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The East Lancashire Railway is a 12 12-mile (20 km) 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.

East Lancashire Railway
'Flying Scotsman' travelling past Ewood Bridge.jpg
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 New halt opened at Burrs Country Park
Headquarters Bury Bolton Street



Passenger services between Bury and Rawtenstall were withdrawn by British Rail on 3 June 1972.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.

Freight train passing over the "Ski Jump" bridge

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".

In October 2014, Ramsbottom Station and the adjacent level crossing on Bridge Street was featured in the 2017 movie A Monster Calls which was the scene for an emotional peak in the movie, starring Sigourney Weaver in a Volvo estate car waiting for a BR DMU, in Rail Blue livery, to pass through the crossing.[8]

Railway stations of the ELREdit

Irwell Vale Railway station signage
East Lancashire Railway
Rawtenstall to Bacup Line
Ewood Bridge and Edenfield
Irwell Vale
Rossendale lines to Accrington
Nuttall Tunnel (
115 yd
105 m
Brooksbottom Tunnel (
423 yd
387 m
Brooksbottom Viaduct
Burrs Country Park
Bury–Holcombe Brook line
Bury North Tunnel (
80 yd
73 m
Bury Bolton Street
Bury South Junction
Buckley Wells
Bury Knowsley Street
Bury Interchange
Manchester Metrolink
Roch Viaduct
Viaduct over  
to Calder Valley line (NR)


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 (March–October).

Steam locomotivesEdit


Number & Name Type Photograph Notes
32 Gothenburg/Thomas
Manchester Ship Canal 0-6-0T Built in 1903.
2890 Douglas
Hunslet 0-6-0   Built in 1943. Is a converted tender locomotive from a standard Hunslet Austerity. Returned to Service in Sept 2017. Dressed to reassemble Douglas from Thomas & Friends. Currently on loan from the Ribble Steam Railway.
LMS Class 5P/4F "Crab" 2-6-0   Built in 1927.
34092 City of Wells
SR West Country Class 4-6-2   Built in 1949. Formerly based at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0   Built in 1935. (passed for main line running), usualy based at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway but on hire to Ian Riley for mainline use following overhaul.
45407 The Lancashire Fusilier
LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0   Built in 1937. (passed for main line running)
L&YR Class 27 0-6-0 Built in 1896. (on loan from the Ribble Steam Railway)

Operational but away from the ELREdit

Number & Name Type Photograph Notes
1370 May
Peckett and Sons 0-4-0ST Built in 1915. Currently on loan to Beamish Museum.
132 Sapper
WD Austerity 0-6-0ST Built in 1944. Currently on loan to the Avon Valley Railway.
LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0   Built in 1945. (passed for main line running), currently on hire to Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
75008 Swiftsure
WD Austerity 0-6-0ST Built in 1943. Currently on loan to the Nene Valley Railway.

Locos out of ActionEdit

Number & Name Type Photograph Notes
L&YR Class 23 0-6-0ST   Built in 1881. Under Overhaul for the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
GWR 2884 Class 2-8-0 Built in 1942. Undergoing restoration from scrapyard condition.
GWR 7200 Class 2-8-2T Built in 1935. Undergoing restoration from scrapyard condition inside Baron Street works.
LMS Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0   Built in 1948. Undergoing restoration from scrapyard condition.
LMS Class 3F "Jinty" 0-6-0T   Built in 1924. Under Overhaul.
LMS Class 3F "Jinty" 0-6-0T   Built in 1926. Under Overhaul.
BR Standard Class 4 2-6-4T   Built in 1954. Undergoing retube at Butterley following failed boiler exam.
BR Standard Class 4 2-6-4T Built in 1954. Undergoing restoration from scrapyard condition, return to service expected in spring 2018.
BR Standard Class 9F 2-10-0   Built in 1957. Undergoing restoration at Crewe Heritage Centre.[9]

Locos in store/static displayEdit

Number & Name Type Photograph Notes
Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST Built in 1927. On display in Bury Transport Museum.
35009 Shaw Savill
SR Merchant Navy 4-6-2 Built in 1942. Awaiting restoration from scrapyard condition.


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.

  • Operational diesel locomotives and DMUs
  • Operational but away from the line
    • BR Class 37 No. 37418 (D6971), BR Large Logo Blue (minus name and numbers). Built in 1965. (On hire to Colas Rail)
  • Diesel locomotives and DMUs undergoing light work, overhaul or restoration
    • F. C. Hibberd 'Planet' 3438 (Under restoration at Castlecroft)
    • BR Class 07 No. 07013 (Non-Operational since roughly 2002/03. Full overhaul to commence in due course)
    • BR Class 08 No. 08944 (Stopped, pending engine overhaul, owned by the Harry Needle Railroad Company)
    • BR Class 14 No. D9502 'Kerys', BR Green. Built in 1964. (Undergoing long-term restoration)
    • BR Class 15 No. D8233 (Restoration in progress in Baron Street works) Class 15 Preservation Society
    • BR Class 24 No. D5054 (24054) 'Phil Southern' (Undergoing major overhaul following its return from Barrow Hill Engine Shed in January 2017)
    • BR Class 28 No. D5705 (Under restoration with the C15PS) Class 15 Preservation Society
    • BR Class 33 No. 6536 (33117) (under overhaul in Buckley Wells shed)
    • BR Class 37 No. 37679, Transrail (Undergoing overhaul at Ian Riley's Workshops, Baron Street)
    • BR Class 45 No. 45135 (D99) '3rd Carabinier', BR Blue. Built in 1961. (Undergoing major overhaul in Buckley Wells shed)
    • BR Class 52 No. D1041 'Western Prince', BR Blue. Built in 1962. (Bodywork replacement & full rewire, Castlecroft shed)
    • BR Class 207 unit 1305 (207202) 60130+70549+60904 (Bodywork overhaul of 60130 and 60904, Buckley Wells shed)
  • Stored diesel locomotives


  • Electric multiple units
    • BR Class 504 unit 65451+77172 (stored at Buckley Wells, being restored as hauled coaching stock)


  • Ex-Blackpool Railgrinder No. 752 is stored at Baron Street, having moved from Heaton Park Tramway to make way for another vehicle. Owned by the Manchester Transport Museum Society.
  • Ex-Blackpool Balloon No. 702 is stored awaiting depot space at Heaton Park. Owned by the Manchester Museum Transport Society.
  • Ex-Manchester Metrolink T-68 No. 1003 is stored at Baron Street awaiting usage at a new training college in Bury. Owned by the Greater Manchester Fire Training and Rescue Service.[10]

Former residents on the ELREdit

Note that the locations given may not be current as locomotives move between railways from time to time.


Number & Name Type Photograph Notes
34073 249 Squadron
SR Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2   Built in 1945. Awaiting restoration from scrapyard condition at Carnforth MPD.
35022 Holland America Line
SR Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2   Built in 1948. Awaiting restoration from scrapyard condition at Crewe Diesel TMD.
35027 Port Line
SR Merchant Navy Class 4-6-2   Built in 1948. Awaiting restoration at Crewe Diesel TMD.
LMS Fowler Class 4F 0-6-0   Built in 1927. Operational at the West Somerset Railway.
LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0   Built in 1937. Undergoing Overhaul at the Llangollen Railway.
45690 Leander
LMS Jubilee Class 4-6-0   Built in 1936. Operational and Mainline Certified at Carnforth MPD.
6201 Princess Elizabeth
LMS Princess Royal Class 4-6-2   Built in 1933. Undergoing repairs at the Midland Railway.
LMS Ivatt Class 2   Built in 1946. Static Display at Ribble Steam Railway.
LNWR Class G2 0-8-0   Built in 1921. Static display at The National Railway Museum in Shildon.
71000 Duke of Gloucester
BR Standard Class 8 4-6-2   Built in 1951. Undergoing overhaul at Tyseley Locomotive Works.
BR Standard Class 4 2-6-0   Built in 1957. Operational and Mainline Certified at North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
BR Standard Class 9F 2-10-0   Built in 1959. Undergoing Restoration from scrapyard condition at the Shillingstone Railway Project.
BR Standard Class 9F 2-10-0   Built in 1959. Operational at the Great Central Railway.


Number & Name Type Photograph Notes
BR Class 31 (A1A)-(A1A)   Built in 1960. Operational at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway.
BR Class 37 Co-Co Built in 1960. Operational at Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway.
BR Class 37 Co-Co Built in 1960. Operational and Mainline Certified for Direct Rail Services.
BR Class 37 Co-Co   Built in 1960. Operational and Mainline Certified for West Coast Railways.
37901 Mirrlees Pioneer
BR Class 37 Co-Co Built in 1963. Under overhaul at St. Leonards depot, Hastings, for Colas Rail.
BR Class 37 Co-Co   Built in 1960. Operational at Europhoenix.


  1. ^ "Rawtenstall Station History". Ramsbottom Model Railway Club. [unreliable source?]
  2. ^ "The Full History". East Lancashire Railway. 
  3. ^ "A History of the East Lancashire Railway". 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. ^ "Residents line Ramsbottom street in bid to see film stars in action". Bury Times. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  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 readingEdit

External linksEdit