[Source: Paul Wright]

The Sutton Dock branch was located on the Weston Canal (also known as the Weaver Navigation) at Sutton Weaver. The Weston Canal had opened in 1810 and was improved in 1870. It provided a link between the Bridgewater Canal at Runcorn Docks and the River Weaver at Frodsham. The River Weaver had been made navigable in 1732 but to reach Runcorn boats had to pass through a tidal section of the River Mersey which caused delays. The Weston Canal avoided the tidal section of the River Mersey.

On 31 October 1850 the Birkenhead, Lancashire & Cheshire Junction Railway (BL&CJR) opened a line between Chester and Warrington and it passed over the Weston Canal on a high level bridge. A station called Runcorn (later renamed as Halton) with goods facilities was opened 40 chains to the east of the canal in August 1851.

The Sutton Dock branch shown on a six-inch scale map from 1897.

Located just to the north of the Chester and Warrington line on the east bank of the canal The Runcorn Bone Works had become established by the 1863 and the Sutton Dock had been built just to the north of it.

On 1 August 1859 the BLCJR became the Birkenhead Railway but within a matter of months it was taken over jointly by the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) as the Birkenhead Joint Railway (BJR) on 1 January 1860.

The first recorded mention of a rail connection for Sutton Dock was in a private siding Agreement dated 23 July 1867. The Agreement was between the BJR and a Mr J Cheshire. Two years later, on 4 June 1869 the BJR board gave its consent for a branch from Sutton Dock to make connection with its line close to Halton station. An Agreement was made with a Mr John Nicholls the branch owner. The first 50yd of the branch at the Halton station end, including the connection points, was to be under the ownership of the BJR.

The branch was built by 1872 when it appeared on Ordnance Survey maps. It diverged from the main line just to the south-east of Halton station on the down side (Warrington direction). It then descended as a single-track line and passed under the LNWR Frodsham Junction - Halton Junction line which opened on 1 April 1873. It then passed over a road and onto an embankment which carried it to the north side of the Sutton Dock. At Sutton Dock there was a run-round loop.

Sutton Dock shown on a twenty five-inch scale map from 1897.

The junction between the main line and the branch was controlled by a signal box located on the up side (Chester direction) of the main line. The box was a brick-built LNWR/GWR Type 1 structure. It is not known what it was called but it is shown on the 1897 map below.

It is not known what traffic the branch handled at this time but it would have served the dock and the Runcorn Bone Works which is seen in the photo to the right at the turn of the twentieth century; the branch can be seen at the rear of the works.

The branch must have quickly fallen into a bad state of repair as a joint company minute dated 11 October 1878 records a claim made against a Mr M Shepherd of Halton Siding Company for the relaying of points and crossings. The minute also records that 'the siding is in very bad state' and that if it was not put into good repair the joint companies would cease to use it.

At 27 November 1883 the sidings at Sutton Dock were recorded as being under the ownership of Mr Talbot and the Sutton Dock was listed as being closed.

On 9 May 1889 a private siding Agreement was reached with Mr P Speakman for him to have sidings on land owned by the BJR. The sidings had appeared when the Ordnance Survey visited the area in 1897 and they are shown on the map below.

The eastern end of the Sutton Dock branch shown on a twenty five-inch scale map from 1897.

The signal box which controlled the branch junction was replaced in July 1898 with an LNWR Type 4 structure. The new box was called Halton and it had a brick base and timber upper cabin of the LNWR size H. It was equipped with an LNWR 40-lever Tumbler frame. As well as controlling the branch junction it controlled the connections to the Halton station goods yard and the east end of goods loops that extended to Frodsham Junction.

Messrs Speakman were authorised to construct a further siding on 7 April 1899.

By 24 March 1903 Mr Joel Settle had acquired the Speakman business. He spent £203 relaying the sidings. The BJR was using the sidings for their own purpose by this time and at its board meeting of 24 March 1903 a decision was reached to relieve Mr Settle of the expense of them by taking them into BJR ownership. The BJR also paid Mr Settle half the cost that he had incurred in relaying the sidings.

A board minute from 25 January 1910 recorded that the sidings laid in 1899 had been removed.

On 1 January 1923 the LNWR was absorbed into the London Midland & Scottish Railway. On 1 January 1948 the former BJR line became part of British Railways (London Midland Region).

The branch is listed in the 1956 Handbook of Stations as being a siding of Parks, Joseph & Son, an engineering company that had become established at Sutton Dock.

It is not known when the Sutton Dock Branch went out of use. Halton station had closed to goods on 3 February 1964 (having closed to passengers on 7 July 1952) and it is likely that the branch closed at that time. By 1965 the branch and the station goods sidings had been lifted. Halton signal box was closed on 2 July 1967.

The course of the Sutton Dock Branch survived into the 1990s after which the bridge over Clifton Road was removed and the embankment running to the dock was demolished. In 2016 the east side abutment of the Clifton Road bridge was extant as was the bridge that carried the branch under the Frodsham Junction - Halton Junction line.

The Sutton Dock branch shown on a 1:25,000 scale map published in 1953.

To see photos of the Sutton Dock Branch click here

See also: Halton station and The Halton Curve



[Source: Paul Wright]

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