Archive for the ‘North Staffordshire Railways’ category

The first passenger train from Stoke

September 26th, 2012

Stone Station

Isolated from the main railway network that was constructed in the 1830s, North Staffordshire’s pottery industry had to rely on canals for raw materials and to distribute its products.

During 1835, leading industrialists made plans to build a railway linking The Potteries to the national network.

These plans were forgotten when North Staffordshire was hit by a recession. Factories and mines closed. There were strikes and lock outs culminating in the Chartist Riots and the Battle of Burslem in 1842.

Two years later, pottery manufacturer William Copeland, who was also a Member of Parliament, called a series of meetings to discuss building railway links to Manchester, Liverpool and Birkenhead.

The North Staffordshire Railway Company was formed to construct the Churnet Valley Line and lines running from Macclesfield and Crewe through The Potteries to Norton Bridge, Colwich and Burton-on-Trent.

The company’s first line ran from Stoke to Norton Bridge. Opened for goods traffic on April 3rd, 1848, the line started carrying passengers shortly afterwards.

Between 7.30am and 8.00am on Monday, April 17th about 80 people made their way, by carriage and horse drawn omnibus, to the 18th century mansion in Fenton built by Thomas Whieldon which had been turned into a temporary railway station.

They entered the building and bought tickets to travel on the first passenger train from Stoke-on-Trent to Norton Bridge which stopped at Trentham and Stone.

Just before 8.00am a bell rang. The passengers got on the train. The engine driver blew the locomotive’s whistle. He opened the throttle. Clouds of steam engulfed the platform. Smoke poured out of the locomotive’s funnel and the train began to move slowly. It quickly gathered speed and was soon travelling at 25 miles a hour, terrifying cattle and sheep grazing in trackside pastures.

A temporary station had been built at Stone, where the train stopped for several minutes enabling passengers to get out and view the construction work taking place there. They saw men constructing a line from Stone to the Trent Valley Railway’s mainline at Colwich that would provide a direct route for express trains running between Stoke and London. At the junction, where the Colwich line joined  the Norton Bridge line, an Elizabethan style station, with corn and cheese warehouses, coal yards and cattle pens, was being built.

A bell rang and the passengers rejoined the train. The train left Stone and arrived at Norton Bridge just half a hour after it had left Fenton. Passengers got off and caught a mail train that took them to Stafford which they reached before 9.00am.

Copyright Betty Cooper – The Phoenix Trust 2012

Photograph © Copyright Maurice Pullin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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Apedale Country Park, Loomer Road, Chesterton – Now with photos!

June 11th, 2012

On Sunday last, I had great pleasure in discovering Apedale Country Park, its railway and museum. I must say, I was thrilled to find such an interesting place right on our doorstep. I can guarantee that I’ll be going back again to check out the mine.

I did know that Apedale was a country park, but I wasn’t prepared to be kept amused and entertained for an entire afternoon.

It is a very reasonably priced day out for families or grown ups alone. If you take a ride on the steam train you’ll pay just £2 for adults for a trip which lasts about 15 minutes. The engine and carriages have been lovingly restored and they absolutely gleam. The station platform makes it easy to get on and off the train and looks lovely and clean. You can tell that everything has been created and restored with careful attention to detail.

I was pleased to speak to a couple of the volunteers there who were so enthusiastic. They told me all about the additional engines they have and the work being done restore them. There’s information on their website about the fares, timetables and special events.

From the railway I was drawn to the museum. Free entry by the way, and it’s certainly well worth a look. There are many mining exhibits and photographs as well as details of all the brick works that used to be in the area with samples of all the different bricks that were made. There’s lots of local items many which I didn’t know about previously, and many that I did but have now seen so much more.

I didn’t get a chance to go down the mine (didn’t have the correct and sturdy footware) but be assured that I will be on the case to get back there and try it out. I was talking to a couple from Wolverhampton who were visiting for the day. They had just been down the mine and were thrilled with their experience. You get to wear a pit helmet with a light on the front and the tour is around 45 minutes. They said it was cold down there so they were glad they wrapped up warm! It was a beautiful, warm day outside but down the mine it’s always cold so best to take a jacket if you intend to go down. Oh, and some good, sturdy shoes or boots. I’ll certainly remember to take these next time as I won’t be walking away from Apedale again untill I’ve been inside that footrail. So watch this space ……. I’m going down!

Here are some photos I took during today’s visit to Apedale. Best to see it first hand, but hope this gives you a taster

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Apedale Colliery and Steam Railway

June 10th, 2012

Hi everyone,

Just checking in after a fabulous afternoon.



Country park

Watch this space for photos and details later.

See why I’m so impressed!


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A Place in Time – Bringing the railway to the Potteries

September 16th, 2011

Stoke StationStoke Station

The railway age began in 1830 when the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, opened the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

Between 1830 and 1842 numerous railway companies were formed and over 2,000 miles of track was laid. The mainline linking London and Birmingham with Liverpool and Manchester by passed the Potteries. When asked to run the line through Stoke, civil engineers employed by the North Western Railway said there was no way that a rail link could be constructed from Crewe to the Potteries because it was impossible to drive a tunnel under Harecastle Hill between Chatterley and Kidsgrove.  Hardly anyone believed them. The Trent and Mersey Canal Company had already built two tunnels there to take the canal through the hill.

In 1845, pottery manufacturer John Ridgway, who owned Cauldon Pottery, and the district’s two Members of Parliament, William Copeland and John Lewis Ricardo, decided to form the North Staffordshire Railway Company.

Ricardo was made company chairman and civil engineer George Parker Bidder was employed to survey routes for the lines it hoped to build.

On Wednesday, September 23rd, 1846 the company’s shareholders held their first meeting in Stoke town hall. The company’s secretary, John Samuda, told them that Parliament had given it permission to build three lines:

  1. The Potteries Line – from Macclesfield to Colwich running through Congleton, Stoke and Stone which had branches to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Norton Bridge.
  2. The Churnet Valley Line – from North Rode to Burton-on-Trent and Derby which ran through Leek and had a branch from Uttoxeter to Crewe via Stoke.
  3. The Harecastle and Sandbach Line – from Kidsgrove to Sandbach.

Civil engineering contractors Mackenzie, Brassey and Stephenson were employed to build the Potteries Line and its branches. The contract to construct the lines from Kidsgrove to Crewe and Sandbach was given to Grisell and Peto. Tredwells were given the contract to build the Churnet Valley Line and Prices were employed to construct the link between Uttoxeter and Stoke.

When the meeting ended the shareholders had lunch. Afterwards they marched in procession along streets decorated with garlands and bunting to Cliffe Vale where Ricardo cut the first sod. In the evening there was a ball at the town hall and a firework display in Winton’s Wood where Stoke station (pictured) was erected.

Photograph © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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A Place in Time – From tramways to railways

September 8th, 2011

The Stockton and Darlington Railway

The Trent and Mersey Canal was part of a national canal network linking the Potteries with London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Hull and Manchester.

After the canal was constructed, tileries and brickworks were opened in the Fowlea Brook Valley between Chatterley and Stoke. Josiah Wedgwood closed his Burslem factories and built Etruria. A few canalside factories were erected at Longport but most manufacturers stayed in the  pottery villages on the hills overlooking the valley.

Horse drawn tramways with wooden rails were constructed to link Tunstall, Burslem and Hanley with the canal.

By the beginning of the 19th century iron rails had replaced wooden ones. In 1803, the first public tramway, the Surrey Iron Railway, was constructed to carry freight between Croydon and Wandsworth. Four years later, in 1807 a passenger carrying line, the Swansea and Oystermouth Railway, opened in South Wales where there was already a 150 miles of track running from collieries, iron furnaces and copper works to canalside wharfs.

North Staffordshire industry was served by a comprehensive tramway network. Lines radiated from Kidsgrove to Talke, Birchenwood and the Rookery. Tramways carried coal from Harriseahead to Congleton. At Harecastle Hill underground rail roads ran from collieries and ironstone mines to wharfs on branch canals that joined the main canal in the legging tunnel which took it through the hill.

Experimental steam locomotives were used to haul wagons in South Wales and on Tyneside. When it opened in 1825, trains on the Stockton and Darlington Railway were pulled along level stretches of track by horses or steam locomotives and hauled up steep gradients by stationary steam engines. The railway age began five years later in 1830 when the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, opened the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which was entirely dependent on locomotive power to pull its trains.

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