Travelling the Cumbria Coast Railway: Part 2

The Cumbria Coast Railway is built right on the coastline in many places, such as between Workington & Whitehaven and between Saint Bees & Seascale. It is a pretty wild coastline and the sea wall supporting the railway has often been damaged during storms. At Parton, between Workington & Whitehaven, the track has been reduced to a single line to move trains away from the sea wall and reduce loading on the sea defences. The line is often closed by storms due to the risk to trains.

On the inland side of the railway, the peaks and fells of the Lake District are clearly visible, so there is nearly always some stunning scenery to look at. On the day of my journey, weather was rather overcast and wet but the scenery was still spectacular. That said, the sun did briefly poke through the clouds south of Bootle.

Between Whitehaven & Saint Bees and from Saint Bees to Sellafield there are further single line sections that are operated by tokens. These require driver to stop the train so that the token for each section of line can be exchanged. More about token working here. Eventually, the line will be re-signalled with digital signalling which will remove this archaic,  but quaint, way of operating. On other parts of the rail system, British Rail implemented a radio system for exchanging tokens, but this system never made it to Cumbria. This means that the line is expensive to operate, as signal staff are needed at all the signalboxes. As a result, the line has no service south of Whitehaven on Sundays.*

The railway hugs the coastline around Parton & Harrington. Whitehaven harbour is in the distance

Many of the stations along the route are request stops and so the trains pass through at slow speed unless passengers have requested the train to stop by speaking to the train staff; the train also stops if a passenger is seen waiting on the platform.

The railway crosses the Esk river at the pretty coastal village of Ravenglass. This is also the station for the heritage narrow gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway.

Between Millom and Kirkby-in-Furness, the railway makes a lengthy detour inland around the estuary of the River Duddon, before crossing the river near Foxfield.

The railway skirts around the Duddon estuary and crosses it at Foxfield

I can certainly recommend travelling this railway – either as a day trip or as a short break combined with a stay in one of the many cottages and small hotels dotted along it. It is easily do-able as a day trip from Carlisle or Lancaster (both places making a decent base) which gives time to stop in Whitehaven, go for a coastal walk between stations, or visit the Ravenglass railway. Northern also sell a few rail rover tickets, but a return ticket from Carlisle to Barrow allows travel via Lancaster too.

* Update: since the May 2018 timetable change, the lien now has a limited Sunday service.

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