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CVLLP 6: Railway Heritage

Project Objective

To protect, enhance, restore and connect the heritage of the North Staffordshire Railway (1846 – 1960s) within the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership area, and to ensure the conservation and accessibility of Leekbrook Junction signal box (Grade II), and other features at Cheddleton station so that visitors are able to enjoy their diverse heritage at an provisionally accredited (MLA) museum.

Fit to existing strategies and objectives

The North Staffordshire Railway Museum began in 1976 as part of a plan to create a working Railway Centre based on the original station, track and outbuildings at Cheddleton on the Churnet Valley section of the North Staffordshire Railway.  This line was begun in 1846, subsequently becoming part of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923 and finally after nationalization in 1948 it became part of British Railways.

The company is concerned to preserve and display the story of the growth of the North Staffordshire Railway from its beginning in the 1840s until its closure under British Railways in 1964.

The collection consists of items formerly in use by the North Staffordshire Railway and by its successors, the LMS Railway and British Railways.  Briefly these are (1) Small, light, transportable objects in daily use on a working railway; they include lamps, flags, carriage keys, signalling tokens, oil cans, shed plates, wagon plates, tools, luggage items, small station signs, whistles, clocks; (2) Office equipment such as furniture, stoves, and cooking utensils; clothing and accessories; documents such as timetables and working schedules; pictorial items such as photographs and posters and wheeled vehicles particularly station equipment and rolling stock.  Some of the items date back to the pre-grouping days before 1923 but the majority are of a later period, some only being taken out of use quite recently.

Comprehensive description of the project

At Leekbrook the sustainable conservation and an interpretation strategy for the 1840s Grade II listed NSR signal box at Leekbrook, which will be accessible to visitors, by restoring the original platform.

At Cheddleton Station the metal British Railway 1950/60s crossing gates will be replaced by original NSR wooden gates from the 1920s, including the sympathetic mechanism with wheel, and finally the ex Hanley 1870s water column will be brought into operational use on Platform 2.

Project Activity

The project will be undertaken in three phases:

Phase 1 being the restoration of the Grade 2 Listed Building known as Leek Brook Junction signalbox. This box is the oldest remaining example of its type, being built by Mackenzie and Holland for the North Staffordshire Railway. It was originally one of three boxes which controlled rail traffic at Leek Brook, a busy junction of the Churnet Valley, Waterhouses and Stoke branches of the NSR (Knotty). It is now the only remaining box at this location which will be an important Gateway into the Churnet Valley for visitors travelling in by train.

At the time of listing, the building was bereft of any physical access to the upper storey and the first element of this phase of the project will be to replace the stairs, landing and porch to a similar design to what is believed to be the original. The second element of this phase will be to restore the mechanisms in the signalbox to full working order.

The brickwork will be re-pointed in appropriate materials and style to suit the original design and windows will also be repaired/replaced as necessary, again to suit the original. The final element of the first phase will be to provide public access and facilitate interpretation of the use of the building. The adjacent platform which is currently disused will be renovated, and the track slewed to run alongside the platform thus allowing the public to dismount here and view the workings of the signalbox.

Phase 2 The second phase of the project will be the return of wooden crossing gates at Cheddleton Station. Currently the gates are 1960’s style metal gates painted white and operated as 4 individual gates. We have a set of wooden gates that have been stored for sometime and were originally from another crossing on the NSR network at Leigh near Uttoxeter. The mechanism for operating them has been recovered and will be restored as part of the second element of this second phase.

Whilst the original sympathetic mechanism, which allowed the gates to operate in tandem, is no longer in a viable condition, an adaptation of the crossing gateposts and the use of electronic controls will allow the gates to effectively operate as originally designed.

Phase 3 The third and final phase involves the restoration of a water column, originally from the Hanley Station on the Potteries Loop Line, another part of the original NSR network. These water columns were once a commonplace sight around the country and most medium sized stations had at least one or more columns for filling the tenders of the steam engines. This phase will see the column erected at the southern end of the down platform at Cheddleton and a header tank of an original Braithwaite type will be erected nearby to supply a steady head of pressure. The column will then be piped to the tank and in turn the tank to the mains water supply not only providing a much needed means of watering the engines but also putting the column in a position where it can be seen by the public in operational condition.

Who will benefit?

The valley community and the general public who will be able to enjoy an enhanced experience of seeing at first hand a fully operational signalbox in original condition and in full working order, a set of heritage–accurate crossing gates operated in a traditional manner and a preserved water column in working order.

Outputs and outcomes

Measured outputs

3 heritage railway structures included viz the signal box, the crossing gates and the water column.


At least 70,000 people pa with improved understanding of the railway and transport heritage within a wider conservation and interpretation vision.

840 members of the NSRC will experience additional satisfaction in taking part in the vision.

150 CVR working volunteers will gain additional knowledge and understanding of their heritage.


This project will be delivered by the North Staffordshire Railway Company (1978) Ltd. (NSRC). Leekbrook and Cheddleton Stations, where all works will be delivered, are freehold to the Churnet Valley Railway (CVR). The 3 heritage railway structures described above are all owned by NSRC and are part of its Museum collection, and are described in an Agreement with CVR in 1995. The NSRC will complete legal contracts as required by CVLLP prior to work being undertaken.

Risks and constraints

Operational risks

Risk: Retention of key management people.

Contingency planning: The NSRC projects will be managed and delivered by dedicated volunteers over a relatively short timescale, risk in this area is minimal.

Risk: Failure to source required match funds.

Contingency planning: Match funding confirmed, payments from HLF only made against invoiced expenditure at 50%.

Project delivery risks

Risk: Poor weather may reduce our ability to deliver construction projects within described timescales, this is liable to have a minimal potential effect as timescales for work in a given year is based upon our plans rather than the length of time any specific task takes.  Project delays or overruns will have significant impact on delivery.

Post project risks

Refer to Tenure

Constraints, licences, permits etc.

Planning permission for Leekbrook works is not required, this is a CDM project and notification will be made.

Planning permission for the water tower at Cheddleton is not required.

Permits to close the public highway for crossing gates replacement project will be gained prior to work commencing.

Listed Building Consent is being obtained from Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to restore the Signal Box at Leekbrook.

Invasive species

Where possible, during conversation, with adjacent landowners, invasive species will be raised as an issue and landowners encouraged to deal with them where practicable. The Churnet Valley Railway is aware of specific species (Balsam and Knotweed) which are currently being treated by approved methods.