Whatever happened to the last LMS Class 503 ‘Wirral’ Unit?

The only surviving Class 503 ‘Wirral’ EMU was at the Electric Railway Museum in Coventry but that closed not so long ago meaning the rolling stock in the care of that museum had to found new homes. Merseyrail’s Class 503 now has a home at the former Hornby Factory in Margate of all places. The link below has the story :-

www.railadvent.co.uk/2018/06/class-503-train-arrives-alongside-steam-locomotive-bittern-at-former-hornby-site-in-margate.html

Quote from the article linked above:- The Class 503 trains were built in two batches. The first batch was built in 1938 by Met-Cam and BRC&W Co., their use was on the newly electrified route between Liverpool Central and the Wirral Peninsular or Rock Ferry via the Mersey Railway but run by the LMS. The second batch was built in 1956 to replace the original Mersey Railway stock. The one preserved today is from the earlier LMS stock, all were withdrawn from traffic in 1985.

The last part of Liverpool Central overground station is still standing

Liverpool has sadly lost two major overground railway stations i.e. Central and Exchange but like with the facade of Exchange a part of Central survives and it’s a Cafe Nero at present.

Fronting onto Bold Street - the last part of the original Liverpool Central overground station still standing.

Fronting onto Bold Street – the last part of the original Liverpool Central overground station still standing.

Wikipedia says of the old overground station:-

The original station, which was a large, above-ground terminal station, opened on 2 March 1874, at the end of the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) line to Manchester Central. It replaced Brunswick station as the CLC’s Liverpool terminus, becoming the headquarters of the committee. The three-storey building fronted Ranelagh Street in the city centre, with a 65 feet (20 m) high, arched iron and glass train shed behind.

There were 6 platforms within the station, offering journeys to Manchester Central (in 45 minutes, making the route the quickest and most direct between Liverpool and Manchester), London St. Pancras, Hull, Harwich, Stockport Tiviot Dale, Southport Lord Street and an alternative London route to that of the Midland Railway, terminating at London Marylebone.

Until the nationalisation of Britain’s railways, the station was always busy, but as with many other stations in the UK, it was closed under the Beeching Axe, as the routes served could be taken from nearby Liverpool Lime Street. In 1966, most services on the CLC route were diverted to Liverpool Lime Street via the Hunts Cross chord, leaving only a dozen urban commuter trains per day to and from Gateacre. These final services were withdrawn on 17 April 1972 with a promise to reinstate the Gateacre route when the Merseyrail network was completed in 1978.

The High Level station was demolished in 1973, having served a short time as a car park, although some former station buildings remained while work was in progress on rebuilding the underground station in the mid-1970s.

Here’s a much older photo that I found after much trawling as there seem to be few shots of the former Parcels Office out there. The stonework on the right hand side is the give away as it is the same stonework as the side wall of Cafe Nero. Of course the entrance is now the Bold Street access to the modern underground Central Station.

Picture credit Martin Jenkins/Online Transport Archive.

Picture credit Martin Jenkins/Online Transport Archive.

Merseyrail back in 1977

I recently picked up an old publicity map of Merseyside’s local railway network published in 1977 at a time when it was being substantially redeveloped as an underground railway within Liverpool City Centre.

Merseyrail Network

Click on the map to enlarge it

You can see from the main map that the electrified services only reached Rock Ferry back then on one of the Wirral Lines (in Green). Extensions were subsequently constructed to both Chester and Ellsemere Port in later years. An additional station also appeared along this line at Bromborough Rake and a further one at Overpool on the Ellsemere Port extension. Conway Park Station is an addition to the Network too. Upton-By-Chester Station has since been replaced by Bache Station about half a mile away from it.

The Northern Line line (in Blue) now terminates in Liverpool’s southern suburbs at Hunts Cross. This extension from Liverpool Central Station (which was an overground station until the 1970’s but is now underground) along the tracks of the former Cheshire Lines Committee was yet to be completed at the time the map was drawn. Also, this southern end of the Northern Line gained a new station at Brunswick (first stop out of Liverpool) whilst Garston Station has since been replaced by Liverpool South Parkway.

Of course the former Liverpool Exchange Station was lost as a consequence of this 1970’s redesign of Merseyside’s railway network and it was replaced by Moorfields Station which is close to it but underground.

The presently named Rice Lane Station on the Liverpool – Kirkby Northern Line (in Blue) was called Preston Road Back then.

Merseyrail map

The next significant addition to the Merseyrail Network of electrified lines will be the soon to be constructed Maghull Station on the Northern Line to Ormskirk. It’s name clearly identifies its location i.e. north of the present Maghull Station which is beyond its capacity at rush hours.

Just a bit of recent Merseyside railway history, please feel free to comment particularly if I have got anything wrong.

Liverpool Central to Gateacre Trains

thesteelwheels.tumblr.com/post/119191320611/these-1972-photographs-top-gateacre-station

My photo of a cleverly decorated  emergency exit door at the new Liverpool Central Station.

My photo of a cleverly decorated emergency exit door at the new Liverpool Central Station.

1972 saw the end of Liverpool Central Station (High Level) The last trains to use it were on the line to to Gateacre in its last few weeks.

Central Station was knocked down and replaced by a shopping centre and the lines it served taken underground to the ‘new’ Central Station. Gateacre Station did not reopen, but the line out to it from Central did of course regain a service as far as Hunt’s Cross later in the decade.

Have a look at photos on the steel wheels web site – see link above.

Merseytravel/Merseyrail – 20 years of big local railway ambitions many of which have hit the buffers! Posting 3

This is the 3rd and, for now, final of my reviews of Merseytravel and its rail achievements and failures. The first two reviews can be found by following the links below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/01/29/merseytravelmerseyrail-20-years-of-big-local-railway-ambitions-many-of-which-have-hit-the-buffers-posting-1/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2014/02/19/merseytravelmerseyrail-20-years-of-big-local-railway-ambitions-many-of-which-have-hit-the-buffers-posting-2/

The starting point for this final review is an article in Today’s Railways Magazine of June 2009.

The first and highly significant point made in this article is that the Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) for Merseyside, which had been published a few months before the article by Network Rail, looked at the ‘journey to work area’ for Liverpool and it had concluded that it went well beyond the present Merseyrail boundaries. Shades here of my previously stated concerns about the Liverpool City Region area being far too small to be effective. Preston, Wigan, Warrington, Chester, Wrexham and Flint are mentioned as the real boundaries of travel into Liverpool for work and this demonstrates all too well why insular inward looking politicians have got Merseyside’s transport planning wrong.

Shadows on Merseyrail at Bootle New Strand Station

Shadows on Merseyrail at Bootle New Strand Station

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-
www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

But lets look at the detail of this 2009 examination of Merseytravel/Merseyrail:-

* A 1km extension of the Kirkby Line (Northern line) to Headbolt Lane was being evaluated. I think we have heard of that before and it has still gone nowhere at all.

* A new railway into Skelmersdale (from the Kirkby – Wigan line) was to be investigated. This has popped up again quite recently with Lancashire County Council and West Lancs Borough Council seemingly very keen to get this project moving, but it will cost an arm and leg!

* An extension of the Ormskirk line electrification to Burscough and even Southport was suggested as a possibility for 2014 onwards. The article writer notes that electrification reached Ormskirk in 1913 so there would seem to be little urgency! What could be a small piece of good news is that extending the Northern Line beyond Ormskirk to Burscough is very much on the cards in 2014 probably on the back of major house building in Burscough. Watch this space.

A train from Preston pulling into Ormskirk Station. Could a section of this line from Ormskirk to Burscough be electrified soon?

A train from Preston pulling into Ormskirk Station. Could a section of this line from Ormskirk to Burscough be electrified soon?

* Bidston – Wrexham and Kirkby – Wigan electrifications. Well, where do we start! The first one has been doing the rounds for a very long time and both of them fit with the real travel to work area of Liverpool. Don’t hold your breath on either of them though.

* The Halton Curve – Yes, you have heard of that before and it got a mention in this July 2009 article. And, not so long ago, Merseytravel announced another feasibility study into reconnecting it to provide a Liverpool Lime Street Chester service.

* The need to run more 6 car trains was looked at. This problem, certainly on the Ormskirk Line, has led to folks abandoning rail travel because of some peak time trains being only 3 cars.

* There was talk of Liverpool Central being too small to cope with the number of passengers that flow through it and indeed the number of trains. Since then the Station has received a cosmetic refurbishment which also cleared as much clutter from the platforms of the Northern Line as possible to improve the passenger environment.

* Construction of a new Station at Maghull North! – Well I have been campaigning for that for a long time and it has still to appear. The article says it was planned for 2010 but sadly that was far too too optimistic and may well have been ‘Merseytravel speak’ i.e. talking things up beyond what was likely to happen.

A Merseyrail electric unit at Maghull Station

A Merseyrail electric unit at the present Maghull Station

* Replacement of the rolling stock in 2014 – Well that did not happen although another upgrade is presently being rolled out of the Class 507/508 EMU’s and they are getting a new ‘graffiti’ livery – well that’s what residents call it!

* And what about dual voltage, yes that gets another mention so that Merseyrail trains can take power from overhead lines as well as the 3rd rail. And no, it has not happened.

This article was very significantly based on the Merseyside RUS document but readers of my earlier posts will note that Network Rail in effect referred to projects that Merseytravel have been on about for 20 odd years or longer.

And to be fair 2007 saw the biggest financial crash in living memory so looking back it is blindingly obvious that many of the area’s transport schemes that relied on Government money to make them happen were going to be shunted into the sidings until things picked up. But, having said that, I can’t but look at places like Greater Manchester where the transport investment has continued apace despite hard times because Governments of all colours have confidence in the leadership of Greater Manchester and by implication they don’t in you know where!

My conclusion having read the commentary on the railways of the Merseyside area of the past 20 years is that Merseytravel always took a far too optimistic view of what was achievable and thought that if they talked long and hard enough Government money would flow into Merseyside transport. Sadly Merseytram proved the opposite to be the case. In my view poor governance of Merseyside has over the years ensured that investment by Governments in transport could only be limited, but have those in power learned from this? Will they take a trip down the East Lancs Road to see how successful transport planning, governance and investment is achieved?

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Regional has to show for its big tram ideas.

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

Merseytravel/Merseyrail – 20 years of big local railway ambitions many of which have hit the buffers!