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The North Staffordshire Railway


This section is provided for anyone unfamiliar with The North Staffordshire Railway - or Knotty as it was generally known - after the Staffordshire Knot crest initially used by the company as an heraldic device.

The Knotty was incorporated in April 1845 by amalgamation of the Staffordshire Potteries and Churnet Valley Railways. The first section of the railway opened for goods traffic on 3rd April 1848 and for passengers a fortnight later. This initial section extended from Stoke-on-Trent to Norton Bridge (a few miles north of Stafford on the LNWR's route).


Overall Stoke-on-Trent was the centre of operations for the railway. Lines extended from Macclesfield to Norton Bridge, and from Crewe Junction to North Stafford Junction, located between Burton-on-Trent and Derby. There was also a branch from this line to Burton-on-Trent. Its other major route was from North Rode, just south of Macclesfield, via the Churnet Valley, to Uttoxeter. The Churnet Valley line was also connected to the main line at Stoke via the Leek Branch, which ran from Stoke to Leekbrook Junction.

The Biddulph Valley line diverged from the Leek branch at Milton Junction. This line ran through Black Bull and Biddulph to Congleton (Brunswick Wharf) with a connection to the Main Line at Congleton Upper Junction.

There was also a branch line to Market Drayton which extended from Newcastle Junction (between Stoke-on-Trent and Etruria), via Newcastle-under-Lyme, Silverdale and Pipe Gate (Woore) to Market Drayton where connection with the Great Western Railway was effected.

And finally, there was the Loop Line! This line diverged eastwards from the main line, immediately to the north of Etruria station, and meandered through the northern reaches of the city. It served Hanley, Cobridge, Burslem, Tunstall, Pittshill, Newchapel and Kidsgrove, before rejoining the main line to the north of Harecastle Junction station (later Kidsgrove Central), at Kidsgrove Junction.

Principal services were operated between Crewe and Derby, Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford, Macclesfield and Derby, through Leek - over the Churnet Valley route - and finally of course there was the frequent service over the Loop Line.

The Grouping & Nationalisation

The North Staffordshire Railway, like its much larger neighbours, the London & North Western Railway and the Midland Railway, ceased to exist when they became constituents of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, when it came into existence on January 1st 1923. The NSR had had an independent existence for 75 years during which time the world had witnessed the great tumult of the First World War. The LMS lasted just 45 years. Its independent existence came to an end soon after the Second World War when the post-war Labour government nationalised Britain's railways from January 1st 1948.

The contraction of the passenger rail network in North Staffordshire picked up pace in the 1960s, culminating in the closure of the Loop Line, Leek to Uttoxeter, and the line to Newcastle and Silverdale, following the publication of the Beeching Report on March 27th 1963. Numerous freight lines have closed since then notably Audley and Biddulph. The line from Stoke to Leekbrook and Caldon has been mothballed for many years now.

Privatisation and Today

British Railways was privatised over a protracted period between 1994 and 1997. At the time British Railways were receiving an annual subsidy of about £350m. This was only for regional passenger railways. InterCity, Parcels and freight were not subsidised. The subsidy to today's privatised railway is close to £3bn per annum, almost 1000 times more......

In North Staffordshire privatisation is most noticeable in the trains that operate along the routes radiating from Stoke. Currently:

  • Virgin Trains (express services between Manchester and Euston)
  • Cross Country (Arriva) between Manchester and the south and south west of England
  • Northern Rail (stopping services to Manchester)
  • East Midland Trains (Crewe to Derby)

From mid-December London Midland will operate a service from Crewe, via Stoke-on-Trent and Stone to Stafford and Euston or Birmingham.

Freight trains are operated by English, Welsh and Scottish Railways - EWS - a subsidiary of the German State Railway, andalso by Freightliner.

Last updated 03/11/15.