Hadnall & District History Group

Notes from the meeting to discuss the railway in Hadnall

22 February 2007

What transport existed before the railway was built?  The turnpike road (Shrewsbury to Preston Brockhurst) had been constructed about 70 years earlier.  Most people walked everywhere except those that could afford a horse or carriage.  Goods were transported by wagon – a slow and unreliable method during winter.

Why was the Shrewsbury – Crewe line built? – It was the last of the major routes in the area.  The Industrial revolution had enabled a huge manufacturing heartland to be built in the Manchester area and the industries needed to get their products out into the World.  At that time ports on the west coast of Wales were being looked at as quick ways of achieving this if they had good rail access.  Milford Haven was one such port.  The LNWR could see that this new line would link up with the Shrewsbury – Hereford line and a connection could then be made to South West Wales.

Building the line.  Little information about the building of the line was forth-coming except that The Bibby family (Bibby Shipping Line) would have contributed to the building of the line as it would have speeded their journey to Liverpool and the company offices.  The line was reported to be built to the highest standards then available and is in fact remarkably “straight” along its course.  Reports that Queen Mary visited Sansaw to see her brother may have contributed to the fact that Yorton remains open still.

The design of Hadnall station matches very closely that of Prees (demolished). Comparisons by photographs of the station in old photographs and the current building reveal few changes. Passengers entered the platform before buying their tickets on the right hand side of the building.  The cloakroom was on the left.

Mr Hollingsworth was the last station master and was a popular, if authoritarian, figure.  He was responsible for the station winning best-kept station awards. An article on the award ceremony had been sent to us and the photograph was displayed – unfortunately no-one positively recognised either of the other two employees( Was the third from the right Mr Lloyd?).  Mr Hollingsworth was reported to have retired to a cottage near Wood Farm to live with his daughter, but had since died.  John Pears was reported to have been the station master in the 1871 census.  Apparently there were a lot of Pearces working on the railways locally.

Photographs of the station were displayed and the various buildings discussed.  In later photos a wooden(?) building near the bridge was felt to have been the lamp hut, as it was detached from the main building.  In older pictures it appears to be beyond the Shrewsbury platform on the north side.  The steep ramp nearby was remembered – was this for loading horses etc.  One photo shows a passenger train with a horse box after the engine. There was no evidence of a cattle dock in any of the available pictures, though photos have come to light since showing the cattle dock to be beyond the signal box.

Many local inhabitants remembered that passengers crossed the track on a wooden walkway under the bridge.  A set of steps on the Hadnall side of the bridge led down to the station area.  From photographs, the platforms were quite short and were judged to only hold about 5 carriages- locals report that the engine always stopped under the bridge!

The signal box appeared from distant photographs to be similar to the existing box at Prees. Subsequent examination of photographs suggests it was only 3 bays not four as at Prees.  John Thomas was a signalman at one point.  The box was always kept immaculately clean. As well as the signalman, there may have been a “box-boy” whose job it was to record the train movements.  Not all boxes on the line were to the same design – Crewe Bank is a different design but looked a more modern design.

It was reported that there were no accidents on the line due to signal errors.  It is known that there was a fatality on the line in about 1907 when someone was hit on the line between the station and Haston Bridge – reports are a bit vague as to the details.  Photographic evidence came to light shortly afterwards that there had been a derailment in the yard when 73026 had come off the rails possibly at the head of a goods train.  This might be on a Saturday, as there is a large engine (Brittania?) in the yard too.  The Crew Bank area was apparently bombed in the war but no other war damage could be recalled.  A local was reported to have been involved in holding up a red lamp to stop trains after the event.

Plans of the station area were displayed – the early ones and 1901 all show only one siding in the yard. No more recent map was to hand details as photographic evidence suggested that by the Fifties there were at least 3 sidings in the main yard area.  Perhaps the proximity of Shawbury Airfield necessitated the building of extra lines during the War.  Locals confirmed there was a lot of activity then.  The headshunt for the yard went nearly all the way to Haston Bridge.  In the plans, a loading ramp could be seen behind the signal box in 1901.

What did happened in the yard?  Certainly coal was delivered – wagons from the Lilleshall Coal company and Boulton(?) could be seen.  Local farmers said that milk and sugar beet were regular loads.  The milk always went to Liverpool and Manchester.  Wood Farm always delivered its milk over the wall of the platform on the Crewe platform.  A wagon load of potatoes on their way to Ludlow in 1943 were stolen over a weekend.  Sugar beet was loaded into open wagons.  Other commons loads would include the agricultural machinery need locally (one photo shows a tractor on a wagon in the yard).  Fertilizer was also a common load.  Listeners were reminded that demurrage might be payable if the load stayed in the yard too long – unless the porter could be “persuaded”!  Some debate ensued as to why one photograph showed a train of carriages and bogie vans(ventilated?) in the yard.  It was winter so it was possibly not a train there for some crop.  Perhaps it was only old stock being stored there before disposal – the carriages were possibly LNWR/early LMS designs and so old.

One of the more interesting stories that is recounted concerns the fact that Hadnall was the regular destination of engines from Crewe that had recently had a major overhaul.  Photographs showed trains of 1, 2 and 3 engines waiting on the headshunt line to return to Crewe (all were seen to be facing Crewe, so must have backed down!).  Apparently in the Fifties and Sixties, this was a regular occurrence on Saturday mornings.  Engines were run in over the 30 miles from Crewe Works down to Hadnall, waited there for an hour and then left again at 12.25pm. One such “train” consisted of engines numbered 42462, 45436 and 45377.

What was the service like for passengers?  The small platform length would mean that main line services would be unable to stop.  The service was therefore always stopping trains.  The initial service from 1858 was 5 trains each way and would of course have been in 4- or 6- wheel carriages with no toilets and hard seats!  The service in 1922 (from Bradshaw) saw no improvements – still only one train on a Sunday.  Service later did get better with up to 16 trains per day given in some books.  A poster for a 1934 day excursion to New Brighton was examined and the likely “hardships” that would have meant for families taking this trip!  The train left Hadnall at 08.05 (from Minsterly) and arrived at New Brighton at 10.20.  The return journey left at 9.10 pm and would have arrived back in Hadnall around midnight.  What parents did with their children over this period left some imagining!

In one photograph taken by a local lady around 1960 shows 45644 “Howe” arriving in the station under the bridge – obviously about to stop (porters on the platform)  Perhaps it was on a running-in turn as it appears quite clean and is a big engine to be on such a service.  Some details of the engine’s later history were given. see http://www.jubilees.co.uk/photos/45644a.html

September 1950   Based at Perth

January 1957       Based at Longsight

January 1961       Transferred to Crewe (South)

September 1963 to December 1963 Stored at Crewe (South)

November 1963    Withdrawn

January 1964        Cut up at Crewe Works

Some examples of tickets from Hadnall were shown and the costs remarked on.

Why did the station close?  Probably it was too close to Shrewsbury and with the bus service too few people used the trains.  Perhaps the other stations were lobbied for more successfully – though this must surely not have been the case for Yorton.  Prees Station is miles from the village!

A very pleasant evening was spent discussing all sorts of issues related to the railway in the community.  Hadnall & District History Group is very grateful to all those who attended the meeting contributed information or sent along artefacts for us all to enjoy.
Any more related information would always be gratefully received, so that a follow-up meeting may be possible at some time in the future.