The Bolton Loop - History

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Maryport and Carlisle Railway - History of the Bolton Loop


  • Aspatria to Mealsgate opened 2nd April 1866
  • High Blaithwaite to Aikbank Junction opened 2nd April 1866
  • Aspatria to Mealsgate opened for passenger traffic 26th November 1866
  • High Blaithwaite to Aikbank Junction re-opened 1st October 1878
  • Mealsgate to Aikbank Junction closed 1st August 1921
  • Mealsgate to Aikbank Junction re-opened for goods traffic 5th September 1921
  • Track Lifted Aikbank Junction to High Blaithwaite Spring 1930
  • Aspatria to Mealsgate closed to passenger traffic 22nd September 1930
  • Track Lifted High Blaithwaite to Mealsgate 28th June 1937
  • Aspatria to Mealsgate closed to all traffic 1st December 1952
  • Official closing of line between Aspatria and Mealsgate 15th November 1953

The Bolton loop line is so-called from the fact that a considerable portion of the line runs through the large parish of “Boltons” which is divided into two portions, “Boltons High” and “Boltons Low,” suggestive of a strong ecclesiastical flavour. They get a good deal of Bolton into this area, including the two villages of Bolton Gate and Bolton Low Houses, and once upon a time there was also a Bolton Colliery. Consequently, to avoid mutual jealousy and inter-tribal bickerings, the railway company lumped all the Boltons into one, and called the principal station serving them “Mealsgate.”

Mealsgate lay at an elevation of 304 ft above sea level and gradients of up to 1 in 60 were to be found on the loop. From Aspatria the line ran for 1¾ miles at 1 in 70. On the eastern approach to Mealsgate the line ran from Aikbank Junction for two miles at 1 in 60, dropping to 1 in 90 for another mile. The area between the gradients not being as severe with stretches averaging over 1 in 100.

The Bolton loop was peculiar in that practically the whole of the passenger and coal traffic was worked from the western or Aspatria end. Between Wigton and Mealsgate, over the eastern end of the loop, there was only one train per day in each direction, which conveyed an “omnium gatherum” of assorted passengers, goods and minerals.

There were two 0—4—2 side-tank engines, No 17 with coupled wheels, and No. 18 with coupled wheels with the cylinders of both being 16 in. by 22 in. They were built at Maryport in 1865 and 1867 for the Bolton and Derwent branches respectively. On the opening of the collieries on the Bolton branch between Aspatria and Mealsgate about 1870, No. 17 proved too light for the work, and the Bolton branch had to be worked with six-coupled tender engines built by Beyer Peacock and Co between 1871 and 1873.


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