History: Saddleworth by Rail (part 2)

By Peter Fox

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Waiting for last train at Delph 1955

IN THIS second article on Saddleworth’s railways we look at the demise of the network that served the area – prompted by the fact that Greenfield Station is the last remaining railway station in the Oldham borough following the conversion to the Metrolink tram.

The first stations to close were those at Friezland and Uppermill, both opened in 1886 on the Stalybridge to Diggle loop line; their closure in 1917 was supposed to have been temporary, prompted by wartime economies of the First World War.

The station buildings both survive as houses. I remember in the 1960s going to school along the path between Station Road and Church Road and peeping through a hole in the brickwork at Uppermill Station into the subway with white glazed tiles that linked the two platforms – presumably all long buried.

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Butterhouse Tunnel which is now buried

The loop line from Stalybridge, though after 1917 not having a passenger service, survived for freight until the Saddleworth section was closed on 30 October 1966.

The local rail network had started to shrink in 1955 with the closure of the Delph andOldham branches to passengers, followed by full closure in 1963. Fortunately, much of the route can still be walked.

Saddleworth’s smallest station was on the Delph branch: Measurements Halt was opened on 18 July 1932 to serve Measurements Mill, with one train in each direction calling on weekdays. It shut with the closure of the Delph branch to passengers and the mill is similarly long gone.

Diggle and Saddleworth stations closed officially on 7 October 1968, the last trains having called two days previously. Saddleworth Station building still survives, having been converted into a house, but all traces of Diggle Station have long since gone.

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Staff at Delph Station c1905

The routes of the closed lines can still be traced in many places although nearly all the structures, in particular two viaducts at Greenfield, have totally gone.

Some smaller items remain, however – notably a number of boundary posts which were put up by the old London and North Western Railway.

It is interesting to reflect that Saddleworth’s rail network could have been even more extensive if various proposals to build new lines had come to fruition.

One plan was to extend the Delph Branch up the Castleshaw valley and through the hills to Rochdale, while another was to make a line from Rishworth through Castleshaw and New Tame to Royton.

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Saddleworth Station c1905