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Historian Fred Hughes writes....
“I wonder whether it’s still possible to travel along the Potteries Loop Line,” I say to historian Steve Birks. “Well not by train it isn’t,” he responds. “And certainly not by steam train; Doctor Beeching put a stop to that in 1964. However I think we could do it except for the bridges and tunnels that have been knocked down and blocked up. It’s worth a go just to see how much the Potteries have changed.”
“Industry was the spirit of the Loop Line,” Steve comments. “And it was a quick way to get from one end of the city to the other. And just think; your journey from Derby to Burslem was achieved without any stops for traffic or dawdling bus routes through town centres. All you had to do was keep your eyes shut to avoid the grim views and prevent flying grit from getting into them.”
The Loop Line was certainly an benefit to travel, over the years providing a service to millions of passengers embarking on shopping excursions, not just to Hanley but to Manchester and Birmingham. It was a boon for business; a conduit for commuters and for kids going to school.
“For a hundred years it was a backbone of Potteries travel,” Steve continues. “What’s more you could actually begin a journey at Burslem to the Orient by train; amazing!”
Continuing north from Burslem the Loop Line followed Scotia Road over a viaduct into a seemingly impossible sharp 1 in 90 climb to Tunstall Station; then through the steep Victoria Park cutting to Pittshill Station and uphill again to Newchapel and Goldenhill. This was the best part, travelling beneath clear skies across the fileds of Turnhurst and Newchapel. After this the line swept west into a steep descent for a mile through more high embankments shielding the sight of the ugly Birchenwood Gas and Coke works. A short, but imposing tunnel took the trains into Kidgsrove Halt, the last Loop Line station behind Market Street after an astonishing rollercoaster switchback ride through some 10 miles of the worst scenery in the world.
It’s true you never miss something until you want to use it again. And that happened a generation after the Loop Line closed. The advance of tramcars then buses, and the motor car ultimately did for Britain’s urban railways in the 1960’s. Many people wish the line had never closed, but there wasn’t a lot of resistance back when Beeching’s axe fell. Happily these days the path of the Loop Line is still accessible for much of it has been made into urban walkways.
“Come on,” I urge Steve, “Let’s walk along the route and get all nostalgic.”
And that’s what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks starting at Kidsgrove where the first customer to jump on board with us is Kidsgrove County Councillor Margaret Astle.
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