Robert Hampton

Rover 2006: Tuesday

Depart From Arrive To TOC Train
Scheduled Actual Scheduled Actual
08:44 08:51 Aigburth 08:53 09:01 Liverpool Central ME 507010+508141
09:10 09:11 Liverpool Central 09:25 09:28 Bidston ME 507023
09:32 Cancelled Bidston 09:57 Cancelled Shotton AW -
09:36 09:36 Bidston 09:45 09:45 Hamilton Square ME 507031
09:50 09:50 Hamilton Square 10:12 10:12 Hooton ME 508110
10:27 10:35 Hooton 10:41 10:49 Chester ME 508137+508114
11:00 11:03 Chester 12:16 12:17 Stockport NT 142047
12:26 12:26 Stockport 12:36 12:34 Manchester Piccadilly CT 170107
14:16 14:16 Manchester Piccadilly 14:49 14:48 Warrington Bank Quay AW 175110
15:02 15:04 Warrington Bank Quay 15:41 15:40 Ellesmere Port NT 142057
16:04 16:04 Ellesmere Port 16:45 16:45 Liverpool Central ME 507033
16:58 16:59 Liverpool Central 17:07 17:08 Aigburth ME 508126+507017

Prior committments prevented me from going anywhere on Monday, so it was Tuesday before I took to the rails again. I began by joining the rush hour commuters aboard the 0844 to Southport, aboard a six-car set formed of 507010 and 508141, seen below:

507010 at Aigburth

At Central I transferred to the Wirral Line and climbed aboard 507023 for the short run to Bidston. We were held for a couple of minutes at Birkenhead Park waiting for a train to clear the section ahead. We arrived at Bidston 3 minutes late. The picture below shows 023 departing from Bidston on its way to to West Kirby.

507023 at Bidston

My plan was to take the 0932 to Wrexham as far as Shotton, then take the 1040 service to Chester to pick up a train to Stockport via Northwich. I was worried about missing the connection to the Wrexham train, which can be disrupted by the slightest of delays.

As it turned out, I had a different problem to worry about, as the train was cancelled due to signalling problems. A rail replacement bus was laid on, but yours truly didn't buy a Rail Rover to travel on buses!

I considered whether to wait an hour for the next train (with no guarantee that the problem would be rectified by then) or try a different route. In the event, I decided to go back the way I came and travel to Chester via Hamilton Square and Hooton. I didn't have long to wait before 507031 turned up with the 0936 to Liverpool.

507031 at Bidston

While waiting for my train onward to Hamilton Square, Network Rail's Multi-Purpose Vehicle passed through heading towards Liverpool. These trains are used in the Autumn to apply Sandite to the rails in an attempt to combat the problems caused by falling leaves.

Network Rail MPV at Hamilton Square

The Chester train was showing as delayed, so when an Ellesmere Port train arrived, I followed the old rule that a train in the platform is worth two on the departures board, and climbed aboard 508110 to travel to Hooton. The train departed Hooton beneath an ominously dark sky.

508110 and storm clouds at Hooton

Sure enough, the Chester train was announced as running 8 minutes late, and right on cue the rain started coming down. A couple of passengers attempted to access the waiting room on the platform, only to find the door locked. A middle-aged lady took charge and retrieved a member of station staff from his ticket office to open it up.

The Chester train showed no signs of making up time. Fortunately Merseyrail didn't choose the nuclear option turning the train short of its destination, and it arrived 8 minutes late at 1035, formed of 508137 leading 508114.

508137 at Hooton

14 minutes later we were at Chester, and I am back on my planned schedule, as my next train to Stockport (via Altrincham) waited in platform 6.

142047 at Chester

This line serves various small villages, and larger towns including Knutsford and Northwich (shown below).

Northwich seen from the train

I could have stayed on this train to Manchester Piccadilly, but I decided to alight at Stockport and take a different train. This was a Central Trains service to Liverpool, formed of Turbostar 170107.

170107 at Stockport

After a leisurely lunch break and stroll around Manchester, I returned to Piccadilly for the 1416 to Llandudno, which I was take as far as Warrington Bank Quay. 175110, looking smart in Arriva colours, formed this service.

175110 at Manchester Piccadilly

At Warrington Bank Quay, 60095 passed through, hauling a train of JMA wagons.

60095 at Warrington Bank Quay

My next train was the 1502 to Ellesmere Port via Helsby. This was my chance to ride the line from Helsby to Ellesmere Port, which is served by only a handful of passenger trains each day.

142057 at Warrington Bank Quay

There were a few people on this train at Warrington, but most of them alighted at intermediate stations and by the time we reached Helsby there was just me and one other soul left.

A little bit of history for you: this line used to have a regular service running from Helsby to Chester via Hooton. In 1993-4 the Merseyrail electrification was extended from Hooton to Ellesmere Port and Chester, at which time the diesel service was revised to run at roughly two-hourly intervals between Ellesmere Port and Warrington (continuing to Liverpool Lime Street via Earlestown). This was not a success and was soon reduced to the current sparse level. At the moment there are two return trips in the morning and a further two in the afternoon. None of them run at times that would be convenient to most passengers.

After a few minutes wait at Helsby, we set off for Ellesmere Port. The intermediate stations at Ince & Elton and Stanlow & Thornton are not shown as request stops in the timetable, but were treated as such by the train crew.

The area served by the line is very industrial — indeed the line is still busy with freight workings. As we passed the oil refinery at Stanlow, the smell of oil fumes hung in the air.

Industry at the lineside

We arrived at Ellesmere Port at 1540, where I crossed to the opposite platform to wait for a train back to Liverpool. One brave passenger boarded the Pacer at Ellesmere Port for the return journey to Helsby.

There were a couple of Merseytravel data gatherers at Ellesmere Port, who seemed genuinely surprised that anyone had actually used the train!

From Helsby the DMU will shuttle back to Ellesmere Port a second time, then return to Helsby and continue to Liverpool Lime Street via Warrington.

142057 at Ellesmere Port

This odd scrolling display board is present at Ellesmere Port and the other unstaffed stations at the extreme end of the Wirral Line. They are ostensibly for the display of real time information. Unfortunately, many of them seem to have been put in odd places and so high up that they're difficult to read. There was a “Welcome” message being displayed which unfortunately hasn't come out in the photo.

Information display at Ellesmere Port

I considered going back to Chester and filling in the section of line that I had missed this morning, however it would have meant extended waits at both Chester and Shotton, so, with the weather taking a turn for the worse, I decided to call it a day and head home.

Back at Liverpool Central, signs hint at the level of service provided from Ellesmere Port to Helsby.

Change at Ellesmere Port for Helsby (Limited Service)
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