​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Development of Railways in BlackburnThe Opening Of The Line | The Growing Railway Network
Abergele Train Disaster 1868 | Lower Darwen Engine Sheds | The Railway With No Passengers
Blackburn Station's Missing Clocks | The Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton Railway | Blackburn’s First Engine Driver​ | The Blackburn to Chorley Railway​


 ​The Development of Railways in Blackburn 

Railways were the great wonder of the Industrial Age.  The canal may have facilitated the bulk movement of goods over long distances, but the 'iron road' could move much more freight, far more quickly.  The opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830, the world's first passenger-carrying line, showed the versatility of this new mode of transport. Merchants could now travel greater distances to conduct their business, without having to rely upon the vagaries of stagecoaches and the system of turnpike roads.
It was only a matter of time before Blackburn was caught up in 'railway mania'.  As a rapidly developing industrial centre, the advantages that a railway link would bring were obvious and were to impact upon all areas of commerce and industry; in particular, bringing in the raw materials for the cotton industry and exporting the finished products of the mills.  However, the promotion, construction and operation of Blackburn's early railways was not entirely straightforward.

Promoting a new railway line often fell to a group of influential individuals - local landowners, businessmen, speculators and others with a vested interest in improved transportation.  Opposition was sometimes voiced by landowners who did not want to see the 'iron horses' chugging across their land.  Similarly, canal companies and the trustees of turnpike roads were wary of the damaging effect that a new line would have on their operations.
By Nick Harling


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The first local meeting to consider the possibility of a railway for Blackburn took place at the Old Bull Inn in December 1840.  By that time the North Union Railway had reached Preston from the south and it was proposed that any Blackburn company should attempt to link with this new line.  Those who attended the meeting felt that the time was not yet right to risk investing in this new mode of transport.  However, their reticence was to be short-lived, for within three years firm proposals were in place to connect the adjacent towns of Preston and Blackburn with a new line, appropriately named the Blackburn & Preston Railway.  The Act of Parliament authorising the route was passed on June 6th 1844 and the first sod cut on August 19th.  In engineering terms, the line was relatively easy to build - there were no tunnels and only one major viaduct, the three-span 108 feet high Hoghton Viaduct.  The Blackburn Standard considered this to be "one of the most striking objects on the line".
The opening of the line on June 3rd 1846 created great excitement in the town.  Once again, the Blackburn Standard were in attendance:
"A train of carriages was ordered to be in readiness, and four o'clock was fixed upon as the hour for making the first trip...The news had become known to some thousands who crowded round the Station and the train, lined the road for a considerable distance, filled the windows and doors of the adjoining houses, topped the walls and the nearest bridges, and occupied every available opening from which a view of the road or train could be obtained."
The Blackburn & Preston railway became part of the East Lancashire Railway, and in June 1848 opened an eastward extension to Accrington, connecting with the rest of the ELR network via Haslingden to Bury.
By Nick Harling

Since 1845, the B&PR had a rival in Blackburn, in the shape of the Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton Railway who planned to link the towns named in their title.  An extension of their planned route occasioned a change in title in 1847 when they became the Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe and West Yorkshire Railway, often known simply as the 'Bolton Company'.  Initially, the two rivals had an amicable relationship - the B&PR agreed to let the Bolton Company share their new railway station at Stoneybutts (now better known as the Boulevard), but tempers frayed when suitable terms for the payment of tolls and checking of tickets could not be agreed.  Eventually, the Bolton Company decided to build their own railway station on Bolton Road - the site is now part of Fogarty's Distribution Yard.  The East Lancashire Railway (as the B&PR had now become) were annoyed by this move - they decided to spoil the opening of the Bolton Company's extension to Clitheroe, by blocking the route through their station.  George Miller takes up the story:
"On the day scheduled for the opening...they found the junction at Daisyfield barricaded with baulks of timber, with several engines and other rolling stock loaded with stones, and it was not until some days later that wiser counsels prevailed and the East Lancashire Company withdrew the obstruction".
Ironically, the two companies amalgamated in 1857 to become part of the huge Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway network, which in turn became the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923.  Despite these early disagreements, Blackburn profited from excellent railway communications to Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire which helped to maintain the booming cotton industry well into the 20th Century.
By Nick Harling


 ​Abergele Tain Disaster 1868

Blackburnians perish in train inferno
This year on the 20th of August 2008, it will be the 140 year anniversary of the Abergele train catastrophe. Described by newspapers as ‘frightful’, or as The Illustrated London News put it – “a rush down the crater of Mount Vesuvius into the fiery gulf beneath it could hardly be more appalling”. This rail disaster claimed the lives of 33 men and women. However it is not the statistics of the event that make it so intriguing, rather who it was that died, and the manner in which they did so.
Shortly after noon on Thursday the 20th August 1868, six runaway wagons smashed into the Irish Mail train as it travelled up the line between Abergele and Llanddulas. Two of these wagons contained barrels of paraffin, 1700 gallons in total. Upon contact with the engine, the paraffin exploded and set the first four carriages alight. These front carriages were separated by two mail vans from the rear carriages. Every single person within the rear carriages survived – every single person within the front carriages perished, and interestingly three of these unfortunate victims hailed from Blackburn.
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The reason for this disaster is to do with the goings-on at Llanddulas station. Llanddulas station is located at the top of an incline, which passes through a cutting containing a blind bend. At the time of the accident, the Irish Mail train was making its way up this incline on its way to Holyhead from Chester. At the same time at Llanddulas, the shunting of a 43-wagon goods train was taking place on the main line – moving it to make way for the Irish Mail which would be arriving in 15 minutes. With only six wagons left to move all was going well, that is until the engine and three attached wagons backed into those that remained on the main line. Instantly, these began to roll down the hill. The Irish Mail however was not aware of the incoming danger, due to the curve in the cutting. By the time the wagons were in view,  it was too late to take precautionary measures to reduce the severity of the accident.
It has been said that the truly tragic results of this event were not because of the collision itself, but more the combustible material which the wagons responsible contained.The passengers died from the effect of the fire rather than injuries sustained in the crash. The fire itself was not an instantaneous  blast that engulfed the whole train – rather taking the carriages one by one as the paraffin ran down the hill. What is interesting however is that in these few minutes when there was opportunity to escape (the passengers had been warned by a local woman shouting and crying out about the danger), few people attempted to get out. There was little reaction at all, but when the passengers themselves became aware of the flames as they engulfed the carriage, it was too late. Escaping would have been very difficult at that point – the carriage doors being locked, so a clumsy exit out the windows and a drop down into fire surrounding them would have been necessary. Onlookers and those who had got out of the unaffected carriages at the rear believed the burning carriages to be empty, as no sound was to be heard and no movement was to be seen from them.
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As has been noted, the significance of this event is not how many but who died. All the victims were members of the upper class, and their entourage of servants or whoever else they were travelling with. Included in those who perished were Lord and Lady Farnham; Sir Nicholas and Lady Chinnery; the wealthy Alymer family; Captain J Prestley Edwards and his son; and Judge Walter Berwick from the Bankruptcy Court in Dublin. Also among the deceased were a Mr. William Townend Lund, a Mr. William Parkinson and a Mr. Christopher Parkinson.
The latter three were Blackburn businessmen, and they were all part of the same family - the Parkinsons being brothers, and Mr. Lund their brother-in-law. The Blackburn Standard states the men were ‘well known, and were highly and deservedly respected by all who knew them’ – not out of place amongst the other passengers on the Irish Mail. The story took an ironic turn however when it was revealed that these three men should not even have been on the train. Their plan was to spend a few days on holiday at the Lakes of Killlarney, but by rights their train from Blackburn to Liverpool should have been too late to catch the connection to Chester, to be in time to board the Irish Mail that day. To be sure they arrived in time, the brothers bribed the driver of the Blackburn train to go at full speed. This unfortunately for them, allowed them to make the ill-fated connection.
Because of the way in which they died, the bodies of the passengers in the fatal carriages were so badly burned that they were unrecognisable; indeed, in many cases the doctors trying to identify the bodies could not even tell if they were male or female. However, what was not fire damaged too badly were their possessions – possessions that, of course, would be worth a lot of money, for instance Lady Farnham’s jewels had been valued at £4000 to £6000. These possessions were strewn up and down the track after the crash, later to be collected to be used for identification of the bodies.
How quickly did the family find out there had been a fatal accident? The answer is the same day, as the Victorian telegraph system was much more efficient than we might imagine. Having arrived in Chester in time to catch the Irish Mail, the three men telegraphed the family in Blackburn to let them know they had arrived. That very afternoon news accident reached Blackburn, and the family immediately sought confirmation that the men had indeed boarded the train. They contacted the Chester station master, who replied saying three men matching their relative’s description had been seen getting into one of the train’s front carriages. Unwilling to accept the inevitable truth, a flurry of telegrams were sent to anywhere and everywhere the men might be. It was reading a list of survivor’s names published later that day and discovering their loved ones not to be on it, that prompted the need for members of the family to make their way to Abergele. These were for the Messrs. Parkinson, a third brother Robert, and for Mr. Lund came his brothers James and Thomas.
They left on Friday afternoon, and a telegram was received from them late that night. Alarmingly, it warned the family to ‘prepare for the worst’. On Saturday morning, one of the gentlemen returned to break the news to the family in Blackburn that their loved ones had indeed perished in the flames.
Given the state of the bodies, the victims had to be identified by their possessions; even so, the way in which William T. was identified was unusual. He had been given a Chubb patent key ring as a present from his brother, and attached to it was a small steel ticket with a number on. This was to prove vital when a bunch of keys was found amongst the debris. The Chubb establishment was telegraphed immediately, and in their directory they found Mr. Lund’s number identical to that on the keys. A watch was also identified as Christopher Parkinson’s, given to him by his brother William.

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Local families bereaved
The funeral took place on Tuesday 25th at ten o’clock. A mass grave at Abergele churchyard was dug, in which Lords and Ladies would lie side-by-side next to footmen and train guards. A memorial stone containing the names of all the victims was created to go with it. The inquest began the next day, attended definitely by Thomas Lund but possibly also his brother and brother-in-law. It lasted eight sessions, examining seventy witnesses and scrutinising every aspect of the event - from inspecting the carriage door locks to watching demonstrations of wagons going down the Llanddulas incline – until a verdict was reached on the eighth day on Friday 4th September. The jury decided the passengers came to their death  through manslaughter, and actual cause of death was from suffocation after inhaling the oil vapour. Those blamed for the manslaughter were the two brakemen of the goods train and also the stationmaster for not ensuring that the wagons were off the main line, leaving good time for the Irish Mail to pass.
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After a criminal enquiry, the two brakemen and station master were declared to be not guilty, rather the railway company be blamed for failing to provide the means for trains to run safely. Following this, the London and North Western Railway Company was sued for compensation for some of the losses suffered by various parties. One of these parties were the three Lund children – George, Robert and Edith. They were now orphaned as their mother Jennet (sister of William, Christopher and Robert) had died in 1866. William T. was a highly successful commission agent, and his yearly profits were estimated to be at £1200. The children received £4350 compensation from the company, and went to live with their father’s sister Alice.
The homes of the Parkinson and Lund families on Richmond Terrace are still there, although they have been converted into offices.
William Townend Lund's office on Exchange Street has long since disappeared. A modern office building stands on the site.
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 Exchange Street, the site of William Townend Lund's office
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Richmond Terrace, the Lund family home.The property was originally
number 5, but 5 and 6 have been knocked through to form a larger office.​
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19, Richmond Terrace, the Parkinson family home.
This story was researched and written by Carla Harwood, a sixth-form student at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, whilst on work experience at Blackburn Museum.
July 2008

Lower Darwen Engine Sheds

Lower Darwen engine shed was situated alongside the Blackburn to Darwen railway on a high plateau of land to the South of Blackburn Rovers Football Club. It was opened in 1875 by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.
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Map Showing the Location of Lower Darwen Engine Shed
The men who worked at Lower Darwen were known as “Cloggers” because they all wore clogs, clogs kept your feet cool and safe on the footplate, as quite often heavy cobs of coal would drop off the shovels and clogs were like steel toecaps and the coal wouldn’t break your foot. The social life and the working life of the railwaymen blended into one, they used to say that the railway ran on liquid…..Tea and Beer.
In steam days there was always a thirst to quench and dust to wash down and the hours and shifts they worked prevented a normal working life. It was quite common for railwaymen to visit public houses, nip to the betting shop, do their shopping, get their hair cut, and even visit the cinema whilst waiting for their back workings to arrive. Thankfully they didn’t do all these things at once or the railway would have ground to a halt on many occasions. At all sheds there where a number of men who worked the system to get easy shifts and their rest days always happened to be a Sunday.
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Steam Engines On Shed, Including Crab Engine

 Coal was plentiful and many of the older railwaymen tended to take a piece of coal home (no central heating in the1950s), one such character got a little greedy one night by taking a bigger cob of coal than usual. He staggered down from the shed onto Bolton Road to catch the bus to Blackburn. As the bus set off, he climbed up the steps to the upper deck. The bus suddenly lurched and the cob of coal fell out of his coat and bounced down the steps and hit the conductor in the back and he nearly fell off the bus into Bolton Road. In the 1950s the drivers were real characters and some of them had nicknames” Mr Wonderloaf”,
“The Count”, “Windrush”, “Clarence” and ”Telstar”  and many more, all the staff at Lower Darwen  worked and played together they would organise day trips mainly to the Lake District  by coach being picked up at the Fernhurst pub on Bolton Road near to the shed  plenty of food and drink  and a sail on Lake Windermere, they all mixed together which was not usual in some other sheds.
One  cold winters day a driver was just finishing his shift he told his fireman you go home he would put the engine in the shed, which was usual practice. The engine was No 42733, a Hughes Fowler 2-6-0 “Crab ”, a type well-liked by the crews because of its pulling power, the driver brought the engine into the shed then he stopped because he had to change the points, he climbed down to change the points but he had not put the brake full on, and because of the freezing conditions the engine began to move forward very slowly, when he realised he tried to get back on board but failed and the engine ran past him  embedding itself in the back wall—no buffer stops—demolishing the water softening plant, luckily no one was injured and the wall was repaired and the engine sent for repairs.
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A Plan Of The Layout Of Lower Darwen Engine Shed
Showing Where The Runaway Engine Finshed Up,
Near The Water Softening Plant.
Unfortunately in the 1960s steam was being replaced by diesel trains.  Branch lines, smaller stations and engine sheds where being closed. Lower Darwen finally closed on 14th February 1966 before steam finished in 1968. Don’t despair all you steam enthusiasts new steam engines are being built and running on preserved lines, go along old and young and enjoy!
Written and researched by Jeffrey Booth( Library Volunteer)
Information and pictures from Blackburn’s Railways in the 1950s and 1960s
By Stuart Taylor Published by Foxline (Publications) Ltd.


The Railway With​​ No Passengers​

In the year 1864 Hoddlesden was booming, coal mines, brick making and cotton mills were all thriving. The owners of these businesses John and Joseph Place, Adam Bullough, Philip Graham, and William Bayne Ranken started up a Building Society to promote the sale of land for the building of houses for their workers.   They also wanted to get transport over to Hoddlesden so they made an application to Parliament for a railway line which was authorised in 1872.  Adam Bullough donated money and land for stations to be built at Hoddlesden and Waterside but this was refused and the line was eventually opened in 1876 as a Goods line only.  It stretched for 2 miles beginning at Goosehouse Bridge near Lower Darwen and ending at the Goods Yard at Hoddlesden. 

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 From the Signal Box at Hoddlesden Junction looking down the line towards Lower Darwen. 
On the right, the line towards Watterside and Hoddlesden can be plainly seen.
Copyright Stuart Taylor

Ranken felt there would soon be a passenger service however, this was not to be (see note below). There was a story that Ranken was the only passenger transported on the Railway to his place of burial at St Paul's church in 1889 but this wasn't true.* 

The day the Railway was opened there was a village party on the field behind the Griffin pub, (now the Ranken Arms) it had a marquee erected for a “sit down" meal. The original line included a siding to Bullough's Waterside Fire Clay Works and in Hoddlesden a Goods Yard with a branch to the pipe works. In 1908 a circular loop was constructed at Whitebirk Brick and Tile Works and after 1950 traffic terminated at this point. The surviving section of the line was permanently closed in 1962.

Shaw's Glazed Brick Company sold its 30 year old diesel engine and all the line in its private sidings, the engine went to a Salt Mine in Cheshire and the lines and sleepers were bought to form a new track at the Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire.

There are still remains of the line to be seen today.  On Roman Road you can still see the buttress of the bridge which carried the railway over the road and there are still some old lines from the Goods Yard to the Pipe Works visible where Hoddlesden Garage is.​

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Below are the bridge remains on Roman Road over which the
Hoddlesden railway was carried.​

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Below are the remains of the Branch Line from the Goods Yard to the Pipe Works
Pictures above copyright Jeffrey Booth 

William Bayne Ranken died in Gibraltar, his body was embalmed and placed in a Shell Coffin and was placed in a rough packing case which was sent from Gibraltar to Liverpool but consigned as a box of machinery.   On arrival at Darwen Station the porter, who was expecting a coffin and not a box of machinery said this was an inaccurate consignment and the Ranken family had to pay the difference, which they did.  His body was transported on a railway company lorry to “St Pauls Church" where he was interred the following day the 16th April 1889.
(Darwen News Saturday 20th April 1889)                                                                             

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This is the only picture of a train on the Hoddlesden Railway I have been able to find.
It is a picture of a “Crab" in the last years of the line entering Shaw's sidings​

Researched and written by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer)


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Blackburn Station's Missing Clocks

There has been a station on the current site since 1846 when the Blackburn and Preston Railway, (a constituent company of the East Lancashire Railway (E.L.R.)) was opened.  The contract to build Blackburn station was awarded in November 1845. This route was extended eastwards to Accrington in March 1848 and subsequently through to Burnley and Colne by February 1849. Meanwhile, by 1848, the Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe & West Yorkshire Railway had built a line From Blackburn through to Bolton but were refused permission to use the E.L.R. station and had to open their own at Bolton Road, a short distance south of the junction. In 1851 the Blackburn Company had extended their line northwards along the Ribble Valley to Clitheroe but it was not until both railways had amalgamated with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway that traffic was concentrated at the main station, (the Bolton Road station closing in 1859). In 1886 the station was expanded to facilitate the growing services and four giant cantilever clocks were installed in time for the opening on September 1886. Two were installed on the Up Platform (towards Preston) and two were installed on the Down platform (towards Accrington)

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These are the Two Clocks on the Down Platform

In 1974, after the “Beeching cuts” of the 60s and the loss of other routes the platforms were shortened and the two clocks on the Up platform were smashed up. When the planning application for the massive station refurbishment was passed late in 1998, it said that the clocks should be carefully removed and salvaged for reuse at the station or offered for sale to a rail preservation society.

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One of the Clocks waiting to be put into Storage
The Label Reads:
“Clock To Be Refurbished And Reused In Blackburn Station Redevelopment”

The two clocks were put into storage under the station and lay there for four years.   When the station was refurbished it was decided by Network Rail that the clocks would be out of keeping with the new style station and would be relocated to Manchester Piccadilly. They were offered to the National Railway Museum in York but they had no response. There was a big outcry from Blackburn Council who accused Network Rail of going back on their promise.   Blackburn’s M.P Jack Straw thought at least one of the clocks could have been situated in the foyer which was not modernised. The vice chairman of the Blackburn Civic Society said it was a shame that the people of Manchester have the benefit of our history, but at least they won’t be scrapped.  The clocks were worth around £2,500 but Network Rail was offered funding for the refurbishment of £16,000 to relocate them to Manchester.

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The old clock on platform 13 at Manchester Piccadilly

Jeff Stone of the Exchange Arcade in Fleming Square tried to buy the clocks in 2002 to save them for Blackburn but wasn’t given the opportunity to quote a price.  He said; “we wanted to put them in Fleming Square to keep them in Blackburn”. Currently one of the clocks is situated on Platform 13 (unlucky for Blackburn) but there is no sign of the other one (it is rumoured that it was sold for £3,000 to a private collector in America) the plot thickens.

Story Quotes and picture from Lancashire Telegraph 20/6/2002 and 7/4/2003.

Researched updated and written by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer).

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The Blackburn, Darwen and Bolton Railway (and the ghosts of the Sough Tunnel)


In the 1840's business men were beginning to realise that railways were the key to future expansion of the textile industry; before the railways, the only way to get their products to places like Manchester was by horse and cart, and, at 10d a mile and 10d per ton this form of transport was very expensive. A number of influential businessmen gathered at the Greenway Arms in Darwen one Friday afternoon in 1844 to discuss the building of a railway from Blackburn to Bolton, via Lower and Over Darwen.

The cost would be £213,600; the public were invited to buy shares at £25 each and 382 people applied but the bulk of the money was put up by four men, Henry Hornby, Charles Potter, Eccles Shorrock and James Kay of Turton Tower. All four bound themselves for £50,000.

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copyright Jeffrey Booth
Blue Plaque Commemorating first sod cut by W.H. Hornby
On the Blackburn Bolton Line

On a blustery, wet, September 27th 1845, in a field close to where Darwen Station now stands William Hornby, using a new spade, cut the first sod. A blue plaque is situated at Darwen Station to commemorate this. The work of building the line began steadily, until it reached Hey Fold Farm; here, the farmer, Robert Smalley, attacked them with a well-worn spade. Work ceased for a while but eventually the lines were laid across his land. Altogether, 4,000 people were employed in various capacities on the line. They worked from dawn to dusk for a gold sovereign, drinking copious amounts of moonshine liquor brewed in illegal stills. The readily availability of ale caused problems, one worker, worse for wear from drink, attacked and killed a Blacksnape tailor. An additional story recalls that another worker left a candle on top of a gunpowder keg and forget about it; the next thing he knew he was flying through the air! Extra police had to be brought in at Turton because of the mayhem the workers were causing.

Creating a tunnel under the moors took two very difficult years. Wet workings, and roof falls claimed the lives of five men; it wasn’t called “the Black Hoyle (hole)” for nothing. Many of the men were recruited from the coalfields of Wigan and as far away as South Wales. Bricks for the tunnel arching were made from clay taken from William Shorrock's fields north of the tunnel entrance and baked in the contractors private kilns sited at the bottom of Pole Lane.  Tunnelling through the Sough also caused problems for local enterprises.

Management at the Roxborough Calico Print works were not happy when their once clear hill water became muddy and they had to stop production; they won damages from the Railway to the tune of £5,000. Nearby, Brandwood pit was also troubled by flooding, and, for a time, a hastily improvised culvert diverted the flow. Thirteen vertical shafts were sunk to depths from 40 to 260 feet, one labourer slipped and fell down shaft number nine, and his body was never recovered.   The second death was that of the youngest employee, 12 year old Billy Godbhere, whose job was running to the smithy with picks that workers sent up for re-sharpening. Between times he watched the hoppers as they resurfaced with soil for tipping.  Bored by the monotony, he gave one swinging hopper a playful shove, striking it against a small lorry nearby, caught by the unexpected rebound, the hapless child was knocked over the brink of the 260ft chasm and his body was never recovered. Whilst the tunnel was being dug an engine driver, Thomas Heaviside, was killed when his locomotive exploded.  Two other men died in a macabre incident, they were a father and son. The men were employed, after the opening of the railway, to seal up two shafts. There was a wooden stage which spread across the 10ft diameter openings at surface level.  On the fateful day, unbeknown to them, an overnight storm had washed away a lot of loose earth from under the platform of shaft 5, when the men stepped innocently onto the delicately poised planking it tilted sharply downwards plunging them a hundred feet below to their deaths, an avalanche of rubble cascaded down after them entombing them forever. 

The line was opened from Blackburn to Sough on 3rd of August 1847 and from Sough to Bolton on Monday 12th June 1848.  On this day at 7am a regular service train made up of eight carriages packed to capacity left Blackburn, drawn by a Hawthorn 0-6-0.   On the opening run to Bolton a band of musicians accompanied the intrepid passengers and the journey was completed, uneventfully, in thirty eight minutes; the journey by stagecoach would have taken nearly 3 hours.

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Picture of Sough Tunnel courtesy of Darwen Library

Another interesting aspect of the line was the use of an iron bridge to carry the railway over the canal at Hollinbank, Blackburn.  The engineer in charge of the building of the railway, Charles Vignoles wrote in his diary that this was the first time ever that such a bridge as this design was erected anywhere.  It became a common feature later of railway building all over the world.  So, if you travel on this line remember the sacrifice of 5 people who enabled you to do so.

From "The Blackburn Darwen and Bolton Railway" by W.D.Tattersall
Researched and written by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer)

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Blackburn’s Fi​​rst Engine Driver​

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Blackburn’s first engine driver James Radford was born in Manchester in 1820; early in life he developed a taste for the study of practical science. For a boy from humble beginnings to turn his attention to studious pursuits in those far-off days required force of character and intellectual qualities much above average. Schools were hardly accessible and books even less so, yet by his own determination and exertions he not only became an excellent draughtsman and engineer, but later studied other subjects with equal success.

In 1840 he got work on the Manchester and Bolton Railway working on the line as a fitter on the permanent way, from that he went on to locomotive firing and driving. In 1843 the Manchester and Bolton Railway entered into an agreement with the Lancaster and Preston Railway to work their trains for so much a mile. The company sent Jim and two other drivers with three firemen to carry out the agreement. On the 1st of June 1846 (the day after he left the Manchester and Bolton Railway) he opened the Blackburn and Preston line, taking the entire charge of engines and men in addition to driving his own train. When the loop through Great Harwood and Padiham from Blackburn was opened in October 1877, Jim had the honour of driving the first train, continuing to work on this line until the sad accident at Blackburn in 1881.*

One famous story told by Jim and worth preserving was about a young gentleman who frequently travelled between Todmorden and Burnley, he made friends with Jim, who often let him mount the engine “Bucephalus” and drive it. He would accelerate the train and insist that the furnace door be thrown open in order that the currant of air might send the fire roaring and the sparks flying like some legendary magic horse. The amateur engine driver was the artist and poet Philip Gilbert Hammerton, who so enjoyed the experience that he wrote a poem of his experiences in his book “isle of Awe”. Despite allowing the above, Jim had the good fortune to be the means of saving life and he himself had a number of hairbreadth escapes. Jim was known as safe, and the feelings of genuine esteem and affection his passenger and friends had for their trusted pilot and guide was aptly set to poetry, yet again, by the Burnley poet Henry Nutter, whose composition Old Jim when published received an enthusiastic reception.


We boast of British heroes brave
Our valiant sons of Mars
Are proud to see our banners wave
Above our gallant tars
Our bonny barques that plough the main
We welcome with a cheer,
But seldom sing of a railway train Or a worthy engineer.

Then let my song your hearts inspire
To trust and honour him
That good old man we all admire
They call him “railway Jim”.
He bids the stoker mind the brake
Then with his whistle clear 
He makes the sleepy pointsman quake
Old Jim the engineer.

When storms and tempests wildly rage
And lightnings rend the sky,
The lever doth his hands engage
Though thunders roll on high,
Midst danger signals green and red
In fogs or darkness drear,
There’s one with caution looks ahead
Tis Jim the engineer.

When special trains the line invade
Down Portsmouth lovely dale,
Or shunted goods the rails blockade
Or summer trips prevail, 
With watchful eye he scans the road
When perils dire appear
He ne’er forgets his precious load,
Old Jim the engineer.

 On pastures green the lowing herds
Lie fearless on the grass
Among the woods the little birds
Are chanting as we pass
Home’s sweet sequestered glades rejoice
The hills both far and near
Re-echo loud thy engines voice
Old Jim the engineer.

In winters cold or summer’s heat
I sit at ease with thee
MAZEPPA’S throbbing voice is sweet
‘Tis always dear to me
I’ve not the slightest dread, indeed
With thee I’ve to fear 
Then welcome to thy puffing steed
Old Jim the engineer.

Mazeppa Ct.jpg

After the accident at Blackburn station Old Jim retired and spent the
next six years living in Burnle​y till his death in 1887.


Accident CT.jpg
The Scene of the accident with Blackburn infirmary (inset) where casualties were treated.
(Picture from London Evening News)

A disastrous accident happened on Monday afternoon on August 8th 1881 at Blackburn station.
The train from Liverpool to Todmorden had arrived at 3 o-clock, the last carriage off that train was about to be shunted and attached to, “Vesuvius”, the Manchester to Scotland train, the Manchester train suddenly ran at some speed and collided with the shunting engine, both of which became interlocked and the carriages of the Liverpool train were telescoped into one another. Old Jim was the driver of the shunting engine, he jumped clear when he saw the train approaching but he was struck by a flying piece of buffer, sustaining a compound fracture of his right leg and was in the infirmary for two months. Unfortunately seven people died and twenty people were injured. As a result of this accident the station was deemed to be too small to handle the increase in traffic and was extended and remodelled between 1886 and 1888. One of the passengers who died was Charles C. L. Tiplady who was the second son of the Blackburn Diarist Charles Tiplady. 

At the inquest into the accident the jury decided that the cause was the loose working of the signals and the excessive speed at which the train was being driven into the station, and that there ought to be more protection to the station than the present system of signalling. They did not attach any blame to any person and the verdict was “Accidental Death.


From “The Bolton, Blackburn, Clitheroe & West Yorkshire Railway” by W.D. Tattersall.
Pictures from the above and reports from London Evening News and The Blackburn Standard.
Researched and written by Jeffrey Booth (Library Volunteer.)

The Blackburn to Chorley Railwa​y (via Feniscowles)​

001 Map of Railway.jpg
In 1863 a Railway Company calling itself the Lancashire Union Railway was formed due to the needs of Colliery owners in the Wigan area wanting to transport coal to the developing cotton mills of East Lancashire in the towns of Blackburn, Accrington and beyond. Back in 1860 the only route was a 21 mile journey via Euxton, Preston and on to Blackburn.  A direct line was shorter just 7 and a half mile, building a line with a more 
direct route would reduce coal prices for mill owners and households alike. It was thought that the line would reduce the price of coal by a shilling (5p) a ton, saving the mills of Blackburn £20,000 a year. The LUR had the strong support of another railway company-The London North Western. The LNWR saw a way into the strongholds of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR), if they helped the LUR. However, the LYR saw it as a threat to its East Lancashire stronghold and put forward plans for its own line.  A long struggle followed whilst evidence by all interested parties was put before a House of Commons Committee. It was eventually decided that the LYR plan should be built jointly by the LYR and the LUR.  On the 6th of December1866 work began, but it was delayed by further negotiations.  Apart from the need to move coal the owners saw that there were several industries along the line that would want sidings running to them. Sidings were built for Withnell Brickworks, Withnell Mill, Abbey Village Cotton Mill, Brinscall Printworks, Heapey Bleach works and during the war a siding was built for the R.O.F. at Heapey. During the 60’s old Steam Engines were stored in the sidings waiting to be scrapped at Horwich Works. Although it was built mainly for goods transportation, between Cherry Tree and Chorley four stations were erected at Feniscowles, Brinscall, Withnell and Heapey at a cost of £ 10,000.The station at Withnell was closer to Abbey Village than its name implies.
All the stations were of the same design, except Brinscall which was a single storey building. The line opened for passengers on the 1st of December 1869. The railway cost over £ 500,000 to build which was very costly for such a short railway in Victorian Times, and it was well over budget due mainly to difficulties crossing the River Roddlesworth north of Abbey Village. 

002 Botany Railway Viaduct.jpg
​There was also a 9 arch viaduct at Botany Bay crossing the Leeds - Liverpool Canal and one three arch bridge (over the A.674 at Blackburn, which is still there today).
The Botany Bay viaduct was demolished on the 10th of November 1968 by means of explosive and watched by 2,000 onlookers, to make way for the M.61 Motorway.

003 Butress of Bridge Feniscowles.jpg  004 Butress of Bridge Feniscowles.jpg
The bridge at Feniscowles Station was demolished on 23rd/24th October 1975 but the bridge buttresses over the Leeds Liverpool canal are still there.

005 Bridge at Feniscowles.jpg
The line began just past Cherry Tree Station; there is still an old bridge just behind Livesey Hall. 

006 Three Arches Feniscowles.jpg
The three arc​hed bridge Over the A.6062 on Livesey Branch Road can clearly be seen.

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Wit​hnell old station seen from Road Bridge. ​The line carries on where the M65 is now, towards Withnell Station. 
The Station is now a private house.

008 Heapy Station.jpg
Heapey station is now a cattery and private residence.

The line between Withnell and Brinscall now forms the Railway Park and can still be walked.  Just before Brinscall was the siding for Withnell Brick Works and a siding for Abbey Village Cotton Mill. There is still a bridge at Brinscall that can be seen today and the cutting of the railway as it goes towards Heapey. Before Heapey the line passes the former R.O.F. site where there was a siding, and also one which intersected two of the Heapey reservoirs before serving Heapey Bleach Works.  Half of the bridge carrying the line over Higher House Lane to the works is still in situ and just before Heapey there is a siding for Brinscall Calico print works.   

The line continued under a bridge near Tithe Barn Lane towards the Blackburn-Chorley road, (again under an existing bridge) towards the Viaduct at Botany Bay, which carried the line over the Leeds Liverpool Canal towards Chorley. The line entered Chorley over bridges at Eaves Lane, Stump Lane and Brunswick Street to where Friday Street car park was and entered Chorley Stati. 
The line died slowly, Doctor Beeching was making his plans and on 4th January 1960 the line was closed to passengers. Goods trains continued to use the line for the next six years, but when the line was made single track the traffic dwindled. Finally on 3rd January 1966 the line was closed to through traffic but a small section remained between Cherry Tree and Feniscowles for wood pulp for the Star and Sun Paper Mills until 1968 and at the Chorley end a section remained as a long siding as late as 1982.
 My Father Frederick Booth was the Station Master from 1958 till 1968 when the station closed for good. I can remember when I was about fifteen my father gave me my one and only driving lesson in an old Austin van in the Goods Yard at Feniscowles, he wasn’t very patient with me, (never teach your relative to learn to drive!) There was a station house with the job at Feniscowles, but unfortunately it only had an outside toilet and we had just moved into a brand new house with an inside and outside toilet on the Higher Croft Estate, so my father turned it down. The Station house was then offered to the Signalman at Feniscowles, Alec Radnedge and his family lived in it until the 1970’s. My dad was Station Master at Mill Hill, Cherry Tree and Pleasington after Feniscowles closed, but they were phasing out Station Master’s so he left the railway and he became a Pub Landlord.

Some information was taken from an article by Steve Williams in the Chorley Guardian June 2007.

All photographs copyright Jeffrey Booth.

Researched and written by Jeffrey Booth. (library volunteer)​