Friday 6 January 2012


Well, apologies if the title of this entry caught your eye and you're taking a look to see if it's anyone you might know. These are the buffers in question, lying discarded by the side of the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line near King Street. Work was going on on the line to create a long 'passing loop' stretching all the way from the Holmes Chapel Road (or 'Station') Bridge to the King Street Bridge, where that road moves from one side of the line to the other. Previously, trains had crossed over onto the single line to Northwich just a few yards from the station, and the second line was merely a long siding (a 'headshunt' in railway terms) which enabled trains to gain access to the station goods yards and also get out of the way if a following train needed to overtake them for any reason by drawing forward along this siding. A very time consuming and cumbersome way of working, of course, as the trains in question would then have to reverse in order to reach the crossover onto the Northwich line.
The simple, and obvious, solution once the station yard had closed was to take out the crossover near the station and create one at the end of the long siding, which necessitated the removal of these buffers, which had been in situ for many years.
Oddly, this wasn't done as part of any resignalling scheme (resignalling with colour lights only happened five years later, in 1980), and meant that the old mechanical signalling system had to be modified, because the end of the loop was quite a distance away from the signal box, out of sight of the signalman. 
The viaduct taking the line over the River Dane can be seen on the extreme right and the sign with a white 'T' on a black background signifies the end of a temporary speed restriction, in place while the work went on.

The two photographs above were taken at the same time and show the old track panels which were replaced to form the new 'Middlewich Loop'.
At this stage the points connecting the loop to the Northwich line had yet to be installed.
Remarkably, the two photographs above were replicated thirty-three years later when Robert Avery photographed the Cheshire Gardens Express in 2008

This was the first steam train to travel over the Middlewich line for forty years. The Middlewich Rail Link Campaign's parent organisation, the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association, hoped to run steam trains via this route again this year (2012) but, at the time of publication, it appears doubtful that this will happen. However, given the popularity of the line for rail tours, there's always the possibility that one of the other rail tour companies may stage another steam comeback on the line before too long.
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