The ‘John Howe’ Story

JOHN HOWE was ordered by Howe’s Plaster Works in 1908 to operate between their private sidings (HOWES SIDINGS BOX) on the Settle & Carlisle near CUMWHINTON in Cumberland as it was then and their works at Cocklakes. The private branch contained quite a severe gradient up to the works of which little trace is left today. Howe’s Plaster Works became the CARLISLE PLASTER CO, (remember Carlite Plaster and Carlite Bonding?) it later became a part of British Gypsum.
In 1969 Graham Ellis was involved with a job in Kendal and also a volunteer at Steamtown and Dr Peter Beet who was the boss of Steamtown was anxious to obtain some locos that were more economical to steam than mainline locos for footplate rides that were possible in those days. Graham had heard that there were locos for sale at Cocklakes. So with Peter’s blessing he went to investigate and found a Barclay towing another dead Barclay that had come from Long Meg, another British Gypsum site on the Settle & Carlisle for which they had running rights to go back and forth between Howe’s Sidings and Long Meg. After talking to the driver, John Long, it transpired that there were locos for sale but they were all sold to another railway which had failed to produce the cash. Graham then saw the Works Manager, Mr. Sanderson and several meetings later a deal was struck and a clutch of Barclays left Cocklakes for Steamtown. None had seen much use for years and were stored in a shed covered in deep white gypsum dust. None had boiler certificates either. Included in the deal was current shedmate, J N DERBYSHIRE. This loco had a sex change and became Jane of that ilk when “she” reached Steamtown.
Work was needed to the boiler to get JOHN HOWE going and while at Carnforth the loco was vacuum fitted and new tyres obtained from Barclays in Kilmarnock. All the locos that came from Cocklakes had homes to go to in the sense that there were folk at Carnforth ready to pay for them and Graham gave John Howe to his late wife Libi on the basis if you can’t fight them then join ’em. Libi coming from North’ British country near Fort William dictated the new livery – a la North British & also Campbeltown & Machrihanish in Argyll where the family was living, not to mention Edinburgh Corporation Steamrollers.
The lum (chimney to us in Preston) lost its bell mouth early on in order to be able to access the sheds at Cocklakes. The loco never had a nameplate and the lettering reflects that shown on the official Barclay photo. The current boiler was fitted in the 1950’s. All the time the loco was at Cocklakes it was driven by members of the Long family and as far as we know John Long was the last. He subsequently visited Steamtown to have a drive.
If you look at the buffer beam you will see that there are holes below the existing buffers. These were there to take a set of secondary buffers that would match up with the wooden wagons that were used at Cocklakes and are of a type similar to those used by Victorian railway contractors.
As the opportunity to run trains at Carnforth has now ceased, a transfer to Ribble Steam Railway was arranged.
It was transported by road courtesy of Alan Atkinson Trailers Ltd on the 12 April 2006; it languished in our shed for a month whilst Boiler Insurance was sorted out. She then had her first run on the Preston Dock metals exactly one month later on 12 May. The loco is quite low-slung, and needed to be run along the full length of the line to check clearances.
A second run was made with two coaches to check her capability and she was then rostered for her first turn the next day, Saturday 13th May 2006, and has completed many more outings since then. As not fitted for carriage steam heating, she was only to be used during the summer months!

The article originally featured in
Ribble Pilot 16 / Summer 2006.

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.

Camping Coaches

Camping coaches were offered by many railway companies in the United Kingdom as accommodation for holidaymakers in rural or coastal areas. The coaches were old passenger vehicles no longer suitable for use in trains, which were converted to provide basic sleeping and living space at static locations. Many of the coaches would be removed from their stations in the winter and overhauled at the railway’s workshops ready to be returned in the spring, being placed on sidings. The local railway staff looked after the coaches as part of their duties.
The charges for the use of these coaches were designed to require groups of people to travel by train to the stations where they were situated; they were also encouraged to make use of the railway to travel around the area during their holiday.

They were first introduced by the London and North Eastern Railway in July 1933, when there was a great deal of popular enthusiasm in the urban population for hiking and camping as holiday activities. Initially ten vehicles were provided, chiefly at inland beauty spots.
The following year, two other railway companies followed suit: the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, with what it originally called “caravans”, and the Great Western Railway which called them “camp coaches”. In 1935 they were introduced on the Southern Railway and on the L.M.S. Northern Counties Committee in Northern Ireland. In the same year the L.N.E.R. introduced a touring camping coach.

As a result of World War II, the facility was not made available after the 1940 season and many of the vehicles were used as temporary accommodation for railway staff or others in connection with the war effort. The Southern Railway reintroduced coaches at some sites in 1947, but their large-scale return came under British Railways ownership in 1952. In 1960 some sites started to receive conversions from Pullman lounge cars. The sites at which larger numbers of coaches were located tended to be on the west coast including Abergele in North Wales, and, in Lancashire, Heysham (pre-war), Squires Gate in Blackpool, and Hest Bank.

The number of camping coaches offered for hire declined from the mid-1960s as other forms of holidays became more popular, the condition of the vehicles deteriorated, and the number of staffed stations at which they could be sited decreased. The last were offered to the public by the London Midland Region of British Railways in 1971, although some were retained for many years after this for railway staff to hire for their holidays at Dawlish Warren in Devon and Marazion in Cornwall.

A few heritage railways and private companies have now taken to offering camping coaches at select locations. While ideal for railway enthusiasts, they are also marketed to the general public. Current locations are –
Bere Ferrers, Devon / Blue Anchor, Somerset / Cloughton, North Yorkshire / Coalport, Shropshire / Dawlish Warren, Devon / Ebberston, Allerston, North Yorkshire / Glenfinnan, Highland / Goathland, North Yorkshire / Hayle, Cornwall / Levisham, North Yorkshire / Petworth, West Sussex / Ravenglass, Cumbria / Rogart, Highland / St Germans, Cornwall.


Locations in 1957
This list shows the locations of camping coaches in a typical year – 1957 – but the locations used did vary over time.

Eastern Region
6-berth coaches: Corton, Felixstowe Pier, Hopton, Lowestoft North, Mundesley, Oulton Broad South

North Eastern Region
4-berth coaches: Robin Hood’s Bay, Scalby
6-berth coaches: Cloughton, Bolton Abbey, Goathland, Kettleness, Ravenscar, Sandsend, Sandsend (East Row), Stainton Dale, Staithes

Scottish Region
6-Berth coaches: Aboyne, Aberdour, Aberfeldy, Aberlady, Appin, Arisaig, Benderloch, Burghead, Carnoustie, Carr Bridge, Eddleston, Elie, Fairlie High, Fortrose, Glenfinnan, Gullane, Kentallen, Kingussie, Loch Awe, Lochmaben, Lundin Links, Monifieth, Morar, Plockton, Portressie, St Combs, St Monance, Strathyre, Strome Ferry, Tyndrum Lower, West Kilbride

Southern Region
6-berth coaches: Amberley, Bere Ferrers, Combpyne, Corfe Castle, East Budleigh, Hinton Admiral, Littleham, Lyndhurst Road, Martin Mill, Newton Poppleford, Sandling for Hythe, Sway, Tipton St John, Woodbury Road, Wool, Wrafton

London Midland Region
6-berth coaches: Aber, Abergele, Bakewell, Bassenthwaite Lake, Betws-y-Coed, Squires Gate (Blackpool), Coniston, Darley Dale, Glan Conway, Grange-over-Sands, Lakeside (Windermere), Llanberis, Rhuddlan, Seascale, Silloth

Western Region
8-berth coaches: Aberayron, Aberdovey, Abererch, Arthog, Barmouth Junction, Blue Anchor, Borth, Bow Street, Buckfastleigh, Carrog, Cheddar,
Chudleigh, Congesbury, Dawlish Warren, Dolgelly, Duffryn Ardudwy, Fairbourne, Ferryside, Fowey, Gara Bridge, Kerne Bridge, Lavernock, Limpley Stoke, Llwyngwril, Loddiswell, Lustleigh, Luxulyan, Manorbier, Marazion, Penally, Perranwell, Saundersfoot, St Agnes, St Erth, Shepherds, Shiplake, Stogumber, Sully, Symonds Yat,
Talsarnau, Tintern, Wargrave, Winscombe, Yealmpton.

The Manchester “Club” Trains

A Famous Train of the LMS

Such are the modest dimensions of these islands on which we live that most of our biggest cities are within tolerably easy reach of the sea. The result is that very many commercial people took advantage of this accessibility by carrying on their business in their respective cities, but living at the seaside. This is a habit that the railway companies, not unnaturally, liked to encourage, for it meant a considerably longer journey, and therefore a proportionately higher season ticket rate, than if the same people were run merely to and from the city suburbs.

The business Mancunian had a fine stretch of coast from which to choose. His favourite seaside places of residence were Blackpool, with its outlying suburbs of Lytham and St. Anne’s, and Southport. Rhyl, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno also claim their share of this daily city-coast traffic, and even Morecambe and the lakeside resort of Windermere are not too distant. The whole of this traffic was dealt with at the two adjacent stations of Victoria, once the headquarters of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and of the Western “B” Division of the LMS system, and Exchange, the one-time property of the late London and North Western Railway. Work connected the two terminals directly together, and when finished one of the remarkable features of the joint station was a continuous platform of the enormous length of 2,196 ft. Woe betide the unfortunate seaside resident who arrived at the station at the last minute to find his coast-bound train at the opposite end of this platform from the one he expected!

Of the two stations, Victoria was considerably the larger. Its accommodation was greatly increased early in the present century, when a new terminal portion, with 10 platforms, was added on the south side for the use of the trains to and from the Oldham, Stalybridge and Bury directions. There were then 17 platforms, of which 11 were terminal, and 6 were through from one end of the station to the other. A singular feature of the working was the manner in which trains to and from the east end of Exchange Station pass through the centre of Victoria, between Nos. 11 and 12 platforms, over relief tracks not provided with platforms; the same lines were used by freight trains that require to pass through Victoria.
An ingenious part of the equipment at Victoria was the overhead luggage carrier, which ran right across the station just under the roof. It was electrically worked, and the operator, who had a precarious perch below the carrier, was able, by suitable hoisting tackle, to lower his capacious luggage basket on any platform and, when it had been filled, to lift it and whisk it away to any part of the station required, without delay and with a minimum of effort.
Exchange station was on a much smaller scale and had only five platforms. It was No. 3 at Exchange, coupled with No. 11 at Victoria, that made the 2,196 ft platform, but by means of suitable crossovers it will was able to accommodate two or three trains simultaneously. So the two stations had between them 22 platforms, and when united made one of the largest stations in the country, though from the point of view of compactness the combination could hardly bear comparison with, say, Waterloo terminus in London.
Shortly after four o’clock in the afternoon businessmen would go into Exchange Station, for the departure of the first of the “club” trains.

What was a “club” train?.
A considerable number of years ago certain Blackpool residents formed a kind of travelling club, and requested the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway authorities to
provide them with a saloon coach in which they might travel together in a comfortably “clubbable” fashion. The railway people fell in with the idea, and the “club” saloon was duly included in the formation of the chosen Manchester-bound express in the morning, and a down evening express leaving shortly after 5 p.m.
Since then on all the chief residential expresses between Manchester and Blackpool and Manchester and Southport very fine open corridor coaches had come into use, and the trains were made up thus from end to end. The club members were assured of privacy for their journey. The same idea had been taken up by residents at Llandudno and at Windermere, to both of which popular resorts club saloons were run.

The actual “club” trains were the 4.30 p.m. from Exchange to Llandudno, the 5.5 p.m. from Exchange to Windermere, and the 5.10 p.m. from Victoria to Blackpool; but the 5 p.m. from Victoria to Southport and the 4.55 and 5.2 p.m. from the same station to Blackpool also had sufficient of a “club” character to be included. The collection of coast- bound expresses leaving Victoria in this 15 minutes was indeed remarkable, and still more so was the character of the passengers, as from two-thirds to four-fifths of the coaches provided on each of these trains were first-class.
The first of these expresses to be away was the 4.30 p.m. from Exchange to the North Wales coast. At one time it was timed at a rather higher speed than it became, as only 48 minutes were allowed for the 40 miles between Manchester and Chester and 34 minutes for the 30 miles on to Rhyl, which, with a four-minute halt at Chester, meant 86 minutes from Manchester to Rhyl. Eventually, with no stop at Chester and a one-minute-halt at Prestatyn instead, the same journey needed 90 minutes. In earlier days the departure time was 4.55 p.m, but it became 25 minutes earlier, and an additional express left at 4.40 p.m. for the same direction, making calls at Warrington and Chester.
For the working of the train, which consisted of 10 up-to-date bogie vehicles, amply provided with lavatory accommodation but non-corridor, the engine attached was originally one of the handy North Western “Prince of Wales” type 4-6-0’s. Despite their moderate weight of 66 tons, apart from tender, the “Princes” had shown themselves capable of a great variety of passenger work, even up to and including fast and heavy passenger expresses, and their scope was best illustrated by the nickname “Maid-of-all-Work”. With a load of 300 tons like this, over what was throughout an easy road, the “Prince” experienced no difficulties. Three “Claughtons” had been transferred to Llandudno Junction for the purpose of working the train. At 5.52 p.m. Prestatyn was reached, having covered the 66½ miles from Exchange in 82 minutes. Over the rest of the journey stops were made at Rhyl, Abergele, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction, and by 6.43 p.m. the Llandudno “club” train is at rest in Llandudno, 87¾ miles from Manchester.
Well before this time the Blackpool and Southport “club ” trains had finished their shorter journeys. Of these the 4.55 p.m. was usually the lightest, eight corridor coaches, two of which were destined for Fleetwood, sufficing for the greater part of the year. The engine usually was to be one of the fine Horwich-built four-cylinder 4-6-0’s of “Class 8”, many of which worked on these coast services. For an engine of such power, a train of some 215 tare tons – with passengers not more than 230 tons or so – is but a featherweight, despite the difficult character of the journey. By comparison with the journey just mentioned, this one includes a number of very heavy gradients, as well as severe speed restrictions at various points.
Over the extraordinarily sinuous section of line from Manchester through Salford to the “Windsor Bridge No. 3” Junction at Pendleton speed was gained, in preparation for the stiff climb past the station bearing the singular name of “Irlams-o’-th’-Height”, up to Pendlebury. This was for two miles at 1 in 99, and would bring down the speed to about 30 or 35 m.p.h. After this there followed some sharp undulations, notably a steeply-graded dip on to the troughs at Walkden, and 2 miles of falling grades also to Atherton, at between 1 in 232 and 106; but of these, owing to constant trouble with subsidences caused by colliery workings underneath, the driver was unable to take full advantage. Then came a bad slack for the junction at Dobb’s Brow, where the train left the Liverpool line and turned northward. This first 12 miles occupied 19 minutes.
It then ran over a short spur line that carried it across to the Preston line proper, from which it diverged at Pendleton. It was presumably to ease the congestion of the latter route, which had but two tracks, that the majority of the Blackpool expresses were booked to take the much harder four-track route through Atherton. The Hilton House spur, which was tremendously steep, rising for 1½ miles at between 1 in 51 and 74, and for another three-quarter mile at 1 in 204, avoided Bolton, and brought you back to the Preston line at Blackrod, whence it ran on through Chorley to a junction with the West Coast main line at Euxton, After slackening severely here, to 25 m.p.h, a few more miles of downhill running prepare it for the even worse slowing through Preston, which was passed at 20 m.p.h. in 44 minutes from leaving Victoria, 29¾ miles distant. After the steep pull out of Preston the difficulties of the engine are at an end, as there is little in the way of grades from there on to Blackpool. After eight miles of four-track line, over which a further set of track-troughs, near Salwick, enables the engine to pick up an additional supply of water, it approached Kirkham Junction at high speed.
From here three routes are available to Blackpool, and it is interesting to note that all three were used in succession by the 4.55, 5.02 and 5.10 p.m. trains. Curving to the right, taking the northernmost, to the Talbot Road Station, on the north side of Blackpool. The 5.02 will take the central route, direct to Waterloo Road and from there into the Central Station. This is both the shortest in distance and the most recent in construction, but as it serves Blackpool only, and none of the outlying towns, its use (with the this 5.02 p.m. express) is confined to special and excursion trains. Then comes the 5.10 p.m, which follows the southernmost route into Blackpool, curving round in a great loop to reach Lytham, Ansdell and St. Anne’s on the way to Waterloo Road and Central Station.
For the 14½& miles from Preston to Poulton the 4.55 p.m. express was allowed 17 min, and its first stop, 44¼ miles from Manchester, 61 minutes after starting. Here the two through coaches for Fleetwood are detached from the rear, and with six coaches left it passed on to Bispham, where a brief stop was made, and Talbot Road, arriving at 6.6 p.m. It covered a total distance of 47¼ miles, and the comparative slowness of the running must be put down to the difficulties of the route.
Between the 4.55 and 5.2 Blackpool expresses there comes the 5 p.m. Southport express. This was a considerably heavier train, the winter formation amounting to 11 open corridor coaches, often expanded in summer to 12 or 13. This also was usually a “Class 8” 4-6-0 turn, it was reported that Train Spotters were greatly astonished to see the train go out of Victoria on one day with a Midland 4-4-0 compound in charge. Over such gradients as those between Manchester and Wigan, this 300-ton train was a tremendous load for a compound, and it makes you wonder how the engine fared on Pendlebury bank.
The Southport express followed close on the wheels of the 4.55 to Blackpool, passing Dobb’s Brow Junction five minutes later, at 5.19 p.m; but no reduction of speed was needed here, as the Southport train took the straight line on to Hindley, where it diverged from the Liverpool line to the left to get through Wigan. The passage through Wigan, which was approached by extremely sharp curves, must not be made at more than 30 m.p.h. and, with such a load as this, 27 minutes from Manchester proved to be none too great an allowance for the distance of only 16¼ miles. Rising grades follow to Gathurst, but after that all is plain sailing, and there is a fine straight stretch across the level marches of West Lancashire slightly in favour of the engine, which enables a speed of over 60 an hour to be maintained for some miles, especially if any time has been lost on the congested and difficult earlier stages of the run. St. Luke’s, 32½ miles from Manchester, is reached in 47 minutes, and the main station at Chapel Street, ¾-mile further, at 5.51 p.m.
Following the fortunes of the 5.2 and 5.10 p.m. Blackpool trains. The former had an eight-coach formation of the very latest LMS open corridor stock, and was generally hauled by a 4-4-0 Midland compound. To save clashing with the Southport train, it was taken over the right hand, or “fast” lines from Victoria to Windsor Bridge No. 3 Junction, and from there over the old main line to Preston via Bolton. This was a mile further than the Atherton route, but the gradients are much easier, the average of the rise from Pendleton to Bolton being about 1 in 200. The chief obstacle was the long and severe slowing through Bolton, to 20 m.p.h. The timing is very easy, however, 20 minutes being allowed to clear Bolton, 10¾ miles; 47 minutes to Preston, 30¾ miles; 71 minutes to the stop at Waterloo Road and 76 minutes to Blackpool Central.
The 5.10 p.m. – the real Blackpool “club” train – was another of heavy formation, being generally made up to 10 corridor cars and the club saloon, but expanding to 13 vehicles in the summer season. This is an almost invariable “Class 8” 4-6-0 turn of duty. Following the Southport express to Dobb’s Brow Junction, which was passed at 5.30 p.m, the 5.10 carries on over the very steep Hilton House spur, pursuing the same route as the 4.55 p.m. coast bound train to Blackrod, Chorley, Preston and Kirkham. Preston was passed at 5.57 p.m, Kirkham at 6.9 p.m; and the first stop was made at Lytham, 43½ miles from Victoria, at 6.17 p.m. Like all the Blackpool and Southport trains, this express had been decelerated from its earlier running times. At one period Lytham was reached in the even hour from Manchester, but the much heavier corridor rolling stock then in use, with its more limited seating accommodation in proportion to weight, was doubtless in part responsible. After making stops at Ansdell, St. Anne’s and Waterloo Road, the “club” train rolled into Blackpool Central at 6.40 p.m, exactly 90 minutes after starting, having covered a total distance of 51 miles.
There is one “club” train left to mention – the Windermere express leaving Exchange at 5.5 p.m. This express completed one of four leaving Exchange and Victoria in the 10 minutes between 4.55 and 5.5 p.m, all running to or through Preston and each one getting there by a different route. The 4.55 p.m. out of Victoria went by Atherton, as we have seen, and the 5.2 by Bolton; the 5 p.m. Glasgow express out of Exchange took the longest route – 33 miles – through Eccles,
Tyldesley and Wigan (North Western), where it was combined with the second part of the 1.30 p.m. “ Mid-day Scot” out of Euston; while the 5.5 p.m. to Windermere, in order to get in front of the Glasgow train, took the “Lancashire Union” line from Bickershaw to Standish, over a route which was one of the only two passenger trains in the day to patronise, through Whelley. Another most singular fact is that this last route involves the use of over half-a-mile of London and North Eastern metals, between Strangeways East and Amberswood East junctions. How many travellers of the time knew that it was possible to travel over the LNER on the way from Manchester to Windermere…
The Windermere train provided a very easy locomotive working. It was usually entrusted to a Midland compound, but occasionally to a 4-6-0 “Prince”. Four non-corridor coaches made up the formation, with the “club” saloon on the rear. The route followed was slack-infested and very heavily graded throughout to Preston, the worst pitch being at 1 in 67 up near Whelley. The 32½ miles to Preston required an allowance of 55 minutes, the Windermere train arriving just two minutes after the 5.10 p.m. Blackpool “club” train had passed through. At Preston, through Liverpool coaches were added, and after a halt of five minutes, a level run followrd over the 21 miles to Lancaster, allowed 26 minutes. A brief sight of the sea was obtained at Hest Bank, and then the Windermere “club” train carried on through the important junctions of Carnforth and Oxenholme without stopping, making Kendal, 21¼ miles from Lancaster, half-an-hour later. It was just 2¼ hours after leaving Manchester Exchange that the train puts in an appearance at Windermere, having travelled 83 miles. In the opposite direction it made a faster trip, cutting off the odd quarter, and completing its journey from Windermere to Manchester in two hours.

One point that cannot fail to be noted in connection with the trains whose working is described in this article is the amazing complexity of the London, Midland and Scottish system in Lancashire. We have just seen how four expresses left two adjacent Manchester stations for Preston within 10 minutes of each other, each one following a different course. The 5 p.m. Southport express and the 5 o’clock from Exchange to Glasgow, again, often run for considerable distances in sight of one another on their journey to or through the two neighbouring stations at Wigan. It must be remembered, however, that this complexity arose partly from the fact that two systems once independent had now been amalgamated. As is the case in many other parts of the country, had the grouping of the railways taken place at an earlier date, it is probable that many such routes, built purely for competitive purposes, would never have come into being. The money thus spent could often have been put to far better use in the doubling and improvement of previously existing lines. But these unnecessarily ramified tracks, all of which had to be staffed and maintained, constituted not the least of the problems which our great railways had to face, in their struggle towards more economical working. Possibly the necessity for strict economy in railway working eventually meant some of the alternative routes were closed.


The magazine Railway Wonders of the World, Published by the Amalgamated Press, Railway Wonders of the World appeared in 50 weekly instalments from 1st February 1935 through to 10th January 1936. A vast range of subjects was covered.
The complete work was designed to be bound in two hardback volumes which are still readily available. Others chose to retain the weekly parts with their attractive colour covers. Today the weekly parts are more difficult to obtain but do appear from time to time.

Article re-edited from Railway Wonders of the World.

Preston’s former public tramways

With the 2017 announcement of the start of trials for a new tramway for Preston, it may be of interest to look into Preston’s trams of times gone by.

Horse drawn tramways were in force in Preston from 1879 and were a very successful form of public transport in their time. The main drawbacks of using horses was the necessary feeding and watering of them and of course the stabling during non-working times. Also, not least, was the inevitable waste the horses left behind in the streets which, in that period would have been somewhat of a tremendous pollution, although one would imagine that gardeners would not have complained!

The main company for all the stabling for the duration of the horse drawn tramways was W. Harding & Co. Ltd. Livery Stables, originally located at the summit of Fishergate Hill, opposite the railway station. Harding’s subsequently moved to the former Post Office building on Fishergate in 1902 when their premises, along with two hotels were demolished to make way for the railway bridge extension.

In 1904 the horse drawn tram system had come to an end and was superseded by the electric overhead trolley system, the first car being run on 7 June 1904. The contractors for the work involved in the electrification of the tramways, including the cars, permanent way, overhead equipment and generating plant were Dick, Kerr and Co., of Preston. The power station on Holmrook Road, adjacent to the Deepdale Road Tram Depot, was erected by a Mr. T. B. Garnett and the chimney-stack was built by T. Croft and Sons.

At that time in 1904, Preston Corporation had 30 double deck cars and by 1912 four new single cars were added. The routes initially were to Sharoe Green Lane (via North Road), Sharoe Green Lane (via Deepdale Road, Farringdon Park, Ashton, Penwortham and Ribbleton.

Fatalities – Despite the relatively slow speeds involved, both systems claimed several victims during their years of operation:

On Saturday May 26th 1888 the Preston
Chronicle reported that a child aged 16 months was ran over and killed by the 5:45 horse drawn tram car from Preston. The accident occurred at the junction of Hull Street and Tulketh Road. The child was later identified as the daughter of Mr. Thomas Wilkinson Boot & Shoemaker of 25 Tulketh Road.

Another fatality took place on October 11th 1920. The Lancashire Daily post reported the following: “Shortly after four o’clock on Saturday after-noon, James Livingstone., aged 5 of 20 Shuttle-street, Preston, was knocked down by a tram-car in Ribbleton Lane. The driver noticed two small boys sitting on the kerb-stone near the corner of Shuttle-street, and one of them suddenly darted into the road, as if to pick something up. Although the car was pulled up within its own length by the electric brake, the child was pinned under the guard. The front of the car was jacked up, and the boy released in less than two minutes. A motor cyclist took him in a sidecar to the Infirmary where he succumbed to his injuries about 7:30 last evening”.

On 15 December 1935, the final tram to depart from Fulwood made its way to the town for the very last journey which signalled the end of the Preston tramways for good, or maybe not quite for good!

60th Anniversary of closure: Whittingham Hospital Railway

The Whittingham Hospital Railway (W.H.R.) was a private light railway operated by Lancashire County Council to serve Whittingham lunatic asylum. Opened in 1889, it carried goods and passengers between Grimsargh on the Preston and Longridge Railway and the hospital grounds. It closed to all traffic in 1957.
The asylum was built in 1873 and enlarged in 1879 to accommodate 2895 patients. Before becoming the hospital, it was the long-time residence of the Waring family. The house was built in 1869 by Cooper and Tullis of Preston, to the designs of Henry Littler for £338,000.
In the early days of the hospital, all supplies, including coal and provisions, had to be transported by horse and cart from Preston – a distance of 7 miles (11 km) – or from Longridge at the terminus of the Preston and Longridge Railway some 3 1/2 miles (5.6 km) distant. The cartage was expensive; permanently staffed with a stud of horses and vehicles. In 1884, the significant costs of this operation prompted the authorities to consider building a railway between the hospital and the village of Grimsargh 2 miles (3.2 km) to the southeast.
The railway had two substantially built stations, one at each terminus, the one at Grimsargh being diagonally opposite the level crossing from the mainline station. This station had the only run-around loop on the railway and a connection with the Preston and Longridge branch facing in the direction of Longridge. Two sidings were also provided. The station at Whittingham Hospital was of brick and corrugated iron construction which sported an overall glass roof above its single wooden platform and track. Access was by the means of steps as the station was situated on a high embankment.

The first locomotive purchased by the W.H.R. was an 0-4-0 saddle-tank (works number 304) built by Andrew Barclay & Sons Co. in 1888 at their Caledonia Works, Kilmarnock. The original locomotive was fitted with outside cylinders gave good service until 1947 when it was scrapped. A further Barclay locomotive (works number 1024) arrived in 1904 becoming No. 2. It sported a 0-4-2 wheel arrangement with identical cylinders to engine No. 1, and 4 ft 1 in (1.24 m) wheels. This locomotive worked until 1952 when it was also scrapped.
With the scrapping of No. 1 just following the Second World War, new steam locomotives were only available on four year lead times, therefore a second-hand engine was acquired in 1947 from the Southern Railway at a cost of £750. This was a William Stroudley 0-4-2 D1 Tank and was named James Fryers in honour of the Chairman of the Hospital Management Committee. The engine was originally built for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1886. Numbered 357, it carried the name Riddlesdown. In Southern Railway service it bore the number 2357. Serious boiler defects in 1956 curtailed its working career and the engine met the scrap-man that year when it proved beyond economic repair. Before scrapping, it was the sole surviving member of its class.
A further locomotive was thus required and a 100 hp (75 kW) Sentinel shunter, named Gradwell, was acquired from Bolton gas works. It worked for only 18 months before the line was closed.

The Ribble Steam Railway will be using Sentinel St.Monans as W.H.R. ‘Gradwell’ as part of a special exhibition to mark the anniversary during 2017