Cleator Moor Railway

The Railways of the Cleator Moor area of West Cumbria.

Location Cleator Moor
Grid Ref NY017152


  • Cleator & Workington Junction Railway
  • Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway
  • Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway



Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway
In the first part of the 19th Century big deposits of haematite (iron ore) were discovered in the Cleator Moor and Egremont districts of West Cumberland, and by the 1840’s they were being rapidly exploited.


Railway lines were constructed by the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway running from Whitehaven to Cleator Moor, with branches to Sellafield and Distington to carry the ore. In 1878 a viaduct was built across the Keekle River at Cleator. The railway line was opened in 1861 by the Whitehaven, Cleator and Egremont Railway Company to carry iron-ore and coal from the nearby mines. It later carried passengers, and the line was extended to meet the Cockermouth and Workington Railway at Marron Junction.


When the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railway Company was taken over in February 1878 by the London & North-Western and Furness Companies, the W. C. & E. Comprised 22 miles and 46 chains of railway (reduced to single track). The stations between Whitehaven (Corkickle ) and Marron Junction were Moor Row, Cleator Moor, Frizington, Eskett, Winder, Rowrah, Wright Green, Ullock, Branthwaite and Bridgfoot. Later the names of Eskett and Wright Green were changed to Yeathouse and Lamplugh respectively. Between Moor Row and Sellafield the intermediate stations were Woodend, Egremont and Beckermet. Between Corkickle and Rowrah and between Woodend and Egremont, the line was double track.


Parts of the line closed in 1954, with some of the track lifted in 1964. The early closure was the line from Parton, via Distington to Ullock. In the 1980s the section from Rowrah to Marron Junction was closed, along with the section from Beckermet Mines Junction to Sellafield. This was just before a major building expansion at Sellafield, resulting in vast quantities of lorries travelling from Rowrah quarry to Sellafield!


Some of the now-closed railway lines were incorporated into the C2C cycle network.



Route – Whitehaven Mirehouse junction, Moor Row, Cleator Moor East, Frizington, Yeathouse, Winder, Rowrah. From Rowrah, there as a line via Arlecdon and Pica to Distington.


Cleator & Workington Junction Railway


The Cleator & Workington Junction Railway (C&WJR) served the towns of Cleator Moor and Workington and intermediate villages. It was mainly used for coal, limestone and iron ore traffic for the local industries. The line continued from Workington to Siddick Junction, just north of Workington. It opened in 1879.


The principal station and company headquarters were in Central Square, Workington and the station soon became known as Workington Central.


To the people of West Cumberland the line became affectionately known as the “Track of the Ironmasters”.


Railway cyclepath at Winder


In 1877, work began on the Keekle Viaduct. It was an impressive seven-arched viaduct which was built to span the river Keekle. The use of the viaduct for regular passenger travel came to an end in 1931, then it was closed to freight trains by 1963. The viaduct has now fallen into a sorry state and is overgrown with weeds.
Route – Workington Central, Harrington, Distington, Moresby Parks, Keekle viaduct, Cleator Moor West.
Rowrah & Kelton Fell Mineral Railway
When the mining of iron ore in West Cumberland was at its height, rich haematite deposits were discovered in the fells a few miles to the east of Rowrah. A railway was constructed from Rowrah, that served several mines and quarries on the way to the end of the line at Knockmurton.


The 3½ mile long Kelton Fell Railway was constructed from Rowrah, and served several mines and quarries on the way to the end of the line at Knockmurton. It opened in 1877 and closed in 1926, andt was operated by William Baird and Company of Glasgow, Scotland.


Kelton Fell Locomotive No 13 0-4-0 Saddle Tank Loco, built by Neilson & Company Glasgow in 1876, was used on the Kelton Fell railway, and was still in use by the NCB at Gartshore Colliery until 1968. It is now preserved at the Scottish Railway Preservation Society at Falkirk. See photos of the ‘Kelton Fell’ steam engine .


Route – Rowrah, Kirkland, Kelton Fell (Knockmurton mines).


Aerial photos by Simon Ledingham.


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