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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Bury beams

British Railways returns to Bury. Back in time to a national railway system - at least in this corner of east Lancashire. More please.

I never made it to Bury - until this weekend when a warm and sunny day found the wife edgy 'to do something different and go somewhere new'. Bury immediately sprang to mind as a destination within relatively easy driving time and without the need to negotiate the Manchester M60 in crawling traffic heading east from the M61. Having read and heard about the delights of Bury Market and the East Lancashire Railway based there - it was time to traverse the quieter roads via Darwen and the fringes of Bolton and head into to pastures new.

Bury Market lived up to its reputation easily accessible well signed parking and huge in comparison to the token markets in Blackpool and Fleetwood. It was also thriving with both indoor and outdoor linked areas, all thronged with people spending, spending, spending. Our car park brought us into Bury's BHS in its final death throes, also busy with mourners picking through the remnants of Green's farewell gift to Britain - a bankruptcy hand me down, complete with thousands of laid off staff grimly dealing with the busiest weeks they had ever experienced.

Splitting with the wife I made a determined pilgrimage to the East Lancashire Railway's home base (at least I think it is) and found myself back in the 1950s on a station platform also thronged with people, as period carriages stood waiting for the next departure eastbound. The platform bar was packed (it was a hot day) with a queue a mile long - so I headed to the end of the platform to inspect a diesel ocomotive, the subject of restoration by a small group. A chance encounter with one of their team brought up the subject of Blackpool trams and models (the tram kind) - with promises of a visit to the Wyre Dock collection.

Across the road from the station conveniently situated in a former goods depot off the railway is Bury Transport Museum - this time also full of happy families pushing their offspring around the mixed collection of vehicles. One tram, on loan from Heaton Park, was in view - the famous 'Eades' horse tram from Manchester and part of the Heaton Park collection. Two Rawtenstall Corporation buses were in showcase condition along with other buses, vans and commercial stuff, including railway goods wagons and a travelling crane. A really eclectic display with useful information signage and random features from old Bury tram blinds to numerous British Railways totem station signs from this part of Lancashire. It was reassuring to see this small but inspiring venue drawing in the crowds.

Bury Transport Museum - a heritage gem housed in an original railway goods depot.

SELNEC, Yelloway and Lancashire United vehicles bring back memories.

The driving end of an 'Eades' reversible horse tram one of many which ran in the streets of Manchester up to the advent of electric tramway. Basic stuff for the driver it seems. No comforts on the job.

Bury town centre buildings bear silent testimony to the town's trams with wall rosette pull offs on several older buildings. Similarly on the way home I noted that Darwen's central area also boasted momentoes of that small tram system affixed to some of the more distinguished structures. Darwen of course was unusual in being the surprise customer for English Electric's streamline double deck trams of a similar style to Blackpool 'Balloons'. Alas the Darwen duo have long gone.

For anyone who has not been to Bury before - I therefore commend the experience something for everyone - great architecture in view without evidence of artsy types prettying everything up for generous fees. Of course there is the new (or recent)' bus station with clean interior shelters and platforms and a host of services that link communities large and small in the northwest. Manchester's Metrolink station adjoins the bus platforms (Blackpool Council take note). The Bury line being

part of the original Metrolink operation having been converted from heavy rail to light rail. A ten minute frequency and half hour trip brings the town within closer orbit of Manchester's city centre. A real interchange in action and both clean and spacious.

Below : a spacious central bus station and interchange for Bury. Metrolink is off camera to the left and down the stairs but with a very impressive (staffed) public information point to help travellers on that system. Blackpool planners please take note - a single board display just doesn't do it for millions of visitors.

If Bury can come up with this quality of bus inter- change, then a resort should manage an equally user friendly transport facility in the town centre.

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