Lancashire Railways 1964-1968 (Liverpool – Southport – Ormskirk – Burscough – Wigan)

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place, in 1960’s.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ3SxCwCcIQ

I can’t recall whether I’ve posted about this particular You Tube video before (posted by Michael Dawson – see link above) or not but it is so significant in documenting the railways around Merseyside and West Lancashire in the mid 1960’s through to the end of steam that it is well worth sharing.

It covers through trains from Liverpool Exchange to Scotland via Ormskirk, the now long gone and much missed Southport – Preston Line, the fabled Burscough Curves which OPSTA are trying to get reopened and many other delightful railway scenes.

And I’m also taking the opportunity to add in more photos by Anthony Graham, which he has kindly given me permission to use, to further illustrate in a similar timeline some of the lines the video:-

Hall Road Station 1968 with a Liverpool Lime Street to Southport Class 108 DMU in the station.

Hesketh Park Signal Box May 1968

Ormskirk Station Signal Box 1968 May

Rufford 1970 2nd May, the final Saturday 0900 Liverpool Exchange-Glasgow Central service being cautioned owing to a block failure between Rufford and Midge Hall.

Kirkdale Station 1968 looking north east

I’m sure this posting will bring back memories for many folk looking at it. How lucky we are that our railway past has been so well documented on film/video and by photographers.

Southport – More of Anthony Graham’s railway photos & 10 years of volunteering for the Friends of Meols Cop Station

Here’s another posting based on the old railway photos of Anthony Graham, who has generously agreed to my using them. This time we are in Southport and in particular looking at the former railway infrastructure in the Hawkshead Street/Meols Cop area of the Town. Having looked at the history this posting moves on to cover the first 10 years of the volunteer group Friends of Meols Cop Station.

Hawkshead Street Junction & Meols Cop Triangle 25th November 1925

Hawkshead Street Junction signal box opened in 1900, replacing the previous 1887 box. It was a Lancashire & Yorkshire box with a 20 lever L&Y lever frame that was enlarged to 32 levers in 1912 for the new layout at Meols Cop Repair Shops. The junction towards Preston was disconnected on 28th September 1964, the two main lines towards Roe Lane Junction subsequently being converted to two additional EMU storage sidings. Shunts between sidings at the Hawkshead Street Junction end of Meols Cop Works had to be done via the main line, the shunting neck being too short to fit a three car EMU. When the box closed on 11th October 1965 it had to be quickly demolished so as to enable the short neck to be extended through the site of the signal box and across the site of the former Preston lines, just short of the junction, to allow EMU shunting to be done within the works sidings.

Hawkshead Street Junction Site after junction removal March 1967

Left to right, withdrawn Lancaster-Morecambe EMU, Class 502 EMU, withdrawn ex Tyneside baggage car M68000M and another class 502 EMU. The two sidings on the extreme left were the former down and up main lines to and from Preston. The recently extended (October 1965) siding in the centre was to permit shunting operations between sidings on Meols Cop Works, previously these were done via the main line until Hawkshead Street Junction signal box closed on 11th October 1965. The box was immediately demolished on closure and the siding was extended through the former site of the box and across the former Preston Lines, just short of the junction.

Meols Cop Junction Signal Box March 1967

Clearly much has changed particularly with the loss of the line to Preston – Oh how useful that line would be today!

The good news is that Meols Cop Station is now looked after by a dedicated band of volunteers who have recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Their story is in the latest edition of the Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn (OPSTA) magazine:-

Friends of Meols Cop Station- Ten Years of progress

The Friends of Meols Cop Station adoption group was formally constituted in 2009 following its launch at a meeting held on the station platform in July of that year, with its Constitution being formally agreed in October 2009.

However, prior to this founder members of the group, namely David & Pat Sumner and Dr. Jim Ford, had been at work from 2008 to begin the process of tidying up the overgrown grassed area which had been left following the demolition of the station buildings in 2000, and its reduction in status to an unstaffed halt, with only a minimal shelter for its passengers. This made it a somewhat forbidding place to wait for a train, especially on a winter night, for the basic train service which was then available.

History – Up to 1964 the station had been a hive of activity as it was also served by the local electric train service to Crossens which had reached Meols Cop in 1910 along with the railway workshops built by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway to maintain the then new electric trains.

After this service was withdrawn in September 1964 along with the services to Preston from Southport, the station continued to be served by a limited service to Wigan and Manchester and eventually lost its timber extension to its island platform as train lengths were progressively reduced when traffic declined in the later BR years.

The station had once been a call on the local “Altcar Bob” steam railmotor service to Altcar, which was later cut back to Barton, being closed in 1938 by the LMS railway although the route remained intact to its junction with the Cheshire Lines Railway at Hillhouse Junction, Altcar until 1957. It is therefore a unique operating survivor from that route.

By 2010 the station’s appearance had been greatly improved by the efforts of the Friends Group, the grassed area had been tamed, and tidied up, surviving lupin plants, (a remnant of the original flower beds on the station) had been trimmed and in some cases relocated, and the construction of new flower beds, aided by a donation of redundant sleepers from Network Rail had begun, ready to accept plants and shrubs provided by Sefton MBC for the following season. Then came three large planters donated by Bellway Homes and sited on the main platform area.

Through the efforts of Councillor David Sumner, a spare bus-type shelter was provided by Merseytravel to provide extra cover for the growing number of users of the station, and a cycle shelter was also installed which was funded by Sefton MBC.

Later Norwood Ward Councillors provided funding for a sturdier lawn mower and strimmer which has made these jobs much easier to do.

The Friends of Meols Cop are active in many ways, helping to promote the station, and one of its early successes was the June 2012 “Muffin Monday” when Coffee and Muffins were offered to early morning commuters, some 70 in all, according to the records of the time. This event gained valuable local press publicity, helping to further promote the station’s facilities, by then enhanced by a restored Sunday train service. We have also had help from several local businesses for our events and running repairs from Latham’s, Porters and Jewsons.

In later years the station fared well in the North West “Britain in Bloom” competition, gaining several outstanding awards. Children from Norwood Primary School also helped to tend the flower beds as part of a school project, and the local Guides (now disbanded) also helped, both Groups enjoying a trip along to Hindley Station with tickets to ride from Northern.

After a couple of successive years of vandalism not only at the Station but along the line, with pressure from the Friends, British Transport Police and Norwood Ward Councillors, CCTV was finally installed funded by MerseyTravel, Northern and Network Rail, this has made the Station a very much safer place to wait for a train.

In 2016 the Northern franchise moved to a new operator, Arriva Rail North, and the station now benefits from a real-time train indicator, public address, and latterly a ticket vending machine and new, larger recycled plastic planters with money made available from ACORP, replacing the originals of 2010 which had given years of sterling service.

We have helped with the campaign to save the Southport to Manchester Piccadilly service, in July 2016 we held Juicy Tuesday when rail users were given a drink and a book to read on their journey provided by the High Park Project from Southport Community Centre and North Meols Library Association, whilst they took part in a rail survey.

What of the future? Having gained a two trains an hour weekday daytime service in 2018 the use of the station continues to grow, and from surveys conducted from time to time, it is clear that passengers have come to like its new lease of life, and there has been comment that it was a pleasure to wait for a train, even to the point of arriving early just to look at its flowers on a summer’s day.

Meols Cop station can justify its rejuvenated life as part of the West Lancashire Line, as its large white on red sign proudly announces.

The Friends of Meols Cop meet on the second Sunday of each month at 10.30 am. There is no membership fee; just remember to bring your gardening tools to qualify, and enjoy the company of a friendly group.

*****

My thanks to Anthony Graham for the use of his photos and congratulations to the Friends of Meols Cop Station.

Please click on the photos to enlarge them for viewing.

Liverpool Exchange Station – Long gone but not forgotten

Liverpool Exchange Station 1977, class 502 EMU’s in platform 5, for Ormskirk, & platform 7, for Southport

This is the second of my postings using the historic photos of Anthony Graham, who has given me permission to showcase them. The first posting concentrated on Maghull Station, this time I’m looking back at Liverpool’s former Exchange Station which was lost in the late 1970’s

Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box in June 1976

Liverpool Exchange No 2 Signal Box in April 1977

Here’s a detailed account of No.2 Signal Box from Anthony:- ‘Opened as Liverpool Exchange “A” box, with a temporary layout, on 12th December 1886, the box was a Railway Signal Company structure with a 168 lever RSCo frame. It originally controlled platforms 1 to 5, on new land, whilst Tithebarn Street station was demolished to make way for platforms 6 to 10. Platforms 6, the middle siding and platform 7 were added to the box on 23rd February 1888, platforms 8, 9 and 10 being added for the full opening of the new station on 2nd July 1888. The lines were named “Roads 1 to 11” on the signalling diagram, No 7 Road, the middle siding not being named as such until 25th May 1946. There were also five loco release ground frames bolt-lock released from the box. These were at the buffers end between platforms 2&3, 4&5, 6/Middle Road/7 and 8&9. A turntable siding and two carriage sidings were provided on the west side of the line, a turntable and two sidings were provided north of platforms 3&4 and four carriage sidings were provided north of the station, on the east side. In 1919 the west side turntable was moved to Sandhills (later known as Bank Hall) engine shed. The loco release ground frame between platforms 4&5 was replaced on 30th November 1924 with a 2 lever LNWR SK80 frame, the other loco release ground frames were removed between 1921 and 1937. On 25th May 1946 colour light signalling was brought into use on platforms 4 to 10. Much of the equipment was from the cancelled Preston North and South power box scheme of 1940. At this time the box was renamed Liverpool Exchange No 2, with the nearby Liverpool Exchange “B” box becoming Liverpool Exchange No 1. At the same time platforms 1 to 3 became known as “A Group”, 4&5 became “B Group”, 6/Middle Siding/7 became “C Group” and 8 to 10 became “D Group”. Platforms 1 to 3 received colour light signalling in 1948. On 26th April 1959 No 1 carriage siding on the east side was disconnected. Most of the levers were renewed in 1965 with BR-manufactured L&Y pattern levers, these were identical to the original Railway Signal Co levers except for a different type of gravity catch block at floor level. On 5th March 1967 platforms 1 to 3 were disconnected, together with the remaining three east side carriage sidings and one of the two sidings north of platforms 3&4. The loco release ground frame between platforms 4&5 was disconnected on 26th November 1972. Platforms 8 to 10 and the west side carriage sidings were disconnected on 6th May 1973 and quickly removed to allow construction of the new underground railway beneath them. The slow lines to Sandhills were disconnected on 16th December 1973, except for a short section of the up slow between No’s 2 and 1 boxes, this was retained as a shunting neck. The last train ran on 29th April 1977, but the box remained manned whist signalling equipment was disconnected over the next two days, the box still being manned until 07.00 hours on 2nd May 1977.’

Photo taken from Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box in 1976 looking towards Exchange Station, a 6 car class 502 EMU is departing for Southport.

Photo taken from Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box in 1977 showing track removal/lifting on the up slow line.

My own 2015 shot of the sign for the underground Moorfields Station, which replaced Exchange, with the retained facade of the old station in the background

And to close this posting an interesting piece of history about the old station subway which had, until now, passed me by:-

Liverpool Exchange Station Subway circa 1993

The Liverpool Echo takes up the story via an April 2019 article on its website – www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/secret-underground-tunnel-uncovered-city-16169509

Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box interior in June 1976.
Levers 74 to 78, prepared for controlling the reversing siding at Sandhills, were never brought into use. The opening of the reversing siding was deferred and eventually connected to the new James Street Power Box on 1st May 1977.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Sefton, West Lancs & Liverpool – Old railway photos in the locality – Maghull

Maghull Signal Box in 1968

I’m delighted to have the permission of Antony Graham to use his historic railway photos in my blog postings about railway matters in the locality of the heading of this posting. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos and stories surrounding them over the coming months…..

I’m starting off with a location which is very well known to me as I lived in Maghull for 33 years and was involved in the campaign to try to save the former Maghull Signal Box from demolition in 1993/4 whilst I was Mayor of the Town.

The Signal Box in 1993 – It closed in February 1994.

And here’s a write-up that Anthony published with the lead photo on his Flickr page which details the history of the Signal Box:-

‘Constructed in 1875, the box was opened in 1876, being inspected on 15th May of that year, and was a Saxby & Farmer type 7 structure with a 19 lever Saxby & Farmer 1874-pattern Rocker & Gridiron frame. A gate wheel was also provided. The box initially controlled the level crossing, a crossover and connections to a down refuge siding and up goods yard. In 1884 a ground frame was added to control an additional connection from the up main to the up goods yard, this was bolt-locked from Maghull box. On 16th November 1896 the lever frame was relocked with L&Y tappets, a new L&Y gate wheel was probably added at the same time. On 29th June 1909 a new, 28 lever, L&Y frame was installed and a second crossover was installed north of the station, for the new EMU service to turn back. A new up bay platform was added and a railmotor service, that had previously run from Aintree to Ormskirk, now started from Maghull, connecting with EMU services to and from Liverpool. In 1911 the railmotors moved to start/terminate from Town Green, when electrification reached that station, full electrified services reaching Ormskirk in 1913. It is not known if the up bay platform was used after 1911, but the connection to it was not disconnected until 13th September 1942. The ground frame and its connection to the up goods yard were removed between 1949 and 1952. The down refuge siding was disconnected on 15th December 1963 and disconnection of the up goods yard took place on 18th June 1964. On 18th June 1967 the north end crossover was also disconnected. Manned Controlled Barriers replaced the level crossing gates on 31st July 1977, the gate wheel being replaced by a barrier pedestal. The box closed on 10th February 1994. There are no surviving Saxby & Farmer type 7 signal boxes.’

And here are some inside shots of the Signal Box:-

Maghull Box Interior 1969 Signalman Frank McLoughlin

Maghull Box interior 1969

Maghull Box Interior 1976 – Relief Signalman Stan Parker

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Maghull’s lost signal box – I’ll return in future postings to other railway locations which Anthony photographed in the area. But to close, my own photo of the last track plan for Maghull Signal Box which is presently displayed within the permanent Frank Hornby Experience exhibition within Maghull’s Meadows Leisure Centre & Library:-

Please click on the photos to enlarge them