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Tramroads of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal


Introduction

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The Manchester, Bolton and Bury canal opened between Salford and Bury in 1797 and was immediately successful as a transport system, especially for carrying coal and other heavy goods. However it did not always pass directly alongside collieries or factories and so it was effectively extended by a total of 6½ miles (10½ kilometres) of tramroads which linked to it. These tram lines were typically short, less than a mile, but formed an important part of the canal transport system at a time when road transport was difficult. Some of the tramroads survived in use into the beginning of the twentieth century, even after railways arrived, since, as with canals, railway routes could not be built to every factory or coalmine.

These small tramroads used a variety of gauges, often around 2 feet 6 inches (0.75 metre), and those serving collieries mostly carried the coal in wooden containers which could be craned directly from tram tubs into canal boats, to save unloading time. Haulage of the tubs could be by horses, men or stationary steam engines using ropes or chains, and at least one tramway had its own miniature steam locomotives.


A typical tramway tub
An example of a chain-hauled coal tub running on narrow gauge L-shaped rails. This one was used at Old Meadows Colliery, Bacup.

Unfortunately for the industrial archaeologist little evidence now remains for such relatively ephemeral transport systems. There are no known photographs of the tramroads in use and most have been disused now for 100 years or so. No rails remain but the path followed by the line can often be traced, and other associated structures such as embankments, cuttings, loading wharfs and bridges can still be found. The most accurate current source of information on the location of these tramroads is the large-scale Ordnance Survey maps made during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some of which are still available, e.g. from Alan Godfrey Maps.


Elton Tramroad

Elton Tramroad

A short line to carry waste across the river Irwell.

Bealey's Tramroad

Bealey's Tramroad

Built to transport raw materials from the canal to a bleachworks on Dumers Lane.

The Manchester Geographical Society has published an article on The Tramroads of the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal (3.6 megabyte PDF file) in Volume 5 No1 of North West Geography, which includes information on several additional lines near Farnworth and Ringley.



 

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