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The St Helens Canal & Railway Company



This company was originally established as the St Helens Canal Company in 1755. 


Under a Parliamentary Act of 1830 it was re-incorporated as the St Helens & Runcorn Gap Canal & Railway Company, and authorised to build a 16¾-mile from St. Helens to Runcorn Gap (Widnes).


The Engineer was Charles Vignoles (1793-1875) and the line crossed over the Liverpool & Manchester Railway at Sutton, St Helens, and included a cable-worked 1:70 incline 1½ miles long by the cross-over.


The company merged with the Sankey Brook Navigation and, under the Act of July 21st 1845, further re-incorporated itself as the St. Helens Canal & Railway Company but was absorbed by the London & North Western Railway in 1864.


The traffic of the line was predominantly mineral, and little attention was paid to the needs of a passenger service. In its early years the company's trains were very slow, and a well recounted story is told of certain passengers who, having missed the train, were told by an oficial, "Now hurry yourselves — she's not long started, and if you look sharp you'll catch her up!"


Bearing large amounts of coal and chemicals, the line was an extremely profitable one, handling 2,000,000 tons of goods and mineral traffic in a year around the end of the nineteenth century which represented almost 15% of all the goods traffic of the L&NWR network. 


For a more detailed history of the railway and its development in later years see the historical pages of the 8D Association who are dedicated to preserving the heritage of the railways in the old regions of South West Lancashire and North West Cheshire.

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