Great Days Of The Country Railway.

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We all love the images on old railway posters: those stylish pictures by artists like Claude Buckle and Frank Henry Mason, showing brother and sister with fishing nets, seagulls flying across the horizon and boats bobbing in the blue of the bay. They promised a journey by train which would take you somewhere exciting and sunny terminating at an old railway station somewhere near the sea or in the heart of the country. Heaton Mersey might not have been a holiday destination but it did have its own picturesque railway station, built in a style typical of the Cheshire Lines Company.

Train arriving for ManchesterThe station itself was hidden away from the village, situated in a deep cutting at the end of Station Road. It was built in attractive red brick and had a station master’s house at its southern end. The station had plenty of facilities including a booking hall, parcels office, ladies and gentlemen’s waiting rooms and toilets. The first station staff were Mr Little, the stationmaster, and Mr Swift, the porter.

When the station opened on the 1st January 1880 it was served by trains which ran from Manchester Central or London Road to Tiviot Dale station in Stockport. Although Heaton Mersey was one of the quieter stops on the line, 14 trains in each direction stopped at the station each day. By 1901 a new line had been opened by the Midland Railway which allowed passengers to travel directly from Heaton Mersey as far as New Mills. Here they could change and enjoy travelling deep into the Peak District to those exciting country destinations around Buxton, Millers Dale and Matlock.

Heaton Mersey Station 1905The Great War led to a reduction in services but by 1922 passenger numbers had returned to normal. However, the rise of bus travel in the 1930’s led to a decline in passenger numbers and by the 1950’s the station was only handling the same number of trains as it had done in the first few years of its existence. Eventually, only a handful of passengers used the station each day and it was earmarked for closure, with the final train calling at the station on the 3rd July 1961. After closure, Heaton Mersey station was demolished, and the cutting in which it stood was filled in.

There is no doubt the railway had a huge impact on the life of Heaton Mersey during the first few years of its existence. The Bleacher’s Arms on Didsbury Road changed its name to The Railway in 1881 in recognition of the importance of the new transport service. Ease of access to Manchester was attractive to local businessmen and to wealthy families who enjoyed trips to the wide range of shops in the city centre. The extensive local goods sidings provided work for many local men and the station was well-staffed with at least half a dozen full time employees.

Heaton Mersey poster by Phil PageThere’s little trace left of the railway today. Cars hurtle down Station Road (which was once a dead end) and the route of the line has been obscured by the houses on Green Pastures and the Embankment Industrial Estate. Traces are still there however, and the remains of the embankment can still be seen behind the houses on Craig Road and, along the banks of the Mersey, the supports to the railway bridges which took the line back and forth across the river still exist.

There would certainly have been that country feel as passengers alighted onto the platform and made their way up and across the footbridge which led to the quiet of Station Road and a village free from the noise and pollution of modern 21st century life. The air would have been clean with the peaceful sound of the village broken only by birdsong, the burr of cart wheels on the cobbled streets and the faint chug of the steam engine making its way south to Tiviot Dale or out into the Peaks: those quiet, idyllic destinations waiting peacefully in the countryside for the arrival of excited day trippers.

 

Prints of Phil Page’s take on a traditional Railway Poster can be ordered size A3 or as one of a series of greeting cards from www.fineartimages.org.uk.

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