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Solway Plain - past and present

The Solway Junction Railway

By the early 1860s, over 100,000 tons of iron ore was being shipped annually from West Cumberland to Scotland. The Solway Junction Railway was built to carry this traffic without it having to pass through Carlisle.

Solway Viaduct from Bowness
Solway Viaduct, Bowness end.

To avoid Carlisle, a spectacular viaduct was built over the Solway from Bowness-on-Solway to Annan in Scotland. This linked the Maryport and Carlisle Railway with the Caledonian Railway at Kirtlebridge.

Solway Viaduct, Annan end
Solway Viaduct, Annan end.

The Viaduct opened in September 1869 for goods, and for passengers in July 1870.

Pictures of the 1881 Damage

Problems with the viaduct first appeared just six years after the opening of the route, but disaster struck in the winter of 1880/1881. The rivers Esk and Eden had frozen in the upper reaches of the Firth, and when the thaw came, great chunks of ice as much as 27 yards square and 6 foot thick were carried into the bridge’s piers on an ebb tide, travelling at 10-15 mph.

Fortunately there had been no loss of life although 45 of the 193 piers and 37 girders had collapsed. It was to take more than three years to rebuild the structure.

By 1895 the Caledonian Railway had taken over the line and for a brief period this spectacular crossing carried goods, passengers and livestock daily.

Stations on the Solway Junction Line

Brayton Station
Brayton Junction
Bromfield Station
Bowness on Solway station

Annan Caledonian

The iron ore traffic declined and during the First World War passenger traffic was withdrawn All traffic ceased by 1921 owing, it was said, to the unsafe condition of the viaduct. It was demolished in 1933. Apparently, part of the reason was that the Scots, who then had no access to alcohol on Sundays, used to walk across to the liberal English side, and returning in a less than sober state occasionally fell into the Solway, and were drowned.

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