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Left to right, withdrawn Lancaster-Morecambe EMU, Class 502 EMU, withdrawn ex Tyneside baggage car M68000M and another class 502 EMU.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.