The East Lancashire Railway is a 12-mile heritage railway that runs steam and diesel train services through the beautiful Irwell Valley, from Heywood in the east to Rawtenstall in the north.
The railway has a rich history dating back to 1846 when it was first opened to link Manchester with Bury and Rawtenstall during the industrious 19th century.
As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the North West witnessed first-hand the boom in manufacturing. Manchester was given the nickname "Cottonopolis" to reflect the rapid development of cotton mills and factories in the area and it was the East Lancashire Railway that played a key role in transporting these raw materials, goods and workers throughout the country. This part of the railway's past can still be seen today, from the old mills dotted along the route of the line to the original 1848 Goods Warehouse, now home to the Bury Transport Museum.
The railway continued to play an important part in supporting local industry and even carried thousands of factory workers to northern seaside resorts for their annual Wakes Week holiday. As transport links improved both people and industry were no longer reliant on the railway and sadly the line closed in the 1960s. The battle to preserve the line began.
Thanks to a determined group of pioneers, the railway re-opened its doors back in 1987 and began running leisure services. Today, over thirty years later, the railway is run by a small paid team and over 750 working volunteers and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the North West, welcoming over 200,000 visitors each year.
Despite some years of success, the railway needs you more than ever, and is therefore inviting you to leave a lasting legacy by playing a part in the preservation of the line for the enjoyment of future generations.