Churnet Valley Railway

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Churnet Valley Railway
Churnet Valley Railway, 1940s weekend.jpg
"Winston Churchill" at the 1940s weekend
Commercial operations
Name British Rail
Built by North Staffordshire Railway
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Owned by Churnet Valley Railway (1992) PLC
Operated by Churnet Valley Railway (1992) PLC
Stations 4
Length 10 12 miles (16.9 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 13 June 1849
Closed to passengers 4 January 1965
Closed 30 August 1988
Preservation history
30 October 1992 Incorporation of "Goldenlaunch plc" (later renamed to "Churnet Valley Railway (1992) PLC")
3 May 1996 CVR Granted Light Railway Order [1]
4 July 1996 CVR PLC buys Leek Brook - Oakamoor trackbed [2]
24 August 1996 CVR PLC operates its first service train from Cheddleton to Leek Brook[3]
11 July 1998 CVR PLC operates its first services to Consall[3]
11 August 2001 CVR PLC extends services for the second time, with Kingsley & Froghall re-opened[3]
13 August 2004 Consall Signal Box commissioned, allowing 2-train operation[4]
21 September 2008 CVR PLC re-opens Froghall - Oakamoor Sand Sidings (though with limited use) [5]
12 November 2010 CVR PLC hired to re-open Cauldon Lowe branch by "Moorlands & City Railways" [6]
6 February 2014 Ipstones Loop Re-opened [7]
Churnet Valley Railway
Rudyard & Macclesfield
Trackbed breached by Supermarket
Birchall Tunnel (69 yards)
Cauldon Lowe Branch (MCR)
Stoke–Leek line (MCR)
Leekbrook Junction ( currently run-round loop only)
St Edwards Hospital tramway
Cheddleton Tunnel (531 yards)
Kingsley and Froghall
Oakamoor Sand Sidings
Oakamoor tunnel (497 yards)
Trackbed breached by JCB Works
Ashbourne Line
to Uttoxeter

The Churnet Valley Railway is a preserved standard gauge heritage railway to the east of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England, that operates along a part of the former North Staffordshire Railway's Churnet Valley Line.

The CVR has two main headquarters:

Many passengers tend to begin their journey at Kingsley & Froghall due to the easier access from the A52 and better car parking facilities.

The railway is roughly 11 miles (17.7 km) long (from Kingsley & Froghall station to Ipstones Loop, via Leek Brook Junction), although there are various plans to extend the railway in four different directions which include re-openings to both Leek and Stoke-on-Trent, plus potentially to Alton Towers. The stretch of railway from Leek Brook Junction to Ipstones is owned by a private company 'Moorland & City Railways (MCR), a commercial venture which aims to run freight trains from the quarries at Cauldon to the main national network at Stoke-on-Trent, and to re-introduce a commuter service between Leek & Stoke.[8] Hwever in 2014 the CVR launched an appeal to buy the physical trackwork between Leek Brook & Ipstones off MCR,[9] in order to protect their running rights until any full renovation begins.

Early days[edit]

The Cheshire and Staffordshire Railway Society was formed in the 1970s, born out of ideas formed by Ken Simpson and enthused to a small group of would-be railwaymen, to try and save something of the lines built by the old NSR. Their original target was the Biddulph Valley route which branched north from the Stoke-Leek line at Milton Junction, and passed the Victoria Colliery before crossing the Cheshire border and running under the Stoke-Manchester line to Biddulph Wharf. Early soundings to Cheshire County Council though sadly met with lukewarm interest, and really there was little encouragement from anyone. Leek Station was also then considered with a possible heritage line north to Rudyard Lake, but Leek's station building was demolished by the council in 1973 before any preservation attempt could really be made.[10] The Society then started laying plans for re-opening the Oakamoor to Alton Towers section, using the former Oakamoor tunnel as a stock storage base.

However news came that the Council were going to demolish the former NSR building at Cheddleton in April 1974, but local businessman, resident & Parish Councillor Norman Hancock parked his car on the level crossing in front of the bulldozers, preventing the demolition gangs from doing so.[11] This gave the C&SRS time to get the building listed before going on to negotiate restoring the building. With help from Sir John Betjeman and the Victorian Society, on 14 May 1974 the building received Grade II listing and then in 1976 a deal was concluded that allowed the C&SRS to take a tenancy out and use the former Station building as a museum.[12]

This prompted a rapid change of name to become the North Staffordshire Railway Society and the establishment of the Cheddleton Railway Centre, which signalled the embryonic stage of the Churnet Valley Railway, and all plans for the Oakamoor to Alton Towers were put on hold. The old siding & Goods Yard at Cheddleton were then subsequently purchased at later dates, and workshops were created with the first locomotives arriving in 1977,[13] although British Rail (BR) were still using the adjacent railway to move industrial sand from the quarry at Oakamoor. This all resulted in the unusual sight of a Fowler tender arriving at Cheddleton, from Bescot, at the rear of a sand train, which was then uncoupled from the train and left for the NSRC volunteers to crane over from the mainline into the NSRS Yard before the sand train returned.

In 1978 the NSRS became the "North Staffordshire Railway Co. (1978) Ltd", which gained charity status in 1983. The bay platform area was acquired in 1984 and a former NSR signal box was put into use at the site allowing demonstration runs to operate around the former Goods Yard. A commemorative plaque has been placed on the restored building at Cheddleton, dedicated to Norman Hancock acknowledging the role he played in ensuring the survival of this Jacobean style building.

British Rail ceased using the remains of the former Churnet Valley Line in 1988, and the NSRC began to arrange for the purchase of the stretch from Oakamoor to Leekbrook Junction. Under company law, however, a charitable body such as NSRC may not enter a "risk taking" venture such as a public share issue - it was therefore necessary to promote a Public Limited Company for this purpose. This was incorporated on 30 October 1992 as "Goldenlaunch plc". The name of the company was changed to the Churnet Valley Railway (1992) plc on 15 December 1992. This was a non-trading "shadow" company which was a subsidiary of NSRC, until the first share issue was launched, and the trading activities of NSRC were taken over by the CVR.

The promotion of a private limited company (PLC) was also necessary in order to make an application for a Light Railway Order, which was the last application made under the old legislation before the onset of the new Transport and Works Act. The PLC also needed to be in place for applications for planning permission and numerous other legal necessities. The way ahead was now clear for the launch of the public share issue, and purchase of the railway and associated land between Leek Brook Junction and Oakamoor Sand Sidings. In 1995 an agreement was reached with British Rail Board for the line's purchase by the PLC subject to raising the necessary funding, and so the major share issue (Share Issue 1) was launched and was well supported, particularly by the local community, raising over £120,000 which enabled the purchase to go through. This was completed on 4 July 1996.

As a result, the company was able to buy the entire 7 miles (11 km) of trackbed and associated works from Leek Brook Junction's former St Edwards Platform to Oakamoor Sand Quarry Sidings, and make a substantial down payment towards the purchase of the existing trackwork and sidings. After this, efforts were concentrated on preparing the track for the return of passenger trains, and on 24 August 1996 LMS Fowler Class 3F 47383 departed Cheddleton for Leek Brook Junction, a distance of roughly 1 mile (1.6 km).

Present route[edit]

Kingsley and Froghall station, located on the main A52 road to Ashbourne, is where many passengers begin their journey. Despite its name the station lies within Froghall village, Kingsley being a further mile away along the A52 road. A short walk away from the station, across the road bridge, is the canal wharf which is the site of some historic lime kilns.

From Kingsley & Froghall the railway passes the historic Thomas Bolton Copperworks factory (some of which is derelict with other parts still in use) and meanders through the forested valley, through Hazles Wood and Booth's Wood and on towards Consall. The station here is sandwiched between the Caldon Canal and the River Churnet.

There is a nature reserve nearby, whilst the Black Lion public house sits on a bank overlooking the railway, canal and river. This pub is unusual in that there are no public roads leading to it. Access is on foot via the canal towpath or the railway. Consall is now fully signalled and the passing loop allows two trains to run on special events and during high season.

Trains leaving Consall face a small gradient as they begin the section towards Cheddleton. This section of railway is also heavily forested but after 12 mile (0.80 km) or so the trees fall away to reveal open farmland and moorland.

Trains pass the motive power depot as they arrive into Cheddleton station, where locomotives under repair may be glimpsed in the yard. An early start of around 6 a.m. awaits the volunteers who light up the steam locomotives of a morning here. The Grade II listed Victorian station building at Cheddleton houses a small relics museum, toilets, ticket office and waiting room.

In July 2011 a new temporary catering facility was opened on the platform. A more permanent facility based on Platform 2 was funded by a public appeal with construction which was completed in 2012. Continuing from Cheddleton, trains run past a local caravan park and through the 531-yard (486 m) tunnel (the fifth longest tunnel on a UK Heritage Railway within Preservation[citation needed]), emerging at Leekbrook Junction.

As the name suggests this was a 4-way junction serving railways from Stoke, Leek, Alton and the quarries at Cauldon. The former platform for the old St Edwards Hospital tramway has been restored as has the sole surviving NSR Signal Box. Normally CVR services terminate here, but on selected dates trains continue onto the steeply graded Cauldon Lowe Line for the 5 miles (8.0 km) to Ipstones.

The CVR also owns the trackbed between Kingsley & Froghall and Oakamoor. The railway is in situ as far as the Oakamoor sand sidings, which once served the now disused quarry, but is not up to standards for carrying passengers. In order to reach Oakamoor railway station the main line across the River Churnet and through Oakamoor tunnel needs to be rebuilt, although this is one of the medium-term objectives of MCR as part of their plan to re-open the line to Alton (for Alton Towers).


Signal boxes[edit]

Each station (or station site) served by passengers has a signal box, although only one is fully operational:

Leek-Alton Towers section[edit]

  • Leek (Proposed): Would require new signal box plus signalling on possible new site of new station in the future.
  • Leek Brook: Only original box standing on the line. Externally restored as part of the Lottery funded "Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership" in 2014. Internally all but the lever frame itself has been removed.
  • Cheddleton: North Staffordshire Railway box relocated in 1978 from Elton. This houses a lever frame which allows access between the "main line" and the bay platform/motive power depot but operationally is regarded as a ground (shunt) frame, no other operational signalling equipment being present. New-build signal box is planned in the medium term to control all movements in/around Cheddleton.
  • Consall: The signal box came from Clifton, near Ashbourne and was stored for around 18 years in Cheddleton yard before moving to Consall in 2002. This is the only fully operational box on the railway, being commissioned in 2004 to allow two train running.
  • Kingsley and Froghall: Kingsley & Froghall never had a signal box at the station, the area instead having two boxes. One was located north of the station to control Bolton's sidings (an important industrial exchange site), the other being south of the station, controlling the junction to the small Froghall Wharf branch. In preservation, a platform box (from Rushton) has been installed NSR style on the down platform where it is used as an office. It has no other signalling equipment inside.
  • Oakamoor (proposed): Oakamoor would require a signal box as part of a possible extension to the station itself in which it would control signalling and safety at the station in the future.

Current operations[edit]

The railway mostly runs the "one train staff" system, Consall box spending most of its time "switched out". The railway is split into three sections: Leekbrook Junction-Consall; Consall-Kingsley & Froghall; and Kingsley & Froghall-Oakamoor. The last of these, not being used for passenger trains, is protected by a stop board south of passenger operations at Froghall. Leek Brook - Ipstones is an additional fourth section as well, with its own separate signalling staff. Most running days see the Leekbrook Junction-Consall and Consall-Kingsley & Froghall locked together with a single engine/train in service. On peak days they can be split, with Consall box opened, and a simple two train service operated.

Stations of the Churnet Valley route (including the MCR)[edit]

Leek-Alton Towers section[edit]

Steam in the Churnet Valley - Consall station
  • Leek
    • Proposed new build station few metres close to old site
    • Plans include a large "North Staffordshire Railway Museum"
    • Also proposal for Canal Marina, and bus interchange for connections into Leek Town Centre [14]
    • Accessed after passing through the 69-yard "Birchall Tunnel" from the south
  • Leek Brook
    • No public access (except via train)
    • Station platform & Grade II listed signal box (planned re-opening in 2015) [15]
    • Run round loop
    • 531-yard "Cheddleton Tunnel" to the south
    • Junction with Moorland & City Railways lines
  • Cheddleton
    • Operational Headquarters
    • Original Victorian station building
    • North Staffordshire Railway museum
    • Refreshment room & booking office
    • Motive power depot & engine shed (open to public)
    • Carriage & wagon restoration workshops (closed to public)
    • "The Boat Inn" public house across the river
    • "The Red Lion" public house 10-min walk away along canal
  • Consall
    • Sleepy rural station with period buildings & waiting room
    • Passing loop
    • "The Black Lion" public house opposite station
  • Kingsley and Froghall
    • New build North Staffordshire style station building
    • Award winning traditional tea rooms
    • Run-round loop
    • Watering Column
    • Picnic area
    • "The Railway Inn" public house at top of road

Beyond Froghall:

  • Oakamoor Sand Sidings
    • Former track lifted to help fund Ipstones Track Appeal in 2014
    • Proposals made to turn former quarry into holiday park[16]
    • Possible new station opportunity

Future extension:

  • Oakamoor
    • 497 yard "Oakamoor Tunnel" between Sand Sidings and Station site
    • Grade I listed Crossing Keepers hut (now private residence)
  • Alton Towers
    • Former station buildings remain (now Landmark Trust owned)

Leek Brook-Waterhouses section[edit]

  • Bradnop
    • 36-yard "Bradnop Tunnel" directly north of station
    • Former Bradnop Station site cleared (no public access)
  • Ipstones
    • Apesford Level Crossing close by
    • Current Terminus of the route, no public access
    • Platform not in-use, plans are being looked at for re-opening
    • Ipstones Summit (further 0.5 mile south) at 1,063 ft above sea level
  • Winkhill
    • No track at present (2014)
    • Former station building now private residence
  • Cauldon Lowe
    • Track torn up to be used at Endon
  • Waterhouses
    • Possible future terminus of the CVR
    • Former Leek & Manifold Signal Box now a Cycle Hire [17]
    • Start of the Manifold Trail [18]
    • Community swimming pool nearby
    • "Ye Olde Crown Hotel" public house 5-minute walk away


  • 2005: National Railway Heritage Awards, Ian Allan Publishing Award, awarded for Consall station and signalling and Kingsley & Froghall station [19]
  • 2008 National Railway Heritage Awards, National Express East Coast Volunteers Award, awarded for the reconstruction of the Up platform and waiting shelter at Kingsley and Froghall. The project was joint first with the Great Central Railway.[20]
  • 2013: Winner of "ACES Best Dinner Award 2012" [21]

Media coverage[edit]

  • In September 2012 the railway's Diesel Multiple Unit featured on Ashbourne Radio in a two part feature on DMU's and their wider impact when introduced to the UK's railways in the late 1950s. The coverage was also used to advertise the railway's diesel gala later that month.
  • In September 2011 the line featured in an episode of Countryfile. The railway's Diesel Multiple Unit was used for several interviews on the subject of the British "staycation effect". The programme featured several locations along the line, including Cheddleton & Consall stations and the demolished wire mills at Bolton's (Froghall) adjacent to the railway.


Consall extension—Share issue 2 (1998)[edit]

With the success of the initial Leek Brook shuttle, the CVR looked to capitalise on the high level of interest and so launched its second share issue, this time with the aim of raising £160,000 to upgrade Cheddleton to Consall section for passenger services. This proved so successful that the first train operated between Cheddleton and Consall on 11 July 1998.

Kingsley & Froghall extension—Share issue 3 (1998–2001)[edit]

Froghall station

Almost immediately after the opening of Consall station, attention turned to extending the railway’s operating line a further 2 miles (3.2 km) to Kingsley & Froghall station, an important commercial decision for the growth of the railway, as Cheddleton hab been the only public vehicular point of access, and the station and car park were limiting the number of visitors that the railway could accommodate. The CVR 3rd share issue was launched in the summer of 2000 in order to raise £185,000 for this, and for the construction of a new station building. In 2000 vegetation clearance and much of the drainage and track work required to bring the track into passenger operating condition was completed. On 14 October 2000 "top & tailed" diesel hauled passenger specials, followed shortly after by a slight setback in November 2000 after severe flooding damaged at least three sections along the extension. The 2001, other works for the extension were completed, notably the run round loop at Kingsley & Froghall station, and final tamping of the 2 miles (3.2 km) of plain track. The main "down" platform that was to be used for passengers, reduced to a grassy mound following demolition by BR, was also rebuilt. A car park and access to the adjacent A52 was also arranged. The extension was opened on 11 August 2001, extending the CVR’s passenger operations to 5 14 miles (8.4 km) and returning passenger services to Kingsley & Froghall after a 35-year gap. Then on 19 July 2003 Kingsley & Froghall's re-constructed station building was opened by Pete Waterman.

Kingsley & Froghall Up platform (2007–2009)[edit]

Kingsley and Froghall from the road overbridge in 2011 with the up platform at upper left

This project involved the reinstatement of the "up" direction platform at Kingsley & Froghall station, all passenger services having used the opposite (down) platform since the station reopened in 2001. The project became possible in early 2007 following a £10,000 grant for a heritage trail between Consall & Froghall, supplemented with financial backing from the North Staffordshire Railway Company.[22] The rebuilding work began with the reinstatement of the section overhanging the river (about one third of the platforms length) which had been removed during the demolition of the original station. The other main part of the project was to rebuild the wooden waiting shelter, to the original 1849 design. The brick foundations had survived intact and were deemed to be in sufficiently good order to re-use, subject to some localised repairs. The wooden structure was fabricated off site to exact measurements and then assembled on the existing base.[22] and was completed in February 2008. In 2008 the wall between the shelter and the end of the platform was rebuilt along with the fencing covering the remainder of the platform. Resurfacing of the platform followed along with several other smaller projects including the platform lighting and signage. Access was provided with a new foot crossing at the south of the platform (there never was a footbridge), replacing a previous foot crossing at the north end deemed unsuitable for reinstatement due to safety issues regarding visibility.

The project was concluded in February 2009 when the platform was used by passengers for the first time during the railway’s steam gala. Whilst the platform is now open, the lack of signalling at Kingsley & Froghall restricts passenger trains to the down platform except for special events. The project came joint first at the National Railway Heritage Awards 2008, winning "The National Express East Coast Volunteers Award".[23]

Whitebridge Lane cottage (2008–2010)[edit]

A severe landslip immediately south of the station at Cheddleton has always prevented the installation of a passing loop, and therefore the development of the original "down" platform (which cannot carry passenger trains). However a lack of space on the "up" platform had resulted in the catering facilities being located on this otherwise unused side of the station, in the form of Portacabins.

In November 2008 an investigation was undertaken for the proposed relocation of Whitebridge Lane Crossing cottage from its present location next to the West Coast main line at Stone to the "down" platform at Cheddleton. The cottage was to be used as a visitor centre incorporating a cafe, toilets and a museum, being a direct replacement for the portacabins. It was proposed to dismantle the existing 200-year-old Grade II listed building and have it rebuilt at Cheddleton brick-by-brick, with a basement to be incorporated into the proposals. Empty since the last crossing keeper left in 1998, the building has been left derelict and vandalised as because of the building's current close proximity to the running line at Stone, it cannot be sold or put to any other use in its present location.[24] The portacabins located on the proposed site at Cheddleton were moved in early 2010 in anticipation for the move, and the ground cleared ready for the relocation works to start. However in 2011 increased costs resulted in the cancellation of the move, and a temporary tea room had to be constructed on the "up" platform to cover for the missing catering facilities. However negotiations are to continue, with a future revival of the project not ruled out.

Cauldon Lowe re-opening (2010)[edit]

Between May and November 2010, Churnet Valley Railway volunteers were involved in the restoration of the 8.5 miles (13.7 km) section of Moorland & City Railways' network from Leek Brook Junction to Cauldon Lowe. This included vegetation clearance and trackwork maintenance to bring the line up to passenger carrying standards, and support was provided by contractors in order to speed up the program of works. The project cumulated on 12 November 2010 when the line was reopened, although smaller works have been ongoing on the branch since (such as the reinstallation of a loop at Cauldon Lowe to facilitate the "running round" of locomotives).

Leek Brook junction (2010–present)[edit]

The early activities of Moorland & City Railways (MCR) in the areas north and east of the CVR's terminus at Leekbrook Junction, triggered (or brought forward previous) redevelopment plans for the junction/station. The envisaged heritage operation of MCR's Cauldon Lowe branch would require additional infrastructure in the Leekbrook area. In 2010 the signal box (after years of neglect) received external restoration work to safeguard its future use, and the platform and area around the signal box was cleared of 20 years of vegetation.[25] In November 2011 planning permission was granted to the North Staffordshire Railway Company (the CVR's supporting organisation) to restore the signal box and station platform fully.[26] This, along with the permanent signalling of the area, form the future plans for the junction/station.

Cheddleton Down platform—Share issue 4 (2011–present)[edit]

Following the collapse of the Whitebridge Cottage idea, a new catering building was proposed in 2011 as one part of "Share Issue 4", using a mixture of grant funding and subscriptions. This building was planned to be located on the "down" platform, and would have incorporated catering facilities, a disabled compliant toilet and storage facilities, all in a style similar to that of the existing Consall station building.[27] However due to the loss of the grant match-funding, this project has been shelved for the present time with the CVR now concentrating on other Projects.

Cheddleton Station (2014–present)[edit]

As part of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Project, following the completion of phase 1 at Leek Brook the NSRC has devised phases 2, 3 & 4 that will see heritage items be restored to Cheddleton Station. It has been a long held ambition to restore Cheddleton to its former glory, and in-turn create a living museum for visitors to enjoy. Phase 2 will see the re-erection of the former Hanley Water column (an original NSR column) on the "up" platform at the south end with the platform being extended to accommodate 5 Mk1 coaches. This will also include the erection of the Braithwaite Tank from Bolton's Works in the car park behind the "down" platform, which will make the present column opposite the loco shed redundant.

Phase 3 will replace Cheddleton's metal crossing gates with more traditional wooden gates, that are to be mechanically operated in a similar fashion to the former NSR Crossing at Leigh.[28] Phase 3 will also form the first part of Cheddleton entire re-signalling, with fully functioning mechanical signals proposed for installation to protect the crossing.

Phase 4 will repair the landslip, enabling the re-installation of the "down" line and creating a passing loop for CVR services.

Also, separate from the CV LLP, a grant has been obtained to replace a number of the metal fences around Cheddleton with similar to the original NSR-style. As part of this a forge is also planned to help train people in forging and metal work.

Involvement with Moorland & City Railways—Share issue 4[edit]

In November 2010 the Churnet Valley Railway was hired to operate a series of events by “Moorlands & City Railways” to celebrate the re-opening of the Cauldon Branch to the public for the first time since 1935. The branch is noteworthy for its severe gradients, with roughly five miles of 1in45/1in59 in one direction and a couple of miles of 1in61 on the return journey. The summit of the line is at Ipstones, being 1063 feet above sea level.

In 2011 an agreement was reached between CVR and MCR that allowed the CVR to operate services themselves over this branch, and since this date such trains have been run on the first weekend of every month between April and October plus additional special events such as Enthusiast Galas and Private Charters. This agreement required the CVR PLC to purchase shares in MCR, and so in February 2011 publicity trains were run with 5199 and 33021 over the Cauldon line to launch this latest scheme first to current shareholders and then to the public.[27] The overall target was £450,000 much higher than previous share issues, and the vast majority of this was raised which allowed the initial investment in MCR to go ahead.

In July 2013 MCR notified CVR that they were going to be removing the southern section from Ipstones to Cauldon as part of its planned renewal programme,[29] and so the CVR implemented plans to re-instate the former Passing Loop at Ipstones as a Run-Round loop in order to allow CVR services to continue along the remainder of the branch. Work started in early 2014, and was completed on February 6 when guest locomotive no 34007 Wadebridge became the first loco to use the loop ahead of its appearance at the line's annual Winter Steam Gala.[30]

In Summer 2014, CVR then re-opened Share Issue 4 under the "Ipstones Track Appeal" banner as following further discussions it had been decided to accept an offer from MCR to purchase the track work (sleepers, chairs, rails) of the remaining 4.5 miles from Leek Brook to Ipstones from MCR.[31] Track from the little-used section between Froghall & Oakamoor Quarry was lifted to make the first instalment, with a previously loan from CVR to MCR being converted into a second instalment. The third payment was proposed to come from the re-launched share issue, and at first only current shareholders were invited to support. This brought in over half the required amount, and so in October 2014 the Ipstones Track Appeal was made public.[9] The offer period was then extended at Christmas to Spring 2015.

Moorland and City Railways Ltd[edit]

A train on the Moorland and City line at Bradnop, on the first weekend of public operation

Moorland and City Railways (MCR) Ltd is a commercial company set up by a couple of the directors from the Churnet Valley Railway in 2009, with the primary aim of re-opening the mothballed line from Stoke-on-Trent to Cauldon Lowe. The company has already taken a 150-year lease on the Leek Brook to Cauldon Section from the line’s owners Network Rail, with refurbishment for heritage services commencing almost immediately.

The work took nine months, with the first test train operating to Apesford Crossing behind LMS 8F 8624 on the evening of 3 October 2010. Then on 11 November Bulleid Pacific no. 34028 Eddystone became the first loco to work the full 8.5 miles of the branch into Cauldon’s Exchange Sidings with an evening test train prior to her participation in a month-long celebration. On 12 November 2010 a private service hauled by BR Standard Class 8 71000 “Duke of Gloucester” signalled the re-opening of the branch, before 71000 hauled the first public service up the branch on 13 November. In order to run the event, MCR hired the Churnet Valley Railway to operate a mixture of steam and diesel services over three consecutive weekends and additional private charters midweek.

With this section of line now in-use MCR plans are to re-open the remaining section of the mothballed line west to where it connects with the West Coast Main Line at Stoke, and upgrade it for use by heavy freight trains. Further to this they want to help the CVR realise its long term plan to re-open the 1 mile of railway line into Leek in order to re-introduce a commuter service themselves for the town, and reconnect the village of Endon and the suburbs of Stockton Brook, Milton, Abbey Hulton and Fenton Manor to the railway network.

Their final plan would extend the Churnet Valley Railway south from Oakamoor to Alton in order to connect with the popular Alton Towers theme park. This would require continued co-operation between both CVR and MCR, that would upgrade the existing track between Froghall and Oakamoor sand sidings and return the rails into the former station at Oakamoor across the River Bridge and through Oakamoor Tunnel. An agreement would be negotiated for the use of the trackbed between Oakamoor and Alton (Towers), which is now a Permissive Path owned by the Council that is popular with boke riders and walkers. The track bed is double track width, as the entire Churnet Valley line was built as double track, and it is planned that trains would be operated alongside a retained cycle path, as has been successfully (and safely) achieved on other heritage railways such as the Avon Valley Railway. The station at Alton remains entirely intact, although privately owned, so MCR may be required to operate into a new terminus south of the original station.

MCR will operate as a commercial profit-making venture using its own rolling stock. It has already agreed track access rights with the CVR, which will provide a source of revenue for the CVR whilst the heritage railway will enjoy free access to all of MCR’s network

Future extensions[edit]

The railway harbours a number of mid to long-term plans for expansion.

Northwards—"Reconnect Leek"[edit]

The 69yd Birchall Tunnel, between Leek Brook Junction and Leek 53°05′19″N 2°01′44″W / 53.088486°N 2.028969°W / 53.088486; -2.028969

It has always been the CVR long term aim to re-open the line back into the market town of Leek, and after the Froghall extension of 2001 the railway made it clear that the extension into Leek was the next priority in terms of physical expansion.

In January 2014 Moorlands & City Railways, in collaboration with the Churnet Valley Railway, announced their plans to rebuild this missing section of about 1 mile (1.6 km) between Leekbrook Junction and Leek.[32] Because the former station in Leek is now the site of a Morrisons supermarket, a new station has been proposed as outlined in the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's Masterplan for developing tourism in the area.[33] This includes the proposed redevelopment of the Cornhill area with a new canal marina and railway station planned.

With MCR's planned western extension to Stoke, this new station at Leek should provide an interchange for CVR services, via the Stoke–Leek line, to the national network.

With regards to the actual extension, the project is being set up under the title "Reconnect Leek" and the main items of this will see all the following:

  • Planning Request made for 89 new houses at Leek Brook on current brownfield site inside the former triangle
    • Once granted, this land will then be sold to raise funds for the extension of the railway into Leek
  • New station at Leek
  • Re-instatement of the North-East Curve
  • New Station at Leek Brook to provide connection for the new houses

Beyond Leek, a supermarket access road built on the original route makes further expansion towards Rudyard Lake and the main line at North Rode (near Macclesfield) financially improbable for the near future.

A separate company are proposing redevelopments of the Barnfields estate in Leek, which is the mooted location for the new station. These plans were given Outline Plannin Permission in December 2014,[34] and include the construction of a new platform for the railway, new Marina connecting into the Leek branch of the Caldon Canal as well as a new restaurant and potentially a dedicated North Staffordshire Museum.


The surviving building near Alton Towers

To the south, from Froghall, the line is under the ownership of the CVR as far as the former sand sidings at Oakamoor even though as of 2014 the trackwork has been lifted. After this the line crossed over the River Churnet straight into a tunnel before Oakamoor station is reached. The track to the sidings requires upgrading for passenger use, and work on the tunnel and the rebuilding of the station site would be necessary to extend the quarry, although it is considered viable. Whilst the railway owns the track as far as the sand sidings, the bridge, tunnel and trackbed beyond this is in the hands of Staffordshire County Council.

A new station platform called "Moneystone" (name of the former quarry) has been mooted at the site of the former sand sidings - as Phase 1 of the CVR's long-term expansion towards Alton Towers. This could also be used to connect to a new Holiday Camp that has been proposed for the former quarry itself[33]

Continuing south, the next station after Oakamoor is Alton Towers, where the station building has been restored although it is owned by the Landmark Trust.[35] The prospect of running trains as far as Alton is lucrative given the tourist potential provided by the popular Alton Towers which is located nearby. This is something of a long-term prospect, however, especially as this section of track now forms part of the National Cycle Network "National Route 54".

This 4 miles (6.4 km) section (from Froghall-Alton Towers) is in principle regarded as commercially viable to reopen, and has been stated as a longer term expansion aim of Moorland & City Railways.

The next station on the route south of Alton is Denstone, and the trackbed is clear of any development, though the railway has no plans to extend this far. An extension of JCB works makes expansion beyond Denstone back towards the mainline at Uttoxeter improbable without significant financial outlay.


The level crossing at Apesford (Cauldon Lowe Line) before the line was re-opened

East of Leek Brook Junction is the 8 miles (13 km) Cauldon Lowe line, which used to serve the quarries at Cauldon. It joined the line via a triangle, with the South Chord still in situ as part of Network Rail's mothballed line from Stoke to Cauldon. This section has been placed on a 150-year lease to Moorland & City Railways (see separate section) who re-opened the line in a heritage capacity in November 2010.

In January 2014, MCR began the restoration of the line for heavy freight purposes and so the line was shortened by roughly four miles and the loop from Cauldon Exchange sidings relocated to Ipstones. The CVR heritage services therefore are still able to operate, but now terminate at the loop. It is the CVR aim to eventually re-open the former platform at Ipstones so that people can get off whilst the train waits to return down the valley, but this will only be done once the full trackowkr to Ipstones has been purchased.

Approximately a mile before Cauldon Quarry is reached, the former Caldon Junction lies which is where the former Waterhouses branch diverged that connected to the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway. The CVR has stated it does have a long term aim to re-open this two-mile branch and operate into the former NSR Station site at Waterhouses, Staffordshire in order to connect with the Manifold Way and honeypot village of Waterhouses as they feel this would be a better destination than the Quarry site. However no target date has been set for this.

A press release regarding the branch was released on 16 July 2013.[36]


A 1962 view of Bucknall, one of the several demolished stations on the 10 miles (16 km) line to Stoke

West of Leek Brook Junction is the 10 miles (16 km) Stoke–Leek line. The line is part of the planned Moorland & City network (see separate section) and is mothballed pending work to return it to a usable condition. As the Churnet Valley Railway has certain running rights on the Moorland & City network, it is feasible that heritage steam trains could use the line once more.

Any possible extension towards Stoke-on-Trent railway station, could see the Churnet Valley Railway interchange with commuter rail services on the West Coast Main Line as time, money and finances allow.

In January 2012 the CVR publicly announced they were involved in the restoration of the 4 miles (6.4 km) from Leek Brook Junction to Endon Station in collaboration with Moorlands & City Railways. In 2011 vegetation was cleared on the section to allow a comprehensive survey of the track to be undertaken, and in 2012 extensive sleeper replacement began in order to bring the route up to passenger carrying standards. This was being completed by Churnet Valley Railway volunteers, in partnership with Moorland & City Railways, and supported by contractors where necessary.[37]

Work stopped though as a local resident made a Village Green Application for the trackbed, claiming that the line had become a public footpath through its lack of use as a railway for a number of years and that many locals used it as a footpath already. This was eventually rejected by the Staffordshire County Council, as none of the criteria for village green status was met.[38] Meanwhile negotiations continued between MCR (plus CVR) and Network Rail to instate a Heritage service on a restricted number of dates to Endon. In early 2013 it was announced that the CVR would be looking to take a tenancy out on part of the former station building to open a tea room, in order to create a presence within the village and signal its commitment to returning trains to the station. This tea room was subsequently opened on 13 January 2015 by a local couple and named ‘The Station Kitchen’.[39]


Steam locomotives[edit]

Number Name Type Livery Status Notes Image
2871 TKh49 0-6-0 Green Awaiting Restoration Owned by "TKh Support Group". Arrived April 2014 from the Spa Valley Railway, after purchase by Members of the CVR MPD. Funds being acquired for eventual restoration. []
2944 Hotspur TKh49 0-6-0 Green Operational Owned by "TKh Support Group". Entered service June 2014 after 12-month restoration by members of MPD following purchase by Members of the MPD. Already done ~1500 miles since restoration as of September 2014. []
5197 S160 2-8-0 USATC Black Under Overhaul Privately owned. 10-year overhaul recommenced June 2014, after being halted whilst 2944 was completed. USA Class S160 No 5197 (8063150731).jpg
6046 S160 2-8-0 USATC Black Under repair Privately owned. At Tyseley Locomotive Works for repairs. Bishops Lydeard - USATC 6046 by the water tower.jpg
48173 8F 2-8-0 N/A Dismantled awaiting overhaul Privately owned. Long-term project. Restoration likely to commence after overhaul of 5197 is completed. Parts accumalation has been ongoing however. LMS 8F 2-8-0 48173 Bitton, AVR 3.4.2006 (9922367776).jpg
69621 (A.J. Hill) L77 0-6-2T Lined BR Black Stored Boiler ticket expired 30 April 2015. On loan from the East Anglian Railway Museum. LNER Class N7.jpg
92134 9F 2-10-0 BR Black Under Overhaul Off Site Privately owned. Undergoing restoration at LNWR Crewe. Unlikely to become a long term CVR resident. Barrow-on-Soar up mineral geograph-2754337-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg

Former residents

Number Type Livery Status Notes Image
44422 4F 0-6-0 BR Black Awaiting Overhaul Built in 1927 under the LMS, & was withdrawn by BR in June 1965. First former BR steam loco to arrive at CVR from Barry Scrapyard in April 1977.[40] First returned to steam in 1990, the locomotive spent periods out on hire until the CVR was formally re-opened in 1996. A overhaul was required in 2000, after which she continued to perform at the CVR and made visits to other railways before she was moved to the Nene Valley Railway in 2009. The Boiler ticket expired in July 2013 following failure of the Crown Stays, but in December 2014 a 25 Year lease was signed with the West Somerset Railway that would see the 4F restored for the 50th Anniversary of the closre of the SOmerset & Dorset Line in 2016.[41] 44422 on the demolition train - - 1181740.jpg
3777 / 68030 Hunslet 0-6-0 BR Black Awaiting Overhaul Built in 1952. Ran the first demonstration trains operated at the Cheddleton Railway Centre in 1977, where it was named Josiah Wedgewood. At the Llangollen Railway awaiting overhaul, the locomotive was painted into pseudo BR Livery as 68030 and spent many years out on hire at various railways after leaving the CVR in 2006. Steam Locomotive 68030 (6928579330).jpg
80136 4MT 2-6-4T BR Lined Black Awaiting Overhaul Built in 1956. Stored at Crewe Heritage Centre. West Somerset Railway.jpg
No 2 NSR New L Class 0-6-2T NSR Lined Maroon On Display Built in 1923, NSR no. 2 was one of five "New L" locos sold to Manchester Collieries in Walkden by the LMS in October 1937 under its LMS identity of 2271. The loco was named "Princess" in 1938, and was eventually rebuilt with a new saturated boiler and new tanks, bunker and cylinders in 1946.

In 1960 the locomotive was repainted as NSR No 2 for the "North Staffordshire Railway Centenary" exhibition in Stoke-on-Trent. Following the loco's appearance at this event it kept its identity as NSR no. 2 upon its return to industrial service at Walkden.

In 1964 the boiler, tanks and cab from "Princess" were fitted onto the chassis of another former NSR New L loco (NSR no. 72 built in 1920 / LMS no. 2262 - had been subsequently named "Sir Robert" at Walkden). The NSR no. 2 identity was maintained however, and upon the end of service at Walkden the loco passed into the National Collection. This has created a high level of debate over the loco's identity though, as traditionally locomotives took their numbers from their frames which would make the surviving loco NSR no. 72. As 'New L' class all had superheated boilers, the fact the loco survives with a saturated boiler takes the discussion much further as to whether it can even be classed as a NSR loco.[42]

No. 2 original chassis received a new boiler plus the bunker and tanks from NSR no. 69 (named "King Gearge VI" at Walkden) in 1965, before this locomotive was scrapped in 1969 despite attempts to preserve it.

The surviving loco is now owned by the National Railway Museum and spent a period on display at the CVR in the late 1990s. It is now on display at Shildon Locomotion Museum. Its identity as NSR no. 2 has been maintained.

NSR No1 / BEL2 Battery Electric Bo NSR Lined Maroon On Display Built in 1917. Former Oakamoor Shunter, was the last NSR locomotive of any kind to remain in operational service on the "mainline", being withdrawn in March 1963. Owned by the National Railway Museum and on display at York.
7821 GWR Manor Class 4-6-0 BR Black On Display - Awaiting Overhaul Named 'Ditcheat Manor' and built in 1950. Operated on the railway from 2005 to 2007 before expiry of her boiler ticket. On display at Museum of the Great Western Railway following purchase by the West Somerset Railway Association in 2008 from Ken Ryder.

Diesel locomotives[edit]

Number Name Type Livery Status Notes
Brightside Yorkshire Engine Company 0-4-0 Black Under Repair Currently undergoing overhaul
6 Roger H. Bennett Yorkshire Engine Company "Janus" 0-6-0 NCB Blue Operational - Main shunting loco at Cheddleton. NSRC Owned.
D2334 Class 04 Green Awaiting Repairs. Privately owned. Stopped at Sep 2012 diesel gala after failure
25322 Tamworth Castle Class 25 "Ice Cream Van" Blue NSRC owned. Static Display. Built in 1967. Cosmetically restored in 2008
33021 Captain Charles Class 33 Blue Operational Built in 1960. On loan from Private Owner[43]
33102 Sophie (Unofficial) Class 33 Blue Operational NSRC owned. Built in 1960. Launched Sep 2012 following restoration.
47524 (Res Gestae) Class 47 Rail Express Systems Under restoration Privately owned. Restoration recommenced Winter 2013/14

Diesel multiple units[edit]

Number(s) Class Type Livery Status Notes
E59701 Class 110 TSL Green Operational On loan from Wensleydale Railway.
53437/M53494 Class 104 DMBS/DMCL NSE/Blue Stored ~

Rolling stock[edit]

Coaching stock[edit]

Coaching Stock in use on passenger trains consists almost entirely of ex-BR Mark 1 vehicles, with four or five forming a typical rake. A 1966 built BR Mark 2 is also used, on loan from the Foxfield Steam Railway. These vehicles run in BR maroon livery which is historically correct for the railway’s 1950s/1960s image. Only one rake is required for normal services.

Two Mark 1 vehicles are also used for the railway's Moorlander dining services. One is an authentic Kitchen Car, the other being a Second Open converted into a dining coach. Both coaches have recently been overhauled and repainted (between November 2009 & March 2010) into Pullman Umber/Cream following a vandal attack in 2009.

Designed For Number Type Livery Status Notes
NSR 28 First (FY) NSR Maroon Awaiting Restoration Owned by the NSRC. Going on a 99-year loan to the Knotty Coach Trust based at Foxfield.[44]
BR E1878 Restaurant Miniature Buffet Maroon Under restoration Owned by the NSRC. Next Vehicle planned for Restoration following Vandalism. Shotblasting completed February 2014, restoration halted whilst maintenance of running fleet is carried out. (Named J.R. Burgess after long-serving volunteer).
BR E4354 Tourist Second Open Maroon Operational Bodywork repairs completed August 2014
BR S4392 Tourist Second Open Maroon Operational First restoration completed 1996 - Bodywork repairs & repaint completed for Santa 2014 services.
BR 4779 Second Open Umber/Cream Operational Converted dining coach for "Moorlander" Dining Set. Overhauled & Repainted 2009 in pseudo Pullman livery.
BR M4795 Second Open Maroon Stored Awaiting Restoration
BR M5175 Mk2 Tourist Second Open Maroon Operational On loan from Foxfield Steam Railway. In service.
BR 9390 Mk2 Brake Second Open Green Stored Awaiting restoration - Planned for conversion to Brake / Bar Car for "Moorlander" Dining Train
BR E13236 First Open Maroon Operational Owned by NSRC. Restoration completed 2010 (converted from a Corridor First). In service.
BR M16155 Composite Corridor Maroon Operational Overhauled & Repainted 2014. In service.
LMS 32994 Brake Gangwayed Maroon Under Restoration Privately owned. Restoration started 2013, but now on hold whilst running maintenance is undertaken.
BR E35094 Brake Corridor Second Carmine & Cream Static Former departmental vehicle, being transformed into an exhibition coach at Consall.
BR M35343 Brake Corridor Second Maroon Operational Overhauled & Repainted 2007. Main Brake Coach in service
BR M35473 Brake Corridor Second Maroon Undergoing Repairs Restoration completed 1996 - Spare Brake Vehicle, currently undergoing overhaul (January 2015).
SR 70185 Heating Van BR Blue Unrestored Purchased by the NSRC in October 2014. Restoration planned in order to provide form of heating for trains operated by non-steam heat diesels, as well as provide overnight heating during winter.
BR 80030 Restaurant Corridor Umber Operational Kitchen Car used in "Moorlander" dining train. Overhauled & Repainted 2010.

Freight vehicles[edit]

Typically for a railway of this size, the CVR does not yet have a dedicated wagon restoration group, maintenance of a nucleus of essential vehicles being undertaken by the more established Coach Works. Operational wagons tend to be examples which have an essential function rather than historical importance alone.

Because of this, the operational fleet of freight vehicles is relatively small. They can be summarised as follows:

  • Brake Vans: LMS 731790 (Running repairs completed December 2014) & Oyster DB993707 (Restoration completed February 2014)
  • Ballast Train: Rake of two Dogfish and two Catfish ballast wagons (DB 993363 / DB993431 / DB983710 / DB993545)
  • Box Vans: In addition to the Prototype GUV, there are five 4-wheel box vans serviceable in BR Bauxite livery and regularly used on Photo Charters
  • Engineers: Bogie Bolster DB996724 is regularly used on Engineering trains, and Sole-surviving Parrot 3014 is under-going assessment for restoration. Both are on long-term hire from the National Railway Museum. Two privately owned Medfits are also on the line, though both require repairs before being available for service.
  • There is also a 4-wheel former Esso oil tanker that was restored in 2007 and painted in the colours of a local Oil firm. Currently stored at Leek Brook (ESSO 2305).
  • Ministry of Defence: A selection of vehicles arrived on the railway in 2011 after purchase from MoD Marchwood, and are awaiting restoration (with the Parrot Wagon being the first).
  • Several vans & well wagons exist around the railway, externally restored and used for storage purposes but they are not used in any trains.

Restoration of wagons is done sporadically. The Coach Works directed its full resources towards eight wagons for a significant part of 2007, the majority of the vehicles which formed a demonstration freight set. The ballast rake was restored in 2001, while all other vehicles have been restored by individual owners at various times.

There are no times when any freight stock is advertised as operating, however the demonstration freight set sees occasional use during (some) galas, driver experience days and photographic charters.

Supporting groups[edit]

  • The North Staffordshire Railway Co. (1978) Ltd. - Charitable Trust [45]
  • Churnet Valley Railway PLC (1992) - Operating Company [46]
  • Birmingham Railcar Workgroup - Maintenance of resident DMUs [47]
  • TKh Support Group - Maintenance of resident Polish Tanks[citation needed]
  • Churnet Valley Model Railway Department [48]
  • Churnet Valley Motive Power Department [49]
  • Churnet Valley Railway Telecoms Department [50]
  • Churnet Valley Railway Permanent Way Department [51]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^
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  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ Leek Library, newspaper cuttings 1972–8, pp. 78, 119.
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  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b "CVR Official Website - Kingsley & Froghall". Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "CVR Website - Whitebridge". Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ [1]
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ "The Industrial Railways of Bolton, Bury and the Manchester Coalfield Part 2: The Manchester Coalfield" by C.H.A.Townley, C.A.Appleton, F.D.Smith & J.A.Peden
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^ [2]
  48. ^ Model Railway Department
  49. ^
  50. ^ [3]
  51. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°3′52″N 2°1′35″W / 53.06444°N 2.02639°W / 53.06444; -2.02639