Churnet Valley Railway

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Churnet Valley Railway


Churnet Valley Railway, 1940s weekend.jpg
"Winston Churchill" at the 1940s weekend
No. of stations: 4
Track: 10.5 miles

The Churnet Valley Railway is a preserved standard gauge heritage railway to the east of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, that operates along eleven miles of track that form a part of the former North Staffordshire Railway's Churnet Valley Line.

The railway has two main headquarters:

  • Cheddleton station, where the Operations & Motive Power Department is based and where the volunteer organisation first set up
  • Kingsley and Froghall station, where the Commercial & Administration Departments are based.

The most popular station for passengers is Kingsley & Froghall due to the easier access from the A52 and better car parking facilities.

The railway is roughly 11 miles long from Kingsley & Froghall station to Ipstones Loop, via Leek Brook Junction), but there are various plans to extend the railway in four different directions which include re-openings to both Leek and Stoke-on-Trent, and potentially to Alton Towers. The stretch of railway from Leek Brook Junction to Ipstones is owned by a private company 'Moorland & City Railways (MCR), a commercial venture which aims to run freight trains from the quarries at Cauldon to the main national network at Stoke-on-Trent, and to re-introduce a commuter service between Leek & Stoke.[1] Hwever in 2014 the CVR launched an appeal to buy the physical trackwork between Leek Brook & Ipstones off MCR,[2] in order to protect their running rights until any full renovation begins.

Early days

The Cheshire and Staffordshire Railway Society was formed in the 1970s, born out of ideas formed by Ken Simpson and enthused to a small group of would-be railwaymen, to try and save something of the lines built by the old NSR. Their original target was the Biddulph Valley route which branched north from the Stoke-Leek line at Milton Junction, and passed the Victoria Colliery before crossing the Cheshire border and running under the Stoke-Manchester line to Biddulph Wharf. Early soundings to Cheshire County Council though sadly met with lukewarm interest, and really there was little encouragement from anyone. Leek Station was also then considered with a possible heritage line north to Rudyard Lake, but Leek's station building was demolished by the council in 1973 before any preservation attempt could really be made.[3] The Society then started laying plans for re-opening the Oakamoor to Alton Towers section, using the former Oakamoor tunnel as a stock storage base.

In April 1974 news came that the Council were going to demolish the former NSR building at Cheddleton, but local businessman and parish councillor Norman Hancock parked his car on the level crossing in front of the bulldozers, preventing the demolition.[4] In the delay created, the Society got the building listed Grade II. In 1976 the C&SRS received a lease of the former Station building as a museum.[5] The old sidings and goods yard at Cheddleton were then subsequently purchased at later dates, and workshops were created with the first locomotives arriving in 1977.[6] In 1978 the North Staffordshire Railway Co. (1978) Ltd was created, which gained charity status in 1983. A new public limited company, Churnet Valley Railway (1992) plc, was creates in 1992 in order to raise capital and to apply for a Light Railway Order (which was the last application made under the old legislation before the onset of the new Transport and Works Act). In 1995 an agreement was reached with British Rail Board for the purchase by the company of the seevn miles of line line between Leek Brook Junction and Oakamoor Sand Sidings, for which fundraising reached over £120,000 and the purchase was completed on 4 July 1996.


Kingsley and Froghall - In Froghall village
Cheddleton Grade II listed Victorian station building with a small museum, toilets, ticket office and waiting room

The Churnet Valley Railway also owns the trackbed between Kingsley & Froghall and Oakamoor. The railway is in situ as far as the Oakamoor sand sidings, which once served the now disused quarry, but is not up to standards for carrying passengers. In order to reach Oakamoor railway station the main line across the River Churnet and through Oakamoor tunnel needs to be rebuilt, although this is one of the medium-term objectives of MCR as part of their plan to re-open the line to Alton (for Alton Towers).


  • 2005: National Railway Heritage Awards, Ian Allan Publishing Award, awarded for Consall station and signalling and Kingsley & Froghall station [7]
  • 2008 National Railway Heritage Awards, National Express East Coast Volunteers Award, awarded for the reconstruction of the Up platform and waiting shelter at Kingsley and Froghall. The project was joint first with the Great Central Railway.[8]
  • 2013: Winner of "ACES Best Dinner Award 2012" [9]

On screen

  • In September 2012 the railway's Diesel Multiple Unit featured on Ashbourne Radio in a two part feature on DMU's and their wider impact when introduced to the UK's railways in the late 1950s. The coverage was also used to advertise the railway's diesel gala later that month.
  • In September 2011 the line featured in an episode of Countryfile. The railway's Diesel Multiple Unit was used for several interviews on the subject of the British "staycation effect". The programme featured several locations along the line, including Cheddleton & Consall stations and the demolished wire mills at Bolton's (Froghall) adjacent to the railway.

Moorland and City Railways Ltd

Train on the Moorland and City line at Bradnop

Moorland and City Railways (MCR) Ltd is a commercial company set up by a couple of the directors from the Churnet Valley Railway in 2009, with the primary aim of re-opening the mothballed line from Stoke-on-Trent to Cauldon Lowe. The company has already taken a 150-year lease on the Leek Brook to Cauldon Section from the line’s owners Network Rail, with refurbishment for heritage services commencing almost immediately.

The work took nine months, with the first test train operating to Apesford Crossing behind LMS 8F 8624 on the evening of 3 October 2010. Then on 11 November Bulleid Pacific no. 34028 Eddystone became the first loco to work the full 8.5 miles of the branch into Cauldon’s Exchange Sidings with an evening test train prior to her participation in a month-long celebration. On 12 November 2010 a private service hauled by BR Standard Class 8 71000 “Duke of Gloucester” signalled the re-opening of the branch, before 71000 hauled the first public service up the branch on 13 November. In order to run the event, MCR hired the Churnet Valley Railway to operate a mixture of steam and diesel services over three consecutive weekends and additional private charters midweek.

With this section of line now in-use MCR plans are to re-open the remaining section of the mothballed line west to where it connects with the West Coast Main Line at Stoke, and upgrade it for use by heavy freight trains. Further to this they want to help the CVR realise its long term plan to re-open the 1 mile of railway line into Leek in order to re-introduce a commuter service themselves for the town, and reconnect the village of Endon and the suburbs of Stockton Brook, Milton, Abbey Hulton and Fenton Manor to the railway network.

Their final plan would extend the Churnet Valley Railway south from Oakamoor to Alton in order to connect with the popular Alton Towers theme park. This would require continued co-operation between both CVR and MCR, that would upgrade the existing track between Froghall and Oakamoor sand sidings and return the rails into the former station at Oakamoor across the River Bridge and through Oakamoor Tunnel. An agreement would be negotiated for the use of the trackbed between Oakamoor and Alton (Towers), which is now a Permissive Path owned by the Council that is popular with bike riders and walkers. The track bed is double track width, as the entire Churnet Valley line was built as double track, and it is planned that trains would be operated alongside a retained cycle path, as has been successfully (and safely) achieved on other heritage railways such as the Avon Valley Railway. The station at Alton remains entirely intact, although privately owned, so MCR may be required to operate into a new terminus south of the original station.

Moorland and City Railways is intended to operate as a commercial profit-making venture using its own rolling stock. It has already agreed track access rights with the Churnet Valley Railway, which will provide a source of revenue for the Churnet while in turn the heritage railway will enjoy free access to all of Moorland and City’s network.


Steam locomotives

Number Name Type Livery Status Notes Image
2871 TKh49 0-6-0 Green Awaiting Restoration Owned by "TKh Support Group". Arrived April 2014 from the Spa Valley Railway, after purchase by Members of the CVR MPD. Funds being acquired for eventual restoration. .
2944 Hotspur TKh49 0-6-0 Green Operational Owned by "TKh Support Group". Entered service June 2014 after 12-month restoration by members of MPD following purchase by Members of the MPD. Already done ~1500 miles since restoration as of September 2014. .
5197 S160 2-8-0 USATC Black Under Overhaul Privately owned. 10-year overhaul recommenced June 2014, after being halted whilst 2944 was completed. USA Class S160 No 5197 (8063150731).jpg
6046 S160 2-8-0 USATC Black Under repair Privately owned. At Tyseley Locomotive Works for repairs. Bishops Lydeard - USATC 6046 by the water tower.jpg
48173 8F 2-8-0 N/A Dismantled awaiting overhaul Privately owned. Long-term project. Restoration likely to commence after overhaul of 5197 is completed. Parts accumalation has been ongoing however. LMS 8F 2-8-0 48173 Bitton, AVR 3.4.2006 (9922367776).jpg
69621 (A.J. Hill) L77 0-6-2T Lined BR Black Stored Boiler ticket expired 30 April 2015. On loan from the East Anglian Railway Museum LNER Class N7.jpg
92134 9F 2-10-0 BR Black Under Overhaul Off Site Privately owned. Undergoing restoration at LNWR Crewe. Unlikely to become a long term CVR resident. Barrow-on-Soar up mineral geograph-2754337-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg

In 1964 the boiler, tanks and cab from "Princess" were fitted onto the chassis of another former NSR New L loco (NSR no. 72 built in 1920 / LMS no. 2262 - had been subsequently named "Sir Robert" at Walkden). The NSR no. 2 identity was maintained however, and upon the end of service at Walkden the loco passed into the National Collection. This has created a high level of debate over the loco's identity though, as traditionally locomotives took their numbers from their frames which would make the surviving loco NSR no. 72. As 'New L' class all had superheated boilers, the fact the loco survives with a saturated boiler takes the discussion much further as to whether it can even be classed as a NSR loco.[10]

No. 2 original chassis received a new boiler plus the bunker and tanks from NSR no. 69 (named "King Gearge VI" at Walkden) in 1965, before this locomotive was scrapped in 1969 despite attempts to preserve it.

The surviving loco is now owned by the National Railway Museum and spent a period on display at the CVR in the late 1990s. It is now on display at Shildon Locomotion Museum. Its identity as NSR no. 2 has been maintained.

Number Name Type Livery Status Notes
NSR No1 / BEL2 Battery Electric Bo NSR Lined Maroon On Display Built in 1917. Former Oakamoor Shunter, was the last NSR locomotive of any kind to remain in operational service on the "mainline", being withdrawn in March 1963. Owned by the National Railway Museum and on display at York.
7821 GWR Manor Class 4-6-0 BR Black On Display - Awaiting Overhaul Named 'Ditcheat Manor' and built in 1950. Operated on the railway from 2005 to 2007 before expiry of her boiler ticket. On display at Museum of the Great Western Railway following purchase by the West Somerset Railway Association in 2008 from Ken Ryder.

Diesel locomotives

Number Name Type Livery Status Notes
Brightside Yorkshire Engine Company 0-4-0 Black Under Repair Currently undergoing overhaul
6 Roger H. Bennett Yorkshire Engine Company "Janus" 0-6-0 NCB Blue Operational - Main shunting loco at Cheddleton. NSRC Owned.
D2334 Class 04 Green Awaiting Repairs. Privately owned. Stopped at Sep 2012 diesel gala after failure
25322 Tamworth Castle Class 25 "Ice Cream Van" Blue NSRC owned. Static Display. Built in 1967. Cosmetically restored in 2008
33021 Captain Charles Class 33 Blue Operational Built in 1960. On loan from Private Owner[11]
33102 'Sophie' Class 33 Blue Operational NSRC owned. Built in 1960. Launched Sep 2012 following restoration.
47524 (Res Gestae) Class 47]] Rail Express Systems Under restoration Privately owned. Restoration recommenced Winter 2013/14

Diesel multiple units

Number(s) Class Type Livery Status Notes
E59701 Class 110 TSL Green Operational On loan from Wensleydale Railway.
53437/M53494 Class 104 DMBS/DMCL NSE/Blue Stored .

Freight vehicles

Typically for a railway of this size, the CVR does not yet have a dedicated wagon restoration group, maintenance of a nucleus of essential vehicles being undertaken by the more established Coach Works. Operational wagons tend to be examples which have an essential function rather than historical importance alone.

Because of this, the operational fleet of freight vehicles is relatively small. They can be summarised as follows:

  • Brake Vans: LMS 731790 (Running repairs completed December 2014) & Oyster DB993707 (Restoration completed February 2014)
  • Ballast Train: Rake of two Dogfish and two Catfish ballast wagons (DB 993363 / DB993431 / DB983710 / DB993545)
  • Box Vans: In addition to the Prototype GUV, there are five 4-wheel box vans serviceable in BR Bauxite livery and regularly used on Photo Charters
  • Engineers: Bogie Bolster DB996724 is regularly used on Engineering trains, and Sole-surviving Parrot 3014 is under-going assessment for restoration. Both are on long-term hire from the National Railway Museum. Two privately owned Medfits are also on the line, though both require repairs before being available for service.
  • There is also a 4-wheel former Esso oil tanker that was restored in 2007 and painted in the colours of a local Oil firm. Currently stored at Leek Brook (ESSO 2305).
  • Ministry of Defence: A selection of vehicles arrived on the railway in 2011 after purchase from MoD Marchwood, and are awaiting restoration (with the Parrot Wagon being the first).
  • Several vans & well wagons exist around the railway, externally restored and used for storage purposes but they are not used in any trains.

Restoration of wagons is done sporadically. The Coach Works directed its full resources towards eight wagons for a significant part of 2007, the majority of the vehicles which formed a demonstration freight set. The ballast rake was restored in 2001, while all other vehicles have been restored by individual owners at various times.

There are no times when any freight stock is advertised as operating, however the demonstration freight set sees occasional use during (some) galas, driver experience days and photographic charters.

Supporting groups

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Churnet Valley Railway)