All 13.5.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing
Back in 1986 I was in Manchester and got the chance to look around the Trafford Park Estate, which I knew had been rail connected. I was surprised to find that a good deal of track remained, but all seemed strangely disused. For what better way to bring goods in and out of factories than rail - this network should have been bustling, but it wasn't.
Once a lot of factories and industries were rail connected but the estate railway was something special. The large estate at Slough for example had a number of its own steam locos, which like at Trafford steamed alongside the roads and into factory sidings.
In many ways this is a vision of the future. There will still be some industry after oil, smaller scale obviously, and much of it serving local markets, but I suspect industrial estates will still exist. They will all need to be rail connected, either through private sidings or estate railways.
More info Wikipedia
The Trafford Park Railway System is the mainly disused railway system that runs around the site of large Trafford Park Industrial Estate, which closed in 1998, although much of its infrastructure remains.
History of System
The system's history started at the end of the 19th century there were no public transport routes in Trafford Park. Due to the size of Trafford Park meant that the Estates Company was obliged to provide some means of travelling around the park, and so a gas-powered tramway was commissioned to carry both people and freight. The first tram ran on 23 July 1897.
The service was operated by the British Gas Traction Company, which paid a share of its takings to the Estates Company, but by 1899 the company was in serious financial difficulty, and entered voluntary liquidation. Salford Corporation then refused to provide any more gas for the trams, and the service was once again suspended until the Estates Company bought the entire operation for £2,000 in 1900. A separate electric tramway was installed in 1903, and was taken over and operated by Manchester and Salford Corporations in 1905. The takeover did not affect the gas trams however, which continued to run until 1908, when they were replaced by steam locomotives. Between 1904 and 1907 the Estates Company also operated a horse-drawn bus for the use of "gentlemen" staying at Trafford Hall, then a hotel. The service, available 24-hours a day, was replaced by a motor car in 1907.
Under an 1898 agreement between the Estates Company and the Ship Canal Company, the latter committed to carry freight on their dock railway between the docks and the park and to the construction of a permanent connection between the two railway networks. The West Manchester Light Railway Company was set up the following year to take over the operations of the tramway and to lay additional track. In 1904 responsibility for all of the parks roads and railways passed to the Trafford Park Company, as a result of the Trafford Park Act of that year. The railway network could subsequently be extended as required, without the need to seek additional permissions from Parliament.
Size of Network
The network was also connected to the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway near Cornbrook. At its peak, the estate's railway network covered 26 route miles (42 km), handling about 2.5 million tons of cargo in 1940. Like the rest of the park, it fell into decline during the 1960s, exacerbated by the increasing use of road transport, and it was closed in 1998.
The Trafford Park Euroterminal rail freight terminal, which has the capacity to deal with 100,000 containers a year, was opened in 1993, at a cost of £11 million. In addition to this Freightliner continues to serve the Barton Dock freight terminal adjacent to the Trafford Centre.
Most of the rest of the system still exists but it is disused.