The Railways of Telford
I recall the Lilleshall railway which I explored in 1955-56. My uncle was at the time working for the company and rented a company house at Cappoquin Wrockwardine Wood. This was a very convenient base for exploration, as the railway ran past the garden gate and the engine shed was just opposite. I thinkI followed the entire railway to all its various branches. According to my cousin, who visited in recent years, the house is still there but a look at the latest OS Map suggests that the area has changed greatly.
Northwards, the line led to the junctions for Grange colliery and Granville colliery. At the Granville junction there was an engine shed for the NCB locos. I cannot say now whether this was of recent construction but it seems strange that there should be two old-established sheds so close together. I suspect this one was provided by the NCB on nationalisation. I would imagine that the coal required by the Lilleshall Company's furnaces would have passed directly to them from Granville and Grange until then, but at the time I knew the line the practice was to bring the coal for the furnaces up to the loop that was clearly newly constructed about halfway between the NCB Engine shed and Cappoquin.The wagons would be left there for the Lilleshall Company's engines to pick up.
Also in the area of the loop was a spur southwards to the Hoffman kiln which was still in existence at that time, but derelict. I think that the track had been lifted. Grange had also closed by that time and was rather derelict, but I cannot now recall whether the track was still in place. I think it had been removed. There were futher spurs to the north from the engine shed and these were used for NCB wagon storage though there were some dead Lilleshall ones there as well.
At that time Granville was still in operation, and the loaded wagons were brought down from there to the shed. Here a reversal took place and the wagons were then taken a line which ran northwards for about half a mile to where there had been another colliery long gone (?Waxhill Barracks?) Here there was another reversing station and from there the line descended to the Wellington-Stafford line at Donnington. This was the main outlet for the colliery.
The Lilleshall Company's sheds were adjacent to their fabrication plant (St Georges?)and there were numerous overgrown sidings filled with abandoned wagons of the company. I recall a Peckett saddle tank in use and there was a large side tank as well, I think by Barclay, which I rode on.
There were further sidings about a mile further up the line beyond a level crossing and these were similarly occupied. It was possible from here to see the former LNWR line to Coalport. Beyond a further crossing (A5) was the company's main site at Priorslee. Just beyond the crossing on the north side engines had been dumped, including Constance which the company had built themselves, and a sister engine of similar design.
The Priorslee operation was a pickle.I believe that at one time it had been integrated butsome of the processes had been discontinued. What was left were the blast furnaces producing pig iron in mediaeval conditions. I am not sure what happened to the pigs but the company did not then use them.
Adjacent to the blast furnaces were reheating furnaces for steel blooms produced elsewhere. Once heated these were transferred to the rolling mill and rolled to size suitable for use in the manufacture of prefabricated industrial buildings. These were then taken back to the fabrication plant, mostly by rail, but I suspect road was also used as well for the longer pieces.
Beyond the furnaces and the rolling mill was a small mountain of blast furnace slag with abandoned ladles - the whole area was extremely hazarous to walk on. Beyond that were further sidings, one of which led down to the GWR line.
The railway sytem continued to further collieries. I think that they were the Stafford and the Lawn. There were lots of overgrown sidings and abandoned wagons, and the whole of that part of the system was no longer in use. A further spur crossed the what was then the A464 again and continued to Woodhouse Colliery. This had been abandoned, but some of the buildings were still there.
I believe the railway system was run by a chap called Hughes butI never met him. I believe that it closed in 1959.
Sadly, summer 1956 was my last visit as my uncle left the company. This was probably just as well. My cousin told me recently that his father said that the directors were drunk most of the time, but I cannot vouch for this. So, a company and operations that had seen better days, but for me a new experience and a treasured memory.
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