Steve Williams - 'The railway from Cherry
Tree to Chorley'
Tue 10 Mar 2009
made a welcome return to the Society to give his presentation on
the history of the railway. He wrote an excellent article about
it for the Chorley Guardian in June 2007. So we have reproduced
the text below.
Back in the Library and the rooms starts to fill.
Walkers by Steve Williams
'The Walker's Railway', the line from Chorley to Cherry Tree
near Blackburn, went through the villages of Heapey, Brinscall
and Withnell before closing to passengers in 1960.
The line is steeped in history and as part of a special
Flashback feature, Steve Williams talks about why it is so
Back in the 19th century it wasn't the need to service some
remote villages that built the line, but the need to transport
The idea for the line was put forward by the mine owners in
Wigan, desperate to move coal to the developing cotton mills of
Back in 1860, the only route was a 21-mile journey via Euxton,
Preston and Hoghton and on to Blackburn.
A direct line from Chorley to Blackburn was not only shorter, at
just eight-and-a-half miles, but it was estimated that it would
reduce coal by one shilling (5p) a tonne, saving the mills in
Blackburn more than £20,000 a year.
Eventually owned and operated jointly by the Lancashire and
Yorkshire Railway and the London North Western Railway, the line
cost £530,000 to build and was considerably over budget - taking
two years longer to build than planned.
Despite a few civil engineering setbacks, for the line had to go
over moorland and accommodate trains up gradients of 1 in 60, it
was eventually opened in December 1869.
Nearly 100 years later the final remnants were finally removed
with the demolition of the Botany Bay viaduct – the latter to
make way for the new M61 motorway.
The four stations on the line at Feniscowles, Withnell,
Brinscall and Heapey were built at a total cost of £10,430.
The station at Withnell was closer to Abbey Village than its
name implies, as was Heapey which was later to become popular
They would board the train at Chorley and then head for White
Coppice and the West Pennine Moors, before walking back to the
and delays at Roddlesworth (1867)
Withnell and Heapey was the village of Brinscall, at the highest
point of the line some 558 feet above sea level. Up and down the
line there were numerous sidings servicing growing industries
such as Abbey Village (cotton) mill, Withnell brickworks,
Brinscall (calico) printworks and Heapey bleachworks.
Little remains of the large bleachworks, as the site is now
covered by a modern housing estate. During World War Two sidings
were built next to the newly built ROF ammunition storage
facilities near Heapey; carved into the hillside, they were used
extensively by the main ROF munitions factory at Euxton.
When the dreaded Doctor Beeching started to axe Britain's
railways back in the late 1950s and early 60s, Heapey ROF
sidings were used to store redundant steam engines. The sidings
were full of engines of all shapes and sizes, as there was not
enough space at the nearby Horwich railway works. Today they are
overgrown, although you can just see outlines of the tracks
behind the rusting fences and fading notices.
The most striking feature on the line was the nine arches of
Botany Bay viaduct, taking the railway across a valley and over
the Leeds and Liverpool canal.
The viaduct was
48 feet high and each span was 33 feet across. It was demolished
on the November 10, 1968, watched by more than 2,000 onlookers;
the Chorley Guardian was there to record the event.
The line eventually entered Chorley over bridges at Eaves Lane,
Stump Lane and Brunswick Street.
The coal trains, and in later years goods train heading for the
chemical works at Widnes, would carry on to Wigan via the Boars
Head junction near Standish.
Passenger trains terminating at Chorley would go into a single
bay platform on what is now the station approach and short stay
Brinscall Railway Station c1957
Demolition of the Botany Bay viaduct 1968.
The line was
closed to passengers on the January 4, 1960, and to goods trains
some six years later on the January 3, 1966. The last length of
rails was finally lifted at Feniscowles, near Blackburn on the
April 22, 1968, although a length of the line was still in use
as a 'long siding' at Chorley in 1982. Whilst little remains of
the line close to Chorley station, the route can still be
Today, a stretch from Brinscall along the track bed to the old
Withnell station can still be enjoyed by walkers. What was once
"The Walker's Railway" is still that today – minus the trains.