Potteries Loop Line

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Potteries Loop Line
West Coast Main Line
to Congleton
Mow Cop and Scholar Green
Crewe–Derby line
to Crewe
Kidsgrove Central
Kidsgrove Liverpool Road
Closed 1964
Market Street Halt
Closed 1950
Kidsgrove (Harecastle North) Tunnel
130 yd
119 m
Kidsgrove (Harecastle South) Tunnel
1 mi 6 yd
1617 m
Goldenhill Tunnel
Newchapel and Goldenhill
Closed 1964
Pitts Hill
Closed 1964
Tunstall
Closed 1964
Burslem
Closed 1964
Cobridge
Closed 1964
Longport
Cobridge Tunnel
Waterloo Road
Closed 1943
Hanley
Closed 1964
Etruria junction
Etruria
Closed 2005
Newcastle Junction
closed line to Newcastle-under-Lyme
Stoke-on-Trent

The Potteries Loop Line was a railway line that ran through the heart of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. It was built by the North Staffordshire Railway off its main line (nowadays referred to as the Manchester branch of the West Coast Main Line via Stoke).

It was opened in many short sections due to the cost of railway construction during the 1870s. The line throughout was sanctioned but the NSR felt that the line would be unimportant enough to abandon part way though its construction. This upset residents of the towns through which the line was planned to pass and they eventually petitioned Parliament to force the completion of the route.[1]

Construction[edit]

The line was authorised and constructed as follows:

  • Etruria - Shelton: authorised for construction on 2 July 1847, opening for goods in 1850 and passengers in January 1862.
  • Shelton - Hanley: authorised for construction on 13 August 1859, opening to goods on 20 December 1861 and passengers on 13 July 1864.

The entire section to the NSR main line at Kidsgrove was authorised on 5 July 1865 opening as follows:

  • Hanley - Burslem: opened to passengers and goods on 1 November 1873.
  • Burslem - Tunstall: opened to passengers and goods on 1 December 1873.
  • Tunstall - Goldenhill: opened to passengers and goods on 1 October 1874.
  • Goldenhill - Kidsgrove: opened to passengers and goods on 15 November 1875.

The route[edit]

With the towns that the line served being located on hilltops, the geography of the route was renowned for its severe gradients and sharp curves, especially around Tunstall, Burslem and Hanley.[2]

Leaving the main line at Etruria Junction, the line turned almost back on itself to proceed eastwards and passed through part of the Shelton Bar complex. Approaching Hanley, another sharp curve took the route northwards once again. A rising gradient led to Cobridge tunnel and then Burslem, before a 1 in 90 climb to Tunstall. After reaching the summit of the line at Newchapel, a 1 in 40 descent led to a cutting near the Birchenwood Coke Works on the approach to Kidsgrove. It then rejoined the main line at Liverpool Road Junction, north of the junction to Crewe.

The industrial setting of brickworks, mines and pot banks was later described by The Sentinel as "10 miles of the world's worst scenery".[3]

Decline[edit]

The Loop's heyday was the early part of the 20th century. In 1910 there were almost 40 trains a day using the route, operated mainly by trains composed of close-coupled four wheel coaches.[2]

By 1910, Hanley had become the largest of the Six Towns, but the line only served the areas where a fraction of Hanley’s workforce lived. From the 1920s the line began to fall victim to road competition. A traffic survey carried out in the middle of 1956 showed that one mid-morning train carried just four passengers, three of whom were railwaymen travelling for free.[4] Services were cut back later that year and by 1961 there were just five passenger trains daily from Stoke-on-Trent to Hanley and Tunstall, none of which ran outside the peak hours.[2]

As far as goods traffic was concerned, much of it had been transferred to road as the 1950s dawned.[2]

The Beeching Axe signalled the final blow for passenger services, and services were withdrawn on 2 March 1964.

After Beeching[edit]

Freight workings continued for some years afterwards. In 1967 trains were frequently diverted onto the Loop Line between Longport and Kidsgrove via the Pinnox branch during the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, the upgrading of which involved construction of a new line avoiding Harecastle tunnel.[5]

The section from Etruria to Waterloo Road remained open for oil traffic from Century Oils in Hanley; this traffic ceased on 31 July 1969.[4]

The northern part of the route remained open until 1976 to transport coal from an opencast mine at Park Farm, near Goldenhill.[5]

Possible reopening[edit]

Following the Government's announcement of expanding the railway network, there is speculation that there may be consideration given to reopen this line to increase capacity.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oppitz, Leslie (2006). Lost Railways of Staffordshire. Newbury: Countryside books. ISBN 1-85306-992-2.
  2. ^ a b c d Noel R. Walley (2003). "North Staffordshire Railway Passenger Services 1910 - 1999". Retrieved 21 August 2007.
  3. ^ "Line boasted 10 miles of the world's worst scenery". The Sentinel. 10 November 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2009.
  4. ^ a b Christiansen, Rex; Miller, R. W. (1971). The North Staffordshire Railway. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 124. ISBN 0-7153-5121-4.
  5. ^ a b Moors, Terry (2007). North Staffordshire Railways: Scenes from the 1980s. Ashbourne: Landmark. ISBN 1-84306-347-6.
  6. ^ [1]