If you live in or have visited Springhead, Oldham, you will have noticed there are a lot of hills, so many that large numbers of the houses are built on split levels. There are however several exceptions to this rule. Ivygreen Drive for example, is long straight and flat. There is a very good reason for this, it use to be a railway yard.
Prior to 1964 a railway line ran through Saddleworth connecting many of the villages, once you know where to look, there are still pointers to this former time. The line ceased running passenger trains in 1955, continuing with just a limited number of freight trains until 1963 when it closed completely. Richard Beeching had a hand in the demise of many a local railway.
Running from Oldham to Grotton is a bridle path, sometimes referred to as “The yellow brick road”. This is the former line. St. Johns Street Lees, crosses the bridle path on the original Railway bridge, officially identified as Bridge 12. Next to the bridge was Lees railway station, the cobbled approach next Lees Village Services, is all that now remains.
As you walk along away from Oldham, Silverdale Drive is on your left behind the trees, this was once engine sheds and a turntable. To the right is Ivygreen Drive, formerly wagon sidings and a goods shed. When You reach Oldham Road, the path is parallel to Station Street and curves up some steep muddy steps to Bridge Street. This is new ground level, as Bridge 10 under Oldham Road has been filled in. The houses that back onto the path still have the original curved retaining wall from the railway days.
Looking back from Oldham Road, the bridge parapets are obvious, just the redundant steel section has been replaced, with a tired wooden slat fence.
The picture below shows a recent google maps image, that I have drawn the original railway layout on to. It is not 100% accurate, but pretty close. It shows the station adjacent to St. John Street (left side) and the Goods shed roughly where the ginnel connects the bridle path to Ivygreen Drive. The line would have passed under Bridge 10, Oldham Road (right side). In case you are wondering where bridge 11 is, it no longer exists. 11 was a passenger footbridge at the station.
Crossing Oldham Road your rejoin the bridle path behind “Doris and Joans” hairdressers All this section of path would have been a cutting perhaps 3 meters lower than it is now.
The path follows the old railway from Ashbrook Road to Station Road in Grotton, where the original station building still stands as well preserved home. Much of this section of the path has had some changes to levels over time, as it has been landscaped. This is an area is subject to discussion, regarding building of a large number of new homes.
From the old station building in Grotton, the railway sunk into a cutting parallel to Hillside Avenue and by the time it reached Coverhill Road, it was lost into Lydgate tunnel.
The cutting is overgrown but still obvious on Google maps. It is accessible to the right side of the station building, you can even see the platform that was not removed, but over run with bushes to the left of the path
When you zoom out on Google its very easy to see the route the tunnel took. A perfectly straight line links up to another cutting, which goes under Mossley Road. This cutting then opens out onto what is now Oaklands Park. but was once Grasscroft Holt.
Interestingly Lydgate tunnel is still there, but inaccessible to the public. Repairs to the brick lining were undertaken as late as 2008. It apparently has been considered to dangerous to collapse and too costly to fill.
Leaving Grasscroft, the line linked up with what is now the Transpennine railway in Greenfield. Diverging just before Uppermill and branching to Dobcross and finally Delph. This little Branch Line railway was conceived and built in the Mid 1850’s, fronted by a textile merchant by the name of James Lees.
We have a lot of history wherever we live, we just have to have a desire to look for it.
If you would like to know more about the railways of Saddleworth, in particular the Delph Donkey, there is a remarkable book that is packed with pictures. Published by Foxline it is no longer in print bust some second hand ones are available on Amazon. Along with several internet sources it was invaluable while creating the diagram of Lees yard.