The Dandy Line is the first in a series of short self-guided walks around Brampton with an historical flavour. You can download a printer friendly version of the route at the foot of the page.
The walk is 1¾ miles (2.8 Km), is mostly level and accessible with buggies and wheelchairs. To get to the start begin at the north-east corner of Market Square and follow the lane which leads to the A 69 by the CO-OP. Turn right along Moatside, continue past Murray Park on the right and enter The Sands – a large grassy area. Follow the pavement and pass The Wilson Homes to arrive at the cross roads of Tree Road with Station Road. Cross over to the garage which is where the walk begins.
In 1798, there was great celebration at this very place, the opening of one of the first wooden wagon-ways in the country to be constructed.
It was 5.5 miles long and built primarily to bring coal from the mines of the Naworth Estate at Tindale into Brampton for sale, and was slightly to the North of today’s Dandy Line. Horses were used to haul empty wagons up the incline from Brampton to Tindale where they were then loaded onto a separate wagons to “ride” the return downhill journey full of coal into Brampton. Thirty years later, a railway line was being constructed to link Newcastle with Carlisle with a station at Milton that would serve Brampton. George Stephenson advised that the now 36 year old wagon-way was no longer suitable and instead proposed a new route to join Brampton with Milton station. It is this route that is today’s Dandy Line walk.
But why ‘The Dandy?’
Was this the term given to a Dandy cart used to carry horses on wagonways which operated in part by gravity as on the previous route? Or, was it the current fashionable term given to any innovation that was eye-catching?
Our walk begins at the Coal Staithes – now the garage at the East corner of The Sands at the junction of Station road with Tree Road. This is the site of the former coal terminus and later the Brampton Town Station when a new Railway brought passengers into Brampton from Milton station.
From the garage Walk 50 metres up Station Road and note the housing estate across the road which is called Edmondson Close. We will come across Mr Edmondson later in our walk.
Find the abutments of a bridge which once carried the line over the road . This is a skew bridge, built at an angle to the road. With heavier locomotives replacing earlier horse drawn carriages the span of the bridge was found to be too weak and was therefore changed to metal girders. These in turn were removed during World War 2 to be melted down to make battle tanks.
Cross over the road immediately after the abutments to find a footpath on the right which slopes up to the disused railway line. Once on the level, look back across where the surface of the bridge once was, to see the final 100 metres of line which finished at the coal-staithes, later to become Brampton Town Station.
This is the ‘Dandy Line’ which was first opened in 1836 bringing passengers from Brampton Junction (Milton Station) into the town. Three carriages, named Black Diamond, Mountaineer and Experiment operated on this line, each drawn by a horse.
“The new railway from Brampton to Milton is finished and now in regular use. A railway carriage runs on that part laying between Brampton Staith and Milton Station with passengers to meet each train that passes along the public line, for which 3d each is charged.” Report by James Thompson.
The journey to Brampton Town took 20 minutes. The vehicle was said to have no cushions; travellers lucky enough to get inside being crushed together. Even on normal days the vehicle was usually full with others hanging precariously on the outside.
On leaving the outskirts of Brampton note the embankment upon which the line has been built. The earth required to construct this embankment came from a deep cutting through Milton Hill which the line passes further on. Over 400 navvies, mainly Irish were employed with spades, shovels horses and carts to bring about these ground-works. They were temporarily housed in wooden sheds close to the line.
See if you can identify: Holly, Beech, Hawthorn, Scots Pine, Elder, Broom, Privet, Oak, Poplar, Willow and Crab Apple? Across the fields to the right there is a small knoll shaped hill, topped with a circle of trees. This is a common feature around Brampton’s countryside. As you approach the first field hedge, stop for a short while to hear the story of an accident ; a theft ; and a miraculous near miss:
In 1875 George Little – a joiner was making his way to Brampton Junction to catch a train to Newcastle after attending the hiring fair at Brampton. The Dandy coach was full, and despite instructions from the guard to wait for the next coach, George Little decided to squeeze himself in between two other passengers on a wooden bench seat overlooking the front of the carriage. After the horse had gathered some speed the carriage rocked slightly causing George Little to fall off his seat onto the track pulling a female passenger with him. The carriage wheels crushed both of George Lttle’s legs but the female passenger escaped without injury. The injured George Little was taken back to the Coal Staithes at Brampton to receive medical help but whilst waiting there in pain, Mary Hordan, a hawker, stole from his pocket – a watch and chain; £2 in notes and ten shillings In silver. George Little died from his injuries two days later, and Mary Hordan spent one year in prison with hard labour for the theft.
The route now goes through a tunnel, over which the A 69 passes. The Brampton by-pass was constructed in the 1980’s. Look back towards Brampton and you will notice that the track gently slopes downhill. It was at this point that the horse was unhitched from the front of the carriage, taken to the rear coach where it climbed onto a platform to enjoy a gentle downhill ride with the passengers to the end of the line, the guard applying the brake at an appropriate point just before the terminus.
The larch tree at the top of the cutting by the side of the road is thought to be 120 years old and was carefully protected from damage by bulldozers when the Brampton by pass was being constructed.
After the underpass the track enters a deep cutting through Rowbank Woods where you just might catch a glimpse of a Roe deer. Some people claim that this is why the wood is called Row bank. Sycamores line the track edge and were specifically planted during its construction in order to stabilise the earthworks together with 22 Lime trees. Scots Pine a little further on are the home of red squirrels. Look out for its red scaly bark and the pleasant smell of pine resin.
In this wood listen out for the “tap tap tap” of the Great Spotted Woodpecker; the harsh “screech” of the Jay and the gentle “ mewing” of the Buzzard. You might also see the scampering of a red squirrel.
Just beyond the electric substation you may wish to pause for a while. In the distance on the left beyond the grassy fields are the Bewcastle fells. It was across these fields that Lord Hunsdon with 1500 men of the Queen’s Army faced 3000 Border Reivers led by Leonard Dacre of Naworth Castle prior to the Battle of Hell Beck.
Amongst the trees at the edge of the field, once stood Milton Hall, a rather grand house with lodge, gardens, lawns and lake, all sadly now gone.
Further along the path are Douglas firs which are growing around a small pond below the track on the right. These North American conifers like a well drained soil and have grown rapidly over the years.
Notice the healthy growth of moss on the side of many trees that line the track. Is it true that you can tell North by looking on which side of the tree that moss grows? The special tree to look out or is the “Tree of Heaven”. It is on the right 40 metres before the station. It has a tall thin trunk with leaves high up. The leaves appear very late in June and are tinged red.
The track enters the disused loading bays and platform of Brampton Junction Station which was originally called Milton Station. In 1881 the horse drawn carriages were replaced by a steam locomotive called Dandy Dinmont with improved carriages to convey passengers to Brampton Town.
It was on this very platform in 1885 that Edward Clementson a Brampton shoemaker got into further trouble with the police. Clementson had previously been arrested by Constable Musgrave and found guilty by the magistrates of cockfighting. Whilst transferring from the Carlisle train to the Dandy, Clementson noticed Police Constable Musgrave on duty at the platform and began mocking him, crowing like a cockerel and swearing profanely, only to be arrested again. In court the magistrate explained that the penalty for profane swearing was 1 shilling for a day labourer; two shillings for any other person below the status of gentleman; and five shillings for people of gentleman status. Clementson was fined two shillings.
Just before the entrance to the Station and bridge, take a look on the left at the remains of the once grand Milton Hall gardens and lake, now very much overgrown. Here are lilies, Irises and very many frogs claiming the former estate as their very own.
The Dandy Line was closed to all traffic in 1917 as locomotives were urgently required elsewhere to support the World War 1 effort. With the increasing facility of motor transport by road the Dandy line finally closed in 1924, rails were lifted and the track bed converted to a footpath, a purpose it still serves today. Cross over the rail track by the footbridge which is of typical Victorian embellished ironwork.
Brampton Junction station in its heyday was a very busy place with a station masters house, waiting rooms, ticket office, signal box and marshalling yards. It was here that Thomas Edmondson worked issuing tickets to passengers. The system was immensely complicated. Details of the ticket issued and the passenger name had to be entered in a book and the tickets written out by hand; and the money passed on to the guard. Thomas Edmondson devised a revolutionary machine that printed the ticket with an automatic counting device. Edmonson ticket issuing machines went on to be used all over the country and worldwide.
The Dandy line walk finishes here – but how to get back to Brampton? The options are: turn round and return by the same route (the total distance walked will be 3½ miles) or turn right out of the station by the wicket gate and walk along Brampton Fell Road. This is a quiet road but do beware of occasional traffic. After ¾ mile, a bridge crosses the railway line, then after the farm on the left continue to the cross roads where there is a footpath alongside the road which leads back into Brampton Town centre. Total distance 5¾ miles (9.2 Km)
The Dandy Line Download (428 kB) PDF
I do hope that you have enjoyed your walk.
Brampton Parish Council Chairman