[Source: Bevan Price & Paul Wright]

Date opened: 1.11.1847
Location: Both sides of Clegg Street overbridge(platform buildings on west side)
Company on opening: Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway
Date closed to passengers: 18.4.1966
Date closed completely: 18.4.1966
Company on closing: British Rail (London Midland Region)
Present state: Demolished although a fragment of wall from the street level building survives.
County: Lancashire.
OS Grid Ref: SD928047
Date of visit: 12th January 2008

Notes: Oldham Central station was located on the eastern extension of the Manchester & Leeds Railway’s (M&LR) Oldham Branch which was opened in November 1847, by which date the M&LR had changed its name to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (LYR). The original branch had run as far as Oldham Werneth, to the west of Central, and had opened in 1842. The branch connected Oldham to the LYR Manchester to Leeds main line at Middleton. The Manchester to Leeds line had opened throughout on 1st March 1841. The new extension, on which Central stood, continued to a station at Oldham Mumps.

Oldham Central, built as part of an 1845 Act, was constructed by George Thompson, who was granted the contract to build the extension in October 1845. Oldham Central was located close to the town centre, beneath Clegg Street which passed over the line on a bridge. The station was separated from Oldham Werneth by two tunnels to its west. The line was
double-track and the station was provided with two platforms. Access was at street level, where a brick building was provided on the north side of the line; though apparently single- storey at street level there was a lower storey on the down (Oldham) platform. A canopy stretched from Clegg Street bridge to a point just west of the station building. The canopy was mirrored by another on the up platform which also had brick-built passenger facilities, including a gentlemen’s toilet. 

By 1850 Oldham Central was served by ten trains per day to and from Manchester Victoria, but many of the trains in the Manchester direction terminated at Middleton, where passengers could catch onward connections to Manchester.

On 26th August 1861 a station opened adjacent to Oldham Central on its south side. Clegg Street station was on a new line operated by the Manchester Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR) and the London North Western railway (LNWR) that connected Oldham to Guide Bridge.

On 12th August 1863 a further extension of the Middleton to Oldham line opened to goods services. This six-mile extension was to Rochdale, which was on the same Manchester and Leeds line as Middleton, and it effectively created a loop from Middleton to Rochdale via Oldham. On 2nd November passenger services were introduced on the new line to Rochdale.
By this time Oldham Central was served by twenty- four trains in each direction running between Rochdale and Manchester Victoria. Again, some of the services started or finished at Middleton. Oldham Central was also served by one train per day in each direction between Manchester London Road and Oldham Glodwick Road, operated by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (MSLR).
The line from Middleton to Oldham Central had a very steep incline (the Werneth Incline) of 1 in 27. Until 1854 the incline had been cable-worked. Various proposals had been put forward to create a direct line from Oldhem Central to Manchester to avoid the incline, but it was not until the LYR obtained an Act in 1873 that anything was done. The 1873 Act authorised
the LYR to build a line from Thorpes Bridge Junction - which was on the Manchester to Leeds line, but closer to Manchester - to Oldham. A contract was let on 30th June 1875, and on 17th May 1880 the new line opened. With the opening of the new line a route had been created from Thorpes Bridge to Rochdale, via Oldham Central that eventually became known as the ‘Oldham Loop Line’. Trains serving Oldham Central continued to run between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale, but most of them now travelled via the newly-opened line through Failsworth. There were fifteen in each direction. A few services continued to run via the Middleton route.

On 1st January 1922 the station became part of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) when that company took over the LYR. However on 1st January 1923 the LNWR was in turn absorbed by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). By 1938 Oldham Central was still being served by fifteen local trains. On Friday evenings a train that originated at Dean Lane for Glasgow and Edinburgh via Rochdale called at the station. On Sundays-only a train that originated at Royton and ran on to Blackpool Central via Manchester Victoria served Oldham Central, as did another that started at Milnrow and ran to Southport via Manchester Victoria. 

On the 1st January 1948 Oldham Central became part of the nationalised British Railways (London Midland Region). During the last year of fully steam-operated services in 1958 there were eighteen trains in each direction running between Manchester and Rochdale using the Thorpes Bridge route and three Saturdays excepted trains called that had originated from
Middleton Junction and travelled onward to Rochdale.

In June 1958 British Railways introduced Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) onto the Oldham Loop. A Cravens-built type of DMU (later known as class 104) which had twin power cars used the line as they were easily able to cope with the steep gradients. The service pattern at Oldham Central was a train every twenty minutes to Manchester, via the Thorpes Bridge line, and northbound trains every twenty minutes. The northbound service destinations alternated with a service to Rochdale (every 40 minutes) and a service to Royton (also every 40 minutes). Two Saturdays-excepted trains continued to call on their way to Rochdale from Middleton Junction, but there was no service in the other direction. In total there were twenty-nine trains between Manchester and Rochdale and twenty five between Manchester and Royton: this was Oldham Central’s highest-ever frequency of service.

Oldham Central’s neighbouring station, Clegg Street, closed to passenger services on 2nd May 1959.

The Reshaping of British Railways (Beeching Report) of March 1963 recommended the closure of the Royton branch to passengers but made no reference to the Oldham Loop or any of its stations, including Oldham Central. Nevertheless, September 1964 saw a decline in services calling at Oldham Central. The service between Manchester and
Rochdale became irregular, with trains calling at Oldham Central about every 45 minutes in each direction. Trains between Royton and Manchester Victoria were reduced to seven on weekdays in each direction, eight on Saturdays, and there were none on Sundays. From 7th September 1964 no trains operated from Middleton Junction.

Despite Oldham Central being the most convenient and closest station to the town centre it was selected for closure by British Railways, and the last trains served it on Saturday 16th April 1966. The final year’s timetable for the Oldham Loop showed the same level of service at Oldham Central as at Werneth and Mumps, giving no suggestion that its days were numbered. It closed officially on 18th April 1966. The branch to Royton also closed. Oldham Central was demolished after closure, but trains continued to pass through the station site until 3rd October 2009 when the Oldham Loop line closed in its entirety for conversion to a tramway as part of the Manchester Metrolink system.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, Route map drawn by Alan Young

Other web sites: Lost lines, a selection of pictures of the Oldham Loop line taken on 30th September 2009, shortly before closure. Class 25s and Much More web site has a feature called Farewell to the Oldham Loop with 51 pictures taken in August 2009. Sam Dixon's UK National Rail, Heritage Rail & Former Rail web site with 124 pictures of the Oldham loop line take two days before closure. Tom Fenton's web site also has a feature Farewell to the Oldham Loop with 27 pictures taken in August 2009. Alan Perryman's Thistle 5 web site includes 93 pictures from the last day of the Oldham Loop.

Sources: The Oldham Loop – Part One – Manchester Victoria to Shaw & Crompton, Jeffery Wells, Foxline Publishing ISBN 1870119681 and The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Volume 2, John Marshall, David & Charles. ISBN 0715349066. An Illustrated History of Oldham's Railways J. Hooper, Irwell Press 2006 ISBN 1871608198.

To see other stations on the Oldham Loop Line click on the station name:
Dean Lane, Failsworth, Hollinwood, Oldham Werneth, Oldham Mumps, Derker, Royton Junction, Shaw & Crompton, New Hey & Milnrow.
See also Royton

Oldham Central station looking east c.1905
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

1895 Ordnance Survey map

Looking east along Oldham Central stations up )towards Manchester) platform in April 1957. On the left of the picture can be seen the main station building which provided booking facilities at street level on Clegg Street. In the middle distance is the Clegg Street bridge with the down platform continuing beyond it. Oldham Central had canopies on both platforms which can be seen clearly in this picture. Just beyond the Clegg Street bridge a coach can be seen. The coach was part of a train that had stopped at Oldham Clegg Street station which was adjacent to Central.
Copyright photo by H C Casserley

Looking west from the east end of Oldham Clegg Street station in 1962 demonstrates how Clegg street and Oldham Central stations were situated adjacent to each other. Central can be seen on the right of the picture. It was still open in 1962; Clegg Street however from where the picture was taken had been closed for three years.

Looking east from the west end of the up platform at Oldham Central Station in April 1964. The station was in a dilapidated condition at this time, note the canopy has been shortened. Although Oldham Central station was, as its name suggests, the closest station to the town centre it was considered that its closure would not cause too much inconvenience to passengers as Mumps and Wernerth stations were both only a short distance away.

Oldham Central station in April 1966, very soon after closure. The track is being re-ballasted and demolition of the platforms has already started.

The site of Oldham Central station looking west from the Clegg Street bridge in January 2008. The brickwork on the right of the picture was originally part of the station; at track level nothing remains.
hoto by Bevan Price

A class 142 DMU on an Oldham Loop service heads east through the site of Oldham Central station in January 2008.
hoto by Bevan Price

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