"A Forgotten Junction in Westmorland" - By M. D. GREVILLE and G. O. HOLT
When Clifton & Lowther Station on the L.M.S.R. main line to Carlisle was closed for passenger traffic on July 4, 1938, it was not generally realised that it had served as an outpost of the Stockton & Darlington Railway for a short period during its early days. The Lancaster & Carlisle Railway (which built the station) was opened during 1846—from Lancaster to Oxenholme on September 22, and from Oxenholme to Carlisle on December 17. While the L. & C.R. was still under construction, the " Railway Mania" created two ambitious schemes to link Yorkshire with this route to Scotland, and the two companies, known as the Yorkshire & Glasgow Union, and the York & Carlisle, eventually joined forces to become the Northern Counties Union. This was authorised in 1846, to construct a railway across the Pennines from Thirsk, on the Great North of England Railway, to join the Lancaster & Carlisle immediately south of Clifton (about four miles south of Penrith). The line, which was to have been 69 miles in length, would have passed close to Hawes and Appleby, and was to have been intersected by another cross-country line connecting Tebay and Bishop Auckland. Although financial support for the scheme was not forthcoming, and nothing further was heard of the Northern Counties Union, much of the ground it proposed to cover was served by other railways in later years. One of these, which was a subsidiary of the Stockton & Darlington, took the imposing title of the South Durham & Lancashire Union, and constructed its' line from Barnard Castle to Tebay, over Stainmore Summit. By an Act of May 21, 1858, this company was empowered to build a single line branch (to be known as the Eden Valley Railway) from Kirkby Stephen to the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Clifton.
CLICK HERE to see photographs of the forgotten South Clifton Junction today.
By this time the necessity for a through line from Yorkshire to Scotland had, of course, been met. The Eden Valley Railway was, therefore, of purely local importance, the only town on the line being Appleby. Unlike the Northern, Counties Union, which had proposed to make its junction at Clifton facing towards the north, it seems to have had no ambitions in that direction, and the junction with the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway was made to face south.
The Eden Valley Railway opened for mineral traffic on April 12, 1862, and passenger services were operated from June 7, of the same year. Almost immediately after this (June 30, 1862), the company was absorbed by the Stockton & Darlington, which, in turn, amalgamated with the North Eastern Railway in July, 1863. Students of Stockton & Darlington locomotive history may recall that two of the last engines built by that company were named Brougham and Lowther, marking the short-lived association of the pioneer railway with that part of Westmorland.
It would seem that even before the Eden Valley Railway was opened, there was doubt about Clifton's suitability as the western extremity of the line. On August 1, 1861, the Cockermouth Keswick & Penrith Railway had been incorporated with the object of linking the Cockermouth & Workington Railway with the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway at Penrith. This opened up the possibility of connecting the coalfields of Durham with the industrial district of West Cumberland, and it became clear that the Eden Valley Railway would provide part of this new route. Thus it became desirable for the Eden Valley Railway to make more direct contact with Penrith and the C.K. & P.R., and, on July 7, 1862, an Act for the diversion of the Stockton & Darlington Railway to Penrith was obtained. The deviation was made at a point which became known as Weatherriggs Junction (1 mile 41 chains short of Clifton), and joined the Lancaster & Carlisle at Clifton North Junction (75 chains north of Clifton Station). The Stockton & Darlington obtained running powers over the Lancaster & Carlisle from the new junction into Penrith Station.
The Kirkby. Stephen—Clifton trains were diverted to Penrith in August, 1863, calling at a new Clifton station on the direct line. It seems that the passenger service to Clifton (H & C,R.) was withdrawn immediately, as Bradshaw for July, 1863, shows four such trains arriving at Clifton daily, and three in the reverse direction, but in the next issue, three trains to and from Penrith are shown. Evidently the original line between Weatherriggs Junction and Clifton (L. & C.R.) did not fall into disuse immediately, for the junction diagram published by Airey in 1870 shows both Clifton North Junction (the present Eden Valley Junction, 3¼ miles south of Penrith) and Clifton South Junction (immediately north of the L. & C.R. station). A curious feature of this diagram is that the newer N.E.R. station at Clifton is not shown, although, according to Bradshaw, the North Eastern trains called there from the start.
In 1874, the North Eastern obtained an Act for the abandonment of the section between Weatherriggs Junction and Clifton (L. & C.R.) and probably the rails were taken out very shortly after. The course of the original route can still be traced from a point where the road from Penrith to Cliburn crosses over the railway, east of Clifton Moor Station. After running for some distance on a low embankment, the track enters a cutting and curves towards the south. The banks of the old railway are now so thickly overgrown with trees as to be almost indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside, and the most obvious landmarks are the walls of a bridge over a lane, and stone bridge, still intact, where a cart road crosses the cutting, close to the site of the former Clifton South junction. The cutting is fenced off from the main line at the Clifton end, and is, therefore, not observed from main line trains. Hardly any trace of the original Stockton & Darlington layout at Clifton remains, and the construction of an up loop line by the L.N.W.R. must have destroyed most of the evidence. It appears, however, that the passenger trains terminated at the back of an island platform, which still remains on the up side of the main line. From overgrown excavations in the field close by, it is clear that there was a small group of exchange sidings, a turntable, and a well from which water for locomotives must have been obtained.
To conclude the story of the two Clifton stations, the L. & C.R. station was renamed Clifton & Lowther in June, 1887, and was closed on July 4, 1938. The North Eastern station has a large waiting room on the up platform for the private use of the Earl of Lonsdale. It was renamed Clifton Moor in October, 1927.