Backtrack

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In last Septembers issue of Britain Leading Historical Railway Journal (As the front cover states)!  'BACK-TRACK' I had an article on the ICI Light Railway.

I will copy the article below but most of the column space was taken with photographs that I obtained from the ICI archives in Runcorn. There was also a comprehensive list of all of the companies steam locomotives.

THE I.C.I LIGHT RAILWAY

The I.C.I or Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. was formed in 1926 from four British chemical companies, British Dyestuffs Corporation Ltd., Brunner Mond & Company Ltd., Nobel Industries Ltd. and the United Alkali Company Ltd. The Alkali Division was based at Winnington in Mid Cheshire and had works at Winnington, Wallerscote, Lostock, Sandbach and Middlewich, all in Cheshire. Together with Fleetwood in Lancashire, Silvertown in London and Wilton in Yorkshire.

This Division has recently been split up and assumed other names. One of them being Brunner Mond Ltd., the company that was originally set up in Mid Cheshire.

There has been little written of the extensive railway network within the various works but to get an idea of the amount of internal rail usage.  In 1955 the I.C.I as a company owned 142 locomotives, both steam and diesel, 3,330 main line rail wagons of which 2,600 were used exclusively within the I.C.I works Nationally and available to this network were 260 miles of sidings. The daily tonnage of products dispatched by rail from the various factories represented well over 50 trainloads.

The I.C.I Light Railway was purely for goods; I can find no evidence of rail passenger transport anywhere in the system, although it may have been. The ICI introduced diesel power to the rail network in the 1950,s’ in the main these consisted of 400 b.h.p 0.6.0 diesel electric shunters.

In the main, the locomotives both steam and diesel powered were well looked after, they were nearly all given names usually relating to the chemical industry and honouring well known chemical engineers such as Joule, Davy and Watt.  These locomotives were purchased from various manufacturers, Kerr Stuart & Co Ltd, Stoke. Peckett & Sons Ltd, Bristol.  WG Bagnall Ltd of Stafford to name but a few.

Gorstage near Weaverham, Cheshire was at the extremity of the ICI private lines from Wallerscote Works. The Reception & Departure Sidings were only built in the late 1940's, early 1950's and gave access to the West Coast main line and also the Chester Manchester line near Hartford.

An interesting fact regarding this Gorstage sidings, is that after it ceased operations in the 1990’s, the local Council, Vale Royal Borough had its heart set on bringing the Dinting Railway Museum, then based in Glossop, Derbyshire, to the sidings. The deal would have gone through, but unfortunately the ICI owned the land and they declined to sell it, preferring to try and obtain planning permission for housing. The museum is now located at Keighley in Yorkshire and attracts many visitors every year.

There are other I.C.I works in the country in which rail transport is used, Wigg Works at Bank Quay Warrington, part of the Mond Division had a small rail network and a locomotive from the nearby Manchester Ship Canal Company was borrowed as required for internal workings. There were other works such as Billingham in the North East but the Cheshire based Alkali operations are featured here.

In the early 1990's, the Alkali Division closed down most of their sidings and sold off the locomotives. The last rail foreman was Tom Walton and he was tasked with undertaking the run down of the network. This included the leasing of a small number of diesel locomotives to be used by Brunner Mond shunters on the increasingly few shunting operations necessary to handle the three trains per day that brought limestone from the quarry at Buxton and the coal trains.