History of the Churnet Valley Railway in Preservation
In 1992, a newly formed Company applied to the Department of Transport for a Light Railway Order that would give it statutory powers to operate the CVR Line. In 1995 agreement was reached with British Rail for the purchase of that line by the Company, subject to raising the necessary funding. In 1995, the Company also launched a major share issue in order to finance the purchase of the remaining section of the Churnet Valley line. The share issue was well supported, especially by the local community, and succeeded in raising over £120,000.
As a result, the Company was able to purchase the entire seven miles of trackbed and associated works from Leekbrook to Oakamoor and make a substantial down payment towards the purchase of the existing trackwork and sidings. The first passenger train to be operated by the Company ran on the 24th August 1996 over the one mile section of line between Cheddleton and Leekbrook.
Thereafter, a regular service operated at weekends during the Summer and Christmas seasons. Early in 1998 the Company launched its second major share issue, the purpose of which was to raise the balance of the purchase price owing to British Rail and to finance the extension of the passenger train operation southwards from Cheddleton to the secluded hamlet of Consall Forge. This second issue was also successful and raised in excess of £160,000. As a result, the Company was able to launch a passenger service between Leekbrook, Cheddleton & Consall commencing on Saturday 11th July 1998.
After the successful opening of the line south from Cheddleton to Consall Forge, the Company then launched its third major share issue, with the aim of opening the line south of Consall to the former Froghall station site. The plan was to redevelop the area for public use, and to enable the public to begin their journey through the Churnet Valley at Froghall as well as at Cheddleton. This share issue was very successful and raised the sum of £185,000. A completely new station building and platform was built, which incorporated all of the appropriate facilities that the Company required. The design of the station building is in keeping with the Company’s policy of representing a typical British railway scene of the 1950/60’s.
On the 6th December 2016 the Company purchased the long leasehold for the entire Cauldon Branch from MCR. This purchase completed the portfolio for the Company of owning the entire railway infrastructure from Oakamoor to Leekbrook (freehold) and Leekbrook to Cauldon Lowe (leasehold).
In 2017 the Company was fortunate to be able to purchase the freehold of Cheddleton station, thereby putting it very much in control of its infrastructure. This is a rarity in heritage railways, whereby the normal formula is for the ownership to be vested in a local authority.
In 2018 the Company continued in plans for expansion this time to the market town of Leek. Following extensive work with Staffordshire Moorlands district council, we received a planning consent to extend the railway to Leek. Having already received outline consent for the station site the previous year, we are now in the position to plan the return of trains to Leek. Without the complete cooperation of the local authority at the highest level this would not have been possible.
Along with the return to Leek the Company will be reinstalling the long defunct triangle at Leekbrook. The Churnet Valley will be the only preserved railway where members of the public will be able to see trains being ‘turned’ on a triangle.