The Bootle Gas Works Branch Railway/Langton Dock Branch (Midland Railway)

The remains of this long gone branch railway are still visible in various places not least of which is the former tunnel that took the branch under what was Marsh Lane Station but is now Bootle New Strand Station on the Merseyrail network.

The trees in the foreground mask the now pedestrian tunnel which runs  under the the first carriage of this Merseyrail Electric Unit which is sat at New Strand Station

The trees in the foreground mask the now pedestrian tunnel which runs under the the first carriage of this Merseyrail Electric Unit which is at at New Strand Station

This former branch is probably a mile or so south of the North Mersey Branch (and travelling east to west like it) which I posted about on 2nd May.

The tunnel is now a pedestrian link under the present railway/station which gives access to an ASDA Superstore. What drew my attention to it was the wall-art on the tunnel walls and I posted a piece with a photo from that wall-art associated with the Borough of Sefton being 40 years old this year on 29/03/2014. I would add that the tunnel has been substantially filled in so the ground level you walk on through the tunnel is much higher than the original trackbed.

There are quite a few depictions of things associated with Bootle life on the tunnel walls and here are a few more shots of the wall-art.

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An internet search about the old branch threw up an interesting web site which carries photo’s and some description of the efforts made by people to access these long closed tunnels, where this may still possible. The link below gives details.

www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1533982

The former Midland Railway built branch line left Langton Dock and headed directly inland in an easterly direction, travelling under the Southport – Liverpool Line, under Stanley Road, under Marsh Lane and then under Hawthorne Road. Various tunnel/retaining/parapet walls can easily be seen on Marsh Lane and where the line passed under Hawthorne Road. A high vantage point allows you to trace much of the line further east where it was in a cutting between houses and businesses. The parapet walls where it passed under Southport Road are still in place for example.

A fascinating point here is that the line passed under Marsh Lane, not across it at an angle, but following the same line as Marsh Lane for a fair distance. Marsh Lane from Litherland Road to Hawthorne Road is in effect a long unseen viaduct as the closed railway tunnel is still below it.

Here are a couple of shots of the remaining blue engineering brick parapets:-

This Southport Road looking east with the line being in a cutting both sides of the over-bridge

This is Southport Road looking east with the line being in a cutting both sides of the over-bridge

e shots of the remaining blue engineering brick parapets etc.

This is Hawthorne Road looking east with the former line being in a cutting until Hawthorne Road.

This is Hawthorne Road looking east with the former line being in a cutting until this point.

Some of the photos in this posting are amongst my Flickr photo’s at
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Ash Street Bootle – A modern memorial to those killed in a IIWW bombing raid

Not far from Bootle New Strand Shopping Centre you can find this memorial, indeed it is behind Sefton Council’s Stanley Road One Stop Shop.

A well designed modern memorial.

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The photos are also amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Retail Stress – Bootle Strand is at the sharp end!

We often hear of the stress that high street retail is going through because of out of town supermarkets/retail parks, the recession and on-line buying but here in Sefton we really do have an example of what happens when all these things (plus the advent of Liverpool One?) happen together.

The Strand is really suffering and a walk around it shows just how many empty units there are; I would guess it must be above 35% now. In February the national average for retail vacancies was just over 14% and back then Bootle was being recorded as being at over 25%.

The Strand was a 1960’s build shopping Centre some 4 miles or so north of Liverpool City Centre and it was enlarged and refurbished in the 1980’s if I recall correctly. But the last few years have not been kind to it and I hear that even WH Smith is about to pull out as its lease comes to an end.

The rear of the shopping centre has empty unit after empty unit and I have thought back to comments made by the now retired Planning Director of Sefton Council when he warned that the expansion of retail parks in Aintree, the rebuilding of Kirkby shopping centre and the advent of Liverpool One may have detrimental effects on Bootle’s Strand. It seems he could well have been right and we have also had a recession and a big take up of internet shopping since then.

I took the three shots below in the shopping centre recently. One shows units around the once busy but now closed T J Hughes Department Store, whilst the other two show how innovative use of vacant shop windows is being taken up to advertise Bootle’s new Free School.

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What future Bootle Strand? As someone who works in Bootle and have done all my working life this is a sad situation and one from which I really do hope that shopping centre can recover from, but it is clearly going to be an uphill struggle.