The difference that the South Durham and Lancashire Union and Eden Valley Railways made to the lives of local people not only for the transport of goods but also for travel, cannot be overestimated. The railway also brought workers for the railway itself and early tourists to see the delights of the countryside including the Kirkby Stephen waterfalls at Stenkrith.
As the railway opened in 1861, Turnpikes in our area had been in existence for less than a hundred years but were naturally an improvement on what had been previously available. However, there were very few Turnpike roads and they could be expensive to use so a network of narrow tracks still existed used by packhorse trains to carry goods. Each pony could carry up to 240 lbs. Livestock was still moved along the centuries old Drover’s Roads into and out of markets to avoid tolls and take advantage of freely available grazing.
Carriers’ wagons operated from Kirkby Stephen to nearby towns. In 1858, Robert Bousfield who ran the (old) Fountain Inn went to Barnard Castle on Wednesdays, Thomas Parker operated from Silver Street to Barnard Castle on Wednesday and Fridays and to Kendal on Mondays, John Brown operated from the Sun Inn to Penrith returning the same day, Michael Nelson went from the Sun to Ravenstonedale and Kendal on Monday, John Atkinson and John Jackson went to Sedbergh from the Sun on Monday, Thomas Bousfield went to Swindale (Swaledale) from the Sun, Market Place twice weekly, Edward Moorhouse, Town Head went to Tebay Station (the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Tebay station opened 1852 and closed 1968) and George Steel went from his house daily. The Sun was situated in Stoneshot off the Market Square and was demolished in 1968; it was run at this time by Mrs. Martha Dickinson. Other carriers operated out of Brough along “The King’s Highway” to the same and additional destinations of Appleby, Penrith, London, Newcastle and Glasgow. There were additional coal carriers from local mines and further afield. The Royal Mail coach took parcels daily from London to Glasgow picking up in Brough.
Contrast the above with 1894. Kirkby Stephen, Nelson and Bousfield from Golden Fleece to Ravenstonedale and Kendal, Jonathan Atkinson from Sun to Sedbergh, John Thwaites from The Fountain to Hawes, Henry Sayer from Green Tree all are on Monday, market day. Brough carriers were now Edward Bell Saturday to Appleby (Market Day) and Kirkby Stephen, Green Tree Monday (Market Day) plus John Yare operating to Warcop Station daily. The North Eastern Railway Carter in 1873 was George Steel, Mark Ellwood 1881 rulleyman (horse drawn carrier) and in 1901 William R Dixon. Thomas Alderson was a Railway Drayman in 1891. This would appear to show that goods previously delivered by carrier are now going by rail. The railway offered a three tier parcel service with or without collection and delivery. A later occupant of the Sun Inn in the 1930’s, Sun Inn Dan (Sowerby), collected fresh herring at the station in his flat backed wagon and sold them all the way down to the town and the lift is said to have always smelled of the fish, imagine the journey that these fish would have had before the railway, unlikely to be very fresh by the time they arrived. Fuel was big business for the line, from the mainstay coke wagons on route to the east coast, to supplies for lime burning at Hartley and coal for use in engines and locally. The station master became the town's coal merchant.