Sunday, July 14, 2013

To Roose, and beyond

 
It takes two and a half hours to travel by train down the Cumbrian Coast line from Carlisle to Barrow-in-Furness. It's an interesting journey via Dalston, Wigton, Aspatria, Maryport, Flimby, Workington, Harrington, Parton, Whitehaven, Corkikle, St Bees, Sellafield, Seascale, Drigg and Ravenglass for Eskdale - the destination yesterday for many of my fellow passengers. I spent an unforgettable day there in 2010, see here, but yesterday I carried on past Bootle, Silecroft, Millom, Green Road, Foxfield, Kirkby-in-Furness, Askam and into Barrow. At some of these stations the train only 'stops on request', and, if you are on the train, you tell the conductor that you wish the train to stop. But I do wonder what it must be like to stand on the platform, and put your hand out to signal the driver that you want to get on.

I should also point out that there are two other stations on the line at Nethertown and Braystones which are also request stops, but not on every service that passes!

I planned to break my journey in Barrow, a town that I had last visited in 1961.

This Class 153, just the one car, had been my transport, the Northern Rail service, the 08.37 ex Carlisle, now arrived at Barrow and set to return to Whitehaven.

So, how to spend a couple of hours in Barrow? I found my way to the Dock Museum, and discovered a real gem of a visitor attraction!

It looks a bit odd from the outside, but don't let appearances fool you.

The museum is build over one end of an old graving dock. This is the other end!

Part of the museum occupies three floors within the dock.

It gets my vote as the most unusual museum I've ever visited!

Interesting exhibits too. Here is the White Rose, a racing yacht built in 1899 by a local shipbuilding family, the Ashburners. Her story is here.

 
The Shipbuilders' Gallery holds a splendid collection of ship models. (Cue nostalgic memories of the hall at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow filled with such models which I used to visit often growing up there in the 1950s.) The photo above is of the model of the battlecuiser HIJMS Kongo, built in Barrow for the Japanese navy in 1912. It is an example of the international reputation of the Vickers shipyard which had already built two battleships for the Japanese navy by that time.

Kongo cost £2,500,000 and was the last important ship which the Japanese had built abroad. Apparently, her design was an improved version of the latest British battlecruisers of the time, and back in Japan, served as the template for similar home-built warships. Kongo was twice rebuilt and refitted in Japan before being sunk by an American submarine off Formosa in 1944. The full history of the ship is here.

The Dock Museum is not all about ships and shipbuilding. The ground floor of the museum covers the social history of Barrow (which is absolutely fascinating), the second floor of the graving dock was home yesterday to an art exhibition, and there is an area where one can watch a variety of films - I particularly enjoyed the one documenting the history of the Furness Railway. I did not realise that, although the origins of the railway were in transporting slate and iron ore, the railway took on a new lease of life in the late nineteenth century and early 1900s, serving a growing tourist market. The railway had its own ships, bringing tourists from Blackpool/Fleetwood to Barrow, then onwards by train, to its own boats on Conniston and Windermere. Part of the Furness Line is now a heritage railway between Haverthwaite and Lakeside. I can't believe it's already four years since I visited, see here.


Across the road from the Dock Museum is the remaining symbol of Barrow's industrial past, the Devonshire Dock Hall, also known as the Trident sheds, built to facilitate the construction of the Trident submarines.

The Furness Railway name lives on as a pub in the town centre!

For me, it was time to catch the 14.16 on to Lancaster (part of the old Furness Railway's route to Carnforth) and complete a round trip back up to Lockerbie. At Barrow, the train from the north duly arrived, the same Class 153 that I had travelled on earlier, back from Whitehaven. But we were all told not to get on board. The train then backed into a siding to couple up to another coach to form a two-car unit, and we were some twenty minutes late in getting away. Now, I don't know if this was a regular occurrence but perhaps Northern Rail was aware of what was to happen.

It was on to Roose, Dalton, Ulverston, Cark, Kents Bank, Grange-over-Sands, Arnside, Silverdale, and Carnforth.  At Kents Bank and Grange a large number of passengers were waiting for the train to arrive, and it was standing room only, even with the two coaches. The day had been one of the Morecambe Bay charity walks, from Arnside over to Kents Bank, see here. Now that looks fun! And by all accounts, it certainly had been a great day yesterday for the participants.

Arriving at Lancaster, I crossed the platform to join a Virgin Pendolino heading for Glasgow. Whoosh... I got off at Carlisle, crossed the platform again, and to my surprise, found another Pendolino headed for Edinburgh but due to stop at Lockerbie. So I was home in a jiffy, in comfort.

Well, not quite. There had been an accident on the M74 at Johnstonebridge, blocking the carriageway, and all traffic north was diverted onto the service road, my usual way home to Skip from Lockerbie. After a mile or so barely moving, I struck out and had an evening hurl to Wamphray via Boreland!

One more day of my Rail Rover ticket remains, to be used by Tuesday. Now, where to go?

Photos © Skip Cottage

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