Alton Station was built in 1849 as part of the Churnet Valley branch line for the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR). The plans for the Churnet Valley Line had been laid in 1845, the first of the years of railway mania, but it was not begun until 1847 by which time improved methods of engineering and construction had been developed, and railway architecture was at its most inventive and attractive.
Unique Italianate style
The stations on the NSR were a particularly fine group, the majority being in a Tudor or Jacobean style, but with the odd appearance of Domestic, Rural and Italianate Styles. The NSR employed a London architect called Henry Arthur Hunt to design these stations for them. For a long time, the station was attributed to A.W. Pugin but Hunt seems the most likely candidate to have designed Alton Station, even though his other stations were Tudor or Jacobean. Conclusive evidence remains elusive and it is strange that Alton is unique among NSR stations in being Italianate in style.
Alton had a temporary station when the line opened for passengers and freight on 13th July 1849. But in 1850 the main station buildings were ready to receive passengers. Most were day visitors who came in their droves from the pottery towns to visit the famous gardens at Alton Towers. Around 1880, the goods yard and sidings were enlarged and a 30 lever signal box built. In 1882 a separate booking office was added on to the rear of the waiting room and in 1884 £200 was spent on lengthening the platforms and building a special pathway leading from the platform to the road up to the Towers, known as The Avenues.
In 1924 Alton Towers itself was sold to a consortium that planned to run it as a full-scale public attraction and business on the line boomed. However, after nationalisation in 1948, the line began to decline and in 1960 passenger services on the line were cut to almost nothing. Four years later, as part of Dr Beeching’s overhaul, it was reduced to single track with total closure following in 1965. The stationmaster lived on in his house for a year or two, but the waiting room soon began to suffer from neglect and vandalism and Staffordshire County Council bought sections of the line with the station buildings in 1969