Search for the Old Roads of
Historian Fred Hughes writes....
“Forty-odd years ago Hanley was undeniably the city centre,” declares Potteries historian Steve Birks. “And I reckon you can add without much argument that it was the Loop Line that made Hanley into the city centre. You could get to Hanley Station from anywhere in Britain ending up on the doorstep of the luxurious Grand Hotel. From here a visitor could shop at several major department stores, or get drunk in one of a dozen pubs. Or go to the theatre or visit a clutch of cinemas; all within stepping distance of the station.”
The Loop from the north emerged out of a 300-yard long tunnel at Cobridge.
“This section to Hanley Station was a thousand yards long, not as the crow flies, but as the snake twists and winds. It was on this stretch that little Waterloo Road station was opened in 1900. It was the last Loop Line station to be built and the first to close,” says Steve.
Arnold Bennett has The Old Wives’ Tale sisters riding the Loop Line with Sophia and Constance Baines noting the new buildings and the remembered landmarks.
“It was surprising how little the district has altered,” said Sophia, as
the train puffed under Trafalgar Road. She pointed to a new station that
was being built to be called Trafalgar Road station. “Won't it be
strange?” she said of the new Loop Line halt, “A Trafalgar Road inserting
itself between Bleakridge and Hanbridge.”
Chris agrees to guide me along what’s left of the stretch between Waterloo Road and Hanley stations.
“The Loop Line went under another tunnel below Waterloo Road at Granville Crossings,” says Chris. “Nearby was a wrought-iron foundry called Howlett’s, a family firm that owned many York Street houses, one of which we rented. Alongside were a GPO depot and a former bus garage. The line twisted and turned snaking all the way into Hanley Station. In fact there wasn’t a straight stretch between the two stations except when it crossed over the bridge at Century Street.”
It’s possible still to see the buttresses that supported this 46-foot long bridge, the longest on the entire length of the Loop Line.
“My first train journey was from Hanley Station to Blackpool with the Workingmen’s Club annual outing,” recalls Chris. “I was about six when this trip took place yet I can remember it as if it was yesterday. I recall there were two tank engines pulling the train because it was impossible to get anything bigger than what’s known as a ‘black 5’ engine around the tight curves. The tank engines pulled the carriages to Etruria where they connected to a bigger engine that ran to Blackpool. Hanley station was so constricted that check-rails were installed because anything bigger than a 57-foot carriage would scrape the edges of the platform.”
Standing on the car park of the Quality Hotel it is impossible to imagine there was once a busy station here.
“It took a while to clear the site,” says Chris. “After the station closed the goods buildings were used as workshops and storage. One part of it even became a nightclub called Zambezi. Ultimately later owners of the Grand Hotel filled-in the station and built the car park over it. But you can still see the half-buried blue-brick arches that were on the far side of the station. Twenty-five feet beneath this is the Loop Line northbound platform. And where the bricks have been removed you can still see part of the struts that supported the station canopy.”
It’s amazing that these canopy struts and the tops of the arches have remained as accidental fragments of railway history. The parapet of the bridge that passed under Trinity Street is also there as is the retaining wall on the other side where the first Hanley Station was built before the Loop. From here the curve swings south beside Clough Street car park and on through Tinkersclough to Etruria.
29 Dec 2008
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