Thursday, 20 October 2011


Here's another view of part of the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich branch line showing some long-vanished railway paraphernalia and, in particular, the 'salt siding' (foreground) which connected Middlewich Station with the industries along the line.
Dominating the scene is one of the semaphore signals controlling trains on the main running line. To accomodate the salt siding signals along this stretch of line were cantilevered out from the other side of the track and required guy wires to counter their tendency to tilt over. The signal arm should, of course, be a deep red and white rather than pink. This type of signal arm needs constant re-painting as red is one of the least stable of colours and fades rapidly in sunlight. Just above the salt siding can be seen a smoke deflector, put there to counter the effect of smoke and steam from fifty years of steam locomotives.
The little wooden cabin to the left of the signal is a shunter's cabin. This contained a telephone which connected with Middlewich signal box (which can just be glimpsed away in the distance - a small patch of white underneath the Holmes Chapel Road bridge). That telephone would today be worth a lot of money to an antique dealer. It was made of mahogany with bakelite mouth and earpieces and two brass bells on the top. This venerable instrument was used to pass instructions between the shunter and the signalman when they were preparing trains for their journeys out onto the railway network.
To the right of the cabin can be seen the canopy (an inverted 'v' shape) of the loading bay at Seddon's/Simpson's in Brooks Lane and the rail connections which ran from the salt siding to serve Murgatroyd's salt works and the ICI soda ash works. The ICI connection ran behind the Scout Hall in Brooks Lane and into the works via the ornamental iron gates which are still in situ at what is now the Pochin site.
On the other side of the track, alongside the main running line is a pipe line which once carried brine.
Out of shot to the left is  Murgatroyd's brine pump (now the subject of preservation plans as it is the only remaining brine pump in the country still in its original position - i.e. over its brine shaft). When Murgatroyd's chemical works was established in Booth Lane at Moston in 1949 brine  was sent  from this pump along 'the brine line' to the new works. The pipe line shown in our photo is the one used for this purpose and remains in existence to this day. Middlewich Council's Heritage Officer, Kerry Fletcher, confirms this (see below).
Just to the left of where the pipe line starts is the corner of 'Station Field' where fairs and circuses were held in former years. The field was also, in the sixties, home to the 'Dennis White Foundation' and boasted soccer pitches, changing rooms and a social club. It is in this corner that the Middlewich ROC post was situated, although it's not really possible to tell from the picture what was actually there at the time. The whole area is now, of course, covered in industrial units.

Additional information from Middlewich Town Council's Heritage Officer, Kerry Fletcher, who is spearheading the preservation project for the brine pump and has sent us the following information:

The Murgatroyd Brine Pump was used to supply brine to the Salt Houses and from 1949 to supply brine to the new Chemical site at Moston. Two extra pumps were set up which the pump man controlled to send pumped brine down the pipeline which was laid alongside the railway line. They are the ones in the picture and are still there. This pipeline was used up to 1977 when wild brine pumping ceased.


Geraldine Williams Station Field was also used as a playing field by St Mary's School for football and for sports days were held there. Denis - one-time Cllr - White used to hold whippet races on that field, using an upturned bicycle's pedal power to operate the 'hare'! All part of Denis' master plan to fund-raise for a swimming pool for the town. Hmm.

Mally Mal Fascinating detail!

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