End Of The Line For The Croft Pit Incline.

Try the Corkickle Incline Jigsaw

The Corkickle Brake Incline / The Croft Pit Incline. The Corkickle Brake was closed on 31st October 1986. Albright & Wilson Limited closed the internal railway system at their Marchon Works, including the cable-worked incline known as the Corkickle Brake. It was reputed to be the last commercially operated standard gauge cable-worked incline in Britain, so its passing is particularly regrettable. The incline had a number of other names. Including the Kells, Marchon or Monkwray Brake or just simply The Brake, a word which seems to have been in common use at Whitehaven.

It is appropriate that such a notable event should occur at Whitehaven, a place with a very long industrial history, and it is still a fascinating experience to trace the remnants of its early trading and coal mining activities. The town has a dramatic setting facing on to the Harbour and surrounded by high ground on the other three sides. Up on the hill to the south, the chimneys of the mines had long been a feature because there were many small pits in the Howgill area. 

Later, there was a railway running along the top of the hill connecting the Haig and Ladysmith Collieries. This was linked with two inclines; Howgill Brake heading to Whitehaven Harbour and Corkickle Brake descending into the valley followed by the Furness Railway line from St Bees and Barrow to Whitehaven. The Howgill Brake was situated on the site of an eighteenth century wagon-way until it was realigned in 1923 to cope with the coal from the new Haig Colliery (sunk in 1914-1916).


The Corkickle Brake was constructed by the Earl of Lonsdale's Whitehaven Colliery Co in 1881 to handle the output from the Croft pit. There were sidings at the bottom of the incline connected with the Furness Railway, later LMS, between Corkickle station and Mirehouse Junction, The Corkickle Brake was upgraded and modernised in 1904 in order to cope with the increased traffic from the new Ladysmith Colliery.

Two mysterious entries in the Contract Journal have caused much speculation. On 28th July 1920, it was reported that the 'contract was open for a line from Furness Railway to Ladysmith Colliery, for Whitehaven Colliery Co'. Shortly after on 18th August 1920, the Journal gave the following account: "Whitehaven Colliery Co are building a new railway to cope with the output of new Haig Pit. Line will be 1 to 1 miles long from Mirehouse to Ladysmith after completion of railway, the present cable system will only be used in an emergency."

This seems to imply that a direct line from Ladysmith to Mirehouse was proposed in 1920. There are no local recollections of this project and one can only assume that it was a mistaken reference to the New Howgill Brake. Joe MacMillan was an acknowledged expert on the area's industrial history and a railway enthusiast, He never made any mention of such plans during his long acquaintance with Mike Lee. Joe MacMillan was Traffic Manager for the Whitehaven Collieries from 1940 until his retirement in 1965.

Corkickle Brake Incline Video Click Here it's a large file Broadband  connection  recommended.

In his early days at the collieries, he had been a weighbridge lad, a shunter and a locomotive driver, and so he had a very thorough grounding in anything to do with the Whitehaven Collieries. The Corkickle Brake was originally operated with a steam-winding engine at the Brake Top, fed with steam by three Cochrane boilers. The incline mostly dealt with coke traffic from the coke works associated with Ladysmith Colliery, together with by products in tank wagons, which went mainly to the steelworks at Workington and Barrow.

Rakes of four wagons at a time were worked up and down the incline, which was open (in theory) from 6am to midnight (two shifts) but it often took until about 4am to clear the traffic. One Ladysmith locomotive was permanently allocated to shunting the brake top. This was usually WHITEHAVEN No.1 (Andrew Barclay 1331 of 1913); the locomotive was called BROOMSHIELS after 1934. The 1930's brought hard times to the West Cumberland coast and Ladysmith Colliery and Coke works closed in January 1932. The washing plant remained open. The Corkickle Brake was then left unused for the rust and weeds to flourish.

A contemporary aerial photograph shows that the line from the washer to the Brake was occupied by stored wagons. Frank Schon and Fred Marzillier first registered Marchon Products LTD as a limited company in London in December 1939. The firm suffered in the London blitz and the two partners moved to Whitehaven in late 1940 to small premises in the Hensingham district. Early in 1941, they began to manufacture firelighters at Hensingham Shortly afterwards, the company started to market chemicals as raw materials for detergent manufacture. Frank Schon was a chemist who eventually became an acknowledged leader in the field.

In 1943, expanding production encouraged the company to move to Kells, where they established a works on the site of the former Ladysmith coke ovens. They were employing 40 workers in 1944 and this number quadrupled in the next two years. After World War 2, scientists and technicians were recruited from the various ordnance factories in the area. There were 586 people on the Marchon Products payroll by 1951. The Korean crisis of that year caused the company to seek new sources of material for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, one of the components in detergent manufacture.


For more Information and pictures about the Corkickle Brake Incline Visit The wonderful Cumbria Railways website created by Peter Burgess at www.Cumbria-Railways.co.uk. The Cumbria Railways website is dedicated to the lost railways of Northern Cumbria which have all closed during the last century.


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Dudley Hubbard's 1984 Corkickle Incline Pictures

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