Railways At War

Over 70 Years Since War Was Declared But What Part Did Our Railways Play?

By far the largest part of the burden of war production fell on the railways.
The materials to build the new war factories, the raw materials to make the munitions of war, the men and women who fashion them as well as the finished products, had all to be carried on the railways.
Loads ranging from the heaviest naval guns and tanks to the lightest rifles and pieces of equipment rolled along the railways. Aircraft, petrol and fuels; ammunition, bombs, mines, shells and foodstuffs, the list is endless.
Heavy consignments were continually being carried to British shipyards, helping them to achieve new records in building and repairing merchantmen and warships.
Vast tonnages of high explosives were handled through the railways’ freight services, thousands upon thousands of tons of dangerous goods were safely conveyed.
In addition to railway equipment sent abroad at the beginning of the war, one hundred and forty-three powerful British railway freight locomotives, specially equipped for service overseas, with tenders and the necessary spare parts were despatched. 1,600 steel-framed 12-ton wagons were built and sent overseas in double-quick time. By working day and night shifts, the 1,800 parts required to complete each wagon were fitted together at the railway assembling works so that a new wagon was turned out every 37 minutes!

Railways assisted in the construction of the new factories. Bricks and building supplies were conveyed as fast as they could be absorbed. Sidings were laid into fields, signal boxes built, new factory stations erected and services arranged both inside and outside the factory areas. Some of the factories were served by main lines, others, some miles from the nearest towns, were linked by specially built spur lines. The breaking-up of industry into dispersed units for strategic reasons meant that instead of carrying materials, goods, and workers in bulk into large centres, the railways had to cater for smaller consignments to many additional destinations. Often the raw materials required by the factories were heavy while the products are light. This meant that the wagons which bring the raw materials to the factories were not suitable to distribute the finished product, so that the demand on transport was a double one.
Seven thousand additional trains were run every week to convey workers to and from Government factories. At one factory alone nearly a quarter of a million train journeys were made by workers in over 400 trains every week. At another factory 200,000 people travelled by over 350 trains.
Millions of people also worked at privately-owned factories on war work. These were carried by the railways’ ordinary train services, augmented as necessary. During 1942, 400 million passenger journeys were made by the holders of Workmen’s Tickets.

Amongst the heaviest freight trains were “block” coal trains worked by the L.M.S. from Midland collieries to the South. These were hauled by Garratt locomotives with 86 13-ton wagons which, together with the brake van, exceed 1,400 tons. Iron ore trains weighing as much as 1,700 tons were hauled by two L.N.E.R. locomotives of medium size. G.W.R. locomotives of the 2-8-0 type also hauled heavy loads such as 49 20-ton wagons of coal between Swindon and London, the gross weights including the brake van being 1,490 tons.
Locomotives of the British railways attained huge mileages, 100,000 miles being frequently run between general repairs. On the G.W.R. freight engines recorded 1,500 miles between Mondays and Fridays, and L.M.S. diesel locomotives work 144 hours continuously every week. Express passenger locomotives which prior to the war worked exclusively on passenger trains were being used for the haulage of war goods trains. The stock of locomotives became more of a standard design and engines were being used over much wider areas, resulting in a much smaller variety of spare parts, less time required for fitting them, and less manufacture. Strenuous efforts were made to speed up repairs to railway locomotives and to keep as many in traffic as long as possible without overhaul.

Spread throughout Britain there were 544,715 railwaymen and 105,703 railway women. They were without 102,984 of their colleagues released to join H.M. Forces; 90,000 trained as Home Guards and 170,000 fully trained in Civil Defence. The Railways were among the first to form their own L.D.V. (Home Guard) units; hundreds of thousands of railwaymen volunteered.
Amongst the units of the Army almost exclusively manned by trained personnel drawn from the railways were the Docks Groups, Movement Control units, and Railway Construction Companies of the Royal Engineers.
Before the war the railways employed 26,000 women, mainly in the clerical grades, as shorthand typists, machine telegraph and telephone operators, and in smaller numbers as carriage cleaners, waiting-room attendants, cooks and mess-room attendants, crossing keepers and office cleaners.
Since the outbreak of the war women were trained and employed in many other trades as men were released to the Forces. Their employment was under a national scheme, and, by agreement with the trade unions, women employed on manual work formerly done by a man were, after an agreed period, paid the standard rate of the man replaced.
At passenger and goods stations women handled parcels and merchandise. They checked and weighed goods and acted as porters, signalmen and lampmen and “man” the horses and delivery vans and acted as stablemen. Women also did the work of booing and enquiry clerks and announce, by loud speaker, the arrival and departure of trains and other notices to passengers. Women also acted as ticket collectors and cleaners on the London tubes.
In the engine sheds and docks the work is usually heavy. Women were employed as loaders and porters and on engines as oilers, greasers and firelighters. They assisted in the maintenance of the permanent way, and in the workshops they did useful work in most trades and were able to undertake skilled work as core-makers, coppersmiths, concrete mixers, turners, welders, etc.

The British railway woman adapted herself quickly to new surroundings and work which was very different from her pre-war occupation, and she took her share of night work. In many cases her husband was in the Forces, and she showed a marked devotion to duty, sometimes in difficult circumstances during and after enemy air activity. She did her turn of duty and went home to the cares of a house and children. She made a vitally important contribution to the war effort.
The zoning of supplies, district by district, to make each area of the country as self-supporting as possible, meant the re-arrangement of hundreds of freight services. The increase of home-grown foodstuffs, with millions of acres of land under cultivation, resulted in increasing demands for railway transport. Fertilisers, seed potatoes, sugar beet, tractors and farming equipment, as well as land workers, were catered for, frequently by special trains.
Meanwhile, owing to the shortage of cups and glasses for refreshments at stations, amounting to 5,000,000 cups, passengers were advised to carry their own drinking utensils!!!

Compiled By Chris Mills with extracts from ‘Facts About British Railways In Wartime’ : British Railways Press Office, 1943

Steam Spotting Memories

There are now so many preserved railways  and rebuilt and lovingly restored locomotives that for an enthusiast  they are always  within fairly easy access. Not quite so easily reached down Nostalgia Lane are the memories of  locations and  experiences from days when Diesel  and Electric engines were still in the future. Those times of  first long trousers, bikes  and summer holidays when it never rained.
My first recall of  an interest in Railway  is of in about 1955/56 being given a friend’s cast-off  Ian Allen Spotters Book when I was aged about  14 years old. At the same time I was introduced to the ‘Glass Bridge’ which provided entry to the South end of Preston Station. From West Cliff a short track led down to a large, stone mullioned out-door room that overlooked the Railway. As we approached we could go left through a Wicket Gate, onto the Railway Embankment. The opposite direction was through a wood and glass built enclosed bridge, over lines 6 & 7, to stairs which led to the end of  No.6 Platform (Now No.4). A Ticket Collector, in his little wooden Office, guarded the entry at Platform level. From these vantage points we had perfect views of all traffic that passed. The area was always well attended  and someone always knew what was on the 5  o’ clock , or if an unusual Loco. Was in the area. Standing on the bridge we looked down the chimneys of all the large passenger expresses awaiting the ‘Clear Away’ to the South. On occasions when the short stop caused the Safety Valve to lift the noise was deafening. I can still smell the steam and smoke!
We were free from school on Wednesday afternoons and could usually be found on the embankment at Skew Bridge where we had an unrestricted view of a mile of straight track to the bridge over the River Ribble and Preston Station beyond.
Traffic was controlled by a fine Gantry of Semaphore Signals across virtually the whole pathway with the ‘Up Fast and Slow’ in the opposite direction. Signals then were positive, unlike today, and caused immediate interest as they were raised or lowered ,to indicate an imminent train. We could see the Southport line  passing under the main line, and glimpses of the East Lancs through the trees. Locos leaving Preston presented a fine sight as they powered over the upgrade, and those headed North freewheeled the approach to Preston. The Oak bushes which once were so much part of the scene, are now well grown and almost completely obscure the views.

As Train Spotting was part of our young lives, so our ‘bikes’ were basic to our spotting. We relied on them, and only by them, could we travel to the locations we loved. On Sunday Mornings Preston Shed -10B- was a must. As far as I can remember we were never refused entry, but then  I don’t remember ever asking.
This was our Patch – a Patch that is long gone. What I still think of as the ‘New Power Box’ has stood in it’s place for at least 20 years. Entry to Lostock Hall Shed (24C) was easy and we visited often. It was usually filled with Austerity 2-10-0s – large, powerful freight engines which strangely, we saw little of in our day to day spotting. Wigan Springs and Lower Darwen were more of a challenge but distance meant little to us in those far-off days. A visit to Horwich Works was special, with permits in advance and the journey by train to Blackrod Station so much a part of it. We were always amazed to see different parts of the same Loco scattered throughout the departments.
A favourite place on Saturday afternoons during Autumn was Farrington. Here, the line from Blackburn and East Lancs crosses above the Main Line heading West before a sharp right turn to drop down to join the Main Line North into Preston. We were here to see visitors from the LNER that ran excursions from Yorkshire and the Northeast  to Blackpool illuminations. They were always in the charge of a B 1 or ‘Antelope Class ‘which could handle all but the heaviest passenger trains, and were hailed with delight by us. Ourebi, Topi, Wildebeeste, Hartebeeste and the exception ‘William Henton Carver ‘were regulars. The first of that Class, No. 61000 – Springbok  crossed the Pennines often. They would appear without prior warning, steaming slowly and silently, crossing the bridge to the downward curve to Preston.
Soon, work and other pursuits pushed my interest in Railway into the background. I didn’t even notice that Steam was being replaced. It was to be some 20 years  later that on passing The Railway Station I suggested that my young son may like to see the trains. We left that day each carrying new Ian Allen’s – but that’s another story.
(Gerry Wareing)

The Preston Train Crash 

Some of you might be a bit worried about the title of this piece. Did you miss something in the news? The answer is no as the accident in question happened over a 100 years ago, the 15th August 1896 to be precise.  It involved the 8pm express from London Euston to Scotland which derailed as it passed through Preston Station in the middle of the night. Fortunately it was lightly loaded and only one of it’s 16 passengers was killed. However the circumstances of the crash would, some historians claim have an effect on rail travel that would last almost 40 years.

As most of you will know the West Coast Main Line through Preston was operated at the time by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) the self styled “premier line” of British railways and in purely financial terms the largest railway company in the country. The route was permanently in competition with the East Coast Main Line for the lucrative traffic from London to Scotland and in 1888 there had been the first of what history would call the “race to the north”. Over a period of weeks the two routes had slashed journey times in the race to get trains to Aberdeen first. Ultimately the East Coast was declared the victor. Seven years later in 1895 the races would resume with again locomotives and their crews pressed to the limits. This time there was a reverse of fortune and it was the LNWR and it’s Scottish counterpart the Caledonian Railway which prevailed. One of the stars of that event the locomotive “Hardwicke” survives in the National Railway Museum.

The effect of the 1895 race was that overall train speeds of some express services had increased markedly to bring down journey times. The express train subject of this article was expected to maintain an average speed of 60mph for 105 miles of it’s journey. This obviously required enormous skill from the loco drivers not just because of the rapid change from previous practice but particularly at night bearing in mind how poor lighting of landmarks was compared to today (including of signals) and of course engines had no speedometers or any kind of on board warning system. Most importantly it required good judgement on sections of line with tight bends and points.

On the night in question the 8pm “Down Highland Express” was running with two locomotives called “Shark” and “Vulcan” well capable of pulling the 200 ton load. The railway companies had in fact that June already negotiated a minimum journey time for the Anglo-Scottish trains to reduce the possibility of excessive speeds. However that only applied to daytime services not those which ran overnight. As it happened neither driver on the 15th August 1896 had driven this particular express before and in addition neither had ever driven a train non-stop through Preston Station. At Preston due to a sharp curve at the north end of the station by the goods yard there was a speed restriction of just 10mph which applied to all trains. The accident investigator Colonel York determined that in fact on the night in question the “Highland Express” was travelling around 40-45mph through the station with the result that when it hit the speed restricted curve instead of going round it the train effectively carried on in a straight line ploughing through the goods yard coming to rest just short of a bridge wall. Perhaps surprisingly both locomotives stayed upright but the coaches were scattered across the mangled tracks and one of their occupants was fatally injured. For anyone interested there are photographs of the results on the internet.

Colonel York conducted his investigation for the Board of Trade and concluded as follows:
“The cause of the accident is clear. A reverse curve without any intervening tangent, without a check rail, with superelevation suitable only for very low speeds, and badly distributed and with a radius at one point of only seven chains; a train drawn by two engines each having a rigid wheelbase of 15ft 8in; and lastly a speed of 40mph or more form a combination of circumstances which were almost certain to lead to disaster”.

The crash immediately attracted the attention of politicians and Mr Herbert Roberts the MP for Denbighshire West raised it in Parliament.
“ I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the serious accident which occurred to what is known as the London and North Western “Racer” at Preston, at midnight on Sunday night on it’s journey from Euston to Aberdeen, a train which held the record this year for travelling 105 miles in 105 minutes; and whether , in view of the great risks to the travelling public connected with this practice of rival railway companies racing to Scotland, the Board of Trade will make strong representations to the said companies on the subject?”
The President of the Board of Trade was the minister responsible for safety on the railways at the time and replied “I have received a return of the accident referred to and have directed an inspecting officer of the Department to hold an inquiry. Until I receive the report of his inquiry I am unable to say what representation if any I shall make to the railway company”.
That didn’t satisfy another MP Sir Wilfred Lawson who then asked “Whether there had been a single accident due to the high speed of those trains”. The President replied “I cannot answer that question without notice, but I am not prepared to admit that high speed means danger”

There was to be no ban by the Government on high speed trains (hardly a surprise) However the result of the crash was arguably that train speeds for the rival Anglo-Scottish expresses would remain lower for many years than experience had shown was possible and there would be no repeat until the late 1930’s of anything remotely like the races of 1888/95. Journey times of 8 hours or more from London to Scotland would now remain the norm until 1932. Although the results of the Preston crash in terms of lives lost had not been that great no doubt some in management and, based on the above in government feared what the consequences could have been at Preston had it involved a heavily loaded train. 10 years later the nation would find out when over a period of months overnight express trains derailed at speed at Salisbury, Grantham and Shrewsbury with a combined loss of more than 60 lives, none of those accidents ever being fully explained. A decade on and the intervention of the First World War meant the railways would anyway suffer from a period of neglect and shortage of investment. Nevertheless despite newer much bigger and more powerful locomotives being built from the 1890’s onwards it was not until the 1930’s in the face of competition from cars, coaches and even planes combined with an international financial crisis that the successors to the LNWR and their rivals would engage again in pushing high speed running to the limits both to gain publicity for their crack services and rake in badly needed revenue.

(Mike Bailey)

‘The Duchess’ On Preston Dock

This locomotive entered service during July 1932 and was fitted with the same equipment that went into the three heavyweight railcars – a 250hp 6LV22 engine & GEC electrical equipment, the locomotive did not immediately have a buyer, and spent much of 1932-1933 working several LNER goods yards in the Newcastle area. Initial service was in the Forth marshalling yard, spending most of its time there apart from a short stint at Blaydon. Loads at the Forth Yard were up to forty wagons totalling 600 tons, whilst the Blaydon Yard with its gradients permitted a maximum load of 750 tons. After a month at Blaydon it moved to Heaton Yard. Here it was challenged by taking 800 ton loads up the 1 in 150 Benton Bank. Fuel consumption with this type of working was about 2.5 gallons per hour. This locomotive also spent a brief period under trial on the Southern Region. This machine would soon be bought by the Preston Corporation for use in the Ribble Docks. Its works number was D8, it later gained the name ‘Duchess’ and was still in operation during 1960, and was noted withdrawn as late as the winter of 1968.
A second machine similar to D8 was built during 1933, to be tested along with a number of other shunters by the LMSR authorities. This machine carried the numbers 7408 & 7058 on the LMSR and was allocated the British Railways number 13000 in the post nationalisation re-numbering scheme, although it was broken up prior to carrying this number.
Allocated Works number D20 of 1933 it was fitted with a Armstrong Sulzer 6LV22 diesel engine, powering a Laurence Scott & Electromotors generator and single traction motor. With the engine rated at 250hp @ 775rpm with a maximum tractive effort of 24,000lb and a maximum speed of 30mph, this shunting locomotive clearly had the best characteristics that the LMSR was seeking when compared to the other locomotives tested. Most significant were its electric transmission, its heavier weight and a fuel capacity that would allow a week of shunting prior to refuelling.

Preston Dock Remembered

It is early on a Tuesday afternoon in the summertime. The year is 1950. My mother is at the loom at Horrockses on Salmon Street, Dad is working at Dick Kerrs on Strand Road and I and my siblings are being looked after by Grandma Wareing at her home on Maudland Road. Through the window, across the street, I can see the Star cinema. I have checked the Weather Forecast several times. This I do by looking at St.Walburgh’s steeple. If it is grey it will rain. Today it shines gleaming white and our afternoon of adventure can begin. Down Leighton Street, collecting ice creams sold from the door of a private house, past the end of the canal and down Marsh Lane. We enter the Dock Estate at Strand Road passing old bonded warehouses and the gatehouse. Grandma’s kindly eye ensured that we were never turned away.
We usually followed the left hand path along the river catching glimpses of long dead ships being broken up at Wards. Stacked, curing timber and blackberries characterised this area. About this time the Geest operation came to Preston sited on this side of the dock, with climatised storage for bananas and other tropical fruits, brought across the Atlantic from the Caribbean in the good ships Windward Islands and Leeward Islands.
Continuing, we reached the lock gates at the seaward entrance to the dock and looked out over ‘Little Blackpool’ and the remains of a concrete ship which we were told had been used for war training. If our timing was right, and the tide was less than full, we could now cross the closed gates, over the water, by the outer basin to where coastal tankers loaded and unloaded at Petrofina. Our own Tanker Trains are a result of this earlier trade.
Down the North side of the Dock we watched as coal was lifted in Railway wagons to be tipped into chutes which loaded directly into the holds of coastal tramps. Our own dredgers and tugs lived on the Eastern wall and names like Bibby -an old dredger and John Herbert come easily to mind.
But although Liverpool seeks the credit Preston’s great claim was to be the worlds first Roll-on Roll-off port, which brought containers from Larne and Belfast to the Northwest. I well remember when the first container ferry came through the long narrow approach and entered the Albert Edward Dock. Empire Cedric, a converted wartime landing craft was the largest craft to enter up to that time. This passage became commonplace with Empire Doric, Empire Gaelic and Bardic Ferry becoming regular visitors.
But even at my tender years the highlight at the dock was to see the many shunting engines as they fussed around the yard or steamed quietly awaiting their next duty. Loco names come easily across the years. Courageous,Perseverance,Indomitable,Impregnable,Energy,Progress,Prince,Princess and Duchess. I have a vague memory also of ‘Queen’. Of course the fireless Duke has a special significance for me now after my close association with Heysham No2 at RSR.
The work of these engines either started or finished with the workings of Super D Class 49s. These, braking hard down the underground Fishergate incline on the way to the dock loaded with coal, exploded in great eruptions of smoke, steam and noise with massive tractive effort on their way back up the hill to emerge at the Southwest end of Preston Station
These afternoons ended back at Grandma’s for three tired but happy kids carrying jam jars of blackberries and already looking forwards to the next day.
Years have passed, and so much has changed, but in my mind’s eye for a short while I see it all again.
(Gerry Wareing)

BARDIC FERRY built in 1957 by Wm. Denny & Bros, Dumbarton for the Atlantic Steam Navigation. She entered service on their Transport Ferry Service route between Preston-Larne, transferring to the Tilbury-Antwerpen route between 1958-61. Bardic Ferry then reverted to Preston-Larne, with some sailings to Belfast from 1967. In 1971 ASN operations were combined with Townsend-Thoresen, and Bardic Ferry  received their orange livery. In 1974, Bardic Ferry transferred to the Cairnryan-Larne route. She was sold in 1976 to Fratelli Cosulich, Genoa, and renamed Nasim II.

Wonderful views of Preston Docks in the late 1970’s

Photos courtesy of Ted Crosby


Excursion Ships of the North West

The majority of sea excursions taken from the Lancashire and North Wales coast resorts were with the two dominant companies in the area, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co (IOMSPCo) and the Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Co (L&NWSS). The major railway companies, Furness Railway, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway and Midland Railway operated a network of ferry services across the Irish Sea, and all also operated local excursion ships. The area was also covered by a network of passenger services run by Coast Lines.

Preston Excursion Steamers
Excursion services from Preston were never very successful, although Blackpool steamers often ran from there during the annual Wakes holiday weeks. The Ribble Passenger Transport Co had two vessels named Ribble Queen based in Preston. The Ribble Queen (1) was a twin-screw steamer built in 1903, which was used between 1903-1905. The second attempt came in 1922, when the 1896-built paddle steamer Ribble Queen (2) was tried until 1925. She had previously been the Cloghmore and Greenore.

Blackpool Excursion Steamers
Blackpool had the largest number of local vessels, which used the first of its three piers, the North Pier, built in 1863. Steamers were operated from the pier from the start, initially by the pier owners, and later the North Pier Steamship Co. Vessels included the Ocean Bride of 1858, Wellington and Clifton of 1871, and the Queen of the Bay (1) and Queen of the Bay (2) of 1867 and 1871. The fleet was joined by the Belle in 1895, and the Greyhound, the finest of the Blackpool paddle steamers. She was joined by the twin-screw steamer Deerhound in 1901.Other early steamers included the Dhu Heartach (W.H.Cocker: 1875-1884) and the Bickerstaffe (1879-1928). Bickerstaffe was joined by the similar, but larger Queen of the North in 1895. Bickerstaffe and Queen of the North were owned by J.Bickerstaffe, who formed the Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co in 1894.

The Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co took over the North Pier Steamship Co fleet in 1905, giving them a monopoly in the resort. The Deerhound was sold soon afterwards, leaving the fleet as Bickerstaffe, Queen of the North, Belle and Greyhound until the start of the war. Only the Queen of the North was lost in the war, but Belle and Greyhound were sold in 1921 and 1923, leaving just the long-lived Bickerstaffe to continue until 1928, latterly under the name of H.D.Bickerstaffe (to whom the Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co passed to c.1923). Robina was chartered to the Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co in 1919, and again to the Blackpool Steam Shipping Co in 1923 and H.D.Bickerstaffe in 1924.
The IOMSPCo tried the elderly Tynwald at Blackpool in 1929, but she did not return and was laid up the following year. The L&NWSS then brought their elderly Snowdon during the illuminations in 1930. Again she did not return, and again she was withdrawn the following year.
It was was 1933 before a ship was based at Blackpool again when Blackpool Pleasure Steamers Ltd (later Blackpool Steam Navigation Co) brought the Mersey ferry Minden to the resort. They later acquired the Queen of the Bay (2) and the Atalanta, although 1937 was the only year when all three steamers were in the fleet. None of these vessels reappeared after the Second World War, but Blackpool Steam Navigation Co (1947) was formed out of the old company, and used the Fairmile launch Pendennis until 1961. Since then, Waverley and Balmoral have made occasional calls.

Morecambe Excursion Steamers
One of the earliest steamers in the area was the Helvellyn, owned by the Furness Railway. Others included the paddle steamer Morecambe Queen (1), and the Queen of the Bay (1), which moved to Blackpool. The Morecambe Steamboat Co had the twin-screw steamers Morecambe Queen (2), Sunbeam and Britannia, plus the paddle steamer Roses. The twin screw steamer Britannia operated with the Morecambe Steamboat Co between 1888-1904. She was later renamed Duke of Abercorn, and served at Dublin, Southend and with David MacBrayne. From 1908, excursions were offered from adjacent port Heysham by the Midland Railway on their tug Wyvern.

The Clyde steamer Isle of Bute ran for a short while in 1912, but was damaged against against a pier and was scrapped in 1913. Her place was taken by the Robina, which built in Ardrossan for the Morecambe Central Pier Co in 1914. She was registered for them until 1922, when she was transferred to W.A.& P.Cordingly. In 1919, Robina was chartered to the Blackpool Passenger Steamboat Co, and the following year for Bristol Channel service. This was followed by charters to the Blackpool Steam Shipping Co in 1923 and H.D.Bickerstaffe in 1924. Robina was sold in 1925.

Fleetwood Excursion Steamers
Sir Peter Hesketh, founder of Fleetwood, owned three former Clyde steamers, Cupid, Express and James Dennistoun, in the 1840s. There were brief services from Fleetwood to Scotland from 1847-1851 whilst through rail links were still being built. The fleet of the Barrow SN Co, which also ran from Fleetwood, later became part of the Midland Railway.
Fleetwood became a major port for services to Ireland, which started in 1843, and were later run by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (jointly with the LNWR). They maintained the excursion steamer Lune at Fleetwood from 1892-1913.
The Furness Railway was a relatively minor English railway company, which founded its early prosperity on the carriage of iron ore. As this traffic declined towards the end of the 19th Century, the Company sought to increase the tourist passenger traffic to the English Lake District, the area in which its trains operated. In 1900 they introduced a passenger ferry service across Morecambe Bay, between Barrow and Fleetwood. There were tram connections onwards from Fleetwood to Blackpool. This service operated successfully, using a total of four paddle steamers, until the outbreak of war in 1914. The service was not revived after the war.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Co (IOMSPCo) ran summer services to Douglas from Fleetwood, frequently using their newest and best steamers, some built for the route. The most popular excursion for visitors to Fleetwood was always a day trip to the Isle of Man.

Railways On The Fylde – The ‘Pilling Pig’

In Britain the largest amount of money spent by the public on any one hobby is on Gardening. That must be an enormous amount when you take into account the vast sums spent on restoring old steam engines around the country.
Some people take it one step further and combine their love for gardening with that of the restored steam railway. I can think of many a fine display at the stations on the SVR and if my memory serves me correctly the Railway Preservation Society use to hold a ‘Railways In Bloom’ competition.
In Lancashire alone, many villages compete with each other every year to win the prestigious ‘Best Kept Village’ Award and with this in mind I came across an unusual tale of what to do with a railway engine.
Pilling, on the Fylde coast was entering one such competition and the organiser received a call asking if she would like a large wooden model steam engine. It had previously been covered in flowers for the various parades and processions it had taken part in but needed a total revamp. It was an interesting looking train and on later research it was found to be modelled on the ‘Pilling Pig’
The model had been built by a very talented and creative local carpenter – David Hull, who works from the old Chapel Workshops in Nateby near Garstang. He built it for Nateby Primary School as part of the annual village “In Bloom” parade. At the time Garstang was bidding to re-open the old railway station on the main London-Glasgow line and as it was very much in the news at that stage.

Pilling Pig

(Photo: Alex Betteney – Industrial Railway & Locomotive Appreciation Society)

The model of the ‘Pilling Pig’ was to find a new home at the Fold House Caravan Park, which is now the fourth largest on the Fylde Coast. For the gardening enthusiast it has an ongoing commitment to regeneration of the surrounding area and has recently set aside five acres of land to establish a true conservation area and sculpture park, exhibiting local artists from the nearby colleges and universities. Fold House is no stranger to conservation, having won Dr David Bellamy Conservation Awards since 1996.

But what of the ‘Pilling Pig’?

Between the central part of the former Lancaster & Preston Junction Railway and the estuary of the River Wyre there stretches almost nine miles of fairly level terrain. In the middle of last century, the heart of this area consisted of wild un-reclaimed moss, although the farming population had begun to make some progress in paring off the upper surface and bringing the soil below into cultivation. In December 1863, the proposed “Garstang & Knot-End Railway” issued its prospectus, announcing the intention to raise £60,000 for a line of 10.5 miles.

The originators of the railway were the landowners and inhabitants of the area who had been put to some expense and inconvenience both in moving their wheat and potatoes to market and in importing materials for land improvement. These same landowners had made known their willingness to sell their land at its agricultural value and to receive the purchase money in shares. The promoters claimed that the line would afford the most direct communication between Fleetwood and Garstang, the West Riding of Yorkshire, Hull and the Newcastle coast, and could eventually become part of a transit railway between the West and East Coasts of England. Such statements, whatever their publicity value almost cost the nascent company its life. Opposition came from the Lancaster Canal and more important, from the London & North Western and the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railways, joint owners of the former Preston & Wyre Railway, which served the new town and port of Fleetwood.
The Garstang & Knot-End Railway was authorised on June 30, 1864. It must be admitted that the management of the company was not of the highest order; the negotiations with landowners were conducted slowly and in a piecemeal manner; there was a complete lack of specialised knowledge; and the suggested cost of the line proved to be wide of the mark.
In June of that year, four carriages were ordered from the Metropolitan Carriage Company, but the directors so delayed payment that that firm was obliged to charge interest and shop rent. Eventually the carriages were bought on behalf of the railway by the Garstang Rolling Stock Company, (an association of debenture holders), formed on October 12, 1870 and later dissolved on January 15, 1884.
The engineer also secured a locomotive from Black, Hawthorn & Company, a 0-4-2 saddle-tank named HEBE, but this was not the first to run over the new railway. This honour fell to the L.N.W.R. engine hired to test the line. Once again payment was delayed and the transaction appears to have been financed by a third party for in May 1871, the directors accepted an offer from the British Wagon Company which would have allowed the railway to pay for the locomotive over a period of seven years. Yet in the following month, Walter Mayhew a shareholder and engineer forwarded a cheque for the price of the engine to the Directors and concluded with them “an agreement for hire with option of purchase, of a locomotive railway engine.”

It is said that Mayhew obtained the locomotive from Wigan, but as HEBE was sold directly and delivered from the maker’s Gateshead works he must have been acting on behalf of a Wigan interest which was in fact the true owner.
While the negotiations about the terms for hiring the engine were still going on, the seven miles of line between Garstang & Catterall Junction and Pilling were opened for traffic on December 5, 1870. The two intermediate stations were Garstang Town, the headquarters of the company, and Winmarleigh (later renamed Nateby), although trains also stopped by request at Cogie Hill and Cockerham Cross.
The original timetable, published in November 1870, was arduous to say the least. Designed so that one locomotive could work all the traffic and still make convenient connections at the junction, it asked a lot of a small 0-4-2 saddle-tank. Fifteen hours work out of the twenty-four on a line including gradients of 1 in 73 and 1 in 89, along with a service which made many varying demands on the boiler was not to be taken lightly. It was hardly surprising that this ingenious arrangement did not long survive.
The official opening was carried out on Wednesday December 14, at a celebration dinner in the Royal Oak Hotel in Garstang, it was noted that only considerable sacrifice on the part of one or two of the principal directors had ensured the completion of so much of the undertaking, which had cost not £60,000 but £150,000.
Despite this the railway had been laid out with a view to economy. Sufficient land had been acquired for a “double” track but only a single line was laid. This consisted of what was probably second-hand iron rail weighing 48lb. per yd., and fastened to longitudinal sleepers. No regular stationmasters were at first appointed and the four carriages, two third class and two composites, had a central corridor so that the traffic manager could issue tickets on the train. Trains were mixed and hand and chain shunting were used. This strict economy led to some unusual, if not hazardous operating methods. Initially farm carts and other vehicles from many miles around thronged the station goods yards and the official in charge was hard put to provide wagon space for all his customers.
Gradually, it became a case of survival of the fittest and anyone, who could board a wagon while it was being shunted and still in motion, was deemed to be entitled to the right to load. Inevitably accidents occurred and the tragic death of a Pilling man – Richard Bradshaw – who lost a leg injured in shunting, put an end to this practice.
Equally unusual was the system of unloading wagons at any point along the line. These could be uncoupled from a down train and picked up on the return journey. It was not uncommon to see as many as five wagons placed at the front of the train in this way. Passengers were also allowed to board the train at any convenient point along the line, provided that they hailed the driver in a vigorous fashion.

The most serious problem facing the company arose from the fact that it had limited itself to one locomotive and the line could only be operated as long as this remained in good mechanical repair. In January 1872 the condition of HEBE gave cause for alarm. On the 26th of that month, the Secretary was requested to contact the L.N.W.R. Locomotive Superintendent at Preston, to arrange for a monthly inspection of the engine and also try and obtain a rubber hosepipe, or any other recommended type that could be used to clean out a boiler. The local plumber was even called in. Three replacement tubes for the boiler had been supplied by Black Hawthorn & Company, and the Secretary was asked to visit Fairbairn’s works in Manchester to purchase nine more.
Then it was ominously announced that a meeting was to be called to consider whether or not the line should be closed. A notice was put up at Garstang station on March 5th stating that traffic would be suspended from Monday 11th to Wednesday 13th inclusive, while the engine underwent “thorough repairs.” Only three days after the resumption of service, a young employee was concerned in a fatal accident at Garstang. At the inquest it was recorded that too much blame should not be placed on the railway company, because it was well known that it was in financial difficulties.
Consultations took place as to the possibility of obtaining another engine on hire purchase at a cost of £500 or £600; but all these frantic efforts were of no avail. On Good Friday the use of the engine ceased and to all intents and purposes the Garstang & Knot-End Railway was closed. The Secretary received six months’ notice; the track was fenced off at the junction; and instructions were issued to sell all the spare brass and iron. Occupiers of cottages along the line who were in arrears for rent found themselves faced with the threat of eviction. Soon the company itself got into arrears with the hire purchase payments, and HEBE was taken away.
Not without justification the railway had earned a bad reputation and its opponents found a good deal of satisfaction in the sorrowful state of the line. A report in the Preston Herald in May 1872, typified the attitude. Headed “New Enterprises – Garstang and Knot-End Railway Outdone”, it went on: “It is with a sense of profound emotion that we record the demise or sudden collapse of the Garstang & Knot-End Railway, or what is truly termed among select circles, the Garstang & Knot-End Railway Farce. The enterprise was hailed triumphantly when first commenced, but gradually it sickened and now, in the second year of its existence, it has ignominiously expired, and lies mouldering in the grave. The ‘engine’ has lost its vitality and is to be seen at the Garstang & Catterall Junction covered with a tarpaulin. It has however attached to it a wagon of coals, apparently enjoying the idea that on some future day it will rise from the dead and enjoy a long run of prosperity and do honour to its maker and masters. We walked over the line this week and from end to end we found it entirely deserted. The rails are rusty, the rolling stock fast decaying, the station houses very dilapidated. …The only things we failed to inspect were the finances of the company, which we may surmise very much resemble every other feature of the undertaking.”


Coal tank 0-6-2 no. 780 at Garstang Aug 1924

However this was by no means the end, for occasional use was made of the line with horses. Meanwhile at Garstang, a sympathiser known as “Bob the Barber” met the main line trains every Thursday with his horse and cart. For conveying passengers to and from Garstang market he charged 8 old pennies (about 3pence in today’s coinage), and threw in a shave for the same price.
The company sought to introduce a Bill into Parliament for the sale of the line. This contravened the standing orders of the House of Lords unless a purchaser’s name could be inserted and it was decided to promote the Bill in the name of the debenture holders. Towards the end of 1874, the appointment of a receiver on behalf of the debenture holders was authorised and the railway began to revive. A second engine, a Manning Wardle 0-4-0 saddle-tank, named UNION was purchased, and goods traffic recommenced on February 23rd 1875 with passenger traffic on April 17th 1875.
Evidently past mistakes were not to be repeated. In December of 1875, the company arranged to lease a further locomotive from the debenture holders, some of whom had by then formed themselves into the “Garstang & Knot-End Railway Engine Company”, incorporated on December 9th 1875, and dissolved three months after its final meeting of October 14th 1898. This locomotive, a 0-6-0 saddle-tank named FARMER’S FRIEND, proved to be the salvation of the line. Its piercing whistle said to resemble the noise made by a dying pig, earned it the nickname of the “Pilling Pig”, a title that has since been inherited by the daily freight trains on the branch.
Slowly the financial position began to improve and by the last decade of the nineteenth century the fortunes of the Garstang & Knot-End had undergone something of a transformation.
The accounts for June 1897, covering the previous six months, revealed that 302 first class and 19,715 third class passengers had been carried, yielding revenue of £410. On the freight side, the railway had handled 11,413 tons of merchandise and 7,807 tons of minerals, which brought in £1,150 and £379 respectively, along with £85 from a miscellaneous item listed as parcels, horses, carriages and mails. These accounts were discussed on August 21st 1897, when the chairman cheerfully announced that they had a new engine, although it had not then been put into traffic.


Blackpool engine at Preesall 1926

This was JUBILEE QUEEN, a 0-6-0 saddle-tank, built by Hudswell, Clarke & Company. The directors had approved the hire of a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 saddle-tank HOPE, the fourth to work over the line for any length of time in January 1885. This engine was never actually bought by the railway but was leased from the Garstang & Knot-End Railway Engine Company and the accounts mentioned above include a sum of £58 paid out for its use. JUBILEE QUEEN came as a replacement for HOPE and another 0-6-0 saddle-tank; NEW CENTURY was obtained from Hudswell Clarke & Company to supersede FARMER’S FRIEND in 1900.
The final addition to the company’s locomotive stock was a Manning Wardle 0-6-0 tank engine named KNOTT END, delivered early in 1908, when it still appeared that the initiative for completing the line lay with the Garstang & Knot-End Company. Despite the improved motive power position, progress was still cautious and a note accompanied the timetable to the effect that the evening train would only run through from Garstang Town to the Pilling junction if the passengers could muster 3 shillings (about 15pence in today’s coinage) in extra fares.
A reorganisation scheme was set on foot to try and free the railway from the Court of Chancery, and in 1898-9 the separate Knott End Railway Company made an attempt to complete the four and a half miles to Knott End, but ran into financial difficulties. In 1908 this company stimulated by the development of the Preesall salt mines under the United Alkali Company, managed to complete the line and bought the Garstang & Knot-End Railway Company out for £50,000. The Knott-End Railway proceeded to complete the section from Pilling to the coastline, opening it to passengers on July 30, 1908. With a determined management, new equipment and increased revenue from coal and salt, the future prosperity of the line seemed assured.
Then the inevitable competition from road transport gradually drew away the traffic so that on March 29th 1930, the L.M.S.R., which had taken over during the summer of 1923, decided to withdraw the passenger service. Further retrenchment followed in 1950 for the track between Pilling and Knott-End was removed after closure. Today the original line and the “Pilling Pig” alone survive, eking out a precarious existence in the best traditions of a fascinating little railway.


We are indebted to Fold House Caravan Park and the Pilling Pig Project for the material used in this fascination story of one of Lancashire’s forgotten railway lines.

Previously featured in Ribble Pilot Issues 12 & 13.