On a man-made shelf above the former spa town of Slaithwaite lies the one-time London & North Western Railway station. Once a humming centre of passenger services and commercial freight, it is now reduced to the bare essentials – but no less useful or valued than in its former more glorious days.
The station was opened on 1 August 1849, to coincide with the opening of the first tunnel at Standedge. This “Great Work” under the Pennines was the longest railway tunnel in the Kingdom for 40 years. It took three years to build and consumed 67 tons of candles at a cost of £3,618! The total cost was £201,608.
In 1848 the station had two platforms and modest goods facilities. By 1900 it had grown to four platforms, a large goods shed, stables for the delivery horses, a signal box, and coal drops to feed coal to the mill boiler-houses in Slaithwaite.
Stationmasters came and went: William Simpson in 1858, John Sheard in 1866 and Joseph Freeman who was there in 1881 and retired in 1901. Stationmasters commanded a good deal of respect in the local community along with the local doctor and the vicar. He was in charge of a good sized workforce of signalmen, clerks (both passengers and goods), porters (both passengers and goods), shunters and stable lads. This workforce would deliver and receive most of the goods and passengers that came in and out of the district. This activity served the Slaithwaite locality, whilst the station at Marsden was doing the same, as was the goods yard and coal drops at Linthwaite and the station at Golcar. The London & North Western Railway had a string of such establishments along the Colne Valley, although Slaithwaite was amongst the largest.
In 1923 the LNWR was amalgamated into the greater London Midland & Scottish Railway and things continued at Slaithwaite much as before, but with a gradual decline being punctuated by World War II. In 1948, LMS was subsumed into the great British Railways as the whole rail network became nationalised. Slaithwaite goods yard closed on 5 October 1964 and the station itself followed suit on
7 October 1968. The whole station, including the goods yard, was demolished, the rails were taken away for scrap and the mainline was reduced from four tracks to two.
Thirty years ago, after extensive local lobbying and campaigning by some determined local residents, the station was reopened on 13 December 1982 on the same site, but with new platforms and waiting shelters.
If you look carefully the remains of the old station can still be seen. The cobbled roadway to the goods yard still leads up from Station Road and is used by passengers going to Manchester. Further along Station Road can still be seen the entrance to the old station subway and beyond that, hidden behind the trees and a stout fence, are the remains of the coal drops.
Although the ‘new’ station is very simple, it suits the needs of local residents who value the huge benefits of being connected by rail to the regional and national network for work and leisure, and to international travel through access to ports and airports.
FOSLS would like to thank Paul Stevenson for writing this history