HAWARDEN LOOP LINE
[Source: Paul Wright]
The Wrexham, Mold & Connah’s Quay Railway (WM&CQR) was authorised to construct a line from a point three-quarters of a mile to the south of the company’s northern terminus at Buckley, at what became Buckley Junction, to the banks of the River Dee at Shotton on 29th June 1883; the line was known as the Hawarden Loop. At the northern end the Act allowed for the construction of a short branch to Connah’s Quay.
1889 1:2,500 OS map shows Hawarden Bridge and the branch to Connah's Quay. Conah's Quay and Shotton (later Shotton High Level) did not open until 1891, and Shotton (Low Level) on the LNWR opened in 1907.
The WM&CQR had originally opened a line from Wrexham to Buckley in 1866. The company had running rights over the Buckley Railway (BR) which provided access to Connah’s Quay where there were docks from which goods could be transported beyond the immediate area. The BR was a lightly laid railway with notoriously steep gradients. It was totally unsuitable for passenger services and for heavy goods trains.
On 28th July 1884 the MS&LR obtained an Act to build a railway from Chester to the south side of the river Dee at Shotton where it would make an end-on connection with the WM&CQR Hawarden Loop.
1952 1" OS map showing the Hawarden loop line. The junction with the WM&CQR Buckley line and the Buckley Railway is seen bottom left. Harwarden Bridge and the branch to Connah's Quay are seen at the top.
1889 the MS&LR ran a special train from Hawarden to Manchester for Sir William Gladstone MP. The train used the Hawarden Loop which was not completed and had not been inspected from Hawarden down to the MS&LR line at Shotton. The MS&LR had persuaded the contractors to allow them to run the train. After the train departed from Hawarden a bridge which it passed under collapsed. The MS&LR blamed the WM&CQR citing poor workmanship. The WM&CQR retaliated by stating that the line had not been completed and should not have been used.
The Hawarden Loop opened on 29th March 1890, and two days later through trains began to operate between the MS&LR and the WM&CQR systems. The line was a double-track railway 4½ miles long. There were three stations located on the loop. At the southern end was Buckley Junction which replaced Buckley station when the line opened. There were, however, many complaints from the people of Buckley because the new station was at too greater distance from the village. In 1893 the WM&CQR reintroduced passenger services to Buckley, but they were withdrawn for good in 1895. Buckley Junction had two platforms. Its building was a two-storey structure of the yellow brick that the WM&CQR used at other stations on their lines. The railway architectural critic, Gordon Biddle in Victorian Stations (1973) opined that at the stations on the loop 'red terra-cotta trimmings and cresting, Minton-tiled floors and twisted columns combined with yellow brick to produce garish buildings quite out of key with the local vernacular.'
Hawarden station looking north in the early years of the 20th Century. Beyond the platforms the line can be seen to drop steeply.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection
The station after Buckley Junction was 1 mile 76 chains further north and was located immediately west of Hawarden village. Hawarden station had two platforms, connected by a footbridge. A double-fronted yellow brick single-storey building was on the Wrexham-direction platform. On the other platform was a timber waiting shed. The final station was 4 miles and 9 chains from Buckley Junction and was called Connah’s Quay and Shotton, which opened on 1st October 1891. It stood on an embankment and was constructed entirely from timber. Just to the north of Connah’s Quay and Shotton Station was the end-on connection with the MS&LR. The two lines met at Hawarden Junction; from here a WM&CQR line, used only for goods traffic, led westwards to the docks at Connah’s Quay.
Looking south along the Hawarden Loop from the north end of Connah's Quay for Shotton station (later renamed Shotton High level) in the 1890s. At this time the station was still in the ownership of the WM&CQR.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection
At the time of opening the Hawarden Loop was used by WM&CQR passenger services between Wrexham Central and Connah’s Quay & Shotton or to Chester Northgate. MS&LR services also ran over the line, mostly on Chester Northgate to Wrexham Central local workings, but there were also express services between Manchester Central and Wrexham. A steady stream of goods trains also used the line.
in 1897. On 1st August 1897 the MS&LR company changed its name to the Great Central Railway (GCR) and on 1st January 1905 the company formally absorbed the WM&CQR; thus the Hawarden Loop became part of the GCR network.
An Arriva Trains Wales Wrexham Central to Bidston Borderlands service can be seen descending the steep incline of the Hawarden Loop line towards Shotton station in March 2011. Hawarden Bridge is seen in the background.
Photo by Paul Wright
ceased to be a junction on 5th July 1965 when the original WM&CQR line to Buckley was closed to goods services – but the ‘Junction’ suffix was used in the station name until May 1974. The last trains ran between Hawarden Junction and the docks at Connah’s Quay on 1st April 1967. Passenger trains between Wrexham and Chester Northgate were withdrawn on 9th September 1968, and the three stations on the Hawarden Loop became unstaffed halts on 20th April 1969. The MS&LR line between Hawarden Bridge and Chester closed completely in 1992, but the Hawarden Loop itself survived all of the changes and in 2011 it still carried both passenger and goods trains.
Tickets from Michael Stewart
See Stations on the Dee and Birkenhead Railway: