Built in 1963 at the Vulcan Foundry works in Newton-le-Willows Link
Locomotive No 37109 is seen here about to enter the northern porthole of Nuttall Tunnel on the East Lancashire Preserved Railway.
The East Lancashire Railway was opened in 1846 to link the Manchester to Bolton line with Radcliffe and was a popular passenger and freight route which served the Irwell Valley from Bury, via Ramsbottom, to Rawtenstall and beyond.
1972 saw the last passengers travel on the Bury to Rawtenstall section, and that would have been the end of an era had the East Lancashire Preservation Society not been committed to restoring the line to its former glory.
With assistance from Bury and Rossendale Councils, the line was reopened in 1991. The traditional station buildings and developments along the tracks have contributed to the Society being presented with a number of environmental awards. Work continued to finally complete the railways extension to Heywood.
It is doubtful if, in the railway mania of the 1840's anyone could have foreseen, that less than 100 years later, many lines would have fallen out of use but for the efforts of railway preservation societies. In 1844 the promoters of the Bury, Manchester and Rossendale Railway, which was renamed the East Lancashire Railway two years later, could scarcely have imagined that, by 1968 the name would only be carried by a preservation society.
The original East Lancashire Railway opened in 1846, and linked to the Manchester - Bolton line at Clifton with Radcliffe before reaching Bury, some 6 miles to the north. The line continued along the Rossendale Valley, passing through the villages of Ramsbottom and Summerseat before reaching Rawtenstall. An "extension line" from Stubbins Junction ( just north of Ramsbottom ) to Accrington opened in 1848 whilst the Rossendale branch was extended in stages, to reach Bacup in 1852. The E.L.R. did not exist in its own right for more than thirteen years, as it had been absorbed by The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The latter was itself merged with the London and North Western Railway in 1922, before becoming part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway just twelve months later.
The LMS fared better however remaining in existence for twenty - five years, until nationalization, in 1948, created British Railways. The Bury - Rawtenstall line continued to carry passengers until the service was withdrawn in 1972, complete closure taking effect some eight years later, after the withdrawal of the remaining freight service in December 1980.
The East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1968 with a view to preserving a section of the former East Lancashire Railway, focusing on a section of line near Helmshore, but unfortunately this plan did not come to fruition. In 1972 with the cessation of passenger traffic on the Rawtenstall branch, the emphasis was transferred to trying to preserve the Bury to Rawtenstall line intact.
It was in 1980 with the end of coal traffic that the attempt to preserve the line began in earnest.
The Society would not have won the battle if it had not been able to gain the invaluable help and assistance of the local authorities in the area. coordinated by the now defunct Greater Manchester County Council, the authorities were able to purchase track, track bed and all the infrastructure from British Rail, largely financed by Derelict Land Grants. The property is now jointly owned by Bury Metropolitan Borough Council and Rossendale Borough Council.
The success of this partnership was seen on 25th July 1987 when the first four miles of line were reopened for regular passenger services between Bury and Ramsbottom. In the first short season 35,000 passengers travelled on the railway, a figure which increased to 60,000 by 1988. Reaching the present average of 120,000 passengers per year.
The railway now operates every weekend throughout the year, with some weekday running during the month of August.
For the complete history of the East Lancashire Railway click on Link
East Lancs Railway Picture Gallery Link