East Lancashire Railway

Bolton, Greater Manchester

A train journey with a nineteenth century throwback.

It might be a mighty conurbation, but Greater Manchester is ringed with some of the North West’s most fascinating countryside. The Lakes are a mere two hours away, while to the east is the Peak District, home to some of the England’s best climbing and walking experiences.

Just to the north-west, there’s also a unique stretch that links the city to the Lancastrian hinterland and towns such as Bury, Ramsbotton and Rawtenstall. This was the region’s industrial heartland. Of course, the area has changed beyond all recognition since then, but there is still the odd throwback to its nineteenth century heyday. The East Lancashire Railway is one such gem. This steam railway was opened in 1846 to link Bury to Rawtenstall in Lancashire, and ferried passengers and freight until the early 80s, when the line was formally closed. But thanks to the efforts of the East Lancashire Preservation Society, the line was saved from the knacker’s yard and restored to the glories of yesteryear.

Today, this heritage line operates every weekend and during the week in the summer months, and gives railway lovers a chance to step back in time to the steam-powered glory years. The insider tip? Break it up by disembarking in leafy Ramsbottom, and head to the Chocolate Cafe. This unique emporium serves chocolate made on the premises as well as kooky delights such as chocolate pizza and steak and vegetables cooked in chocolate and beer. You’ll need that train to transport you back after that little lot.

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