From the ‘Mercian’ – Newsletter of the Midland Area of the
Railway Preservation Society
February 1965 Vol.4 No.1
Last Day on the Churnet Valley Line
By R. A. Reed
In 1849, a line from North Rode, near Macclesfield, to Uttoxeter was opened by the North Staffordshire Railway Company. This was known as the Churnet Valley line and was over 27 miles long. The section from North Rode to Leek was closed a few years ago and some of the track is now lifted.
On Saturday, January 2nd 1965, the remainder of the line from Leek to Uttoxeter was closed to passenger traffic. The day was cold but bright and sunny, and, accompanied by the Hon. Editor and friend, we set off from Stoke to Uttoxeter. As we booked our tickets, from Stoke to Leek via Uttoxeter, 9/- (45p) single, the ticket clerk jovially remarked that it would be ‘cheaper by bus from Hanley – 1/10d (9p) single!’ Probably, these tickets were the first to be issued by this very devious route.
When we arrived at Uttoxeter, we had over an hour to wait, so we went to the waiting room where we found two seats of the North Staffordshire Railway, engraved with NSR and the Staffordshire Knot. These were in excellent condition and one would be suitable for preservation.Uttoxeter Pic: Wikipedia
It was not long before the train arrived; three non-corridor coaches headed by Standard Class 4, No.75035 of Stoke shed. The driver was J. Dickson and the fireman was S. Tabinor. This was the last passenger train from Uttoxeter to Leek. We occupied the first compartment nearest the engine and waited until the booked departure time at 11.18am, but this was changed to 11.30am at the last minute. By now the train was filling up, most of the passengers being railway enthusiasts equipped with cameras and tape recorders.
As 11.30 approached the last photographs were taken, and carriage doors closed. The Guard waved his flag and we were off, amidst shrieking whistles from the engine, detonators on the track and thunderflashes thrown by an enthusiast.Rocester Station Pic & Info: Genuki, Staffs Pasttrack
Description: Rocester Train Station 1905. This station was completed in the early 1850s. The North Staffordshire Railway Company’s Churnet Valley line ran through this station taking passengers to Leek and Macclesfield. Another service took passengers to Ashbourne and Buxton. The Ashbourne line closed to passengers in 1954, and regular passenger trains on the Churnet Valley line in 1960.
This picture shows signs on the platform for the Porter’s Room, Gentleman’s First Class Waiting Room, and a Ladies Waiting Room. There are also milk churns on the platform, awaiting collection .
All along the line people were waving as we passed, and the driver acknowledged this by long blasts on the whistle. Soon we were speeding along and fast approaching the first stop, Rocester. Here the train was well photographed and after a few minutes we set off again but only as far as the crossover, where we reversed onto the other track and back into the station. A pilotman then boarded the locomotive and after much waving of green flags by hand-signalmen we finally set off, running on the ‘wrong’ line from here.Site of Denstone Station: Linda Bailey
We had a fast run to Denstone, the next stop, and again there were many spectators, and as we left the station, more firecrackers were thrown. The section of the line from here to Alton is particularly beautiful and it is surprising that the line would not pay in the summer months.Alton Station: Humphrey Bolton
The next station was Alton, where we crossed back to the down line. It was extremely tidy and well-kept and typical of NSR design. The run from Alton to Oakamoor is continuous up-grade and the sound of the engine was music to the ears. When we arrived at Oakamoor the platforms were quite crowded and many photographs were taken. Just as we left, the last train from Leek to Uttoxeter passed, headed by a Stanier Class 4 (2-6-4T), and then we plunged into a short tunnel.Oakamoor Station: Rail37.com
Then on to Froghall, which is in an industrial area, but the factories between Leek and Oakamoor will not lose their rail connection. This section of the line is to be kept open for freight and worked on the ’one engine in steam’ principle.Kingsley & Froghall Station: John ProctorConsall Station: Black Widow Productions
After leaving Froghall, we were soon in the beautiful country surrounding Consall. This village has no public road to it and ‘outsiders’ cannot get in by car, therefore the railway was the only link (unless one prefers a long walk).Cheddleton Station: John Webber
We quickly arrived at Cheddleton, where most of the passengers left the train to take photographs, and the train waited until they were sure that everyone had finished and boarded the train.Leek Brook Station, Churnet Valley Platform: Wikipedia
The journey was almost over, and as we emerged from a short tunnel we could see Leek in the distance. When we drew into the station, the engine rapidly uncoupled and ran round the train to haul the stock from the station. As we left, the station was locked up – the last train had gone.
The first passenger services outside the confines of Cheddleton yard began on August 24th 1996, this being a “push and pull” operation of a little over a mile between Cheddleton and Leek Brook Junction, the latter being the junction with the mothballed Railtrack line between Stoke on Trent and Caldon Quarry. Trains were initially operated by hired-in “Jinty” tank loco 47383, this and resident 4F 44422 being the mainstays of the service for the first season’s operations. Although only a short run, this operation proved to be an ideal training ground for the railway’s staff, and got everyone used to operating outside the goods yard.
Saturday 11th July 1998 saw the first southward extension of the railway, when the section between Cheddleton and Consall was reopened for passenger traffic. This brought the railway’s operational length to approximately 3 1/4 miles. The next extension, to Kingsley and Froghall, opened to traffic on 11th August 2001, giving an operational length of approximately 5 1/2 miles.Pic: Black Widow Productions