Cannock Chase Military Railway
We have been asked on a number of occasions about the whereabouts of the Tackeroo Railway, so in this post I have tried to explain its route from Hednesford to Milford and its purpose.
This railway was constructed during 1915 to serve the Brocton and Rugeley Military camps located on Cannock Chase. One line was constructed during the spring of 1915 from the LNWR Cannock to Rugeley line near West Cannock No.5 Colliery across the Chase to the Rugeley Camp. Between January and April a second railway was made from the LNWR Trent Valley line at Milford to the Brocton Camp, and by mid 1915 the lines had been joined. In addition to army and prisoner of war camps this railway system served Central Stores Depots at Brocton Camp. The locomotive shed was also located at Brocton Camp. After the war the camps and railway were dismantled and locomotives disposed of.
Locomotives used: (Gauge 4ft 8½in)
Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST 166/1875 Messenger
Beyer Peacock 0-4-2ST 1140/1871 Blackcock
Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T 319/1889
Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST 333/1890
Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-2T 2879/1911 Pyramus
Hunslett 0-6-0ST 397/1886 Monmouth
Avonside Engine 0-6-0ST 1742/1916 Avonside (New)
Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST 812/1881
Possibles, identified by spares orders to Trollope & Sons, & Colls & Sons
Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST 1513/1901 Grassholme
Hunslett 0-6-0ST 761/1902 Uxbridge
The line started from Hednesford and passed West Cannock No.5 Colliery, who laid the track, which crossed the Chase to Milford, servicing the Military Camps situated on the route.
No one seems to know exactly where the name came from or when. Various possibilities have been suggested though none can actually be proven.
One idea is that the original houses were built in one row by a Mr. Thacker and became known locally as Thacker’s Row and eventually the local dialect changing it to Tackeroo.
Another suggestion is that the village took its name from the ‘Tackeroo Express’, a train which used to take men and supplies from Hednesford to the First World War Camps on the Chase which were under construction. The line was first built for the West Cannock Colliery Company to service their No.5 pit but it was taken over to aid the construction of the Camps. (But where did the ‘Tackeroo Express’ get its name from?!)
The line and camps were largely built by Irish labourers and one story has it that the local foreman, George Taylor, had so much trouble with his workforce that to gain their respect he actually challenged their leader in a bare-knuckle fight. Fortunately he won and the gang’s bad behaviour eased.
Another difficulty faced by the railway was the route – the straight line went up a fairly steep hill, men often had to get off and walk the last part. In 1915 the route was changed to run along Brindley Valley up to the White House. The engine still had problems, as did the locals, who often had to put out fires caused by sparks from the engine.