KNUTSFORD’S beloved Elizabeth Gaskell, whose works were inspired by the industrial revolution and the birth of rail travel, has been honoured with a train bearing her name.

The Elizabeth Gaskell train was unveiled by Tatton MP George Osborne and Northern Rail’s Alex Hynes at a ceremony in Manchester Piccadilly on March 28.

The train, a 156 Northern unit, will travel the network around Greater Manchester and Knutsford, the inspiration for Mrs Gaskell’s work, such as ‘Cranford’.

Mr Osborne, who gave a speech in tribute to the former Knutsford resident, said: “I was delighted to be invited to name one of Northern Rail’s diesel trains ‘Elizabeth Gaskell’, particularly as the train will travel through Knutsford, which is the basis for her novel Cranford.

“A large crowd gathered at Piccadilly station, including members of the Gaskell Society, members of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users and representatives from the Heritage Centre to watch the unveiling of the plaque.”

Elizabeth was born Elizabeth Stevenson in 1810 in Chelsea. She was brought up by her Aunt Lumb in Knutsford after being orphaned at a young age.

She spent her childhood at Heathwaite no 17, now Gaskell Avenue, and married local Unitarian minister William Gaskell. She died in 1865 and is buried at Knutsford’s Unitarian Brook Street Chapel.

Sally Buttifant, Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership, said: “We are really pleased that there is now a Northern Rail train named after Elizabeth Gaskell.

“We hope that people will journey along the Mid Cheshire line, the line that she wrote about, and follow in her footsteps exploring Knutsford, the town she called Cranford.”

Knutsford greatly influenced the famous novelist and biographer’s literary work, as evidenced in ‘Cranford’ (1853) and her late masterpiece, ‘Wives and Daughters’ (1866) where it is the model for Hollingford.

Alex Hynes, Northern’s managing director, said: “We name some of our trains after ‘Great Northerners’ and Elizabeth Gaskell certainly fits that description.

“Her work has left a legacy on this part of the world and we are delighted to be able to honour her in this way.”