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Local limestone sculpted into 7ft Bessemer Converter at Workington Station

Community Rail Cumbria have developed their ‘Rails Which Circled the World’ heritage project at Workington Station by adding a 7ft Bessemer sculpture made out of local limestone.

The ‘Rails Which Circled the World’ heritage project, a collaborative venture between Community Rail Cumbria and Cumbria County Council, opened in May 2021 at Workington Station. The project transformed Workington Station into an exhibition centre that celebrates a time when the town was a world leader in rail technology.

Visitors young and old have come to see the exhibition since its opening, sharing stories about the iron and steelmaking process in and around Workington that used to employ thousands of local people.

Whilst passengers wait for their train at Workington, they can watch a short film screened in the waiting rooms on both platforms. The film portrays personal stories of what life was like, including some wonderful West Cumbrian characters who worked with and contributed to Henry Bessemer’s unique process.

The exhibition highlights the hard shifts in the local mines where both children and adults worked together in extremely challenging conditions; the locations of where ships docked to be loaded for transporting Cumbrian steel rails all over the world; how local women stepped in at the steelworks during the war; and how the innovative Bessemer Convertor helped to light up the night sky for all to see and to enable production to continue 24 hours a day.

For the 7ft sculpture of the Bessemer Convertor located on the lead up to the station, Cllr Marjorie Rae sourced a piece of local Tendley carboniferous limestone and commissioned local sculptor Shawn Williamson to carve a Bessemer converter into the stone.

Warren Birch (Community Rail Cumbria Community Rail Partnership Officer), Cllr. Keith Little, Cllr. Marjorie Rae and David Wallace (Workington Transport Heritage Trust).

Warren Birch, Community Rail Partnership Officer, said: “This is a wonderful addition to the exhibition at Workington Station, remembering both the importance Henry Bessemer added to this unique process and the many people of West Cumbria who worked at the Workington Steelworks.”

Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “We are delighted that we have been able to work closely with Community Rail Cumbria, and Cllr Marjorie Rae was able to source local materials and a local sculptor to tell the story of the British Steelworks.

“This is very much a part of the Workington and West Cumbrian history, and the sculptor Shawn Williamson has done an outstanding job. The exhibition is well worth a visit next time you are in the station.”