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East Lancashire Railway


RCD’s Overview

This is one of the UK’s premier heritage lines and gets our very top rating.

This heritage railway runs on part of the former East Lancashire Railway from Bury to Rawtenstall and Accrington via Stubbins Junction. It travels through attractive Lancashire countryside including the market towns of Bury and the well-preserved former mill town of Rawtenstall. Across the road from Bury station is an old goods warehouse that’s now home to the Bury Transport Museum. The heritage railway has a good collection of steam locomotives, and a large collection of ex-main line diesel locomotives and heritage railcars. At 12 miles long, and with interesting places to visit at both ends, the railway can make an interesting full day trip. The attractive station at Bury is just minutes away from the metro stop, making it easy to reach from Manchester city centre and beyond.

The support group is the 'East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society' (see 'Information on the Suport Group' below).


Happening This Month:

  • Go to 'Homepage' and click into 'Railway Club Calendar'

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

Heywood to Rawtenstall via Bury

Principal Visitor Centre:

Bury Bolton Street Station (BL9 0EY)

Period of Operation*

- All year (Weekends)

- April, May, October: (Also selected weekdays)

- June, July and Sept (Weekends and most Wednesdays and Thursdays)

- August: (Wednesdays to Sundays)

- November and December (Special event trains)

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 


Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?

On full-service days, both steam and diesel trains operate. On reduced timetable days, usually just steam.

Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Good range of steam locomotives, extensive range of former express diesel locomotives and heritage DMUs.

Length of Line:

12 miles

Time taken for a round trip:

2.5 to 3 hours

Number of trains per day:

Up to 6 in each direction

Number of Stations:

7 stations


Prices (online): Adult Rover: £17. Child Rover: £10.50. Family: From £33

Prices (on the day): Adult Rover: £22. Child Rover: £13.50. Family: From £42

Time to allow for Visit:

Half to Full day


Yes, at Bury Transport Museum



Picnic/Play areas:


Preservation Established:


Car Park Facilities:

Free at Heywood, Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. Pay & display at Bury and Rawtenstall

Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- Sunday lunch

- Midweek lunch

- Afternoon tea

- Premium Nights

- Red Rose Dinner

- Gin and Wine Tasting 

Event Trains:

- Santa Specials: Late November and December 

Principal Galas:

- Spring Gala: March/ April

- 1940s Weekend: May

- Summer Diesel Spectacular: July

- Autumn Steam Gala: October 


- Drive a Diesel Train/ Drive a Steam Train

- Photography Course

- Rail Ale Trail




Telephone:                                                           0333 320 2830


Social Media:                                              

                                                                                Also on Twitter/ Instagram/ YouTube/ Flickr



Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation  

The East Lancashire Railway operated from 1844 to 1859, and was an amalgamation of numerous railways which ran from Liverpool to Preston, and east- west from Preston to Blackburn, Accrington and Burney, and south - north from Accrington to Manchester via a connection with the Liverpool and Manchester railway just north of the latter city. The section from Manchester to Bury and Rawtenstall was promoted by a group of Bury business men wanting to improve railway connections to its town and Rawtenstall. It opened in 1846. By 1848 the line had been extended from north of Bury (at Stubbins Jct) to meet the Preston Burnley line at Accrington. The Beeching Report saw a number of closures in Lancashire, including the lines between Stubbins Jct and Accrington (closed in 1966), and the line north of Bury to Rawtenstall in 1972 although freight services survived until 1980 and the line was not formally closed until 1982. A preservation society then determined to re-open as much of the line as possible as a heritage railway, opening from Bury to Ramsbottom in 1987 and from there to Rawtenstall in 1991. A further extension in the other direction, from Bury to Heywood, was opened in 2003.


Principal Aspiration

To extend the line to Heywood to Castleton to connect with national rail services on the Rochdale - Manchester main line.


Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) L&YR Class 23 0-6-0 ST (Aspinall) - No. 752 (LMS 11456)

(2) L&YR Class 27 0-6-0 (Aspinall) - No. 12322 [out on loan]

(3) MSC Hudswell Clarke Class 0-6-0T - No.680 ‘Gothenburg’

(4) BR Standard Class 4T – No. 80097 (temporarily out of service)


Boiler Certificate Just Expired (2022/ 2023)

SR West Country Pacific (Bulleid) – 34092 ‘City of Wells’


Diesel Operational Locomotives/DMU:

(1) BR Class 14 - D9531 ‘Ernest’

(2) BR Class 24 - D5054 ‘Phil Southern’

(3) BR Class 25 - D7629

(4) BR Class 42 - D832 ‘Onslaught’

(5) BR Class 45 - 45108 

(6) BR Class 47 - D1501 ‘Gateshead’

(7) BR Class 50 – 50015 ‘Valiant’

(8) Heritage DMU Class 105 ‘Cravens’ - SC51485 and E56121

(9) Heritage DMU Class 104/1 - M 50517

(10) Heritage DMU Class 104/2 - M 50455

(11) Heritage DMU Class 110 – 51842, 59701 and 51813

(12) Heritage DMU Class 117/1& 2 – 51339 and 51382

(13) Heritage DMU Class 122 - W55001

(14) Collection of shunters


Steam Locomotives Under Overhaul/Service:

(1) GWR 28xx Class 2-8-0 - No. 3855

(2) LMS Class 5MT ‘Crab’ (Hughes/Fowler) - No. 13065

(3) LMS Class 3F ‘Jinty’ (Fowler) - No. 47324

(4) BR Standard Class 4 - No. 80080


Diesel Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) BR Class 40 - No. 40 145 (D345) ‘East Lancashire Railway’

(2) Number of shunters



Name of Support Group:

East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society

Annual membership fee:

Adult: £23. Senior: £17. Family: £50.

Own Website:


Use contact box on website


Benefits of membership:                                  

-          Enjoy limited free trips on the line every year

-          Family visits (bring the whole family for one free trip a year and get discounted rates for all other journeys)

-          Quarterly Magazine, ‘ELR News’


How to Join:                Go to


What They Say About Volunteering:

We currently have over 800 volunteers who donate their free time, mid-week or at weekends, to work in a huge variety of roles on the ELR. But we need your help. to secure the future of our heritage line and all the locomotives on it. We need volunteers of all ages, all backgrounds and with all levels of experience to help us keep our Lancashire heritage, our magnificent British history, safe for all to enjoy. From staffing the ticket office to restoring classic carriages, greeting guests or even driving a train, if you’re looking for a wide range of volunteering opportunities, we’d love to hear from you.


How to Volunteer:                             Go to


How to Donate:                                 Go to


WHY JOIN:   Help the railway extend the line to Heywood to Castleton.


Information On Other Societies With Related Interest

Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this



Traditional Railway Societies:

- Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society

- Manchester Locomotive Society


Model Railway Clubs:

- Leigh Model Railway Society

- Rochdale Model Railway Group

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