East Lancashire Railway

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The East Lancashire Railway is a heritage railway in Lancashire and Greater Manchester, England.



After formal closure by British Rail in 1982, the line was reopened on 25 July 1987. The initial service operated between Bury and Ramsbottom, via Summerseat. In 1991 the service was extended northwards from Ramsbottom to reach Rawtenstall, via Irwell Vale [1]. Rawtenstall is the practical northern limit of the line as the formation on towards Bacup has been lost immediately north of the station. In September 2003 an eastbound extension from Bury to Heywood was opened. To reach Heywood the extension had to cross over the Manchester Metrolink line to Bury, at the site of the former Knowsley St. station. This necessitated the construction of a new intersection bridge, with steeply graded approaches of 1 in 36 and 1 in 41 nicknamed 'The Ski Jump'. The remainder of the extension includes a long section at 1 in 85, rising towards Heywood, as the line climbs out of the Irwell valley.

The heritage line is now just over 12 miles (19 km) long, and has a mainline connection with the national railway network at Castleton, beyond Heywood. There are plans to extend the running line further to Castleton in the future[2]. Options for providing an interchange station at Castleton between East Lancashire Railway and National Rail services are currently being explored. A rail connection with the Metrolink line also exists, just south of Bury, at Buckley Wells. This was formerly the connection to the Electric Car Shops where the Class 504 EMU sets were maintained, and was created when BR services were diverted to Bury Interchange in 1980. There are plans to construct and open a station at Buckley Wells, between 2012 and 2015, by the locomotive shed[3]. As the majority of the trackwork exists, the work will be relatively simple, requiring just a run round loop and building a platform. This will mean that the south end of the line will be more accessible to the disabled and elderly. A new car and coach park will also be constructed.

The railway is open every weekend of the year and holds a number of themed events and galas throughout the year which include steam and diesel events amongst others, and also offers driver experience courses. The Day out with Thomas events had to be withdrawn in 2009 when the ELR was unable to agree to increasingly onerous terms imposed by HiT Entertainment, the owners of the Thomas brand[4]. These have been replaced with "Family Engines Big Day Out" events featuring engines with faces, such as "Jimmy the Jinty".

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