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11: The Old Manchester Railtour Saturday 12 May 1956

Article from The Mancunian no 253, July 2006.

This special train which ran in May 1956 was "special" in many ways. It was the first to be organised by the SLS/MLS Joint Sub Committee which ventured over our home ground of old Manchester and into the Lancashire Pennine borders. More importantly, it began its journeyings at Liverpool Road station of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and was the first passenger train to depart from there since it closed to passenger traffic 112 years earlier on 4 May 1844. Also it ended its journey at Oldham Road station of the Manchester & Leeds Railway which had opened on 4 May 1839 and was closed to passenger traffic when Manchester Victoria station opened on 1 January 1844.

The 5 coach train carried 221 passengers over a distance of 58 miles and three locos were used:—

L&YR Class 3F 0—6—0 52438. This was built at Horwich in May 1906 as L&Y 123 and was actually shedded at Speke Junction but was temporarily allocated to Patricroft for the occasion.

 L&YR Class 2P 2—4—2T 50647. This was built at Horwich in September 1890 as L&Y 1052 and was allocated to Bolton. It was withdrawn in May 1959.

BR Class 4MT 2—6—4T 80088. This was built at Brighton in May 1954 and allocated to Bury shed.

Members gathered on a gloriously sunny afternoon at Liverpool Road station which had been opened by the Duke of Wellington in September 1830 and were greeted by Mr.Weaver, the Goods Agent. Originally the station was to be built near to the New Bailey prison but a later Act allowed it to finish at a more convenient place across the River Irwell near to the junction of Water Street and Liverpool Road. Although it closed to passenger traffic so long ago, it had operated continuously since then as a major goods terminal which was open 24 hours a day. From here, long standing trains departed, such as the 7.05pm to Carlisle (Viaduct Yard) and the 8.08pm to Bristol (GWR) which, until the 1939/45 war, was always worked throughout by a GWR locomotive, latterly a GWR "Hall" class 4-6-0.

Entrance from the street was by the original hall and staircase ascending to platform level. The entrance hall had altered little since 1830 and in 1956 it was the Goods Agent’s office. Here various relics were displayed for our benefit which included:

1. A LNWR manuscript "Fines Book", the earliest entry dating from 1874
2. The original station sundial of 1833, the pedestal on which it stood being visible through the window.
3. Commemorative volumes prepared for the 1930 centenary celebrations.
4. An old etching of the station in its original condition.
5. Two old railway passenger insurance tickets dated 1875 and 1877.

Outside we were shown the original wooden platform, the original clock housing and ticket office which in 1956 was used as the Chief Clerk's office. Across the tracks from the platforms we were shown the original goods warehouse where the 1830 Reception Committee assembled and feasted at the ceremonial opening. The warehouse was still in use as such but no rails passed through it. All this is now, of course, part of the 'Manchester Museum of Science and Industry with which members will be familiar. Between the platform and the warehouse there were four roads and on the second of these waited the tour train composed of five open saloon coaches and the engine 52438.

The crew were Driver S. Collings and Fireman Colin Marsden, both of Patricroft. Promptly at 2.20pm the train backed out to Ordsall Lane. Looking backwards from Ordsall Lane No.1 was Ordsall Lane station which first appeared in Bradshaw in October 1849; it was under the spelling of Ordsal Lane in Bradshaw until May 1898 although it appeared in LNWR timetables under its modern spelling at least 20 years before that. From here the train. went forward to Castlefield Junction over the original South Junction line which at that time was primarily used for freight. At one time there was a passenger service between Ordsall Lane and London Road but when this was withdrawn it continued to be used for the quite heavy holiday traffic and for excursions from the south side of Manchester to North Wales and the Lancashire Coast. Now, of course, it is a busy main line for passenger trains.

And so to Oxford Road where the Station Master, Mr Booth, met us on arrival in terminal platform 3. This was part of the original station opened on 20 July 1849 with the Altrincham line. This platform and adjoining roads were electrified but only used in emergencies; members were surprised by the ramifications of the old station as another two terminal roads were concealed behind a dividing wall. The basement was occupied as a "News Cinema" and this disguised the exterior of the building as seen by most observers. The main part of the station was used by MSJ&A electric trains and by the trains to Warrington and Liverpool via Lymm. At one time the LNWR and LMSR ran a couple of through trains via Knutsford and Northwich to Crewe which had through coaches to London Euston, but these finished before WW2. Perhaps the most interesting passenger train to start and terminate at Oxford Road was the Manchester to Llandudno "Club Train" which was diverted from Manchester Exchange station when that became unusable as a result of bomb damage and air raids in December 1940.

After setting back again out of the-terminal platform at Oxford Road, the tour train went forward through the up platform of London Road South Junction station and crossed the main lines to reach Ardwick Junction. Here we went on to the old L&YR line to Philips Park which opened in December 1848 to provide a link between the LNWR/MS&LR lines from London Road and the L&YR line from Victoria to Stalybridge, the latter being.known as the Ashton Branch. From Ardwick, the Philips Park line curved sharply on a viaduct and crossed the Midland's Ancoats Goods branch,to Midland Junction where the Midland’s spur from Ashburys came in on the right. In the RCH 1914 Junction  Diagrams book, this junction was called Ancoats Junction. Beyond Midland Junction was Beswick Junction and the L&YR's 26-chain branch to Beswick Goods station, then there was a line to Bradford Gas Works. At Philips Park, the line bifurcated, the right hand line curving away to Park station and Baguley Fold Junction on the Stalybridge line,  and the left to Philips Park No.1 and Miles Platting. The tour train went this way, then almost immediately took the third side of the triangle to Brewery Junction and sidings.

The viaduct from Ardwick to Midland Junction is still in situ but partly demolished where it passes over roads. It never carried a regular passenger service although it was used by diverted passenger trains between London Road and Stockport when the mainline was closed for electrification. Between Midland Junction and ’ Philips Park, however, it had a frequent passenger service which began on 1 July 1889 and was used by Midland trains from Marple to Victoria and Blackburn. This finished in the second world war although it continued to be used for freight, and still is. Also it continued to be used regularly for passenger traffic off the GC and Midland lines to Blackpool, Southport and elsewhere on the Lancashire coast.

The curve from Philips Park to Brewery Junction is another line which never had a regular passenger service although it was used for football excursions and also by excursions from Lancashire and Yorkshire towns to Belle Vue Gardens. From Midland Junction and for the next few miles, "The Pennine Pullman", another special train from London, was only a few minutes ahead of our tour train. From Brewery, the tour train was travelling over the oldest section of the L&YR which opened as the Manchester & Leeds Railway on 4th July 1839, but the L&Y 0—6-0 was a bit sluggish on this section. At Thorpes Bridge Junction the "New Line" from . Victoria (opened 4 Nov 1877) came in on the left, followed on the right by the new line to Oldham via Hollinwood (opened 17 May 1880) and Newton Heath shed in the apex. Newton Heath station was where the main line crossed Dean Lane (this station opened in Dec 1853 and closed Jan 1961). The main line continues to Climb past Moston, Moston Exchange sidings and a siding leading to Moston Colliery. Next on the right was the new Chadderton Power station controlled by Vitriol Works signal box, a BR structure opened  in 1954 and still in use, whilst on the left was the aircraft factory of A.V.Roe & Co where over 4,000 Lancaster bombers were built during the second world war.

At Middleton Junction the original route to Oldham went off to the right and was opened on 31.3.1892. The station was originally named Oldham Junction, then Middleton from August 1842, then Middleton Junction from May 1852. The L&YR 2-4-2T 50647 came on as pilot here with a very keen Bury crew (Driver Whittle and Fireman Morris) and the two engines set about tackling the 1¾ mile Werneth incline.

For the first ¼ mile the gradient was 1 in 144 but for the final section of just under a mile it steepened to 1 in 27. This was the steepest gradient in the country over which passenger trains regularly worked. Half way up the hill a 70-chain single line branch went off to Chadderton Goods station (this eventually closed in Sept 1970). The Werneth incline was originally worked by rope and a stationary engine but a mishap to a rope made them try rushing the bank. It worked, so larger locomotives were obtained and rope haulage for passenger trains ceased in June 1851.

The two engines made a stirring ascent of Werneth bank with the 5-coach train and up the 1 in 27 speed settled down to about 10 mph with fierce exhaust and plenty of smoke. Werneth station was at the top of the incline and from here the line climbs at 1 in 79 through Werneth tunnel (471 yards) and Central tunnel (449 yards) to Oldham Central station and then on to Oldham Mumps. This consists of a wide island platform with the station buildings in the centre of the platform and centre bays at each end. The bay at the Manchester end is still there but without any track whilst that at the other end has been filled in.

The next section from Mumps to Royton opened on 1.12.1863. Platt Brothers Hartford Works (Textile Machinery Makers) was passed and at Royton Junction the 2-4—2T was detached and went 'light‘ to Facit. The 0-6-0 took the train down the 1 in 62/71 grade to Royton which was a somewhat neglected terminal station with a single long platform and an umbrella type roof. The station was not thought to produce much passenger traffic but it was a convenient point for turning trains.

After running round at Royton, 52438 went back to Oldham Clegg Street which was the old Oldham, Ashton & Guide bridge Junction (LNWR & MS&LR Joint)station which opened in August 1861 but replaced by a new station in 1900. This was served by trains to Guide Bridge and Stockport. Here the loco ran round again and we headed for Greenfield and Delph. The OA&GB line made an end-on junction with the L&NWR 26 chains beyond Clegg Street. From here the LNWR line to Greenfield was opened on 5 July 1856 so it was celebrating its centenary two months after our tour. The first station was Oldham (Glodwick Road) (opened in 1862), then came the stone built station at Lees which was one of the originals on the line. Lees loco shed was just beyond on the left and had only recently been re-roofed. Grotton & Springhead, another original station, came next and was just named Grotton until 1900. The station buildings were being re—furbished as a private dwelling house. Just beyond was the 1,334 yard long tunnel with Grasscroft Halt at the far end. This did not open until 1.1.1912 when motor trains were introduced; it consisted of two sleepered platforms with-small timber waiting rooms on each side. These four stations closed on 2.5.1955 when the passenger trains were withdrawn.

The terminal branch platform at Greenfield was set back a little from the main line platforms which are still open on the Manchester—Huddersfield line. After just over half a mile was Moorgate Halt which was similar to Grasscroft and opened at the same time. This halt was really in Uppermill but a station with that name was already on the Friezland line between Diggle and Stalybridge. Immediately beyond the Halt was - the juncti0n for the short Delph branch which paralleled the main line for a little way before swinging north to Dobcross, another Halt which opened in January 1912.-This ’consisted of a single platform on the left (west) side. A few chains further on was the strangely named Measurements Halt which opened in July 1932 for the benefit of employees of Measurements Ltd whose works were just below the railway. Only early and return evening trains stopped there and so far as is known, no printed tickets were ever issued to this Halt. It consisted of a cinder platform with timber facings on the right (up) side of the line.

Delph station, set amidst hills and dark stone mills, was open to all traffic on 1.9.1852 and passenger traffic was believed to have been worked by a horse pulled coach until the Oldham line opened in 1856. It is said that this fact led to the famous nick—name affectionately bestowed upon trains on the branch — "Delph Donkey". The station had one platform , an umbrella type roof and all buildings, including the small goods shed, were stone built. All stations closed on 2.5.1955 when passenger services were withdrawn.’

The loco ran round here, 18 minutes being scheduled for the operation, and the train returned to Clegg Street by the same route for another reversal, this time only scheduled to take 5 minutes. Then 52438 passed through Mumps for a third time en route to Rochdale over a line which opened in December 1863. Stations beyond Royton Junction (all of which are still open) were at Shaw & Crompton.which is still controlled by a circa 1925 L&Y type signal box, New Hey and Milnrow before joining the L&Y main line at Rochdale East Junction.

The train did not go into the present station at Rochdale which did not open until 28 April 1889, but into the original 1839 Manchester & Leeds station. This was about a ¼ mile east of the-present station and was still in situ at the time of the tour behind Rochdale Goods Yard signal box. The main station buildings were some distance from the running lines and the station awning had disappeared. The original booking office was occupied by the District Engineers Department. The station entrance was on Moss Lane and Milnrow Road and the building was ornamentally faced on that side. Under the station were a series of disused cellars which at one time were used to house station staff, but they must have been very gloomy.

The train was eventually placed in the loop alongside the surviving platform and building of this station, and the passengers were able to descend from the train and inspect the facilities with the aid of portable steps. The engine ran round here, the operating instructions saying that the Rochdale pilot engine would attach to the train and shunt it to stand at Rochdale Goods signal box. The pilot engine was 80088. Half an hour was spent at Rochdale before the train set off for Facit with 80088 piloting 52438. The line On which we were now travelling opened on 1 Nov. 1870, crossing the 18 arch viaduct over the River Roach and climbing at 1 in 95 to Wardleworth. Here the line became single, the token being lowered by means of a boat-hook type of gadget from the high level signal box which was perched on a gantry. The climb continued at 1 in 59/79/63 to reach Shawclough & Healey station which had one stone faced platform and a well used goods yard on either side of the line. Much of . -the traffic here came from Turner Brothers Asbestos Co's Works which included large quantities of asbestos originating from Manchester Docks, Merseyside and Bristol, always carried under tarpaulin. There was also coal for the Caldershaw Mills of Samuel Heap & Co.

Beyond here, traffic was light. The climb continued at 1 in 63 and over the River Spodden on a 117 ft. high 8 arch viaduct with a girder span at the south end. This was a renowned beauty spot. Next came Broadley station which was still in a good state of repair and painted in cream and blue. The single platform had timber buildings and a timber signal box of L&Y design was on the platform. This was a token changing point. Whitworth station was a mile further on where there was a stone built platform and goods warehouse. From the platform end the climb stiffened to 1 in 50 to Facit which was the terminus of the line until 1881 and the point where our train terminated and reversed.

Facit was a 2-platform station which was obviously built at different dates. The southbound (up) platform contained substantial stone-built edifices which were in good condition but the buildings on the northbound side were more modest and obviously added when the line was extended to Bacup in December 1881. The section to Bacup was totally closed.from 16.6.1947 but at-the time of the tour the permanent way was relatively intact, although not the signalling. The Rochdale to Bacup passenger service was withdrawn on 16.6.1947 but the line was still open for freight to Facit. There used to be substantial quarry traffic here and the remains of the quarry connection could be seen to the west.

After a 25 minute scheduled stay at Facit, 50647 took the train back to Rochdale and then continued along.the main line via Castleton and Middleton Junction to Miles Platting. Finally the train went from there along the original Manchester & Leeds alignment to Manchester Oldham Road station which opened when the line to Littleborough opened on,4 June 1839. The station closed to passengers on 1 January 1844 when Victoria station came into use but Oldham Road continued in use_as a goods station. Arrival here was 25 minutes late at 8.00pm and we were met by Mr.Kenworthy, the Assistant Goods Agent and by Mr Mullard, the Yard Foreman. Before members dispersed, they gave us an intriguing tour of the ancient station and warehouse building, even including the Station Master's bedroom of 1839 which was reached by narrow stairs from his office. In 1956, Oldham Road was a very important goods station with traffic from and to a wide area, and the warehouses were still extensively used for storage purposes.



A bizarre trainload of intense antiquarians who find as much satisfaction in railway lines as others find in art were in Oldham on Saturday to see the old and, to them, interesting parts of the railway network in the district. The locomotive was an antique specially rejuvenated for the Old Manchester Railtour. The tour started at Liverpool Road, the first passenger train to leave there for 112 years.

They not only study railway history, they make it. These people take their hobby very seriously. From memory, they quote things like "Act 22/23 Vic Cap 129 of Aug 13 1859" which is the Parliamentary authority for the Oldham Mumps to Royton line. They plot their journeys on large maps; they have huge collections of tickets and timetables; they know nearly every track that exists and several that don't but used to.

Some had travelled long distances from Scotland and Somerset and from Derby to make the tour and, if anybody travels 240 miles to ride on a train, it is ample proof that they take their hobby seriously. Most of these men were middle aged although there was a sprinkling of under 30s and schoolboys. They came with rucksacks, cases, carriers, parcels and the inevitable cameras. They studied the line, the stations, the viaducts and sidings and the sleepers with equal seriousness. They travelled from Manchester as far as Delph, to Royton and to Rochdale.

A bespectacled man tried for half an hour to explain the kick he got from this pastime. Then he wandered off to watch the engine being changed and reverently touched a bumper. Another man explained that the tour was jointly organised by the Manchester Locomotive Society and the Stephenson Locomotive Society and that two trips of this sort were organised each year, covering different parts of the north and that 220 people were making this particular trip. Two hundred of them, studying maps, discussing Acts of Parliament, gradients, routes, timetables and dates with an intensity that was more than disturbing to the layman. (From the Oldham Evening Chronicle 14th May 1956)

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