On 31st October 1986 Albright & Wilson Limited closed the internal railway system at their Marchon Works which included the cable worked incline known as the Corkickle Brake. It was reputed to be the last commercially operated standard gauge cable worked incline in Britain, so its passing was particularly regrettable. The incline had a number of other names, including the Kells, Marchon or Monkwray Brake, or just simply “The Brake”.
The Corkickle Brake was constructed in 1881 by the Earl of Lonsdale’s Whitehaven Colliery Company to handle the output from Croft Pit. There were sidings at the bottom of the incline which joined the Furness Railway between Corkickle Station and Mirehouse Junction. The Corkickle Brake was originally operated by a steam winding engine at the Brake Top fed with steam from three Cochrane Boilers. The incline initially mostly dealt with coke traffic from the coke works at Ladysmith Colliery together with by-products in tank wagons which went mainly to the steelworks at Workington and Barrow. The 1930’s brought hard times to West Cumberland and when the coke works at Ladysmith closed in 1932 the Corkickle Brake was then left unused and the weeds and rust soon began to flourish. The two partners Frank Schon and Fred Marzillier who started the company Marchon Products Limited in 1939 moved to Whitehaven in 1940 and began manufacturing firelighters in Hensingham. Not long after coming to Whitehaven the company started to market chemicals as raw materials for detergents and in 1943 moved to the site of the former Ladysmith Coke ovens at Kells. By 1955 Marchon had 1,500 employees and was firmly established as one of the major manufacturers of detergent chemicals.
For over twenty years the Corkickle Brake had laid idle but a new period of activity was about to begin. By the mid 1950’s the Marchon railway traffic was increasing dramatically and it was affecting the nearby colliery’s as it had to use the Howgill Brake down to the Harbour. In 1953 the NCB handed over the long disused Corkickle Brake to Marchon to modernise and work the line themselves. The brake was ready for testing in spring 1955 and with full traffic beginning again in May of that year and for the next 30 years the Corkickle Brake was back in service.
Corkickle Brake – Significant Dates
- Corkickle Brake constructed by the Earl of Lonsdale’s Whitehaven Colliery Company in 1881.
- Upgraded and modernised in 1904.
- Ladysmith Colliery closed in January 1932 and Brake left unused.
- In late 1953 the NCB hand over the long disused Corkickle brake to Marchon Products.
- After modernisation testing commenced in the spring of 1955.
- New Peckett locomotive purchased by Marchon and brought up the Corkickle Brake on 31st March 1955.
- Full traffic commences during May 1955.
- Marchon taken over by Albright & Wilson in November 1955.
- Marchon works turned to diesel motive power in January 1962 with the purchase of Sentinel 230hp 4 wheel diesel hydraulic loco 10086.
- In the late 1960’s the Brickworks siding is closed when traffic transferred to road transport.
- August 1972 landslip at former brickworks siding.
- In 1972 new engineman’s control cabin built on roof of engine house to give unobstructed view down incline.
- Sentinel 10085 (sister to above) purchased in August 1969 after reconditioning.
- Corkickle Brake used for last time on 4th November 1986.