Thomas Cook – It’s why I’m a Nottinghamshire ‘exile’ living on Merseyside

The fact that I live on Merseyside is down to Thomas Cook. I’m a Nottinghamshire born lad but left my Notts mining community of Kirkby-in-Ashfield at the age of 6 and headed for Rochdale. Then at the age of 10 I left the home of the Rochdale Pioneers and wandered due west to Maghull on the outskirts of Liverpool. These moves were in effect organised by Thomas Cook, not as holiday trips of course but as a consequence of my Dad working for this famous travel agency.

This is dad (George William Robertson) back in 1957 at work in Thomas Cook Nottingham

Dad first worked for them at their shop in Nottingham, which if memory serves was originally a Dean & Dawson, and our family move to Rochdale followed him getting his first shop to manage in the Town’s Drake Street. We stayed in Rochdale for 4 years until he gained a bigger shop to manage in Liverpool’s Lord Street. That move brought us to live in Maghull where both Mum and Dad died in retirement in 2008 & 2009 respectively.

The last shop Dad managed was in Lord Street Southport so no further move of house was required and he retired from that Southport shop around 1991 if memory serves.

Watching Thomas Cook go under in the past few days I have wondered what Dad would have thought? Thinking back to the odd thing that he said about the company I seem to recall that he felt the company lost its way when it was sold to HSBC many years ago.

HS2 – It’s in a bit of a pickle – But it should still be built

An HS1 train stands at St. Pancras Station in April 2009.

My good friend Phil Holden has recently been commenting at length (Phil is rarely short of words) on the pickle that HS2 finds itself in. Here’s a link to Phil’s blog posting on the matter:-

phlhldn.blogspot.com/2019/09/take-h-out-of-hs2-now.html

And here’s my comment on what Phil has said:-

Well Phil you’ve blown a whistle on HS2 with your full head of steam aimed at the chief promoter. Anyone would think you are trying to shunt him into a siding or even send him to Barry scrap yard where steam engines went to die.

But seriously, I agree with much that you say. HS2 is mainly about capacity, it always has been. Whether it is being poorly managed or not I bow to your expansive knowledge on such matters.

But yes of course it should be built, of that I have no doubt whatsoever. As for significantly high speed, I can live without that.

And finally how come the French, Spanish, Germans etc. can build high speed rail networks (and have been doing for many years) when we can’t without huge delays and breaking the bank?

Edinburgh Tram was another massive failure (in cost terms) and so has been our attempts to electrify rail routes across the UK. Indeed, the Government got so cheesed off with Network Rail’s carry on that they (wrongly in my view) cancelled many planned electrifications rather than sort out the dysfunctional Network Rail. I think a significant part of the problem will be associated with the UK losing too many experienced railway engineers in the years when we (not me I must add) thought railways were done and gone. We then got caught out with folks flocking back to them and having no capacity. Out came the plans for HS2 and electrifications but no one knew how to do it any more.

We should probably have got SNCF or the Spanish/German equivalents to design and build HS2 and it would probably be up and running before your mid 70’s. The birth place of railways has forgotten how to build them I’m sad to say.

Maghull – It’s Hornby Town

Maghull Station

Quite some years ago (February 2015 to be precise) I recall standing on Maghull Station with fellow Frank Hornby Trustee Les French, a rep from the Station Volunteers and a chap from Merseytravel. We were talking about making a story board for display on the station linking it to the life and works of world famous toy maker and Maghull’s most famous resident, Frank Hornby. A bit of back tracking on this blog site and I found what I said at the time. Here it is:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/02/02/maghull-promoting-frank-hornby-the-towns-most-famous-resident/

And the reason for mentioning it again now? Well the plan of February 2015 went nowhere for reasons I am not really aware of but it’s been one of those matters that from time to time I’ve promised to resurrect but then failed to follow through. So imagine my delight when I was contacted last week by a lady who’s one of the Station Volunteers and who’s clearly determined that the story board idea will see the light of day.

History board about Moss Side Hospital on the platform of the new Maghull North Station

I met said lady last Monday at the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre, within Meadows Leisure Centre, so she could photograph some of our display items which are normally behind glass. My understanding is that the plan is to put together boards akin to those at the new Maghull North Station which in that case tell the story of the work of the world famous Moss Side Hospital.

My very best wishes for the project, the Frank Hornby Trustees will be very pleased if it comes off this time around.

Altcar & Hillhouse Station

I’ve always been fascinated by the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway, which ran from Aintree Central Station to Southport Lord Street Station, and I’ve blogged about it many times before.

The other day I had the opportunity to purchase an old and undated photo of the former Altcar and Hillhouse Station on the line. I took the opportunity up and the photo is above:-

I should add that I do not know who, if anyone, holds the copyright to this photo but would be happy to acknowledge them if I receive information.

The station was the next one north of the former Lydiate Station, itself not in Lydiate but also in the Civil Parish of Great Altcar. Just north of the station was the junction with the Liverpool, Southport & Preston Junction Railway in effect a branch of the West Lancashire Railway. The next station on the S&CLER northwards being Mossbridge.

Altcar & Hillhouse Station opened in September 1884, it closed from January 1917 to April 1919 (due to the 1st WW) and closed altogether in January 1952 with the whole line closing in July 1952. However, whilst the line north of the station was lifted shortly after closure rail access from the Liverpool end was retained until 1960 to serve private sidings on the site of the station.

The road bridge visible in the photo is sit in situ and the trackbed is now a part of the Cheshire Lines/Trans Pennine Trail foot and cycle path.

Please click on the photo to enlarge it

Southport – Its Victorian legacy has not been fully understood by modern custodians

Place North West has an interesting and thought provoking article on its website – see link below:-

www.placenorthwest.co.uk/news/my-place-southport/

In my view Southport suffers from two distinct and unique disadvantages. Firstly, of being at one far end of a Metropolitan Borough (Sefton) whilst being mostly surrounded by a County (Lancashire) it no longer (since 1974) has any significant political connections with. Secondly, of having some very poor road and rail connections to the east and north of it.

If you start from the premise that the modern custodians have failed then I feel the disadvantages which have been put in their way are very much the cause. What’s more they’ve not been self-created disadvantages but very much imposed ones from Beeching’s railway cut backs of the 1960’s, the lack of an Ormskirk road by-pass, and the reorganisation of local government in 1974. The fact that none of theses significant downsides for Sunny Southport have been successfully addressed is the ongoing challenge which the present day custodians can’t crack – although that’s not for the want of trying.

I’ve commented on this so tough to crack conundrum previously:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/06/southport-betting-on-a-bright-future-for-our-local-seaside-town/

My view is that Southport has been failed but the causes of that failure are very much external to the Town.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Sefton Council Highways survey

Have you say about Sefton Borough’s roads, street lighting, public rights of way, cycle facilities, pavements etc. etc. via the survey in the link below:-

yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk/investment-programmes-and-infrastructure/sefton-highways-annual-survey/