In 1862 the Maryport and Carlisle Railway Company secured an act to construct the "Bolton Loop" from Aspatria to Aikbank Junction. When you look at the map it appears to be an alternative to the main line but it was in fact the Mealsgate Branch running from Aspatria to Mealsgate and a branch from Wigton meeting at Mealsgate and was always regarded as two lines and not one. From Maryport and Carlisle Railway Company's point of view its main purpose was to open up that part of the coalfield and service the Mines. Coal was the main reason for the line being opened with the areas around Bolton and Mealsgate having been mined since the seventeenth century. After the railway was built new pits were sunk firstly at Allhallows in 1874 and then at Brayton Knowe near Baggrow in 1902.
The Bolton Loop section of the Maryport and Carlisle Railway line started at Aikbank Junction (GR217465), immediately west of the River Waver, the line headed south turning SW at High Blaithwaite. At Mealsgate there were short connections to two collieries and also a miners platform at Allhallows just beyond Mealsgate. From there the line turned west to Baggrow before rejoining the main line at Aspatria (GR145414). Between Aspatria and Harriston there was a 3’0" narrow gauge line which headed south to Thrush Gill limestone quarry at Plumbland. The "Bolton Loop" opened on 2nd April 1866 between Aspatria and Mealsgate with the section from Aibank Junction was fully completed on 1st October 1878. The line had three stations Baggrow, Mealsgate and High Blaithwaite
On weekdays in 1910 the Maryport and Carlisle Railway provided one train in each direction between Wigton and Mealsgate and five from Aspatria to Mealsgate; none worked the Bolton Loop throughout. The section east of Mealsgate to Aibank Junction closed to all traffic in 1921 and passenger trains were withdrawn from the remaining section in 1930. The passenger service in August 1930 (a month prior to closure) comprised of six Aspatria to Mealsgate trains the 4¼ miles, with one intermediate stop, taking eleven minutes. The line between Aspatria and Mealsgate remained open until 1952 for goods traffic. A great find for the Cumbria Railways website has been pictures of a five compartment coach which is beleived to be the only remaining vehicle of the Maryport & Carlisle Railway CLICK HERE to see pictures. There were two 0-4-2 side tank engines, No 17 with coupled wheels and No 18 with larger coupled wheels. They were built at Maryport in 1865 and 1867 respectively for the Bolton Loop and Derwent branches. No 17 proved to light for the work to the collieries on the Bolton Loop and had to be replaced by six-coupled tender engines built by Beyer Peacock and Co in 1871 and 1873.
David Hey Maryport & Carlisle Railway Photo's - NEW added August 2006
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