Something to Chew over: days when tramway ran to the moors

THE days when trains criss-crossed Saddleworth are consigned to black and white photographs and memories of older residents.

 

Kevin Garside

But now one line has been brought back to life thanks to former engineer and enthusiast Kevin Lawton and the curiosity and help of other Independent readers.

Kevin was one of a number of people who contacted us after we published an article about the Chew Valley Tramroad or Tramway in our March edition based on information supplied by William Agar.

He asked if anyone could fill gaps in his knowledge about the four miles Tramroad that connected Micklehurst to Chew Reservoir – once the highest structure of its kind in the UK – and finished exactly 110 years ago.

Kevin, from Springhead, previously Principal Assistant Engineer (Highways) for Manchester City Council, got in touch to provide a fascinating insight into the tramroad built at an estimated cost of £4,000.

Parts of the route are still visible and on Saturday, June 9 a Chew Valley Tramway heritage walk, starting at 10am, is taking place.

Participants will discover the route and history of the tramroad built to aid the construction of Chew Reservoir.

 

The tram on the bridge

“At the time Chew was to be constructed it had become normal practice for civil engineering contractors to lay narrow gauge light railways to move materials both to and around construction sites,” wrote Kevin in a piece of work about the provision of water supply to Saddleworth.

“Needing construction material engineers found a ready supply of puddle clay in Micklehurst and redundant railway sidings previously built by Huddersfield Corporation during the construction of reservoirs in Wessenden Valley.

“The route of the tramroad was chosen so that it gradually climbed from Micklehurst, behind the Dysarts Arms, around the valley side and into Chew Valley.

“The line from the Dysarts was on a gradual slope so there was no need for a winch or zigzag at the Micklehurst end.

“It was constructed using a 3ft gauge light railway and the track achieved a height of 1,025 feet with an average gradient of 1 in 30.

“However, very ingenious arrangements were then used to raise the trucks at Charnel Clough 525 feet to the top of the valley involving a cable-hauled incline which would have been steam oper-ated winch at the top. The average incline was 1 in 3.5 or 1 in 2 at its maximum.

“It was a three-rail system widening to four rails in the middle section where up and down trucks would pass each other.

“There were three locomotives above the incline and three below. Branch lines were operated by horses.”

 

The Route

Contractors began construction in August 1907 and it was completed in April 1908.

By 1914, Chew Reservoir had been completed and work started ripping up the track.

Geoff Frost also got in touch and said: “I do not know much about the Mossley, Micklehurst sites but I have a website that shows some history and photos of the Chew Valley railway.

“You can find it at: www.doveheritage.com

Thanks also to Adrian Brown for his input in helping us unravel the history of Chew Valley tramroad.

• To find out more about the Tramroad walk (which takes place from 10am-4pm on Saturday, June 9 costing £3 per adult), book at Saddleworth Museum on Uppermill High Street or email: learning@saddleworthmuseum.co.uk

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