Railways of Stoke-on-Trent - Potteries Loop Line


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Index page for the Loop Line

  Introduction | Etruria to Hanley | Cobridge to Burslem | Tunstall
Pits Hill to Goldenhill | Kidsgrove

Potteries Loop Line - introduction

next: Kidsgrove
previous: Route of the Loop Line
[contents: introduction to loop line]

Demise of the Loop Line
1850 to 1976

From the 1920s the line began to fall victim to road competition, and by 1961 there were just five passenger trains daily from Stoke-on-Trent to Hanley and Tunstall, and none at all outside the peak hours. In addition, most of the goods traffic had been transferred to road as the 1950s dawned.

The Market Street Halt station at Kidsgrove was the first casualty - it closed in September 1950. In 1959 the Newfields Branch closed and the closure of the Sneyd and Hanley Deep Pit collieries in 1962 reduced the amount of freight trains on the line.  


Hanley station slowly rots away summer 1975
Hanley station slowly rots away summer 1975

photo: Loose_Grip_99/Peter Hackney


The loop line was in terminal decline and the 'Beeching Axe' signalled the final blow for passenger services, and services were withdrawn on 2 March 1964.

Freight workings continued for some years afterwards. In 1967 trains were frequently diverted onto the Loop Line between Longport and Kidsgrove via the Pinnox branch during the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, the upgrading of which involved construction of a new line avoiding Harecastle tunnel.

At the northern end the 'Third Line' remained busy with the Birchenwood traffic, but apart from the diversions there were no booked trains between Tunstall and Kidsgrove, and this section slumbered between the occasional occupations of the main line for engineering purposes. In 1965 the up line from Etruria to Newchapel & Goldenhill was taken out of use, and the down track became a single line.

Despite the electrification works on the main line still not being complete, the Loop Line was closed between Waterloo Road and Kidsgrove on and from 3 January 1966, Cobridge and Tunstall goods yards closing at the same time.

The remaining traffic at the southern end, to Walkers oil refinery at Waterloo Road had stopped and the section of the Loop between Etruria Junction and York Street Wharf Waterloo Road, was taken out of use on and from 31 July 1969.

Lifting the track:
The loop line track was allowed to fall into disrepair, and track lifting started early in 1967 starting from Waterloo Road. The section between Etruria and Waterloo Road remained in use, as did the 'Third Line' at Kidsgrove, but Hanley goods yard had closed on 1 August 1966, and by May 1968 the former up line between Etruria and Waterloo Road had been lifted.
The section between Newchapel & Goldenhill and Kidsgrove was left, pending some possible opencast coal workings in the Goldenhill area. Otherwise, by May 1968 all the track had been lifted.

at Twelve Row, Kidsgrove sleepers form the house boundary
at Twelve Row, Kidsgrove sleepers form the house boundary

Park Farm opencast mine:
The Park Farm opencast coal workings, as they came to be known, commenced on the site of Newchapel & Goldenhill station in 1970, and a large rail loading bunker was erected just north of the former station site. The loading facility was located midway between the Birchenwood plant and the former 'Newchapel and Goldenhill' station.

The section of the Loop from Kidsgrove to this site was brought into use again, and run-round facilities were installed at the bunker site.

Park Farm Opencast loading point

photo: Renown

Traffic ceased in 1976 with the exhausting of the coal reserves at Park Farm. In the meantime the Birchenwood coking and chemical plant closed, early in 1973, and the last rail traffic, consisting of formerly stockpiled coke, left the site in July 1973. Thereafter, the best sections of the Loop Line and 'Third Line' were slewed together, to provide the best track for the heavy Park Farm opencast coal traffic. This final northern section of the Loop was 'officially' taken out of use from 25 August 1976, some eight months after the coal traffic actually ceased, and it was very soon lifted.

The building of the loop line was in fits and starts and the demise was the same, from the first station closure in 1950 to the last train in 1976. 


Bennett's last journey:

"So has passed a section of line which provided for so many years the main local transport artery for the 'Five Towns' folk, and as such famous in literature as well as fact, through his writings, as we have already seen, of Arnold Bennett. So famous indeed, that the 'Loop Line', in capital letters, was universally familiar to all as the North Staffordshire line. It would seem very appropriate therefore, for the Pottery son, who so immortalised his home towns, and who was buried in the family grave at the mother town of Burslem, that his ashes, following cremation in London, were brought in 1931, by train from Euston to Stoke, and finally by Loop Line train from Stoke to Burslem using the very trains that had formed the transport background to his classic 'Five Towns' stories."

"The Potteries Loop Line" - A.C. Baker


What became of the loop line?

Much of the section between Etruria and Hanley has been swallowed up in road improvements. The cutting in the vicinity of the Hanley station site has been filled in, as has that on the approach to Cobridge tunnel, along with the tunnel itself. The line onwards to Newchapel & Goldenhill was obliterated by the opencast coal workings.

view of the site of the  disused Tunstall  Railway Station now converted into a Greenway.
view of the site of the  disused Tunstall  Railway Station 
now converted into a Greenway.

photos: c.1992  (John Reilly) 


The area around Burslem station has been landscaped, and a pathway has been created along the Kidsgrove - Birchenfield route. There is a greenway from Tunstall to Scotia Valley and Burslem to Cobridge. 

A set of locomotive driving wheels set in a concrete bed mark the opening of the Pitts Hill section dating from 1972, and a smoke-box and chimney off Scotia Road do a similar duty for the Burslem section which first opened in 1973.

next: Kidsgrove
previous: Route of the Loop Line
[contents: introduction to loop line]