We decided to go to Preston recently but to go by train from Ormskirk on that almost backwater line that has an irregular service.
My previous posting of not so long ago about Ormskirk, details the history of the bizarre splitting of the through Liverpool – Preston line at this market town. See link below to that posting:-
We got the 1.24 from from Ormskirk, one of only 13 trains to Preston that day. On a similar weekday there are trains to and from Ormskirk to Liverpool every 15 minutes daytime and every half hour in the evenings!
First stop was Burscough Junction Station. Firstly, there is no junction and has not been for many, many years because some bright sparks in the 1960’s took away the connecting curves (The Burscough Curves) to the Southport – Wigan Line which our train crossed on a bridge soon after this station stop. The other noticeable thing is that Burscough is expanding fast with many new homes around Burscough (No) Junction Station and many more to come I hear. Shame they will get such an irregular railway service to Ormskirk and Preston.*
Next came Rufford, where there is a passing loop for the trains that don’t pass each other any more! The same diesel unit usually trundles between Ormskirk & Preston all day. Rufford is of course famous for its Old Hall, a very nice National Trust property that is well worth a visit.
The final stop before Preston was Croston a pleasant village that suffered terrible flooding only a few months ago.
Between Croston and Preston is a disused Station with the building, on the Preston bound side of the line, still standing although not in railway use any more. The Station was called Midge Hall and there have been calls for it to be reopened due to new housing going up on the former Leyland Test Track quite near to it.
The middle section of the line is not continuously welded rail so the familiar clickity-clack of the train going over the rail joints is quiet apparent. Indeed, we were riding on an infamous Class 142 Pacer or ‘Nodding Donkey’ or Pile of Crap depending on your view of them. They were built for lightly loaded railway lines based on a bus body and just 4 wheels on each of the two carriages. You soon get to realise why they became nick-named Nodding Donkeys on the jointed rails! They really do bounce up and down. Pacers are due to be phased out by around 2018/19 and that can’t come soon enough. They even have bus type seating from the 1970’s, well at least the one we were on did. Not uncomfortable but definitely from a long gone era.
The West Lancs countryside is lovely, with the Rufford Branch of the Leeds Liverpool canal following the line and a canal marina to see. The conductors were friendly and seemed to be very diligent in checking tickets both there and back. The rail franchise to run Northern trains changed on 1st April and Arriva now operate most trains in the north of England. I hear that the previous operator was not good at checking tickets but as I say the new one seems to be.
If you have need to travel to Preston why not go by train, its a nice trip it was only £5 return during the day and we really enjoyed it.
* One of the promises made my the new Arriva franchisee is that the Ormskirk – Preston Line will gain an hourly service equating to 17 trains per day (but oddly still no trains on a Sunday) from December 2017. Why on earth do railway planners think folks don’t move around on a Sunday and Ormskirk is a university town too!
Why not check out OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers Association) who campaign to have this line upgraded (and the Southport Wigan Line). Their web site is at:-