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. The LUR had the strong support of another railway company - The LNWR.
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
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 last large expensive construction was the Three Arch Bridge (over the A674) and embankment that connected the line near Cherry Tree to the Preston - Blackburn Line. 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 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 buildingThe line opened for passengers on 1st December 1869
Chorley to Heapey - 2.3 milesAlthough 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)
The Chorley - Blackburn Railway
Details of the line between Chorley and Cherry Tree
Heapey to Brinscall (1.6 miles)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 line 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. But next was Withnell Station (518 feet), though really it should have been named Abbey Village as that is where it was (and still is). 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 east of the road.Passing this offshoot the only tunnel on the line is reached half a mile after leaving Brinscall, when 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.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. Feniscowles 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.
23rd April 1954
Fowler class 4f No 44460 passes Blackburn East signal box as it pulls into Blackburn Station with the 5.33pm train from Colne. The engine was
built in May 1928 at Horwich and withdrawn in October 1964.
A station has stood at the location of Blackburn’s present day station since 1846 when the Blackburn - Preston Railway opened. With more lines being built, including the Chorley to Blackburn line, the original station struggled to cope with the increased demand,and between 1886 and 1888 the station underwent improvements that increased the number of platforms to accommodate the extra traffic. Four platforms were covered with ornate roofing , but by 2000 these were in need of replacement. In a £35m project the heart of the station was ripped out. The ornate roof was torn off to be replaced by a space like perspex bubble. covering a hundred yards of the
centre platforms. However, my page is only concerned with the station till 1966 when the Chorley - Blackburn line closed. Again I am indebted to Mr RM Casserley who has granted me permission to use photo’s his father, HC Casserley took in the 1950s and 1960s and which, as far as I am aware, have never been published or been put on the internet until now. The photos show just how busy Blackburn station was.
4th September 1955
Fowler Compound No 41102 stand with a returning Northern Dales Railtour at the west side of the station. See this link for details about the Railtour
Built at Derby, this engine came into service in October 1925 and was withdrawn in December 1958
Click to enlarge
23rd April 1954
A nice sunny spring day as the 12.15pm train awaits departure to Wigan. This train would have stopped at Cherry Tree, Withnell, Brinscall, Heapey and
Chorley, before continuing on to Wigan. The train is in the bay platform which is still used today (Platform 3) for trains to Bolton and Manchester. Note
the roofing and the four chimneys at the front of the station. The roof has gone - but the original frontage remains.