The Newcastle & Carlisle Railway, by John S. MacLean, R. Robinson & Company Ltd., Newcastle,1948 [ebook]


Hard cover book, printed board covers 9.75” x 6.5”, pp121, profusely illustrated with B&W half tone photos, engravings, maps and drawings.


During the first half of the 20th century there were a handful of histories published, dealing wth smaller railways most of which had been absorbed by one of the “Big Nine” English companies, although a hand full maintained a healthy independence until the 1923 “Grouping” One which fell into the net of a larger company, was the Newcastle & Carlisle, the subject of this attractive book published in 1948. (For other similar works we have available about smaller railways, see list at end. Individually designed, rather than shoe horned into a large publisher’s standard format, they were usually written by someone who knew the area intimately, and drew extensively on local sources for their material. The result was sometimes a slightly eclectic mix, but havibg read the work one is left with a feeling that no stone has been let unturned, unlike some of the later works in the 50s and 60s, where an author might put in a few train timing logs, as a substitute for some original research into the background and character of directors and officers.

The local publishers and printers usually rose to the occasion as well, as in this case producing a nicely designed and printed book, despite the post war “Austerity” paper shortages. I have a feeling that in this case, Robinsons may well have drawn on stocks held since before the War, which they had retained for use in a quality publication when the opportunity arose.

The Newcastle & Carlisle Railway (N&CR) had a long gestation period, originating as a canal but proposed as a railway company formed in 1825 to build the first line crossing Britain from east coast to west coast. Construction also occupied a lengthy period. It began operating mineral trains in 1834 between Blaydon and Hexham, and passengers were carried for the first time the following year. Embarrassment was caused when the first trains began operating, and it was pointed out by a local landowner that its Act of Parliament prohibited the use of steam locomotives…The rest of the line opened in stages, completing a through route between Carlisle and Gateshead, south of the River Tyne in 1837. The directors repeatedly changed their intentions for the route at the eastern end of the line, but finally a line was opened from Scotswood to a Newcastle terminal in 1839. That line was extended twice, reaching Newcastle Central station in 1851.

Despite connecting with other railways at each end, for many years the line ran trains on the right-hand track on double line sections, until absobed by the North Eastern Railway in 1862. An earlier flirtation with the Maryport & Carlisle railway in the form of a working agreement might have had interesting consequences for the railway geography of northern England had amalgamation resulted. The mighty London & North Western would have viewed the resulting railway as far too tempting a target for take over, giving as it would have done, access to north west Cumbrian iron ore , and the rich coal fields of the north east.

In 1837 a station master at Brampton on the Newcastle & Carlisle,Thomas Edmondson, introduced pre-printed numbered pasteboard dated by a press, a huge advance on the former system of individual hand-written tickets; in time his system achieved near-universal adoption worldwide and has only been completely abandoned by British Railways within the past 20 years.

Some Other Attractively Produced Early Railway Histories:



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