Merseyrail/Northern – As the trains reduced frequency or stopped running – Our local lines

As our health crisis deepens here’s a snapshot of the consequences on our local railway networks as of today

End of the line from Wigan at Kirkby Station

Kirkby – Wigan: replacement bus (as it has been for last few days) every two hours

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground would have been Preston bound but it’s being replaced by a bus now.

Ormskirk – Preston: replacement bus every two hours and finishing early evening

This one is still running once an hour to Manchester – A Southport bound Class 156 DMU at Burscough Bridge Station on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line.

Southport – Manchester: hourly service to Victoria finishing early evening

Southport Station.

As I penned this posting Merseyrail was running a half hourly service across its network

But of course no one wants anyone to use the remaining trains or replacement buses unless they are key workers or the travel is absolutely necessary.

Aintree – Is the mothballed Nth Mersey Branch a Port of Liverpool access opportunity going begging?

Just south of Aintree Station there’s still a rail connection to the overgrown and mothballed North Mersey Branch, which heads off in the direction of the Port of Liverpool and Bootle. Here and above are a couple of shots of the rail connection as it is now:-

Both shots were taken from the end of the Liverpool bound platform of Aintree Station.

Surely it (the Nth Mersey Branch) could be, at least in part, a sensible contribution to the accessing the expanding Port of Liverpool. I might add that Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson wants a railway in a tunnel but Labour-run Sefton Council wants a road tunnel. Friends of the Earth are calling on Labour Mersey Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham to come out against the surface road solutions – I’m not aware that he has. Presently, Highways England are pressing ahead with their plans for a new road down and through Rimrose Valley Country Park.

The North Mersey Branch once went all the way to the docks (Gladstone Dock) but the the dock connection was removed many years ago, it connects the Southport – Liverpool and Ormskirk – Liverpool Merseyrail lines these days but it’s not been used (mothballed) for many a year. Merseytravel, the public transport arm of the Liverpool City Region, say they have long-term plans to reopen the branch for passenger traffic which was withdrawn from it and the former Ford and Linacre Road Stations in April 1951.

I recall going to the first public consultation event (a few years back) about how the expanding Port of Liverpool could be accessed by freight. On seeing only Highways England there I asked where Network Rail were so that the rail options could be talked through too. The answer was along the lines of they weren’t there and were not in reality a part of the process! I despaired then and I still do now…….

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Simonswood – More on those isolated buildings visible from Spurriers Ln/Outlet Ln

Since my original posting I’ve tracked down this aerial view of the buildings and site via the National Library of Scotland’s website.

In a posting of only yesterday – see link below –

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/03/21/a-cycle-ride-of-contrasts-spurriers-lane-outlet-lane-melling-simonswood/

I raised a query about some isolated brick built buildings visible in the fields from Spurriers Ln (Melling)/Outlet Ln (Simonswood) and I’m delighted to say, that via the Melling Community Page of Facebook, I now have an answer.

I’m grateful to Carl Wallace and John Climber for providing the answer to my query and here it is:-

Carl – ‘The brick buildings randomly placed were munitions stores in the war I believe, munitions were made in Kirkby and taken out into the countryside to be stored’

John – ‘that is correct. The brick buildings are the tops of an underground network of tunnels and stores. The small buildings were harder to spot from aerial photography at the time rather than a large hanger to store them in would have been’

And here are a couple of links back to why the site was constructed:-

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simonswood_Supply_Depot

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROF_Kirkby

I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about this as much as I have been.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

A cycle ride of contrasts – Spurriers Lane – Outlet Lane – Melling & Simonswood

I’m still cycling during our health crisis although always on my own and not stopping at cafes etc. anymore….

A lane I cycle now and again is Spurriers Lane/Outlet Lane which joins Prescot Road at the Animal Sanctuary in Melling (Merseyside) and then goes through to Simonswood Civil Parish (Lancashire) to join Simonswood Lane. It’s single track lane for its whole length but traffic is light to non-existent virtually all the time.

Sadly, and probably because of the remote nature of the lane it is often a site for fly-tipping. Sights such as this are far from unusual sadly:-

What is it about fly-tippers using their junk to block steams at the side of such lanes? They love tipping in water for some bizarre reason! As you can see this is basically domestic rubbish that simply needed taking to the nearby Sefton Meadows Recycling Centre. I despair I really do.

The lane also has what is turning out to be a near permanent flood (close to Hesketh Farm) which I have nick-named ‘Simonswood Swimming Pool’:-

I’ll give Lancashire County Council a nudge as it’s been like this for quite some time now and is clearly an obstacle for pedestrians and cyclists.

Only yards away from this flooded part of Outlet Lane there’s a sharp left turn and in the distance there are quite a few old brick built buildings which are well spaced out. I’ve often wondered what purpose they serve or used to serve:-

They clearly have flat roofs and a gander at an Ordnance Survey map shows them to geometrically spaced with connecting tracks – around 8 of them and the nearest noted building to them is Basford Farm. Just out of curiosity does anyone know what the buildings were erected for?

When I reach Simonswood Lane I usually turn left and head towards Royal Oak where there’s a crossroads with Cunscough Lane. Royal Oak is part of Bickerstaffe Civil Parish. To reach Royal Oak you have to cycle over the M58 Motorway:-

From single track road to motorway within a few yards. In fact Spurriers Lane/Outlet lane effectively parallels the Motorway. the photo is looking towards Skelmersdale.

This was just a part of my circular route from my Lydiate home through Maghull, Melling, Simonswood, Bickerstaffe & Aughton Civil Parishes – around 10+ miles to keep the old legs turning and to get a bit of fresh air in these troubled times.

Click on the photos to enlarge them although the first one is probably frightening enough without enlargement!

Maghull – That old Station Master’s House is living once again

My good friend Les French (Chairman of the Maghull based Frank Hornby Trust) has a story that goes along the lines of Hornby used the buildings at Maghull Station as the basis for his tinplate model buildings. And you know Les could well be right as we know that Frank lived literally yards away* from Maghull Station and that he used the train regularly if not daily.

So bearing that in mind the slow decline of the old Station Master’s house in Melling Lane adjacent to the level crossing over recent years has been very unfortunate. Here’s how it looked in 2006:-

This shot of the former Station Master’s House was taken in June 2006.

But whilst this historic local building looked to be down and out it has survived to be given a new lease of life and it looks like this today:-

It’s nice to see it being given a second chance even in a modernised form.

* Hornby lived firstly at ‘The Hollies’ on Station Road and then latter at ‘Quarry Brook’ in Hall Lane (still close to the station). Both still stand ‘The Hollies’ as a private house and ‘Quarry Brook’ as the 6th Form Block of Maricourt RC High School.

Hornby’s first house ‘The Hollies’ is in this postcard photo.

New Merseyrail Trains – a construction video on You Tube

A mock-up of a Class 777 – The new Merseyrail trains that will soon replace the Class 507/508 EMU’s

Although Merseytravel posted this video – see link below – on 7th February I had not come across it before. It’s worth watching to see how the new trains are being built and the initial testing of them:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOn07VAeGHU

‘From design concepts to the real thing; watch as the new trains for the Merseyrail network take shape from initial designs to the first train out on the test track in Europe!’

As I post this Merseyrail (still operating Class 507 & 508 units of course) have had their first Stadler unit (777 003) out on nocturnal testing along the Kirkby line of recent nights.

NOTE – Merseyrail are only offering a 30 minute frequency service presently due to the health crisis we find ourselves in.

A mock-up of a Class 777 Stadler EMU as displayed in Birkenhead a while back