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Furness Railway

Furness Railway
Furness Railway locomotive No. 20
Dates of operation 1846–1922
Successor London, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Cornmill Crossing in 1895, a former railway goods depot on the Furness Railway line sited near Barrow Docks

The Furness Railway (Furness) was a railway company operating in the Furness area of Lancashire in North West England.


  • History 1
    • Extensions 1.1
    • Barrow Strand and Central railway stations 1.2
  • Locomotive superintendents 2
  • Locomotives 3
  • Line details 4
  • Barrow Docks 5
  • Ships 6
  • Other statistics 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The company was established on 23 May 1844 when the Furness Railway Act was passed by Parliament. The line, as originally laid, was intended principally for mineral traffic (slate and iron ore), and extended from Kirkby-in-Furness to Dalton-in-Furness, this was later extended to Rampside. A later line was built from Dalton to Barrow. That portion was opened on 11 August 1846. Passenger traffic began in December 1846.


Subsequent extensions took the railway to Ulverston in April 1854; the Whitehaven and Furness Junction Railway was taken over in 1865 thus extending the Furness Railway to Whitehaven, Carnforth (where the Furness linked with the London and North Western Railway and thence to Lancaster (see below), Coniston and Lakeside). The line was linked to Lancaster on 27 August 1857 by the Ulverston and Lancaster Railway, which was bought out by the Furness Railway in 1862.

The Furness Railway was connected to the Midland Railway by the Furness and Midland Joint Railway in 1867. Also in 1867 the Hincaster Branch from Arnside to the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway at Hincaster was opened.[1]

Barrow Strand and Central railway stations

The original main line did not run through Barrow, though its headquarters and engineering works were adjacent to Barrow Central railway station was not opened until 1882, when through working became possible.

Locomotive superintendents


The first locomotive superintendent, recruited from Bury, Curtis and Kennedy in 1846, was later to be knighted as Sir James Ramsden, a leading civic figure and first Mayor of Barrow. No locomotives were actually built in the local works itself: they were generally standard designs, purchased from other manufacturers. By 1921, fifteen different works were represented. However, W. F. Pettigrew, who had taken over operations in 1896, was to introduce some measure of standardisation.

There were also carriage and wagon-building shops, and repairs and maintenance was carried out on the equipment of Barrow Docks.

Line details

  • Viaducts: The line crosses several major estuaries - the rivers Kent and Leven being among them - over substantial viaducts.
  • Tunnel: the Bransty Tunnel in Whitehaven is 1,333 yards (1,219 m) in length
  • Total mileage (lines owned or worked) (1912): 190.25 miles (306.18 km).

Barrow Docks

Details given are those shown for 1912:

  • Total area of water: 278 acres (113 ha)
  • Four docks: Devonshire; Buccleuch; Ramsden; and Cavendish. There was also a Timber Dock.
  • Length of quays 2.25 miles (3.62 km)
  • The firm of Messrs Vickers built major ships for the Royal Navy here
  • There was also a deep water berth in Walney Channel


Barrow-Fleetwood service - four paddle steamers; lake steamers - two on Coniston Water; six on Windermere; three Barrow steam tugs

Ship Launched Tonnage (GRT) Notes
Lady Evelyn 1900 295 (1900–04)[5]
342 (1904–40)[5]
Built by J.Scott and Co., of Kinghorn. Lengthened in 1904. Requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1914 for minesweeping work and was based at Larne. Decommissioned in 1918 and was sold in 1920 to W H Tucker & Co Ltd., of Cardiff. Sold in 1923 (September 1921 according to Haws) to P & A Campbell Ltd and renamed Brighton Belle. Taken over by Admiralty again in 1939 but hit a wreck in The Downs on 28 May 1940 and sank.[5][6]
Lady Margaret 1895 369[7] Built by A.McMillan and Son at Dumbarton for Bristol Channel service between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare. Purchased in 1896 by P & A Campbell Ltd. They re-sold the vessel to Furness Railway in 1903. Sold to the Admiralty in 1908 (1912 according to Haws) for use as a tender and renamed Liberty. Renamed Wanderer in 1913 and Roamer in 1919. Scrapped in 1923.[7][8]
Lady Moyra 1905[9] 562[9] Built by John Brown and Company at Clydebank for the Barry Railway in 1905 as Gwalior and worked the Barry - Cardiff- Ilfracombe route. Bought in May 1910 for £22,750 and renamed Lady Moyra. Requisitioned during the First World War for minesweeping duties alongside "Lady Evelyn" and subsequently returned to the FR. Sold to W.H.Tucker in 1919 for his 'Yellow Funnel' fleet and acquired at auction in 1933 (1921 according to Haws) by P & A Campbell Ltd and renamed Brighton Queen. Bombed on 1 June 1940 and sunk at Dunkirk.[9][10]
Philomel 1889 564[11] Built by J.Scott of Kirkaldy. Tonnage 662 according to Haws. Bought from the General Steam Navigation Company for £5,250 in 1908 having been employed by them on the Thames. Scrapped at Preston in November 1913.[10][11]
Coniston Water
Ship Launched Tonnage (GRT) Notes
Gondola 1859 42 Built by Jones,Quiggin and Co., of Liverpool. In service until the First World War, then resumed service after the war until 1936. Converted to a houseboat in 1945. To the National Trust in 1978. Restored and returned to service in 1979.[12]
Lady of the Lake 1859[13] In service until 1908 when replaced by another boat of the same name.[13]
Lady of the Lake 1908[13] 76 Built by Thorneycroft's of Southampton. Transferred to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1923, was re-engined in 1934 and fitted with a new squat funnel. In service until 1939 when laid up at the outbreak of war. The Coniston sailings were never restarted and the vessel was dismantled in 1950.[10][14]
Ship Launched Tonnage (GRT) Notes
Britannia 1879[15] 64 Built by T.B. Seath at Rutherglen for Colonel Ridehalgh [ 'Lt-Col Greenhalgh' according to Haws ] at a cost of £12,000. Bought by FR in 1908 for £550. Laid up due to war and did not re-enter service. Scrapped in 1918 at Lakeside.[8][15]
Cygnet 1879[15] 52 Built by Barrow Shipbuilding Co., at Barrow at cost of £3,400. Capacity 326 passengers.[16] To LMS in 1923 and the British Transport Commission (BTC) in 1948 having been re-engined in 1924. Scrapped in 1955.[15][17]
Raven 1871[18] 42 Cargo boat built by T.B.Seath at Rutherglen. Used by Royal Flying Corps as a tender on the lake in connection with mine dropping exercises in 1917. Withdrawn from service in 1927 and sold to Vickers Ltd. Sank at moorings but was raised in 1955 and re-built.[15] Preserved at the Windermere Steamboat Museum.[18][19]
Rothay 1865[15] 58 Built for Windermere United Steam Yacht Co in 1865 by Lancaster Shipbuilding Co.,Lancaster. Bought by FR in 1869. Withdrawn in 1900 and scrapped in 1922.[15][19]
Swan 1869 71 Built by T.B.Seath of Rutherglen for the Windermere United Steam Yacht Co. at a cost of £4,000. Taken over by Furness Railway in 1872. Sank during 'Great Gale' of 1891 at her moorings but was salved only to sink again following a collision with "Tern" off Ambleside in 1901. She was again salved and transferred to the LMS in 1923. Eventually withdrawn at the end of the 1937 season and broken up in early 1938.[19]
Swift 1869[15] Capacity 781 passengers.[16] Scrapped in 1938.[15]
Swift 1890[15] Built by TB Seath of Rutherglen, Glasgow 1900.

Capacity 780 passengers. Diesel engine fitted in 1958. Scrapped in 1998.[15]

Teal 1879[15] 52 Built by Barrow Shipbuilding Co. at Barrow with capacity for 326 passengers - a sister of "Cygnet" and shared same history except that she never converted to oil. Sank at Lakeside moorings in 'Great Gale' of 1891, but was salved. Withdrawn and broken up in 1927.[15][16][17]
Tern 1891[15] 120 Built by Forrest & Sons, Wivenhoe, Essex at cost of £5,000. Capacity 633 passengers. Hit and sank "Swan" in 1901. Transferred to LMS and BTC in 1923 and 1948 respectively. Re-engined in 1958 and was transferred to Sealink in 1979. Was further taken over in 1984 by Sea Containers Ltd., and is operated by Orient Express Hotels Ltd. Still in service on Windermere.[15][16][17]
Other Furness Railway ships
Ship Launched Tonnage (GRT) Notes
Arthur Gordon 1854[20] 136[20] Sold in 1858 to James Fisher, Barrow in Furness. Sank on 6 March 1860 after colliding with ST Independence off the West Hoyle Bank.[20]
Cartmel 1907[21] 304[21] Tug built by Vickers,Sons & Maxim Ltd., of Barrow and based at Barrow. Transferred to LMS in 1923. Sold in 1934 to Leith Salvage Ltd and renamed Bullger. Struck a mine on 13 March 1941 and sank in Druridge Bay.[21][22]
Furness 1898[23] 225[23] Built by J.P.Rennoldson at South Shields. A tug based at Barrow. Served until 1937 when was scrapped at Barrow.[17]
Lismore 1874 181 Tug built by Barrow Shipbuilding Co. for Lord Cavendish and Sir J. Ramsden and based at Barrow. Not taken over by LMS in 1923. Sold to William Cooper and Sons of Liverpool.[19]
Walney 1868 200 Seagoing tug with salvage capability built by McNab and Co., of Greenock for Furness directors Lord Cavendish and Sir J. Ramsden. Based at Barrow. Re-boilered in 1877. Sold in 1897 to C.W.Duncan and Co. of Middlesbrough and renamed "Camperdown".Operated excursions to Scarborough. Broken up in 1906.[12]
Walney 1904 204 Tug based at Barrow and built by J.P. Rennoldson at South Shields and which was also recorded as "Walney Ferry". The vessel had a passenger saloon on the foredeck which allowed her to serve as an excursion vessel and for parties attending launches. In winter she had capability to serve Barrow-Fleetwood operation. Transferred to LMS in 1923. Moved to Troon in 1930 when a tug named "Troon" was sold from that base. Eventually scrapped in 1951.[17]

Other statistics

  • As at 31 December 1911 the Railway owned rolling stock as follows:
    • 130 locomotives; 348 coaching vehicles; 7766 goods vehicles; 2 steam rail motor cars
    • Locomotives painted Indian red; passenger vehicles ultramarine blue with white upper panels
    • Passengers carried (year ending 31 December 1911) 3,297,622

The Furness Railway operated as an independent company until December 1922, when it was merged as one of the constituent companies of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway following the Railways Act 1921.

See also


  1. ^ "Furness Railway | Hincaster Branch". Railscot. Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  2. ^ "Brief Biographies of Mechanical Engineers". Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  3. ^ "Brief Biographies of Mechanical Engineers". Retrieved 2013-01-17. 
  4. ^ "Furness Railway, Barrow-Fleetwood Services". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c "1099949". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ Haws, Duncan (1993). Merchant Fleets-Britain's Railway Steamers- Eastern & North Western + Zeeland and Stena. Hereford: TCL Publications. pp. 11–12.  
  7. ^ a b "1105173". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ a b Haws 1993, p. 13
  9. ^ a b c "1119968". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ a b c Haws 1993, p. 14
  11. ^ a b "1096608". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ a b Haws 1993, p. 9
  13. ^ a b c "Furness Railway, CHAPTER V.". Cumberland Archives. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  14. ^ "THE STEAM YACHT GONDOLA". Lake District Lets Go. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Windermere Services, BR Page 10: FR, LMS, BR, Sealink etc.". Simplon Postcards. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c d "The Furness Railway in 1921". Cumbrian Railway Association. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Haws 1993, p. 11
  18. ^ a b "Highlights of the Collection". Windermere Steamboat Museum. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  19. ^ a b c d Haws 1993, p. 10
  20. ^ a b c "Arthur Gordon". Mighty Seas. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  21. ^ a b c "SS Bullger (+1941)". Wrecksite. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  22. ^ Haws 1993, p. 12
  23. ^ a b "Furness Tug". John S Gibb. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 

Further reading

  • Railway Year Book. Railway Publishing Company. 1912. 
  • Battye, Rock (1996). Furness Railway 150. Cumbrian Railways Association.  
  • Conolly, W. Philip (1997). British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas and Gazetteer (Fifth ed.). Shepperton:  

External links

  • CRA Photo Archives
  • Cumbrian Railways Association
  • Furness Railway Trust
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