Davenport Junction and 'the Khyber Pass'
Forty years of change on a forgotten railway: by Charlie Hulme
Until the 1960s, trains departing Davenport towards Manchester passed
rather more railway installations than can be seen today. The present
car park was once a siding where coal wagons were unloaded, and a
little further on at the point where the line starts to curve to the
right there was a signalbox called 'Davenport Junction'
controlling the junction of the line, opened in the 1880s, which
continued straight ahead, and over the top of the Stockport - Crewe
line, to join the Stockport - Altrincham route at a point known as
Cheadle Village Junction. This line enabled trains, mostly goods
trains, from the Buxton direction to head west towards Chester and
Liverpool. Because of the steep gradient either side of the main line
bridge, this little line was known by local railwaymen as 'The Khyber'
after the mountain pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan: British
forces built a highway marched through the Khyber Pass to launch an
against the Afghans in the Second Afghan War (1878-79) and the area was
very much in the news during Victoria's reign.
By the 1960s, railway goods traffic was on the decline, and it was
decided to concentrate the remaining trains on the parallel 'Midland'
route, avoiding the line through Davenport which had always been very
difficult for freight trains, thanks to its very steep gradients which
meant that many trains had to be 'banked' - pushed by another
locomotive to get them up the hills. In January 1965, the goods
depots at along the line closed, although for a while afterwards this
part of the 'Khyber' line was retained as a siding for coal wagons
serving the Co-operative Society premises in which lay between this
line and the curve towards Stockport. Though freight trains dwindled
away soon afterwards, and the 'Khyber', by then reduced to a single
through line, officially closed as a through traffic route on 1966.
I took this picture around about the time of closure 40 years
ago, on one of my first solo 'railfanning' expeditions. I was standing
on the bridge which carried the road over the 'Khyber' line just before
the line bridged the Crewe line. The Co-op buildings are on the left,
with wagons of coal awaiting unloading; the houses beyond the playing
field are in Shirley Grove, off Roslyn Road. The single through
line is very overgrown.
This picture was taken by Helen Hardwick in December 2005,
from as near to the upper picture as can now be achieved. The road
bridge (with its associated embankments) no longer exists, so it was
necessary to stand just above the original level of the railway track;
the path of the line now lies under these houses and their gardens in
Newsham Road. The houses of Shirley Grove and the recreation ground
still seem to be flourishing.
This Ordnance Survey map from 1907 shows the area in the early
days of the suburban building boom. The bridge from which the old
picture was taken is centre left of the extract. Shirley Grove and
whole Roslyn Road area are still in the future. Vicarage Road has its
first few semi-detached villas; it was later extended all the way
alongside the railway to the boundary of the sports fields. The 'Co-op'
sidings are shown, although most of the buildings there must have been
built later. Also yet to appear was the section of Beech Road
between Warren Road and Adswood Road.
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