Level Crossing & Bridge

When the railway was first built, a level crossing was provided at the south end of Oxenholme Junction station to maintain road traffic access along the old Kendal to Sedbergh turnpike road.

map 1858 marked

However, the fact that the crossing was over four lines with many train movements each day, and the access roads either side were on a considerable gradient (see heights in feet above sea level marked on the roadway), there was some disquiet as evidenced by the following correspondence in the Westmorland Gazette:

Extract 1 from The Westmorland Gazette, 7 February 1857:

CORRESPONDENCE

OXENHOLME LEVEL CROSSING

To the Editor of the Westmorland Gazette

Sir, – It is now time to ask whether the Board of trade or the Judges of Assize will allow a turnpike road to be crossed on the level where at least ten passenger trains, and probably as many more luggage engines and trains are passing during the twenty-four hours: – where a branch line also comes in which has to communicate with the main line over the level crossing, where the crossing is between the goods’ station and the passengers’ station, and where the watering and cokeing of the goods’ engines has to be done by passing over the level crossing.

Nothing need be said about the traffic to and from the railway station, although I don’t see that ought to be endangered, but to a person going along the highway there could scarcely be a more dangerous crossing place, and when taking the steep road into consideration, and the amount of traffic, I don’t think there is so dangerous a railway crossing to be found in the United Kingdom.

I shall be very glad, as one who has to cross the Oxenholme road to some extent, to put down my mite to a fund, if such be required, to compel the railway company to give the public a bridge over or under the line.

I am, your obedient servant,

Hutton, sen., not Old Hutton.   R.R.

Extract 2 from The Westmorland Gazette, 7 February 1857:

To the Editor of the Westmorland Gazette

Miss – presents her compliments to the editors of the two Kendal papers, and relies upon their gallantry to publish her remarks upon a grievance which is most intolerable, and she is ashamed for Kendal that the gentlemen have not the spirit to take it up.

Miss – observed a letter in the newspaper last week finding fault with the toll bar on the Lancaster Road, but Miss – recommends the gentleman who wrote the letter to enlist under flag, if he has any chivalry, and from his letter she thinks he has, for the monster she wishes to destroy is a real evil and no windmill.

Miss – does not know whether the gentleman has any daughters who ride, but she implores all the papas in Kendal, who value their daughter’s lives, to take up this question; for though a toll bar is one of the many little annoyances on papa’s pocket, and very inconvenient for a lady to pay who rides a spirited horse unattended by a servant, yet the gate is open, and the toll is only two-pence without risk of life or limb.

Miss – enjoys the rides in Old Hutton, perhaps the most beautiful about Kendal, and has ventured now and then over Oxenholme brow; but it is with great hesitation and with great risk to her good temper that she presented herself at the double gates, enclosing the railway, over which her horse passed with difficulty, and required to be led by the only man in attendance, who had also to open the gates, and who appeared looking up and down the line as if expecting something might be coming down upon them.

Miss – , though unwilling to confess her alarm, rode miles around to avoid the dangerous passage, but has never yet understood why her favourite road was to be stopped instead of the railway having a bridge.

If any of the directors had daughters who rode near Kendal Miss – does not think they would endure such an obstruction one month. Besides Miss – heard a gentleman say that it decreased the value of all the land to which the obstructed road leads. But Miss – does not care about that; and if it was to save money that this choicest of rides for a lady was blocked in this way, then she says it was very base, very naughty, and very miserly for a mighty and opulent company to do so.

Miss – has heard many other persons always grumbling about it, and fearing accidents; but as she thought the lives of the ladies and gentlemen with families were of more value than hers, she like them growled and trembled, trembled and growled, but she now thinks it was Miss Nightingale’s duty to preserve life, it is her duty to prevent accidents and deaths.

About a week since Miss – was riding to Hutton and came to the railway crossing at Oxenholme, and had to wait a long time, it seemed a VERY long time, amongst a crowd of carts until the road was clear. There was the passenger engine going south just ready to set off with a long train behind it, and another engine with waggons moving up and down the railway close to the gate; and there on the steep hill Miss – had to wait with her mare trembling like an aspen leaf, ready to start off, had not a kind soul held it while these horrible juggernauts were careering about and stopping the Queen’s highway. At last the train with the passengers went thundering and rattling along, frightening the horses on the steep brow. The engine with the waggons went back; they said it had been getting water; and then the line was clear. Still the terrible monster with the waggons stood steaming as if ready to pounce upon men, women, and carts if they did not cross in a jiffy. Looking to the left, while her mare was led over, Miss – saw a junior monster, that had come from Kendal, steaming and smoking; so between one on the left and one on the right – and the engines might have set off by accident – the danger seemed awful.

Miss – entreats the Editors, as they are gentlemen, to write down this Oxenholme crossing; let them attack it in their leading articles.

Returning in a carriage from an evening visit over this road, the danger was dreadful. What with red lights and lamp lights, the cry of the engines, the calls of the porters, the panting of the steam, and the moving of the trains., Miss – felt as if it were encountering the jaws of danger, and she was reminded of Dante’s description of scenes in the infernal world.

Miss – fears that her papa will never cross in a carriage again either by day or by night, and perhaps he is right, although she fears she must lose some pleasant visits in consequence; but she cannot understand how any one has a right, after she has paid the toll-bar, to stop her rides on horseback, or to prevent her papa using the road, or to kill (for after all she fears it will come to that) people going about their business, and market people sometimes return home with less than their usual discretion.

Near Kendal, Feb. 4th, 1857.

P.S. Miss – trusts that others will join her in attacking this dreadful “nuisance” – she hopes she uses the right word – so that it may be altered before her summer rides come on; and she is told that railway companies have plenty of money for everything they like to do, and can build bridges and do everything else in a very short time.

Extract from The Westmorland Gazette, 16 December 1871:

A GATEKEEPER KILLED

AT THE OXENHOLME LEVEL CROSSING

On Saturday last an inquest was held at the railway-station, Oxenholme, by C. G. Thomson, Esq., on the body of James Armer, gatekeeper at the level crossing at Oxenholme, who had been struck down and killed that morning by a luggage train, as detailed in the following evidence: –

Matthew Armer, of Old Hutton, labourer, deposed. – The deceased James Armer was my son. He was 21 years of age. He was not married. He was the gatekeeper at Oxenholme Station on the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway. He had been in the employment of the London and North-Western Railway Company for several years, but had only acted as gatekeeper at Oxenholme for about five weeks. Deceased had been on day duty for the last fortnight. His hours were from six o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening. He took all his meals with him to work.

Robert Armstrong of Carlisle, deposed: – I am an engine driver in the employment of the London and North Western Railway Company, and have been in the service of the company for nearly 23 years. I was this morning driving a luggage train which leaves Carlisle at 3.30 a.m. It is due at Oxenholme at 6.18 a.m., but is it not marked to stop at Oxenholme. We were rather more than an hour late this morning, and approached Oxenholme about 7.30 a.m. We ran through Oxenholme Station at about a speed of fifteen or twenty miles an hour; certainly under twenty miles. Just before the engine reached the cabin on the south side of the gates, on the east side of the line, I saw the deceased come from the direction of the cabin and went right in front of my engine. It was not quite light at the time. I whistled, but could see nothing of the deceased. I looked at the other side and saw his cap fly off, and I was sure the engine had struck him then. I stopped the train and came back, and found deceased had been removed to the porters’ room. He was not dead, but insensible. There was a train on the down line running north as we passed the level crossing. My engine would be about ten or fifteen yards from the deceased when I first saw him, and I think that if he had gone direct across the line he would have cleared it. I saw no one near deceased. The signals were all right for our passing through the station. I afterwards examined the engine and found marks on the ash box as if it had come into contact with deceased.

James Robinson, of Upperby, near Carlisle, deposed: – I acted as fireman on the engine driven by the last witness this morning. We passed through Oxenholme Station at a speed of about twenty miles an hour. The driver whisteld just before we reached the level crossing, and I saw deceased’s cap flying off as we passed the gates.

Henry Nelson, of Oxenholme, deposed: – I am a foreman platelayer in the employment of the London and North-Western Railway Company. About half-past seven o’clock this morning I was in deceased’s cabin, with himself and John Park, the pointsman and signalman at the south end of the station. We were all talking. We had not been more than two or three minutes in the box when the north end signalman gave four gongs, which is the signal that a goods train is approaching from the north. Park returned the signal with one gong, which means all right – that the road is clear. Deceased asked me to open his gates, and I said “well, when I have more time,” and he then took down the gate keys and went and opened the goods yard gate on the east side of the line, and I afterwards heard him run down past the cabin, but I did not see him. The next thing I heard was the goods train passing and whistling for breaks. After the train had passed we found deceased lying in the four foot about twenty-three yards below the gates. He was lying with his face downwards. We lifted deceased into the six foot, and then went for assistance and removed him into the porters’ room, where he remained and died in about twenty minutes. Deceased was very much injured uponhis head, and one foot was smashed. He was never sensible after we found him.

Verdict – “Accidentally killed.”

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