I volunteered as part of the Made in Greater Manchester Project and some of the first maps I viewed at Archives+ in Manchester from the Bridgewater Estates Archive featured the Leigh and South Central Lancashire Railway. The maps showed the proposed routes of new colliery railways centred around Mosley Common on the Salford and Wigan border. By the late nineteenth century the area was already crossed with many colliery railways, many of which, since the closure of the mines are in fact now footpaths. However, it was soon evident that the Leigh and South Central Lancashire Railway was never built.

Intrigued about the railway that was never built, I wanted to find out more. My first stop was to visit the Leigh Archives and Salford Local History Library but they had little information. However, a train buff friend pointed me in the direction of the book by Townley ‘The Industrial Railways of Bolton, Bury and the Manchester Coalfield’ and this contained some information.

The book states: ‘In 1894 proposals were made for a Leigh and South Central Lancashire Railway. The intention was to provide direct access to the facilities which had been installed on the Manchester Ship Canal at Partington North for the export of coal and the supply of bunker fuel. Connections were to have been made with the western arms of the Trustees’ system at Mosley Common and with the eastern arm near Roe Green, north of Sanderson’s Siding.

Had the scheme been completed it would no doubt have been a considerable influence on the traffic patterns on the Trustees’ railway. However, the Bill was rejected by Parliament in 1895 and the project was never revived.’ Later it says ‘The Deposited Plans show a main line running in a long loop south from the Lancashire and Yorkshire at Ince back to the Lancashire and Yorkshire at Walkden, with branches to almost every colliery in the territory traversed. A second main line, intersecting the first south of Gin Pit, ran from Tyldesley to Cadishead, where there were a series of spurs to the Ship Canal system and the Cheshire Lines Railway.’

Ref: The Industrial Railways of Bolton, Bury and Manchester Coalfield Parts 1 & 2, CHA Townley et al 1994/5

There are still opportunities to volunteer on the Salford part of Made in Greater Manchester. If you are interested, please contact Duncan McCormick, Local History Librarian, Salford Local History Library.

Thank you to Paul Hassall for this great article, originally printed in LifeTimes Link magazine.