Early correspondence & rivalry

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



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,


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

                 Dear Sir,

                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.

                I remain

                Very faithfully


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,

                D. McCalpin


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”.

Text Copyright © M.G.Stoddon/WRHA