In this post we look at the early history of the East Lancashire Railway. Firstly, the Blackburn & Preston Railway barely had two years of independent existence. In 1848 it formed part of the East Lancashire Railway along with several other companies. Moreover the ELR had a fraught relationship with its neighbours often feuding with the North Union railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Secondly this caused the building of duplicate routes and stations.
In 1843 a railway was proposed between Preston and Blackburn. There was already a railway entering Preston from Wigan. This line crossed the river Ribble via a stone viaduct. The railway was operated by the North Union Railway. Subsequently the viaduct became a point of contention for the fledgling Blackburn & Preston Railway. Because Preston corporation did not want another railway bridge built over the Ribble, the new line could not enter Preston directly. As a result the the route joined the existing line to the South, at Farrington. This also made the railway 3 miles longer than the road route.
The route of the railway
The railway was built in two sections. Firstly the section from Farrington to Hoghton, contracted to John Stephenson and Secondly Hoghton to Blackburn, contracted to Nowell & Hattersley. Construction began near Hoghton Tower in August 1844. Most of the heavy engineering works were on the Hoghton to Blackburn section. Above all the River Darwen had to be crossed at Hoghton bottoms. This is a deep gorge and consequently a substantial stone viaduct had to be built. The three arch structure is 116ft high and took over eighteen months to build.
A further bridge re-crossed the river near Pleasington. This was originally made of wood but was replaced by a stone bridge in 1865.
The stations on the railway
There were four intermediate stations at Lostock Hall, Bamber Bridge, Hoghton and Pleasington. Hoghton closed in 1960. Pleasington is still open as a request stop.
The East Lancashire Railway Adds it’s own station
Importantly, feuding railway companies often built duplicate routes. Preston being a case in point. Within a few years the ELR had persuaded Preston Corporation to let them build a direct line, and new bridge into the town. This line diverged from the existing route at Bamber Bridge. Consequently the main reason for the Bamber Bridge to Preston line was so the ELR could avoid having to run over the North Union Railway’s tracks into the town, via Farrington. Because of the feud with the NUR an additional station was build by 1850, with an entrance on Butler street. This is now closed and the site of a supermarket.
The ELR bridge is still in use as a footpath and the route of the line has large sections that can be walked.
To sum up the Preston to Blackburn line formed an important link in the East Lancashire network. By 1848 Accrington was connected to Blackburn and Manchester via Bury. Blackburn was a major textile town as was Accrington. The link to Manchester and Preston, a significant port, helped to cement the industrial revolution in the North of England..