The Wilmslow-Manchester (via Styal) line was constructed as an alternative to the Wilmslow to Manchester (via Stockport) route and is often referred to as “The Styal Line”.
The bill for construction of the line was passed by Parliament in 1899 and the London and North Western Railway (later to become part of the LMS) started work in 1901.
Styal Station opened for business on 1st May 1909 with the 0630 from Manchester Oxford Road. Initially 12 trains per day operated in each direction. The station had substantial brick buildings with verandas and different waiting rooms to reflect the various the class and gender of passengers
Albert Brown served 45 years at Styal station and used to cycle there from his home in Morley. He served from the station opening until retiring in May 1959.
The stationmasters between the wars were Mr Brodie, succeeded by a Mr Carter who, in turn, gave way to Mr Leslie Mott in 1937. Mr Carter merely moved next door to the other half of Station House upon his retirement.
Here are some recollections of the 1940’s by Leslie Bell, a former Handforth resident:
“The stationmaster during the war was a smart, mustachioed gentleman named Mr Mott. who took good care of his passengers – especially Contract, the local name for Season Ticket holders, many of whom arrived by bicycle.
“There was a bicycle storage room in the Down building. L.M.S. bicycle storage fares were relatively expensive, ( but not so expensive as accompanied bicycles charged at a minimum fare of 7d, for 7 miles), so my Sisters left their machines with an elderly local cottager who undercut the Company.
“On more than one occasion, however, a late-arriving school girl would cycle straight down the approach, leave her machine on the Down Platform, and jump straight onto the train for Mauldeth Road. Returning in the evening, she would find it waiting for her under the canopy of the Up Platform.”
Stationmaster Mott carved Styal’s reputation for stunning appearance and was responsible for the 6-foot high “STYAL” whitewashed letting being etched into the ground above the “down” paltform. During the 1939-1945 war the station was very short-staffed with Mrs Mott being enlisted to assist occasionally.
During wartime the shelter afforded by the cutting at Styal resulted in the Royal Train being stored there on at least one occasion. A shortage a staff during wartime resulted in Mrs Mott being drafted in as a part-time member of the station staff. Mr Mott met the likes of the King and Queen (at Heald Green), General Montgomery and other dignitaries during his stint at Styal.
Stationmaster Mott was replaced by Fred Hilton in 1948. Fred, with Albert Brown, continued the tradition of the station gardens being award winners (on six occasions). Terry Hodson, Dick Turner and Eric Ryder were also hands-on in maintaining the station at this time. Fred Hilton went on to work at Stretford Station and won station appearance awards there too.
Harry Jackson took the reigns in early 1958 and remained in post until the role was disestablished in 1966.
He also kept an eye on other stations on the line such as Heald Green and East Didsbury (where he met Prince Philip).
Mr Jackson recalls that the Queen was once due to fly into Manchester Airport and then catch the Royal Train at Styal. Sadly a snowbound airport put paid to this plan and all the preparations were in vain.
Syd Turner, who joined the railways at Styal as a 20-year old in June 1959, recalls a surge in passenger numbers when Hungarian refugees were housed at the former Styal Cottage Homes orphanage site in the late 1950’s.
Steam tank engines pulled the majority of trains until 1956 when diesel units were gradually drafted in. September 1960 saw the overhead electification of the Styal line and the progressive introduction of electric multiple units. Indeed the line had been used on many empty test runs prior to the official launch of electrification.
The electrification scheme also saw the demolition of the grand station buildings – to be replaced by flat-roof amenities. These are now unmanned and bricked up (though you can shelter within them). The signalbox was also soon demolished.
In the 1970’s the Styal Line was used for testing of (empty) driverless trains by the BR development unit based in Derby. This technology is now seen on some underground and light-rail systems.
1993 saw the construction of a link to Manchester Airport between Styal and Heald Green. This was the signal for Styal’s half-hourly service to be gradually depleted although trains continued to pass through the station on an hourly basis en route to Manchester and Wilmslow. Around this time manning was removed completly from the station (morning staffing had been provided from Wilmslow).
Following campaigning the services were increased to 3 in each direction (Monday-Saturday) in December 2008. May 2009 saw the centenary celebrations for the line with an event on 17th May to co-incide with the launch of Sunday services. Hourly daily services are to be introcued in May 2018.
Styal is one of the few local stations to boast level access (no steps) for passengers and also has a small car park ideal for park and ride usage.