History of Engine Lonning

In 1823 Carlisle Canal was opened. It stretched from the City of Carlisle to a small village on the Solway called Fishers Cross (later to be renamed Port Carlisle). It opened up Carlisle to domestic and overseas trade, and the area now known as the Port Road Business Park became a thriving business hub. The legacy of this significant period of history can be seen in nearby street names such as Canal Court, Canal Bank and Port Road.

In 1853, the Canal ran into difficulties and was subsequently drained and filled. A railway line was built over the top and a passenger terminal station built. In 1854, a new deep water dock was created at Silloth, and the Port Carlisle Line was taken over by the Carlisle and Silloth Bay Railway and Dock Company, who extended the line from Drumburgh to Silloth.

In 1859, the Carlisle and Silloth Branch Line was sold to The North British Railway (NBR), and subsequently sold to the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923.

From the 1860’s to the 1960’s Engine Lonning and the surrounding area was a busy rail freight and passenger terminal, with rail yards, engine sheds and engineering workshops.

  • At the south eastern corner of Engine Lonning Nature Reserve was Canal Junction/Port Carlisle Junction where the railways diverged into the Carlisle and Edinburgh Line and the Carlisle and Silloth Branch Line. Overlooking the junction was the four storey imposing Canal Junction Signal Box.
  • To the north east end of the Reserve there was a manure and bone works and a varnish works, both connected by rail to the Carlisle Edinburgh Line.
  • A series of rail sidings left the Edinburgh Line before it crossed the Eden, and ran westwards alongside the river to Canal Engine Shed.   This was a considerable structure, originally built of sandstone, with six rail lines running into it and a series of workshops within and around it.  To the south of the site was a turntable.
  • In the north western most corner there once stood ‘Engine House’, the former pump house for drawing up water from the nearby River Eden for refilling the steam locomotives.

The line closed in 1964. Canal Shed, Engine House and the other buildings and structures were demolished in 1966. Today, the ruins of Carlisle’s railway heritage remain hidden beneath the undergrowth.