1968 – A famous year for UK railways but will it be celebrated on the line where steam last ran for real?

A cold day at Maghull Station, where once Liverpool Exchange to Glasgow steam hauled trains would thunder through.

I’ve recently been reading a book by Michael S Welch called ‘Lancashire Steam Finale’ published in 2004 and which has some stunning photos of the very last days of steam power on British railways within it.

And then it dawned on me 2018 is 50 years since steam engines last ran on BR before being replaced by diesel and electric trains altogether. What’s more the line from Liverpool Exchange through Aintree, Maghull, Ormskirk, Preston and on to Carlisle was the very last line to run a regular steam hauled service.

‘The very last ordinary steam passenger train in Great Britain was the 9.25pm from Preston to Liverpool on 3rd August’ to quote from Michael’s book.

Are any celebrations of the anniversary being planned? With the demise of Liverpool Exchange Station (being replaced by Moorfields underground station) and the severing of the through line at Ormskirk, how possible would it be to run say a commemorating steam hauled train? South of Ormskirk it would clearly be difficult but north from Ormskirk looks to me to be very much a serious prospect.

Here’s hoping………

Liverpool’s Lime Street Station Closure brings Sunday trains to Ormskirk – Preston Line for 3 Sundays

Ormskirk’s Station where Merseyrail and Norther trains meet

Whilst as I wrote this posting the final confirmation was still yet to appear on Network Rail’s online timetables my reliable information is that on Sundays 1st, 8th & 22nd of October the Ormskirk – Preston railway line will see trains operating.

The plan, I am told, is to operate six round trips between Preston and Ormskirk to the timetable below, including calls at all stations (Burscough Junction, Rufford & Croston) in both directions.

It’s possible that this timetable may change slightly. I also understand that there will be a replacement bus service for the Merseyrail service between Ormskirk and Liverpool on October 15th, that’s why there’s looks to be no Sunday service on the Ormskirk – Preston Line.

Why on earth this positive move was not released to the public weeks ago beats me. The cause of this change is the blockading of trains at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station which is in effect being all but closed in this period for a major upgrade by Network Rail.

The Ormskirk – Preston line rarely has a Sunday service (yes I know it’s 2017 and this is ridiculous), in fact it only has a Sunday Service each year on the day of Ormskirk Motorfest. So this move not will only assist travellers trying to get to and from Liverpool from the north/Scotland on these Sundays but it will also help locals move around too, not least Ormskirk’s large student community.

If I get any further updates I will post again. Here’s what I understand to be the proposed timetable for these 3 Sundays, but please check before travelling:-

Click on the draft timetable to enlarge it please and do check with TrainLine or another on-line timetable provider for up to date information prior to travelling.

My thanks to Alan for the lead to this posting.

OPSTA Update – From the pages of Rail User Express

Rail User Express is the newsletter of Railfuture

Ormskirk’s Station with it’s split tracks and disjointed railway journeys is illustrated well by this photo by ‘mwmbwls’ borrowed from Flickr.

Ormskirk-Preston-Southport Travellers Association

In the draft Northern timetable from May 2018, just two peak services each way between Wigan and Manchester Piccadilly via Bolton would start and end at Southport, using bi-mode Class 319 Flex trains. Diesel powered alternators under the driving trailer cars of these units power the existing DC electric motors and on-board systems, so they can run both on electrified lines and to non-electric destinations. OPSTA believes that with just two more Flex trains, through services to Southport could be retained all day every day, though the extra trains may not be ready until Oct 2018. Local councils and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority back the idea, and Northern is helping OPSTA to build its case, but has yet to be convinced of the need for a Sunday service, which is not specified as a franchise requirement.

Departure board at Southport Station.

The 2018 timetable also proposes an hourly Preston – Ormskirk service from Monday – Saturday between 0626 and 2236 from Preston and 0701 to 2301 from Ormskirk, with a half-hour journey time. The trains arrive at Ormskirk and Preston from Colne, and Blackpool South respectively. Although not be shown as such in the timetable, these through services should make for both shorter and more convenient journeys. However, there is very little recovery time in the timetable, so any delay could have a lasting effect, albeit mitigated by the newly replaced passing loop at Rufford. Also, whilst the timings and connections at Preston look good, those from Liverpool at Ormskirk would be 17 mins, increasing to 24 mins in the evening. However, the Merseyrail timetable will change when Maghull North station opens in 2018.

The Burscough Curves – An historical talk by Roger Bell

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

My good friend Roger Bell, former Chairman of OPSTA and former Lab’ Leader on West Lancs Council, gave a talk last Wednesday at Hurlston hall Golf Club about the history of the Burscough Curves to members of the West Lancs Heritage Association.

As an OPSTA member I went along to both hear and support Roger. I had never been to Hurlston Hall Golf Club before.

Roger spoke for quite some time with photos and videos which were really interesting. I learned a lot that I did not know about before even though I have been a part of OPSTA for more years than I care to recall and in all that time pressing for these connecting rail curves to be brought back into use has been a big issue.

Looking towards Wigan from Burscough Bridge Station with the Ormskirk – Preston line crossing the Southport – Wigan line via the bridge in the background.

Here’s a link to West Lancs Heritage Association’s web site:-

www.westlancsheritage.org/

In straight forward terms the curves link the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport – Wigan railway lines which cross each other at Burscough. If they were brought back into use travelling by train from say Maghull to Southport would be possible without having to go via Sandhills for example. A Southport – Preston train could be reintroduced too so the opportunities are obvious to anyone who looks at the situation. Sadly, the railway powers that be have certainly been dragging their heels over this for far too many years and even more sadly it looks like they remain determined to keep on dragging them!

Burscough Junction Station – July ’15 – on the Ormskirk – Preston line.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Liverpool – The trouble getting there early on a Sunday morning

We live in a 7 day a week society/economy these days and I often wonder if there is not more traffic on our roads on a Sunday than any other day.

But this is not really a posting about the rights and wrongs about Sunday trading. I’m an atheist so the religious angles are not an issue for me but I am also a trade unionist and I really do fear the exploitation of workers and a breakdown of family life. However, I will leave those aspects to one side for now.

No, the reason for this posting is associated with the ability of those who do not drive to be able to access a city like Liverpool from its northern suburbs early on a Sunday morning.

Let’s look at Merseyrail and Maghull to start with. The first train out of Maghull on a Sunday morning is at 8.30am. And if you live north of Ormskirk the Ormskirk – Preston line does not run at all on a Sunday!

Then what about say Lydiate and Arriva buses? Well their first 300 bus on a Sunday to Liverpool is at 08.25am.

But are there any other bus options? Well there’s the No.30/30A bus which starts from Ashworth Hospital. The first bus (30A) on a Sunday runs at 7.22am from Ashworth using Dodds Lane, Moss Lane, Hall Lane, Liverpool Road South. Note it does not serve the north west of Maghull or Lydiate at all. The next bus is a number 30 which starts at 7.43am and covers a similar route although it does call in at Maghull Railway Station at 7.51am some 39 minutes before the first train out of Maghull to Liverpool.

If you need to be in work early on a Sunday and do not have a car or more likely are in a low paid job and can’t afford to run one what are your options if you live in the north west part of Maghull or any part of Lydiate other than a high cost taxi?

PS. I penned this posting before Merseytravel’s Sefton Bus Review proposals were made public just yesterday but I don’t think they change this situation much sadly:-

www.merseytravel.gov.uk/about-us/Pages/Sefton-Bus-Review.aspx

My last but one posting prior to this one was about the impact of the Sefton Bus Review on the Lydiate and Maghull area.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/01/16/sefton-bus-review-the-proposals/

Northern Rail – Hardly covering themselves in glory on Ormskirk Motor Festival Day

Northern the new franchisee running trains all over the north of England (outside of areas like Merseyside which has its own Merseyrail) agreed to do something quite positive recently and then in the words of one rail traveller ballsed it all up on the day.

Ormskirk Station - The train in the foreground is Preston bound.

Ormskirk Station – The train in the foreground is Preston bound.

The good move was to agree to run trains on the Ormskirk – Preston line on the Sunday of Ormskirk Motor Festival a couple of weeks ago. Normally no trains run on this line on a Sunday, although goodness knows why not when Ormskirk is such a big university town, but that’s another story.

So having agreed to run 5 trains each way and publicity having been put in place by both Northern themselves and volunteer group OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Assn) two disasters befell the well laid plans.

Firstly, the 2nd train from Preston to Ormskirk and return did not run because Northern took the driver off it to replace a driver shortage elsewhere. Now you would think they had drivers on call for such eventualities, would you not? However, they were a driver short for whatever reason and seemingly could not find another one!

But it gets better or sadly worse! Northern tried to plug the gap by putting on a rail replacement bus but how on earth were travellers supposed to know about it? The fact is that the majority did not.

But don’t splutter yet as another disaster befell Northern when the train unit that had been stood a Preston for a couple of hours then would not start, well at least one motor in the trailing carriage would not start. The solution more delays as the last carriage was left behind after being uncoupled.

Despite this carry on reports are that a lot of people either did use the train or tried to do so and were in effect caused to give up on it. I hope Northern don’t get cold feet when such welcome initiatives are being considered for the future but I also hope they get themselves better organised!