Solway Plain - past and present by the Holme St Cuthbert History Group

The Maryport and Carlisle Railway was the largest of the local lines. It ran along the edge of the plain, through Wigton and Aspatria. It was engineered by George Stephenson and opened in stages between 1840 and 1845. It is the only one of the three lines which is still open today.

Postcard views of Aspatria and Mealsgate stations

It was very much a local concern, built and controlled by the local coal-owners and gentry. Its main purpose was to provide transport for coal from the northern part of the Cumbrian field to Ireland, via Maryport, and to the rest of England and Scotland through Carlisle.

The 'loop' line from Aspatria to Mealsgate ran through an important coal seam and there were several pits in Aspatria itself.

 Scene at head of shaft in coal mine
A scene from one of the Aspatria colleries.

It was the second railway to arrive in Carlisle where it met the first line to arrive there from Newcastle. Thus, it formed part of the first rail link between the east and west coasts of England.

Maryport Station

Its headquarters were located in these magnificent station buildings at Maryport. Nothing remains of them today.

M&CR loco No. 17

Between 1859 and 1899, the M&CR built its own locomotives in the workshops at Maryport. ‘No. 17’ (above) was built there in 1865 and remained in service on the line for 62 years.

Despite many approaches from larger companies, it remained independent until forced to amalgamate into the LMSR by the government in 1922. It was, for much of its life, the most profitable railway company in England.

Poster showing map of M&CR lines

This poster shows the M&CR's line from Maryport to Cockermouth. On this route the train travelled from Maryport to Bulgill, where it reversed. It then continued to Brigham where it had to reverse again before it ran on to Cockermouth.

Most steam trains took around 50 minutes to cover the 12 miles!

A regular passenger service is operated by Northern Rail along the old M&CR main line and on as far as Barrow-in-Furness.

The trip along the coast, south of Maryport, is a very pleasant one and is highly recommended for all visitors to the area.

Timetables are available at local Tourist Offices.


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Cumbria Railways. Excellent site with lots more history and pictures of the M&CR

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Two typical M&CR Stations: Aspatria (above) and Mealsgate.
The Maryport & Carlisle Railway