Railway Pit was located on the hillside above the river Goyt to the north of Whaley Bridge town centre and to the west of the London and North Western Railway line, the A6 trunk road and the Whaley Bridge Branch of the Peak Forest Canal. This pit was adjacent to Hockerley Colliery that had become disused. Its location was ideal, with communication by road and canal within easy reach but, in spite of its name, there was no connection with the LNWR. Railway Pit was sunk in 1855-60 and initially it was worked by Thomas Boothman & Co and then by Levi & Elijah Hall. It closed in 1900.

It is known that Hockerley Colliery was being worked in 1850 by Thomas Srigley (1813-1887) but its sinking must have been much before this. It closed in c.1857. The small plot of land on which Hockerley Colliery stood was identified on the Tithe Map of c.1845 as Coal Bank owned by Richard Gaskell and occupied by Joseph Wilde. This plot was in field called Lower Gnat Hole. At this time, Whaley Bridge was known as Yeardsley-cum-Whaley in the county of Cheshire.

Referring to the diagram below showing the section of the shaft of Railway Pit, several observations can be made. It was sunk through five seams (called mines) of coal, the most important ones being Red Ash Mine (1 foot 4 inches thick), White Ash Mine (1 foot 8 inches thick) and Yard Mine (4 feet 8 inches thick). It is known that these three seams were also exploited from other pits in the vicinity. The two unnamed seams were about 9 inches and 12 inches thick, respectively, but whether or not these were worked is unknown. The three worked seams were thin when compared with those in the Lancashire coalfield, some of which were up to 10 feet thick. The most documented seam was the Roger Mine that stretched across Lancashire and into the Yorkshire Coalfield. At Denton Colliery the Roger Mine was 4 feet thick but the Big Mine above it was 6 feet thick.

At just under 120-yards deep, the shaft of Railway Pit was shallow when compared with other coal mines in the North West. For example, Denton Colliery was 251-yards deep, Astley Deep Pit (Dukinfield) was 686-yards deep and Bradford Colliery (Manchester) was 900-yards deep.

Geologically, the Whaley Bridge area consists of shale, sandstones and thin seams of coal collectively known as the Lower Coal Measures or Lower Westphalian. Coal extracted was generally thin, shaley and sulphurous and some of it was considered to be only suitable for lime burning. Consequently, coal from Railway Pit was generally of low quality with a high sulphur content that produced large quantities of yellowish smoke when burned. Of the three worked mines, coal from the Red Ash and White Ash Mines was possibly of a slightly better quality and might, therefore, have been used for industrial and domestic purposes. Coal from the Yard Mine was more sulphurous and dirty and was only considered to be suitable for lime burning. The alternative name for the Yard Mine was Kiln Seam, which confirms that coal from it was of poor quality only considered to be suitable for lime burning.

Red and White Ash Mines were given these names from the type of ash produced when their coal was burned. Red Ash coal produced a reddish coloured ash when burned whereas White Ash coal produced a light coloured ash. Yard Mine was so named because this was the average thickness of the seam but at Railway Pit, it was actually around 4 feet 8 inches thick.

A fourth seam in the area was called the Ganister Mine but this was not identified in the section of the shaft of Railway Pit. The name refers to the seat-earth below the seam. The plants that formed this coal in the Carboniferous Period grew on sand rather than mud, which resulted in a seat-earth of hard, fine-grained sandstone called ganister, often containing fossil roots. Ganister is used in the manufacture of silica bricks, typically to line furnaces.

In common with many other pits, there are few surviving records about it. In spite of its good position, it was not a particularly large pit and the most striking thing was the absence of a rail connection with the LNWR, which suggests that all its output was consumed locally.

It is likely that most of the coal from the Yard Mine would have been burned in the lime kilns situated around the nearby Bugsworth Canal Basin. There were two possible methods of transporting this to Bugsworth. It could have been taken across the road to Roots Wharf on the Whaley Bridge Branch Canal for forward shipment by boat or it could have been carted there by road. There is also a possibility that coal from Yard Mine was transported up the Cromford & High Peak Railway to lime kilns at Harpur Hill limestone quarry but this is conjectural.

Coal from the Red Ash and White Ash Mines was probably consumed around the Whaley Bridge area and this would have been carted to its destination by road. The sulphur content of coal from these seams was high.

Yard Mine
The known extent of coal extraction from Yard Mine in the locality was on a north-south axis. Northwards, it extended through Bridgemont as far as Dolly Pit on the hillside above Bugsworth. Southwards, it extended through Whaley Bridge, Wharf Colliery and Horwich End to terminate just beyond Shallcross Yard of the Cromford and High Peak Railway. Eastwards, it extended from Railway Pit through Bugsworth Hall Pit as far as the village of Bugsworth. Its extent westwards of Railway Pit was not recorded even though there were several older and disused pits in this area. This suggests that the shafts of the older pits were not sunk down to the level of Yard Mine. From north to south, Yard Mine workings extended over a distance of about 1 mile 62 chains and the maximum width, east to west, was about 62 chains. However, it is known that this seam extended well beyond this locality as it was mined at pits along the Upper Peak Forest Canal including Marple where it was extracted from Peacock Pit (aka Marple Colliery) situated in Marple Lime Works, as well as at Compstall and Ernocroft Collieries.

The Yard Mine was the most extensively worked seam and it was also known as the Kiln Mine or Mountain Mine. Its thickness varied from 2 feet to 4 feet 8 inches with an average thickness of 1 yard (3 feet). Its depth below the surface varied due to faults and the dip of rocks. Coal obtained from it was slow burning, which made it especially suitable for firing lime kilns; hence its other name of Kiln Mine. The sulphur content of coal from this seam was high. This coal was also used for domestic purposes.

Wharf Colliery
For details click here ยป Wharf Colliery

  Acknowledgement and thanks are due to J McDermott.