So much has been written about the Waverly Route when open, but not too much about the days beforehand. Here we have a selection of archive material that has been pulled together from the very early days, when the rivalry was ripe between the Caledonian Railway & North British Railway. The difficulty that went into getting the consent to build a line between Carlisle & Hawick is evident throughout, and we’ll chart some of the most telling points on the way.
Sources include contemporay newspaper articles along with original handwritten letters.
We start in late 1857 with a letter from John Scott Chisholme of Hawick, the chairman of the proposed Langholm route
HAWICK AND CARLISLE RAILWAY.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE EDINBURGH ADVERTISER. [ 20th November 1857 ]
SIR, – In the last number of Herapath’s Railway Journal a letter appeared, signed by Mr Hodgson, Chairman of the North British Railway Company, addressed “To the Secretary, Local Committee, Hawick and Carlisle Junction Railway.”
In that letter Mr Hodgson says, “Mr Chisholme Chairman of the Langholm line, has had the temerity to taunt the advocates of the Hawick and Carlisle Junction Railway with the lack of subscribers and influential supporters of the line by Liddesdale ; and has boasted of the names that appear on his Provisional Committee.”
I have never taunted the advocates of the Hawick and Carlisle Junction Railway, alias the Liddesdale line, with the lack of subscribers and influential supporters. What I stated at the public meeting at Annan, on the 27th of October last, was, that the Liddesdale scheme had neither a Provisional Committee nor any influential local promoters, – a statement Mr Hodgson had not the temerity to deny. Nor did I ever boast of the names on my Provisional Committee ; but on the same occasion I said, that the names on that Committee were a guarantee to the public, if the Bill was obtained next session, that the line by Langholm would be made. And I say still, that if the names of forty influential gentlemen, backed by some hundreds of substantial local subscribers, is not the best evidence of local feeling, and a good guarantee to the public, I do not know what is. And if Mr Hodgson has a responsible local Provisional Committee for his Liddesdale scheme, why does he not publish their names, and satisfy public curiosity?
If the Liddesdale scheme has any local supporters prepared to put their hands into their pockets to construct even the first half-mile of the line from Hawick, I have not yet heard of them. I do not say this as a taunt, but as proof of the common-sense of the local community.
Mr Hodgson says that “misconception still exists in regard to the preponderance of local feeling in favour of the Liddesdale scheme.” There is not the slightest misconception on the subject. From the first, Mr Hodgson gave out that the scheme was purely a North British one, to be carried out entirely by that Company ; and all that he asked from the public at his provincial meetings was “moral support” – a request so inexpensive that it was easily accorded by those who did not see through his object. How could the people of Hawick resist the temptation of holding up their hands for a railway that was to cost them nothing – in return for which they were to get coals reduced from 18s. to 10s. per ton !
Now, Sir, by the Langholm line we shall supply the town of Hawick with coals of equal quality at, I doubt not 10s. per ton – but we never did pretend that we could do so by moral support alone.
Mr Hodgson has at last discovered that something more tangible is required to satisfy Parliament of the preponderance of local feeling in favour of the Liddesdale line than a mere show of hands ; for he now says, “In no other way is it practicable to bring before a Committee of Parliament the fact of such preponderance than by a numerous and substantial list of local subscriptions.” And with a view to obtain this, he says, – “The North British Company will not only guarantee the whole expense in case of failure, but they will supply whatever amount of estimated capital is required beyond the subscriptions of the public. It is of the greatest importance that those locally interested in the success of the measure should actively, in purse and person, aid that success!” That is one way to obtain a subscription-contract ; but what security is offered to the subscribers should they have the misfortune to obtain their Bill ? – for therein would be their real danger.
If the North British as a Company are prepared to construct this gigantic scheme, and to furnish the capital for the numerous branches, good and well ; if not, I repeat what I said at the Langholm meeting in the presence of fifteen hundred people, among whom Mr Hodgson could not find one supporter, that it is a snare and a delusion.
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
JOHN SCOTT CHISHOLME.
Stirches, 18th November 1857.
On the date Chisholme’s letter appeared in the Edinburgh Advertiser, Richard Hodgson, Chairman of the North British Railway Company, responded by writing to Daniel McCalpin, a Solicitor based at 7 Friars Court, Carlisle:-
Edinburgh 20 Nov 1857
I enclose a letter addressed by Mr Chisholme to an Edinburgh Paper, and published today. It proves the great importance of the local Committee being definitively arranged on a broad basis and actively promoting subscriptions in their own districts.
Chisholme’s letter had worked to some degree, and Hodgson saw to set the matter straight by appointing a Committee for the North British with names to match those of the Langholm Line Committee.
On 26th November 1857 Hodgson had written again to McCalpin, asking him to consider his firm of Solicitors to act on behalf of the North British, Hawick & Carlisle Junction Railway.
Unfortunately, by writing to McCalpin, Hodgson had picked the wrong person, as McCalpin was already serving as Solicitor to the Carlisle & Hawick Railway and it would have been an obvious conflict of interest to act for both Companies.
McCalpin wrote back:-
Carlisle 27 Nov 1857
In acknowledging receipt of your letter of yesterdays date, we beg to say that we are not disposed to act on the Committee of the N.B.H & C. J. Railway. Consequently we beg respectfully to decline your request.
I remain yours faithfully,
It seems that however much influence the North British had within the districts of the Borders, attempts had already been made by the other Companies to thwart moves further south, and although McCalpin’s firm of Solicitors had politely rebuffed Hodgson’s offer, we see from an extract of the Carlisle Committee of the Hawick and Carlisle Railway Minute Book that McCalpin himself had indeed agreed to serve, and that the North British had formed just such a reputable Committee.
North British Hawick & Carlisle Junction Railway
Minutes of proceedings of the Carlisle District Committee
Names of Committee
John Howe Esq Mayor Chairman
Wm Marshall Esq M.P.
George Dixon Esq Carlisle
Robert Ferguson Esq Marton Carlisle
Peter James Dixon Esq Houghton Hall Carlisle
The Revd John Heysham Lazonby Penrith
Joseph Hope Esq Carlisle
John Irving Esq Carlisle
Thomas Nelson Esq Murrell Hill House Carlisle
Jonathan Dodgson Esq Coledale Hall Carlisle
John Shaw Steel Esq MD Carlisle
Wm Parker Esq Carlisle
Robert Creighton Esq Carlisle
John Manson Esq Carlisle
Thomas Knights Esq Carlisle
James Gibson Esq Carlisle
James Clarke Esq Land Agents Carlisle
The Revd James Burton Robinson Kirkandrews on Eden
Wm Robinson Esq Cargo Carlisle
Wm Nixon Esq Carlisle
Wm Reeves Esq Carlisle
Wm Jackson Esq Oakbank Carlisle
Isaac James Esq Carlisle
John Laver Esq Accountant Carlisle
John Bell Esq Contractor Carlisle
Wm Moulewith Esq Contractor Carlisle
Gibson Graham Esq Grinsdale Carlisle
John Graham Esq Shaw Farm
George Elliot Esq Wetheral
Thomas Donald Esq Linstork
Thomas Gibson Esq Grinsdale
Robert Barton Esq Carlisle
Thomas Elliot Esq Carlisle
Daniel McCalpin Esq Carlisle
Thomas James Esq Ironmonger Carlisle
Charles Armstrong Esq Builder Carlisle
John Cowans Esq Woodbank Carlisle Engine Builder
Further extracts show the details of the first subscriptions for the scheme, and the Committee taking the first action to procure these subscriptions.
At a meeting held 7 December 1857, Present:
Mr Isaac James in the Chair
Messrs Parker, Jackson, Robinson, Jms Gibson, Jos Hope, Steel, Knights, Clarke, Irving, Howe, Ferguson.
Resolved that a subscription be forthwith entered into and that the Committee be divided into sections for the purpose of procuring subscriptions. Each section to have a definitive district and that the whole Committee meet again on Monday next to report progress and take further steps.
So it would seem that John Scott Chisholme had inadvertently prompted the North British to take action in the formation of the Committee and procuring of subscription-contracts. Had he realised when he wrote the letter to the Edinburgh Advertiser that Richard Hodgson would take this immediate action, Chisholme may have worded his letter rather more cautiously.
As for McCalpin; his allegiance to the Carlisle & Hawick Railway also seems no more than a mere formality, as a further extract from the Hawick & Carlisle Junction Railway Minute Book shows on December 17 1857, that Daniel McCalpin was subscribing to the North British, handing over £150 on this date.
A further tale in the part of McCalpin’s involvement comes on June 12th 1858. Extract from N.B.H & C. J. Railway Minute Book:
Resolved that Mr Daniel McCalpin be the Treasurer to receive subscriptions.
Any loyalty from McCalpin to the Carlisle & Hawick Railway had obviously disappeared by this time, and on December 15th 1858 he subscribed a further £250 to the North British.
In a slight twist elsewhere, another name appears on the Committee of the North British who would have had dealings elsewhere with possible conflicting interests.
William Marshall was the Member of Parliament for Carlisle. That alone would nowadays be seen as conflicting, but Marshall was also a Director of the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway and it makes one wonder just what his fellow board members of the L & C were to make of him in this situation.
Richard Hodgson, on the other hand, must have seemed fairly satisfied that his Committee was in an excellent position to win over local support for the North British scheme and, to quote Chisholme, had indeed a large number of “influential local promoters”.