WINSFORD’S claim to fame is that it provides virtually all of the UK’s rock salt, which is used on the roads in winter. 

This has to be transported about the country, and most of these salt products, were, until the early 1980s, carried by rail. Today, however, most of it is carried by road.

Winsford Guardian:

Winsford and Over Station

In the days when virtually all of the salt and salt products were carried by rail, Winsford had three stations for the use of passengers and numerous other goods yards and sidings to serve the salt industry.

The longest branch line operated originally by the Cheshire Lines Railway was the short branch from Cuddington on the Chester to Manchester line to the Winsford & Over station.

The Cheshire Lines Company (CLC) was unique in owning no locomotives of its own. The line was about six miles long and had one intermediate station at Whitegate.

Winsford Guardian:

Whitegate Station

The line had an extremely chequered history, and it was not a very good investment for its shareholders. The real purpose of the line was to serve the many salt works on Meadow Bank side of the River Weaver at Winsford; it was a continuation of this line that led to the terminus at Winsford & Over station.

The line opened to passengers on June 1, 1870 and passenger services were withdrawn on January 1, 1874. It was reopened on May 1, 1886, closed on December 1, 1888, reopened on February 1, 1892, finally closing to passengers on January 1, 1931. In 1929 the small engine shed at the station was closed.

Winsford Guardian:

Whitegate Way

Engines used on the line were ‘9B 0-6-0’s and ‘3’ 2-4-2T classification. From 1929 until 1931 a Sentinel-Cammell steam coach Number 602 was substituted.

After this date, there were several enthusiasts rail tours; In October 1953, a rail tour visited the station, and the salt works consisting of an ex-Great Central push and pull set hauled by a class ‘C13’ 4-4-2T No 67436. Again in March 1960, a rail tour navigated the line consisting of corridor stock hauled by an Ivatt ex LMS 2-6-0 locomotive, No 46472. The passenger service ran at a loss for virtually all of its existence.

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The line did not close completely until June 5, 1967. The track was lifted, and the track bed is now the Whitegate Way countryside walk, the station building houses a charity-run café.