A Brief History of the Cheshire Lines Committee
The company was formed in 1862 by the amalgamation of four lines:
- The Stockport & Woodley Junction Railway
- The West Cheshire Railway
- The Cheshire Midland Railway
- The Stockport, Timperley & Altrincham Junction Railway
Various negotiations took place, master minded by Edward Watkin, which eventually resulted in the creation of a joint company with third shares between the Great Northern Railway (GNR), the Midland Railway (MR), and the Manchester Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR). Included in the act which established the company was the absorption of the Liverpool & Garston Railway and authorisation for building a main line between Manchester and Liverpool. Despite huge opposition from the London and North Western Railway, the bill was passed.
Further lines were built around Liverpool and between Liverpool and Southport. Imposing termini were built at Manchester and Liverpool. Manchester Central had two stories, the lower story being a goods station with wagon access via a hoist. A much less imposing terminus was built at Chester Northgate.
It should be mentioned that an important series of lines and junctions around the south of Manchester and Stockport provided valuable access with other railways. To the east of Stockport, the MS&LR / GCR gained access to the CLC at Godley Junction. Between Manchester and Stockport there were other links to the GCR, LNWR and the MR. To the west of Stockport, there was not only a route to Altrincham and thence on to the mid-Cheshire line but also a direct line from Altrincham to Glazebrook on the Manchester - Liverpool main line. Thus trains could operate from outside the confines of the CLC directly to Liverpool and mid-Cheshire, avoiding Manchester.
In west Cheshire there was access to North Wales and the Wirral.
The line remained very much independent after the grouping, continuing its operations almost unchanged until the end of 1947.
After nationalisation, the lines became part of the London Midland Region of British Railways and in due course the old GCR locomotives were moved away or disposed of and typical LMS, and to a lesser extent, BR types took over the workings until dieselisation.
There was significant passenger traffic, especially around and between Liverpool and Manchester. The "flagship" service was the hourly expresses between these two cities which quickly gained a good reputation and by 1900 carried as many passengers as the combined total of the competing, and long established, LNWR & LYR services. Through trains from the parent companies ran to Manchester Central including from the London termini of St Pancras, Kings Cross and Marylebone, some of which continued to Liverpool.
The second major route which the CLC operated was between Manchester and Chester. Although the service on this route was not quite as brisk as the Manchester Liverpool service, there were ten trains each way in 1913, the fastest covering the forty miles in just under the hour.
Notable specials included to Aintree for the Grand National. In LNER days a Pacific hauled Pullman would run from Kings Cross for the event. There were also football specials to Trafford Park.
Goods traffic was huge; principally generated from the docks and industry in and around Manchester and Liverpool but also from the salt and other chemical works centred on Northwich, Cheshire. There were a number of branch lines serving one or more of the salt works and/or chemical works these were known as the Salt branches. All these works required vast quantities of coal which the CLC was able to ship from the Lancashire, North Staffordshire and North Wales coalfields.
The MS&LR / GCR utilised the CLC to service the docks at Birkenhead and steelworks near Wrexham (on the former Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway).
Today, the well known limestone workings from the Peak District to Brunner Mond, Northwich still continue. The CLC line between Manchester and Liverpool is still the quickest route between the cities but utilising Piccadilly and Lime Street stations, respectively. The other mainline to Chester still mostly exists but the Northgate station closed in 1969 and trains now run into what used to be called Chester General from Manchester Piccadilly. The trackbed from Central to Altrincham is now used by the Manchester Metrolink trams but this section of line mostly belonged to the Manchester, South Junction & Altrincham Railway (MSJ&AR) over which the CLC had running powers. (The MSJ&AR being a joint line belonging to the LNWR and the MS&LR.) Chester bound trains from Piccadilly now have to go via Stockport and thence to Navigation Road (Altrincham) to re-gain the original route adding a significant distance to the journey.
Thank you to Richard Barron for the above information.