The old Cheadle to Cresswell railway (via Huntley and Totmonslow) has a long history.
First mooted as an idea in the mid-1850s, it finally got built as the ‘Cheadle Railway’ in the 1890s, and trains ran on it until the 1970s. Its trackbed, which is used by walkers, can still be seen of course.
And now its history is being told in a new exhibition at The Discovery Centre in Cheadle.
The exhibition takes in four display boards in the main room at the centre, and also includes memorabilia and old photos. The interesting thing about the centre is that it welcomes loans and contributions from local residents, so some of the photos and memorabilia have never been seen in public before!
There is one photo of the digging out of the Totmonslow stretch that we’ve never seen before, for sure.
The early history of the line was not a happy one.
Though the land around and through the Draycott colliery (then called New Haden Colliery) was fairly easily obtained, the extra land at Cresswell was harder to purchase; and had to be bought off the Vavasours, who were a leading family in Draycott then.
It was important to take the Cheadle line to Cresswell, because Cresswell Station was the link then to the main Uttoxeter-Stoke line.
Finally the line was opened in 1892, and was running five trains a day. Coal was transported, partly from the colliery at Draycott Cross; as well as passengers.
But it had all sorts of problems, made very little money, and was quickly sold to the North Staffordshire Railway Company in 1909.
(See map of the line as it was in 1921. It was later re-routed of course, in 1933, to the other side of Huntley).
But, five trains a day were maintained even after the coal dried up, carrying sand from the quarries right up until the 1970s, and the line only finally closed – even to freight – in 1978.
It is now leased to the Moorland & City Company, and is used as a footpath.
If you’re interested in the story of the line (and its colliery line, which went through the Draycott Tunnel), you can find out lots more at this exhibition.
The Discovery Centre is run by volunteers who love the history of this part of the world – and they would welcome any contributions you can make.
All artefacts loaned to them are carefully looked after, and returned at end of use; while photographs are expertly copied and returned immediately. Contact the group if you think you can help.
Indeed, at this current exhibition, someone has loaned a scale-model of the old Cheadle Railway station! Some old survey documents related to an 1860s scheme have also been loaned, and are on display in a glass-topped case.
Incidentally, don’t think it is too late to ask if you can contribute something. Though the current exhibition only runs until November 29th, it will return in February and March next year – and all the new contributions will be added to the displays then.
The Cheadle Railway Exhibition is at The Discovery Centre in Lulworth House in the High Street in Cheadle until November 29th. Free admission.
The exhibition is open to the public only on certain days: Thursday 21st & 28th, Friday 22nd & 29th, and Saturday 23rd. Hours are 10am-4pm.
Contact the group if you need more details
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The History of Draycott by Matthew Pointon has more facts and photos, as does ‘The Cheadle Railway’, a book by Alan C baker.
There are some lovely old photos on the Cheadle Rail Pathway Campaign site too
And the Cheadle Branch Line Wikipedia page is very good to read too