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The Lancaster and Carlisle Railway (L&CR) was a British railway company authorised on 6 June 1844 to build a line between Lancaster and Carlisle in North-West England.
The first sod was cut at Shap Summit (the highest point on the planned route, 914 ft above sea level) in July 1844. The original intention was to build a single line, but in January the following year it was announced that the line would be double track.
The engineer for the line was Joseph Locke who had been surveying routes between the two cities since 1836. George Stephenson had surveyed other routes in 1835: one was to skirt the Cumberland coast. The project was the largest single railway contract of the time and the contractor was Thomas Brassey in partnership with William Mackenzie and John Stephenson. At its peak 10,000 men were involved and it was an incredible achievement to complete such an undertaking in only two and a half years. The main engineering features of the railway are the bridge at Lancaster; three substantial viaducts; and a high embankment between Grayrigg and Low Gill. The embankment south of Tebay was laid in the bed of the River Lune, which had been diverted from its course.
Whilst independent the Lancaster and Carlisle was very profitable and usually made returns on its shares of around 10%.
In 1859 the L&CR was leased to the London and North Western Railway; it became part of the latter in 1879, and after 1923 the LMSR. It now forms part of the West Coast Main Line.