The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway (L&MVLR)
Work began on the MVLR line in March 1902, the nearly nine miles of narrow gauge (2ft 6in) track running from Waterhouses to Hulme End. On Wednesday 29 June 1904 the first passenger and goods services ran, following the ceremonial opening the previous Monday, 27 June 1904.
The MVLR was used by passengers and for the transportation of goods, the former either for practical reasons of moving from A to B between Waterhouses and Hulme End, or for recreational purposes by inhabitants of nearby larger towns, ie, The Potteries - then enjoying a booming pottery industry – offering a fine day out in the beautiful Manifold and Hamps Valleys. Goods transport latterly included milk, which was taken all the way to Finsbury Park in London to the United Dairies’ facility there, from the creamery in Ecton which operated during the 1920s.
There were eight stops between Waterhouses and Hulme End; Sparrowlee (for Waterfall), Beeston Tor, Grindon, Thor’s Cave, Redhurst, Wetton Mill, Butterton (the tunnel) and Ecton (for Warslow). Remains of some of the stations can be seen if you walk along the track today.
Due to the emergence of the motor trade business in the 1930s the death knell sounded for many of Britain’s light and narrow gauge railways, particularly in rural areas. The MVLR was no exception to this, and was also affected by the closure of the Ecton creamery in 1932. The line closed on 19 March 1934, but was reopened as a foot/cycle path on 23 July 1937 – offering a pleasant (and very flat!) meander through North Staffordshire.