East Lancashire Railway

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East Lancashire Railway
71000 'Duke of Gloucester' at Townsend Fold heads south towards Ramsbottom.
Locale North West England
Terminus Rawtenstall and
Connections Network Rail (west of Heywood)
Manchester Metrolink (south of Bury)
Commercial operations
Name East Lancashire Railway
Built by East Lancashire Railway 1844–1859
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) Standard
Preserved operations
Operated by East Lancashire Railway Company
Stations 6 (to be 7)
Length 12 miles (19 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) Standard
Commercial history
Opened 1846
Closed 17 March 1980
Preservation history
1986 ELR Granted Light Railway Order (for public service)
25 July 1987 ELR re-opens and public service begins
1991 ELR Extended to Rawtenstall
2003 Extended to Heywood
Headquarters Bury Bolton Street

East Lancashire Railway is a twelve-mile heritage railway line in North West England which runs between Heywood and Rawtenstall with intermediate stations at Bury Bolton Street, Summerseat, Ramsbottom and Irwell Vale.


Passenger services between Bury and Rawtenstall were withdrawn by British Rail on 3 June 1972. Coal services to Rawtenstall ended in 1980, and formal closure followed in 1982.[1] The East Lancashire Railway Trust reopened the line on 25 July 1987.[2] The initial service operated between Bury and Ramsbottom, via Summerseat. In 1991 the service was extended northwards from Ramsbottom to reach Rawtenstall, via Irwell Vale.[3]

However, two original stations on the line, closed to passengers by BR in 1972, have not reopened. They are the former Ewood Bridge & Edenfield and the former Junction station of Stubbins. Rawtenstall is the practical northern limit of the line as the formation on towards Bacup has been lost immediately north of the station.

In September 2003 an eastbound extension from Bury to Heywood was re-opened. To reach Heywood the extension had to cross over the Manchester Metrolink line to Bury, at the site of the former Bury Knowsley Street station. This necessitated the construction of a new intersection bridge, with steeply graded approaches of 1 in 36 and 1 in 41 nicknamed 'The Ski Jump'.

The remainder of the extension includes a long section at 1 in 85, rising towards Heywood, as the preserved railway line climbs out of the Irwell valley.

The heritage line is now just over 12 miles (19 km) long, and has a mainline connection with the national railway network at Castleton, just beyond Heywood. The ELR plans to extend the running line further into Castleton in the future, (to where a new (and separate) platform named "Castleton Village" will be constructed, (adjacent to the main station itself).[4]

Options for providing an interchange station at Castleton between East Lancashire Railway and National Rail services are currently being explored. Plans for the new station are supported by Rochdale Borough Council, which hopes to fund it by adjacent land development.[5] A rail connection with the Metrolink line also exists, just south of Bury, at Buckley Wells. This was formerly the connection to the Electric Car Shops where the Class 504 EMU sets were maintained, and was created when BR services were diverted to Bury Interchange in 1980.

There are also plans to construct and open a new station at Buckley Wells, between 2012 and 2015, by the locomotive shed.[6] As the majority of the trackwork exists, the work will be relatively simple, requiring just a run round loop and building a single platform. This will mean that the south end of the line will be more accessible to the disabled and elderly. A new car and coach park will also be constructed, (to reduce lack of space from another car park or two within the Bury area of the ELR).

The railway is open every weekend of the year and holds a number of themed events and galas throughout the year which include steam and diesel events amongst others, and also offers driver experience courses. The Day out with Thomas events made a return to the railway after a two-year absence, following fresh negotiations, having previously been unable to reach an agreement with HiT Entertainment, the owners of the Thomas brand.[7] While Thomas was absent, the ELR operated "Family Engines Big Day Out" events featuring alternative engines with faces, such as "Jimmy the Jinty".

The railway is run by volunteer members from the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society (ELRPS). The railway is well known for its collection of diesel locomotives which reside on the railway, along with over 140 carriages, wagons and utility vehicles. Although the ELR does offer a local residents' discount card, and many residents do use the trains at weekends, it does not claim to offer a true commuter service either in levels of services or fares.

In the 1990s the railway was featured in the 1991 film Let Him Have It and in the finale of ITV's comedy series The Grimleys, named The Grimley Curse set in 1978, and then in 2007 on the finale of BBC One's award-winning drama series Life on Mars set in 1973, a class 47 was used for scenes of an armed robbery at Brooksbottom Tunnel.

The railway also featured in an episode of Coronation Street (transmitted on August Bank Holiday 2010) when Hayley and Roy Cropper travelled to their wedding aboard an ELR train of Mark 1 coaches hauled by LMS "Black 5" No. 44871 which she carried 45407's "Lancashire Fusilier" nameplates for the occasion. The line also starred in the BBC television film Eric and Ernie, aired on New Year's Day 2011, about the early career of the British comedy act Morecambe and Wise. Bury Bolton street station was featured, along with a train of Mark 1 coaches hauled by LMS "Black 5" No. 44871. In 2014, the railway was featured in a week of episodes of Hollyoaks (broadcast 3–7 November) which featured a crash involving BR Class 14 No. D9531 "Ernest".

Railway stations of the ELR

East Lancashire Railway
( to Bacup )
Ewood Bridge and Edenfield
Irwell Vale
( to Accrington )
Nuttall Tunnel
Brooksbottom Tunnel
Brooksbottom Viaduct
( to Holcombe Brook )
Bury North Tunnel
Bury Bolton Street
Bury South Junction
Buckley Wells
Bury Knowsley Street
Bury Interchange
( Manchester Metrolink )
Roch Viaduct
Viaduct over M66 motorway
( to Hopwood/Castleton )


The ELR is home to a mixed collection of small to large designs, some of which are main-line certified. These often visit other heritage lines, or can be found operating mainline excursions, especially during the summer season (Mar-Oct).

Steam Locomotives

  • Locomotives stored or on static display
    • Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST No. 1, built in 1927. (on display in Bury Transport Museum)
    • GWR 7200 Class 2-8-2T No. 7229, built in 1935. (stored in Baron Street yard)

Diesel Locomotives

File:D7076 at Bury East Lancashire Railway.jpg
D7076 Hymek passes under bridge 20 (Manchester Road) From Heywood
File:Yellow Noses (11916779996).jpg
37109 and the Class 40 Preservation Society's 345 stand at Ramsbottom Station on the ELR

The ELR is home to one of the largest preserved diesel fleets on a UK heritage railway. Many locomotives are owned by private individuals or an owning group, which co-operate as the ELR Diesel Group.

  • Diesel Locomotives and DMUs Undergoing Light Work, Overhaul or Restoration
    • F. C. Hibberd 'Planet' 3438 (Under restoration at Castlecroft)
    • BR Class 07 No. 07013 (Non-Operational since roughly 2002/03. Full overhaul to commence in due course)
    • BR Class 08 No. 08944 (Stopped, pending engine overhaul)
    • BR Class 14 No. D9502, BR Green. Built in 1964. (Undergoing long-term restoration)
    • BR Class 15 No. D8233 (Restoration in progress in Baron Street works) Class 15 Preservation Society
    • BR Class 20 No. 20087 (D8087), BR Blue/Red Solebar, Saltley L.I.P/'Hercules'. Built in 1961. (Stopped due to electrical fault)
    • BR Class 28 No. D5705 (Under restoration with the C15PS) Class 15 Preservation Society
    • BR Class 33 No. 6536 (33117) (under overhaul in Buckley Wells shed)
    • BR Class 37 No. 37413, EW&S (Undergoing overhaul at Ian Riley's Workshops, Baron Street)
    • BR Class 37 No. 37679, Transrail (Undergoing overhaul at Ian Riley's Workshops, Baron Street)
    • BR Class 40 No. 97406 (D335 & 40135), BR Green. (Undergoing general repairs and C exam) Class 40 Preservation Society
    • BR Class 45 No. 45135 (D99) '3rd Carabinier', BR Blue. Built in 1961. (Undergoing major overhaul in Buckley Wells shed)
    • BR Class 47 No. D1501 (47402), BR Two-tone Green. Built in 1962. (Awaiting maintenance)
    • BR Class 52 No. D1041 'Western Prince', BR Blue. Built in 1962. (Bodywork replacement & full rewire, Castlecroft shed)
    • BR Class 104 unit 50455+50517. BR Green. (Undergoing bodywork repairs)
    • BR Class 105 unit 51485+56121 (Under major restoration in Buckley Wells shed)
    • BR Class 207 unit 1305 (207202) 60130+70549+60904 (Bodywork overhaul of 60130 and 60904, Buckley Wells shed)
  • Stored Diesel Locomotives
    • BR Class 33 No. 33046. Unbranded South West Trains Blue. Spares/Component Recovery for 33109 (6525) & 6536 (33117)
    • NIR Class 80 No. 8099 (bought as spares for 1305, now converted to standard gauge at Buckley Wells)


  • Electric Multiple Units
    • BR Class 504 unit 65451+77172 (stored at Buckley Wells, being restored as hauled coaching stock)


  • Ex-Blackpool Railgrinder No. 752 is stored at Baron Street, having moved from Heaton Park Tramway to make way for another vehicle. Owned by the Manchester Transport Museum Society.
  • Ex-Blackpool Balloon No. 702 is stored awaiting depot space at Heaton Park. Owned by the Manchester Museum Transport Society.



  1. http://www.ramsbottommrc.org.uk/rawtenstall-station-history
  2. http://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/downloads/28/east-lancashire-railway-history.ashx
  3. "A History of the East Lancashire Railway". eastlancsrailway.org.uk/. Retrieved 2009-04-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Shannon, Laura (2007-12-07). "Back on track for connection". Rochdale Observer. Retrieved 2009-04-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Lisa Gray (12 September 2014) "Plans to link Castleton Station to the East Lancashire Railway remain on track", Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 7 December 2014
  6. http://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/buckley-wells
  7. "Thomas the Tank weekend derailed after legal wrangle". Bury Times. 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-10-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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