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Lancaster Canal Tramroad, site of
Preston Basin to Walton Summit, Lancashire, UK
Lancaster Canal Tramroad, site of
associated engineer
John Rennie snr
William Cartwright
date  1801 - 1st June 1803
era  Georgian  |  category  Tramway/Funicular  |  reference  SD542280
ICE reference number  HEW 2046
photo  Paul Dunkerley
The Lancaster Canal Tramroad was constructed to connect the north and south arms of the Lancaster Canal. It crosses the River Ribble, and was conceived as an inexpensive alternative to an aqueduct and lock system. Long disused, little of the tramroad survives, though parts of the track bed have been incorporated into Sustrans National Cycle Route 55, and a replica Ribble Bridge has replaced the original.
In 1792, the Lancaster Canal Act sanctioned the construction of a north-south canal from Kendal in Cumbria to Westhoughton, between Wigan and Bolton, for transporting coal, limestone and agricultural products. John Rennie (senior, 1761-1821) was the canalís engineer, with William Cartwright (c.1765-1804) as assistant and resident engineer.
The route of the Lancaster Canal required substantial aqueducts over the rivers Lune and Ribble, an embankment at Walton and two flights of locks ó eight at Tewitfield and 32 between Clayton Green and Walton.
On 22nd November 1797, the first section of canal opened (Preston to Tewitfield), though work on the Lune Aqueduct had cost far more than anticipated. Further expenditure was incurred driving the Whittle Hills Tunnel between Walton Summit and Johnsonís Hillock. By 1799, the canalís south arm was almost complete but finances were exhausted and the scheme was not generating sufficient returns.
An interim solution was adopted, replacing the proposal for an aqueduct over the Ribble and flight of 32 locks with a less expensive horse-drawn tramroad between Preston and Walton Summit. Stationary steam engines would power the inclines that were too steep for horses. Work commenced in 1801 and the rails were being laid by 23rd December that year.
The 8km Lancaster Canal Tramroad, also known as the Preston & Walton Plateway, began at the former canal wharf at Preston Basin (SD535293), now under the Ringway between Preston Station and the University of Central Lancashire. It continued through an 82m long tunnel (SD534293) under Fishergate to an incline in Avenham Park down to the Old Tram Bridge (1966 reconstruction) over the River Ribble. From the river, the tramroad crossed the valley on a 1.1km tree-lined graded embankment 2.1m high to Penwortham Mill (SD541274), and ascended another incline to Walton Summit (SD582245).
An endless chain hauled the trains up the slope at Avenham Park, driven from the steam engine house (SD541287) north of the river. Similar arrangements operated at the Penwortham and Walton inclines, though only the Avenham incline was operational throughout the life of the tramway. However, the poor quality of cast iron then available combined with the steepness of the slope and the weight of the trains resulted in frequent accidents and derailments. In 1822, a more powerful steam engine was installed, its boiler being renewed in 1858.
The tramroad consisted of two tracks of L-section cast iron plate rails, laid with the vertical leg of the rail on the inside, at a gauge of 1.245m (4ft 1in) between uprights. The rails were spiked into oak pegs inset in square stone blocks, as transverse sleepers would have obstructed the horses' hooves. The trains used were of up to six wagons, each wagon having a payload of two tonnes.
Goods sidings were constructed where the tramway crossed the main road at Bamber Bridge (SD565256). Loading and unloading facilities provided at the termini enabled the exchange of goods between canal boats and wagons.
On 1st June 1803, the tramroad opened to traffic when a coal barge emerged from the Whittle Hills Tunnel and discharged its cargo into the wagons waiting by the wharf at Walton Summit.
The northernmost part of the Lancaster Canal, between Tewitfield and Kendal, didn't open until 18th June 1819. The 'temporary' tramroad was never replaced by a length of canal.
In 1837, the Bolton & Preston Railway Company bought the tramway. The northern three-quarters of the route, from Preston to Bamber Bridge, was in regular use until between 1859 and 1864. In 1864, the Lancaster Canal Transfer Act sanctioned the closure of this section.
The Avenham steam engine house was demolished in 1868-9, and replaced by a belvedere. Apparently the masonry of the engine house was used to build several new flights of stone steps in Avenham Park.
On 17th July 1872, ownership of the tramroad between Preston and Carr Wood, including the Ribble Bridge, was transferred to Preston Corporation by the London & North Western Railway Company. The iron plate rails and the stone chairs were removed, and the track bed became a footpath. The tramroad from Bamber Bridge to Walton Summit remained in use until 1879, for supplying coal to mills at Bamber Bridge.
In the late 1960s, the much-repaired timber Old Tram Bridge over the River Ribble was replaced in prestressed reinforced concrete as an almost identical replica — see 1966 reconstruction.
None of the tramway survives in situ but a section of the original track has been relaid at Worden Park in Leyland, Lancashire. The South Ribble Museum in Leyland and the Harris Museum in Preston also have some of the original iron plates and stone chairs. The Harris Museum also has part of an original wagon, recovered from the River Ribble, and a model wagon.
Resident engineer: William Cartwright
Tunnel heading contractors: John Hughes, William Williams
Railroad contractor: John Hughes
Research: PD, AJD, ECPK
"The Industrial Archaeology of Lancashire" by Owen Ashmore, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1969
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE1

Lancaster Canal Tramroad, site of