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Crook O'Lune viaducts
Crook O'Lune, west of Caton, Lancashire, UK
Crook O'Lune viaducts
associated engineer
Not known
date  1846 - 1849, 1882, 1889
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  SD519647
photo  © Ian Taylor (cc-by-sa/2.0)
A pair of viaducts over the River Lune was constructed for the 'Little' North Western Railway. They are situated north east of Lancaster and are of similar construction. The west viaduct is six-span and the east five. The railway tracks were removed in the 20th century. Both Grade II listed structures have been refurbished and now form part of a pedestrian and cycle route.
The North Western Railway (usually known as the 'Little' North Western Railway to distinguish it from the much larger London & North Western Railway) ran from Lancaster to Skipton. The line crossed the River Lune twice on viaducts at Crook O’Lune, a U-shaped loop where the river skirts around a natural promontory. The site, between Halton and Caton, lies within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Architect Edmund Sharpe (1809-77), one of the railway’s promoters and its company secretary in 1845-7, was also a railway sub-contractor. He tendered successfully for construction of the section from Lancaster to Wennington, so presumably designed the Crook O'Lune viaducts. Main contractor for the line was William Coulthard (1796-1863), of Coulthard & Allen. Richard Smallman (1816-1872) was the railway company's resident engineer (1847-57).
The six spans of the 90m West Viaduct and the five of the East Viaduct are identical in style. The piers are rectangular in section, stepping back to a smaller section at the top, with rounded cutwaters at the bases. Piers and abutments are of coursed rectangular rock-faced sandstone blocks, and the original arch and deck superstructures were of timber, supporting a single rail track.
On 31st October 1849, the railway opened between Lancaster Green Ayre Station and a temporary station at Tatham Bridge near Wennington. The full line to Wennington opened on 17th November, running along the south bank of the river. In 1850, the line was extended to Clapham, forming a junction with the Ingleton to Settle branch.
From June 1852, the Midland Railway operated the line and leased it in 1859. On 1st January 1871, the ‘Little’ North Western Railway was taken over by the Midland Railway.
In 1882, the viaducts were modified to allow double track running. The piers were widened on the south sides enabling the addition of the second track. The new rails were carried on a braced pair of riveted wrought iron arch ribs for each span, supporting timber beams for the decks (topped by railway ballast and sleepers and rails). The spandrels of the segmental arches include open roundels. Wrought iron lattice parapets were installed along the cantilevered deck edges.
In 1889, the original timber arches on the north sides of the viaducts were reconstructed in riveted wrought iron to match the 1882 work. Records show that the West Viaduct tends to suffer more weathering than the east one, which is in the lee of the Crook O’Lune.
In 1956, British Railways renewed the timber decking on both viaducts. In 1963, Dr Richard Beeching’s (1913-85) government report The Reshaping of British Railways listed the Morecambe to Wennington line among the services to be withdrawn. On 1st January 1966, the passenger services ceased but through freight services continued until 3rd June 1967. In July 1968, the tracks over the viaducts were lifted.
In November 1983, both viaducts were Grade II listed.
The dismantled railway route is now owned by Lancashire County Council. Almost all the trackbed between Morecambe and Caton, except a short section close to Lancaster city centre, is preserved as a cycleway, footpath and bridleway. Known at first as the Lune Valley Recreational Path, in 2000 the trail became the River Lune Millennium Park.
In March 2004, a hole appeared in the deck of the West Viaduct. In April it was closed and examination of the timbers revealed widespread deterioration. Repair and renovation works costing £880,000 were undertaken in a project that included extensive protection works. The timbers were replaced in African hardwood covered with anti-slip panels. The wrought iron arches were shot blasted, and the parapets dismantled, refurbished and refitted. All the ironwork was repainted. As lead paint had been used originally, the superstructure was encapsulated during cleaning and repainting to prevent debris falling into the river. It re-opened in August 2005.
Between March and December 2013, the East Viaduct was similarly refurbished in a scheme costing £1m. The timber deck was replaced with 100 tonnes of new hardwood, and the masonry was repointed. Like its twin, the viaduct's ironwork had been lead painted, and its superstructure was wrapped for blast cleaning and repainting.
In 2014, Lancashire County Council received a National Railway Heritage Restoration Award for its restoration of the East Viaduct.
Architect: Edmund Sharpe
Railway resident engineer Richard Smallman
Contractor: Coulthard & Allen
Contractor: Edmund Sharpe
Contractor (2005): A.E. Yates Ltd, Bolton
Contractor (2013): Casey Group
Research: ECPK
Thanks to David Hurford for additional information

Crook O'Lune viaducts