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Micklehurst Line

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Title: Micklehurst Line  
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Subject: Greenfield, Greater Manchester, Stalybridge railway station, Hartshead Power Station
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Micklehurst Line

The Micklehurst Line was a railway line between Stalybridge, Cheshire, and Diggle junction in the West Riding of Yorkshire (now part of Greater Manchester). The line, approximately eight miles long, was also sometimes referred to as the Micklehurst Loop and the Stalybridge and Diggle Loop Line.

Construction and opening

Micklehurst Loop

The London and North Western Railway had built its line from Stalybridge to Huddersfield through Standedge tunnel between 1847 and 1849 and it opened on 1 August 1849[1] for through trains between Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Huddersfield and Leeds. The increasing number of passenger and goods trains on the route required a second single-bore tunnel to be built, opening in February 1871. A further growth in traffic required construction of a double-track tunnel which was completed in August 1894.[2]

To effectively serve the four railway tracks through the Standedge tunnels, an additional twin-track railway line was required. The original track had been built on the steep, western slopes of the Tame Valley making it difficult to add a second pair of tracks alongside, so the new line was built in parallel, along the eastern side of the valley and about one mile distant. The new line was completed in 1885.[3]

Passenger train service and stations

Whilst the line had mainly been built with through goods trains in mind, the LNWR built four intermediate passenger stations on the line, all opening on 3 May 1886.[4] The first out of Stalybridge was Staley and Millbrook; next was Micklehurst; the third station from Stalybridge was Friezland and the nearest to the junction at Diggle and the tunnel entrance was Uppermill. Passenger traffic in this sparsely populated Pennine valley was light. Micklehurst was closed to passengers on 1 May 1907; Staley and Millbrook on 1 November 1909; and Uppermill and Friezland stations on 1 January 1917.[5]

Goods train traffic

The line had been built primarily to handle the many goods trains that ran between Lancashire and Yorkshire. A typical weekday in Autumn 1952 saw at least thirty-seven eastbound goods trains running into Yorkshire using the Micklehurst Loop and a similar number of westbound trains.[6] The loop had easier gradients than the original line through Mossley and Greenfield and this caused most of the heavy goods trains to use it.

Daily local freight trains called at each of the stations to shunt waggons in the goods yards until and after their closure to passengers, Uppermill closing for goods traffic on 15 June 1964.[3] The section of the line from Diggle to Staley and Millbrook was closed to all traffic on 3 October 1966, with the remaining section from Stalybridge to Staley and Millbrook surviving for a few more years to serve Hartshead Power Station near the latter location.

Present Day

The track was lifted soon after the final closure in the late 1960s, and the most notable demolition was the dismantling of Chew Brook viaduct running through Greenfield, amid reports suggesting the viaduct could be left intact at least for a few decades. Completion of that work took place in the late 1970s. The whole line now serves as public bridleways, known as the 'Micklehurst Trail' between Stalybridge and Friezland, before joining the Pennine Bridleway in Friezland which then follows the whole length of the rest of the line until Butterhouse on the Uppermill and Diggle border. These bridleways have been existent since the 1990s. Local residents praised the redevelopment, which also includes the bridleway following near perfect alignment of the original railway line. The two tunnels originally used to compensate for the higher volume of trains at Standedge tunnels do remain although are not open for trains, instead are used for emergency vehicles for access to the main rail tunnel still in use and the canal tunnel.


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