Chester station reaches 175th anniversary as celebrations remember one of the greatest railway engineers.

Published: 01/08/2023

THIS August sees the 175th anniversary of Chester station opening with multiple activities planned to remember its chief engineer Thomas Brassey.

The main events take place on 1 August and have been organised by 3 Counties Connected, Mid Cheshire and North Cheshire Community Rail Partnerships for the area, with support of Transport for Wales, who currently manage Chester Station and Avanti West Coast.

Celebrations also include the completion lines from Chester to Shrewsbury and Chester to Holyhead which were also completed in 1848.

Record Producer Pete Waterman led by the Thomas Brassey society about the history of the station and Brassey’s long list of achievements in the Queen Hotel opposite the station from 11am and again in the evening from 6pm. Chirk Station will also see a tea dance and Victorian costume day on 9 August in the town hall.

Community Rail Strategy Lead for TfW Melanie Lawton said it was brilliant to bring everyone together to mark the railway history of the city.

She said: “Chester station is a remarkable building in its own right and in railway terms it connects so many communities in England and Wales.

“The fact it has been in operation for 175 years is wonderful and a testament to its designer Thomas Brassey and all those workers and engineers who built it.

“Sharing our history with new generations is vital and we hope these events will help inspire others to follow in his footsteps as we work with communities to better connect them to their railways.”

Opened on 1 August 1848, Chester is a key rail hub linking north Wales to the north west of England.

It was built by Thomas Brassey at the tail end of the “railway mania” that had gripped Britain that decade.

Born just outside the city itself, Brassey was also one of the lead engineers on the Chester to Holyhead and the Shrewsbury and Chester lines.

He had trained under the great Thomas Telford and from those early beginnings he went on to build railways all over the world including the 540 mile Grand Trunk railway in Canada which included the Victoria Bridge which was the largest in the world at that time. 

If that were not enough, he also constructed dock systems, locomotive factories, sewer systems, amazing bridges and huge viaducts. 

A humble man, he refused honours in Britain but was honoured by other countries with their top medals.  He was also a model employer, with a work force numbering up to 80,000 at its peak. He insisted on proper pay and facilities for his workers and provided a library at his huge Canada works in Birkenhead, 30 years before the first public library was created.

By the late 1840s he had been responsible for building around a third of all Britain’s railways and three quarters of France’s railways. Such was his renown that he won railway building contracts in countries including Spain, Australia, Norway and the Crimea.

The Thomas Brassey Society work tirelessly to promote his achievements and are currently fundraising for a statue at Chester station,

Stephen Langtree MBE, Chair of the Thomas Brassey Society said:  “The 1st of August 2023 will be a memorable day for Chester as it will celebrate the opening of Chester Station, built by Thomas Brassey who had, by this stage, built railways all over the world. 

“Working with architect, Francis Thompson, and engineer Robert Stephenson, together they constructed a magnificent, Italian style building which had, at the time, the longest platforms in the country.”

Community Rail Partnership 3 Counties Connected brings together community rail activities across the Chester, Shrewsbury and Crewe areas.