The Great Harwood Loop line was built due to local demand. By the 1870s Great Harwood was clamouring for a railway to service the many mills in the town. Importantly, Heavy goods needed to be brought in and finished textiles had to be moved out. Unfortunately, The nearest canal was at Clayton le Moors and the roads were poor.
Great Harwood origins
In the mid 19th century Great Harwood was booming. Moreover, John Mercer has invented a process that made cotton easier to print. Consequently, Mercer Hall and the clock on Towngate, revere his name.
Great Harwood had many textile mills and by 1920 the Great Harwood Weavers association had over 5000, members. Notably, today the population is declining with 10.880 residents as of the 2011 census.
The building of a railway
The new line was difficult to build with most of the cuttings at the Blackburn end, and most of the embankments towards Padiham. As a result, many tons of earth had to be carted over, to build the embankment that leads to Martholme viaduct. Indeed, this structure was built over an old coal mine and had to be rebuilt after a collapse.
The viaduct is a listed structure and is still there. Unfortunately, the structure is closed at one end due to land-owner disputes.
The line finally opened in 1877. Notably, there were stations at Great Harwood, Simonstone and Padiham. Later, the line was often used for wakes weeks trains going to Blackpool Central. Unfortunately, by the mid-1950s bus services had made the line unpopular with passengers. As a result, the last passenger service ran in 1957.
The end comes with closure
The line succumbed to the Beeching cuts and closed in 1964. Consequently, all the bridges that crossed the line, in Great Harwood, were demolished. Next, the cutting was filled in. Interestingly, there is one skew bridge still in place, in Tottleworth. This carries the footpath that now runs along the old trackbed.
The Great Harwood Loop Line today
Today parts of the path are used as a footpath and cycleway. However, the trackbed at the Blackburn end has been infilled. Notably, more has been done towards Padiham, where the trackbed has been surfaced and reaches almost to the canal.