Tatham area railways 1845-1914
Operation and Timetables
The initial passenger timetables were published by local newspapers but this was soon replaced by regional sets of timetables published in monthly editions by local publishers, Milner’s being Lancaster’s example.16,17
The timetable for 1850 shows that, once fully open, the traffic along the Wennington-Lancaster section was five trains each way on weekdays between Leeds and Bradford to Lancaster and two on Sundays. All the down trains from Leeds, except the Glasgow Express, stopped at Wennington and Hornby, the express also going direct to Lancaster Castle without stopping at Green Ayre. Without exception, the up trains to Leeds stopped at Hornby and only the express missed out Wennington. From Lancaster, Leeds could be reached in 2¾ h, half an hour longer by stopping train, to add to Lancaster’s existing rail connections to Glasgow in 4¾ h and London in 7½ h.
Obviously, the main interest of the NWR was through traffic, and local passenger usage would be occasional, as exemplified by George Smith’s trips from Hornby to bank and solicitor and family visits. Certainly, with no early local down trains, the timetable reflects the fact that the parishes were self-sufficient in terms of daily employment, and that Lancaster’s workforce lived within walking distance of their employment. One provision for the needs of the rural population, however, was an earlier train on Lancaster’s Market Day (Saturday), commencing in Bentham and returning late afternoon, with coach connections to Kirkby Lonsdale. The Morecambe Branch had a more regular service, with eight return journeys to Poulton on weekdays and six on Sundays, but again without the early morning start that industrial workers would require. George Smith first travelled on this railway from Wray in November 1849 and he and his family and associates continued to use the railway frequently, going to Lancaster and often on to Liverpool where his married daughter lived. A common day trip was out on the Saturday morning market train from Hornby and back on the late afternoon express, e.g. the last trip before his death in 1856:
Hornby became the main station for the area, as Wray was closed when the line was fully open (1850), becoming the crossing keeper’s cottage. (This was the fate also of Claughton Station and Low Bentham was only a temporary station).
From an early date, the railway seized the opportunity for mass transport, e.g. a day trip to the seaside (the first long distance excursion to Morecambe!), Lancaster Race day, and a celebratory local school trip:11
In the early timetables, the trains universally provided for 1st and 2nd class passengers, with 3rd class only on the first train to and from Leeds on weekdays, i.e. under a “Gov” (Government) scheme with 3rd class fares at 1d a mile,3 but available on all Sunday trains. The latter presumably indicating that this was when the working classes were expected to have the freedom to use the railway. Fares for these classes, from Hornby to Lancaster (30 minutes), were 1s 8d, 1s, and 4d.
Surviving timetables show that by 1858 the daily trains (excluding Sundays) had been reduced to four each way but with the first down train (to Lancaster) being an hour earlier, i.e. 8.39 a.m. from Hornby and all stopped at the local stations. All down trains ran from Leeds and all up ones from Morecambe. The latter was advertised as the port for Belfast, with daily afternoon or evening sailings, except Sunday and Monday, and at times dictated by the tides. Single tickets were 2s steerage and 5s cabin, 3s and 7s 6d return. Weekly traffic returns were issued for the NWR in the early years, e.g. 2488 passengers for the week ending June 15th 1856.11
From 1871, the timetables were issued under the name of the Midland Railway. They show the changes which resulted, directly and indirectly, from the opening of the F & MR branch to Carnforth in 1867, with the through connection with the FR (and Barrow) at Carnforth following a year later. Firstly, the passenger traffic along this line from Wennington was enhanced by Isle of Man traffic sailing from Piel Pier (1st July 1867), which was supplemented in 1868 as a result of the transfer there of the Irish steamers from Morecambe by the MR.14, 3, 5 Later (1881) they sailed from the new Ramsden Dock, Barrow. Ironically, adverts in the Lancaster Gazette offered excursion tickets to Belfast from Morecambe and other stations via Wennington and Barrow. In 1879, the Belfast train was the 10:30 from London St Pancras arriving 19:15 at Barrow, whilst the return train from there was at 06:30, presumably requiring over-night accommodation at Barrow.
Secondly, a particular pattern of train working evolved, with down trains from Leeds dividing at Wennington to serve both Barrow and Morecambe. This required an extra engine to be supplied to take the rear portion on to its destination (see station details). The reverse procedure allowed up trains from the two stations to be combined for onward travel to Leeds. By 1879 (see timetable), there were three down and two up weekday trains operating in this way and one down and one up on Sundays. All three of these stopped at Hornby and Arkholme, but only one at Melling. An additional stopping train from Leeds and another from Clapham ran to Barrow with stops including Melling.
Arkholme became an alternative station for Kirkby Lonsdale, with a scheduled horse omnibus connection twice a day, each time dropping passengers for an up train and collecting arrivals from a down train (1879 timetable). This supplemented the four weekday trains each way on the LNWR Lowgill-Ingleton line which stopped at Kirkby Lonsdale station. The journey times from Arkholme were 2 h 50 min to Barrow, 6 h 7 min to Leeds and 8 h to London, similar to those from Hornby.
After 1904, with the opening of Heysham harbour and branch line, the Irish passenger and goods traffic returned to the old NWR line. On the evidence in a later 1912 timetable, expresses to and from London St Pancras, via Leeds, made a 5¾ h journey to meet the daily overnight sailings each way (except Sunday) between Heysham and Belfast. By then, in total, there were ten down trains on weekdays via Lancaster with five stopping at Hornby, and six via Carnforth with two stopping at Melling and Arkholme. Four of these involved dividing trains at Wennington. With a corresponding number of up trains; the daily total number of passenger train numbers passing through Wennington was 32 over twelve hours.
Over the period covered by the preserved timetables seen, local and regional journey times decreased, e.g. in 1858, Hornby to Lancaster was 21 min and to Skipton by stopping train 1h 38 min, whereas in 1912 these journeys were 16 min and 1 h 13 min respectively. Over longer distances, from Lancaster to Leeds was 3 h 25 min in 1858, 2 h 35 min in 1879 and 1h 32 min by express in 1912. By the 1870s, London was the terminal point in the timetables, 8h 28 min away from Lancaster by the up train in 1879 but only 6h 22 min on the express in 1912. The average speed of the express for the non-stop 29 miles section to Hellifield was 43 mph.
In addition, from NWR days onwards, excursion traffic was being strongly promoted to generate extra passengers for both scheduled (ordinary) and special trains. For example, records show that weekend excursions to Morecambe were being widely advertised in the Leeds, Bradford, Nottingham and Leicester areas.4 Excursions were also regularly aimed at the local populace, for special events and gatherings: Clapham sheep dog trials, Settle Cattle Fair, Skipton Agricultural Show, Morecambe Pantomime and even trips to London. Special interest groups could also arrange preferential travel, e.g. to a temperance meeting.
Goods transport was obviously an important element of the railways' operations, both through traffic to and from the ports and industrial centres and local traffic. Identifiable components included bulk materials (coal, coke, iron ore, pig iron, slate, lime, limestone), parcels and animals. Concerning local usage, the first timetable lists a cattle train from Hornby on Tuesdays for its (fortnightly) Cattle Fair (1850 timetable), and cattle pens were provided there and at Caton, Arkholme and Bentham stations.
This 'butter box' from Clintsfield farm was used to take butter to Lancaster market on the train from Wennington. It is now in the Museum of Rural Life in Reading - the only example they have from England. (Photo courtesy MS)
Another local reference is an advert for the supply of lime from Ingleton to Hornby at 10d a load in 1851.11 The provision of goods sheds at all stations reflects the parcels traffic, whilst the sidings in the goods yards were available for bulk materials. The first appearance of a coal agent in Hornby in the 1851 census is probably indicative of the import of “railway coal”, which must have been widespread, in competition with the lower quality local coal.
A record for 1884 shows five scheduled down goods trains each way daily along this section, to Lancaster or Morecambe, of which probably only three could pick up at local stations.4 In contrast there were twelve goods trains each way to Carnforth of which two included local traffic. The remainder were overnight trains, two of them with 35 loads each (probably of coke). One was from a Quarry Junction at Skipton and presumably carried limestone for the blast furnaces at Carnforth or Barrow. Notable, and enigmatic, amongst the up trains was the 17:05 from Morecambe to Skipton which was detaching iron ore wagons at Wennington, perhaps empties going back to the Furness iron mines. (But why use the small Morecambe dock rather than Barrow docks?). Also there were instructions for down trains to attach cattle wagons when necessary at Caton, Hornby and Arkholme for Settle market, to be detached at Giggleswick.
A corresponding pattern of up goods trains gives a total of 34 per weekday through Wennington, added to which there were 30 ordinary passenger trains to make a final daily total of 64. This shows that by the 1880s these local rural lines had become relatively important for both trade and communication.
Detailed accounts are available for the NWR Company years in the published records of shareholder meetings.11 These show that gross traffic receipts rose from £31 216 in 1851, the first full year of operation, to £90 003 in 1869, the penultimate year of the company’s existence. In the latter year 51% was from goods; 37% passengers and parcels; 8% minerals; 3% cattle and 0.3% mails. However, the distinction between goods & minerals is unclear, e.g. the status of coke. In 1869, the gross profit was 50%, available for loan interest and dividend payments.