In the film “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” one of the characters hears an invisible train rush through an unused railway station, rattling windows and making papers blow around. In our neck of the woods there are at least two former railway stations which have been converted into desirable residences, one of them just down the road from us. Very picturesque is it too, with a wrought iron and glass canopy over the old platform and posters advertising products from the 1950s.
The other that I know of, for surely there are more, is round the corner from my daughter’s house. This is a much more utilitarian building aptly named “Station House”. You can see that it wouldn’t take much to re-convert its rooms into ticket offices and waiting rooms. I wonder if the residents hear ghostly trains running along the track next to their house.
For, like the one near our house, the line is now a bridle path; no trains have run on these tracks for a long time. However, both would probably be good commuter lines if still operational today. I suppose dear old Dr Beeching couldn’t foresee the commuter workforce living in the outer suburbs and travelling into Manchester centre every day.
Of course, back then Greater Manchester as such did not exist. Places like Oldham, Middleton, Ashton, now part of the huge built-up area which is Greater Manchester, were separate towns with open spaces between them. If you go back even further to the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, textile workers from Oldham were said to have marched over open fields to get to the meeting place in Manchester. Saddleworth, where we live, was mostly still part of Yorkshire and remained so until boundary reorganisation took place in the 1970s. There are some people who still think it is in Yorkshire and have white rose symbols on their houses as if that proves their point.
We have some old Ordinance Survey maps which still mark the old railway lines and as we needed to go the nearby Lees and as it was a beautiful sunny day on Friday we decided to explore some old tracks that we had not walked before. The line was supposed to run from Lees, to Grotton, through Lydgate and on to Greenfield where it joined the line which still runs from Manchester to Huddersfield.
We found the old Grotton Station with the platform still in existence. Apparently the station closed on 1955 although the line remained in use for goods traffic until 1964. As for the station building: well, even though I didn't see it, I understand it’s been turned into a private residence. What a surprise!
The bridle path doesn’t actually follow the old railway track after the remains of the station bit goes up onto the hillside. You can look down on the old track and see the blocked-off entrance to a tunnel which went from Grotton to Lydgate.
Even though you can’t actually walk into the tunnel and you see very little evidence of it as you walk from Grotton to Lydgate apart from the odd artificial-looking mound in the fields, the tunnel is apparently maintained to prevent subsidence.
The tunnel must have been quite a feat of engineering and goes on for quite a distance. More pictures of the tunnel and information about the railway line and our own Delph Donkey line are available through this link .
So we had quite an informative walk on Friday in the end, through the sunshine and admiring spring lambs along the way. I always thought sheep recognised their own lambs by their distinctive bleat but nowadays they have the extra security of having their numbers painted on their fleece.
The spring sunshine continues this weekend. Is this summer? I ask myself. Last year’s delightful spring weather led on to a very mediocre summer. In the meantime, though, I am taking advantage to get out and about. I’ve even managed to snap the local heron, probably waiting for us to go so that he could eat the frogspawn in the nearby pond.
Make hay while the sun shines, carpe diem and all that sort of thing