Bridges, bridges & more footbridges

I blogged a while back about Lydiate footpath No.5, which links Southport Road to Eagar Lane, as a bridge over a stream needed replacing. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2021/07/01/lydiate-footpath-no-5/

Well, it took a bit longer but the new bridge is now in place. However, concerns have been raised that the step up to the bright blue bridge is too high at around 14 inches**. Lydiate Parish Cllr. Edie Pope* tells me that a Sefton Council officer agrees it’s too high a step so I’m guessing that an additional step will be added? Here’s Edie at the bridge:-

I’ve been wondering why the bridge is bright blue as not so far away a couple of footbridges on paths linking Lydiate, The River Alt and Ince Blundell have also just been replaced and they are a far more discrete brown colour – see below:-

No, I’m not asking for a repaint, just curious about why some footbridges are brown and some blue.

* A section of this footpath actually runs along the boundary of Cllr. Edie Pope’s Church View Farm and she tells me that at some point in the distant past before she owned the land the footpath seems to have been moved from one side of the stream to the other. This must be back in Lancashire County days i.e. well prior to local government reorganisation in 1974. This being the case, if the path had been on the other side of the stream, there would have been no need for a bridge.

** Many local footpath bridges have steps up to them and I have previously pondered on this, amongst other reasons, being a form of obstruction to deter motorcycles. Our historic footpath network in England has never been disability friendly so such steps usually don’t make the paths any more inaccessible. It’s only very modern public rights of way where disability has been/is catered for.

My Kirkby and Maghull/Hornby worlds have come together

The other day I received by post a booklet titled ‘Steaming Back To Kirkby Loco – Life on the Lines in the days of Steam – At Kirkby in Ashfield Loco Shed’. The booklet has been written and published this year by David Amos and Keith Murray. Here’s the front cover:-

As a Kirkby lad by birth (I lived there until I was 6) I found the booklet very interesting and informative. My understanding is that my Uncle Ken Calladine (on my Mother’s side of the family) was both an engine driver and he worked, at least for some of his working life, out of Kirkby Loco Shed*. He was born on Urban Road Kirkby, yards away from the railway.

I’ve resided on Merseyside since I was 10 and for 33 of those years, I lived in the town (Maghull) where world-famous toy maker Frank Hornby made his home. Some years ago now I became a trustee of the Maghull-based Frank Hornby Charitable Trust which runs the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre within Meadows Leisure Centre & Library in Maghull**.

A view of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre

So having mentioned Kirkby In Ashfield and Maghull, what’s the connection other than my living in both communities at some point in my life? Well, the connection was made by my reading the booklet referenced above because the authors talk about a certain class of steam locomotive which was based at Kirkby Loco Shed* – a Stanier Class 8F steam engine. The point is that I would have stood looking at that class of loco with my Grandad Walter Calladine at the level crossing on Urban Road Kirkby in the early 1960s. But what makes this interesting is that Hornby made a model engine of an 8F with the number 48073. That loco was based at Kirkby shed!

You may have guessed where this is going now? Well yes, I’ve just purchased a second hand Hornby 8F with the number 48073, which in due course will be loaned to the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre in Maghull. OK, it cost me a few Quid and I may have a bone to pick with David Amos and Keith Murray for them leading me to part with my hard-earned pension but actually, I’m rather delighted to have made another connection between Kirkby and Maghull. And here’s a photo of said model complete with its original packaging:-

And here’s a photo of a real fellow member of the 8F Class after it had a rather unfortunate accident at Kirkby Loco Shed in 1959!:-

* Kirkby-In-Ashfield Shed Codes – Sept 1938 to Sept 1955 – 16C, Oct 1955 to August 1963 – 16B, Sept 1963 to October 1966 – 16E

** The opening hours of the Frank Hornby Heritage Centre reflect those of Maghull Library. The present days/hours (November 2021) are Monday to Wednesday & Friday 10am – 4.30pm, Thursday Closed, Saturday 10am – 1.30pm. Please note at the time I posted this blog piece the website of Sefton Council was still showing the restricted Covid Lockdown opening times for Maghull Library. We are trying to get them to update it.

Remembering Dr Jim Ford

Jim Ford was a founder member of OPSTA (Ormskirk Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) or OPTA (Ormskirk Preston Travellers Assn) as it was originally constituted. He’d certainly been at meetings ever since I joined and that must be 30 years+ and counting.

Jim was an interesting man and you could not but like him. I’ve heard him described as an ideas man and that fits him well.

I last met him only days before he died when we had an OPSTA Committee meeting in his Southport garden surrounded by his model railway. Little did we know then that Jim would have what proved to be a fatal heart attack and die on 16th September following heart surgery.

Jim was a medical doctor specialising in occupational health and on one occasion earlier this year he described himself as the Clinical Directed and his dear wife Fiona as the Clinical Director, yes Fiona’s a doctor too.

He was very much a politician, being a member of the Labour Party but he was far from being tribal about his politics and would bend the ear of any colour of politician to make his often telling points about local railway matters. He specialised in making Freedom of Information requests to find out what some public bodies would rather not publicise. I recall him being very supportive of John Pugh the former Lib Dem MP for Southport whom he clearly had a bit of a soft spot for. His comments about John, at least in my Liberal earshot, were always positive.

On one occasion we were having an OPSTA meeting in the Heaton’s Bridge Pub and I’d ordered a pint of one of my favourite tipples – Morrhouses Black Cat. To my embarrassment, I then realised I’d left my wallet at home! Jim immediately stepped in and paid; that was the kind of chap he was.

There are some lovely tributes to Jim in the latest edition of the OPSTA magazine Connexion, see scan above. I’ll miss engaging in conversation with him about trains and politics. RIP JIm

So who’d you have as aides if you were US President?

I was having a conversation with my old political buddy Andrew Blackburn the other day and we talked of who we would have in our team if we were the US President. It was re-watching the 1st season of The West Wing which inspired this conversation. It must be one of the best series that I’ve seen on the TV. So anyway here goes with my personal list of West Wing characters and some personal additional aides.

Those in brackets are the actors playing the parts in Season 1:-

The President (Martin Sheen) – Me of course! – Delusions of grandeur of it seems:-)

Vice President (Tim Matheson) – Phil Holden – needed to pull in the right of centre vote. All but a Republican he’s never the less far from being a right-wing nut-job. Has a fine analytical mind with which I often don’t agree but is useful in balancing my Social Liberal ‘leftie’ outlook.

Chief of Staff – Leo McGarry (John Spencer) – Andrew Blackburn – Always sees the wider picture, is very loyal and will tell me what I don’t want to hear.

Deputy Chief of Staff – Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) – David Rimmer – the most polite and successful political hit-man I ever knew – ‘Leave it to me boss, you won’t hear of it again’ and I didn’t.

Communications Director – Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) – David Tattersall – Turns government-speak into straightforward language voters can easily grasp.

Deputy Communications Director – Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) – Steph Prewett – The best at seeing required end results and making sure they’re achieved. As with David Rimmer, the buried bodies are never seen again.

Press Secretary – (CJ Cregg (Allison Jamney) – Layla Moran – Progressive, Liberal, naturally outgoing and likeable, has the common touch which few in politics have. She’s a natural to talk for my White House on any matter of public importance. Good to have someone of Palestinian descent in high office too.

Personal Aide to the President – Charlie Young (Dule Hill) – A young Charles Walker – Cheeky, full of fun, loyal and generous. A lifetime of wide experiences to fall back on make him an essential team member.

Secretary – Mrs Landingham (Kathryn Joosten) – Christine Polanski – 100% reliable gets rid of time wasters, knows when I need support and can make me laugh when stress levels are high.

Special advisors not a part of the West Wing –

Special Advisors Defence & Foreign Policy – Paddy Ashdown, Tom Tugendhat, Ming Campbell, Robin Cook

Special Advisor – Social Policies, housing & planning – Roy Connell

Special Advisor – Education and crime – Geoff Howe

Special Advisor – Environment and climate change – Caroline Lucas

Special Advisor – The arts, culture, broadcasting and media – Andrew Beattie

Special Advisor – Liberty, freedom, charities, poverty – Iain Brodie Browne

Special Advisors – without portfolios – Peter Gibson, Barry Smith, Dave Martin, Lord Peter Smith, Ken Clarke,

Special advisor – Transportation – Amtrak Joe

Lament for a Branch Line – Book Review

The Preston to Southport Line by David John Hindle

As railway books go this is one is up there with the best of them. I collect railway books covering Merseyside/Cheshire/Lancashire and also the East Midlands from where I originate so have quite a selection and rarely have I been so impressed with the content and layout of a book.

To say it is comprehensively illustrated is not to do it justice as there are many well-known locations where significant numbers of photos cover different times during the railway’s operation.

The text is mainly there to support and indeed explain the photos but it is well written with everything being detailed.

I never knew the line in operation as I was six and living in Rochdale when it closed yet I feel as though I knew it well having read this delightful book which also encompasses the Liverpool, Southport & Preston Railway line.

I pre-ordered my copy having seen an advert for it in the Railway Magazine a couple of months back but I hear from others who have been trying to get their hands on a copy that it’s hard to find an outlet with a copy in stock. It seems to have flown off the shelves and frankly, I’m not surprised. I’m sure more will be printed though.

Published by Silver Link Silk Edition – ISBN 978 1 85794 595 9

Note – This review is also being published in the newsletter of OPSTA – Ormskirk, Preston, and Southport Travellers Assn.

Urban transit systems feed the beast at the centre

Passing Merseyrail trains at Aughton Park Station on Merseyrail’s Northern LIne to Ormskirk

It’s true, they all tend to serve the city at the centre of things and rarely offer connectivity between the satellite towns/districts. I’ve often thought about this because of my experience with Merseyrail but the same will be true of virtually all metro/transit systems. The link below addresses Greater Manchester’s very similar problem:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0yekbZWMWw&t=482s

But like Greater Manchester, there are potential solutions available subject to the money to do them and the political will. Readers of this blog site will probably recall that I’ve always been sceptical of the Liverpool City Region as a concept because it potentially sets up power and resources being pulled into Liverpool at the expense of towns such as Bootle, Southport, St. Helens, Ormskirk, Kirkby and Birkenhead. To my mind, Liverpool City benefiting from losses in the districts is simply bad politics, bad for the wider than Liverpool local economy and bad social policy. Yet the Liverpool City region is set up with a public transit system which is in effect designed to deliver such outcomes!

I don’t want there to be excellent transit to Liverpool but crap irregular and unreliable buses joining up important district centres. So what are the possible solutions? I’ll look at just two for the Liverpool City Region but from it, you’ll get my drift, I hope.

Expanding Merseyrail

If you take the Liverpool – Southport and Liverpool – Ormskirk Merseyrail Northern Lines they effectively head north from Liverpool in a ‘V’ shape with Southport and Ormskirk at the top of the ‘V’. What’s needed is for the Ormskirk Line to head further north to Burscough (a fast-growing town in itself these days) and then for it to finish at two destinations – Preston and Southport. The track/trackbed’s already there to enable this, indeed the only bits without track and regular train services are the two ‘Burscough Curves’. It really is a ‘no brainer’ because at a stroke you’ve ended up connecting Ormskirk with Southport and Southport with Preston. What’s more, you’ve converted the present hourly service between Ormskirk and Preston to a far more regular Merseyrail service.

One end of the mothballed North Mersey Branch seen here from the platform of Aintree Station.

Coming down the present ‘V’ towards Liverpool you have a second very clear opportunity to connect up Bootle and Aintree using the currently mothballed North Mersey branch. Or look at it a different way. Presently, if you live say in Maghull and want to get a Merseyrail train to Southport you have to travel south all the way to Sandhills Station in Liverpool to change trains to then go back northwards towards Southport. Under what I’m outlining here you could go via Ormskirk without needing to change trains.

None of this needs land to be acquired, buildings to be demolished or major engineering works but it would significantly help to connect up north Merseyside and Lancashire communities assisting their economies.

Of course, there will be other similar solutions in other parts of Merseyside/Liverpool City Region such as reconnecting Skelmersdale with the railway network. That project, which does require heavy engineering, land to be purchased etc. is being seriously looked at despite it having an eye-watering price tag.