Chequerbent level crossing
The original route was single track throughout, except at sidings and stations. At Chequerbent, just to the east of the modern roundabout, the line crossed the A6 via a level crossing, which had a crossing keeper’s cottage adjacent. This was called Hope Cottage. (see separate page)
The station was very rudimentary, as most of the traffic was goods.
The route realignment of 1885
Once the original route was connected to the Liverpool and Manchester at Kenyon Junction, traffic built up rapidly. Some parts of the route were doubled. By the 1880’s it was decided to double-track the whole route into Bolton.
At Chequerbent the L.N.W.R. deviation began near the top of the incline where the new double track line left the old single-track line and passed in a cutting to the west of Brancker Street, Westhoughton, continued under the A6 road to the new Chequerbent Station and associated Goods Yard, and gradually climbed northwards to re-join the old line at the northern end of Chequerbent embankment near Pendlebury Fold. It was from this point that the locomotive “Lancashire Witch” began its ceremonial journey at the opening of the line on the 1st. August 1829.
At Chequerbent, it was decided to modify the alignment to pass under the road instead at a bridge a few yards to the west (photo below). The single track over the level crossing was retained to access the pit sidings.
This however resulted in a very steep climb of 1 in 30 up to Bolton – “Chequerbent Bank”. The steepness of the gradient and the rapid change under the bridge are shown here.
The original embankment to the level crossing still exists, and the place where the two routes diverged can still be seen just to the south of the present M61 motorway.
Chequerbent station from 1885
When the line was diverted to pass below the A6, Chequerbent station was replaced by a new one just north of the road, “Chequerbent for Hulton Park”. This opened on 2nd February 1885 and the original station was closed.
This station was at a lower level and the two platforms were accessed by stairs down from the road.
The first section of track between Derby Street Bolton and William Hulton’s collieries at Pendlebury Fold near Chequerbent in Westhoughton was officially opened on 1 August 1828. The purpose of the line was largely driven by the requirement to move coal from these collieries.
During the period of L.N.W.R. ownership, from 1846 to the first World War, many improvements continued to be made. Several branch lines were laid down to provide rail connections to two Brickworks and the many Collieries situated near the line, and to a Steelworks located near the line, all being in the area between Leigh and Daubhill. A good example of these branch lines can still be identified to this day, namely, that laid down to Bank Pit Nos. 3 & 4, better known as “Pretoria Colliery”. This line left the main line halfway up the Chequerbent incline. It turned to the east, running almost at right angles to the main line and continued on to the Colliery premises where Mr. Hulton’s coal trains were marshalled in the Colliery mineral sidings and then hauled out on to the main line via the branch line, for onward transportation towards Bolton or Leigh. Two road bridges were built over the railway on the Chequerbent incline to provide access roads to Bank Pits Nos. 1 & 2, and 3 & 4 (Pretoria Colliery). Additionally, they gave the local farmers safe access to their lands which lay on the other side of the railway. These bridges also gave the trains an unobstructed right of way up the steep 1 in 30 gradient, which later, owing to mining subsidence became as steep as 1 in 19½ on that part of the incline which lay between the two bridges, before the closure of the line.
The final years and closure
When Pretoria Colliery was closed in 1930 it was the beginning of the decline of the Bolton and Kenyon line.
In 1947, at the end of the London Midland and Scottish Railway days there were 8 passenger services in each direction, with an extra one on Saturdays. There were no Sunday services.
The stations at Chequerbent and Daubhill closed to passengers on 3 March 1952. All other stations and the line closed to passengers on 29 March 1954 but temporarily re-opened in five successive years to cope with Bolton Wakes Week traffic. The line closed in sections, Atherton Junction to Pennington South Junction closed to freight on 7 October 1963, and with it Atherton goods station. Chequerbent goods yard closed on 27 February 1965.