Cheadle branch line
|Cheadle Branch Line|
The Cheadle branch line was a railway line of just under 4 miles (6.4 km) in length that served the town of Cheadle, Staffordshire. It was in operation as a passenger line from 1892 to 1963, and closed altogether in 1986. It took 46 years from conception to completion and was notable in that part of the line had to be practically rebuilt partway through its existence.
Proposals for a line
In 1849 the market town of Cheadle, population 3,000, was still without any form of rail transport. The North Staffordshire Railway had completed its Stoke to Derby line in 1848 and the Churnet Valley Line the following year but both of the lines missed the town, passing around 3.5 miles (5.6 km) to the south and north of Cheadle respectively.[page needed] The people of the town, along with several mines on the Cheadle Coalfield, wanted a rail connection as a means of transporting their goods. Several schemes for a branch line were proposed over the years; among these was a branch from the NSR east of Blythe Bridge and running via Forsbrook to Dilhorne and then Cheadle. Unfortunately, none of the schemes ever came to fruition.
In 1887, the Cheadle Railway, Mineral & Land Co. Ltd was formed and at long last construction of a branch line leaving the NSR line at Cresswell began the following year. In the meantime, the owners of Foxfield Colliery at Dilhorne had grown tired of waiting for the new line and had built their own connection to the NSR near Blythe Bridge.[page needed] This line, running entirely over private land and opened in 1893 still survives today as the Foxfield Light Railway, albeit without the connection to the main line.
The first sod of the line was dug at Totmonslow on 22 March 1888. After several financial problems, the first stretch from Cresswell to Totmonslow was opened on 7 November 1892. The first train ran to Tunstall on the Potteries Loop Line and regular services became an extension of those on the latter for almost the whole of the branch's existence.[page needed]
Construction of the extension to Cheadle started in 1893. A new colliery, christened New Haden Colliery, was opened at Draycott and the line was already in operation for goods traffic up to this point. The new piece of line involved the building of a difficult tunnel. This passed through a ridge of high ground of sandstone before turning east and running to a station on the southern outskirts of Cheadle. The new section was also beset with financial problems and it was not until 1 January 1901 that the line opened in its entirety.[page needed]
In December 1906 Totmonslow station was renamed to Tean, although the village of Upper Tean was located a mile to the east. On 1 January 1907 the North Staffordshire Railway inherited the line from the Cheadle Railway Company; until that date they had provided the services but not actually owned the line.
Construction of the diversion line
Problems with the tunnel began almost immediately after completion. Several sections had to be patched up over the years but in November 1918, partial collapse caused the line to be closed for almost a month. While repairs were underway, the coal traffic was important enough to justify wagons being exchanged between locomotives while inside the tunnel, repairs being carried out by men working on a timber platform with just enough room for the wagons to pass underneath.[page needed]
After the NSR was absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923, problems with the tunnel became even more commonplace and construction of a new deviation line finally began in 1932. This skirted the high ground to the east and joined up with the old formation again just outside Cheadle station; this new alignment was opened in 1933. The tunnel portals were bricked up and the track from the south was lifted soon after, but the northern section of the old line remained in use as a backshunt to New Haden Colliery; all trains to and from the latter would thus need to reverse at Cheadle. The southern portal was used as a small private coal mine which operated from 1983 to 1991 and even though it is bricked much of the mining equipment remains inside the tunnel.
By the beginning of World War II the passenger services had reduced to only two trains per day each way, with five on Saturday.[page needed] In a further blow, New Haden Colliery was closed in 1943 after the Ministry of Fuel and Power decided to move the 500 miners to more efficient pits in aid of the war effort, and its traffic of 3,000 tons per week was lost. However, a brickworks adjacent to the colliery plus an increasing amount of sand traffic from nearby quarries, most of it delivered by road to Cheadle, provided a lifeline.[page needed]
Under British Railways
As with many other railways in the county, passenger numbers were dwindling by the 1950s and some lines were closed but the Cheadle branch survived, albeit with only three passenger trains and one goods working each way on weekdays.[page needed] Tean station closed under British Railways on 1 June 1953; by that time it had been reduced in status to an unstaffed halt. Diesel multiple units started to replace steam traction in 1958 when they were introduced on the Loop Line services, but this did little to stem the decline in passenger numbers.[page needed] By the time of the Beeching Axe the passenger service was already slated for withdrawal, and the final passenger train on the line ran on Saturday 17 June 1963. The last working was the 5:07pm from Cheadle.
Freight traffic from a nearby quarry continued to run until 1978 when the contract for the traffic expired. From then onwards, goods traffic was solely for railway civil engineering use, with the final train running in 1986.[page needed]
After a gap of nearly 22 years, a passenger train ran to Cheadle on 28 March 1985 to mark the launch of the InterCity Charter Train Unit. The service included several Pullman vehicles and passengers were taken by road to Alton Towers.[page needed] A regular service to bring in the park's visitors by rail sadly never came to fruition and the line once again became redundant. The last train to Cheadle was a weedkilling train in the summer of 1985.
Today, most of the alignment is heavily overgrown but still free from development, except for the final quarter of a mile into Cheadle which was lifted in 1994 to make way for a new housing estate.[page needed] The northern portal of the tunnel has been buried by opencast mining activity.
In October 2011, Moorland & City Railways set up a company to look into the possibility of reopening the line. A lease has been taken from Network Rail and, in March 2012, overhanging trees were cut back and the remaining track was lifted after it emerged that 600 metres (2,000 feet) of track had been stolen in the period up to Christmas 2011. The trackbed could be reused as a footpath/bridleway pending a decision on the future of the line.
- Baker, Allan C. (1979). The Cheadle Railway. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 085361248X.
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- "THURSDAY 22nd MARCH 1888". John Alcock's 1888 Diary.
- "Draycott Cross Colliery & the Cheadle Branch Railway". Subterranea Britannica. Retrieved 2007-09-04.
- Ballantyne, Hugh (2005). British Railways Past & Present: North Staffordshire and the Trent Valley. Past & Present Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1858952042.
- Moors, Terry (2007). North Staffordshire Railways: Scenes from the 1980s. Ashbourne: Landmark Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84306-347-6.
- Broadbent, Steve (25 July – 7 August 2012). "Looks like Leek's luck may change". RAIL (701): 68.
- "Metal thieves fail to derail plans for restored train line". The Sentinel. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-02.