East Lancs Rail closure? Answer here

Name: Sir Cornish

Subject: East Lancashire Railway

Message: Q: When did the line now known as the 'East Lancs Railway' close as part of the national railway network? And who/what was it that caused its closure?

Expert replies

The East Lancs Railway

Sir Cornish asked; when did the East Lancs Railway close as part of the national

rail network and why/who closed it?

Hmm? Not as straight-forward a question as it first appears, primarily because

rail company ownership during the 19 and 20 centuries was complex and to be

accurate, one must from the start note that nomenclature of rail groups and

actual ownership are, and can often be, two separate things. As this is not a

question that is in our field of speciality, we contacted the East Lancs Railway

Preservation Society (ELRPS) and managed to elicit a few clues and lots of help.

Naturally, the railway network developed alongside the Industrial Revolution

and by 1841 the first operative steam train had begun to run north from

Heywood as part of the Manchester and Leeds Railway. After just a brief spell

of 13 years the trains that ran on the present day East Lancs line were

amalgamated, amongst the many changing faces of railway ownership, into the

Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1844 and remained in that ‘holding’ until

the infamous post WW I reorganisation in 1923, when the country was divided

into 4 leading entrepreneurs: The London Midland and Scottish, the Southern,

the Great Western and the London North Eastern railways.

Inevitably, with rising costs, a steady deterioration of equipment and engines

and the post WW II expansion of automobiles, railways everywhere were faced

with reductions and closures and the infamous governmental Beeching Report

of 1963 witnessed the closure of hundreds of railway stations. The final train

made its way from Manchester Victoria via Bury, Bacup snd Accrington in 1966

and by 1969 the railway line from Bury to Rawtenstall had been reduced a

single file track only. Railways in North East Lancs were facing extinction.

Therefore, we can say with a certain amount of confidence, that the rise in

automobile transport coupled with the Beeching Report, contributed

significantly to the end of active railway service on the track that the East Lancs

Rail runs today.

However, the story does have a happy ending. Eventually, thanks to the

dedication and perseverance of a small group of railway people, the East Lancs

Rail Preservation Society was formed in 1970 and so began the long and

determined haul to save the railway nestled and abandoned in the Irwell valley.

The East Lancashire Railway heritage line re-opened in 1987 and today the

ELRPS runs along 12 and a half mile of track (20 kilometres) has approximately

800 volunteers and around 200,000 passengers a year. Choo choooooo!

Put kettle on mum!


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