East Lancashire Railway

This article is about the heritage East Lancashire Railway. For the 19th-century company, see East Lancashire Railway 1844–1859.
East Lancashire Railway
60103 Flying Scotsman at Blackburn Road bridge, Ewood Bridge, heading towards Rawtenstall
Locale North West England
Terminus Rawtenstall and
Connections Network Rail (west of Heywood,via Castleton)
Manchester Metrolink (south of Bury)
Commercial operations
Name East Lancashire Railway
Built by East Lancashire Railway 1844–1859
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated by East Lancashire Railway Company
Stations 7
Length 12 miles 45 chains (20.2 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened 1846
Closed 17 March 1980
Preservation history
31 March 1986 Granted Light Railway Order (for public service)
25 July 1987 Re-opens and public service begins
27 April 1991 Extension to Rawtenstall
6 September 2003 Extension to Heywood
13 October 2016 Opened station at Burrs Country Park
Headquarters Bury Bolton Street

The East Lancashire Railway is a twelve-and-a-half-mile heritage railway line in North West England which runs between Heywood and Rawtenstall with intermediate stations at Bury Bolton Street, Burrs Country Park, Summerseat, Ramsbottom and Irwell Vale.


Passenger services between Bury and Rawtenstall were withdrawn by British Rail on 3 June 1972. Coal services to Rawtenstall ended in 1980, and formal closure followed in 1982.[1] The East Lancashire Railway Trust reopened the line on 25 July 1987.[2] The initial service operated between Bury and Ramsbottom, via Summerseat. In 1991 the service was extended northwards from Ramsbottom to reach Rawtenstall, via Irwell Vale.[3]

However, two original stations on the line, closed to passengers by BR in 1972, have not reopened. They are the former Ewood Bridge & Edenfield and the former Junction station of Stubbins. Rawtenstall is the practical northern limit of the line as the formation on towards Bacup has been lost immediately north of the station.

In September 2003, an eastbound extension from Bury to Heywood was re-opened. To reach Heywood the extension had to cross over the Manchester Metrolink line to Bury, at the site of the former Bury Knowsley Street station. This necessitated the construction of a new intersection bridge, with steeply graded approaches of 1 in 36 and 1 in 41 nicknamed The Ski Jump.

On 13 October 2016, the new Burrs Country Park station was officially opened by the Mayor of Bury, where locomotive no. 4472 Flying Scotsman pulled the first train to stop at the station with a bagpipe rendition of 'Scotland the Brave' signalling its arrival.[4]

The remainder of the extension includes a long section at 1 in 85, rising towards Heywood, as the preserved railway line climbs out of the Irwell valley.

The heritage line is now just over 12 miles (19 km) long, and has a mainline connection with the national railway network at Castleton, just beyond Heywood. The ELR is planning to extend the running line to Castleton in the future, to a new and separate platform named Castleton Village, adjacent to the main station.[5]

Options for providing an interchange station at Castleton between East Lancashire Railway and National Rail services are currently being explored. Plans for the new station are supported by Rochdale Borough Council, which hopes to fund it by adjacent land development.[6] A rail connection with the Metrolink line also exists, just south of Bury, at Buckley Wells. This was formerly the connection to the Electric Car Shops where the Class 504 EMU sets were maintained, and was created when BR services were diverted to Bury Interchange in 1980.

The railway is open every weekend of the year and holds a number of themed events and galas throughout the year which include steam and diesel events amongst others, and also offers driver experience courses. The Day out with Thomas events made a return to the railway after a two-year absence, following fresh negotiations, having previously been unable to reach an agreement with HiT Entertainment, the owners of the Thomas brand.[7] While Thomas was absent, the ELR operated Family Engines Big Day Out events featuring alternative engines with faces, such as Jimmy the Jinty.

The railway is run by volunteer members from the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society (ELRPS). The railway is well known for its collection of diesel locomotives which reside on the railway, along with over 140 carriages, wagons and utility vehicles. Although the ELR does offer a local residents' discount card, and many residents do use the trains at weekends, it does not claim to offer a true commuter service either in levels of services or fares.

In the 1990s, the railway was featured in the 1991 film Let Him Have It and in the finale of ITV's comedy series The Grimleys, named The Grimley Curse set in 1978, and then in 2007 on the finale of BBC One's award-winning drama series Life on Mars set in 1973, a class 47 was used for scenes of an armed robbery at Brooksbottom Tunnel.

The railway also featured in an episode of Coronation Street (transmitted on August Bank Holiday 2010) when Hayley and Roy Cropper travelled to their wedding aboard an ELR train of Mark 1 coaches hauled by LMS "Black 5" No. 44871 which carried 45407's Lancashire Fusilier nameplates for the occasion. The line also starred in the BBC television film Eric and Ernie, aired on New Year's Day 2011, about the early career of the British comedy act Morecambe and Wise. Bury Bolton street station was featured, along with a train of Mark 1 coaches hauled by LMS "Black 5" No. 44871. In 2014, the railway was featured in a week of episodes of Hollyoaks (broadcast 3–7 November) which featured a crash involving BR Class 14 No. D9531 "Ernest".

Railway stations of the ELR

Irwell Vale Railway station Signage

East Lancashire Railway

(Up arrow to Bacup)
Ewood Bridge and Edenfield
Irwell Vale
(Left arrow to Accrington)
Nuttall Tunnel
Brooksbottom Tunnel
Brooksbottom Viaduct
Burrs Country Park
(Left arrow to Holcombe Brook)
Bury North Tunnel
Bury Bolton Street
Bury South Junction
Buckley Wells
Bury Knowsley Street
Bury Interchange
(Down arrow Manchester Metrolink)
Roch Viaduct
Viaduct over M66 motorway
(Down arrow to Hopwood/Castleton)


The ELR is home to a mixed collection of small to large designs, some of which are main-line certified. These often visit other heritage lines, or can be found operating mainline excursions, especially during the summer season (Mar-Oct).

BR Standard Class 4 - 80080, Approaching Burrs Country Park Station (North Bound)

Steam Locomotives

Diesel Locomotives

D7076 Hymek passes under bridge 20 (Manchester Road) From Heywood
37109 and the Class 40 Preservation Society's 345 stand at Ramsbottom Station on the ELR

The ELR is home to one of the largest preserved diesel fleets on a UK heritage railway. Many locomotives are owned by private individuals or an owning group, which co-operate as the ELR Diesel Group.




  1. http://www.ramsbottommrc.org.uk/rawtenstall-station-history
  2. http://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/downloads/28/east-lancashire-railway-history.ashx
  3. "A History of the East Lancashire Railway". eastlancsrailway.org.uk/. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  4. Taylor, David (2016-10-15). "Flying Scotsman returns to Bury to open new station at Burrs Country Park". Prestwich and Whitefield Guide. Bury Times Ltd. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  5. Shannon, Laura (2007-12-07). "Back on track for connection". Rochdale Observer. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  6. Lisa Gray (12 September 2014) "Plans to link Castleton Station to the East Lancashire Railway remain on track", Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 7 December 2014
  7. "Thomas the Tank weekend derailed after legal wrangle". Bury Times. 2009-04-30. Retrieved 2009-10-28.
  8. "More seismic activity set for 2016". East Lancashire Railway. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  9. "A New Arrival at the ELR". East Lancashire Railway. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  10. "Metrolink T68 1003 leaves Manchester Metrolink". British Trams Online. 26 April 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2016.

Further reading

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Coordinates: 53°35′36″N 2°17′59″W / 53.5934°N 2.2997°W / 53.5934; -2.2997

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