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Lindal Ore Depot Subsidence 1892

The photos and plan on this page were provided by Roy Mason. Please click on each of the photos to see a larger version.

The Furness Railway Company's report on the accident was provided by Richard Johnston.

The Story of Locomotive No. 115

The photos and plan illustrate the great hole that opened up in the Lindal ore sidings on 22nd September 1892. They show the hole itself, and the railway workers, led by head ganger George Clark, who were responsible for the maintenance of the Lindal railway tracks. George is third from the left in the photo of the railway workers, wearing the white coat.

George Clark and other railway workers at Lindal Station (click to enlarge)

Plan of the area affected by subsidence (click to enlarge)

Photo taken shortly after the subsidence took place (click to enlarge) Photo taken later in the day following attempts to rescue the engine (click to enlarge)

Lindal Ore Depot Subsidence 1892
Furness Railway Company Official Report

Alarming subsidence on the Furness Railway
An engine disappears into a mine
Disorganisation of traffic

On Thursday morning, about half-past eight, an alarming subsidence took place on the Furness line at Lindal Bank Top, a short distance beyond Lindal passenger station, which had the effect of completely disorganising the passenger traffic and compelling a complete suspension of the mineral traffic.

The place where the subsidence occurred is at a place where the railway runs along a high embankment, and where, in consequence of the workings of Parkside Mines by the Lindal Moor Co., the ground has been looked upon as dangerous for a long time. Many of our readers may probably remember that some time ago all trains were ‘slowed’ just before crossing a bridge three quarters of a mile above Lindal Station, this being necessary owing to the shaky nature of the ground, consequent on the workings underneath. Everything was done by the Railway Company at that time to make the line as safe as possible, for the bridge was most securely propped up, and is now considered perfectly safe. The place where the subsidence occurred is a short distance on the Lindal side of this bridge and not far from the offices of Lindal Ore Depot. The engineers of the company have for some time been troubled by the shaky character of the ground underneath , and owing to slight subsidence there has had to be a considerable deal of ballasting. To make the line as safe as possible under the circumstances, the two main lines, in addition to being laid in ordinary sleepers, were also placed on longitudinal baulks of timber, and a night watchman was appointed to give warning if anything went wrong. The embankment, at this point carries, in addition to the main lines, six sidings, the mainlines being practically in the centre. The watchman, it is stated, passed over the place where the subsidence occurred only a few minutes before the accident, and did not see anything wrong.

Narrow escape of an engine driver

The goods train which left Barrow for Carnforth somewhere about seven o’clock, stopped at Lindal, and it was whilst shunting there and marshalling the train that the accident occurred. Fortunately there was only the driver, Thomas Postlethwaite, on the engine at the time, the fireman having just got of to get some breakfast. The driver noticed that the ground seemed to be cracking, and feeling a tremor on the engine he instantly knocked off steam and reversed the engine and jumped off. In doing so he came against a wagon with considerable force, receiving a severe shaking besides a shock to the system. He was removed as speedily as possible to the North Lonsdale Hospital. No sooner had Postlethwaite jumped from his engine than the ground suddenly opened to the width of 30ft and about the same depth, the sides of the gap being perpendicular. The engine fell in front first, the funnel and the front part being completely embedded, only a part of the tender being visible above the surface. The metals of the sidings, on which the engine had been but a moment before, had snapped off at the fish plates, and gone down with the engine, while the supporting baulks under the main lines were also laid bare, the upline being left hanging, and only left hanging by the baulks, all the ballast having sunk away.

Arranging the traffic

No time was lost in wiring from Lindal to Barrow and Ulverston particulars of the alarming occurrence, in order that arrangements might be made to cope with the traffic, and the line repaired as quickly as possible, seeing that the disaster had occurred at one of the busiest shunting yards of the system.

Breakdown gangs from the Loco. and Permanent Way Departments were soon on the spot, along with the necessary crane and tool van. There were also present on the scene very early Mr F.S. Stileman, consulting engineer to the Company (who happened very fortunately to be in Barrow at the time), Mr W.S. Whitworth, resident engineer, Mr F.J.Ramsden, assistant secretary, Mr Mason, junior, Mr E. Nelson, permanent way inspector, Mr Haynes, Lindal ore depot, and other officials.

In a very short time a section of the rails was removed and preparations made for dragging the engine out of the ugly hole into which she had fallen. The tender was very easily got at, and was soon uncoupled from the engine and taken out. With the locomotive itself, however weighing about 35 tons, it was seen at once that to get it out of the awkward position into which it had fallen would be a task of very great difficulty, requiring both care and patience. The fire was still alight and steam escaping, but with the aid of a plentiful supply of water the fire was soon put out. It was decided that the only way to get the engine out would be to slope one side of the chasm and lay down a temporary set of rails in order to drag it up, it being a sheer impossibility to lift it otherwise. A large gang of men were set to work to remove the ballast and make the necessary incline, a work which continued till a further subsidence occurred which rendered all their labour in vain.

In the meantime the officials under the direction of Mr Ramsden made such arrangements as were possible to cope with the passenger traffic, the passage of any goods trains being out of the question. The subsidence had taken place just about three quarters of an hour before a passenger train from Barrow to Carnforth was due, and it is a very fortunate circumstance indeed that the accident occurred with a goods and not a passenger train. The engineers, after a careful inspection of the embankment at the side, judged it would be the safest for all the passengers to alight where the subsidence had occurred and walk to the other side. The train of empty carriages being taken slowly over the bad ground, and the passengers taking their seats when the safe ground had been reached on the other side. Owing to it being Ulverston market day there was an exceptionally heavy passenger traffic from all stations between Millom and Lindal. The 8.55 a.m. from Whitehaven, and the 10.05 a.m. from Barrow were very heavy trains, and much time was necessarily lost, first by the delay at Lindal Station in shunting to get on to the siding, and then again owing to the passengers having to alight and wait on the other side till the train got over. Indeed so eager were the passengers to see the hole where the engine was that they crowded round the place, which had been roped off in order to get a good view, that the officials had some difficulty in hurrying them to the train. Not a few, especially ladies, got an ugly tumble when jumping from the carriages owing to the distance to the ground, but this of course could not be avoided. The work of scrambling into the carriages was no easy one, but there was a large staff of porters, who took as much care of the passengers as possible and rendered all the help they could.

An alarming rumour

All kinds of rumours were afloat as to the nature of the accident both at Barrow and other places, and much consternation was caused at one time when it was confidently stated that the accident had occurred to a passenger train, and that a great number had been killed or injured. Fortunately it was not long before something like a true version of what had occurred became known, and fears, especially the fears of those who had friends travelling, were allayed. Numbers of people flocked to the scene of the accident, but were kept from going too close to the hole by policemen.

Another subsidence
An engine swallowed up

The men belonging to the locomotive department had been withdrawn, as they could do nothing till the incline had been completed. The men engaged in this work worked with a will, and it seemed as if a few hours would see the engine once more on the rails. The men had been called off the work about half-past two to partake of much-needed refreshments, and they had not been clear of the place before a further and much more serious subsidence took place. The hole suddenly deepened to about 60 feet, the ponderous engine falling with it; but it did not stop there, for it slipped further and gradually the earth closed over it, although it could be heard falling down and down after all sight had been lost. Those who witnessed it could not help feeling a little awe-struck at seeing such a huge ponderous mass of machinery disappear from sight with a loud noise and fall to as yet an unknown depth. There can be no doubt that so far as the engine is concerned it is hopelessly embowelled in the earth beyond recovery. The further subsidence, however, had been the means of extending the width of the hole to something like 60 feet, and had played terrible havoc with the surface of the embankment. Rails that immediately before were quite straight and apparently as safe as the best part of the line were now twisted and bent in and out, the ballast having fallen away, causing the rails to fall several inches in some places.

The last subsidence had affected the whole of the top of the embankment, the siding on which the empty passenger trains had previously crawled over being now in a most dangerous condition and totally unsafe for even the lightest traffic. The 2.57 from Carnforth arrived at Lindal Bank shortly after the second subsidence, but the company’s officials found that it was impossible for any train to cross the embankment now, consequently all the passengers, of whom were a large number returning from Ulverston market, were considerably surprised when they were directed to take the highway and walk on to Lindal Station, where another train would be waiting to convey them to their destination. Naturally enough, there was a great deal of curiosity amongst the passengers to know the reason for this, as they expected to return in the same manner as they had crossed in the morning, and many of them, after getting into the highway, jumped the wall and climbed the embankment to learn the extent of the recent subsidence. In order to keep the people back on safe ground barricades were erected on each side of the chasm, but at some distance from it, as the ground on the Ulverston side could still be seen to be gradually but slowly slipping away.

The task of working the passenger traffic was now one of extreme difficulty, for not only had the passengers to walk about three quarters of a mile, but great delay was occasioned by having to remove the luggage from one train to another. The 3.05 train from Barrow experienced a very long but unavoidable delay, it being close upon five o’clock before it left for Ulverston. The express, which is timed to reach Ulverston at 4.18 p.m. and Barrow at 4.30, brought a very heavy number of passengers, and it was a curious sight to see them leaving the train and crowding down the highway in the direction of Lindal Station. Every effort was made to get the train away from Lindal as quickly as possible, but this could not be accomplished till some time after five o’clock, and even then, owing to the traffic being so completely disorganised, and people being at a loss to know which was their train, it was wisely decided that this train, which usually runs from Ulverston to Barrow without stopping, should stop at all stations. The officials did their best in the extraordinary circumstances in which they were placed, to get the trains away with as much despatch as possible, but it was an utter impossibility to avoid long and vexatious delays.

The wrecked embankment

The embankment could be seen to be slowly and surely settling and at seven o’ clock in the evening it was fully expected that the subsidence would assume much greater proportions owing to the mines underneath. Nothing could be done in the meantime except to arrange for trainloads of ballast to fill in the gap. So far it appears this is the only way of coping with the difficulty, but there is no knowledge to what length or depth the subsidence may attain, consequently it may be some days before even a single line of rails can be safely laid. The engineers have a work of the greatest difficulty to deal with. Were it the mere filling up of a hole not much time would be lost, but here they have to face the problem of a very uncommon character, for the extent to which the subsidence may go can only be guessed at as yet, though there is every reason to think the worst has been seen. The public need be under no apprehension, for everything will be done to put the line into a safe condition before passenger traffic is resumed. During the day the scene of the disaster was visited by Sir James Ramsden, managing director, and Mr E. Cook, secretary, both of whom stayed a considerable time and gave orders as to what was best to be done with the traffic under the circumstances.

The goods traffic

Vastly inconvenient as it is to the passengers, the company are placed by this extraordinary catastrophe in a very awkward position indeed with regard to the merchandise and a considerable portion of the mineral traffic. All the coke used for the Iron Works at Barrow, Askam and Millom, having to be brought through Carnforth and Lindal, but owing to the accident this was completely stopped, with the effect that Carnforth yard was blocked with goods and mineral trains. Arrangements were made for the dispatching of the coke trains via Penrith and Whitehaven, and probably the same route will be used for the live stock, perishable and merchandise traffic in connection with the Belfast boats. The ordinary goods traffic from Carnforth to Barrow is also completely disorganised, but it is likely that a considerable portion will also be taken round by Penrith and Whitehaven.

The cause of the accident

The accident, there can be no doubt, is directly due to the workings of the Parkside Mines underneath. For some years the mines of which Lord Muncaster is the royalty owner, were worked by the Parkside Mining Co., and were subsequently leased to the Lindal Moor Co., by whom they are at present worked. It will be remembered that some years ago a bridge under the railway, and which is close to where the subsidence has taken place, had to be specially propped because of the sinking of the ground through the workings of the mines. The embankment itself has at different times shown signs of weakness, but these have always been promptly dealt with, and in order to make matters as safe as possible a watchman has been stationed at the place. It is known that there are two levels of mines underneath the railway but the top one has not been worked for some time. In the lower level, however, ore getting is still carried on, and it is stated that the miners can hear the trains when they cross over. Not long ago one of the miners hearing a train make more noise than usual, remarked to his companions ‘there will be a big spill here someday.’ The very heavy rains which have been experienced during the past few weeks must have had a very damping effect on the ground, and it is probable that this is the reason the subsidence has taken so extensive a character. A Board of Trade inquiry will of course be held, when much more definite information will no doubt be forthcoming as to the nature of the ground which the railway passes over at this point and the effect of the workings underneath.

Anyone passing along the spot in the train going to Ulverston will, if they look out on the right (should have read ‘left’?) hand side, notice in the field at the bottom of the embankment that the ground has subsided a considerable distance. The boundary wall is also very much cracked, all showing how very unsafe the ground is thereabouts. Some years ago a farmhouse (‘Lowfield House’) in the neighbourhood was rendered uninhabitable owing to the subsidence of the ground caused by the workings in these same mines.

Visit of the Duke of Devonshire and the directors to the scene
A goods train got over

A visit to the scene of the accident yesterday does not reveal much change in the position of affairs, except that the ground for a considerable distance beyond the railway, as well as the embankment, shows decided signs of further subsiding. Gangs of men were kept at work all night on Thursday tipping ballast into the hole, and although up to five o’clock yesterday afternoon something like 300 wagon loads had been thrown in, not much progress had been made in the huge cavity, as with the weight of material thrown in the ground appeared to sink further and further to extend the weakness in the embankment. On top of the embankment are huge cracks that were not there on the previous day, and this is evidence that the ground has not by any means stopped settling. Yesterday morning saw a further development of the mischief that is being worked underneath, and in a direction quite unexpected. A field immediately adjoining the highway on the Lindal side of the line yesterday showed signs of subsiding, and before noon a piece in the middle of the field about 60 or 80 feet long and about 30 feet wide slowly subsided, the dip in the centre being perhaps eight or ten feet. The settling motion occurred so gradually that the surface of the ground remained unbroken. The yard of the old farmhouse (‘Lowfield House’) immediately at the bottom of the embankment is also considered to be in a dangerous condition. The highway at this point was diverted a little some time ago owing to the ground showing signs of weakness, the new road being laid on a bed of rock. Workmen are engaged day and night at the scene of the accident, and the work of filling in the hole will be energetically proceeded with till there is once more a solid foundation. This work, however, will take some time to accomplish, and in the meantime the passenger traffic will have to be carried on by means of the conveyances at present in use, while a great part of the goods traffic will be utterly at a standstill, with the exception of what it absolutely necessary to convey, and this will have to be sent by the very circuitous route of Penrith and Whitehaven.

Yesterday afternoon the Duke of Devonshire, accompanied by Sir James Ramsden (who was on the ground for a great part of the day) and other directors, including Lord Muncaster and Mr. Victor Cavendish, M.P., spent some time in visiting the scene of the subsidence, after which the party left in a special saloon for Barrow. The fact that all the passengers, both north and south, have to be taken from one place to another by means of conveyance is the occasion of a great deal of inconvenience and no small amount of annoyance, but as the company have really no alternative, passengers have simply to grin and bear it. Fortunately the past two days have been fine, consequently the inconvenience and discomfort have not been so great as they would had the weather been wet. In all about thirteen conveyances, including three large brakes from Barrow, one or two ’buses from Ulverston and the Conishead Priory ’bus are in use. The luggage is conveyed by means of horse and carts. Yesterday afternoon as one of these carts was being driven from Lindal Station to the trains at the top of the bank the horse suddenly bolted, and before going too far ran into a flock of sheep, killing two of them. There is, of course, a great delay in the trains, which, under the circumstances, in quite unavoidable.

Every effort is made to get the South trains off as quickly as possible in order to catch the connections at Carnforth, and in many cases the connection is caught. On Thursday the removal of the mails from the 7.45 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. from Barrow was a task of considerable difficulty, particularly those from the former train, but all were satisfactorily taken round to the other train, and with such celerity that the South mail was caught at Carnforth. The morning mails had similarly to be dealt with, but there was only a delay of an hour.

It was stated yesterday that two mining engineers had been and examined the workings below, but found nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. The top level of the Parkside workings are about 80 fathoms down - about 500 feet. The locomotive, which went out of sight on Thursday, is of course lost for ever, but nothing is definitely known as to how far down it is - probably 80 or 90 feet. Some of the Barrow butchers were put to a great deal of inconvenience by the non arrival of meat at the usual time. The Belfast boat only took about 30 tons of cargo on Thursday night, it being impossible to get the usual trains through.

Last night, however, the steamer sailed with a full cargo, the goods intended for the previous night’s boat having been sent round by Penrith. Below Ulverston the goods trains had collected one after another on Thursday, but these were sent back to Carnforth, and mostly dispatched by Penrith. So long as the block lasts there will be a great deal of inconvenience, but the company’s officials are certainly trying to do their best to grapple with the extraordinary difficulties which are almost overwhelming. Last evening it was hoped that one road might be made safe enough for goods traffic if not more then two wagons were pushed across by hand at a time. No attempt was made to take an engine over, as the probability is that had such a thing been done there would have been another collapse. If one line, however, can be made use of it will help to lesson the present congested condition of affairs. Later on a train of goods for the Belfast steamer was got over, the wagons being taken over on a siding, two or so at a time.

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