Construction of the North Staffordshire Railway Company’s “loop line” began at 3.00pm on Thursday, July 21st, 1870, when Burslem’s chief bailiff, John Watkin, cut the first sod.
To build the line, which formed a “loop” that ran from the mainline at Etruria through Hanley, Burslem and Tunstall to the mainline at Kidsgrove, civil engineering contractors John and William Pickering had to erect new stations at Etruria and Hanley, make the single track branch line from Etruria to Hanley double tracked and extend it to Kidsgrove.
Because the route from Hanley to Kidsgrove crossed valleys and climbed hills, work progressed slowly. A tunnel was constructed to take the line from Vale Place (Hanley) to Cobridge. An embankment was created to carry the railway over the Hot Lane Brook Valley between Cobridge and Burslem and a 40 foot high sixteen arched wooden viaduct was built to take it across the Scotia Brook Valley into Tunstall.
Hanley’s new station and the stations at Cobridge, Burslem and Tunstall were opened on December 1st, 1873. Almost a year later, on October 1st, 1874 stations were opened at Pittshill and Goldenhill. The line was completed on November 15th, 1875 when Kidsgrove’s Liverpool Road Station opened.
Pulled by 2-4-0 or 2-4-2 tank locomotives “loop line” trains ran between Kidsgrove and Longton or Blythe Bridge. Made up of one or two sets of four close coupled four wheeled carriages, the trains, which stopped at every station, carried first, second and third class passengers.
Station staff, engine drivers and firemen, signalmen, plate layers and other employees of the North Staffordshire Railway Company followed working practices and procedures based on military discipline.
When a man started working on the railway, he entered “the company’s service” and became its servant.
Railwaymen did not go to work, they reported for duty wearing the company’s uniform which included a peaked cap with the letters NSR embroidered inside the loops of the de Stafford knot, a pocket watch and chain, a jacket and a pair of corduroy trousers.
Their jobs were called “posts” and when they left their posts they were “relieved from duty”.
A man who failed to report for duty or who left his post without permission was “absent without leave”. He could be “put on a charge” and fined, suspended from duty or discharged from the service.
Copyright David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2012
Photograph Copyright David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2012