Wrexham, Mold and Connah's Quay Railway
The Buckley Railway had already been incorporated on 14 June 1860 to build a 5-mile (8 km) line from that town to a junction with the London and North Western Railway Chester-Holyhead main line at Connah's Quay in order to link collieries and brickworks in the area with a point of shipment on the River Dee. The Buckley Railway was opened in 1864 as a freight-carrying line, and was worked by horses, though steam hauled passenger trains ran from Wrexham to its terminus at Drury.
The WMCQR line - 12.5 miles (20 km) in length - opened as a single line with short branches from Buckley to a point near the Great Western Railway station at Wrexham; it also had a south to west connection with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) at Hope. The WMCQR took over the Buckley Railway from 30 June 1873. Several other extensions of the railway were authorised in 1864 and 1865: these never materialised.
On 1 November 1887 the Railway extended into the Wrexham Central station. On 31 March 1890 a further line was opened by the WMCQR: the "Buckley Loop" also connected with the LNWR, and ran through Hawarden. At the same time the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR) began the construction of a line from Chester to join the WMCQR at Hawarden Bridge Junction over the River Dee: this necessitated building the Hawarden Swing Bridge over the river.
By an Act of 1885 the Wirral Railway obtained powers to build a line from Bidston to join the MSLR at Hawarden Bridge; in the event the construction was taken over by a joint committee (known as the North Wales and Liverpool Railway Committee). The line - 14.25 miles (22.93 km) - was opened on 18 May 1896: the following year the WMCQR went into receivership, and the line was bought by the Great Central Railway, as the MSLR had now become: the joint committee was dissolved in 1904.
The principal promoters of the WMCQR were Henry Robertson, of Banff, Scotland and Benjamin Piercy, of Montgomeryshire. Robert Piercy, Benjamin's elder brother, was appointed Resident Engineer to the railway in 1866.
This is not a complete list:
- No.1 Wheatley, 0-6-0ST, ex-Buckley Railway, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1861
- No.2 Kenyon, 0-6-0ST, ex-Buckley Railway, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1862
- No.3 Chancellor, 0-6-0, ex-St. Helens Railway no.11 Tyne, builder unknown
- No.4 Lord Richard, 0-6-0T, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1863, rebuilt as 0-4-2T in 1889
- No.5 Sir Stephen, 0-6-0T, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1863
- No.6 Queen, ex-London and North Western Railway, built as 0-6-0 by Sharp, Roberts and Company 1846, rebuilt as 0-6-0ST at Crewe 1858, purchased by WM&CQR 1872, rebuilt as 0-8-0ST 1880, rebuilt as 0-6-2ST 1888, rebuilt as 0-8-0ST 1903
- No.7 (later No.3), ex-South Staffordshire Railway, built as 0-6-0 by Robert Stephenson and Company 1851, rebuilt at Crewe as 0-6-0ST, purchased by WM&CQR 1874, rebuilt as 0-6-2 in 1882, rebuilt as 2-6-0T in 1899
- No.7 Duke, 0-4-0ST, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1878
- No.8 Premier, 0-6-0ST, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1880
- No.9 Dee, 0-4-0ST, ex-Thomas Butlin & Co, Wellingborough, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1871, purchased by WM&CQR 1881
- No.10 Emily, ex-Broughton Coal Co., built by Beyer Peacock 1882
- No.11 0-4-0ST, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1885
- No.12 0-6-2T, built by Beyer Peacock 1885
- No.13 0-6-2T, built by Beyer Peacock 1885
- No.14 0-4-0T, ex-Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway, built by Dodds 1854, rebuilt as 0-4-2T 1860, purchased by WM&CQR 1887
- No.15 0-6-2ST, built by Beyer Peacock 1888
- No.16 0-6-2ST, built by Beyer Peacock 1888
- Nos.17-26 0-6-2T, built by Beyer Peacock 1896-98 (actually owned by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, but carried WM&CQR numbers and livery to enable them to exercise running powers over the Wirral Railway.)
The Buckley Branch was closed in the 1960s following the closure of the Northop Hall to Connah's Quay incline around 1960. The severe Winter of 1963/4 led to the line's closure beyond the site of Etna Brickworks following a landslip. The branch was dieselised around 1962 and was operated by a shunter. The sidings at Drury, which featured a loco shed and shunting capstan were used for stock storage for a while before total closure in the mid 60s and the removal of track from Buckley Junction. The main line of the railway between Wrexham Central and Bidston has been operated by DMUs since the early 1960s and remains in use to today as the Borderlands Line. It is operated by Arriva Trains Wales. At Bidston passengers can change to Merseyrail services on the Wirral Line to Birkenhead and Liverpool. Freight traffic continues to Pen-y-ffordd Cement Works, where an EWS Class 08 shunter is used to shunt the coal deliveries. Further freight traffic runs from Wrexham to Dee Marsh Junction, including steel traffic.
The WMCQR was loosely associated with the Bishops Castle Railway (opened 1866, closed 1936) which ran from Craven Arms to Bishop's Castle. The two railways were not directly connected but the latter's locomotives were repaired at the WMCQR's workshop.
The WMCQR was a party to the 'Welsh Railways Through Traffic Act' of 1889, by which an interconnected group of independent Welsh companies agreed to cooperate in promoting a through route from South Wales to Merseyside via Talyllyn Junction, Llanidloes, Welshpool, Ellesmere and Wrexham. This was to be an attempt to attract traffic away from the large companies’ routes via Hereford. At that time the lines from Ellesmere to Wrexham, and then on to Merseyside, had not yet been built, and it was 1896 before the envisaged route was complete.
For long distance through traffic this route never received substantial use, although the Great Central Railway (who acquired the WMCQR in 1897) did run some holiday trains south to Newtown, although these then proceeded to Aberystwyth rather than to South Wales as originally envisaged.
The route is most often quoted in connection with the ‘Jellicoe Specials’ of WWI. These trains carried coal from the South Wales coalfields to the Fleet in Scapa Flow, providing much needed relief to the demand on the alternative ‘main’ line via Hereford. However, it seems likely that beyond Ellesmere these trains would have travelled north via Whitchurch rather than deviating via Wrexham and the Wirral, thereby avoiding the northern section of the route envisaged by the 1889 Act.
- Hawarden Swing Bridge
- R W Kidner (2003). The Mid-Wales Railway. The Oakwood Press.