Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

Railways Around Burnley


During the early years of Queen Victoria's reign, railway investment was in full flow with dozens of railway companies coming into existence and numerous Acts of Parliament being passed to create a network of lines that would criss-cross the country and last until the Beeching era.


Railwaymania had arrived and several embryonic companies planned routes into North East Lancashire. The Blackburn and Preston Railway and the Blackburn, Burnley, Accrington and Colne Extension Railway were instrumental in planning the laying of lines towards Burnley. They were absorbed into the Manchester, Bury and Rossendale Railway and, in 1845 the company became the East Lancashire Railway. Under this banner then, the Railway.pushed forward and reached Burnley in 1848. In 1849, the Burnley to Colne line opened and formed an end-on junction with the Leeds and Bradford Extension Railway. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, who later absorbed the East Lancashire Railway in 1859, built the line from Todmorden to Burnley.Due to financial constraints, the line was originally built as a single line with space provided for a doubling of the line at a later date. The line incorporates three tunnels, two of which fall in the Burnley boundary for this article. Holme tunnel is 265 yards long and Towneley tunnel is 398 yes long. The line officially opened on 12th November 1849, with the short stretch from Thorneybank (Manchester road) station to Gannow Junction being completed by September 1850. The doubling of the route was soon under discussion and this was completed on 1st July 1860.


Two views of the Grade II listed Burnley Viaduct as it is today. The structure was built between 1847 and 1848 for the East Lancashire Railway Company, and was the last obstacle to be overcome before the railway reached central Burnley. It is constructed from course rock-faced sandstone with freestone dressings and red brick sophits to the arches. Its straight line length is 400 metres, comprising 15 semi-circular arches. It is a conspicuous and imposing feature easily identified from the surrounding hills.


Stations and Halts




Hapton Station was opened in 1860 and, like most of North East Lancashire's stations, has been under the ownership of the East Lancashire Railway, The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the London and North Western Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and British Railways. (Not to mention Railtrack, and Network Rail)




Padiham Station was opened in 1875 and closed on 2nd December 1957. The line from Burnley to Simonstone was retained for the supply of fuel to Padiham power station. Since the closure of the power station in 1993, the line has been lifted and the track bed is now part of Padiham Greenway.



Opened 15th October 1877, closed 3rd December 1957. served the people of Read and Simonstone on the Great Harwood loop.


Rose Grove


The station opened in September 1848

During the mid 1980's Rose Grove was, surprisingly, the starting point for an inter-city service via Birmingham, to Paignton. Note the lower level of the platforms on this and accompanying photographs.


Rose Grove Station showing removal of overall roof. Note the extensive coverage of railway properties around the station.


Burnley, or to be precise, Rose Grove locomotive depot, provided engines for the Lancashire/Yorkshire coal traffic and these extensive sidings stood where the M65 motorway now runs. Land was also acquired by Motorpoint for their car supermarket.


Burnley Barracks


Burnley Barracks Station was opened on 18th September 1848 and was the temporary terminus on the line from Accrington until the Colne extension was built. It was featured in the tv programme Paul Merton's Secret Stations in 2016. The station is threatened with closure should the Colne to Skipton line be re-established.


Bank Top (Burnley Central)


The locomotive on the right is an "auto train" where the locomotive and the passenger compartment are one vehicle.


The following photographs depict Burnley Central as it was in the 50's and 60's, a gloomy mausoleum which came alive each July when the local "Wakes" holiday period saw hundreds of travellers pack the platforms waiting for the train from the Colne direction which would take them to the Lancashire coast and beyond.


Opened on 1st December 1848 as Burnley Central, it was re-named Bank Top station in November1871. On 2nd October 1944, the name reverted to Burnley Central.


Burnley Central Station as it is today, a shadow of its former self. Reduced to a single line following the closure of the Colne to Skipton rail link, the station lost its "principal" status to Manchester Road and comprises a soulless modern brick building. The whole thing is in rather an unkempt state.


New Hall Bridge Halt


The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway wanted to widen the tracks and create sidings at this site towards the end of the 19th century. From reports in the local paper at the time, there was a very strong lobby for the residents of Daneshouse and St Andrews ward to be better represented, as they thought other areas of the Borough were being treated better. The population of this area at the time was approaching 20,000 and the residents thought that there ought to be a station in the vicinity and they eventually got their way. It was closed in 1948.
Undergrowth and the risk of trespass make photography of the former site all but impossible.


Reedley Hallows Halt


The Halt was situated on the east side of Barden Lane, behind the Reedley Hallows pub (that was).
It closed in 1956. This and other halts were created around response to the increasing competition felt by the L&YR from electric trams which ran on parallel routes from Burnley to Colne. The trams were more frequent and their stops more convenient for the travelling public. The railway therefore responded with Railmotors or autotrains as depicted in the photograph at Bank Top station, together with halts such as this and Bott Lane on the Nelson/Colne boundary.


Manchester Road


The following two photographs show the station as it is today, having been rebuilt and opened in 2014.


The station was originally opened on 12th November 1849, as Thorneybank, and was situated on the other side of Manchester Road. This was, until 1850, the western terminus of the line from Yorkshire. However, in that year, the short extension to Gannow Junction was opened. In 1850, Thorneybank station was closed to passengers as the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway had built its own station on the present site. Thorneybank Station was eventually demolished before the end of the 19th century, although the goods sidings adjacent were used for many more years.

The Beeching report listed the line itself as due for closure. On 28 July 1965, the then Minister for Transport, Thomas Fraser, gave consent for closure. Passenger services were withdrawn on 1st November 1965. The BR Corporate Plan of 1983 indicated that the line would close to all traffic. However, the strategic importance of the cross country route prevailed and passenger trains returned to the line in 1984. The Todmorden "curve", abandoned in 1973, was reinstated and opened to traffic on 17 May 2015.
The new station had lasted until November 1961 when it was closed to passengers and in 1973, it closed completely. The station was re-opened in 1986 and completely rebuilt in 2014.


Manchester Road station staff photographed in 1908




Towneley Station was opened on 12th November 1849.It was closed to passengers in August 1952 and was closed completely from March 1960




Although the caption within the photograph states Holmes Chapel. I am assured that the title in the border is correct! The station was opened on 12th November 1849 and closed on 28th July 1930.

In 1907, a terrible accident resulted in William Pim, the deputy station master being killed. See Accidents section.




Whitsuntide 1849. A passenger train was in a rear end collision with an excursion train and a further excursion train ran into the debris.

12th July 1852. A train from Goole was mis-directed and hit the Manchester Rd station buffers at some speed. There were four fatalities and an unknown number of injured. "With regard to the train from Goole, to which the accident occurred, Grant states, that having stopped this train above the top points, he told the driver of the leading engine that the engines were to be unhooked, and go down the straight line; while the train was to be crossed over to the other line; he then went to the guard at the head of the train, and asked him if he had breaks sufficient to hold his train, and he replied, he had, Grant then told him the train was to cross over to the up line, and that from thence they were to be turned into the East Lancashire siding. The points where this would be done stand about 140 yards from the fixed buffers at the end of the platform; they are weighted to stand open for the station siding, so that in the absence of a person to work the lever handle the train would, as a matter of course, run into the station siding, and be brought up by the fixed buffers; and this was what subsequently happened to the train, for when it reached the points there was no one there, and the train, instead of being turned into the East Lancashire siding, ran up to the station. As soon as the guard perceived what had happened, viz., that his train was running up to the station instead of on to the East Lancashire siding, he turned his break hard on; but two breaks were powerless to bring up a train of this magnitude in 140 yards, and it was not stopped till it came in contact with the fixed buffers."

27th July 1854 Derailment. No further details available

23rd March 1858 "There is no telegraph between Burnley and Todmorden, and the only precaution that is adopted to secure safety on the single line, is the employment of a special porter to ride with the goods trains, whose duty it is to cause them to shunt out of the way of the passenger trains when necessary, and, knowing the times at which the latter ought to be running, to take care that the goods trains do not meet them, and thus come into collision with them."

"A heavy non-stopping goods train, with a full load, was permitted to run over gradients on which it could not afford to stop without the prospect of serious inconvenience, at an insufficient interval of time behind a stopping passenger train. The passenger train met with extra-ordinary stoppages, of four minutes at a colliery siding, and of two minutes at a passenger station."

"I would urge upon the directors, in the strongest manner, the necessity that exists for their laying down a second line of rails, and for their establishing a telegraph for the safer working of the line, with the least possible delay, before a more serious accident shall prove to them the want of these precautions."

6th July 1860. Incident at Burnley's colliery sidings. No further details available

2nd September 1871 Rear end collision between Towneley and Manchester Rd stations. 4 people were injured and the enquiry ruled driver error.

13th August 1873 "On the day in question, the 10 a.m. passenger train from Colne to Preston reached the loop line junction at the north side of Burnley station at 10.15 a.m. The signalman on duty forgot to alter the points for the passenger train, It is not practicable to lower the signal for the loop line while the points are right for the main line. As soon as the engine-driver perceived that his train was running on to the main line, instead of going on to the loop line, he reversed his engine, whistled for the guard's breaks, and the fireman applied the tender-break, but the train was not stopped before it struck some empty goods waggons that were standing on the main line.

The accident was caused by the signalman at Burnley north junction, not placing the points and signals right for the passenger train before it arrived, and by the engine-driver of the passenger train failing to observe that the points were wrong, and that the wrong signal was given to him."

22nd February 1886 No details available. Driver error was reported with no casualties or fatalities.

20th July 1897 "Signalman Ashworth, on duty in the south cabin, after accepting a bank-engine in rear of a goods train at 5.28, failed to notice, about 5.35, that the train arrived without that engine, and subsequently, at 5.38, accepted a passenger train on the same line, while the bank-engine was still in the section."

20th April 1905 Derailment at Bank Top station "In this case, as the 12.50 a.m. up goods train from Colne to Phillips Park, consisting of train engine, 110 loaded waggons, three empty waggons, a brake van, and two banking engines, was leaving Burnley (Bank Top) Station, the eighty-fifth waggon from the train engine, with the four following waggons, left the rails at a crossing of a siding connection in the up main line.No one was injured."

Sept 1907. The Normanton to Liverpool goods, carrying coal and onions, suffered a mishap involving couplings at The summit of Copy Pit incline. This resulted in the train parting but then coming together at Holme station, with terrible consequences. Most if not all of the buildings on the down platform were destroyed, including the offie of the station master. William Pim, the deputy station master was killed outright. It is said that his hand was still gripping his pen when he was found. The station clock stopped as a result of the accident, showing the time as 10.37. The only thing to survive on this platform was the station safe.

6th March 1910 At 9.27pm Mrs Eleanor Alderson and her son, Master Harry Alderson walked in front of the Todmorden to Accrington train at Towneley Crossing. Both were killed.

In August 1926, 30 to 40 goods wagons broke free during shunting in the Rosegrove sidings. They crashed into four stationary wagons, which smashed through the buffers and ended up breaking through the wall on to Rosegrove Lane. Due to the velocity at which they were travelling, they didn't come to a stop until they hit the houses at the other side of the lane. The incident occurred in the small hours of the morning, which resulted in the local residents being awakened by the violent noise of the accident, but nobody was hurt. See photograph below.
There were a number of similar incidents over the years.

In the mid 1960's Derek Moody, a loco fireman at Rose Grove was killed when a cobble stone was dropped from the Starkie street bridge as his engine was passing underneath. Unfortunately, Derek was leaning out of the cab and was hit directly by the heavy stone. The driver went on to Towneley signal box to summon help. He ran down Huffling lane until he saw a telephone in a house window. He knocked only to be told that it was an ornament and not connected.

16 Feb 1971 Ten freight wagons were derailed at Gannow Junction late on the Tuesday night. No one was injured, but train schedules were disrupted between Rose Grove and Burnley.


The mayhem in Rosegrove Lane following the shunting accident in 1926. See report above.


Motive Power Depot


In 1899, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company built an engine shed just west of Rose Grove station to house and service steam locomotives used for both passenger and freight haulage. The engine shed was one of the last four in the country to close in August 1968, the final day that British Railways ran steam engines on the national network. The site now lies under the M65 motorway.


A General view of the shed yard in 1968 showing the run-down state of steam engines in the final days


Attention to one of the locomotives. The giant concrete coaling tower in the background was demolished soon after the closure of the shed in 1968.


A picture that says it all. Enthusiasts have chalked an obituary on the smokebox door of a Class 5 locomotive


Enthusiasts crowd round a surprisingly clean Class 8F goods locomotive, now preserved on the Severn Valley Railway. The site is now under the M65 motorway.


Modern Developments


Since the closure of the line from Colne to Skipton, Burnley Central station has become much less important than the station on Manchester Road. In 1986, the track between Gannow Junction and Colne was made into a single road leaving the former Bank Top station on a "by water" of the railway system. However, there is today a strong lobby for the re-opening of the Colne to Skipton line which may, once again, see the phoenix that is Burnley Central station, rise from the ashes.
In November 2014, after 2.3 million pound rebuild, the new Manchester Road station was opened, in time for the inaugural train on the new direct link to Manchester in 2015.
Much of the Victorian architecture has ceased to be evident on our stations and most bear little resemblance to their original deign.


A Couple of Anecdotes from Old Railwaymen


On the route up to Copy Pit with a heavily loaded coal train, the pace of travel could at best be classed as sedate. To pass the time, the footplate crew would use frolicking rabbits for target practice, throwing prime lumps of Welsh steam coal from the tender. One enterprising farmer, with a field adjacent to the railway, made wooden rabbits and placed them in the field. Once the engine had passed, he took his bucket and collected coal for his fire!

Another story from the same line and, again involving heavily loaded trains goes like this. Accrington and Rose Grove crews were, to say the least, competitive, verging on animosity towards each other. If a coal train crewed by Accrington men needed assistance up the bank to Copy Pit, they would call for a banking engine from Rose Grove to assist by pushing the train at the rear. The Accrington men would come prepared! Armed with old car tyres, they would feed them onto the fire just before the tunnel. The result would be acrid black smoke filling the tunnel and, of course, pouring onto the footplate of the engine at the rear. Choking and cursing, the Rose Grove men would plot the next phase in the conflict.


Acknowledgements go to Bennet's A History of Burnley and to Brian Hall who has supplied photographs of Burnley Central station.