In the 1870s a privately owned line was laid from Harrington south of Workington to serve James Bain & Coy's colliery at Lowca and in 1879 the Cleator & Workington Junction Railway put in a short connection to its Cleator Moor & Workington line. In 1909 the Workington Iron & Steel Company took over both Derwent Ironworks and Lowca Colliery but experienced difficulty in getting employees to the works at Lowca, an awkward location perched directly on top of unstable cliffs above the coastline. The problem was solved two years later when Harrington & Lowca Light Railway was granted permission to operate its own workmens trains over the tracks of the C&WJR to Rosehill Junction and then over the mineral line to Lowca Station.
The services were successful and in order to introduce public passenger trains formal authorisation was obtained for the Harrington & Lowca Light Railway. It opened in June 1913 with four trains each way between Workington and Lowca operated by the C&WJR but it only lasted twelve years and the tracks were subsequently taken over by United Steel Company (later British Steel) the successor to the Workington Iron & Steel Company.
The colliery at Lowca became part of the NCB in 1947 and coal was transported southwards over a spur to the Parton Distington line (Gilgarron Branch). As a purely industrial line the Lowca Light Railway continued to operate with both United Steel and the NCB using their own locos until its final closure on 23rd May 1973.
The branch left the C&WJRs' main line at Harrington Junction (NY001265) but ran alongside it for a quarter of a mile as it as it dropped down the valley before curving away west to cross over Church Road. Following the stop at Archer Street Halt at Rosehill Junction the trains were immediately faced with a cruel 285 yds at 1 in 17 up to Copperas Hill. In bad weather trains had to set back towards Church Road in order to have a run at the bank. It was the steepest gradient in Britain to have carried adhesion worked passenger trains. At the top of the incline the line passed Copperas Hill Station which closed in 1921 the line then followed the cliffs through Micklam to Lowca.
An excellent article was written by John N.M. Charters in the Whitehaven News in June 1973 called the Lowca Finale
In 1969 The Border Railway Society hosted a Brake Van Tour through Cumbria which included part of the Lowca Light Railway. The day was captured on film and a video is still available priced £12 including Post & Packaging from Brian Irwin
John Harkness's worked on the Lowca Light Railway and you can visit his website at John's Steam Engines
There are also some great photos on Phil Baggley's website at Banklands
Excellent photos here of Cumbrian Industrial Railways
Many thanks to everyone who helped with information and photos for the website Bibliography