The Lowca Light Railway

The Moss Bay Iron and Steel Works was connected to Micklam Brickworks on the cliff tops between Harrington and Whitehaven about 4miles South of the works. A line left the works at a junction near Shore Road, Salterbeck and curved round through the Moorclose and Westfield housing estates to link with the former Cleater & Workington Junction Rly. line at Moss Bay Junction. A branch then passed over the Harrington to Distington road on a low bridge near Stocks Ghyll. Passing behind Archer Street and Rosehill, the line then ascended Copperas Hill on a very steep 1 in 17 gradient. This was reputed to be the steepest adhesion worked standard gauge line in the UK. At one time another branch left Copperas Hill and passed over the Cumbrian Coast line at Rosehill at a gradient of 1 in 15 to make a connection with Harrington ironworks and harbour. During WWII a magnesite plant was built here to extract magnesium from seawater.

On the cliff tops near Lowca

YE (Yorkshire Engine Company 2778/1960) works number 206 and a former North Eastern Railway Company Brake Van on the cliff tops near Micklam on 27 April 1973. Photo Ray Goad

Lowca Tar works

On 27 March 1968 Ray goad visited the Moss Bay works and hitched a ride on a train from the Moss Bay works to the Lowca Tar Plant. Here the locomotives are shunting the yard. Photo Ray Goad

Descending Copperas hill

The wagon brakes have been pinned down and the train is about to start the steep descent down Copperas Hill. These are unfitted wagons - that is without vacuum or air brakes. Photo Ray Goad

Creeping down the hill

YE (2884/1964) No. 207 and YE (2775/1960) No. 210 descending Copperas Hill on 27 March 1968  Photo Ray Goad

 Rosehill, Harrington

The train consisted of 7 hopper wagons, 5 open wagons and 10 tank wagons (tar). The last train on the Lowca Light ran in May 1973  Photo Ray Goad

Crossing over the Cumbrian Coast line, the Moss Bay branch avoided the need for wagons built to main line standards.

The train has arrived at Shore Road at the South end of the works. Beyond and below the Brake Van was a connection between the works and the main line guarded by "Moss Bay Ironworks" signal box. Photo Ray Goad

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Taking on water at the junction of the Moss Bay branch and the Derwent Branch in Workington. The driver, sat on the engine's tank,has guided the leather hose into the tank and is monitoring the water level while the fireman operates the valve chains in the shadows. The Derwent Blast Furnaces are visible just right of the tank. This is a short train with three tall sided open wagons and five tank wagons. Photo CRA / Pattinson collection

Old Trackbed.jpg (141747 bytes)

In the 1990s the former trackbed of the Lowca light could be visited. This is roughly half way between Micklam brickworks (and clay mine) and Copperas Hill looking North with the works in the far distance. This area has since been subject to open cast coal mining and is now the site of a wind farm.


Amazon (Vulcan Foundry 5291/1945) passes over the level crossing near Harrington No. 10 colliery at Lowca. Photo Peter W Robinson

 Amazon  at Lowca.

Amazon shunts a rake of 21 ton hoppers at Harrington No. 10 Colliery 9 June 1969 Photo Briian Webb Collection, courtesy of Industrial Railway Society.

 Hawthorn Leslie 3466

Hawthorn Leslie built 3466/1920 stands idle at Lowca (note the open smokebox door). Industrial locomotives were often equipped with large diameter buffers, as here. BWC / IRS

 Left side

Other side view of the same engine. No. 9 in NCB livery has outside cylinders with inside valve gear. the box on the running plate contained dry sand which could be directed onto the rails for increased adhesion. this was photographed on 4 December 1967. BWC / IRS

 Amazon hard at work

Amazon is moving a rake of six 21 ton coal hoppers along to the exchange sidings. The sidings were connected to the former Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Railways' Gilgarran branch which joined the Cumberland Coast line at Parton. BWC / IRS

Amazon in Steam.

Amazon rounds the curve below the spoil tips, built up from decades of coal mining. The Cumberland Coast line skirted the base of this area and the unstable ground (especially after heavy rains) was problematical for British Rail's permanent way engineers for many years. BWC / IRS


Amazon is dragging a rake of empty Workington Iron & Steel Company wood bodied / wood framed open wagons. Tracks in the foreground have fresh ballast in place.BWC / IRS

Amazon in reverse. 

Amazon makes light work of these WISCo wagons. The shunter (with pole) rides the footplate. Four hooks (lamp irons) on the rear permit oil lamps to be carried when necessary. In the distance stands a rake of NCB wagons on the spoil dumping track. BWC / IRS


Warspite drags a load of empty hoppers from the exchange sidings. The trackbed today is a cycleway linking Workington to Parton and is close to the premises of Colour Gro a local horticultural enterprise. 23 June 1969 BWC / IRS


Warspite is the same design as Amazon but was manufactured by the Hunslet Locomotive Company, (works No. 3778 / 1952) the originators of the Austerity design. BWC / IRS


Warspite had two distinctive spotting features: It had a Giesl ejector instead of the normal chimney (characterised by a thin, squashed appearance) and it had been modified with an extended, sloped back coal bunker overhanging the rear buffer beam. BWC / IRS





The Furnessman

In 1969 The Border Railway Society hosted a Brake Van tour throughout Cumberland, including a segment of running over the Lowca Light. The day was captured on film and a video is still available priced £12 inc. P&P from Brian Irwin




More about the Lowca Light Railway