Wednesday, 16 July 2014


Voyager meets Voyager in the Middlewich loop, May 2014. The train on the left is heading for Euston via Crewe and, as can be seen, has a green light to proceed. The other train is heading for Holyhead via Chester and will also have a green light from  the signal on the right as the line via Northwich West Junction and Chester will be clear, at least as far as Northwich. These trains are 'crossing' in Middlewich, to use the correct railway term, with the Holyhead train being held at a red light until the Euston train arrives. In practice, as Charlie Hulme points out on his website, trains were arriving fifteen minutes early at this point, leading many to believe that some, at least, of the speed restrictions on the line are somewhat redundant. There have been a lot of improvements to both track and signalling in recent years. Just beyond the green light, which stands on the same spot as the old Middlewich signal box, is the site of the  LNWR Middlewich Station with the Holmes Chapel Road Bridge (or 'Station Bridge') at the top of the picture.
Photo: North Wales Coast Railway website/Greg Mape

 This sign is one of several placed on  the old Down platform at Middlewich by a former campaign member and catches the eye of many a passenger on diverted trains running via Middlewich. Sadly the website address is no longer valid although, obviously, anyone interested can always use Google to access the site you're looking at now and find out more about the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign. Significantly, although Network Rail track maintenance workers are frequently on site (they have an access staircase from Holmes Chapel Road leading down to the Up Platform), no one has seen fit to remove these signs as yet.
Photo: North Wales Coast Railway website/Simon Barber

Back in May 2014 many trains were diverted through Middlewich while engineering work took place on the Chester line.
As always Charlie Hulme and his excellent North Wales Coast Railway website were on the case and featured photographs of some of the diverted trains, including several taken at the Northwich end of our line.

You can see these photos at:


(scroll down to 'Middlewich Diversions')

And while you're there take a look at some of the other 'Noticeboards' which, week after week, chronicle the news and events relating to the Crewe-Holyhead and related routes.

See also:


Sunday, 6 July 2014


CAMPAIGN UPDATE: Things have been quiet on the MRLC front lately, but as always there is much going on behind the scenes. We're in the process of updating our website and have re-registered the URL which will (we fervently hope) soon be back in action. Please note that the is no longer valid (although it still appears on the signs on the old LNWR station site which were put there by a former campaign member). Go to that website now, and you'll find advice on losing weight. Perhaps they're trying to tell (some of) us something? At present we find ourselves unable to buy the name back at a reasonable cost. Meanwhile we are writing several important letters to various key players and hope to get things moving again soon. Make no mistake, we are still very much in the business of getting this railway line re-opened to passenger trains and getting a new station built in Middlewich. This is not just a matter of local concern - we are promoting a scheme which will bring immense benefits to Middlewich, to the Weaver Valley, to the County of Cheshire and the North-West region in general. By no means the least of these benefits will be a new direct route to Crewe for passengers on the Chester-Manchester line, particularly those living east of Northwich, who will for the first time in many years be able to travel to this important railway hub without first having to go to Manchester or Chester.

Dave Roberts
7th July 2014

Saturday, 17 May 2014



Diverted Virgin Train passes British Salt, Middlewich, in March 2014. PHOTO: GLEN LEIGH

The following has been received from our parent organisation, MCRUA, and is adapted from a posting on the MCRUA website by Simon Barber:

The Crewe-Chester line is closed next week, Monday May 12th- Friday May16th, for drainage works at Christleton tunnel and and almost the whole Virgin Trains service is running via Middlewich.

A few VT trains are not running at all, and a few are running via Warrington Bank Quay with a reversal there, which is a faster diversion but evidently a route without much spare capacity.

The times are available on (the code you need is MDLW)

Worthy of note is that many of the Voyagers are being timetabled to cross in the Middlewich loop, with the Euston-Chester train timed to wait for 15 minutes (from xx15 to xx30 most hours) whilst the southbound train runs through non-stop at xx26.

There  will also be ECS (empty coaching stock)   and freight workings running over the line all through the week.

All in all a busy week for the Middlewich line with some good photo opportunities at the loop and at Northwich West and South junctions.

Many thanks to Andrew MacFarlane of MCRUA for sending us this information and to MRLC member Peter Shillito who has also brought this to our attention.

We would, as always, be grateful for any photographs/videos of trains on the Middlewich Branch during this busy period.

Dave Roberts, Editor.

Update Saturday 17th May:

The flurry of trains has died down now, but there are still some using the line on a regular basis - something like two or three trains a day on average. The link in the above post will enable you to find out when trains are expected. We welcome any photos of trains on the line. -Ed

First published 11th May 2014
Re-published 17th May 2014

Sunday, 13 April 2014


Selected photographs of the Virgin Trains Euston-Holyhead services diverted along the Middlewich Branch on Sunday 16th March 2014 because of engineering work on the Crewe-Chester line.
The first shot is by Glen Leigh, who always tries to incorporate a typically Middlewich feature into his photos of trains running through the town (see our current masthead).
What could be more appropriate than this one showing a Virgin service passing close to the British Salt works?
To the right of the picture is Middlewich's celebrated 'salt mountain' which came to the rescue of many a short-sighted local authority a few years ago when freezing conditions brought about a severe shortage of the salt used to keep roads free from ice, and lorries were queuing all through the town to pick up supplies of the precious material from British Salt.
Such was the demand that the 'salt mountain' shrank quite a lot. Now it is growing again, ready for the next unforeseen crisis. 
On a single track it is always difficult to tell, in a photograph, which direction a train is heading in. In this case there do not appear to be any red tail lights in view on the train so we tentatively suggest that it is heading north towards Northwich.

A little further north, on the other side of Cledford Lane, Glen has captured another Virgin service passing near to the former ERF 'factory' in ERF Way, off Pochin Way, Middlewich's half-completed bypass road.
To get this shot Glen must have been either on the access path which runs from Cledford Lane to Brooks Lane, or on  the lime-beds which run parallel to it.
The new ERF 'works', which was supposed to replace the Sun Works in Sandbach, could reasonably be described as 'the factory that never was'. 
It didn't look like a factory and never properly worked as one. It was clearly designed as the warehouse which it has since become. The office building has served, since the abrupt departure of ERF, as an administrative centre for the NHS. Does anyone know who occupies it now? How long, we wonder, before 'ERF Way' is given a more appropriate name?

Meanwhile, long-time MRLC member and supporter David Hawkes opted to photograph the diversions from the 'classic' location on Holmes Chapel Road Bridge (or, more appropriately, 'Station Bridge'). This shot shows one of the trains coming from the Sandbach direction and entering the Middlewich passing loop, which runs from Holmes Chapel Road, through the site of the old station, and up to the King Street Bridge. It is a sign of the importance that Network Rail places on the Middlewich line as a diversionary route that this loop is still in existence and signalled to passenger standards. It enables two trains pass one another in Middlewich, thus saving  time.
More time could be saved if some of the speed restrictions on the line could be lifted - something which will have to be done once regular passenger services start to run.
This train is passing the proposed site for the new Middlewich Station. In the background the huge equipment cabinets behind the green railings are part of the  signalling equipment installed here a few years ago to enable trains on the branch to be controlled from the Manchester South signalling centre. A little further up the line is the radio mast installed even more recently to enable in-cab communication between drivers and signallers.

And here's the same train passing the site of the old Middlewich station. The red lights at this end of the train show us that it is moving away from us in the direction of Northwich. 
Just to the left of the train you can just make out a black and white sign, one of several placed on the old up platform by a former member of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign. It reads:
and gives contact details for the  re-opening campaign for the information of any diverted passenger who might be interested.
The remains of the old platforms can still be clearly seen, although the platform edges were removed some years ago to give clearance to certain types of modern motive power.
Just opposite the front of the train, to the right, you can see the rear of one of the colour light signals which now control the line (a grey rectangle).
This signal stands on the site of the old Middlewich Signal Box (seen here) which did the job until 1980.
And in the distance that green dot is another colour light, giving the train permission to leave the loop, rejoin the single line and head for Northwich, Chester and, ultimately, Holyhead.

NOTE: There were more diversions of Virgin trains, along with freight and empty coaching stock movements from other companies via Middlewich from the 12th - 16th May 2014. Follow this link to learn more. Many thanks to MRLC member Peter Shillito for this information - Ed.

Friday, 28 March 2014



The latest meeting of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign took place on Tuesday 25th March at the Boar's Head in  Middlewich.

Discussion largely centered on Cheshire East Council's Local Plan Strategy. The importance of representations on this from the Campaign and also from members of the public was stressed.
MRLC will be making representations in writing on this matter to Cheshire East before the deadline of 25th April

Chapter 14 of the document concerns Sustainable Transport and talks about rail infrastructure schemes in Cheshire East.

Although the Middlewich Rail Link scheme is included in this section and the document talks about 'supporting the aspiration for re-opening the Sandbach to Northwich railway line...(and)...opening a station at Middlewich', we feel that the wording is far too vague.
Our campaign has been running for over twenty years, and the case for re-opening has been more than proved. We feel that the wording should be changed to reflect this and should read:

'Taking action to bring about the re-opening of the Sandbach to Northwich railway line to passengers, including the opening of a station in Middlewich, by direct talks with Network Rail and all other interested parties.'

Another section of the Local Plan Strategy document covers STRATEGIC LOCATION SL9 which includes the Brooks Lane area and the station site.

In the section headed

Site Specific Principles of Development

we are requesting that the document should include the following wording:

'Safeguarding the site for the new railway station in Middlewich, fully taking into account the exact siting of the platform and associated access. Car parking for the station should also be taken into account and provision made for it.'

and the map accompanying this section should also be amended to show the railway station, its exact location and dimensions

In order to facilitate these changes to the local plan document, the Council can make reference to the Railway Consultancy report (available via the MRLC website) and also liaise with Network Rail.

In general, MRLC feels that the time for 'ifs, buts and maybes' has long since passed and that we should proceed on the assumption that the re-opening will go ahead, however long it may take.

Cllr Mike Parsons has been doing sterling work in keeping the issue alive with the relevant people at Cheshire East, pointing out the immense benefits this scheme would provide, right across Cheshire and the opportunities for funding which are coming along at the moment.

We are still waiting for results from the meeting last November in which representatives from Cheshire East and Network Rail were able to meet face to face to discuss the re-opening of this line.

We also talked about the new 'Cheshire Fresh' development in Holmes Chapel Road which has just been granted planning permission, and felt that this, once again, strengthens the case for the new station.

Discussion of the diverted Virgin trains which ran through Middlewich on the 16th March also took place. We have some great photos of these trains from Glen Leigh and David Hawkes, and these will appear in due course on this website.

If you'd like to make your own representations on Cheshire East's Local Plan Strategy document, here is the link:

It is also possible to make submissions in writing by obtaining forms from the local library and other Cheshire East offices. Details are on the Cheshire East website.

Submissions need to be in for 5pm on Friday 25th April.

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to email us on

and we'll do our best to answer them

Dave Roberts
27th March 2014

Friday, 14 March 2014


Virgin diversion near Croxton Lane, August 2013

Andrew Macfarlane of our parent organisation MCRUA writes:

I've just received my latest copy of Branch Line News, the journal of the Branch Line Society and it mentions that Virgin Trains are diverting passenger trains via Middlewich on Sunday 16th March. The trains involved are the 11.54, 12.40, 13.50 and 14.35 from Chester and the 10.02 from Crewe.

Here are the train timings (courtesy of Railforum):

Train no 1A27

Holyhead 10.08, Middlewich 12.31 (from Northwich)

Train no 1A35

Holyhead 11.00, Middlewich 13.20 (from Northwich)

Train no 1A43

Holyhead 12 noon, Middlewich  14.32 (from Northwich)

Train no 1A 51

Holyhead 13.00, Middlewich 15.14 (from Northwich)

Train no 1D83

Crewe 10.02, Middlewich 10.21 (from Sandbach)

Full details of all timings from Railforum:



Sunday, 9 February 2014


Middlewich Station in 1963, three years after closure to passengers  Photo: H B Priestley

Subterranea Britannica's excellent site on disused British railway stations has updated its section on the old 1867/8 LNWR station in Middlewich and now provides many more photographs (including one of ours!) of the station  and its environs both in the past and in the present day, together with examples of tickets for journeys on the line, maps and timetables and a lot more information.
There's also a very valuable link back to this site for those wanting to read more about the re-opening campaign.
If we can get permission to 'borrow' some of these photographs, it will give us the opportunity to explain more about how the railway scene in Middlewich used to be and how the station was built and adapted over the years to cater for the town's needs including the carriage of livestock and, of course, salt.

Middlewich Station  in 2005 during construction of housing on the site of the station yard. Photo: Paul Wright
It's remarkable that in the second decade of the 21st Century the site of Middlewich Station is still so easily recognisable. This is partly because of the continuing existence of the Middlewich loop (hence the two tracks seen here) and the huge amount of infrastructure needed for the new signalling system which had been installed not long before Paul Wright took this picture.

Other updates to the disused stations site mean that we can, for the first time, take a look at the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line's only other 'stations' - Billinge Green Halt (near Davenham) and Cledford Bridge Halt (adjacent to the road bridge in Cledford Lane),

Monday, 13 January 2014


Seen entering the Middlewich passing loop on Saturday February 28th 1998 is this Pathfinder Railtour headed by  unusual motive power. The Type 73 electro-diesel is a kind of hybrid loco which can operate over electrified lines but also has its own diesel engine for use on other lines.

Most Type 73's are to be found on what was once BR's Southern Region, where they can take advantage of the electrified lines in that area, as the on-board diesel engine is  less powerful than the loco's electric traction motors.
This makes it quite rare for them to be seen in this area.
There are a few examples, however, not too far away on Merseyrail, which runs trains in the Merseyside and Wirral area and has been operated by several different companies over the years.
The leading loco appears to be in a former Merseyrail livery (although, at first glance, it looks strikingly similar to the notorious Middlewich UDC 'tangerine and delft blue' livery of the early 70s which our sister site, the Middlewich Diary showed us here.)
The second loco is in plain old BR Blue.
There's a bit of a mystery about the name of the train itself, as displayed on the green headboard on the front of the leading loco.
We've enlarged it as best we can, but still can't make a guess at a name for the train which sounds likely.

It appears to say something like 'THE HEN HAM'.
Does anyone know what this might mean? Or are we reading it wrongly? If so, what does it actually say? All information gratefully received.
If you've followed the Middlewich Campaign saga to any extent you'll know already that the train in our picture is passing the proposed site for the new Middlewich station.
The scene has changed somewhat over the years, with many track and signalling improvements on the branch, but this view, at the southern end of the Middlewich loop, remains a favourite for photographers of movements between Sandbach, Middlewich and Northwich.