Keeping you in the loop!

THERE are many people walking, cycling or riding who will be unaware of the origins of the linear footpath that runs through Uppermill to Greenfield and onwards to Mossley (writes Peter Fox).

Its origins lie in the building of an extension to the local railway network that was known as the ‘loop’.

Station House, former Friezland Station halt

The railway age first came to Saddleworth in 1849 with the building of the opening of the Huddersfield to Manchester railway line.

By the 1880s, the capacity for the number of trains using the line had been superseded requiring extra lines to be built with a route planned from Diggle to Stalybridge.

In 1882, construction of the line began with the Saddleworth section involving the construction of two tunnels.

Travelling south from Diggle, the first one was dug below Butterhouse and came out at the top of Ryefields Drive. It was a total of 329 yards long.

Steam train on loop line c 1960, photo Jim Davenport

The second, shorter tunnel was located at the Royal George area running below the pub of that name. Both have been buried although the northern end of Butterhouse Tunnel remains unsealed.

The other major works involved the creation of embankments along a lot of the route and the building of bridges and viaducts with Greenfield being effectively split into two halves.

LoopLine-ButterhouseTunnel c 1980

These engineering works demanded thousands of engineering bricks and a temporary brickworks was established at Pickhill, Uppermill.

One novelty in the building of the line was that work carried on 24 hours a day with the works at night being illuminated by powerful electric lights.

The line opened on July 1, 1886, including the opening of two new stations at Uppermill and Friezland.

Loop line Uppermill c 1960

The stations had a short life being temporarily closed on January 1, 1917, for economies during World War One but were never to reopen. The main station buildings to these two sites are still standing.

The line ran smoothly for the most part, but the exception came with an unfortunate accident that occurred in the Royal George area of Greenfield just off Manchester Road.

On the August 10, 1909, a crash at this point claimed the lives of the driver and fireman as well as the serious injury to several of the passengers.

Station House

In this age of ‘instant’ news, it is interesting to note local papers recorded that one photographer had photographed the scene and on the same day was able to project lantern slides at a cinema in Stalybridge.

The line was closed to all rail traffic on October 3, 1966.

The route lay derelict until over a period the footpath and trail were completed.

The demolition of the viaducts in Greenfield was a major piece of work being completed in 1979.

The goods shed at Uppermill was demolished and provided a site for the Saddleworth baths while the site at Greenfield was used as an equestrian centre.

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