Littleborough’s History

Littleborough Station

The station area has undergone many changes over the years with replacement passenger facilities, revised goods yard and coal arrangements, signalling and level crossings for pedestrians. Now just two simple platform lines remain.

Littleborough Passenger Station

Located on a high embankment the passenger station, has undergone many changes over the years, not always in the best interest of travellers. The earliest station may have had an overall roof similar to that provided for the first station at Rochdale. It probably included or was later provided with a ticket office under the viaduct with a stepped ramp access the ‘to Leeds’ platform. Access arrangements for the ‘to Manchester’ platform are uncertain. By around 1850 the Leeds platform building had been replaced and was described as being 47ft long with ticket offices and waiting rooms. In 1873/4 the existing building on the ‘to Leeds’ platform was constructed possibly incorporating parts of the earlier building - see plan above right. This station was provided with a canopy cantilevered off the main building as shown in the picture opposite. The ticket office was reached by a ramped footpath directly off Railway Street, ie the old toll road provided by Mr Smith some 40 years earlier. Throughout the period up to the building of the subway in 1892 it must be assumed that Manchester passengers crossed the line on the level as no other convenient route is obvious or mentioned.The provision of the subway enabled both platforms to be accessed by new covered stairs and on the Up ‘to Manchester’ platform a wooden prefabricated ladies cum general waiting room was provided together with separate gents toilet - see picture above right.

Over time numerous changes were made to the passenger facilities often worsening the available accommodation including removal of the station canopy and toilet facilities. Replacement bus type shelters of various styles were provided bus most were poor and inadequate, later changed for high roofed shelters on both platforms. Whoever authorised their installation mustn’t have appreciated their actual location and prevailing winds and rain. Fortunately these later had glass screen walls installed but the leaky roofs remain.

Other changes affecting the station include a new bus turning-circle (pictured right), car park, access ramps, platform lengthening and the adoption of the main station building by the Littleborough Historical and Archaeological Society Ltd who transformed the then semi-derelict buildings into the History Centre.

Littleborough Coal Drops

There used to be 8 coal drops (for use by local coal merchants) located off Canal St. These are shown in a  drawing held in Rochdale Touchstones’ archive which shows the drops serving two tracks on the canal side of the island platform. Both lines had wagon turntables which connected via a rail level crossing to similar turntables in the goods yard. A later plan in the Society’s archive (below) shows the drops but the level rail crossing has been removed. The coal drops may well have been similar to those which remain at Sowerby Bridge being constructed in the mid-1870’s when other station improvements were undertaken at Littleborough but they had completely disappeared by 1908 when the area was surveyed (see map links).

Littleborough Goods Yard

As with the passenger station, goods facilities have developed over the years. Both prior to and after the Coal Drops were in operation, coals were increasingly brought into Littleborough as the cost of coal (including transportation) of the output from the large Lancashire and Yorkshire collieries meant that local mines became increasingly uncompetitive. The 1851 OS map shows a large building on the goods yard site but few other details. However, in 1875 a replacement goods depot building was provided perhaps prompted to the growing number of mills in Littleborough. It was this building which required the diversion of the footpath across the railway referred to later. The goods yard finally closed in 1963, the site being used subsequently for the Lo Cost Supermarket in 1992 (later the Co-op).

Signal boxes

What signalling was provided at opening and in the earlier days of operation is unclear but by 1891 there was a signal box just east of the viaduct together with an up (to Manchester) loop or siding and another signal box at the west end of the goods yard. This situation possibly lasted some 30 years but by 1908 the east signal box next to the viaduct had been replaced by a central signal box and 4 tracks had been provided. The OS maps also show how the tracks provided at the station changed over time. The 3rd platform at Littleborough was taken out of use in 1969 and later signalling was controlled by Preston Power Box with Littleborough Station signal box abolished in October 1971.

Toll Road and public footpath over the railway

In the early 1830s a Mr Smith speculatively built a toll road from opposite the Falcon Inn, across the river Roach and crossing the canal at Ben Healey Bridge before leading to Hollingworth Lake bank. He placed a toll bar at the Falcon Inn end. See Toll Roads for more information.  With the coming of the railway the toll road was severed but the footpath remained as a reputed ‘Right of Way’. What is unclear was how traffic from Hollingworth Lake was meant to reach Littleborough as neither canal nor the railway company appeared to have any interest in maintaining road access. In September 1875, a meeting of ratepayers convened by the Littleborough Local Board considered the obstruction of a public footpath by the construction of a new railway warehouse. Following a lengthy debate, a temporary solution was arrived at with the footpath diverted around the Rochdale end of the warehouse and then over the lines to Ben Healey Bridge. The permanent solution came in 1892 with the opening of the pedestrian subway (see early plan below). Although the toll road was a speculative venture possibly to obtain money from the railway’s construction, it did later provide access to the new station and goods yard in Littleborough, a role it partly continues to this day.

 Littleborough Viaduct to Summit Tunnel     


 Below) Photograph of Littleborough Station from Cleggswood Hill. The canopy has been removed from the ‘to Leeds’ platform and the Signal Box has been demolished as has the Goods Shed. Lo Cost has not yet been built’. Refurbished DMU in earlier livery style at ‘to Manchester’ platform.