Preston – Visiting The City

Preston has the distinction of becoming England’s 50th city.

There are many attractions in Preston such as Harris Museum, Preston Guild, Preston Market, Town Hall, Fishergate, Avenham Park, Miller Park, Preston Minster, St Walburge, Winckley Square, Cenotaph, Museum of Lancashire, Preston Marina, River Ribble, Deepdale Stadium, Ribble Steam Railway Museum, County Hall, Corn Exchange, Guildhall and more…

A starting place for many in the city is the main line Station, which is midway on the line from London to Glasgow, up in Scotland. Much like the Scottish Capital of Edinburgh (also on the line), you pass directly underneath/next to a number of Preston landmarks as you pass through the city, starting with County Hall, which is situated across the road from the Station, on the main road in the city, called Fishergate. It is a grand Victorian Building, and was constructed sometime prior to 1894, as the new home of Lancashire County Council, which moved from the former County Town of Lancaster. The local City Council has its own home, in Preston Town Hall, which I shall come to later. The building takes up a whole block, and has immaculate detail on all sides. It ranks as one of the best buildings in Preston in terms of style and architecture, and is a good place to begin a tour of the city. One of the main roads out of Preston runs past the Station and down the left hand side of the building, and a footpath runs in front of the building, from where you can get some incredible views of another landmark, The church of St Walburge is my favourite English Church, mainly because of its 309 feet spire, which is the tallest spire on a Parish Church in England, and the tallest on a building that isn’t a Cathedral. As you can see, it too is located next to the train line and you can gaze up the tower as you pass it, ideally heading North to be as close as possible to it.
Work began on the landmark building in 1850, and four years later in 1854 it opened. 1867 saw the spire added, with only Salisbury and Norwich Cathedrals having taller ones in the whole country. Soon after in 1873 the end section shaped like a polygon was added with the towering central window standing 25 feet tall.
The spire was also the final one to be worked on by noted local steeplejack Fred Dibnah (1938 – 2004, Bolton Steeplejack and Mechanical Engineer) who actually never finished the job due to filming commitments and the ladders were left for a number of years until the job was completed by another tradesman. Inside the tower is a single bell, weighing 1.5 tonnes, the heaviest swinging bell in Lancashire. It is only rung in the Winter months as protected birds nest in the tower the rest of the year.

Preston Railway Station itself has kept its rare Victorian architecture, dating back to its extensive refurbishment in 1880, when it was rebuilt for the first time since the original station, built by the North Union Railway, was completed in 1838. The central platforms 3 and 4 form one long island, which was longer than any in London when it was built, at 1,225 ft long. Extensions were added to the building in 1903, and again in 1913, when it was at its largest with a whopping 15 platforms. Some of these have since closed, including those on the East Lancashire line. Services once ran to Southport via Tarleton and Banks, but ceased in the 1960’s due to the Beeching Cuts.

Leaving the area around County Hall and the Station, you can walk up the slight hill onto the shopping area of Fishergate, which also contains many bars, clubs and restaurants as well as the two main shopping centres, the Fishergate Centre (opened in the 1980’s) and the St George’s centre. One of the entrances to Fishergate is directly across from the Station so it is a good way to cut through to Fishergate Street. The street has recently undergone a massive period of regeneration, and it looks fantastic and modernised.
On the left is the Fishergate Baptist Church from 1858. Recently it was forced to close and is up for sale, so it could soon become a shop. There are a number of Clock Towers in the city and although it’s shut, the windows on the outside and the tower make it historically interesting and a fabulous building.
Fishergate is a one way street and is being refurbished at the moment to make it more about the pedestrians than the traffic. Bus stops located at the station end are served by most services leaving the city to other parts of Lancashire.

The St Georges Centre is further up Fishergate, and the larger of the two shopping centres. It opened in 1966, as an open-air centre but a roof was added in 1981. The side entrance brings you out onto Friargate, looking up towards the Market Square. It contains many of the cities most interesting landmarks, most notably the Harris Museum, with the tall columns marking the entrance. This is one of the best views in the City Centre, showing off Preston’s heritage.

The Harris Museum was built in 1882 to 1893 and is the largest gallery space in Lancashire. It is a fascinating collection and is open to the public for free. On the ground floor is the city library, and on the first floor are various exhibits including Egyptian, Ceramics, History of Preston and the Docks, as well as an Elk skeleton that was found underneath a modern Bungalow, and the fascinating story behind its life. At the far end of the floor was a history of Preston’s mill days with a full model of the entire warehouse collection. Moving onto the top floor is an Art and Portrait Gallery, as well as Sculptures and fine art.
On the left of the square is Sessions House, the court building. It was built between 1900 and 1903, and is still used as the courts. The Clock Tower is visible throughout the city, and on the approach into Preston, as it stands a full 179.5 feet tall. It is a beautiful building, and the square as a whole is the most impressive in Lancashire for the quality of buildings.
The other major part of the square is the Cenotaph, built in 1926 after World War I, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880 – 1960, English Architect who also worked on Liverpool Cathedral). It is dedicated to soldiers who lost their lives in both World Wars. On the outside stands a figure of “Victory” with her arms raised, with columns either side.

Moving into the Harris Museum itself, there is lots to see. The library is on the bottom floor, whilst upstairs there is an Art Gallery and a wide array of sculptures.
The view from the top floor is amazing, as the roof from each floor is completely open, and you can look down through the floors to the ground floor, and view the impressive columns. The Harris Museum really does have the feel of the type of museum you might find in a major European city, and there is plenty inside to fascinate you. I would recommend anyone that visits Preston to check out the museum.

There are a few other things of interest in the square, starting with what is thought to be the oldest shop in Preston, which is on the far side of the square facing the Harris Museum. Currently called Thomas Yates Jewellers, the building, officially known as Number 33 Market Square, was built as a house in 1638. It remained so until at least 1684 when Dr Wortton (local Surgeon) moved in, but it was eventually converted into a shop, and a new front was added in the 19th century, although the original timber structure survives intact behind it. The name of the shop, Thomas Yates, is significant as it refers to a man of the same name, also from Preston, who is famous for inventing the “Dead Beat Lever”, an important feature on Watches.
Also in the square is the Market Cross, which was restored in the 1970’s, and re-installed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1979, 800 years since Preston was granted a Charter by Henry II in 1179, establishing it as a Market Town. Behind the Cross is Crystal House, the site of Preston’s previous Town Hall, from 1866, which was destroyed by fire in 1947 (nothing to do with World War II).

Moving past the museum, the present Preston Town Hall is located behind the courts building, as is the Guild Hall where local performances and Graduations for the University of Central Lancashire are held.
The original Victorian Building was constructed between 1862 and 1866. The Clock Tower could be seen for miles around as it towered over the city, and it was even the 2nd largest clock tower in the country after Big Ben in London! Sadly, a mysterious fire in 1947 destroyed the building and the ruins were demolished, and replaced with a modern skyscraper called Crystal House. To see what the Town Hall used to look like, check out this link. Today the building is inhabited by Preston City Council, which was renamed as such in 2002 when Preston was granted city status during the Celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Preston became the 50th city in England, in the 50th year of her reign, a great honour for the former town.

Also behind Sessions House is the Bus Station, which was once the largest in the world. Recently threatened with demolition, it has now been granted Grade II listed status and cannot be torn down. It is a landmark in Preston, and many residents were glad that it has been saved and will be refurbished. Even though it is a relatively new building from only the last century it is still very popular in the city. You get a good view out over the city from the top, and can even see a few extra landmarks from the top, so check out my post here which covers a visit we made to the top.
Preston is also the last place in the UK to still celebrate a Guild, which is held every 20 years, with lots of celebrations around the city. It is a very well known event and they are attended by thousands of people. One has just gone round, back in 2012 so the next one isn’t due until 2032, so put it in your diaries!

Preston was designated a city in 2002 for Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, and because of this the parish church of St John’s on Fishergate was elevated to Minster Status, similarly to churches Sunderland and Stoke-on-Trent.
It is one of a succession of churches on the site dating back to the 1st in 1094, with a 2nd by the 16th century. That church was demolished in 1853 due to the deteriorating condition of the structure. The current church was built between 1853 and 1855, designed by Edwin Hugh Sehllard (Died 1885). The very front was added in 1856. We have never actually been inside as it always seems to be locked, and the one time we tried and it was open, there was a service on.
It stands halfway down Fishergate between the train station and the Museum of Lancashire which is housed in the original courthouse from 1825, one of the oldest buildings in the whole of Preston. It contains an array of exhibits from local history to a desk from the old courtroom upstairs where you can try on a judge outfit and see how you look. There is also an old Victorian Classroom and war exhibits from World War I.

Moving back past the Harris Museum and the St George’s Centre, you will find the grand façade of the Corn Exchange.
The Exchange is the old Public Hall, built in 1822. It was a meeting place for local tradesmen and contained an indoor market for trade. It was remodelled between 1881 and 1882 giving a fine Victorian Exterior, and a hall and a gallery were added. Portions of it were sadly demolished in 1986 to make more room for a ring road around the City Centre, new sections were added to make it a complete building again.
Outside is the Preston Martyrs Memorial, erected in 1992. In 1842 a series of riots took place here against wage cuts on local workers, and this soon escalated when the Police were called in. They are shown on the right hand side of the Memorial, aiming guns at the people on the left. They opened fire, and killed four protestors, causing outrage.

Preston is also quite famous for its parks, starting with Winckley Square, down a road off Fishergate on the way down to the river. You can see the statue of Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850, once Prime Minister of the UK, who was born in Ramsbottom near Manchester), and the rest of the square is full of trees and greenery. We even spotted a squirrel.
Next are Avenham and Miller Parks, from the 1860’s. A Japanese Rock Garden was added in the 1930’s, and there is a foutan in Millar Park, with a statue of the 14th Earl of Derby Edward Smith-Stanley (1799-1869).
Next is the River Ribble, which starts in North Yorkshire, and then runs around Preston before heading out into the Irish Sea past Blackpool. There are various bridges over the river, from the main road into Preston, a smaller arch bridge that the buses use and the footbridge from the 1960’s shown above, which is a replica of the original Tramway Bridge. The West Coast Main Line also runs through the city over another bridge further up the river.
On a hill above the River is Avenham Tower from 1847, when it was built for the Threlfall Family. On the steps leading up to it are the two Sevastapol Cannons, replicas of the original ones sent to towns and cities in the British Empire after the British Victory in the Crimean War.
There is so much to explore around here…

Preston Docks used to occupy this site and their history is actually quite interesting. In 1806 a company was set up to diver the river, as the River Ribble originally flowed through here, but was diverted by engineers and the old channel then had the docks built on it. These were opened in 1892 by Prince Albert (1864 – 1892, son of Queen Victoria). The first ship to visit the docks was run by EH Booth & Co Ltd, who eventually became Booths Grocers which are based in Preston.
When the docks opened it was the largest dock basin in the world, and later after World War II ferries sailed from Preston to Larne in Northern Ireland carrying Lorries and the concept of roll-on-roll-off traffic was introduced in Preston. Ships became much larger however and by the 1970’s the river required constant dredging to accommodate them but it wasn’t enough so the docks closed down in 1981. Now there are apartments and shops along with the Odean Cinema and a Morrison’s Supermarket and the area has been transformed into a Marina.
A link remains between the Marina and the River Ribble through a set of locks at the very end. A branch of the Lancaster Canal also terminates in the city although it isn’t connected to the docks.

Another important part of Preston is the University of Central Lancashire, The original building of the University was built around 1897 in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901). It was designed by an architect called Henry Cheers, and was named the Victoria Jubilee Technical School when it first opened around 1900. It has a beautiful red brick exterior. The building was eventually renamed the Harris Building, which it remains today, in honour of Edmund Robert Harris (1804 – 1877, local Lawyer). When he passed away he left a significant sum of money in his will too the city, part of which funded the School, as well as other buildings such as the Harris Museum, hence the name Harris appears a few times around the city.

Preston is a lovely city, and has a range of stunning architecture, old Churches, pleasant gardens, national landmarks and a prominent position in the national transport network. There are buses to local places like Blackpool and a connect for Southport from Fishergate (Number 2). It is close to four motorways, the M55 (for Blackpool), M6 (for Carlisle, Scotland and London), M61 (for Manchester) and the M65 (for Blackburn and Colne), and the train station can get you to most other major places in the country direct. There is always something else to discover in the city, and the main road leading from the A59 from Liverpool/Southport takes you on the overpass into the city centre, where you get one of the best views of the city centre, complete with towers and spires.
Other attractions in the city include the Ribble Steam Railway, a heritage steam railway located down by the Docks, which moved from its previous home in Southport. The Southport version opened in 1973 when a Museum was created in an old engine shed, preserving various old engines etc. The actual rails are from the original network that served the working Docks, and it has been adapted for the Museum. It was opened to the public in 2005 and regular trains make the 1.5 mile journey from the Docks towards the main line Station.

Source via wanderersintimeandplace.

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The Fall and Rise of The Class 60

In 2017 the Class 60 locomotive had become the mainstay of haulage on the bitumen tankers in and out of Preston Dock.

The Class 60 arose from the arrival, and subsequent success, of the Class 59 locomotive. With a haulage capacity and reliability superior to the Class 31, 37 and 47 locomotives in sector service at the time, Trainload Petroleum, Metals, Construction and Coal were prompted to lobby for a new UK designed locomotive to match it. British Rail Board eventually secured the
necessary treasury funding and following a difficult procurement process, the contract was finally awarded to Brush Electrical Machines of Loughborough on May 17, 1988 for 100 locomotives.

Brush’s design incorporated many features from the Class 59’s specification, as well as their own Sepex traction control system, tested on the Class 58, to improve adhesion. The Class 60s were geared for a maximum speed of 62 mph, the power units being eight cylinder, 145 litre Blackstone 8MB275T diesel traction engines built by Mirrlees at their Stockport works, delivering a maximum power output of 3,100hp at 1000rpm.

The bodyshell, shared with the Class 92 locomotives, was of a monocoque, stressed skin construction with diagonal trusses, the external bodywork providing support for the internal components and all were built by Procor (UK) of Wakefield.
The first locomotive was handed over to Railfreight on time, in June 1989, but extensive teething problems (many involving computer software), meant that it took sixteen months before the first of the Class were accepted and nearly four years to introduce all 100 of the Class 60 locomotives to service. By the time the Class 60 fleet entered service, Trainload’s Sector businesses had given way to “shadow” privatisation and the formation, in 1994, of Loadhaul, Transrail and Mainline Freight with the Class 60 fleet split equally between them. English, Welsh and Scottish Railway bought the whole Class 60 fleet as part of British Railway’s privatisation, reallocating the entire Class 60 fleet to Toton as a cost cutting measure and to pool common parts. By 2003/4, a number of locomotives were stored as surplus to operational requirements.
In 2007 EWS became part of DB Schenker and at the end of October 2010, the entire Class 60 fleet was mothballed, with the exception of 60040 The Territorial Army Centenary and 60074 Teenage Cancer Trust. By the end of 2011, two more locomotives were returned to service, followed by an announcement that twenty one further Class 60s were to be overhauled in 2012, this being completed by the end of 2013. In June 2014, Colas Rail purchased ten locomotives and by February 2016 there were twenty four
operational locomotives.

Many of Colas Class 60’s have become regulars on the Preston Dock working of Bitumen Tankers from Lindsey Oil Refinery. One in particular is 60087.

The first Class 60 to appear in the Colas yellow and orange livery was 60087. Built at Brush Traction in December 2003 with the works no.989, locomotive 60087 was named as ‘Slioch’ to December 2003, before then being renamed ‘Barry Needham’ from May 2004, the only Class 60 to have its original name transferred to another class member (locomotive 60069). At a ceremony at Long Marston in June 2014, 60087 was renamed once more, as ‘CLIC Sargent’ – Colas celebrated their 10th Birthday in September in 2017.


Colas Class 60’s  (2017)

002, 021, 026, 047, 056, 076, 085, 087, 095, 096

 Colas Rail is a rail freight company, formerly known as Seco Rail. In January 2008, Colas merged its Seco Rail operations with its other rail subsidiary AMEC-Spie, under the new operating name of Colas Rail, and also acquired the Plant division of Carillion Rail which was included in the new group.

In 2007, it took charge of the Kronospan timber flow from Carlisle to Chirk. This was previously in the hands of AMEC-Spie and subsequently became Colas’ first regular freight contract, run by hired-in locomotives. Also in 2007, it purchased three Class 47 diesel locomotives from EWS. All three were overhauled at Eastleigh Works and in

September 2007, commenced operating railhead treatment trains in South West England for Network Rail.

In late 2008, it commenced operating steel trains from Immingham to Washwood Heath with Class 56s hired from Hanson Traction. In 2009, it commenced a further steel flow from Burton upon Trent to Dollands Moor using its own Class 47s.

In late 2009, Colas leased four Class 66s (66841–66844) that had last been used by Advenza Freight. These were joined by 66845 that had last been used by Direct Rail Services. Following their owners concluding a deal to lease all five to GB Railfreight, it purchased five (66846–66850) that had previously been used by Freightliner. This coincided with Colas entering the UK coal haulage market. In 2012, Colas purchased four Class 56s. By January 2014, it had purchased 11. In 2012, 86701 was briefly operated on a trial service on the West Coast Main Line hauling former First Great Western Motorail wagons. In May 2012, Colas purchased the

Pullman Rail rolling stock maintenance business in Cardiff.

In April 2013, Colas formed a joint venture with the Go-Ahead Group to bid for the concession to operate the Docklands Light Railway but later withdrew. In November 2013, it placed an order for 10 Class 70s. At the same time it purchased four Class 37s.

In 2014, Colas purchased 10 Class 60s from DB Schenker with an option to purchase a further 10. In 2015, it commenced operating infrastructure trains for Network Rail. To operate these a further four Class 37s were  purchased. It also owns and operates a mixed fleet of on-track plant for maintenance operations.

 

Bitumen Trains – The Story So Far

The 6M32 (loaded) and 6E32 (empty) bitumen trains between Lindsey Oil Refinery and Preston Docks always attract attention as they cross the country from coast to coast – not least because it is one of the few regular freight workings over the Copy Pit line.

Just two days before Christmas 2004, the mothballed Preston Docks branch saw the return of regular rail freight operations after a nine year absence in the form of a 10 year contract to move 110,000 tonnes of bitumen a year from Total’s Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire to Preston’s (ex-Lanfina) facility for tar production. Damage to an overbridge on the branch in 1995 initially looked like it had brought the curtain down on the 149-year-old rail service to the docks, with the bitumen tankers diverted to the Total (ex-Kelbit) site on the Haydock branch, near Ashton-in-Makerfield. Happily, 1999 saw trains head back to the redeveloped remains of the once extensive Preston Docks rail system in the form of the Ribble Steam Railway (RSR), which was formed from the ashes of the Steamport Southport group.

Significant repairs to the line followed over the next few years, including replacement of the busy level crossing on Strand Road with automatic half barriers, a new pipeline gantry over Leeward Road, and unloading equipment to connect the Total refinery after it had been severed from the railway. Four years later, in 2003, the first of two trials ran on September 29 as EWS machine No. 66084 brought a loaded set of TEAs from Lindsey. This test train was not without its problems, with the GM Type 5 struggling on the infamous 1-in-29 incline from the exchange sidings up to Preston station, resulting in Class 60s being diagrammed to power the heavy 1400 tonne trains when services restarted the following year. The load had proved difficult in BR days, with double-headed Class 31s and 37s mixing it with Class 47s in the 1980s on the heavier workings. The much more capable Class 56s took over in the early 1990s and continued after the changeover on Ashton services right up to the end of operations on the Haydock branch. A second trial took place on October 1, 2003, with No. 60012 providing the power for a set of the VTG-owned bogie bitumen tankers  between Wigan Springs Branch and Preston Docks.

Final approval to run freight trains was provided in August 2004. A series of route learning locos then visited the branch, and who could forget the   surprising visit of Ian Riley ‘Tractor’ No. 37197 with fire-damaged Corradia No.175008 to the docks for onward road movement in November 2004.    However, it was the turn of Brush heavy hauler No.60026 to kick-start Preston Docks’ rail-freight renaissance on December 23. Unfortunately, things did not go quite to plan, with malfunctioning discharge equipment resulting in the diversion of the loaded tanks to Ashton-in-Makerfield after Nos. 60088 (Mainline Freight grey) and 60091 (Trainload Coal) were sent to recover the motley collection of TEAs six days later. The return of bitumen trains to the docks had been intended to replace the services to Ashton, which was closed the following year and taken over by Hanson  Aggregates. The service from North Lincolnshire quickly settled down to a two or three times weekly operation, operating as a loaded 6M32 westbound train and a corresponding 6E32 return, the latter powering its way over the Copy Pit route during daylight hours with a photographer-friendly departure in the morning. On the Preston Docks branch, Ribble Rail, a subsidiary of the RSR, worked the loaded set of 14 TEAs in two portions over the 1.5 miles frorn the small bank of exchange sidings to the refinery (the siding can only accommodate seven wagons), having left the discharged vehicles for the Colas (previously DB Schenker and EWS) locomotive to collect. This approach ensures a fast turnaround time for the main line engine of less than an hour.

Ribble Rail often employs RSR Sentinels Enterprise or Progress on these trains, which traverse the well known dual-use road and rail swing bridge. Built in 1968, the 0-4-0 shunters are long-term residents of the northwest town, three of the locos having been purchased by the Preston Corporation for working freight on the dock system. There is a 1965-built sister, Energy, a former Manchester Ship Canal rnachine that arrived in Preston in March 2004 (assuming the identity of the third Preston Corporation Sentinel), while other   members of the extensive RSR fleet of former BR and industrial diesels have also seen use on the trains. While Class 66s showed their limitations during the trials in 2003, the enforced run-down of their Brush rivals in 2009 saw DB Schenker turn to the GM locos to cover the heavy trains as the Class 60 fleet was slashed to just a handful of working examples. The ‘Sheds’ monopolised 6E32 and 6M32 for the following couple of years, except in the autumn leaf-fall season when they were transferred to 51-ITT duties. But in 2011, the sight and sound of the eight-cylinder Mirrlees-powered machines returned to regular all-year-round bitumen train operation over the Pennines.

The next big change took place in November 2010, with a radical overhaul of the appearance of the train. Out went the ageing batch of Metro Cammell-designed CAIB/VTG 825xx and VTG 83xxx 102-tonne bitumen tankers, replaced by an impressive fleet of new ICA-G bogie wagons (UIC code Zaefns, Nos. 35 70 7790 000-29) assembled by Axiom Rail at the former Marcroft Engineering site in Stoke-on-Trent. Designed by Lloyds Register Rail with the tank barrels and underframes   manufactured by Clayton Commercials, the contract for the new tankers was signed in the summer of 2008, with delivery originally being planned from April 2009. The long delay was an embarrassment to the operator Total and the owner, VTG Rail UK. The wagon lessor had    specified an innovative design that would offer a higher level of insulation to keep the bitumen  between 160-180° more efficiently, as well as a new design of external heating coils that make cleaning the interiors a simpler and safer process. The design also called for TF25 track-friendly  bogies, a new valve system, which meant that workers no longer had to access the tops of the wagons to open the ‘manlids’, and a package of weight saving measures that would increase the payload to 74 tonnes. The wait was worthwhile, however, as the stylish black tanks – with silver strapping and yellow saddles – instantly became one of the most attractive freight trains on the network. The last revenue-earning run of the life-expired TEAs took place on November 26, 2010, as ‘Tug’ No. 60019 Pathfinder Tours worked the 6E32 empties back to the refinery at Lindsey.

The ICAs took over the following week, with both Class 60s and 66s powering the new wagons over their first month or so, with sometimes as few as seven vehicles forming a train. The usual maximum number of wagons is 14, although 15 (thus a 1500 tonne train) have been formed occasionally, testing the GM power to the limit. Currently, one of the Brush machines, usually one of Immingham’s ‘Super Tugs’, is just as likely to be in charge of the bitumen workings, which now run as often as four times weekly. However, there was a notable change from the norm on July 11, 2011, when route learner Class 59/2 No. 59205 L Keith McNair visited the Preston Docks branch with the 6M32 service some four-and-a-half-hours late after rescuing No. 66061, which had failed on the climb to Copy Pit summit.

The return service is the most favourable towards photographers. This departs the exchange sidings with the Ribble Railway in  Preston at about eight o’clock in the morning. Shots of the eastern end of the sidings are   available from the A59 Guild Way overbridge. Views along the rest of the branch are difficult, but not impossible. The first obstacle for 6E32 is the long crossing at Strand Road (A5072), which is passed after a call to Preston power box. After the steep climb to Preston station, where the RSR shunter jumps off, the bitumen empties join the West Coast Main One. The trip under the 25kV wires is short and none of the overbridges afford outstanding views. After the run to Farington Curve Junction, where the service climbs over the WCML to join the line to Blackburn at Lostock Hall Junction, there is a feast of opportunities for photographers for the remainder of 6E32’s journey east. This route was opened by the Blackburn & Preston Railway in the summer of 1846, with the line extending to Burnley in September 1848 under the auspices of the Blackburn, Burnley, Accrington & Colne Extension Railway. By this date both companies had been absorbed by the East Lancashire Railway. With plenty of overbridges along the route to Burnley there are numerous chances to catch the empties in action. 6E32 is usually recessed in the loop at Blackburn Bolton Junction for around 45 minutes, while it can also be looped at Gannow Junction in Burnley to allow Northern Rail passenger services to pass. Opened on November 12, 1849, by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (previously known as the Manchester & Leeds Railway), the Burnley to  Todmorden line over Copy Pit summit connected the L&YR with the ELR, creating a direct route from Preston through Blackburn and Accrington to the Calder Valley route via Summit Tunnel, a few miles west of Hebden Bridge. A decade later, the LYR swallowed the East Lancs, creating an      extensive empire north of Manchester that stretched from Blackpool and Liverpool in the west to Leeds, Hull and Doncaster in the east. In its heyday, Copy Pit featured six stations at Burnley Manchester Road, Townley, Holme, Portsmouth, Cornholme and Stansfield Hall, all closing, with the exception of the Burnley halt, between 1930 and 1958. While Copy Pit itself is steeply graded, with a punishing three-mile section of 1-in-65 to the 749ft summit, the Calder Valley actually features better gradients overall than the competing    London & North Western Railway Standedge route via Huddersfield. There are three tunnels, at Townley (398 yards), Holme (265 yards) and Kitsonwood (290 yards).

In the dark days of the early 1980s, Copy Pit, the northernmost branch of the Calder Valley line and one of three remaining routes across the Pennines, almost joined the Woodhead in oblivion. Local passenger services between Todmorden and Rose Grove had been        withdrawn in the mid-1960s, while regular freight traffic had almost disappeared by the end of 1982 – by which time just a Preston Deepdale Speedlink service used the line. The move of the National & Provincial Building  Society (which became part of Abbey National in 1996) from Burnley to Bradford saw a    passenger service reintroduced, and the     diversion of freight off the Settle & Carlisle route (also then slated for the axe) meant the threat of closure was lifted. Nowadays the  passenger services over Copy Pit are supported by West Yorkshire Metro east of Hebden Bridge. The eastbound DMU between York and Blackpool North stops at Burnley Manchester Road at around 52 minutes past the hour, while the corresponding return makes its halt at 35 minutes past the hour. The eastbound climb to Copy Pit is couch easier than the opposite  direction and 6E32 traverses the line at just the right time to take advantage of several classic shots, none more so than the view of Lydgate Viaduct. There are also good views available of the early-morning 6F70  cement service from Clitheroe, as well as the loaded 6M32 bitumen service in the summer months. Other freight trains do run, but the operation of most of them is subject to frequent changes and irregular service.

The train joins the Calder Valley at Hall Boyd Junction, which has several good road bridges providing excellent vantage points in both directions. This location is set to change dramatically as Network Rail is reinstating the north to west curve as part of its Northern Hub project, allowing direct Burnley to Manchester Airport services. After a booked stop in the loop at Heaton Lodge Junction (west of Mirfield), the train completes the first stage of its journey to Healey Mills, still in former L&YR territory. Both the stations at Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge are good for photography, but it is the area around Mirfield that has the most notable opportunities to record the progress of the empties. Crew changes used to take place at the now-closed Healey Mills yard, but these are now done at Wakefield Kirkgate station instead. 6E32 passes the former hump yard just after midday, with the road bridge at the east end and several bridges down the line in Horbury still enabling iconic shots of the transformation of trans-Pennine motive power and trains over the years. Taking the Knottingley line at Wakefield Kirkgate (Calder Bridge Junction) and the main line to Doncaster at Crofton West Junction, the bitumen service then joins the former Great Northern Railway at Adwick Junction to bypass Doncaster, where it meets the Great Central (ex-Manchester Sheffield & Lincs Railway) at Hatfield & Stainforth. This far east, with the clock nearing 13.30, photography of the train becomes difficult. The most popular view of 6E32 is paralleling the wide Stainforth Keadby Canal at Crowle, in North Lincolnshire. There are other locations, especially where the line turns south east, but the flat landscape and paucity of overbridges makes life difficult. East of Scunthorpe, the empties from Preston Docks are on the freight ‘racetrack’ to Immingham Dock, ticking off the popular enthusiast hotspots at Barnetby, Melton Ross and Brocklesby in quick succession before finally completing its journey to the huge Lindsey Oil Refinery just before three o’clock in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

Why did Preston port close?

It may come as a surprise to some that Preston port didn’t make it to its centenary. The port officially closed on 31 Oct 1981, just over 98 years after it opened. Perhaps it would have added insult to injury to keep a loss-making port open for another two years and close it on its hundredth birthday.

Another surprising fact: Preston’s port only made a profit for 17 years of its existence. Preston’s council bore the losses for many years due to the communication links it gave to the outside world.

The port’s story isn’t one of failure and collapse, however.

The dock was built to feed Preston’s cotton industry, establishing an important trade in materials such as wood pulp and logs. When the cotton industry declined Preston was quick look towards new ways of working.

After the Second World War, the first commercial roll-on roll-off ferries in the UK docked at Preston, and the port was one of the early adopters of the booming technology of lift-on lift-off containers. This led to the port   taking on a significant proportion of Britain’s trade with Ireland, especially due to the city’s excellent transport links. The port also had a long-established banana trade.

By the 1970s, however, other ports had begun to catch Preston up. Liverpool, Fleetwood,  Garston and Heysham expanded into the same markets as Preston. With the development of links with the common market, the UK’s eastern ports took away Preston’s trade in wood pulp and logs. Competition increased, exposing some of the inherent weaknesses of the city’s dock.

Preston’s port was tidal so was only accessible twice a day. Ships had to sail 11 miles up the Ribble along a channel which had to be regularly, and expensively, dredged. Other ports offered a quicker turnaround. Preston lost its banana trade when its main supplier began to use larger ships that couldn’t access Preston.

By the late 1970s the port was losing between £800,000 and £1 million each year. As early as 1975 reports were produced looking into what could be done to stem the losses. A phased closure was  announced in 1976 but a vigorous campaign gave the port a reprieve. The government gave a grant of £2 million to pay for a two year trial to try and  revive the port but a resulting report, 18 months later, found no solutions to the dock’s inherent  problems.

When the government refused to put up any more money, the council was faced with a stark choice: continue to subsidise the port at a cost of £1 million per year, or close it. The decision was made in  October 1979: the port would close in two years.

It was second time unlucky for the port. Another campaign was launched to try and keep it open, but this time, faced with the inevitable, enthusiasm had seeped away.

The closure of Preston port was hugely controversial at the time. 350 jobs were to be lost during a deep recession. It was difficult to see what good would come out of the port’s closure. As the Lloyd’s List newspaper for the maritime industry reported in 1979: ‘Preston council plan to develop the 190-acre site as an industrial and residential estate but the worsening economic situation has led many to view the success of this with scepticism’.

When the port closed, a significant link with the outside world ended. Preston became largely land-locked. Could you imagine if Preston closed its links to the motorway tomorrow? Imagine if Preston opened an airport. These things can transform cities.

An era ended, but as anyone who visits the docks today knows, a new one had begun.

In 1981 it looked like the history of Preston docks was over. Since then, however, the docks has been radically redeveloped – so with the end of one history, a whole new history began. Since its closure as a port, the docks has been turned into a residential, commercial and office area. The flats on the docks are one of the prime areas to live in Preston and many thriving stores are based here. The basin itself has now been turned into a marina.

Preston Past & Present.

There is an e-zine online featuring more about Preston Dock – http://bit.ly/1aiZJyf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finished With Engines – SS Tilapa

Built in 1928 by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead, The SS Tilapa was famous for carrying the first cargo of bananas (with ten million on board) to the UK after World War 2, arriving at Avonmouth on December 30th 1945. Pathe News carried the story in thousands of cinemas all over the world. Children eating the first fruits on arrival had to be shown how to peel a banana and that you did not eat the skin! (Many a Banana came out of the dock gate that day under the Dockers shirt)

The SS Tilapa was also involved in the Battle of the Atlantic being part of the convoys. She was in Convoy HX 188 and departed Halifax on May 3-1942 and arrived Liverpool on the 15th (Arnold Hague’s “The Allied Convoy System” says with 28 ships). She was the Commodore’s vessel for Convoy HX188. Commodore was Captain W E B Magee DSO. RN.

The ships left in the following order (according to the diary): At 11:05 the British freighter Tilapa went out (Flagship), followed at 11:10 by the British Catapult freighter Empire Rainbow (LUM on Hurricane), then with a few minutes between each ship these went out: Empire Moonbeam (2 bombers on deck), Gdynia, Cymbula, Cairnesk, Gallia, Ocean Valour  (2 bombers on deck), Sourabaya (whale oil     factory. Tanks and crated aircraft), Kollbjørg,  Empire Jet, Ville de Tamatave, Charles F. Meyer, Norvik, Belgian Gulf, Emma Bakke, Emile Francqui, Jamaica Planter (2 open decks [short]), British Zeal, Modavia, Beaverhill (airmen on decks),  Tai Shan, Empire Explorer, Norefjord, Ulysses, Ocean Justice, Ocean Peace, Fort Nipigon (at 1:05).

Fyffes Line was the name given to the fleet of passenger-carrying banana boats owned and operated by the UK banana importer Elders & Fyffes Limited.

With the formation of Elders & Fyffes Ltd in 1901 it was necessary to procure suitable ships on which to transport their bananas from the West Indies to the UK. Therefore, in 1902 when the Furness Line was anxious to sell three steamships each of 2,875 gross register tons (GRT), the new company raised the necessary funds to buy them. Named Appomattox, Chickahominy and Greenbriar, they were all refitted in Newcastle upon Tyne and a special cooling system installed to keep the fruit firm in the crossing. The first of these entered service later the same year as a banana boat and a fourth vessel, the Oracabessa, was also added to the fleet.

In 1904, three purpose built banana boats were ordered, each of 3,760 GRT. In 1910 the    company came under the control of the United Fruit Company but retained its identity. The new ships also carried a small number of  passengers in relative comfort, especially when compared to the Royal Mail steamers of that era. As such they have been acknowledged as   playing a significant part in bringing the first tourists to Jamaica. By the start of World War I, the Fyffes fleet had grown to 18 ships, but almost all were then requisitioned by the UK Government for war work. In the next four years ten ships were sunk by torpedoes or mines. The company recovered quickly and less than five years after the war had achieved an even stronger position than it occupied in 1914. Then major problems arose; the 1923 dock strike and the Great Depression in the United Kingdom, a series of floods and hurricanes in Jamaica and the Spanish Civil War all produced their own difficulties. By 1938 the Fyffes fleet which had numbered 36 ships in 1932 was down to 21.

By September 1939 there had been 56 ships which had flown the Fyffes flag in the previous 38 years. In the next six years of World War II, 14 ships were lost at sea. In November 1940 the UK Government imposed a total ban on the import of bananas,  having decided that the only fruit that could be imported for the duration of the war was oranges. This ban continued until 30 December 1945 when the SS Tilapa, flying the Fyffes Line flag, arrived in the UK with the first cargo of bananas to be seen for over five years.

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On the trip from Garston to Preston she beat her trial speed by two knots. At the time of this photo her   engines were stopped and never turned again. Finished with engines really did mean finished with engines !

S/S Tilapa, ended her life at T.W. Wards Ship breakers, Preston 1959.


SS TILAPA

Compiled by Chris Mills for the Ribble Steam Railway Journal, The Ribble Pilot

Super Class 60 Overhaul Programme

At the end of 2013 DB Schenker had overhauled 21 locos, realising their heaviest trains were beyond the haulage capabilities of a Class 66 on certain routes and using 40% less fuel, a good business case for overhaul could be made. 21 locos have been through the works at Toton and the drivers say they are better now then ever, far superior to a Class 66 by far. It seems another 9 locos may be selected for phase 2 of the overhaul program.
At the time of writing the following have been through the works: 60001, 7, 10, 15, 17, 19, 20, 24, 39, 40, 44, 54, 59, 62, 63, 66, 74, 79, 91, 92 and 100. The last loco to be overhauled was 60066 and emerged in a silver Biomass branding for a new traffic flow supplying Biomass to Drax power station. All have appeared on the bitumen trains apart from 60066, which sustained damage to a cab roof, in early 2014, after coming into conflict with the structure at the Liverpool bulk handling terminal and has only emerged back into service, during February this year, after being repaired at Brush works Loughborough where the class were assembled.
Early in 2014 after much speculation, a deal was struck to sell and refurbish 10 locos to Colas for their increasing freight traffic wins, with an option to buy another 10 locos after the first 10 have been completed.
To date in late January 2015 the following locos have been overhauled: 60002, 21, 76, 85 and 87. The last un-refurbished loco to visit the railway fell to 60035 on December 11th and the final DB Schenker train was brought in on 17th December 2014 by 60091.
It was announced that starting in January 2015 Colas Rail Freight had successfully bid for Total’s contract to deliver the bitumen train from Lynsey to Preston on a 5 year contract using recently purchased and overhauled Class 60 locomotives.

Colas Super Class 60’s:
After much speculation about DB Shenker putting up stored Class 60 locomotives for sale. A deal was announced in early 2014 to sell and overhaul 10 Class 60’s for Colas Rail Freight to the same standard as the 21 locos DB Shenker had refurbished as part of it’s ‘Super 60’ Project. An option to purchase a further 10 locos may be taken after the first 10 locos have been completed and more traffic wins made to employ the Class 60’s.
The locomotives were ordered in May 1988 at the cost of £120m for the 100 locos. The super structures where assembled at Procor works in Wakefield taking five weeks to assemble and pre-paint before road shipment to Brush Traction at Loughborough where final assembly took place. The engine chosen to power the locos was a fuel efficient Mirrlees Blackstone eight cylinder 145 litre 8MB275RT set to deliver 3100hp, this was a state-of-the-art inline eight cylinder engine from the same stud as the six cylinder units then operating in four refurbished class 37/9 locomotives 37901-37904. The first completed loco emerged in June 1989 but teething problems delayed many of the earlier build locos into traffic by several months and the final loco was completed in November 1992.
As the locos clocked up the hours they gradually started to be stored by EWS as the deliveries of Class 66’s was completed and during the summer months demand for Class 60’s was low however with the start of the leaf fall season the locos were brought back out of storage to cover Class 66’s being used on rail head cleaning duties and some 70 class 66s exported to work in Europe on new traffic flows taken over by EWS and then later DB Shenker.
In 2007 tests where carried out to evaluate fuel costs of class 60 verses class 66 locos and on a certain route on the same load a class 60 was found to average 6 litres of fuel a mile compared to 10 litres burnt by a class 66. So a program of overhaul was considered as many locos had clocked over 10,000 hrs and never received a general overhaul since being built. How ever a down turn in the economy put the this program on ice.
EWS found to their cost on the bitumen train on Copy Pit that on a bad rail day a class 66 was pushed to haul 12 or 13 of the old 1960’s rail tankers, and stalling or late running could only be avoided by rostering a class 60 on the job.
So the ‘Super 60’ program was announced in 2011 to overhaul a core number of locos required to handle DB Shenker’s heaviest trains and giving the locos another 15 years front line service. To date 21 locos have been refurbished and a second batch of 5 locos may be started after the present locos being overhauled for Colas have been completed by DB Shenker at Toton.

To date in March 2015 six locos have been rebuilt for Colas, 60002, 021, 076, 085, 087 and 096 The next locos due out is 095. And 60002,021,076 and 087 have been employed by Colas to deliver the bitumen train to Preston since starting the contract in January.

(compiled by Mike Mac / Ribble Rail Preston)