Carlisle Citadel Railway Station

Opened in 1847, by the outbreak of the Great War Carlisle’s Citadel Station was the main station in the city, serving seven different railway companies, with lines from Edinburgh and Glasgow in the North, Newcastle in the East and connections to London in the South.

During the Great War the railway became crucial in transporting troops, the wounded and supplies across the country. By 1916, the rail system was coming under increasing pressure. Some lines recorded an increase in traffic of more than 50%. Restrictions were put in place to reduce civilian use of the railways, cheap tickets were not available and trains were no longer put on for special occasions such as markets or sporting events.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, news reached Carlisle that a number of German waiters who had been working in Peebles would be travelling through the station, on their way back to Germany. Locals crowded into the station to boo them as the train passed. Belgian refugees passing through the station on 16 October 1914 received a much warmer welcome from the people of Carlisle, who greeted two trains transporting 1,000 refugees to Scotland with food, refreshments and gifts.

Carlisle’s Citadel Station contributed to the war effort from the very beginning of the Great War in 1914. Troop trains and ambulance trains passed through the station on an almost daily basis throughout the war. Each train would be greeted with refreshments for those who needed them, volunteers. Nicol Campbell was the Station Superintendent during the Great War. He was awarded an MBE in 1919 in recognition of the importance of his role in contributing to the war effort.

Because of Carlisle’s place on the London to Glasgow train line, many of the Scottish battalions travelling South passed through the station. On 22 May 1915 the Quintinshill Rail Disaster, the worst of its kind in Britain, involved one such train. In the early hours of the morning, at the Quintinshill signal box, near Gretna Green, about 15 miles from Carlisle, a troop train transporting soldiers from Larbert, near Falkirk, collided with a stationary local train. Most of the soldiers were from the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, the Royal Scots and were bound for Liverpool to be sent into active service at Gallipoli, in modern day Turkey. 226 people died, 215 soldiers, 9 civilian passengers and 3 railway employees. Two of the railwaymen who lost their lives were from Carlisle, driver Francis Scott and his fireman James Hannah. Rescue trains left from Carlisle’s Citadel Station, carrying emergency services, medical professionals and volunteers from the Red Cross. By mid-morning ambulance trains began to arrive in Carlisle, the wounded were taken to the Cumberland Infirmary, Fusehill Hospital, Murrell Hill House and Chadwick Auxiliary Hospitals.

Hospital trains would continue to arrive in Carlisle throughout the war, transporting the wounded to hospitals in the city. The opening of Fusehill as a military hospital in October 1917 would see this number dramatically increase.   


To find out more about some of Carlisle's other Great War sites, return to map