A Bike Ride down the Holcombe Brook to Bury Railway

August 2005

Click Map left for a more interactive map.

This is another route which we cycled prior to starting the website, so it was about time that we covered it. The route is not too far away from where Duncan lives and is a good example of where an old railway line has been converted in to a path / cycle way.

So for the cyclists out there this is good (but hilly) route to take, and if you enjoy railway heritage there is plenty to be seen.

The Holcombe Brook branch line was built between 1878 and 1882, the build was slow to the steep nature of the route and the fact that 3 viaducts were required to take the line over the Irwell, Kirkless Brook and a Mill lodge (reservoir) at Tottington. It was closed in 1963, and the top half from Greenmount down to Walford has been converted in to an all weather path / cycle way.

The line has a lot of history attached, it was electrified around 1912, first with a overhead system, which was later converted into a 3rd rail system. In a final twist of fate the 3rd rail was life expired around the late 1940s, so it went back to steam running before closure.

The branch line ran from the Bury Ramsbottom line which part of the East Lancashire Railway, where they run regular steam trains. On the ride we also had a look at the ELR's terminus, Bury Bolton street, and the site of the lost Bury railway station, Knowsley Street.

The area is full of railway heritage and there is plenty of provision for cyclists.

Enjoy the route.

Up On Affetside - overlooking Tottington in Bury.

We started the route by taking Bradshaw road out of Walshaw in Bury. This leads to Watling street which runs through the small village of Affetside.

Its quite a large climb, but the views over towards Peel tower (pictured) are fantastic.


The village of Affetside. There is this lovely garden including the pond and fountain you see here.



Affetside Millennium Green.

In background Dunc is repairing the pedal on his spare bike which I used for this ride.

From Affetside we went down Watling road and picked up Ramsbottom road / Bolton which takes you towards Holcombe Brook.


Ahead is the site of the Holcombe Brook railway station. As you can see there isn't much left of the original building or any sign a railway was here.

This is located on the junction of Bolton road A676, Longsight road B6214 and Lumb Carr road B6214.

The site of Holcombe Brook railway station. It was originally situated on the left hand side (where the flats are now. The railway and platform was at the ground floor level of the present flats.

The only bit of ordinal railway structure we could find. An ordinal stone wall.

We believe this marks when the station actually ended. To the left was most probably an area for parking / deliveries.

The top part of the route from Holcombe Brook to Greenmount has long gone under a range of housing developments. You are unable to follow the route.

However at Greenmount the alignment is visable and walkable / rideable.

Here we are looking back towards Holcombe Brook station along the ordinal alignment of the railway.


Across the road from where I took the picture above, is the now start of the path / cycle way. Brandlesholme road runs left to right. We believe the line ran under this road, just where we are stood.
The map at the start of the path / cycle way at Greenmount.
Looking down the route towards Bury. Mother nature has taken over here!.

Looking back towards Brandlesholme road. We are down on the actual railway level.

We also believe there was a station at this site.

Working our way down the route. Notice how steep the gradient is. (going down in our case!).

The top viaduct going over the Mill Lodge reservoir. This is a spectacular viaduct that has rightly been preserved.

If you look over the right hand side you can see the bridge supports were built extra wide to accommodate a widening of the bridge. This never happened! This practice is also repeated on the lower viaduct crossing the Irwell near Bury.

The view from the viaduct.
Another view from the viaduct.
Here Kirkless St (Tottington) crosses the line. This was also the location of Tottington station and I think there were some sidings here too.
Looking back up the route near Tottington Secondary school.

One of the original supports for the overhead electrical system that was fitted around 1913!

A fasinating find!

Looking back up the line. We are near the end of path / cycle way, this is in Walford.

Look how steep the incline is!

Here the official pathway stops. The line used to continue straight on.

We did try and follow the alignment a few years back, but the path is very unofficial and there was a steep drop down to the valley, one which Dunc fell half down, due to me stopping in front of him.

He was ok (luckily) we we recommend you do not take this unofficial path, for safety reasons, but instead follow the signs in to the nearby estate and back on to Tottington B6213 road. (which we did on this day).

As you cant follow the route after Walford, we took Tottington road back towards Bury.

This view is where we think the line originally crossed Kirkless Brook.

There is no trace of the viaduct as its long been demolished. We think the line of the trees running from the middle of the picture to the right is the original alignment of the railway.


As he viaduct over Kirk lees Brook has long since gone, we had to cut across to Brandlesholme Road, B6214 to pick up the railway once again.

Here we are at Brandlesholme road, looking back up the route. There isn't much to see apart from the line of trees.

Looking directly opposite from where we took the picture above.

Here the line right through this new housing development. We are not too sure at what level, but we can assume it went under the road.

We ventured on through the housing development along the original alignment.

This can be clearly seen running right through the center of the picture.

Again we believe the line was set at a much lower level in a cutting.

A little lower down the alignment, looking towards Woodhll road.

Looking back up the cutting back towards Brandlesholme Road. You can see the original sides of the alignment. However the cutting has long been filled in.

We are now at Woodhill road looking right back up at the alignment. Again we believe the line went over this road on a bridge.

Here is also the point where the official footpath begins again.

The Woodhill cycleway - the official route starts here and follows the railway alignment for a short period over the river Irwell towards Bury town centre.
The Woodhill cycleway.
A little further on the line crosses the Irwell on the ordinal railway viaduct. Again provision was put in place when they built it for an extra line. However this never took place.
Looking back across the viaduct towards Woodhill.
Here we loose the railway alignment. This picture shows where we think the line ran and joined the Bury to Ramsbottom line.

We ventured on through the industrial estate to try and find more clues about where the line joined towards Bury.

We think this is the bridge abutment which took the Holcombe Brook line.

This picture shows the line of brickwork curving back towards the viaduct over the Irwell. This makes us think this is the ordinal alignment.

As you can see it is heavily built over.

A close up of the bridge abutment. The actual bridge has long gone, but we can see the ledge where it used to rest.

We were only a few minutes away from Bury town center, so we thought we would take a look at the ELR base.

Here we see a preserved locomotive at the Bury transport museum. just off Castlecroft Road.

Bury Bolton Street station, this is the headquarters of the ELR. This used to be the main station in Bury until they built the combined bus and railway station in the 1970s. Trains were then diverted on a new spur to that station, making Bury Bolton street disused.

This opened the door for the ELR to take over this station as their headquarters.

The platforms at Bury Bolton Street station.

Looking back at the station from Angouleme Way. You can see that the station was very big.

Originally there were more building on the platforms, however these have long since been demolished. The station is still big, especially for a preserved railway.

Bury Knowsley Street station (the site of). While we were in the area we thought we would take a look at the railway lines in Bury, as there used to be a 2 main line stations in Bury and quite a complex railway network.

He we are looking at the ELR's ski jump. This takes there line from Bury Bolton street across the Metrolink line (running right to left) off towards Heywood and their main line access.

The ski jump had to be built to enable the line to clear the Metrolink's overhead wires.

This line originally carried on (behind us) toward Bolton. To the left hand side was the site of Knowsley street station which was even bigger than Bolton street.

The site of Knowsley street station - this is now a car park.

Looking towards Bolton (our back to the site of Knowsley street).

Here the line used to split in 2. To the right towards Bolton street station (still in use by the ELR) and to the left the line went towards Bolton. You can see there used to be another arch way here.

After much sole searching. map looking and picture searching we discovered the Bolton line went under the Bury to Manchester line a little further on.

Its hard to imagine this as its completely filled in and there are no real clues to find.

The other side of the bridge (Manchester road). We are stood on the Bolton alignment but it has totally been filled in.

The line ahead is the ELR line to Heywood. You can see its in regular steam use from the smoke stained bridge.

Here we are looking back towards Bury Bolton street. The Bolton alignment used to go under this line.

The only clue to this is the 2 metal pieces running in the middle of the tracks. This was where the Bolton line ran underneath.

A picture of how it used to be can be found on the ELR website Click here.

This took some working out!! Especially as we are both too young to remember the Bolton line being in use!

Looking towards Manchester on the ELR sheds. Originally the ELR used to be linked to main line here. However when the metrolink came they could use this link anymore.

This is why the ELR went towards Heywood to get their main line access back.

Looking back towards Manchester road along the alignment of the Bolton line. We believe the line was in a cutting here.

Again nothing can be seen of the line.

The only clue the Bolton line ran here is the bump in the road.

The line would have passed underneath at this point.

Looking towards Bolton and the viaduct (that's still in place). Here is where the Bolton line originally ran.
Back toward Bury on the Wellington street Viaduct.

Looking towards Bolton, again on the Wellington st viaduct.

This viaduct was restored a few years back and forms the start of a bike / path route from Bury up Bolton road. (This route has been covered here)

Keep checking the website for further updates.

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