John Speller's Web Pages Stoke & Market Drayton Branch

John Speller's Web Pages - North Staffordshire Railway

Stoke & Market Drayton Branch Untitled Untitled
The North Staffordshire Railway's original Act of 26 June 1846 included a provision for building a branch line from Stoke to Newcastle-under-Lyme. This line opened on 6 September 1852. An extension to Knutton was authorized on 2 July 1847 and opened on 6 September 1852. Before this in 1849 ironmaster Ralph Sneyd had built a 2-mile private mineral line, the Silverdale & Newcastle Railway, between Knutton and Silverdale. By an Act of 13 August 1859 this line became a public railway. Thus in May 1863 the North Staffordshire Railway was able to introduce passenger service between Stoke-on-Trent and Silverdale. The line was completed to Silverdale in May 1863. Meanwhile the Great Western Railway was pressing northward with the Wellington & Market Drayton Railway, opened on 16 October 1867, in an attempt to reach Manchester. In order the head the GWR off at the pass, the North Staffordshire extended the Silverdale line to Market Drayton in February 1870. This in fact produced a potentially very useful through connection between Stoke and the Great Western main line at Wellington. Both companies had mutual running rights over each other's lines, but unfortunately due to the animosity of the Great Western and North Stafford companies this potentially useful cross-country line was not exploited to the extent it should have been. The running rights rights were only exercised for a weekly GWR goods train between Wellington and Stoke, and a weekly NSR passenger train which rather curiously ran from Stoke to Hodnet (population 1,400). Neither company seemed interested in exploiting this potentially useful link which might, for example, have provided rail service from Stoke to Hereford, Newport and Cardiff, as well as a local service between Stoke and Wellington. This would certainly have been more profitable to both companies than the aggregate of the existing GWR Wellington to Market Drayton and North Staffordshire Stoke to Market Drayton services. As it was, traffic simply dwindled. Madeley Road station closed in 1931. The line was originally double-tracked but was partly singled in 1934. Passenger service was cut back from Market Drayton to Silverdale in 1956 and the rest of the line closed in 1964. The stations between Stoke and Market Drayton were Newcastle-under-Lyme, Silverdale, Keele, Madeley Road, Pipe Gate and Norton-in-Hales. Newcastle-under-Lyme (population 74,000) is now the largest town in Britain without a railway station. So the GWR and NSR cut off their nose to spite their shareholders - and their passengers. Probably the Directors too, although they were always more interested in politics than money.
Market Drayton station just before the First World War. The branch to Stoke-on-Trent ran off to the right a few yards beyond the station
North Staffordshire Railway train behind a Clare "E" Class 0-6-0 passing Madeley Road Signalbox in around 1905
Newcastle-under-Lyme Station decorated for the Coronation of 1902
Newcastle Station in around 1920
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