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Etruria on the Potteries Loop Line

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the Loop Line


Historian Fred Hughes writes....   

The route of the Loop Line from Kidsgrove to Cobridge has been attractively preserved as greenways except for the stretch from Hanley to Etruria where many developments have completely removed or obscured it.

“The original line that ran between Hanley and Shelton was opened exclusively for freight in 1861,” says Potteries historian Steve Birks. “It was adapted for passenger transport three-years later when it terminated at a station near to Clough Street car park having passed through a desolate area known as Tinkersclough. After negotiating this frightful landscape it went behind the Rose and Crown pub before crossing into Shelton Bar.”

The loop line towards Hanley - from the bridge over Etruria Road - 1947
photo: The Warrillow Collection - Keele University Collection

to the right a mound of slag from the Shelton works deposited at Tinkersclough
The Rose and Crown pub is just off the picture to the left and
on the skyline is Hanley


Former Etruria signalman Brian Collis agrees to be my guide through this much-changed setting from Hanley Station.

“The first thing noticeable is the remains of the old railway retaining wall,” says Brian as we begin behind Clough Street car park. “It seems to have been overlooked in the ongoing changes since the 1980’s. All you can see now is the typical blue-brick barrier and the rail edge showing how close the trains came to the town.”

Behind the car park a narrow footpath runs along the south side of Etruria Road through the backs of an industrial estate for about 800 yards when it suddenly ends behind the Rose and Crown in Sandon Street.

“And that’s it,” exclaims Brian. “That’s all that’s left of the Loop Line. We know it goes behind Forge Lane but there’s nothing to be seen there except the sheds of a business park.”

Across the tumult of road traffic by the edge of the mainline railway, a keen-eyed observer can just about distinguish the sweep of the Loop Line where it once left Etruria Station which, Steve informs me, opened at a cost of nearly £2,000 in 1874 to both mainline and Loop Line services.

“It was of great benefit to both the city and Newcastle. And like many others I have lamented its total closure and complete demolition earlier this year,” he deliberates. “What a waste!”

Etruria Station had island platforms; features that Brian knew well.

“I was born within earshot of the railway at Garner Street in 1944,” he says. “In 1959 I became an apprentice porter following a medical to make sure I wasn’t colour-blind. I was also measured for my uniform which was pretty special to me. I loved wearing my uniform with its bright silver buttons on the jacket and waistcoat topped-off with my peaked cap. I felt I like a giant – a film star when girls were around. I look back even now and wish I’d stuck to it. But my mates were on piecework in the potbanks so I joined them after two years.”

Brian and I stand on the bridge looking into the empty void where Etruria Station once proudly stood.

“The platforms were between the two mainlines,” he recalls. “The station reached partway under the road bridge where there was a coal bunker that serviced a number of stove-pot fires. The signal box stood directly below the Etruria road bridge. Now it’s all gone, except for an electric service box on the north side where dozens of train spotters once gathered at weekends. Nearby were the lamplighter’s shed and the stationmaster’s house. This is where the Loop Line began through the shunting boxes and Grange sidings. The stationmaster was a smart military man with an immaculate uniform covered in gold braid. Under him was a foreman named Harry Bourne and two experienced men Billy Biddulph and Reg Hickton. The head signalman was Tommy Dix. I had to call them all ‘mister’ until I passed my 16th birthday – then I was permitted to call them by their first names.”


bricked up entrance to the Etruria platform steps


I reckon the signal box must have been an exciting place for a young man to work.

“Control was made by a series of electric bells,” Brian continues. “An express train was called a ‘four-beat’ which meant four rings would come to you from the box before yours. ‘Four-beats’ was always the London train which you couldn’t stop unless an emergency occurred. Once I was with the signalman who considered me sufficiently proficient to let me work the box as the London train came through. This was the Comet that always arrived around noon. After it passed through Etruria this day, I was too anxious in putting the Etruria signal back down and the fireman on the London train was looking back thinking his driver had missed the ‘stop’ signal. For safety’s sake they stopped the train before we explained what had happened. But the fireman had to report the reason why the Comet had been brought to a halt. My signalman took full responsibility and was cautioned. But that’s how serious these things were taken. You don’t stop a train filled with passengers travelling at 90 miles an hour for nothing. But the Loop Line, ah the Loop Line! It had a character of its own. It was all so personal.”

Etruria was the beginning and the end of the Loop Line. Its loss to Stoke-on-Trent is immeasurable.



more on Tinkersclough, Shelton & Etruria on the loop line

05 Jan 2009

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previous: Hanley on
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