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Cheshire Lines Committee

(Note: Numbers in brackets refer to specific references)

Second in terms of route miles, 143 as opposed to 186 on the Midland & Great Northern, the CLC was however by far the largest of the joint railways in terms the quantity and diversity of its traffic. Most of its lines were actually in Lancashire and it was the Manchester Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (later renamed the Great Central Railway) which, in seeking to compete with the LNWR, was the driving force behind its creation. The MSLR had leased the St Helens Canal & Railway Co line between Warrington and Garston to gain access to Liverpool docks, this line was subsequently leased and then absorbed by the LNWR. The MSLR forged an alliance with the Great Northern Railway and subsequently the Midland Railway joined the group, to purchase a number of small local railways and build new lines to join these into a cohesive system. The joint committee was formed in 1865 taking control of the existing Stockport & Woodley Junction Railway, the Cheshire Midland Railway, the Stockport Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway and the West Cheshire Railway. Each of the three large companies held a one third share in the resulting joint operation. The Cheshire Lines Transfer Act of 1865 established the company and gave it the powers to build a new line to Liverpool, eventually linking Manchester Central Station with Liverpool Central Station (where the company offices were located) with a line passing through Glazebrook and Warrington. The CLC operated into Liverpool docks, initially to Garston and Brunswick, later building a new line to the north of the city to connect with a new freight terminal at Huskisson (the Liverpool North Extension Lines). A branch was taken from Halewood to Southport and from Glazebrook they built a line to Stockport & Godley Junction on the Great Central Manchester-Sheffield line.

The hub of the CLC system was Skelton Junction where a series of sidings were provided for the lines to Buxton, Liverpool, Warrington, Altrincham and Stockport.

The line to Stockport crossed the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway on its way to Skelton Junction, whence a line fed back to the MSJ&A to connect with the CLC (ex Cheshire Midland) line from Altrincham to Chester. The short but busy MSJ&A was in fact another joint line, operated by the GCR and LNWR, it was electrified in 1931 using Oilerkon multiple unit rolling stock (which remained in use into the 1970's) and was the first passenger line in Britain to use 1500 volt DC supply via overhead wires (the NER were at the forefront of developing this technology some years earlier but they used it for freight lines).

The CLC's Chester line had a branch (closed in XXXX) to Whitegate and Winsford, to take salt and chemical traffic from the Salt Union works. This line carries the regular heavy limestone trains from the quarries of Buxton going to the chemical works in Cheshire for which the well known 'ICI' bogie hoppers were built in the 1930's.

The CLC was unusual in many ways, the stations retained the distinctive character of the original companies, as did the signal boxes on the line. The signalling was idiosyncratic, rather than use bracket signals they often employed multiple posts with a walk-way between them. The CLC's signal works at Warrington closed in 1936, over the years they had employed wood, metal lattice and concrete masts, all with the CLC finial on the top. The only engines the CLC ever owned were four Sentinel passenger steam rail-cars which operated from 1929 until about 1945. Locomotives were originally supplied exclusively by the MSLR but from the 1880's the MR and GNR began operating their locomotives on the line. In 1923 the CLC could not be easily allocated to either the LMS or the LNER and continued as the fifth largest railway company until Nationalisation in 1948. The joint board of directors during this period was made up of three from the LMS six from the LNER. After the grouping LNER locomotive types were most common but with LMS engines often in evidence, following nationalisation the proportion of LMS types increased until they were replaced by the BR standard engines.

The CLC handled a lot of freight; there were steelworks at Irlam near Manchester and on the river Dee near Chester, large chemical works were built around Northwich in central Cheshire and at Widnes on the bank of the Mersey. All of these generated traffic and received considerable quantities of Lancashire coal and broken limestone from the Peak District. The docks in Liverpool and Manchester provided plenty of traffic and the line between Liverpool and Manchester carried considerable goods traffic. At the Manchester end Britain's first and largest industrial estate at Trafford Park contained a great range of manufacturing industries. Nearby the CWS built a large soap factory served by the CLC and in 1922 an oil refinery opened at Stanlow on the south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal.

The link to North Wales via Chester would have given access to the coal and iron ore deposits there but I have no information on how much of the latter was hauled to the works in Cheshire.

In 1922 the CLC owned about four and a half thousand goods and mineral vehicles with a small number of horse boxes and carriage trucks in passenger livery. The line owned about a hundred and fifty service vehicles.

CLC passenger stock was supplied by all three operating companies at one time or another, generally to GCR designs. New carriage stock was varnished teak, older stock was overpainted with 'oak brown'. The coaches built by the MR were built using teak to maintain the consistent livery and the line received some articulated coaches from the LNER after the Grouping. The steam railmotors were originally light brown or tan above the waist, dark brown or dark tan below with black running gear.

I have not been able to confirm the livery for non passenger coaching stock, from the photographs I have seen I would suggest the 'oak brown' of the older carriages is a reasonable guess.

Goods stock was light grey, very similar to Midland Railway grey, with white lettering consisting of C and L, about 12 inches high in the usual places. The company used a serif font, very similar to the 'courier' font as used on old typewriters. Sliding door vans had the C, L and the number on the door. Refrigerator vans were white, with black ironwork (door hinges, end ladders and end platforms), eighteen inch C L on the side in a serif font in red shaded black and (on at least one example) REFRIGERATOR MEAT VAN in red, shaded black lettering about 6 inches high on the upper van side. Underframes were black on all stock.

The goods rolling stock was divided between the LMS and the LNER in 1930, but service vehicles and brake vans remained in light grey CLC livery for some years after this date. Some brake vans were still in grey CLC livery in the early 1950's, however by this time a sans serif font was standard, I believe this was introduced in the mid 1930's.

Fig___ Cheshire Lines Committee



(1) The Cheshire Lines Railway by R P.Griffiths, 2nd edition published in 1958 by Oakwood

A good general history of the line

(2) Cheshire Lines Committee by Nigel Dyckhoff , ISBN 0711014108. An excellent guide for the modeller, highly recommended. As well as many photographs the book contains an excellent potted history of the line from its inception to the mid 1980's, including details of locomotives used, brief details of coaching stock and a short discussion of traffic flows.

(3) The Great Central Railway Volume 3 by George Dow published by Locomotive Publishing Co in 1959 ISBN xxxxxxx. The third and final volume in a series describing the history of the line in great detail, this volume has a couple of general arrangement drawings of CLC goods stock but no photographs.


I have not been able to trace an association devoted to this line, one might exist however and I would be pleased to hear of it. The HMRS does have a company steward for the CLC who can assist members with their research.

Available Models.

No specific models for the CLC freight stock have been found in N Gauge/2mm Scale however the Graham Farish horse box is a GN type believed to have been supplied to the CLC and the N Gauge Society MR sliding door van is of a type used by this company. The Sentinel railmotor is available as a white metal kit from Langley and the Metcalf Models station building is a classic CLC design.

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