Merseyside, Chester & North Wales


East Lancashire Railway visit 25th November 2007


4936 Kinlet Hall arriving at Bury (ex Heywood).

Eleven members of the Merseyside Chester & North Wales Branch took advantage of an invitation by John Hobbs, a Branch member, to go behind the scenes at the East Lancashire Railway on Sunday, 25th November 2007.


After a preliminary setting of the scene, which included a full Health & Safety briefing we were led on what turned out to be pretty well a seven hours event. We were well led throughout the day by John Tate, the Preservation Society’s Secretary and Exhibitions Co ordinator, who was assisted by Gerald Leach and John Hobbs.


The Buckley Wells site to the south of Bury’s Bolton Street station encompasses a very large area and through which the one time East Lancashire Railway route through to Manchester passes. That has been superseded of course by the new Metrolink line, which skirts the site. The first port of call was carriage and wagon shop where we were well greeted by an affectionate Bassett Hound and by Hugh Liney, who is in charge of the operations there. Hugh led us past many of the carriages undergoing restoration and explained the need as to how such shortcomings within BR Mark 2 coaches needed remedying, which seemed to be particularly prone to leaks that have led to severe corrosion problems. We were informed that such were the problems at the time with the poor state of the woodwork in Gresley’s restaurant cars that newly built Doncaster Mk 1 coaches quickly replaced them. The Mk 1 coach seen was being restored to that early state complete with the bell push system.  The Waterman saloon W150266 was in the shop and its luxurious fittings made a stark contrast to what else was around it.  The dining car train stock was in the shed and comparisons were being made between Pullman Company and Great Western liveries as the party went through.  Also receiving attention in the shed were the Sulzer Class 3 locos D6525 and 6536 along with Class 105 unit numbered vehicles E56121/51485.


We then moved on to the long and quite daunting building which was the long servicing shed used by the Bury line electric multiple units.  This is now primarily used as the Riley & Son Ltd Engineering Workshops apart from a pair of roads, which are still used to stable locos from the ELR fleet.  John Tate throughout the tour reminded us of the progress made in the development of the East Lancashire Railway site and as to how fortunate they were at the tremendous support received from Bury Metropolitan Borough Council in securing the site and in doing so thwarted large superstores from taking over the area.  Memories of past visits to the larger former works at Crewe, Doncaster and even Swindon were evoked at the machinery and equipment on view and in use on the day.


The interior of Ian Riley's section of Buckley Wells works

John explained the vicissitudes of ownership of preserved locos when it was a case of literally robbing Paul to pay Peter when it was easier to ensure one working locomotive with others and their remaining parts disposed of.  71000 Duke of Gloucester was being placed in position at the back of the shed as we were there and work on the loco started straight away.  It is hoped that the repairs to its leaking boiler stays will result in a new seven year certificate for main line use.  We were taken inside Ian Riley’s 1928 LMS coach that was part of the Royal Scot formation and which is now being restored to its former pristine condition with the restored wooden panelling looking superb.  Also in the workshop, either in whole or in parts of, were L & Y 1300 (52322 without boiler), the Beech Peckett 1370, Peckett 1438 visiting from Appleby-Frodingham, 35009 Shaw Savill (frame only in shed),42765 (without boiler), 44871,45231 ,45337,47324,76079, and 92214 with 08479 as shed pilot. 


The interior of the LMS coach under restoration at Bucklet Wells

Immediately outside in the yard in steam was 6201 Princess Elizabeth complete with support coach 35465 having returned here overnight after a main line run to Carlisle. Alongside was 45407 The Lancashire Fusilier and nearby was Southern 825.  On view in various states of decrepitude were 7229, 30499 (just cabside and top of frame that has lain there for nine years) 34073 249 Squadron and the boiler of 35009.


The support services and construction company Carillion was awarded a £20 million

contract for track replacement on the Greater Manchester’s Metrolink network, which at the time of writing had almost completed the replacement of nearly 20 miles of track on the Bury and Altrincham lines.  Consequently Carillion was able to use much of the spare land at Buckley Wells to build a new set of sidings and to install 80 foot high lighting columns and this new infrastructure will remain to benefit the East Lancashire Railway as it further develops the site.


John Tate told us that spent ballast from the East Coast Main Line is about to be brought in to raise the foundations by 5 metres for the new carriage shed sidings. A 75 foot turntable that had been brought from Germany was on view prior to future installation in the yard. Lined up on one of the new quarter mile sidings as seen were diesel locos 3867, 2956, D832 Onslaught, 4002 (ex Manchester Ship Canal), 31556, 20087, 45135 3rd Carabinier, 55022 Royal Scots Grey, 2062 and 26024


John Tate then led us as a special foot working through the Baron Road gates alongside the running track towards Bury South Signal Box with shunters D3232 and 08944 to our right and the vandalised set of Mk 2 coaches to our left. The problems of metal being stolen from rolling stock and buildings by local thieves is costing the railway thousands of pounds and a CCTV system at Bury could cost something in the region of £80,000.  Next to the Mk2 coaches were Class 101 unit 51192 and 54352 and two thirds of Class 207 unit 207202 in green livery marked as 1305. A set of nine coaches trailed down from platform 4, ready for the following week’s Santa specials, with 47402 Gateshead at the south end, more or less opposite the signal box. Almost by the box adjacent to the Heywood line was red painted 46428.


Part of the track layout diagram at Bury South signalbox

The points from the Heywood line adjacent to the Manchester Road over bridge were ‘stitched up’ because the length of the Santa special stock precluded use of one of the crossovers.  This created all sorts of operational problems for station movements in and out of Bolton Street station when trains had to be crossed because only one platform (No.2) could give access to/from the Heywood line.  We watched 4936 Kinlet Hall and its four coaches pass by from Heywood before the first part of the party were taken up into the box itself for a quick explanation as to the workings of the box in between the sorting out of the revised train movements at that time as 45690 Leander was also due to head for Heywood.


The first group then adjourned to the station for a lunch break and after the others had been inside the box we awaited the return of Leander for what was now a delayed 13.10 departure for Rawtenstall.  The Society’s Deputy Chairman (and also our Branch Chairman), Gordon Davies, had been clutching a newly received RCTS headboard throughout the morning and John Tate kindly arranged that the headboard could be placed on the locomotive for its inaugural use.  Despite wisps of steam many photographic shots were taken of the locomotive complete with its 22A shedplate.


5690 Leander running around at Rawstenstall Picture

John Hobbs found us that part of the buffet car, complete with basket seats, for the journey and as we passed out of the tunnel to the north of Bolton Street we noted to our left 335, 5054, 31467 (vandalised and awaiting disposal), 40145 East Lancashire Railway and 50015 Valiant. John Tate impressed on us the fact that since the railway had reopened twenty years ago that part of the Irwell Valley had been thoroughly revitalised into a thriving residential and tourist area. So much so that the Camping Club of Great Britain for instance had set up a state of the art site adjacent to the railway line at Burrs.  The partnership between the East Lancashire Railway and each of the local government authorities through which the line passed had been of benefit to everybody. 


We noted at Ramsbottom the new platform canopy on the northbound platform and were soon in Rawtenstall where Leander and headboard were well photographed.  John Hobbs very kindly watched our bags as we were out and about here.  A large number of passengers joined the train at Ramsbottom as we headed back down the line, but because

of the problems in Bolton Street station we were held for several minutes whilst Kinlet Hall and its train manoeuvred from platform 2 to platform 3.  Leaving Bury we took the sharp curve and then over the ‘ski jump’ over the Metrolink line onto the Heywood line.  John Tate explained to us the different problems that had affected this part of the line, which mainly stemmed from the local population not necessarily being aware of the fact that the line was back in operation.  Heywood station and car park is being well cared for by a support group and whilst the loco ran round the train we were able to see the Phoenix Brewery, which apparently will soon be redundant.  The large site occupied by communication company vehicles by the station is to become the new setting for the Boyle Street Transport Museum.


Back at Bury, once Leander and train had departed for Rawstenstall, the RCTS group were carefully led through the steam filled tunnel to by the Castlefield yard.  At the diesel shed, to no one’s surprise the RCTS headboard was then placed on 40145 by the Branch’s Class 40 enthusiast and photographs were taken. The power car of 207202 was thumping away as it moved off the shed. Inside the diesel maintenance shed was 1041 Western Prince, 7076 and 9531.  The Bury Transport Museum in the 1848 East Lancashire Railway warehouse is closed to visitors for safety reasons. A £2.5 million scheme is needed to completely restore the heritage building of which £200,000 has to be raised locally. We could see the inside of the building filled with buses, coaches, steam traction engines and in a corner we could just see the sole surviving Metrovick Co-Bo 5705.  Outside in the yard on an isolated piece of temporary 5’ 3” track was the Northern Ireland Railways power car from DEMU set 8099.


NIR DMU power car 8089 on temporary 5'3" gauge track at Bury Castlecroft yard.

We made our way back up to the station by the recognised pedestrian route and noted the full panoply of Christmas decorations within the station, ready for Santa’s forthcoming visits and as we made our way back to the platforms.  To conclude our tour we were taken into the workshop adjacent to platform 1 to see the extensive work being carried out on the restoration of 80097, which it is hoped will be completed by 2012.


We waited by the South signal box to see Kinlet Hall depart for Heywood as John Tate handed over the tablet and the long walk back down to the Buckley Wells site (complete with RCTS headboard) was made along the running track as dusk set in.


This was a superb day out and grateful thanks were extended to the East Lancashire Railway, and especially to the trio who had looked after us, for their hospitality throughout the day. The Merseyside Chester & North Wales Branch gave a donation to the Preservation Society in recognition of the day out and members also contributed their own donations to show their appreciation.


It is anticipated that further visits will be made in the future to see the great progress being made by this very well organised railway.


Due acknowledgement is given to the Autumn edition 2007 of ELR News which has helped to clarify some of the observations within this report.


Richard Neale



                       Pictures from the RCTS visit to ELR on 25 Nov

Corrosion problems in Mk 2 coaches
5690 Leander arriving at Bury with the train that the RCTS party travelled on
Branch chairman Gordon Davies checking that the RCTS headboard fits on one of his beloved class 40s (40145) at Bury diesel shed
The interior of the carriage shed. 
The new RCTS headboard mounted on 5690 Leander at Bury - the first time it's been used on a loco
Some of the RCTS party posed with 5690 Leander at Heywood