See caption
Robert Stephenson’s plan for the Kenyon and Leigh Railway
Wikimedia Commons

The Kenyon and Leigh Junction Railway (K&LJR) opened on 3 January 1831. It was built to link the Bolton and Leigh RailwayLancashire's first public railway, promoted as a mineral line in connection with William Hulton's coal pits to the west of his estate at Over Hulton. (B&LR), which terminated near the Leigh Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) at Kenyon.

The 2.5-mile (4.0 km) line started from the B&LR’s terminus in Westleigh and crossed the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before heading south towards Kenyon. Stations were built at Bradshaw Leach and Kenyon. When it opened, goods trains could access 28.5 miles (45.9 km) of line between Bolton and Liverpool and a few months later a passenger service started. John Hargreaves, an established carrier in Bolton leased the running rights over the K&LJR and the L&MR using his own engines and rolling stock until 31 December 1845. Regular passenger services between Bolton and Kenyon ended in March 1954 and traffic from Leigh ended when the Tyldesley LooplineRailway line built in 1864 to connect local collieries to the Liverpool–Manchester main line. was closed in 1969.

On 8 August 1845, along with the Bolton and Leigh and Liverpool and Manchester Railways, the Kenyon and Leigh was amalgamated into the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) which, with others, became part of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) on 16 July 1846.


Nine members of the Kenyon and Leigh’s board of 13 directors were also members of the Liverpool and Manchester. In 1825 the Bolton and Leigh had experienced considerable opposition to its bill in Parliament and to ensure its bill passing, had agreed to not cross either the Leeds and Liverpool or the Bridgewater Canal and had to terminate a short distance from the canal’s north bank where it built transhipment facilities,[1] becoming a feeder for the canal.[2]

When the K&LJR presented its bill to Parliament in 1828, the attitude towards railway companies had changed and the canal company withdrew its opposition to it crossing the canal.[3] In 1829 the company received royal assent to build a single-track line from the end of the Bolton and Leigh line from near Twiss (now Twist) Lane in Westleigh to Kenyon where a junction would be made with the L&MR which was at an advanced stage of construction.[4]

The act specified that the bridge over the canal was to have a minimum clearance of 12 feet (4 m) above the water to accommodate Mersey flats with lowered masts and its arch was to be at least 25 feet (8 m) in span to accommodate a 6-foot (2 m) towpath.[5] As compensation the K&LJR was required to pay the canal company £500 (equivalent to £41,000 in 2016[6]) and £15 (equivalent to £1,000 in 2016) per day for interruptions to canal traffic during the bridge’s construction.[3][7] The company raised the estimated cost of the line, £22,946, (equivalent to £1.9 million in 2016[6]) by issuing shares.[8]


The line of the railway was surveyed by Robert Stephenson and the engineer in charge was John Rastrick.[7]

In 1829 the railway company asked for tenders, in one sum, to be received by 1 October, to complete the entire railway line. Plans could be seen at the company’s office in John St Liverpool or at Mr Rastrick’s office in Stourbridge. The company would provide the land, wrought iron rails, cast iron rail chairs, castings and iron work for the turn outs but everything else would have to be provided including the workforce. The work involved 107,000 cubic yards of earthworks, two 18-foot (5 m) bridges with 24 feet (7 m) between the parapet walls, two 6-foot (2 m) arch bridges both 23 yards (21 m) in length, a 5-foot (2 m) arch to be 18 yards (16 m) long, twenty-four occupation gates, seven larger gates, five cottages for the gate keepers, about 6 miles (9.7 km) of fencing, 652 yards (596 m) of cylindrical brick culvert, sundry brickwork, 10,070 stone blocks, 20,140 oak pins, wood sleepers, gravel for the road, laying the rails and completing the line which, with branches, would be about 3 miles (4.8 km) in length.[9]

When completed the line was 2.5 miles (4.0 km) in length.[10] It crossed the Bolton and St Helens turnpike road via a level crossing.[11] The crossing was replaced by an overbridge when the line was doubled in 1864.[12] The K&LJR joined the L&MR at a triangular junction. The K&LJR line towards Liverpool passed through Bolton Junction station, the line towards Manchester avoided it.[13]

The canal bridge was substantially rebuilt in the mid 1930s and in turn was replaced by a concrete bridge carrying the A579 Atherleigh Way in the mid 1980s.[14] The road was built on the line of the former railway.

Opening and operation

The line opened on 3 January 1831 for freight traffic between Bolton and Liverpool.[15] A special train for “Gentlemen” ran from Bolton to Newton Races on 2 June 1831.[16] Passenger trains began running the 28.5 miles (45.9 km) from Bolton to Liverpool on 13 June 1831.[15] The journey took an hour and forty minutes [17] The K&LJR and B&LR worked closely as trains ran over both lines to access the Liverpool and Manchester line. Two passenger trains daily ran in each direction between Bolton and Liverpool one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, each train providing inside covered accommodation and outside wooden seats in open wagons.[16]

In 1834 the B&LR leased the operation of the railway to John Hargreaves, an established carrier in Bolton. Hargreaves was granted running rights over the K&LJR and the L&MR using his own engines and rolling stock.[18] He was an established carrier on roads and canals before the railway was built and the main carrier from north west England into Scotland, the equal of Pickfords who controlled the trade to the south of Manchester.[19] By the mid-1830s Hargreaves had about two hundred wagons.[16] He became a pioneer of excursions by rail, running Sunday trips from Bolton to Liverpool in 1841. In 1843 he ran excursions to London and two years later to Manchester.[20] The GJR terminated the Hargreaves leases on 31 December 1845.[16]

The B&LR obtained an Act of Parliament giving it the right to lease the K&LJR for twenty-five years or purchase it for £44,750 ( (equivalent to £3.9 million in 2016[6]) in 1836 but did not take up the purchase option.[18] On 8 August 1845 the railway was absorbed, together with the B&LR and the L&MR, into the Grand Junction Railway(GJR).[21] The following year on 16 July 1846 the GJR was amalgamated with others into the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR).[21]

Stations and junctions

Two stations were opened on the line.

  • Bolton Junction opened on 15 September 1830 on the L&MR and was renamed Kenyon Junction in June 1843. Shaw suggests that two stations may have been built at Bolton Junction, one at the terminus of the K&LJR and the L&MR station but their platforms were not connected.[18]
  • Bradshaw Leach opened on 11 June 1831 together with the other passenger facilities on the B&LR and was renamed Pennington in 1877.[12]

A junction was formed to the north of Pennington station in 1864 when the LNWR’s Tyldesley Loopline opened via Bedford Leigh and the track between Kenyon Junction and the junction at Pennington was doubled at a cost of £7,000 (equivalent to £632,000 in 2016[6]).[22] Double track north from the Pennington junction to Atherton Junction opened on 31 May 1880.[16]

In 1885 the junction with the Tyldesley Loopline, by now known as Pennington South Junction, became more complicated when the LNWR opened the Westleigh Line slightly to its north providing a connection to the Tyldesley to Wigan line at Bickershaw.[22]

East and west junctions north of Pennington station were made in 1903 when the L&NWR constructed two link lines between the Tyldesley Loopline and the Westleigh Line bridging over the Bolton & Kenyon Line and a mineral line to collieries in Westleigh.[23]


Regular passenger services on the line between Bolton and Kenyon ended on 29 March 1954 but wakes week traffic to North Wales continued until 1958.[24] With the demise of goods traffic, Crook Street Yard in Bolton closed in April 1965 and private sidings were closed by October 1967.[25] The only coal traffic using the line in the 1960s was from Jackson’s sidings in Tyldesley.[26] Passenger traffic from the Tyldesley Loopline closed following the Beeching cuts on 5 May 1969, when all the stations on that line were closed.[27] The track had been lifted by 1969.[8]