govilon Railway Station: A black and white postcard showing general view of Govilon Station taken in 1958. Rokeby Collection Album VII Part 1 , 19a. This image has been downloaded from The People’s Collection Wales under their Creative Archive Licence. [14]
Govilon Railway Station: A view in April 2022 from approximately the same place as the picture above. (My photograph)

Govilon Railway Station opened on 1 October 1862, [7: p191][8: p107] a couple of days after the ceremonial opening of the first section of the railway. It was the first station beyond Abergavenny Brecon Road. [9] The 1st October was also the first day of the LNWR’s lease of the line. [10: p112] There is a possibility that Govilon was the first station opened on the line because of its proximity to Llanfoist House, the residence of Crawshay Bailey who by this time was a director of the MTAR. [2: p20]

Wikipedia notes that “Decline in local industry and the costs of working the line between Abergavenny and Merthyr led to the cessation of passenger services on 4th January 1958. [4: p139][6: p68] The last public service over the line was a Stephenson Locomotive Society railtour on 5th  January 1958 hauled by LNWR 0-8-0 No. 49121 and LNWR Coal Tank No. 58926. [4: p139][11: fig. 65] Official closure came on 6 January.” [3][7: p184][12: p55][8: p107][13: p191]

Govilon Railway Station was “situated on a steep 9-mile (14 km) climb from Abergavenny at gradients as severe as 1 in 34. [6: p68][13: p164] A gradient post showing 1 in 80 /1 in 34 was installed on one of the station platforms.” [3][4: p116]

This gradient marker is present on the wall of the old station building. It does not quite match the gradient marker which was originally present. The original gradient marker highlighted a change in gradient from 1 in 80 to 1 in 34. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)

The low stone-built station building was on the Up platform There was a station house behind it. [4: p116][11: fig. 41]. A single siding separated the station building from the station house. It “served a small goods yard until after the First World War” [3][11: fig. 41]  Wildon Ironworks was on the opposite side of the main platforms and was served by a siding from 1885 to 1941.[11: fig. VIII]

The Wikipedia article continues: “to the west was a small goods shed and road bridge. [11: fig. 42] A third siding was situated 400 yards (370 m) to the east which led to a wharf on the Monmouth and Brecon Canal until 1953. [11: fig. VII] No. 1 signal box was opened in 1911 near the canal wharf and lasted until c. 1930. [12: fig. 36] No. 2 box was erected at the east end of the Down platform in 1877; it controlled the road crossing to the east of the station.” [11: fig. 38][3]

The Walk from Govilon Railway Station to Bailey’s Wharf

The next few pictures were taken on the short walk from the railway station to the wharf.

The view facing Abergavenny from Derwen Deg, the road which crossed the old line at the station throat. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
Looking west towards Govilon Railway Station and the footpath gate at Derwen Deg. (My picture, 25th April 2022]
Looking towards the Canal Bridge and Abergavenny (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
Looking West along the Canal from the old railway bridge. (My picture, 25th April 2022)
Looking East from the old railway bridge towards Bailey’s Wharf and Abergavenny. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
Looking back across the location of the railway bridge over the Canal to the West and the path leading back to Govilon Railway Station. (My picture, 25th April 2022)
Looking towards Bailey’s Wharf from close to the bridge over the Canal. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
Looking towards Abergavenny along Bailey’s Wharf from the old railway. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
A photograph from the same location as that immediately above, looking back towards Govilon Railway Station. The stone building on the left of the image is Bailey’s Warehouse. (My picture, 25th April 2022)
The railway continued beyond the Wharf heading for Abergavenny. (My picture, 25th April 2022)
Govilon Boat Club now occupies the site of Bailey’s Wharf. The gate sits on the approximate line of Bailey’s Tramroad as it entered the site. Its route from the canal bridge is behind the camera. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)

Llanvihangel Wharf

We have already noted that the Llanvihangel Railway was an early horse-drawn railway line. It operated over a 6.25 mile route between the Canal at Govilon and Llanvihangel Crucorney from 1814 until 1846.

Along with two other tramways it created a line that reached all the way to Hereford. In 1846 all three Tramroads were sold in 1846 to the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway Company. The Llanvihangel Railway fetched a price of £21,750 (equivalent to close to  £2.2 million in 2022). [15][16] The company replaced them with a standard-gauge steam railway.[15][17]

The Llanvihangel Tramroad Wharf was to the East of the road bridge at the East end of Bailey’s Wharf. A short walk from the Heads of the Valley Line, along an access road allows one to each the back of Wharf House immediately to the East of the road bridge.

Looking Southwest along Blaenavon Road towards the bridge over the Canal showing the rear of Wharf House. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
Looking Northeast along Blaenavon Road from the bridge over the Canal also showing the rear of Wharf House. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
The Southeast face of Wharf House in April 2022. The picture was taken from the far side of the Canal. (My photograph)
A view from behind the information board on the Canal towpath which shows a sketch of Wharf House as it is understood it looked in the 19th century, (Michael Blackmore) and the present condition of the building. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)
A second sketch of the wharf yard (Michael Blackmore). It is also included on the information board on the Canal towpath.
(My photograph, 25th April 2022)
Looking East along the Canal. (My photograph)
Looking West along the Canal from beneath the road bridge. (My photograph)
A view of Bailey’s Wharf from the towpath on the opposite side of the Canal.
(My picture, 25th April 2022)

Bailey’s Tramroad, the first few hundred metres. …

Leaving the site of Bailey’s Wharf, which we have already seen is now occupied by Govilon Boat Club, the double track Tramroad travelled a very short distance to the East before crossing the Canal at a shared road/tramroad bridge. The modern road name is Blaenavon Road.

The view West from the Canal Bridge along Blaenavon Road. (My picture, 25th April 2022)
An OpenStreetMap extract which shows the Blaenavon Road (B4246) and the length of School Lane which lies on the route of Bailey’s Tramroad. [20]

The route of the Tramroad leaves Blaenavon Road as turns sharply to the East. It runs along School Lane back towards Govilon Railway Station.

School Lane, looking West from Blaenavon Road. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)

A sequence of photographs follows, taken on 25th April and showing the Tramroad route along School Lane, Govilon. ….

This last shot in the sequence taken along School Lane shows the route of the Tramroad further to the West. The Tramroad continued along the line of the narrow lane to the left of this photograph. (My pictures, 25th April 2022)

I hope to be able to follow further lengths of the Tramroad in future visits to Abergavenny.

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

To complete this perambulation in Govilon, I visited the Canal bridge on Station Road in Govilon – Bridge 96 on the OpenStreetMap extract below. …

Two pictures at Bridge 96 on the Monmouth and Brecon Canal. (My photograph, 25th April 2022)

“The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is a small network of canals … For most of its currently (2018) navigable 35-mile (56 km) length it runs through the Brecon Beacon National Park, and its present rural character and tranquillity belies its original purpose as an industrial corridor for coal and iron, which were brought to the canal by a network of tramways and/or railroads, many of which were built and owned by the canal company.” [21]

To conclude …

Govilon provides a relatively unique interchange between canal, tramroad and railway with the routes of each running parallel to each other to the West of the village. Each route would provide a pleasant walk. The village of Govilon brings all three together in what is a very easy and accessible amble.


  1., accessed on 25th April 2022.
  2., accessed on 25th April 2022.
  3., accessed on 26th April 2022.
  4. W.W. Tasker; The Merthyr, Tredegar & Abergavenny Railway and branches; Oxford Publishing Co., Poole, 1986.
  5. Christopher Awdry; Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies; Patrick Stephens Ltd., Sparkford, 1990.
  6. Mike Hall; Lost Railways of South Wales; Countryside Books, Newbury, 2009.
  7. Michael Quick; Railway passenger stations in Great Britain: a chronology (4th ed.); Railway & Canal Historical Society, Oxford, 2009.
  8. R.V.J. Butt; The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.); Patrick Stephens Ltd., Sparkford, 1995.
  9., accessed on 26th April 2022.
  10. M.C. Reed; The London & North Western Railway; Atlantic Transport, Penryn, 1996.
  11. David Edge, David (September 2002). Abergavenny to Merthyr including the Ebbw Vale Branch. Country Railway Routes; Middleton Press., Midhurst, 2002.
  12. C.R. Clinker; Clinker’s Register of Closed Passenger Stations and Goods Depots in England, Scotland and Wales 1830–1980 (2nd ed.); Avon-Anglia Publications & Services, Bristol, 1988.
  13. James Page; Rails in the Valleys. London: Guild Publishing, London, 1989.
  14., accessed on 26th April 2022.
  15., accessed on 26th April 2022.
  16. UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). “The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)”. Measuring Worth, accessed on 2nd December 2021.
  17. Helen J Simpson; The Day the Trains Came: the Herefordshire Railways; Gracewing Publishing, Leominster, 1997.
  18. This picture was a result of a Google search on 26th April 2022 ( it does not however feature on the Facebook page of The Railway Shop, Blaenavon, to which the photograph is linked.
  19. John Bartlett’s father, Cyril, was Station Master in the period before the closure of Govilon Railway Station. This picture was shared by John Bartlett on the Facebook group ‘Govilon and Gilwern Past’, accessed on 26th April 2022.
  20., accessed on 26th April 2022.
  21., accessed on 26th April 2022.

Ancient Tramroads near Telford – Part 2 – The Coalbrookdale Company Tramroads shown on the 1882/83 6″ OS Maps (published in 1887) and later surveys.

I came across a first reference to a Tramroad in Coalbrookdale in a book by Barrie Trinder published in association with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in 1977. Trinder collated a series of references to Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale from ancient texts in his book entitled “The Most Extraordinary District in the World.” [1]

Trinder provides an extract from a book written in German by C. von Oeynhausen and H. von Dechen entitled “Railways in England 1826 and 1827” translated by E.A. Forward. [2] in which Oeynhausen and Dechen comment that, “In Coalbrookdale, a cast iron Tramroad runs from the Severn to the lower smelting works of the Dale Company.” [1: p94, 2: p67]

They noted that the Tramroad was a Plateway with rails between 5 and 5ft 6in. in length tied together by cast iron sleepers. Of great interest is their note that, “The tramroads at Coalbrookdale are of two sizes. The smaller one is of 20in. gauge, and the haulage in this is performed with small trucks; it lies in the middle of a larger line of 36in. gauge. Horse haulage is used thereon. It perhaps merits remark that the smallest gauge for horse use employed anywhere is to be found in this district, as on some lines the gauge is only 18 inches …” [1: p94, 2: p67]

The authors go on to note that at Horsehay Ironworks, part of the Dale Company’s holding, there were “tipping wagons with sheet iron bodies on wooden frames, very suitable for the transport of blast furnace slag. The wheels on these wagons [were] from 14 to 18in. diameter, and [had] wider wheel rims than … employed elsewhere in England, and especially in South Wales, namely [1.25 to 1.5]in.” [1: p94,96, 2: p67]

They recorded that the plateway was laid with the vertical flange on the inner side.

Plate 47 in Trinder’s book provides a photograph of a dual-gauge plateway which was uncovered adjacent to Rose Cottage, Coalbrookdale in 1971. [1: p95]

Other references to the Tramroad include its inclusion in the Historic England register; the History Workshop Online.

Historic England Monument No. 72035 Grid Reference: SJ6682404251

Summary: Iron tramroad 1767 (course of)

More information: The first iron tramroad existed at the Coalbrookdale Works.

The Tramroad within the Coalbrookdale works is recorded by Historic England as the first ever iron tramroad. Their record states:

“It being found that the wooden rails of the tramroad of one mile length, laid in 1757, along which coal and iron were conveyed from one part of the works to another as well as to the landing places along the river Severn, soon became decayed or broken, after experiments, the rails were replaced in 1767 by rails of cast iron.” [3]

“A specimen length of rail and a wagon are preserved within the open-air museum at the Coalbrookdale Works at SJ 66780485. The
tramroad terminus together with the quay and offices are at present being restored on the N bank of the river Severn, at SJ 66780363,
by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.” [3]

“A paving of mortared bricks, with grooves which formerly held planking to which the iron rails were attached, has been uncovered and renovated. The quay, of large stone blocks, has been cleared of silt and the dock offices and a tram shed, housed in a castellated ‘Gothick’ style building of red and yellow brick, are undergoing
restoration at the present time.” [3]

These notes are a little out of date now. Much of the work referred to has been completed. A visitor centre is accommodated in the tramroad goods shed on the Wharf and some of the tramroad sidings at the Wharf have been renovated. The pictures below give an impression of what the Wharf area is like in 2022. …

Coalbrookdale Wharf in April 2022. (My photograph)
Tramway tracks alongside the Goods Shed at Coalbrookdale Wharf. (My photograph)
The Goods Shed on the wharf at Coalbrookdale. (My photograph)

History Workshop Online (HWO)

HWO comments as follows: “In 1757 Richard Reynolds, son-in-law of Abraham Darby II, took over managing the Coalbrookdale Works and, in 1767, introduced metal rails for transporting coal and iron around the works and down to the river, as wooden rails were easily damaged and costly to repair. This was the first time metal rails had been used anywhere, inspiring tramways to follow suite, and the original metal tram rails can still be seen at the Wharfage in Ironbridge.” [4]

From a short length of Tramroad linking the Coalbrookdale works to the River Severn a larger network of tramroads developed. It is important not to confuse this network centred on Coalbrookdale with the Lilleshall Company’s network which met the Severn at Sutton Wharf, East of Coalport. The Lilleshall plateway was very short-lived. It was operational by 1799 and closed in favour of the use of the Canals in 1815/16. [5: p35] That network is covered in Part 3 of this short series of articles.

The tramroad in Coalbrookdale met the River Severn at the the bottom of the valley.

An extract from the 25′ OS Map series of 1883 is shown below. The tramroad wharf appears still to be in use at that time. A transhipment/goods shed is shown on the land just above the River Severn. A sawmill is shown at the bottom of Coalbrookdale below Lower Forge Pool. Interestingly, the Tramroad is shown crossing the road at two locations the line to the wharf was at a very shallow angle.

The extract from the 25″ OS Map series dated 1902 is shown below. At this time there was a foundry at the water’s edge and the tramroad terminated on a high level above the river. The goods shed shown on the map extract above still exists but is just off the view to the east. The sawmill above has been replaced by the Severn Foundry.

The extract from the 25″ OS Map series dated 1927 no longer shows the tramroad within the site of the Severn Foundry, although it still seems to be present within the road surface!

The NLS provides the 25″ OS Maps as an overlay to satellites images from the 21st century. The same area is shown below in an extract from those images. As can be seen the large warehouse to the bottom left of the above extract remains and is in use as the Museum of the Gorge.

Wikipedia notes: “The Museum of the Gorge, originally the Severn Warehouse, is one of the ten museums of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. It portrays the history of the Ironbridge Gorge and the surrounding area of Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, England.”

The Foundry complex also remains, although somewhat altered, and is in part a CO-OP supermarket.

The mouth of Coalbrookdale and the Wharfage in the first quarter of the 21st century.
Looking Southeast along the Wharfage from a point just outside the old Severn Foundry. The red line approximates to the route of the tramway down to the wharfs on the River Severn.

A little further north from the Severn, north of the Lower Forge Pool, the Tramroad can be made out running parallel to the GWR Coalbrookdale branch but in the valley floor between the road and the stream. The GWR station can be see in the top left of the extract which is from the 1883 25″ OS Map.

Further North the tramway/tramroad continues to follow the road verge, as below, until it crosses leaves the road adjacent to Upper Forge Pool. …

Standard gauge sidings began to dominate the area immediately around the next length of the tramway/tramroad route as can be seen below. The standard gauge tracks originate from the GWR line adjacent to the Upper Forge Pool and are at a higher level than the tramroad. The tramroad mainline ran north-northeast on the west side of the public road. A branch entered the Iron Works site before giving access to the raised area north of the Pool and also under the standard gauge line to the works buildings.

Sadly, north of the top of the extract below the 1st Edition OS 25″ series is not available on the NLS site.

There was a significant network of tramroad tracks within the curtilage of the Coalbrookdale Iron Works. The site was constrained by the narrow valley and was, at its southern end, predominantly sited between the public road and the GWR line. Various sidings served the works in the valley floor, but the main line of the tramway passed under the GWR line at about the same northing as the Commercial Hotel to the east of the road.

These two images show the buildings on the north side of Coach Road. Tramroad tracks used to run through the gates visible in the lower of the two pictures. The mainline turned to the left along Coach Road. Other tracks ran across Coach Road and between the two buildings opposite the gates. (My photographs)

The Tramroad mainline left the gates in the photograph above and passed under the GWR line on what is now named Coach Road. The tramway/tramroad then ran immediately adjacent to that railway line on its West side, along the present Darby Road, for a short distance before crossing back under the GWR line adjacent to the Upper Furnace Pool and then following the South side of Darby Road, crossing the School Road, Wellington Road, Jiggers Lane, Darby Road junction on the level and then heading East along School Road.

The Coalbrookdale Company’s Ironworks buildings have been given a significant new lease of life by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. The building to the South of Coach Road is now ‘Enginuity’ and that to the North of Coach Road is the ‘Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron’. ……

The Coalbrookdale Iron Works in the first quarter of the 21st century. (Google Earth)

The route of the old tramway appears in the pictures below: first Coach Road, under the railway viaduct; then looking North on Darby Road; and then East along Darby Road from under the railway bridge next to Upper Furnace Pool. …

Coach Road looking West under the GWR Viaduct. The tramway ran under the bridge and turned sharply to the right onto Darby Road (Google Streetview)
Darby Road looking North. (Google Streetview)
Looking East on Darby Road. The Upper Furnace Pool is marked by the reedbeds to the left of the photograph. The tramway continued across the road junction ahead and followed the route of School Road travelling East. (Google Streetview)

The tramroad/tramway continued East on School Road as shown on the 1901 25″ OS Map Extracts below. It then ran on its own formation parallel to the GWR branch-line. The three OS Map Extracts below show the tramway in place just after the turn of the century. Google Maps shows its route in 2022 as a green-dashed line as can be seen further below.

Google Streetview shows the tramway formation in use as a footpath. The building in the centre of the picture is the old school. (Google Streetview, 2011)
Google Maps extract which shows the tramroad alignment as a green-dashed line, as over this length in the early 20th century, the tramroad formation is still in use as a footpath.
The same area on satellite imagery from Google Earth. Google Maps helpfully shows the tramroad alignment as a faint dotted line. (Google Maps)
Looking west along the route of the tramway from a point east of New Pool (c) Gordon Zola (Google Streetview, 2020)
From the same point a view to the East. (c) Gordon Zola (Google Streetview)
The formations of the railway and tramroad run parallel for a few hundred yards before the tramroad crossed under the railway. The modern public right of way remains on the South side of the railway embankment.

Immediately to the North of the railway line there were a series of Brick & Tile Works which were all served by the tramway. A significant network of lines were in place at the time of the surveying for the 1901 OS Map. The next image is of another extract from the OS mapping of 1901. The scale has been reduced to allow the whole immediate area on the north side of the railway to be seen at a glance.

The tramway can be seen crossing under the GWR railway line at the bottom-centre of the extract. Lightmoor Brick & Tile Works were to the East of this point on the map and were encountered first. A trailing branch tramway ran back parallel to the railway line but this time on the north side of the line to provide access to Cherrytree Hill Brick & Tile Works. Just to the East of those works a loop line left east-west line of the tramway turning to the north. The east-west line ran just beyond the Cherrytree Hill Works before turning through 180 degrees and returning west-east. The two lines rejoined and continues eastwards to serve Shutfield Brick and Tile Works before then looping back to meet the original tramway mainline just to the east of the Lightmoor Brick & Tile Works.
Google Earth shows approximately the same area in 2021. The A4169 now bisects the area which once was taken up by the different brick and tile works. The road curving in from the bottom left of this image is Cherrytree Hill. Cherrytree Hill Works were approximately in the grass area between the a4169 and Cherrytree Hill. A railway line still exists in this image on the alignment of the double track line on the OS map extract above. The location of the Lightmoor Brick and Tile Works is probably directly under the line of the A4169.

The next three map extracts focus on the three brick & tile works mentioned above.

The Lightmoor Brick & Tile Works. Note the complex arrangement of tramway/tramroad tracks and the transshipment facilities close to the Lightmoor Junction on the standard-gauge line!
The Cherrytree Hill Brick & Tile Works. Note the two loops of the tramway, one each side of the Works.
The Shutfield Brick and Tile Works. The tramway track leaving the map extract to the top-left was a short section which in 1901 led only a few yards further north. Two lines leave the map extract at the top-right. The lower of these was the link back to the mainline to the east of the Lightmoor Brick & Tile Works. The other led north, just to the east of a new Methodist Chapel, towards the Lightmoor Colliery.
Lightmoor colliery – by 1901, the date of this map extract, the colliery was no longer in use.

We return to the course of the old tramway mainline. Immediately east of the Lightmoor Brick and Tile Works was the site of the Lightmoor Iron Works which, by the turn of the 20th century, were disused and substantially demolished. After passing though the site of the Iron Works the tramway passed under the standard-gauge line once again.

The site of Lightmoor Iron Works with the tramway passing under the GWR line at the top-right of the map extract.

It is worth pausing at this point in our journey to find out a little more about the Works served by the tramway over the last half-mile or so. …….

Shutfield Brick & Tile Works

The information about the Shutfield site is distilled from the Discovering Shropshire’s History website. [6]

The Works at Shutfield have been given the Historic England Register No. 03871. The Works started out as a Brickworks and was producing bricks from, at least, 1825 until the late 19th century. It commenced making tiles in the mid-19th century and focussed on producing tiles from 1894 onwards. It continued to produce tiles until after the Second World War.

Two categories of tiles were produced, roofing tiles and floor tiles. These were branded with the “Lightmoor Broseley” stamp. The kiln at Shutfield Tileries was an intermittent down draught kiln with drying sheds. . . .Water leaking into the kiln from a stagnant mere less than 15 metres to the west was enough to mean its inevitable closure in 1951.

Cherrytree Brick & Tile Works

The information about the Cherrytree site is distilled from the Discovering Shropshire’s History website. [7]

The Cherry Tree Hill brick and tile works was first recorded in 1761. It closed in the early 20th century. The Works have been given the Historic England Register No. 03872.

The works were the first industry in Lightmoor producing clay products. The produce of the works was basic wares for basic uses. Perforated flooring squares, quarry tiles and roofing tiles were produced on a small scale for general industrial and local use. Bricks and firebricks were also produced both pressed in later times and handmade in the earlier phase of the work’s existence. Originally called Cherry Tree Hill Brickworks, it must have expanded into tile production between 1840 and 1880, when it was titled Cherry Tree Brick and Tile Works. No trace of the kilns in use at the works have survived, although a down-draught intermittent kiln is likely.

Lightmoor Brick & Tile Works

The information about the Lightmoor Brick & Tile Works is distilled from the Discovering Shropshire’s History website. [8]

Lightmoor Brickworks was first mentioned in 1779, when it was owned by John Davies. . . .Its initial base of production was bricks, made by the semi-dry process. This was followed by other basic wares of the early 19th century including flooring bricks, draining pipes, chimney pots, and lightweight roofing tiles.

During the 1860s the diversity of products began to escalate. The next decade heralded a phase of moulded decorative terracotta. . . Which continued until the turn of the century, and the works turned back to brick manufactures. From the 1900s to the closure of the Coalbrookdale Co in 1933, Lightmoor Brickworks supplied them with all the firebrick shapes for their solid fuel appliances. In the fifty years from 1933 to the late 1980s Lightmoor continued to survive on brick manufacture.

Lightmoor Iron Works

The information about the Lightmoor Iron Works is distilled from the Discovering Shropshire’s History website. [9]

Little is known about the the Iron Works, but there were a number of structures (which appear on the 1901 Ordnance Survey extract above) to the east of the location of the furnaces. These were thought to initially be part of the industrial complex of the ironworks, later converted to domestic use.

In 1984 the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Archaeology Unit excavated parts of the Lightmoor Ironworks site in advance of its destruction by the Ironbridge By Pass. Trenches were dug to examine the wall footings of that group of buildings to the east of the furnaces. These buildings had been constructed directly onto coarse pit waste, and stood until recently. The area was badly disturbed after their destruction, which obliterated all traces of floor levels. Nothing was found which would have enabled the different usages thought to have applied to be confirmed.

Lightmoor Colliery

Lightmoor Colliery appears on the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy register as owned by the Coalbrookdale Company and as being active between 1855 and 1885. [10] It should, incidentally, not be confused with the colliery of the same name in the Forest of Dean!

And now continuing to follow the tramway mainline ….

Two further extracts from the 1901 25″ OS Mapping follow. The first shows the tramway providing access to Dawley Parva North of the point where the tramway crossed beneath the standard-gauge line the map extract below shows that the tramway passed to the east of Dawley Parva Colliery. A tailing connection to the tramroad had already been lifted by the time of the survey for this Map series. The colliery was redundant but I was unable to locate any information about it on line. However, the 1880s 6″ series of OS Maps did provide more information.

Two OS Maps – the first is the 25″ series from the turn of the 20th century. The second is the 6″ series from the 1880s.

The remaining length of the Tramway on the 1901 Maps is shown immediately below. It originally would have served Dawley Castle Iron Works and provided for transshipment to the canal arm which extended from the Shropshire Canal at the village of Aqueduct passed Botany Bay Colliery to serve the Castle Iron Works.

These short notes, in italics, about the Shropshire Canal are distilled from the Aqueduct village website. [11]

The canal was built following an act of Parliament of 1788, its function being to link the ironworks and mines in the Oakengates area to the River Severn. The waterway was opened in 1792. It ran southwards from Wrockwardine Wood, via Oakengates, through a tunnel at Stirchley and on to Southall Bank whereupon it split into two branches. The western branch was intended to meet the river at Coalbrookdale but was never built beyond Brierly Hill; it was this branch that crossed the aqueduct.

The eastern branch went via a descending inclined plane of 126 feet at Windmill Farm to the wharf at Tweedale and then on through Madeley to meet the river, using the Hay Inclined Plane and a short canal at Coalport.

Of interest to me, is the point at which in 1901 the Tramway finished, alongside Holy Trinity Church, Dawley. This is one of the churches in the Central Telford Parish. As I write this article in April 2022, my wife is Rector of the parish.

I walked the length of the tramroad from the modern A4169 close to what were Lightmoor Iron Works and the point at which the tramway passed under the GWR standard-gauge line North to Pool Hill on 21st April 2022. I as able to combine this with a walk along part of the GWR standard-gauge route and the tramroad which served Dawley Parva.

First, the mainline from Lightmoor Iron Works to Dawley Castle. ….

This first series of photos show: the view east along the A4169; the view West along the A4169; the view along the alignment of the GWR standard-gauge line at the point where the old tramway crossed under it (there is no bridge at this location in the 21st century; a sequence of seven views as I walked North along the old tramway.
(My pictures)
The first of this next block of photos is the last view of the mainline before reaching the place where the trailing connection serving Dawley Parva met the mainline. The second photograph shows the two lines at their point of meeting, in this image the camera has been turned through 180 degrees, the left-hand path follows the mainline, the right-hand is the route of the line serving Dawley Parva. The first panorama is taken from the North on the access road to the carpark. The two lines meet just off to the right of the picture and the tramroad route then travels across this image from right to left just on the near side of the modern house visible towards the right of the image. The image adjacent to the panorama is taken close to the line of the tramway looking towards Dawley Castle. The ivy cover tree trunks sit over the line of the tramroad. The next sequence of 6 pictures continue to follow the tramroad in a Northeasterly direction towards Castle Pools. This is, incidentally probably the line of the old canal mentioned in the text. The alignment of the old tramroad swings round to the North and crosses various water channels which link the Pools. The final panorama is taken looking back South along the old line.
(My pictures)
Just beyond Castle Pool is this noticeboard. The picture is taken facing South immediately to the North of Castle Pool. I have superimposed the tramway routes in red on the photograph. (My picture)
The tramroad route continues North and then crosses Holly Road close to Holy Trinity Churchyard.
The panorama of the churchyard shows the tramroad route running along its Western boundary (the left of this image). The adjacent two phots show the route of the tramroad. The second is taken at approximately the point at which the 25″ OS Mapping showed the rails terminating. The 6″ series from the 1880s shows the tramroad continuing directly ahead at this point through the estate which has been built over its line. (My pictures)

For the next half mile or so, the old tramway route has been built over by housing and amenities. Its approximate line can be plotted on modern satellite images as below.

Satellite images provided by the National Library of Scotland can be overlaid with older map details which means that the red line shown on this satellite image is reasonably accurate. The pictures which follow endeavour to give a good impression of the alignment in the 21st century. (NLS Satellite image)
These three photographs were taken on 21st April 2022 at the junction of Manor Road and Castle Road, Dawley. The third image looks back along the tramway alignment towards Holy Trinity Church. The church tower can be glimpsed next to the gable end of the house on Castle Road. The other two images look Northwest – the tramway route passed to the right of the house in the first image and then ran along Manor Road in front of the cream-coloured properties in the second image. (My photographs)

The 6″ OS Maps of 1888 show the Castle Iron Works in active use, as shown below. The canal arm was already disused by this date but the Tramway extends north beyond the church.

The next OS Sheet published in 1885 shows a significant network to the North of the church. The first map extract below shows the tramway entering from the right side of the map at a triangle of lines which provided access to Deepfield Colliery.

The tramway passed to the West of Holy Trinity Churchyard and then curved through what is now a housing estate. It alignment crosses Castle Road close to its junction with Manor Road before following Manor Road Northwest. A branch served Deepfield Colliery and followed the line of the modern Deepfield Road. (NLS Satellite imagery)

A very short distance beyond the line to Deepfield Colliery a branch heads north-northeast and then East towards two pits – Paddock Colliery and Portley Colliery – both are shown on the second map extract below. They were close to Dawley Green, and as a result relatively close to our Vicarage, just a few hundred yards further north!

The branch to the Portley and Paddock Collieries is lost under modern housing over the first couple of hundred metres.
The first part of the branch tramway to Portley and Paddock Collieries. (NLS)
The branch-line ran diagonally through the cream houses at the centre of this image. (My photograph)
It passed behind the house with the yellow van and crossed the line of Webb Crescent and then trough the first property on the right with a gable-end facing the road. (My photograph)
Springfield Close – the tramway followed the red line, passing through the end terrace. (My picture)
The line continued towards Dawley along Springfield Close turning to the right approximately at the end of the yellow brick apartments. (My photo.)
Looking back along the tramway route. (My picture)
From the same location, looking towards the two collieries. The Telford Langley School and Sports Centre is now on the site of the two collieries. (My photograph)
Take these three pictures in reverse order and they show the route of the tramway which follows one of the access routes to the school. (My photographs)
These two photos get us as far as we can along the branch tramway route. (My pictures)

Returning to the main line, it continued Northwest. …

The old tramway route crosses the open school playing field towards the one easily identifiable property with the new roof. From there it crosses into a tight knit series of houses emerging on Upper Pool Hill.

After passing through the modern housing, a trailing connection joined the tramway mainline, it served Topyard and Deepfield Collieries. This is highlighted on the satellite image below.

The tramway from Topyard Colliery enters from the bottom-centre of this satellite image, The mainline, from the bottom-right. (NLS)

On the 6″ OS Map extract below the tramway passes between the ‘E‘ and ‘Y‘ of ‘Dawley’. That straight length of tramway is the length now under the modern road, Upper Pool Hill. The map extract below

To the West of Dawley village the line split with one branch heading a short distance west on the South side of Prospect House and over the GWR line to get to the Horsehay Iron Works. Out of a significant complex of lines at the Iron Works, two further branch tramways served the Iron Works needs. One to the North, on the east side of Horsehay Pool, in the 1880s, allowed collieries on Horsehay Common to supply the Works. And one to the South led to a quarry at the head of Horsehay Dingle.

Horsehay as depicted on the 1885 6″ OS Map. Note the tramway entering the extract on the right splitting just south of the brick works and then running over the road bridge crossing the standard-gauge line and then entering the Iron Works site. Out of a cat’s cradle of lines on site, two tramways leave the site, one to the North and one to the South.
This time the works at Horsehay are shown on the 25″ OS Map surveyed in 1901 and published in 1902. No tramways are now visible. The Iron Works is now a Bridge and Roof Works. Tracing the rails through the site back towards the standard-gauge line, it is evident that the works railways are now standard gauge. Many of the tight curves have been removed. No tramway now leaves the site towards Horsehay common to the North. Some evidence of the tramway which headed South can still be seen. There is no longer a tramway accessing the site over the railway bridge.
The same areas in 2022. The area has seen a significant growth in private housing. Telford Steam Railway is now present top-centre of the image and the length of standard-gauge line is now a preservation line. Nonetheless features remain which enable some of the tramway locations to be established as the photos below show.

The pictures that follow were all taken as I walked the route on 20th April 2022 and were all taken from public roads. For convenience, I have marked the tramway route onto the 1902 survey map extracts below, and where modern road alignments are not obvious, I have added these. They cover the length of the tramway from Pool Hill to Horsehay.

This first map equates to a portion of the right side of the 1885 map from around centre-right to about the top quarter point.
This second extract is to a smaller scale as a result of its landscape layout. It shows the tramway turning through roughly 90 degrees to align with Station Road and then to cross the railway b ridge at the Station.
Looking back Southeast along the line of the tramway from Doseley Road South along Upper Pool Hill in 2022.
(My picture)
Looking forward towards Horsehay along the line of the old tramway which is now a public footpath.
(My photograph)
In sequence, five views looking along the tramway formation towards Horsehay. The building in the last of these picture fronts onto Station Road with the tramway alignment running close to its rear elevation, (My pictures)
Looking back from the North side of Station Road along the tramway route. The tramway climbed steeply to meet the highway and then ran along its South side until beyond the railway bridge. (My picture)
Another view back along the tramway alignment, this time taken from the South side of Station Road at the railway bridge. (My photograph)
Looking West from the north side of Station Road which at this point becomes Bridge Road. Note the railway building on the right which is part of the complex belonging to Telford Steam Railway. It is known as the Old Loco Shed and bears a blue plaque which explains its role in the 19th century. (My picture)
The Old Loco Shed Plaque. Note its use as a transshipment point between the plateway (tramway) owned by the Coalbrookdale Company and the GWR standard-gauge line. (My photograph)
The Southwest end of the Old Loco Shed. The tramway mainline passed to the right of this picture.
(My photograph)
Looking to the Southwest beyond the Shed. The main tramway route is shown by the red line. It passed to the back of the wall which can be seen in the centre of the image. The rails imbedded in the tarmac are remnants of the standard-gauge lines which served the Works at Horsehay once the tramway was replaced. (My picture)
The tarmac pathway follows the line of the old tramway. (My photograph)
Looking back to the Northeast towards the Old Loco Shed across the modern road. The pictures is taken from within what were the old Iron Works. (My photograph)
Looking Southwest once again the old tramway mainline turned sharply into the Works at the location of the black gates. Along the last few hundred meters of the line a series of branch tramways fed off to the South into the Iron Works site.

We noted earlier in this article that two tramway branches left the Iron Works site, one to the North, on the east side of Horsehay Pool, at this time, allowed collieries on Horsehay Common to supply the Works. And one to the South led to a quarry at the head of Horsehay Dingle.

In covering these two tramway arms we cover the extent of the tramways on the 1882/83 survey. We do know that prior to this time waggonways/tramways ran further north through Lawley and Ketley and on to Donnington Wood. These lengths of the network are no longer shown on the 1882/83 OS 6″ Maps nor on the later 25″ Map series. A further article will hopefully be forthcoming covering the lengths of the Coalbrookdale tramways not addressed here.

The one to the North left to the East of the Old Loco shed shown above. Pictures of its route are shown below. …

The route to Horsehay Common ran from the East end of the Old Loco Shed which was at the time the transshipment facility giving access to the standard-gauge line of the GWR. The tramway branch ran roughly northwards. Its route is now a single track highway giving access to properties in Spring Village which is now part of a conservation area. (My pictures)

The second of the two branches passed through the Iron Works heading South and left the site at the location shown below. Just two photographs are shown as access onto the Works site was not possible and because, south of Woodhouse Lane, there is a new housing estate in Horsehay Dingle.

The old tramway brach left the Ironworks on the line of the concrete driveway illustrated here. The road in the foreground is Woodhouse Lane. (My photograph)
Taken from Woodhouse Lane this picture shows the approximate alignment of the old tramway branch heading South the the quarry at the head of Horsehay Dingle.

Horsehay Iron Works …

I have seen two suggestions as to how Horsehay gained its name:

  1. It was a staging post and feeding station for the pack horses pulling Ironstone from the canal at Ketley to the Coalbrookdale works. [12]
  2. Its name is Anglo-Saxon for ‘an enclosure for horses’. [13]

Horsehay was nothing more than a farm, until the 1750s when Abraham Darby II built a blast furnace next to what is now known as Horsehay Pool.  The entry on Wikipedia tells that, “The Coalbrookdale Company further developed the area, constructing brickworks and later a pottery in 1838. Coalbrookdale specialised in the smaller and more decorative ironwork pieces, whereas Horsehay produced many larger scale products, including the railway bridge in nearby Shifnal.” [13]

“The furnace at Horsehay came into blast successfully on 5 May 1755.” [13] However, it was not until 1857 that the standard-gauge railway arrived in the area and Horsehay got its own railway station. The Coalbrookdale Company built its own system of tramways/plateways which allowed them to transport goods to and from their main works close to the River Severn and to permit access to markets further afield.

More recently, “A.B. Cranes bought the site … occupied by the ironworks to manufacture some of the largest cranes in Europe until it closed down in 1983. The site has been transformed into both a small factory estate and a housing estate. The houses which were kept for the ironworks employees were clustered around Horsehay Pool in Spring Village, and they are still lived-in today.” [13]

Horsehay works has a history of more than 230 years on the same site!

Horsehay Iron Works as pictured on Dawley Heritage’s website. The GWR standard-gauge line and sidings can be made out on the top left of the image. It is not possible to see any evidence of the tramways which once covered the whole site. (c) Iron Bridge Gorge Museum Trust (generous permission granted to include this image here) [14]

The Heath Hill Area

Returning the the area to the Southeast of Prospect House on the West side of Dawley. The other line, which has been obliterated by modern road construction, ran North to serve two small collieries in the Heath Hill area to the North and Northwest of Dawley village and which is just a few hundred yards from our Vicarage next to St. Leonard’s Church in Malinslee. The collieries can be seen in the OS Map extract below.


  1. Barrie Trinder; The Most Extraordinary District in the World; Phillimore, London and Chichester, 1977.
  2. C. von Oeynhausen and H. von Dechen; Railways in England 1826 and 1827; translated by E.A. Forward, ed. Charles E. Lee, Newcomen Society, 1971, p67, p73-74.
  3., accessed on 15th April 2022.
  4., accessed on 15th April 2022.
  5. Bob Yate; The Railways and Locomotives of the Lilleshall Company; Irwell Press, Clophill, Bedfordshire, 2008.
  6., accessed on 19th April 2022.
  7., accessed on 19th April 2022.
  8., accessed on 19th April 2022.
  9., accessed on 19th April 2022.
  10., accessed on 19th April 2022.
  11., accessed on 19th April 2022.
  12., accessed on 21st April 2022.
  13., accessed on 21st April 2022.
  14., accessed on 21st April 2022.

Other Valuable Reading

David Clarke; The Railways of Telford; Crowood Press, Marlborough, Wiltshire, 2016.

Please check out my review:

Ancient Tramroads near Telford – Part 1 – Tramroads Across the Area

A typical plateway [3]

The area around what is now central Telford, and particularly the Severn Gorge and Coalbrookdale are known as the cradle of the industrial revolution. They are significant because of the major steps forward made in the production of cast and wrought iron.

The geology of the immediate area was a crucial factor in these developments. Limestone, coal bearing strata and iron ore were all easily available in the one, relatively small area. Initially the iron production processes needed charcoal, also readily available in the wooded areas which surrounded the Severn Gorge.

Because of the topography, mining at a relatively small scale was easier than elsewhere as mining could be done by ‘inset’ (horizontal galleries) rather than pits. The proximity of necessary materials meant that transport costs were lower than elsewhere.

At a very early time in the development of the area, relatively primitive railway technology was in use. It is difficult to be sure when a ‘railway’ was first used. Some general guidance on undertaking research, particularly into early forms of railways is made available by the Railway and Canal Historical Society to its members. [12]

Peter King tells us that some very primitive systems were in use in Europe over the centuries but “the earliest railway-like transport system … was the Leitnagel Hund. … Planks were laid along the mine passage with a gap between them, and the truck – hund (German for dog or hound) or truhe (box or chest) – had a guide pin that pointed down between the planks to keep the truck going in the right direction. The word hund could be derived from the Magyar hintó, meaning a carriage. If so, this points to an origin in the mines of Hungary, which at the time included Slovakia and Transylvania. The system was widely used in central Europe in the early sixteenth century, and may go back to the fifteenth or even the fourteenth century.” [1: p20]

The German system was introduced in the UK in Cumbria to ‘Company of Mines Royal’ sites at Caldbeck, Newlands, and Grasmere and also at that company’s mines at Talybont near Aberystwyth. King notes that “Documentary evidence indicates they used ‘small rowle wagons bound with iron’ in copper mines at Caldbeck …The first of these … near … Silver Gill at Caldbeck, where investigation has yielded the remains of some plank rails and possible sleepers.” [1: p20]

Historic England organised a survey of available material on the early tramroads. This was undertaken by David Gwyn and Neil Cossons. They report that, “The first railways in England probably date, at earliest, from the second half of the 16th century and were associated with mines where German-speaking miners were employed. Smith-Grogan 2010 suggests that several Cornish rutways might date back to the 1550s and be associated with Burchard Cranich and Ulrich Frosse. The West-Country mining engineer Sir Bevis Bulmer (1536-1615) was familiar with Agricola’s De Re Metallica (Skempton 2002), and another possible literary conduit is Sebastian Munster’s Cosmographia Universalis, published in German in 1544 and in Latin in 1550. This includes a woodcut of a hund on flanged wooden rails in a mine at Ste Marie/Markirch in Alsace (Lewis 1970, 51).” [5: p20]

Gwyn and Cossons note that excavations in Leicestershire of the Coleorton deep collieries which were active from 1460 to 1600 failed to identify any railway systems. They also assert that, “The first rail system in England for which both documentation and material evidence survives is the hund guide-pin system described in ER4 (Allison, Murphy and Smith 2010) in one of the Caldbeck mines exploited by the Company of Mines Royal financed from Augsburg, which was introduced by Daniel Höchstetter in the 1560s.” [5: p20]

King notes that the Hund guide-pin system “had some characteristics of a railway, but differs from them in that neither wheels nor rails were flanged.” [1: p21]

He continues: “The first railways were English. Their function was to carry coal from the pit (or adit) down to a navigable river (or less often to a highway) to be transported to a distant place.” [1: p21]

In King’s opinion it is likely that the first can be dated to sometime in the late 16th century. He identifies one serving “the mines of James Clifford near Broseley in Shropshire, which has no clear date of construction. As Clifford was mining coal by 1575, the funicular railway, by which coal was let down from mines to trows (barges) operating on the river Severn, is likely to have preceded the others. Nevertheless, William Brooke was working his coal mines in Madeley, on the other side of the Ironbridge Gorge, where similar problems would have arisen, but that is only known because Arnold Bean of Worcester owed Brooke money when he died in 1579.” [1: p21]

Gwyn & Cossons concur with King. They say that “documentation dating from the opening years of the 17th century indicates that wooden railways, ‘waggonways’, were being laid as overland systems, connecting a drift or a shaft-head with navigable water, or occasionally with an interchange yard on a road system.” [5: p22]

Like King, they say that most of what we know of these waggonways “comes from legal disputes, and for this reason it is quite possible that there were other systems of which historians are unaware because they prompted no quarrels.” [5: p22]

They also cite the waggonway which ran from a “colliery at Broseley near the Severn Gorge in Shropshire, on the south side of the river, to a wharf at the Calcutts, slightly downstream of the later Iron Bridge; it was laid in October 1605, was a mile or so long.” [5: p22]

King asserts that there were “a number of mines along the side of the [Severn] gorge in the succeeding period and each apparently had an associated railway. Some mines were pits, but some were ‘insets’ – mines operated through an audit, and in these cases the railway extended underground to the coalface.” [1: p22]

After these short notes, King turns his attention away from the Severn Gorge to other parts of the UK, commenting on pits just to the west of Nottingham (using a form of railway circa. 1605) and Belington in Northumberland (1608). He then focusses on the Newcastle area. Again earliest dates are uncertain but by 1660 wainways were in use with “waggons carrying 15 bolls (about 33cwt); from 1700 19-20 bolls (42-44cwt) and from the 1750s, 24 bolls (53cwt). At Gateshead, Old Trunk Quay was at the end of the Old Wain Trunk Way, operating in the 1629s. In 1633 Thomas Liddell as owner of Ravens worth Colliery still had a wainway leading to a staith at Dunston. … Three other waggonways were built before the Civil War. … By the latter part of the 17th century three different waggonways were made,ball reaching the Tyne at Stella. … Stella was about the highest point to which the Tyne was easily navigable.” [1:p23]

Gwyn & Cossons chronology parallels that put forward by King. They refer to a railway that “had been laid from Strelley pits to a yard at Wollaton in the Nottinghamshire coalfield.”

Gwyn & Cossons write of Huntingdon Beaumont (who owned the Strelley pits) introducing the waggonway to the north-east. “According to the Newcastle historian William Gray, ‘Master Beaumont a Gentleman of great ingenuity… brought with him many rare Engines, not then known in these parts, as… Waggons with one Horse to carry down Coales from the Pitts, to the Staithes, to the River, &c.’ Beaumont’s three railways were on the north-east coast, at Bedlington, laid around 1608, and at Cowpen and Bebside, undated but probably much the same time (Smith 1960, Lewis 1970).” [5: p22]

Gwyn & Cossons go on to say: “Railways in the north-east developed into systems of extraordinary density with a complex history, reflecting intense regional rivalries and the profits that could be made from supplying London with coal. Even so, it was not until 1621 that the first recorded waggonway was built to the Tyne and it was not until the Restoration of 1660 that they became common. In the meantime, wain-roads remained a more cost-effective solution for most coal owners (Bennett, Clavering and Rounding 1990, 35-56).” [5: p22]

King cites other examples of early waggonways which include a ‘coalway’ owned by Sir John Lowther of Whitehaven from 1683. His son, Sir James, had waggonways from the 1730s serving to transport coal from collieries into Whitehaven.

Another ran from Sheffield Park to Sheffield, others took coal to the navigable lengths of the Rivers Ayre, Calder and Dun. There were even waggonways in the north of Ireland.

King’s eyes then turn bank to Shropshire. He comments: “Shropshire railways … form a different tradition from Newcastle waggonways. The waggons were smaller because the mines were often insets (rather than pits). The railway often started at the coalface and a smaller waggon meant that only a narrow adit had to be made through dead ground. The descent to the river down the side of the Severn gorge was precipitous, and the descent was controlled using a self-acting inclined plane, something not used near Newcastle until the late eighteenth century, but probably in Shropshire for its first railway. Wilcox’s & Wells’ railway to Calcutts may have been down Birch Batch. Its terminus was later called Jackfield Rails, and it remained in use well into the nineteenth century.” [1: p25]

Gwyn & Cossons comments about the Shropshire coalfield mirror that of King. They say that the Shropshire coalfield “developed smaller capacity systems running on narrower gauges. Here, mines were mainly levels, rather than deep mines such as prevailed in the north-east, and so a compact waggonway could run from the coalface to daylight and then down to navigable water. The Severn Ironbridge Gorge and its immediate environs were home to many such railways. From the mid-18th century, similar waggonways also ran direct from ironstone mines to Bedlam furnaces downstream of the later Iron Bridge.” [5: p23]

King says that a “longer railway, ultimately from John Wilkinson’s New Willey Furnace of 1757, went down Tarbatch Dingle to Willey Wharf but was probably built in the 1700s to serve coalmines and remained in use in parts for some 300 years, though from 1862 it led to the Severn Valley Railway, rather than a river wharf. North of the Severn, the lords of Madeley had railways at Madeley Wood when they let their mines in 1692.” [1: p25]

They go on to say that the “establishment of new coke-fired furnaces in the 1750s and the expansion of mining led to the provision of further railways, the longest running from Ketley (near Watling Street) to Coalbrookdale Wharf on the Severn, so that by about 1775, Abiah Darby (the widow of Abraham II) stated that the Company had 20 miles of railways.” [5: p23] These comments are drawn directly from King [cf: 1: p25]

King notes that “Other railways ran to landsale wharfs on Watling Street. In all, five gauges of railway were in use in the area, with those wholly above ground probably of a similar size to those at Newcastle.” [1: p25]

Gwyn & Cossons found that railways deriving from Shropshire practice “were to be found in coalfields which were adjacent and technically influenced by it. Staffordshire and Warwickshire, as well as parts of Wales and of Scotland.” [5: p23]

Interestingly, Gwyn & Cossons assert that “the Tyneside system is the design-ancestor of the median-gauge railways of the present day, and in particular of the UK, continental European and USA gauge of 4′ 8″. Narrow-gauge railways derive ultimately from the Shropshire system, as the inspiration for the railways built in the heads of the South Wales valleys in the 1790s, subsequently adopted and developed in the Gwynedd slate. industry. This was then offered as a cut-price system suitable for the developing world by the Festiniog Railway’s engineer in 1870, when the great and the good were invited to see it in operation (Gwyn 2010, 138).” [5: p23]

“Tyneside systems ran on gauges of between 3′ 10″ and 5′, Shropshire systems of between 2′ and 3′ 9” (Lewis 1970, 181, 267). [5: p24]

“By the mid-17th Century tramroads were fairly common and continued to be so through the 18th century, so that by the start of the 19th Century they often ran for considerable distances, taking mineral products (notably coal) from their source to the point of consumption, or … to a canal wharf for onward carriage by boat.” [2]

Early tramways in and around the Severn Gorge and in East Shropshire as a whole are noted in works of Bertram Baxter, [4] Savage & Smith, [6] Catherine Clark & Judith Alfrey [13]

These include:

  • Benthall Railway [7][13]
  • Caughley Railway [8]
  • Gleedon Hill Tramroad [9]
  • Sutton Wharf Tramroad [10]
  • Tarbach Dingle Tramroad [11]
  • The Coalbrookdale Company Tramroads [12]
  • Deerleap Tramway [13]
  • Lime Kilns Tramway [13]
  • Ash Coppice Tramway [13]
  • Clay Mine Tramway [13]

This list is the result of a relatively limited search online and is unlikely to be comprehensive. Some of these will warrant further study, the links provided in the references are worth a read.

It is my plan to look at a number of these in coming weeks and months. The first will be the Coalbrookdale Company Tramroads.


  1. Peter King; Before the Main Line; in ed. David St. John Thomas; How Railways Changed Britain; Railway & Canal Historical Society, Derby, 2015, p13 – 32.
  2., accessed on 17th April 2022.
  3., accessed on 17th April 2022.
  4. Bertram Baxter; Stone Blocks and Iron Rails (Tramroads); David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1966.
  5. David Gwyn and Neil Cossons; Early Railways in England: Review and summary of recent research; Historic England, Discovery, Innovation and Science in the Historic Environment Research Report Series No. 25-2017.
  6. R.F. Savage & L.D. Smith; The Waggon-ways and Plate-ways of East Shropshire, 1965.
  7., accessed on 22nd April 2022.
  8., accessed on 22nd April 2022.
  9., accessed on 22nd April 2022.
  10., accessed on 22nd April 2022.
  11., accessed on 22nd April 2022.
  12., accessed on 19th April 2022 – particular reference is made to a document which gives a good sense of the development of various waggonways, tramways, plateways and Tramroads … Research-agenda.pdf which can be downloaded from the members area of the site.
  13. Catherine Clark & Judith Alfrey; Research Paper No. 15, Benthall and Broseley Wood; Nuffield Survey, Third lnterim Report; University of Birmingham, 1987.