Plans to bring East Lancashire heritage railway to Castleton progress
Date published: 12 October 2017
Network Rail line at Castleton
The feasibility of reopening the railway bridge at Castleton to bring the East Lancashire Railway back to the village is being assessed.
The East Lancashire Railway operates a 12-mile route between Heywood and Rawtenstall, using a range of preserved steam and diesel locomotives to haul vintage train services through the scenic Irwell Valley.
For several years, the Council has had ambitious plans to restore part of the rail line, including the extension of the railway from Heywood to Castleton.
The Council has recently received a structural report of the railway bridge at Castleton to assess the feasibility of reopening the arch to bring the heritage railway into Castleton station and Network Rail has also completed a further study of the track condition between Heywood and Castleton stations.
The structural report indicates that the reopening of the arch is feasible with some digging out to lower the track level and stabilisation work to the bridge. Network Rail is currently assessing the report and the options for the design of the reopened arch.
It is expected that Network Rail will require the ELR and the Council to commission more detailed work on the bridge structure to obtain various consents, including planning.
Subject to Network Rail approvals, the Council is working with the ELR to develop a funding strategy for the project.
A scheme to reopen the Manchester Road access into Heywood station is also being costed and developed following the completion of the play area to increase the visibility and visitor attraction of Heywood Station.
The East Lancashire Railway operates over two sections of line, both originally built in the 19th century. Built to serve separate routes, both passed through the important mill town of Bury. Castleton Long Welded Rail Depot ceased rail welding operations in December 2006 and closed in March 2007.
The first section of the east-west route opened in 1841 as a branch of the Manchester and Leeds Railway from Blue Pitts south of Castleton to Heywood, but it was not until May 1848 that the line was extended to Bury.
The companies amalgamated in 1859 and operated the lines until 5 June 1972, when passenger services were stopped on the line.
Four miles of line were reopened between Bury and Ramsbottom on 25 July 1987. Engines began to visit the Heywood extension in August 1993 after a long battle.
The Bury-Heywood line finally reopened in 2003 after ten years of repairs to the track and structures, re-signalling at Bury Bolton Street and construction of the new station at Heywood, plus legal and statutory ‘hurdles’ after new legislation was passed in connection to railway privatisation.