Local Transport

Our Local Railways

This article first appeared in Essentials Mag in July 2017

by Michael Nethercott

It all started in 1846 with the opening of the railway between Chester and Shrewsbury, known as the Shrewsbury & Chester Railway, eventually forming part of the Great Western Railway between Birkenhead Woodside and London Paddington. In 1847 a railway disaster occurred at the Dee Bridge, Chester, when the bridge collapsed as a train was crossing due to the failure of a cast iron girder in the bridge, killing five passengers and injuring many others. Following this accident the use of cast iron girders in railway bridge design was discontinued.


Three of our local railway stations; Gresford, Rossett and Pulford & Dodleston all opened in 1846 and in addition to carrying passengers (there were three classes of travel at that time as shown in Bradshaw’s Timetable of 1854), farmers in particular relied on the railways for delivery of their produce, such as milk and cheese, to the towns and cities. Pulford & Dodleston station was closed to passengers in 1855, but continued as a goods siding until 1959.

During the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th century the local railways grew (see map) provided by a variety of companies, namely the GWR, LNWR, Cambrian and Great Central. After Dr Beeching’s cuts in the mid 60’s many of these lines and almost all the stations were closed. Chester General continues as the main line station, Chester Northgate closed in 1969.

Local railway map before ‘Beeching’.
GWR train arriving at Balderton Station c.1929

Rossett Station

This article first appeared in Essentials Mag in May 2019

by Mavis Torgersen

Picture the scene back in the late 1800s when the local farmers would arrive at Rossett station in their horse drawn carts and wait to unload their milk churns destined for the local markets.

The station opened in November 1846 located on the Great Western Railway Company’s Paddington to Birkenhead line. At the time of opening there were 6 trains running in each direction on weekdays, between Wrexham and Chester.

Construction of the railway had a considerable impact on the viability of the toll roads, as much of the business of moving heavy and bulky goods transferred to this form of transport. By 1904 Rossett station was able to handle horse boxes, livestock, parcels and private carriages by rail. It had a 1 ton 10cwt lifting crane.

In 1884 a signal box with 28 levers was opened. This controlled the main line, the level crossing on Station Road and the goods yard which was extended around this time.

By 1903, 32,254 passenger tickets were sold, 91 wagons of livestock were handled and 58,687 parcels were forwarded. 2998 tons of coal and coke were delivered. In it’s heyday Rossett station was a very busy place.

The main facilities at the station were on the up platform, the Shrewsbury direction. The buildings were quite extensive and included the station house and offices. On the down line, Chester direction, the buildings consisted of a waiting room and toilet facilities with the roof line extended to provide shelter.

Rossett station looking north in the early years of the 20th century (copyright John Alsop collection)

Crosville

This article first appeared in Essentials Mag in April 2018

by Michael Nethercott

A familiar name to those living in the area before the late nineteen eighties. Crosville had provided our local bus and coach services for the best part of eight decades.

The company name was derived from its founders, George Crosland Taylor (of Chester) and his French business associate, Georges de Ville, and was first established in 1906 with the intention of building motor cars. However, this venture failed to get off the ground and the company turned its attention to providing transport services, initially establishing services between Chester and Ellesmere Port, first introduced in February 1911. Subsequently, in the early days, services between Wrexham and Chester were shared with Wrexham and District Transport Company. The two routes between Wrexham and Chester were Rhosrobin, Llay, Burton Rossett and Pulford (by Crosville) and Gresford Marford Rossett and Pulford (Wrexham & District). Poulton Village was timetabled by Crosville over many years but often on “Saturdays only”.

Crosville “Leyland Tiger TS7” that entered service in 1937 and this type remained in service until 1960 (photo courtesy of John A. Senior, from “Crosville First 40 Years”)

Crosville saw considerable changes throughout its existence with routes extending across Cheshire, Merseyside, parts of Lancashire and North and Mid Wales. It survived four changes of ownership between 1906 and 1959, but retained a connection with the founding family and remarkably the name “Crosville” continued to appear on buses throughout that time. Even during a short period of ownership by the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1929/30 the name “LMS (Crosville)” appeared.

Some unusual applications for Crosville buses in the past have been noted: in rural areas both single and double-deckers were fitted with GPO Letterboxes at the rear – this was a common sight in Llandudno over many years. At the commencement of WWII Crosville converted 24 single-deckers to stretcher bearer ambulance role and others were fitted out as mobile canteens although the extent of their use is not known.

Crosville operations in the North West and North Wales had ceased by late 1988, when the company was sold to ATL (Western) and the company name disappeared altogether.

However, the dormant company name was acquired by a new operator in Weston-super-Mare who, since 2011, has built up a network of timetabled services with a fleet of more than thirty modern buses. So the name Crosville lives on!

References:

“Crosville Motor Services Part 1 – the first 40 years”, by John Carroll and Duncan Roberts.

“Crosville Motor Services 2” by Duncan Roberts.

The Ellesmere Canal - A canal by Pulford and Gresford?

This article first appeared in Essentials Mag in February 2018

by Michael Nethercott

Research has shown that in the late 1700s there were various proposals to build a canal linking the River Mersey with the River Dee at Chester and the River Severn at Shrewsbury, to be known as the Ellesmere Canal. A formal proposal for such a canal was made in 1791 and an Act of Parliament was passed in 1793. Thomas Telford was appointed General Agent to oversee the programme. The relatively easy section between Ellesmere Port and Chester (8 miles 3 Furlongs) was completed and in use by 1797. Two routes had been proposed south of Chester, both passing through Rough Hill, with one route passing to the east of Pulford, close to Poulton, and the other passing to the west of Pulford, close to the present railway line, via a staircase of locks over the Gresford Rise. Continuing through N.E.Wales the canal would have provided valuable transport passing close to lime stone, slate and other quarries, iron works and lead mines as well as an important commercial link between the cities of Liverpool and Shrewsbury. However, the section between Chester, through Wrexham to Ruabon had been abandoned as uneconomic, doubtless the difficult terrain was a factor. The section between Ellesmere Port and Chester now forms part of the Shropshire Union Canal. Other sections of the canal were constructed to the south (including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805, now part of the Llangollen Canal) as far as Weston Lullingfields some 9 miles to the north of Shrewsbury. How the character of the area around Pulford and Gresford might have changed, stimulated by the passing canal trade, we shall never know.