I had grown up with this railway, having lived across the road from it in King Street from 1959 to 1983.
I was old enough to have travelled on 'The Dodger' during its last year of operation, and had spent hours in the signal box, along with many other local youngsters and listened to the tales of, among others, signalman David Myles (in later years to become a drinking partner in the Kings Arms).
|Middlewich signal box and the closed station in 1963. Photo: J.H. Priestley/Subterranea Britannica|
As another of his followers, railway writer Alan Wilkinson, has said, he found the actual running of trains more of a nuisance and an inconvenience than anything else and would have preferred to concentrate on his hobbies - betting on the horses (the signal box radio, an early transister model, was permanently tuned to racing commentaries) and drinking in the nearby Boar's Head Hotel where, local legend had it, he was a member of the domino team.
Telephone calls to the signal box were unanswered ( this was, of course, many years before mobile phones and 'cab to shore radio') and so the fireman took a stroll down the track to the Boar's Head to hoist Jock away from a game of dominoes.
|A coal train enters the Middlewich Loop, 3rd July 1964. Was this the one Jock Myles was rumoured to have held up while he played dominoes? Photo: Alan Wilkinson|
My childhood years in King Street were lived to the accompaniment of clanking and hissing steam locomotives (slowly merging, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, into the throbbing and high-pitched whistling of diesels) and the clattering of shunting in the goods yard across the road.
Could this vital section of railway really be gone forever?
A few days later where once there had been a 'Limit Of Shunt' sign an inter-city train (in 'full regalia' as I reported at the time) could be seen making its stately way along the supposedly 'closed' section of line heading for Northwich.
|Inter-City HST 'in full regalia'. The one I saw on the Middlewich line wasn't travelling quite as fast as this one. Photo: Mark George Photography|
It was, apparently, all down to internal politics within British Rail.
At that time the various sectors of the 'business' were responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the network's infrastructure.
Then, of course, not for the first (or last) time, the importance of that short piece of line had been realised and a compromise had been reached.
Shortly after closure, in the early sixties, none other than Signalman Myles had put the idea to the then British Railways, and received very short shrift.
Quite simply, the time wasn't right. And wouldn't be for another twenty years.
I didn't start it and wasn't even its chairman for a few years after I first got involved.
Once there I learned all about MCRUA and its support for the idea of passenger trains on the Middlewich line. Before I could stop myself I had volunteered my services as representative 'on the ground' here in Middlewich of what would, eventually, become the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign.
The vast majority of people were, and of course still are, very much in favour. There were, though, a few dissenters and, human nature being what it is, those are the people whose views stick in the mind.
According to these transport gurus I was 'an idiot' who ought to have known that the Middlewich branch line had been closed, and the line lifted, 'years ago'.
Which must have made the going a bit difficult for all those freight and diverted
No one has.
People, for example, who live alongside the track and fear that increased rail traffic will mean increased noise and vibration.
We have argued that small, lightweight, passenger trains will cause little, if any, extra noise and vibration and pointed out that all railway lines are used as and when required and the Middlewich line could at any time be used for frequent heavy freights as it was in the past.
There would be nothing that anyone could do about it.
The ultimate solution, of course, as we've also repeatedly pointed out, is not to live near a railway line.
It has been one of our functions to keep a 'watching brief' on the West-Cheshire line to ensure that the track-bed is kept clear for possible re-use some enlightened day in the future.
Also present were Peter Cox (MRLC Deputy Chairman) and the then-ubiquitous Norman Macklin, son of Middlewich's last station-master.
*Of course, the reply to 1st BR BOD'S first question should have been, 'it doesn't go anywhere, it just lies there,' but I decided against it.
There were, as can be imagined, frequent interjections from Norman Macklin.
As can also be imagined, they didn't really get us any further forward.
But wouldn't you have thought that, before coming out to look at our line, these BR 'network developers' might have taken the trouble to read something about it, find out something about its history and/or potential. At the very least least look at a map?
They all seemed to know little and care less.
With 'friends' like that, who needs enemies?
And the more we asked them to define 'supporting' the more evasive they got.
The reason why was obvious to us; the Beeston scheme (as someone at the CCC will have known full well) was proved to be a non-starter.
But had the County had a different result from a Middlewich study - which it most certainly would - it would have meant actually doing something about our scheme rather than just talking about it.
We successfully managed to keep the idea of a new station and a passenger service for Middlewich alive. One of our best moves was to enlist the aid of Congleton MP Fiona Bruce, who presented our petition to Parliament and has never missed an opportunity to bring up the scheme with the powers-that-be both at Cheshire East and Westminster.
|Fiona Bruce in Parliament Photo: Catholic Herald/BBC|
|Photo: Cheshire East Council|
The council also has big, though as yet undefined, plans for railfreight facilities near Middlewich which, if they come to fruition, will change the face of what they have taken to calling the 'Middlewich Rail Corridor' beyond recognition.
Suffice it to say that when the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign decided that pressure should be put on Cheshire East to consider the Middlewich scheme on its own merits
|Mid-Cheshire Rail Link Campaign Chairman Stephen Dent and Secretary Samantha Moss Photo: Mid-Cheshire Rail Link Campaign|
Local councillor Samantha Moss has enthusiastically taken up the role of Secretary to the new campaign, while Peter Cox remains as Vice-chairman.
The relaunch of the campaign has also seen a much-needed influx of 'new-blood' with new members taking on the vital administrative roles the campaign needs, most maintaining a high profile, but some preferring to stay slightly disconcertingly in the shadows.
On this last day of 2015 I wish everyone involved the very best for the New Year and hope that 2016 brings the progress that everyone's hard work deserves.
Someone once described our meetings as 'little more than a Gentleman's Drinking Club'.
It's no Middlewich Beer Festival, that's for sure!
New Years Eve 2015
© Salt Town Productions 2015
This was the final entry in the now-archived MRLC site. This is the archived version of this article. A more up to date version, re-titled The Middlewich Rail Link Campaign 1992 - 2015 appears on The Middlewich Diary
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