Robert Hampton

Rover 2006: Wednesday

Depart From Arrive To TOC Train
Scheduled Actual Scheduled Actual
08:59 09:00 Aigburth 09:08 09:09 Liverpool Central ME 507010+508127
09:20 09:20 Liverpool Central 09:38 09:37 Kirkby ME 507011
09:47 09:47 Kirkby 10:12 10:19 Wigan Wallgate NT 142064
10:35 10:36 Wigan Wallgate 11:15 11:14 Southport NT 142034
12:13 12:14 Southport 12:51 12:51 Sandhills ME 507015
13:01 13:02 Sandhills 13:27 13:25 Ormskirk ME 508130
13:38 13:38 Ormskirk 14:05 14:09 Preston NT 142032
14:12 14:12 Preston 14:49 14:47 Blackpool South NT 142019
16:25 16:25 Blackpool North 17:09 17:13 Wigan North Western NT 156471
17:42 17:44 Wigan North Western 18:34 18:34 Liverpool Lime Street NT 150211
18:43 18:50 Liverpool Central 18:52 18:59 Aigburth ME 507008

Today was a chance to explore some Lancashire branch lines, and also to ride on a “rare” route.

507011 took me to Kirkby, where the former through station has been severed into two quite separate halves. In the picture below we can see the Merseyrail electric unit ready to head back to Liverpool.

507011 at Kirkby

Meanwhile, at the other end of the platform, 142064 arrived with the Manchester Victoria service.

142064 arrives at Kirkby

There is a proposal to extend the electrification further east by a mile to a new station at Headbolt Lane, which would serve the large Northwood housing estate. If this proposal comes to fruition, Kirkby would once again become a through station.

The DMU service to Wigan and Manchester is a basic hourly service, with no evening or Sunday service. The unit was, however, quite well loaded with passengers. The unit seemed to be suffering from a door fault; at several stations, passengers were pressing the Open button with no result. This caused increased station dwell times and we were 7 minutes down by the time we arrived at Wigan.

While waiting for my next train, the 1035 to Southport, I observed 150225 arrive with a Manchester train.

150255 at Wigan Wallgate

The guard on this service was about to buzz the train away, when he spotted an elderly gentleman running for the train. In kindness, he released the train doors, which resulted in the train being delayed when the old codger proved unable to comprehend how to open the doors. When the train finally departed, the guard looked as though he was done with Good Samaritan acts for ever.

Network North West sign at Wigan Wallgate

Wigan Wallgate is another station where Network North West lives on. It's astonishing that so many reminders of this brief, failed experiment by British Rail continue to be seen over 15 years later.

The anti-pigeon poster below can be seen at quite a few locations around the Northern Rail network.

If you like feeding birds... buy a budgie

Below, 142034 arrives with the Southport train.

142034 at Wigan Wallgate

En route, the entire carriage was able to witness an exchange between a couple of student types and the guard, who quite reasonably wanted to know why they hadn't bought their tickets from the ticket office (“the big building you walked through to get to the train”).

Arrival at Southport was on time, and as I had an hour to kill before my next train, I strolled down to the promenade, where I was able to witness a lorry taking away equipment from the defunct Pleasureland amusement park. Eventually, the smell of fish and chips from a nearby cafe proved too much, and even though it was only 11.45am, I bought a big portion of cod and chips, which I munched on my way back to the railway station.

Back at Southport, 142034 was preparing to work back to Wigan, while 156426 was stabled for later use.

142034 and 156426 at Southport

There were plenty of Merseyrail electric units in evidence too:

Merseyrail units stabled at Southport

And 507015 was waiting to form the 1213 to Hunts Cross, which I was to ride as far as Sandhills.

507015 at Southport

An uneventul run deposited me on time at Sandhills. The station shown below will soon be a thing of the past, as Sandhills is due for a major rebuild next year, which will result in complete closure of the station for an extended period.

Sandhills station

And here's my next train, 508130 with the 1301 to Ormskirk.

508130 arrives at Sandhills with the Ormskirk service

Ormskirk, like Kirkby is a former through station which has been “split” with the Merseyrail electrics meeting the connecting Preston shuttle end-on.

Ormskirk station

142032 arrived a couple of minutes late, but after a quick turnaround by the traincrew, we were away on time at 1338. We lost 4 minutes en route, however, and I only just made my connection to the Blackpool South train at Preston, a situation not helped by many of the information screens on the station being out of service.

And... oh no, another Pacer! This time at least it was 142019, a former Arriva Trains Northern unit which, since the merger of the North West and North East franchises, has found its way over to this side of the Pennines. The Arriva units feature high-backed seating which is much more comfortable than the bus-style seating fitted to the other 142s in the fleet.

142019 at Blackpool South

The picture above shows 142019 at the simple terminus at Blackpool South. There can be no clearer symbol of the effects of the Beeching cuts than this single-track branch line, which was, until the 1960s, a busy main line into Blackpool.

What's left of Blackpool South

The whole area of this photo used to be taken up with railway lines, platforms and sidings. Now the trains run into a small platform in the corner and the rest of the site is a car park. The main station at Blackpool Central, which was located right on the seafront in the shadow of the Tower, was demolished and traffic diverted to the more distant station at Blackpool North. The alignment of the railway line itself has been used for the M55 link road.

I haven't been to Blackpool for a while, but it's just as classy as I remember it (i.e. not very). There was time for a quick stroll along the prom, prom, prom. Sadly there was no brass band to play tiddly-om, pom, pom.

Blackpool Tower

Blackpool wouldn't be Blackpool without the trams, of course. Sadly I didn't have time to ride any of them. Below is 1930s-built double-decker “balloon”, number 703, wearing the classic Blackpool green and cream colours.

Blackpool double-decker tram 703 on the promenade

While here is a “Progress” twin-car set, wearing the new (and very garish) “Metro Coastline” livery.

Blackpool twin car set 683 on the promenade

I soon found myself at Blackpool North station, where the station staff persist on insisting that all intending passengers stay on the station concourse until the last possible minute, even if the train is sitting in the platform, ready to load. All very strange, and it hardly makes for a relaxed start to the journey.

156471 was working the 1625 to Liverpool Lime Street. However, I jumped off at Wigan North Western (where the picture below was taken).

156425 at Wigan North Western

At Wigan, 66180 and 66143 were “top and tailing” the Rail Head Treatment Train.

66180 at Wigan North Western
66143 at Wigan North Western

My reason for alighting at Wigan was so that I could board the 1742 Wigan North Western to Liverpool Lime Street via Newton-le-Willows. This is one of only two trains each day which go this way; the rest run via St Helens Central. 150211 was the unit on this service, and it is shown below in the bay platform, number 3.

150211 at Wigan North Western

This train at least did not have the Marie Celeste feel of the Ellesmere Port train the day before. There was a fair sprinkling of passengers on board when we left Wigan, and many more boarded as the train calls at all stations between Newton and Liverpool.

Just outside Wigan we passed the Network Rail MPV, heading North, presumably on railhead treatment duties.

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