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Cowran Cut
5km south of Brampton, Cumbria
Cowran Cut
associated engineer
John Blackmore
date  1832 - July 1836
era  Georgian  |  category  Walls/Abutments/Cuttings  |  reference  NY524569
ICE reference number  HEW 2423
photo  Paul Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
The Cowran Cut is one of the four principal engineering works undertaken at the western end of the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway. A tunnel was intended for this part of the route but difficult ground conditions led to the design of a cutting instead.
The tunnel through the Cowran Hills was originally envisaged by Francis Giles, first engineer to the railway. Work on the tunnel did actually commence Messrs R. & S. Grimshaw were the contractors. However, work was soon abandoned because of the ground condition problems.
The railway directors became dissatisfied with Giles at this point and they replaced him as engineer with his erstwhile assistant, John Blackmore. Giles, however, retained an interest in the work. A committee of three mining engineers was also established. It seems to have been these three Nicholas Wood, George Johnson and Benjamin Thompson who provoked the change from a tunnel to a cutting.
In the records of evidence given by one of the new contractors, Grahamsley, concerning a different railway altogether, mention is made of the Cowran tunnel works. Grahamsley stated that a "small part of the eastern end was cut out" (though it did not form part of the tunnel itself). He went on to describe the cutting as being "about 100 feet [deep] ... principally in sand and gravel [with] a great deal of water in it". He also explained that they had prevented landslips on the sides of the cutting "by keeping drains below the level we were working at".
The resulting Cowran Cut is 1.5km long V-shaped cutting. Half of this length features 4.3m high retaining walls either side of the track, down at track level. The widest part of the cutting's cross-section measures some 93m, and down at the bottom, the track bed measures 8.2m wide. The cutting's depth is up to 33.5m, with side slopes of 1 in 1.66. Some 28,300 cubic metres of excavated material was removed from the site.
This impressive work is best viewed from Bridge NEC2/148, which carries a bridleway over the eastern end of the cutting at Ordnance Survey grid reference NY530571.
Contractor: Greaves, Grahamsley & Reed
Research: PD and AJD
"The Newcastle and Carlisle Railway and its Engineers" by R.W. Rennison
Transactions of the Newcomen Society, Vol.72, No.2, 2001
Minutes of Evidence taken before the Lords Committees to whom
the Bill intitled "An Act for making a Railway from London to Southampton"
was committed, 9 June 1834
reference sources   CEH North

Cowran Cut