"Among the many systems of light and minor railways which once straddled Great Britain during the late 19th centuries, surely the Rowrah and Kelton Fell Mineral Railway can count as one of the most obscure and least known. Although it never carried a passenger service, its traffic in minerals was exceedingly rich." (Quote from Whitehaven News September 1973)
This little mineral line was only 3˝ miles long and passed within a couple of miles of Ennerdale Lake the Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway serviced the rich iron ore mines of West Cumberland from 1st January 1877 until the early 1920s.
The route of the Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway when open diverged South East from the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway’s (WC&ER) Moor Row - Marron Junction line at Kelton Fell Line Junction (NY057185), 360 yds west of Rowrah Station and after a short distance the C&WJR line from Distington trailed in from the west at Rowrah Head Quarry. When the C&WJR line opened the former connection with the WC&ER became a back-shunt working.
The Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway then turned away South East and ran across rather flat and marshy pasture for half a mile to Sheriff Gate (NY063177) where two branches diverged. One turned off to the south to the Salter Limestone Quarry and Salter Iron Mines. The other, put in later, ran straight ahead then swung North East under the Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway to the Stockhow Limestone Quarry. Meanwhile the main line swung North East and started to climb on a ruling gradient of 1 in 40 passing through Stockhowhall Wood to a small coal depot at Kirkland (NY072180). Beyond Kirkland it curved from South to North East and ran across several fields with breathtaking views of Ennerdale Water and then through a deep rock cutting then small embankments to Kelton Fell Iron Ore Mines pits No.1 and No.2. The Rowrah & Kelton Fell Railway then crossed the Lamplugh road by a stone bridge to finally arrive at Knockmurton Mine (NY094185) 850 ft above sea level, the line having climbed over 300ft in 3˝ miles.
An excellent book on the Kelton and Knockburton mines is The Kelton & Knockmurton Iron Mines 1852-1923 by R.E.Hewer
Great article here by David Powell The Rowrah and Kelton Fell (Mineral) Railway
Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway Flying along the Track
Many thanks to everyone who helped with information and photos for the website Bibliography