THE line from Northwich to Crewe via Middlewich opened on June 1, 1868 and was closed to passengers in 1960.

Then on November 27, 1967, it was closed completely.

There is currently an ongoing appeal to reopen it entirely due to the increased need for the route by the population increase in Sandbach and Middlewich towns.

The line has remained operational and is used when trains on the West Coast mainline must be diverted for any reason.

So unlike other closed lines like the Over and Winsford one, its reinstatement should hopefully be trouble-free.

At the moment going from Middlewich to Manchester by train entails getting to Sandbach, and then the train from there possibly changing at Crewe.

Middlewich to Northwich would simply mean changing at Northwich to the Crewe/Manchester line, or even better, a direct Manchester route. But back to the Yester Years column.

On February 24, 1872, an interesting occurrence took place just four years after the line was opened to the public.

The 5.50pm train from Northwich to Crewe via Middlewich set off, having stopped at Northwich.

The passengers relaxing in the comfort of their carriages enjoying this particularly attractive vista of Mid Cheshire countryside felt the train coming to a rather slow and juddering halt.

There was no Middlewich station to look out upon, just the beautiful greenery of Cheshire.

After a while, one of the passengers, a gentleman, climbed down onto the line and walked to the engine. He was amazed to find both the driver and fireman lying fast asleep on the footplate with the smell of alcoholic liquor emanating from their supine bodies.

There was no steam to drive the engine as the fire was out. Fearing a collision, the man gave the alarm, and the passengers alighted from their carriage.

Another engine was brought from Crewe to take over the train, and it continued its journey.

The driver was William Ward, who had spent 20 years working for the London and North Western Railway, and Thomas Jones, the fireman with eight or nine years of service, both from Crewe.

They were both suspended from duty, and the matter was investigated.

Eventually, they were brought before the court, having endangered the train and the passengers on it.

Both were sentenced to serve two months in the Middlewich House of Correction for their sins.

Naturally, the locomotives of that period travelled somewhat slower than the inter-city trains of today.

Some years later, after these two crew members had disgraced themselves, the regular engine pulling the train from Northwich to Crewe was nicknamed ‘The Crewe Dodger’.

This regular local train with push and pull working was a well-loved institution and when withdrawn from service, like the line itself, was well missed.