Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway (and related lines)
Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway (and related lines)
Originating as a locally-inspired venture to link
Wrexham with the port of Connah's Quay on the
Dee, the WM&CQ in time came under the influence
of Sir Edward Watkin and thus had the distinction of
being the only part of the Great Central Railway, and
subsequently of the London and North Eastern
Railway, in Wales. The WM&CQ main line survives
to this day as the southern part of the Borderlands Line
linking Bidston on
the Merseyrail network with Wrexham, with an
hourly service operated by Arriva Trains Wales and
regular freight traffic to Corus at Shotton operated by EWS.
Initially promoted as the WWM&CQ in the autumn
of 1861, the first "W" represented Whitchurch and
was subsequently dropped before the WM&CQ Act
was passed in August the following year. The first
sod was cut in October 1862 by Mrs W E Gladstone
and her husband, at the time Chancellor of the
Exchequer and subsequently twice Prime Minister,
made a speech. Construction began under Thomas
Savin until his bankruptcy led to Benjamin Piercy
taking over responsibility. In January 1865 Colonel
Yolland of the Board of Trade inspected the line but,
on finding inadequacies in aspects of both the
construction and the proposed operational practices,
he refused to allow it to open. Those outstanding
matters were resolved sufficiently to permit opening
of the line between Wrexham and Buckley to goods
and mineral traffic on 1st January 1866, although
contemporary press coverage suggests that this had
been preceded by a period of informal operation.
Colonel Yolland made a return visit in April 1866
and gave approval for passenger services to
commence, which they did on 1st May following a
celebratory outing over the line the previous day.
At Buckley the WM&CQ made a connection with the
Buckley Railway, itself having opened in June 1862
to link the collieries, brickworks and potteries of
Buckley with the port of Connah's Quay, replacing a
number of earlier tramroads. The WM&CQ entered
into working arrangements with the Buckley Railway
and subsequently took a 999 year lease on the line in 1873.
While the WM&CQ was being built, Parliamentary
sanction was sought for various branches and
extensions but the only branch built initially was to
Ffrith, an industrial district to the north west of
Wrexham. There was also a connection with the
LNWR's Mold line at Penyffordd and, in due course,
with the Shrewsbury & Chester section of the GWR
at Wrexham, although the fact that a local GWR
Director, Sir Watkin Wynne, had made his opposition
to the WM&CQ well known meant that initially there
was a degree of animosity between the two companies.
A Bill for further expansion was tabled in November
1881 and after a rough parliamentary ride was
enacted in August 1882. This sanctioned the
extension of the line to a new town centre terminus,
Wrexham Certral, and the construction of a branch to
the industrial centre of Brymbo, in the hills to the
west of Wrexham. The extension to Wrexham
Central was constructed during 1887 and opened on I
November of the same year. Wrexham Central
subsequently became a through station eight years
later with the opening of the Wrexham and Ellesmere
Railway in 1895, thus providing, via the junction
with the Cambrian main line at Ellesmere, the
connection with Whitchurch aspired to back in 1861.
The Brymbo branch was built and opened to freight
traffic in stages during the 1880s, with a passenger
service from Wrexham Central to Brymbo commencing on 1st August 1889.
A further Act of June 1883 Act granted powers for
what turned out to be the WM&CQ's most
significant extension, the construction of the
Hawarden Loop, a route from just south of Buckley
(subsequently Buckley Junction) to Shotton and
Connah's Quay independent of the Buckley Railway.
This development marked the beginning of the end of
the WM&CQ as an independent company as, in
addition to providing a more efficient route for
through traffic from the Wrexham area to the docks
and the LNWR at Connah's Quay, it was to make an
end-on connection at Shotton with a new line from
Chester promoted by the Manchester, Sheffield and
Lincolnshire (MS&L) Railway. As one of the three
partners in the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC), the
MS&L had unrivalled access to the salt works in the
Northwich area which provided a potential market for
the otherwise almost worthless slack from the North
Wales coalfield served by the WM&CQ. Both the
WM&CQ's and MS&L's lines opened on 31st March
1890, with the MS&L's Hawarden Bridge swing
bridge completed in the previous summer providing a
rail crossing of the River Dee that also satisfied the
requirement that navigation on the Dee should not be obstructed.
The completion of the Dee crossing gave the
WM&CQ the incentive to take up the powers granted
jointly by an Act of July 1885 to connect Hawarden
Bridge with the Wirral Railway at Bidston, just
outside Birkenhead. Three years prior to construction
beginning in October 1892 the Wirral Railway had
sold their interest to the WM&CQ and the MS&L for
a little over £100,000, but the WM&CQ's relatively
poor financial health meant that it found it necessary
to borrow much of its share of the purchase price and
subsequent construction costs from the MS&L. When
the North Wales and Liverpool (NW&L) line opened
in the spring of 1896 it was nominally operated by
the WM&CQ due to the MS&L not initially having
running powers over the Wirral Railway from
Bidston to Seacombe, the transfer point for ferries
across the Mersey to Liverpool, but in practice the
WM&CQ was heavily reliant on motive power on
loan from the MS&L in order to operate the service.
In September 1897 the Great Central Railway (GCR),
as the MS&L had just become, obtained judgement
against the WM&CQ for failing to repay the debts
incurred in connection with the construction of the
NW&L. The GCR's accountant was appointed as
Receiver and Administrator and the lengthy demise
of the WM&CQ followed, culminating in an Act of
July 1904 which vested the WM&CQ, the Buckley
Railway and the NW&L in the GCR with effect from 1st January 1905.
The Brymbo branch closed to passengers in 1917,
initially as a temporary wartime economy measure
but one that was never reversed. The various
WM&CQ freight branches and the Buckley Railway
gradually closed over a period of 45 years between
the mid 1920s and the early 1970s but the core
combined WM&CQ and NW&L route, linked by the
MS&L's Hawarden Bridge, remains open to this day
for both passenger and freight traffic.
- Wrexham Railways - A Collection of Pictures. - A Bodlander et al, Bridge Books, Wrexham, 1992.
- Wrexham Railways - A Collection of Pictures 2. - A Bodlander et al, Bridge Books, Wrexham, 1993.
- Industrial Locomotives of North Wales. - Y J Bradley, Industrial Railway Society, London, 1992.
- The Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway. - J M Dunn, Oakwood Press, Lingfield, 1957.
- The Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway including The Buckley Railway. - J I C Boyd, Oakwood Press, Oxford, 1991.