Details of the line between Chorley and Cherry Tree
The LNWR saw a way into the stronghold of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (LYR) if they helped the LUR. However, the LYR saw it as a the threat to its East Lancs stronghold and put forward plans for its own line between Chorley and Blackburn. 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 LUR and the LYR; that of a railway branching off the Bolton - Preston Line at Chorley and joining the Preston - Blackburn line just west of Cherry Tree. On 6/12/1866 work began on the Chorley - Cherry Tree line, and after inspections it opened on 1/12/1869
Building the line
Work began on 6th December 1866, but it was delayed by further negotiations. The total length of the line from Cherry Tree junction to Chorley was 7 miles 60 chains (a chain being 22yds or 66ft). It cost over £500,000 which was very costly for a railway of 7.25 miles in Victorian times. It was over budget, due mainly to difficulties crossing the River Roddlesworth and its valley which is north of Abbey Village, and several other smaller streams near by. There was also the large 9 arch viaduct crossing the Leeds - Liverpool Canal (Lancaster Canal as it was known then). One other large expensive construction was the Three Arch Bridge (over the A674) and embankment to it that connected the line to the Preston - Blackburn Line near Cherry Tree.The owners, however, saw potential for the line. Apart from the need to move coal, there were several industries along the line that would want sidings running to them. Sidings, and in fact small branch lines were built into them as was the case at Heapey Bleach Works and Abbey Village Mill. Although it was built for goods transportation, between the existing stations at Chorley and Cherry Tree, four stations were erected at Heapey, Brinscall, Withnell and Feniscowles at a cost of approximately £6000 in total. All these stations had goods/freight facilities. All except Brinscall, were of the same design. Brinscall, unlike the other stations was a one storey building.
Chorley to Heapey - 2.3 miles
Although there were through services from Blackburn to Wigan there was also a local Chorley - Blackburn service. These trains left Chorley from a bay platform to the left of the present day Preston bound platform. Leaving the bay, trains would pass to the left of a watering tower, cross over Brunswick Street bridge and the Preston Bolton lines at Chorley No4 signal box, then head onto the Blackburn line. The height here is 294 feet. After passing an engine shed the train went under Stump Lane Bridge 40 yards to the east of the Preston Bolton line. From here it was more or less uphill all the way to Brinscall. The Blackburn line crossed Harpers Lane over a bridge (320ft) and was already 40 feet higher than the Preston line. Half a mile further on from Harpers Lane the line crossed a 9 arch stone viaduct that spanned the valley and the Leeds - Liverpool canal before reaching the Chorley Blackburn main road (A674) at a height of approx 380 feet. The viaduct was 300 feet long, 48 ft high and each arch was 33 feet wide. It stood for 100 yrs, before being blown up in 1968 to make way for the M61 motorway. There was a short embankment until the line entered a cutting and went under a bridge below the A674. From here the line continued turning to the right as it left the cutting and crossed another embankment. Now heading due east it entered another cutting 50 yards north of Phillipson’s Farm going under the bridge on Tithebarn Lane, Heapey. The line began to turn to the left and in 400 yards after passing the branch siding on the right leading to Heapey Bleach and Dye Works, it entered Heapey Station (455 ft)
Leaving Heapey Station the line immediately went below Coppice Lane and started to turn northeast and as it left the cutting a branch line went off to the left and entered the ROF Heapey. Between that and the mainline were several siding for ROF use. Just under a mile after leaving Heapey there was a branch off to the right (from the north) into Brinscall Hall Printworks. Even today the gateposts guarding the entrance to the sidings survive, though the gate is long gone. After passing these gateposts, the line leaves the cutting and starts to cross an embankment that lead to Brinscall Station. The trackbed here has been built on and several dwellings occupy the original route. Nearing Brinscall Station the line crossed a bridge over School Lane and then entered the station. This was the highest point of the ine at 543 feet. Much of the climb from Chorley being at 1 in 60.
Brinscall to Withnell (1.2 miles)
It was 1 in 60 up to Brinscal and in was 1 in 60 down to Cherry Tree. Next was Withnell Station (518 feet), though really it should have been named Abbey Village as that is where it was (and still is today). In the 1.2 miles between stations there is quite a lot of detail. Only a quarter of a mile after leaving Brinscall a line branched off to the right and went to Withnell Mill. Also from this a further line turned 90 degrees and crossed above Railway Road, Withnell and headed to Brinscall Quarry. Remnants of the bridge supports can still be found on the hillside on the eastern side of the road. Passing this offshoot the only tunnel on the line is reached half a mile after leaving Brinscall,
Withnell to Feniscowles (1.6 miles)
Leaving Withnell Station the line is now in open countryside and descending quickly in a NNE direction. This section was a major problem for the builders. Several streams and rivers in deep valleys had to be crossed and this did cause delays. There was a small viaduct crossing the R Roddlesworth but like the viaduct at Chorley, this too, was demolished after the line closed. A half mile after leaving Withnell Station a siding ran off to the left and entered Withnell Brickworks.From there, and after encountering embankments and cuttings the line entered Fenicowles Station (394 feet) which is just off Livesey Branch Road. This station has been demolished and a property built on the track bed. The bridge crossing Livesey Branch has also been demolished.
Feniscowles to Cherry Tree (1.17 miles)
This section also had no industrial sidings. Firstly it crossed the Leeds Liverpool Canal then the A674 road by a tall three arched bridge which is still there today. After crossing Three Arch Bridge the line swings to the right across a tall embankment and joins the Preston Blackburn line three quarters of a mile after leaving Feniscowles Station. Cherry Tree Station (353 feet) is soon reached. The section between Feniscowles Station and the canal has all been built on and the bridge crossing the canal has gone too, though it is possible to see the northern support wall by the canal, complete with drainpipe.
The Cherry Tree and Chorley Line as it was labelled on the first edition 1:2500 maps died slowly. On 4th January 1960 the line was closed to passengers. Goods (freight) continued to use it though - passing through the silent and ghostly stations. So for the next six years goods trains still continued to use the line though with less frequency each year. Finally on 3rd January 1966, the line closed to through traffic. A small section remained between Cherry Tree and Feniscowles until1968 and at the Chorley end a section remained as a long siding as late as 1982.
Without the help of the following people I would have not been able to create these pages. So I wish to offer my sincere thanks to:-Mr RM Casserley, Lindsey Blackstock (CBC), Adrian Bradshaw, FW Shuttleworth, LCC, Countryside Books, John and Tom Morris, Samuels Chorley website, Boyd Harris, David Clayton and Carnegie Books, Steve Williams, A Radnedge, M Radnedge, Martin Botts, Blandford 1969 (flickr), Tony Gillett, Brian Hilton, AG Ellis and Sneaky from 28dayslater.co.uk
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 reduce the price of coal in the East Lancashire towns of Blackburn, Accrington and beyond. 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 a ton, saving the mills of Blackburn £20,000 a year. The LUR had the strong support of another railway company - The LNWR
where the line ran below Bury Lane, Withnell - not a long tunnel by railway standards at 106 feet. A quarter of a mile further on and a spur ran off to the right to Abbey Village Mill. After 1 mile the line passed below a tall three arched bridge carrying a farm road across the railway, before reaching Withnell (Abbey Village) Station. The section from Brinscall to Withnell is now a nature reserve and the whole length can be walked. The whole section from the tunnel to Withnell Station is in a cutting.