Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe and West Yorkshire Railway John Speller's Web Pages Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe and West Yorkshire Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - L&NWR

Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe and West Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) LNWR Untitled
Known as the Blackburn Railway for short and currently as the Ribble Valley line, the Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe & West Yorkshire Railway connected to the Manchester & Bolton Railway at Bolton and to the Midland Railway at Hellifield. The line was an important through link between Manchester and Glasgow via the Midland's Settle & Carlisle route. Ground was broken by the Chairman, William Henry Hornby (1805-1884), on 27 September 1845, and the section between Blackburn and Sough opened on 3 August 1847. The section from Sough to Bolton opened on 12 June 1848. The line was completed to Chatburn, one station north of Clitheroe, in 1851 and the line became part of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in 1859. The line's engineer was Terence Woulf Flanagan (1819-1859), a pupil of Charles Vignoles. The Secretary & General Manager was initially George Gunn and later F. W. James.

An accident took place at Sough in 1847 when a contractor's engine "Shannon," burst its boiler, killing the driver and seriously injuring the fireman. It is possible that the safety valve had either been screwed down by the driver or damaged in a derailment caused by vandals placing an obstruction on the line the previous year, since there was no sign of corrosion. It is said that the boiler parted cleanly into two pieces, but that the rest of the locomotive was blown "into a thousand pieces."

Before 1880 the line beyond Blackburn functioned a branch line and was sometimes referred to as the Clitheroe Branch. All this changed, however, when the final portion of the line, from Chatburn to the junction with the Midland Railway at Hellifield, was opened on 1 June 1880. This allowed trains to run via the Midland Railway to Leeds and via the Settle & Carlisle line to Carlisle and the Glasgow & South Western Railway to Glasgow St. Enoch. It was also possible, by continuing northwest beyond Hellifield via Ingleton and Low Gill, to proceed onto the L&NWR West Coast Main Line. This, indeed, is what the Midland Railway had done before the Settle & Carlisle line was built. On 7th. August 1881 an accident took place at Blackburn. Seven persons were killed, and more than twenty injured, some seriously. The express from Liverpool, due in Blackburn at 3:10 p.m., was standing at the platform, when it was run into by the express from Manchester to Edinburgh and Glasgow, via Hellifield. The train was going rapidly, and the shock was severe, several carriages being smashed to atoms. Two persons were killed on the spot, and later on in the evening two other deaths took place, making the number of victims four. The driver and guard sustained serious injuries, and the driver of the Liverpool express had his leg fractured. On the 10th. one of the injured passengers died, on the 14th another, and on the 15th. a third, making seven in all.

The Midland Railway had running powers over the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway between Manchester Victoria and Hellifield, and used them to run expresses from Liverpool (via Wigan and Blackburn) and Manchester to Glasgow St. Enoch. The MR and L&YR were allies, and in some ways it is unfortunate that the L&YR merged with the L&NWR rather than the MR - though this of course became a moot point with the Grouping of 1923. Wilpshire Bank on the Blackburn to Hellifield line involved some very heavy grades, including a 5-mile climb parts of which had a gradient of 1 in 82. For running the Manchester to Carlisle expresses over the heavily-graded line a version of S. W. Johnson's 2-P 4-4-0 locomotive class with wheels somewhat smaller than the standard 6' 9" was felt to be desirable. In 1888 Johnson accordingly built a class of modified 2-P 4-4-0s, Nos. 1808-1822, with 6' 6" wheels for running over the Hellifield line. Three of these survived into British Railways ownership, and the last one was scrapped in 1952.

For video footage of ex-LMS "Royal Scot" Class 4-6-0 No. 46115 "Scots Guardsman" at Nappa and Langho on the Hellifield to Blackburn line see here. One another occasion Stanier "Pacific" No. 6201 "Princess Elizabeth" takes the Ribble Valley line from Hellifield (here) and then continues south up Wilpshire Bank (here)

The "Pride of Swindon" visited the line in 2010 behind the amazing double-chimneyed "Castle" No. 5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" and videos of that run may be seen
here, here, here and here.
Map of the Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe and West Yorkshire Railway
An early view of the original Clitheroe station in around 1870
Blackburn Station as first built in 1846
Midland Railway Glasgow express in the cutting at Chatburn in around 1905 behind a Johnson "1808" Class 4-4-0
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