Trains and Boats and Birds

Commence the walk from the free public car park near Morrisons; thence proceed to the modern swing bridge at the dock entrance – not surprisingly a renowned haunt of steam railway photographers – to gain the signed Riverside Walk.   From there walk west past the curiously named ‘Bull Nose’ and the Rabble steam railway centre.  Thereafter the path gradually becomes less obvious but perseverance will lead you past a go-kart/motor cycle circuit and onto the confluence of Savick Brook nowadays known as the Millennium Link.   A raised embankment gives an interrupted view of the channel and marshes but do not venture out onto the exposed mud.  At the confluence it is recommended you walk inland to view the adjacent Ashton Marsh before retracing your steps to the Marina with further opportunities to view the Ribble, ideally at a different state of the tide

The walk takes in the Preston Dock Marina and a tidal section of the River Ribbble – where good bird watching may be enjoyed as far as the Millennium Link – the farthest point of the walk. At times the footpath runs parallel to the splendid Ribble Steam Railway; allowing good views of this operational railway and hence trains and boats and birds.

In October 1846, a railway branch line was constructed from the North Union Preston station to serve the Victoria Quay on the River Ribble, via a steep gradient of 1 in 29.  The line was extended to serve the new Preston Docks in 1882 and fortuitously the line continues to be used for commercial freight and is operated for public enjoyment by the Ribble Steam Railway’s dedicated team of enthusiasts.   Preston Dock owes its origins to the River Ribble and the real advances that were made by the time of the   Preston Guild (1882) in the social, economic and physical fabric of the town.  Preston has long been at the hub of the road and rail network, and is also the administrative centre of Lancashire County Council.  Preston Docks was opened for commercial trading during 1892 providing about 500 jobs by 1911 and helping to consolidate Preston’s key position in the transport sector. Furthermore the Albert Edward Dock was the largest single inland dock basin in the world.

During the construction of Preston Dock, a major archaeological legacy came from deep beneath the surface of the river bed yielding evidence of the wildlife and artefacts that existed pre-history.  A ‘head count’ of severed skulls comprised of 30 human skulls, over 100 skulls of red deer; several now extinct wild ox; two pilot whale skulls, a Bronze spear head and two dug-out canoes.  This collection has been immortalised in The Harris Museum at Preston. Research findings indicate that this material has probably accumulated since the time of the Bronze Age and the exact reason for its deposition at this point has yet to be ascertained.

Witnessing the activity of a busy commercial port with an assortment of vessels moored around the basin certainly engendered a very interesting day out. I well remember the dock in the 1950/60s and the fleet of ancient dredgers and the neat little steam tug boat ‘Lucas,’ that facilitated the import of bananas on splendid white vessels and the very first roll on roll off car ferries Empire Nordic, Empire Doric, Empire Cedric and others in the same fleet that were later superseded by the Bardic and Ionic Ferry. There was also a flourishing trade in timber and coal. Sadly, the land locked Port of Preston closed in 1981 when it became uneconomic to constantly dredge the Ribble between the docks and the estuary at Lytham. Many Prestonians will remember the former Isle of Man ferry, TSS ‘Manxman.’ This grand old vessel managed to circumnavigate the river when it entered the dock in 1981 to become a floating nightclub.  Sadly, in 1991 the owners decided to relocate the vessel and she was towed up the heavily silted channel to the open sea to Liverpool. Nowadays the Ribble is the domain of pleasure craft, although exceptionally, during 2010/11, a huge shallow draughter coaster the ‘MV River Carrier,’ was used to convey several giant transformers which were towed from Ellesmere Port to a riverside quay at Penwortham.  This will probably turn out to be the last large commercial vessel to visit Preston.  The dock has now been transformed into the Riversway Docklands and marina.  The marina itself provides moorings and dedicated facilities for large ocean going yachts and canal barges. The latter can now navigate the nearby Millennium link which successfully links the nation’s canal network.

There is a signed public footpath – Riverside Walk – which allows good views across the river and provides opportunities for bird watching, though the dock basin itself is always worth a look.  Bird watching on the river is both seasonal and tide dependent.  Understanding the specific requirements of individual species and the timing of seasonal occurrences is crucial when bird watching, especially for anyone wanting to take their bird watching to a more advance level and keeping a record of all that you see is one of the hallmarks of being a good birder. Habitat is crucial and the dock basin, a tidal river with associated salt marsh and exposed mud are exploited by gulls, terns waders and wildfowl. Numbers vary throughout the year and with the height and movements of the tide.

In winter cormorants and the occasional shag visit the dock basin and the former may also be seen flying along the channel, perching on the markers of the Ribble navigation or standing on the mud with their wings hanging out to dry. Great crested grebes occur from time to time both in the dock basin and on the river.  On approaching the quay check the wintering gull flocks. The regular black headed gull flocks should be scrutinised for Mediterranean gulls.  Most of the gulls will take bread allowing a close inspection.  Scrutinise the larger gulls perched on the pontoons, most will be lesser black-backed greater black-backed, herring and common gull but check for anything different including rarer species that visit the dock occasionally. For example a single ring billed gull which is a scarce visitor from North America made the Trans Atlantic crossing and successfully docked at Preston a few years ago and during the winter of 2010/11 a first winter immature Iceland Gull from the Arctic equally found the dock basin to be a safe haven. This special winter visitor was content to forage for food on or just below the surface of the water and was also supplied with copious amounts of bread by visiting bird watchers from near and afar.  Despite the name, Iceland Gulls breed in Canada and Iceland and although rare in Lancashire, especially Preston, are relatively common winter visitors to the North West coast of Scotland.

The man made islands have been positioned in the dock to provide a secure nesting site for terns which may be seen flying over the basin and river channel from April into the summer.   Common and possibly Arctic terns can be seen flying over the dock basin and river channel but these two are hard to distinguish apart and are thus colloquially known as comic terns. Black terns and little gulls on passage during spring and autumn are also possible.   Along the Riverside Walk section of the route do not forget to check any trees, bushes, rough ground for any unsuspecting rarity that might just be lurking.  Also check the old tide lines for wintering meadow pipits, linnets and rock pipits and at passage periods for rock and meadow pipit, pied and white wagtails.  During March look out for a ground hopping relatively common little migrant with bags of character and a conspicuous white rump which identifies it as a wheatear en route from Africa to upland breeding sites. The name is misleading and wheat is an aberration of white and a reference to the bird’s conspicuous white rump which is diagnostic and prominent in flight

As you progress along the river side footpath dense low stands of bramble are ideal for whitethroats, listen out for their scalding sounds and song especially during late April.

Linnets are still fairly common and the resident kestrel may be seen hovering over rough ground looking for small mammals. The remains of a large wooden pier are often  frequented by cormorants strategically perched whilst assessing the fishing potential or resting between feeding.  At low tide with much sand still exposed there is usually a good selection of waders visible including oystercatcher, dunlin, curlew, redshank and in autumn small numbers of less common passage migrants such as greenshank, spotted redshank and even rarer species. During spring and autumn common sandpipers draw attention by their distinctive call and characteristic flight as they fly low over the surface of the water and perch with characteristic posture. When the tide starts to flow wildfowl and waders are pushed onto even smaller areas of mud and salt marsh adjoining the river channel. The attention then shifts to the channel where there are usually numbers of Canada geese, mallard, shelduck, teal, wigeon,  goosander, a few goldeneye and great crested grebe

A good vantage point is at the confluence of the millennium link and the adjacent Ashton Marsh, where the habitat of rough ground and willow scrub predictably harbours returning willow warblers from late April as well as numerous rabbits. The river, canal and coastal creeks are possible haunts of the kingfisher, which are sometimes seen outside the breeding season using posts as fishing perches. Black tail godwits haunt the edge of the river, marshes and adjacent fields. Grey herons are commonly seen on the river and the  Millennium Link and within two kilometres of the confluence build huge nests and raise their bizarre looking youngsters at a tree top heronry.  By late April and May flocks of migrating whimbrel are instantly identifiable by their repetitive and are appropriately known by country people as ‘May Birds’ a reference to the spring migration of this northern wader.  Besides typical coastal waders there are often numbers of shelduck, mallard, teal, lapwing and passage golden plover on the marsh, high tide time is usually easy to detect as calm descends on the assembled roosting flocks. This can of course, be quickly shattered by the sudden appearance of a merlin or a local peregrine which nests on the spire of  St. Walburge’s Church, Preston. Peregrines provoke instant panic in the massed ranks of smaller waders, creating a magnificent spectacle as the flocks weave and turn at great speed as the falcon attempts to out fly or stoop on its intended prey.


Alstom Transport – Preston

Alstom Transport (formally GEC Alsthom) is a French company and at this Preston site, traction control systems are designed and manufactured for trains systems throughout the world. Also is site is the UK’s base for Customers Service operations world wide.

The history of this factory goes back over 100 years.
In 1898 the Electric Railway and Tramway Carriage Works Ltd. (a subsidiary of a partnership of two Glasgow merchants, W. B. Dick and John Kerr, formed in 1875) took over premises formerly occupied by the North of England Carriage and Iron Co. (1867-78) on the east of Strand Road. The works grew developing a world market for electric urban tramway systems.

Drive machinery for the vehicles had to be imported from the United States, and shortly after the move to Preston a second company was established along the west side of Strand Road (this is the factory shown above). The English Electric Manufacturing Co., also had close links with Dick Kerr’s and in 1905 changed its name to the United Electric Car Co. In 1918 the English Electric Company was formed through the merger of Dick Kerr’s with a number of related interests, to form a company with a capital of f5m. For a short time in the late 1960’s it was owned by an AEI, English Electric Company and GEC amalgamation and in 1969 GEC Power Engineering Limited was established.In the late 1980’s it became GEC Alsthom and now Alstom.

Already considerable by 1914, the Preston works expanded enormously during the First World War, and by 1918 employed eight thousand people. In addition to munitions the firm with its experience of producing light wooden tramway bodies, began the manufacture of aircraft with the Felixstowe F3 flying boat. With the formation of English Electric. the Preston works reverted to the manufacture of traction and ancillary equipment, but in 1922 aircraft production was resumed: the Wren made its first night from Ashton Park on 5th April 1923. The firm supplied Blackpool’s famous trams between 1933 and 1939 and the last trams produced at Preston were despatched to Aberdeen in 1940. Dick Kerr’s benefited enormously from re-armament in the late 1930s. providing a tremendous boost to the Preston economy. Manufacturing at the east works thus evolved from tramcars to flying boats and ultimately to jet aircraft. In 1964 it was taken over by BAC. Similarly the west works was to progress to the manufacture of heavy electric locomotives.

Preston Corporation tram 1925. This tram is on Tulketh Rd. at the corner of Powis Rd. The first electric tramcar in Preston was manufactured by Dick Kerr and ran on a system which eventually included 38 double deck and 10 single deck cars.

This photo (circa 1925) shows men working in the foundry manufacturing castings using sand box casting techniques. This photo is of particular interest to me as this shed later became the machine shop in which I worked from 1977 to 1990. I remember that when ever any digging for foundation work was being carried out in this shed the remains of the cast iron sand boxes were sometimes found and below these pebbles and sand were often found which may of been from the river bed, the river Ribble was diverted when the docks was built.
I also recall the smell of cutting oils which were used in the machining processes, and after a days work the odour of this oil was in your clothes.

This photo (circa 1994) is of the same shed viewed from the opposite end. Today this shed is part of the Machines manufacturing business unit and has been totally reorganised with only a few newer computer controlled machine tools. Due to the technological advances in A.C. motor drive systems there is not the same demand for large D.C. traction motors and therefore the smaller less complex A.C. traction motors are now manufactured and assembled in this one shed therefore requiring less floor area. Preston site also manufactures traction control equipment, auxiliary converters, and is the base of the UK’s Customers Service operation.


1830 to 1840 Privately owned carriage building business in ‘East’ Works

1863 North of England Railway Carriage and Iron Company Incorporated.

1878 Liquidation – Premises remained empty.

1896 New occupant – The Electric Railway and Tramway Carriage Works Limited.
(developed five acres of the site – West Works) with a capacity of 800 vehicles per annum

1898 to 1903 Equipment Syndicate Limited of Manchester built a factory which occupied both sides of Strand Road.
(The Dick & Kerr families were part of this syndicate)

1903 Dick Kerr and Company.

1905 Changed name to ‘United Electric Car Company’

1914 to 1918 During the war years, both the Preston factories were engaged in defence work.

1918 Changed name to ‘English Electric Company’.

1964 Aircraft building side was separated off to the British Aircraft Corporation – British Aerospace, They closed their Strand Road site in the early 1990’s.

1967 to 1968 AEI, English Electric Company and GEC amalgamated and GEC Power Engineering Limited was established.

1989 GEC Power Systems merged with Alsthom of France from which GEC ALSTHOM Traction Limited emerged.

1998 A new company formed called Alstom, which is floated on the stock markets in June 1998, with both GEC and Alsthom reducing their share of the company. Preston site is part of the Alstom Transport division.

Trainspotting 1961

A short family break in Blackpool in early September 1961, gave the opportunity for some North of England rail travel and trainspotting. Had I known that in the very near future, a considerable proportion of the Blackpool tramway system would vanish, perhaps our plans would have been different. But having travelled from Birmingham to Blackpool by rail, my brother and myself devised an itinerary that included Blackpool shed, a trip to Carlisle, and an evening football match between Blackpool and West Ham United.

Our outward journey on 4th September involved 45599 Bechuanaland from Birmingham to Stafford, English Electric type 4 no D297 Stafford to Crewe, Black 5 no 45237 Crewe to Preston, and 2-6-4T no 42652 from Preston to Blackpool South.
Locomotives of interest seen on the journey included 45670 Howard of Effingham, 46256 Sir William A Stanier FRS, 45544 (un named Patriot), 45669 Fisher, 45567 South Australia, 45617 Mauritius, 45722 Defence, 45680 Camperdown, 46161 Kings Own, 45705 Seahorse, 45584 North West Frontier, and 45661 Jervis.
In the late afternoon, we caught a tram from our South Promenade hotel as far as the Manchester Hotel, walked down Rigby Road, under the Railway bridge, turned right, and there we were beside Blackpool South shed.

45559 British Columbia     45642 Boscawen
45571 South Africa     45661 Vernon
45574 India     45689 Ajax
45580 Burma     45705 Seahorse
45638 Zanzibar
44733     44894     45312     42705     42148     42625
44745     44947     45336     42783     42296     42657
44778     45101     45435
44806     45102
Total 27

Our day started on the 9.00am Blackpool Central to Liverpool Exchange, upon which we travelled to Preston. The loco was Black 5 no 44767. We arrived at Preston at 9.44am. For our trip to Carlisle we had a choice of Jubilee 45628 Somaliland on the Manchester to Glasgow, due out 10.26am, or the following Liverpool to Glasgow, Rebuilt Scot no 46102 Black Watch, due out 10.32am. They were side by side.
No contest, we chose 46102.

CARLISLE STATION: 12.30pm to 4.05pm: 5th SEPTEMBER 1961      
46102 Black Watch called 12.32/12.38 on the 9.30am Liverpool to Glasgow (11)
D26 called 1.17/1.24 on the 10.35am Leeds City to Glasgow (11)
45371 departed 1.25pm on Parcels/Vans
60089 Felstead departed 1.28pm on the 1.26pm Carlisle-Edinburgh Waverley (6+v)
45737 Atlas called 1.39/1.46pm on the 9.25am Crewe/Manchester to Aberdeen (12)
D316 passed 2.24pm on the down Royal Scot (8)
45138 arrived 2.25pm on the 11.55am Hellifield to Carlisle (3+8m)
46121 Highland Light Infantry departed 2.50pm on the 2.50pm Carlisle to Glasgow (4)
45363 departed 3.01pm on a Carlisle to Stranrear service (3)
60090 Grand Parade departed 3.22pm on a service to Edinburgh Waverley (4)
46253 City of St Albans called 3.40/3.46pm on the 11.15am Birmingham to Glasgow (2v+9)
44763 called 4.00/4.08 pm on the 11.25am Birmingham to Edinburgh (7+7v)
D31 called 4.13/4.17 on the down Waverley (9)

46223 Princess Alice arrived 12.30pm on the 10.10am Glasgow to Euston  (11+3v)
46240 City of Coventry departed 12.40pm on the 10.10am Glasgow to Euston (11+3v)
D20 called 12.46/1.08pm on the 10.05am Up Waverley (9)
72007 Clan Mackintosh arrived 1.05pm on the 9.00am Perth to Euston (9) Loco change
D9 departed 1.13pm on the 9.00am Perth to Euston (9)
45716 Swiftsure called 1.13/1.21 on the 11.00am Glasgow to Liverpool (11)
70050 Firth of Clyde called 1.24/1.30pm on a Glasgow to Manchester service (7)
44955 arrived 1.39pm on a Edinburgh to Manchester service (11) Loco change
45655 Keith departed 1.48pm on a Edinburgh to Manchester service (11)
72006 Clan Mackenzie arrived 2.55pm on Empty stock working (5)
60068 Sir Visto arrived 2.58pm on the 12.05pm Edinburgh Waverley to Carlisle (4)
D307 called 3.19/3.22pm on the up Mid-Day Scot (8)
46226 Duchess of Norfolk arrived 3.51pm on a Perth to Euston service (14+2v) Loco change
D2 departed 4.02pm on a Perth to Euston service (14+2v)
46227 Duchess of Devonshire called 4.06/4.18pm on the 1.45pm Glasgow to Liverpool (10)

We returned to Preston with 46227 Duchess of Devonshire on the 1.45pm Glasgow to Liverpool Exchange. An extremely unusual working for a Stanier pacific. D2 on the preceding Perth to Euston service failed near to Carnforth, and we stood for 65 minutes at Burton & Holme whilst things were sorted out. So we were not into Preston until 7.52pm, 82 mins late. We returned to Blackpool behind Black 5 no 45078, arriving rather later than we envisaged. Nevertheless a  fascinating day. Wouldn’t it be splendid to do it again. So we did.

This time our run round the coast on the 9.00am from Blackpool Central was with a Caprotti Black 5, no 44743, a Bank Hall (27A) engine. At Preston, a huge dilemma faced us. Side by side were Polmadie Scot no 46104 Scottish Borderer on the Manchester to Glasgow, and 72002 Clan Campbell on the Liverpool to Glasgow. What a choice. Another gleaming 66A Polmadie Scot, or a Clan pacific, a class that we had never travelled behind.
72002 won the day, with some misgiving. I had read that the Clans were modest (putting it politely) performers, and so it proved. With an 11 coach train, we struggled up Grayrigg, and stopped for a banker at Shap. So we were not into Carlisle until 12.29pm, 10 minutes late. On the journey we saw 46248 City of Leeds, 45635 Tobago, 45729 Furious, and 45713 Renown.
This time we decided to spend less time on Carlisle station, and make for Kingmoor.

CARLISLE : 12.30pm to 4.10pm: 7th SEPTEMBER 1961      
Northbound services of interest were the 1.26pm Carlisle to Edinburgh Waverley, with 60068 Sir Visto, the 9.25am Crewe to Aberdeen, 72005 Clan MacGregor taking over from an English Electric type 4 diesel. And 46222 Queen Mary, working north on the 2.50pm Carlisle to Glasgow stopping service. Southbound, 46230 Duchess Buccleuch gave way to 46248 on the 10.10am Glasgow to Euston. 72007 arrived on the 9.00am Perth to Euston, giving way to an English Electric type 4.72000Clan Buchanon worked the11.00am Glasgow to Liverpool, 46140 The Kings Royal Rifle Corps the following Glasgow to Manchester, and 60099 Call Boy the 12.05pm from Edinburgh Waverley.
We headed for Kingmoor Shed , where we knew that we unlikely to obtain permission to go round,  but worked on the principle that whilst we were walking to the foreman’s office, to ask, we would see a fair amount in the process. It worked, for we actually noted 23 numbers before being told “no”. And in view were the then stored Stanier pacifics, 46201 Princess Elizabeth and 46210 Lady Patricia. The only other named loco we saw was 72009 Clan Stewart. But it was well worth the trip. Strangely I cannot recall whether we walked or bused.

So it was back into Carlisle in good time to catch the 1.45pm Glasgow to Liverpool service. What would be working it this time. Hopefully a Polmadie Scot. No such luck. Another Clan, this time 72001 Clan Cameron. With very generous schedules as far as Lancaster and a load of 10 coaches, the loco held it’s own, though 31 mph up to Shap was hardly inspiring. But on the Lancaster to Preston section, with a 25 minute schedule for the 21 miles , 72001 never exceeded 63 mph, and dropped three minutes.
So my conclusion of the Clan class was that they were indeed poor machines. I could never really understand why they were ever built.
On the return journey, we saw 46125 3rd Caribinier, 46133 The Green Howards, 46109 Royal Engineer, 45696 Arethusa, 45584 North West Frontier, 45710 Irresistible, and 45507 Royal Tank Corps.
And another Black 5 run to Blackpool concluded another excellent day.

Friday was going home day, and we had decided on the 9.55am Blackpool Central to Crewe service, where we would have a snack and a drink, before continuing back to Birmingham on the 11.40am Liverpool to Birmingham.
The plan worked well. Black 5 no 45205 took us to Crewe punctually, and Unrebuilt Patriot no 45547 took us on to Birmingham, arriving a few minutes late following signal checks either side of Stafford.
My notes of what we saw on the return journey have unfortunately been lost…….

Painting By Numbers

Looking at all those old photographs of railways in the days of steam may have made you think that it was all drab grey or black and white. This was not the case as each Railway Company had its own liveries, not only for its engines, but for stations, signal boxes, goods sheds, offices, right down to its platform trolleys and notice boards.
The only childhood memories of colour changes on the railway that I can remember was passing through different regions and noticing the station totem signs. Maroon for LMR, Orange for NER etc. I thought it may be interesting to look back at what each company in our region had chosen for its stations.

The LMS clearly did not see imposing a new corporate image in its stations as a priority, as until 1936 it continued to use the pre group colour schemes, gaining a reputation for shabby & run down looking stations in the process. However, the paint schemes now followed the Civil Engineers areas, so the Western division would have seen any ex FR, NSR stations etc that were repainted appearing in LNWR colours. The former MR area and Scotland continued as though the grouping had never happened.
When it did get around to introducing a company livery, it used either ‘Deep Cream’ or ‘Portland Stone’ as the base with one of three colours for the doors, metalwork, etc. One was a mid brown, one a red very similar to the shade used on loco’s & coaches, and one was a mid green which was confined to very rural stations & was little used.
Poster boards were always black with the beading and lettering picked out in white. Station signs were also black with white lettering.  The ‘target’ nameboards were yellow with black lettering.
An official paint scheme for signal boxes of light stone & brown was introduced in 1931, though until 1933 signal boxes could be painted to match the station buildings. In that year the Signal & Telegraph Dept. took over the responsibility for painting signal boxes, and thereafter thay were all painted stone & brown. The interior was brown to dado level, stone above, with the inside of the roof & the window frames in white.  Despite the above, some boxes on the Central Wales were painted green & cream in 1937!
On Electrified lines a ‘Golden Brown’ was used alone or with the cream as it stood up better to ‘electric dust’.

The LNWR used a cream or light stone with either dark or light brown as the paint scheme for all its buildings.  Window frames were painted white, with the cream or stone used on planking & canopies & the brown on metalwork, timber framing & doors.
Poster boards were painted black with a blue enamel plate fixed in the top panel, lettered with the company name in full on two lines.  Station signs were black with white lettering as were cast iron notices.

The L&Y official paint scheme for buildings has not been recorded. However, it is known that a mid brown shade was used for doors, framing, metalwork, etc, with a lighter shade referred to as a ‘tan’ or a light buff for planking etc. Window frames were painted white.
It has been suggested that canopy valencing may have been painted alternately in buff & white, but this seems most unlikely in an area so prone to be affected by smoke from locomotives. If valencing was striped the buff & brown would seem a liklier combination. After World war one the whole of the valencing was painted in the buff.
Poster boards and station signs were black with white lettering & beading.

It is thought that the Furness used a pale cream and a red called Madder Lake.  The Madder Lake was quite translucent, and as the company used a red oxide based undercoat this tended to show through as the Madder Laker aged giving a brownish tint to the red.
The cream was used for the underside of canopies, areas of planking and for signal box window frames, but the red was used for much else, including possibly station window frames.
Poster boards were presumably painted in the Madder Lake, with either cream or white lettering, or possibly in black with white lettering.
A 1962 article on Lakeside station by W. Hardin Osborne refers to light buff & dark red paintwork on the wooden parts, but this probably refers to LMS or even BR colours.

The Midland used an attractive colour scheme of a very pale cream colour for planking, awnings etc, with a dark brown for framing, metalwork & such like. This was enhanced by the use of a deep red for all doors, no doubt the same colour as they used on loco’s & coaches.
Poster boards were black with white lettering spelling’ MIDLAND’.  Station signs & cast iron notices were deep blue with white lettering.
Midland signal boxes were painted a bright chrome yellow when new to make them easy for drivers to see, but this faded to a buff colour; the framing on the box was painted brown and the nameboard was white on blue.
The well known diagonal station fencing was always creosoted, never painted cream as you see on some model layouts.

The LMR was given an appropriate dark red to go with the BR cream, pretty much like many LMS stations were already wearing, though the BR cream was a brighter shade than the LMS colour. The official 1960 BR painting specifcation gave the colours as BS381 ‘Gulf Red’ and BS381C ‘Light Biscuit’.
The paint looked very matt in finish, and the red soon became dirty and faded.
Poster boards were painted red, with white lettering, as were station signs & notices.

In the pre group period, when a building was painted the painter had a bucket, some white lead mixed with linseed oil & turpentine & some pigment, which he added to the white on site before he began work. Naturally, he didn’t always get the mix exactly the same, so colours varied; shades of buff were common, as were creams which used less pigment with the white. These were often set off by shades of brown; these were the cheapest and longest lasting colours so the railway companies, always watching the pennies, used them widely.  Darker colours used red lead as a base, which was just as toxic to the poor painter. The colours dried matt, and altered hue in the rain as well as fading with age and becoming dirty.
It is important to remember that in Victorian days the number of pigments available was quite limited, and those available at a reasonable price were even more limited, so it is not surprising that some early station colour schemes look rather drab to modern eyes. Reds in particular were translucent and the colour of the undercoat had an important influence on the top colour.
In fact, the Victorian paint served its purpose very well; it was hard wearing, colour fast and unlike modern oil based paints did not tend to crack & peel away from the surface underneath. Unfortunately, because of the lead, it was also very poisonous.
In the 1920’s, coinciding with the grouping period, ready mixed paints in brighter shades were becoming more readily available at an affordable price, allowing the Southern, for instance, to use a bright chrome green on stations, though these paints were still lead based.
In 1924, a cwt. of red lead cost £2.16.9, Light Stone £2.18.0, Light Brown Oxide undercoat £2.5.0 , Dark Brown Oxide undercoat £2.5.0,  White £3.0.0 , Light Brown paint £2.8.0, Dark Brown £2.8.0,  Black £2.10.0, and Royal Red was £6.0.0. These were the colours used by the LNER; the Royal Red was for signal arms & the targets on level crossing gates. Whether these prices are for ready mixed paints or for pigments to be mixed with red or white lead is not recorded, but being sold by weight it sounds like pigment in powder form.

Dream Of Steam

This is an account of a historic weekend in which Preston played a leading role.

Saturday August 3 1968
On this evening the very last two regular B.R. standard-gauge steam-hauled passenger service trains departed within minutes of each other from adjacent platforms on Preston station.
Officially, no plans had been made to mark the closure of Lostock Hall Motive Power Depot after its 66 years of life and the shed’s Ernie Heyes, was the driver of “Black Five” No 45318 which hauled the very last one of all, wasn’t aware he had been selected for the honour until the very last minute.
All week Ernie had been working diesels on the Settle-Carlisle line and on this Saturday night, the Liverpool passenger train should also have been hauled by a diesel… that is, until some strings appear to have been pulled at a very local level.
On the platform at Preston that evening was a seething mass of humanity keenly awaiting the arrival of the 5.05pm from London Euston, the rear coaches of which would form the 20.50 to Blackpool South – the penultimate train. More or less to time, the train glided quietly into Platform 5 behind a nondescript diesel.
Two bearded gentlemen, clad in top-hats and tail-coats, then proceeded to carry at shoulder height a mock coffin, draped with slogans on the impending demise of steam, and marched in a suitably dignified manner the full length of the platform. This gesture was visibly appreciated by most of those present, but received some strange looks from those less well-informed souls already on the train!
As soon as the diesel and its now-shortened train were on their way north towards Carlisle, Lostock Hall Driver Bob Barker slowly reversed his “Black Five” No 45212 up to the leading coach of the Blackpool-bound portion whilst fireman Ray Duckworth leapt down to couple-up. With its seven coaches now packed to the seams, Bob pulled confidently away from the platforms – the last of a great pageant of steam locomotives that had carried millions to the Fylde Coast down the years.
An even larger crowd had assembled for the 21.25 to Liverpool Exchange. Word had certainly got around, with a huge contingent of supporters having travelled to Preston from all parts. Black Five No 45318, which had been waiting patiently for its own share in the evening’s limelight, took up its position about the middle of Platform 6. With tripods and flashguns in profusion, an inevitable “gallery” quickly formed across the platform. At this point, a member of the station staff, along with another well-heeled gentleman, came striding purposefully towards the crowd, shouting in an authoritative voice, “Make way for the press!”
A well-known Prestonian steam photographer was then heard to exclaim, in no uncertain terms, “Oh b***** the Press!”
To a man, everyone stood firm and the local newspaper cameraman, despite whatever credentials he might have possessed, was forced to take his chance with the rest of the throng. As soon as fireman Tony Smith scrambled up from behind the tender onto the ballast, carriages brought by the 17.25 from Glasgow Central having been coupled up, the “right away” was given and 45318 eased out from under the lofty station roof against a battery of flash guns.
As if in defiance of its impending doom, the loco’s exhaust roared for all to hear as the train crossed the River Ribble and climbed steadily up the gradient towards Farington Curve Junction. Once the junction had been cleared, the train gathered momentum and, with Ernie apparently endeavouring to give his passengers something to remember, dashed across the arable flat landscape of West Lancashire, the little stations at Croston, Rufford, Burscough and Ormskirk flashing by in a blur.
A member of the stopwatch fraternity claimed 80mph at one point. Speed was certainly 78 through Maghull and previously 61 through Ormskirk. All too soon the train was threading its way through the built-up suburbs of Liverpool, past Aintree, where the outline of the closed engine shed loomed in the gathering dusk as a reminder of happier times.
A few minutes later, 45318 triumphantly edged its way slowly towards the buffer-stops of Liverpool Exchange station. The journey had taken 33 minutes and 48 seconds.

Sunday August 4 1968
All the glory on such an auspicious final day, centred on the various ‘Farewell to Steam’ specials.
Other than a couple of locomotives engaged on shunting duties in local sidings, these enthusiasts’ specials were the only trains running. Indeed, there had probably never before been such a concentration of specials in a single area… six of them in Lancashire at the same time.
Footplate crews arriving for work at Lostock Hall sheds early that morning found the place already a hive of activity. But official railway personnel were outnumbered both by enthusiasts and other members of the public wanting to witness the passing of an era.
Overnight, a record 13 engines had been groomed by clandestine amateur cleaners and, come the sunrise, the final curtain-call for steam stood in the yard in all its majesty, reflecting the early morning sunlight.
In ones and twos, throughout that morning, the last men and machines gradually left for their allocated rendezvous points, leaving a shed yard eerily empty and silent. Even the enthusiasts had now deserted their Mecca.
To say that things did not go well would be a gross understatement. For a variety of reasons, including the inevitable weekend engineering works, most of the special trains failed to keep to their booked timings. British Railways could not offer the weather as an excuse, as it had been fine and sunny all day long and at least the thousands of photographers lining various routes enjoyed their day, as conditions had been ideal.
With the onset of evening, very few observers other than diehard locals remained to witness the bitter end. At Lostock Hall, it took until around 4am on the Monday morning for the final special – the “Ayrshire Yeomanry” – to get back to Lostock Hall. Driver Andy Hall returned to a totally deserted engine shed. There was not another soul to be seen, so Andy’s claim to have been the very last steam footplateman on British Railways (special events the following weekend, aside) appears to be justified.
Walking with his fireman in the eerie half-light, Andy went to sign off duty, only to discover that the foreman’s office had been ransacked, presumably by souvenir hunters. Even the two shed telephones had been ripped off the wall. The bodies of the dearly departed were not yet cold, but the vultures were already striking.

The Port Of Preston

The new dock at Preston was opened in 1892. There had been discussion from the beginning of the century about expanding the quays that lay along the River Ribble. The work would include diverting the river away from Strand Road and digging a main dock and an outer basin. Also the river is tidal only for a few miles beyond Preston, so it would fluctuate greatly in depth and require constant dredging. Tides at Lytham vary from 20 to 30 feet and Preston is some 9 miles upstream so at high tide there is deep water and dredging can enable fairly large ships reach Preston. People spoke of the ships that appear to be crossing fields as they pass Freckleton Marsh.

The main dock was called the Albert Edward Dock after Queen Victoria’s husband. It was one of the largest single docks in the country, and still is. When visiting such places as Albert Dock in Liverpool it makes Preston look massive as a single dock.

When the electricity power station was built on the other side of the river a coal conveyor belt was built from the dock over the river to the power station. Also a pipe was laid under the river to enable the dock to be used as a cooling source. Every now and then steam would rise from the dock water at the south east corner.

Other features were the railway line that went under the town from the main station to the dock and then by level crossing over Strand Road. This line is still there now re-opened for tar trains to the tar works and of course the Ribble Steam Railway.

The dock was always a financial problem for the town as it never made money in its own right although as a greater entity it brought jobs and outside money into the area. In particular the many public houses near the port.

The port competed with Liverpool for trade mainly to Ireland. Nearby there were also Lancaster and Fleetwood ports at various times. There was also fruit from the West Indies and woodpulp and timber from Scandinavia and Russia. A small Fina oil depot was at the port and oil was imported. In later years Preston experimented with Roll-on and Roll-off traffic and was a pioneer in that field. However it brought in other difficulties such as labour disputes about how much manning was needed. A large crane was bought for container traffic and was never efficiently utilised. Before that time dockers had been treated as casual workers and had recently earned the right to guaranteed work, coupled with the general explosion in worker power, managements incapability to deal with this new phenomenon, high levels of inflation and a lack of industrial stability became a national feature. The building of the motorways enabled traffic from Scandinavia and Europe to dock on the east coast and lorries to quickly reach the west, also there was a move to larger ships and problems with maintaining the river depth. The Port of Preston was unable to survive these events and the council pulled the plug in the early 1980’s.

After its closure many grand plans were laid including a proposal to fill the dock. A long term development plan evolved and today the dock is surrounded by modern apartments, supermarkets, multi-plex cinemas, a large gymnasium, drive in fast food outlets,offices and contains a marina. Its large expanse of water and high quays doesn’t exactly make it appear cosy. Over to the east the Pennines can be seen, to the west the flatness of the Fylde creates a big sky. A dual carriageway enables easy access west towards Lytham and Blackpool and a southerly by-pass enables faster access south to the M6, M61 and M65 without travelling through Preston.

Although never a major port, Preston pioneered roll on roll off ferry transport. Albert Edward Dock opened in 1892 – at that time it was the largest single dock in the country. In 1948 the dock was the first to introduce roll on roll off traffic. By the 1960s the port held the record for the handling the largest amount of container and ferry traffic. Traffic reached a peak in 1968, when 500 dockers were employed and 1,437,000 tons of unit load trade passed through the port (16% of the UK total).

Cotton and wood pulp were the most important cargoes landed here. As the size of ships increased, fewer could use the dock. At the same time, the import of traditional cargoes decreased, and the cost of dredging silt from the channel increased. The early post-war advantage of being the pioneer in roll on roll off operations was lost to competing ports which could offer faster turn round time. In the 90 year history of the port, it only made a profit in 17 years.