The Border Railway Bills

A second piece from the archive sees the rivalry over the proposed routes from Carlisle to Hawick descend to Westminster, from March 1859, and a report from the Select Committee Proceedings.




FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 1859

                  The Committee of the House of Commons sat again to-day.

The examination of Mr. Hawkshaw was resumed. He said, The Parliamentary estimates for the two lines are as follows:- Liddisdale, £495,000, or £9166 per mile ; Langholm, £350,000, or £8930 per mile. But as the Langholm line is single from Hawick to Riccarton, while the Liddisdale one is double, to get a comparison it is necessary to reduce the estimates for the latter to what they would be for a single line between those two places. This gives the cost per mile thus : Liddisdale, £8150 ; Langholm, £8930. In my estimates of cost I have included nearly 20 per cent. for contingencies. About a third of the North British line is through greywacke, and the rest through limestone. The Langholm line is two-thirds through greywacke, which would render the cost of masonry on this line greater than on ours. The land in Liddisdale is superior to that on the other side, for it is on limestone, while the Langholm Valley is land over silurian rock. The Liddisdale Valley is much better and broader than the Langholm one ; and then by going to Liddisdale you can reach the Plashetts coal-field ; and it, therefore, appears to me that ours is the better route of the two. Langholm, of course, ought to be accommodated, but not at the expense of all other claims. Irrespective of the Plashetts coal-field, I think the Liddisdale is the best route from Hawick to Carlisle, because it can accommodate both Langholm and Canobie by a branch, whilst it passes through a broader and more valuable valley for agricultural purposes than the original route. I think the line should be given to the North British Company, because it would be their interest to work it as a through route, while the natural policy of the Caledonian is to stop up the route as from Edinburgh to Carlisle. I think the Liddisdale line is much improved by the alterations which have been made in the plan since last year. The Caledonian system has a great many branches and associated lines in the west, which serve as feeders to it ; and I think if the line were given to the North British, it would be a fair division of east and west.

Cross-examined. – Altogether disregarding the local necessities of the country, I think, in respect merely to curves and gradients, the Langholm route might be preferable. The breadth of the formation underneath the ballast on the single part of our line is 16 ft., on the double part 27 feet. We intend to have eight stations on our main line – the first at Shankend, 7 miles from Hawick ; the next at Riccarton, 13 miles ; Newcastleton, 21 miles ; Penton, 29 miles ; Langholm-point-road, 33 miles ; Longtown, 36 miles ; one near Mossband, 39 miles ; and Parkhouse, 49 miles. I have put in the estimates nothing for a station at the junction with the Port Carlisle road, but only for signals, &c. We have an arrangement with the Port Carlisle Company for the use of their station. We have on the Langholm branch a station at Canobie, 1 mile from the junction ; Tarrisfoot, 4 miles, and one at Langholm. We have no independent communication with the Glasgow and South-Western Railway ; we use a small portion of the Caledonian line. I think the arrangement would be, that the North British would leave their traffic at Granton Junction, where the South-Western would come and fetch it. The South-Western at present runs to the Gretna station. There is a stream at the south end of the tunnel, where our cutting is 35 feet below at one point, and 20 feet at the other ; but we propose to divert the stream to a distance of rather more than a chain, to avoid the risk of an inundation. I think that competition between railways is for the benefit of the public. I know that competition very often ends in combination ; but even then, the traffic being divided, each Company is moved to keep their line in good order, and study the public convenience for the sake of getting a good share of it. I know that such has generally been the case, from my own knowledge and experience ; and I think that sort of competition is greatly for the public benefit.

Examination resumed. – I know enough of the district by the Rule Water to know that a line which took that route would have to come out in the valley of the Teviot, about 5 miles from Hawick. That convinces me that it would not answer the purposes of the present scheme. If there is anything in the objection as to snow and inundations, the risk is greater at Mosspaul than at Liddisdale. I don’t think there is much to be dreaded in that respect on either line. I at present work much worse curves and gradients than on our line. I am convinced, from my own experience, that our curves and gradients are not such as to interfere with the safety of the line.

By the Chairman. – I think that a passenger train could be safely run over our line at a maximum uniform speed of thirty-five miles an hour ; but I could run a train from Hawick to Carlisle at much a greater velocity, varying the speed according to the nature of the line. I think the Border Counties’ line is well laid out for a junction with our line.

Mr John Miller was the next witness. He deponed – I have been for many years a civil engineer, and have had a hand in the laying out of many railways. In 1845 I was engineer to the North British, when they projected the Hawick line. In 1846 and 1847, I was also engineer to the North British schemes. I was in favour of the Langholm route till I found out the capabilities of the Liddesdale Valley in an engineering point of view. The want of traffic on the Langholm line was our difficulty in promoting that line. Had we known then of the Liddesdale route and adopted it, we might have got it carried, I believe. The Plashetts coal-field, of which we formerly were ignorant, of course adds another advantage to the Liddesdale line. The works of the proposed line are certainly not heavy works. I agree with Mr. Hawkshaw there is nothing whatever in the curves and gradients to interfere with the working of the line. I think these works are fairly estimated. I see no difficulty from snow or flooding on either line, but if there is any, it will be much greater at Mosspaul than on our line.

Mr. George Bidder, civil-engineer. – Considering the public advantage and local necessities, I think the Liddesdale is the better line, because it connects Roxburghshire with the Hexham line, and passes through much more available land, containing a large quantity of minerals and limestone, while the Langholm route is almost destitute of minerals, and because it would be the obvious interest of the Caledonian to prevent the line being made a through line, by sending off from Hawick the train to Carlisle a few minutes before the Edinburgh train arrived there, and vice versâ, while it is obviously the interest of the North British to work it as a continuous line. The engineering features of the two schemes being so much about the same, they do not interfere with my estimate of which is the better line.

Cross-examined. – I think the engineering features of the Langholm line are better than those of the other : but this is only one consideration. I think the present scheme in an engineering point of view is better than it was last year, for though the curves are sharper and the gradients steeper, the cost is less, while the curves and gradients are good enough.

Examination resumed. – The curves and gradients are not such as to interfere with the safe working of the line.

Mr. Harrington, land-valuer, Carlisle. – I estimate the value of the land required for the North British line to the amount of 450 acres 1 rood, at 36,818l. I have made allowance for compulsory purchases and all the damage railway companies have to pay for, and I am satisfied it is sufficient.

Mr. Hodgson was recalled, and gave in a statement of the amount of capital contributed to the Langholm Company, from which it appeared that the Duke of Buccleuch contributed 35,000l. ; his paid agents, 6120l.; the relatives of the agents, 4120l.; the duke’s tenants and feuars, 27,770l.; their neighbours, relatives, partners, and tenants, 7180l.; their servants, 230l.; the duke’s presentees, 170l.; the duke’s servants, dependents, and tradesmen, 160l. – in all, 81,470l., contributed by 279 persons under the immediate influence of the Duke of Buccleuch. The amount contributed by those under the influence of the Caledonian was 162,780l., contributed by twenty-five persons, as follows:- Railway Company’s agents, 2750l.; their relatives and servants, 30l.; Caledonian directors, 150,000l.; their tenants, 1000l.; and engineers of the Company, 9000l. The remainder of the stock was contributed by 298 persons, to the amount of 19,550l.

This closed the case for the North British Company.

Mr. Johnston then appeared on behalf of the Border Counties’ Railway Company, for their Bill, the chief object of which was, he said, to make an extension line from Belling to a place near Riccarton Burn-head, there to form a junction with the Liddesdale branch of the North British. The provision for power to the North British and Newcastle and Carlisle Companies to contribute to their Company and to enter into a working arrangement with them, was purely permissive, and was intended only to meet any future contingencies which might arise. We then reviewed the history of the Border Counties Line, and contended that its original object was a communication between the district at Hexham and to the south, and Roxburghshire.  The total length of the extension line they proposed was somewhat less than 15 miles, from Belling to Riccarton, the point of junction with the North British Liddlesdale line. The cost was estimated at 78,000l. The gradients were of a favourable kind, more favourable, he believed, than any other railway it will be brought into connection with in the immediate neighbourhood ; the most severe gradient being 1 in 100. The curves were also favourable and easy, the radius of the sharpest curve being 17 chains, and that at a junction.

It had been alleged by the Caledonian, who opposed the bill, that the Border Counties were unable to bear the expense of making this extension. Now he did not dispute that the company have for a time been in a position of financial depression ; but through the liberal aid of the Duke of Northumberland they were now in a satisfactory position. Even if they were not so, however, he could not see what another company had to do with their inability to make the line. He could understand the landowners having a right to be satisfied on that point ; but the truth was, the allegation the Caledonian company made as to the inability to carry out the scheme was prompted by their excessive fear that they really would make the line. He maintained that the Border Counties were perfectly able to construct all they asked power to do ; so that this extension was only part of their original intention, and that it was required to develope the traffic of the present line.

Mr. John F. Tone, civil engineer, Newcastle-on-Tyne – In conjunction with the late Mr. Nicholson, I laid out the original Border Counties Line. The intention of the parties was, from the very first, to extend it northwards. The length of the extension is 14 miles 7 furlongs ; the ruling gradient is 1 in 100 ; and the curves are not severe. The line is single, with land for a double line ; except a viaduct over the Tyne, 154 yards in length, which we shall construct as double. The works generally are remarkably light. The total outlay for land and works will be 68,435l.; but we take our estimates at 78,000l.; so that we shall have a large surplus for contingencies. The landowners are all asserting parties to the proposed deviations from our original line. The works we abandoned would have cost 49,000l., those we substitute cost 36,000l.; so that there is a saving in aid of the deviation of 13,000l. We have at least a thousand men working night and day. We have belonging to us a large quantity of materials for permanent way.

The Committee then adjourned till Monday at 12.


                The Committee-room was again crowded to-day, and the utmost anxiety seemed to prevail. The chairman and committee excercised their usual patience and attention.

Amongst the gentlemen present to-day in the room, we noticed Mr. Blyth, Mr. Bouch, Mr. Malcolm, Mr. Dobie, Mr. Salkeld, Mr. George Oliver, Mr. Walter Laing, Mr. Haddon, and Mr. Mark Turnbull.

Also a good number of the North British gentlemen ; one of whom we overheard stating, that he had just come up to be in at the death ; but in this case may we not rather presume to hope he has come up to be in at the birth of the Liddesdale line !

Also Mr. Hodgson, Mr. Rowbotham, Mr. Sprott Riddell, Mr. Craven, Hon. J. E. Elliott, M.P., Mr. Jardine, Mr. Irvine, Carlisle, Mr. William Hobkirk, Edinburgh, Baillie John Paterson, Mr. Walter Wilson, manufacturer, Mr. John Laing, Mr. John Wilson, manufacturer, Mr. Alexander Laing, Mr. George Wilson, manufacturer, and others.

ERRATUM. – In Sir James Graham’s evidence on Thursday, he was made to say, by a typographical error, that the land on the Liddel was inferior to that on the Esk, instead of superior to it.