Making Tracks 1

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This page last updated Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Steaming along

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Making Tracks looks at some of the history of the railways affecting the Warrington area.

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Before the railways arrived, different areas of the country set their clocks to their own local time. Only the railway timetables made it necessary for standard time to be adopted across the whole country

North West Railway Map 1955 (copyright unknown)

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Note: some of this material is from Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia. Please see the foot of the Feedback page  for important copyright information.

 Featured here in Part 1

Beginnings to the Low Level Line via Bank Quay

In the Beginning Liverpool and Manchester Railway 1830 Great Northern Railway 1846
Stockton and Darlington
Railway 1825
Warrington and Newton Railway 1831 London and North Western Railway 1846

Locomotion No 1 1825

Vulcan Foundry Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway 1847
Rainhill Trials 1829 Grand Junction Railway 1833 Low Level Line via Bank Quay 1850s (including Warrington stations)
Stephenson's Rocket 1829 North Wales Coast Line 1840  

Part 2 covers West Coast Main Line to the Channel Tunnel

Part 3 features Warrington to Lymm - Low Level: 150 Years of Change by Mr Bert Harris

Railway firsts: 1730 - first railway Act of Parliament for the horse-drawn Middleton Railway in Yorkshire

In the Beginning  Text from Wikipedia

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Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington 2006.

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The idea of using "tracked" roads is at least 2000 years old; quarries in Greece, Malta and the Roman Empire used cut stone tracks to haul loads pulled by animals. It is recorded that in 500 BC the Ancient Greeks operated a rail system to carry boats across the route of the current Corinth Canal. 

Around 1430 German miners used wooden tubs known as 'hunds' running on two wide boards for rails to move ore within mines. These hunds used a guide pin system for steering utilising the slot between the two board rails.

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Hund Truck and rail.
Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington 2006.
A hund truck
Photo © GI Gandy

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In 1560 Austrian copper miners established Britain's first wood rail mining track in Cumberland (now Cumbria). In 1603/4 Huntington Beamont completed the Wollaton Wagonway, built to transport coal from the mines at Strelley to Wollaton just west of Nottingham, England. The earliest railways employed teams of horses to draw carts over the track.

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Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington 2006.

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the rails were made of wood a few inches wide, which were fastened down, end to end, on logs of wood, or "sleepers", placed crosswise at intervals of two or three feet. In time, it became a common practice to cover them with a thin sheathing or plating of iron, in order to add to their life.

Wagonway picture from
Illustrated History of the Railroads.
Public license

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This caused more wear on the wooden rollers of the wagons, and, towards the middle of the 18th century, led to the introduction of iron wheels, the use of which is recorded on a wooden railway near Bath in 1734. But the iron sheathing was not strong enough to resist buckling under the passage of the loaded wagons, so rails made wholly of iron were invented.

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An early type of
rail, the Blenkinsop.

Photos © GI Gandy mywarrington 2006.

The Blenkinsop wheel. 

Iron rails

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In 1767, the Coalbrookdale Iron Works cast a batch of iron rails or plates, each 3 ft (1 m) long and 4 in (100 mm) broad. On the inner side they had an upright ledge or flange, 3 in (75 mm) high at the centre and tapering to a height of 2 in (50 mm) at the ends, for the purpose of keeping the flat wheels on the track. Subsequently, to increase the strength, a similar flange was added below the rail. Wooden sleepers continued to be used – the rails being secured by spikes passing through the extremities – but in about 1793, stone blocks also began to be employed. Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington 2006.


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Items from the collection at National Railway Museum, York.

Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Another form of rail, the edge rail, was first used by William Jessop on a line opened between Loughborough and Nanpantan in Leicestershire in 1789. This line was originally designed as a plateway on the Outram system, but objections were raised to rails with upstanding ledges or flanges being laid on the turnpike road, this difficulty was overcome by paving, or "causewaying", the road up to the level of the top of the flanges.

These two systems of constructing railways, the plate-rail and the edge-rail, continued to exist side by side until well on into the 19th century.

Railway firsts: 1830 - first fatal accident at Parkside during the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway when William Huskisson was hit by George Stephenson's Rocket, dying later at a vicarage in Eccles

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Items from the collection at National Railway Museum, York.

Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Railway firsts: 1830 - first carrying of mail on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (11 Nov)

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Items from the collection at National Railway Museum, York.
Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Railway firsts: 1834 - first issue of season tickets on the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway

The world's first railway locomotive  Text from Wikipedia

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Trevithick's 1804 locomotive. This full-scale replica of the world's first steam-powered railway locomotive is in Telford Central Station, Telford, Shropshire.

Public license Author Mark Barker. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License v. 2.5.

Railway firsts: 1835 - first state-owned railway, the Belgian State Railway opens

Puffing Billy (steam locomotive)
Text from Wikipedia

Salamanca (steam locomotive)
Text from Wikipedia

Picture of the "Puffing Billy" steam engine taken in the Science Museum. Taken by User: William M. Connolley on 2004/03/13. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0

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Blenkinsop's rack locomotive
Salamanca, Middleton to Leeds
(UK) coal tramway, 1812
Public license

Puffing Billy is an early railway steam locomotive, constructed in 1813-1814 by engineer William Hedley, enginewright Jonathan Forster and blacksmith Timothy Hackworth for Christopher Blackett, the owner of Wylam Colliery near Newcastle upon Tyne. It is the world's oldest surviving steam locomotive and was the first commercial adhesion steam locomotive, employed to haul coal chaldron wagons from the mine at Wylam to the docks at Lemington-on-Tyne in Northumberland.

In 1813 Hedley built 2 prototypes, "Puffing Billy" and "Wylam Dilly"; they were rebuilt in 1815 and then both served successfully until at least 1830.

In 1862, Edward Blackett lent Puffing Billy to the Patent Office Museum in South Kensington, London (later the Science Museum). He later sold it to the museum for £200. It is still on display there. Its sister locomotive, Wylam Dilly, is preserved in the Royal Museum in Edinburgh. A replica has been built and was first run in 2006 at Beamish Museum.

Salamanca was the first commercially successful steam locomotive, built in 1812 by Matthew Murray of Holbeck, for the edge railed Middleton Railway between Middleton and Leeds in Yorkshire. It was the first to have two cylinders and was named after the Duke of Wellington's victory at the battle of Salamanca which was fought that same year.

Salamanca was the first rack and pinion locomotive, using John Blenkinsop's patented design for rack propulsion. A single rack ran outside the narrow gauge tracks and was engaged by a large cog wheel on the left side of the locomotive. The cog wheel was driven by twin cylinders embedded into the top of the centre-flue boiler. The class was described as having two 8"x20" cylinders, driving the wheels through cranks. The piston crossheads worked in guides, rather than being controlled by parallel motion like the majority of early locomotives. The locomotive weighed 5 tons and saw up to twenty years of service.

Four such locomotives were built for the railway. Salamanca was destroyed six years later, when its boiler exploded. According to George Stephenson, giving evidence to a committee of Parliament, the driver had tampered with the boiler safety valve.
The Middleton Railway, which opened in September 1758, was created by the very first Act of Parliament concerned with the building of a waggonway or railway. The railway attracted visitors from all over the world, enthusiasts and businessmen alike. In 1815 Blenkinsop's technical design was published in a French science and industry journal and the Prussian government built an engine to his design. The Leeds railway went on to great success, but in 1960 things began to change when the then-owners, the National Coal Board, cut back in coal transportation from the colliery and part of the track was purchased by a neighbouring company, Clayton’s. The Middleton Railway Preservation Society (later to become the Middleton Railway Trust) was allowed to run goods traffic for them. Goods traffic began to decline in 1969 and the railway is now run as a preserved railway, operating most weekends throughout the year. Read more at their website.

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Typical boiler layout
Photos © GI Gandy

Queen Victoria on
display at National
Railway Museum, York

Photo © GI Gandy

Railway firsts: 1836 - first railway in London opens from Spa Road to Deptford

Stockton and Darlington Railway (1825) Text from Wikipedia

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The Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR), which opened in 1825, was the first permanent steam locomotive railway. The line was 26 miles (40 km) long, and was built between Darlington and Stockton-on-Tees and from Darlington to several collieries near Shildon in north-eastern England. The line was initially built to connect inland coal mines to Stockton, where coal was to be loaded onto sea-going boats.

Opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. John Dobbin (1815-1888) c.1875. Wikipedia.


Inspired by wealthy local wool merchant Edward Pease, the S&DR was authorised by Parliament in 1821 and initially intended to be an ordinary horse-drawn plateway, which were then commonplace in England. However George Stephenson had been perfecting his engines at Killingworth for about seven years, and had built the Hetton colliery railway. With a deputation from Killingworth, he persuaded Edward Pease, on the day that the Act received Royal Assent, to allow him to resurvey the route and work it, at least partly, by steam. This was agreed with the added clause to permit the use of "loco-motive or moveable engines". The line had two cable-worked inclines at the western end, joined by a short horse-worked section.

Locomotion No. 1

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Its structures included one of the first railway bridges. Designed by architect Ignatius Bonomi, the so-called 'first railway architect', the Skerne Bridge in Darlington is the oldest railway bridge still in use today. The first locomotive to run on the S&DR was Locomotion no 1 (pictured here). Originally named Active) it is an early steam locomotive that was built in 1825 by the pioneering railway engineers George and Robert Stephenson at their manufacturing firm, Robert Stephenson and Company.

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Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

Locomotion No. 1 was ordered by the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company in September 1824; its design benefited from George Stephenson's experience building his series of Killingworth locomotives. It is believed that Locomotion No. 1 was the first locomotive to make use of coupling rods to link together its driving wheels, reducing the chance of the wheels slipping on the iron rails. However, the centre-flue boiler proved to be a weakness, providing for a poor heating surface compared to later multi-flue boilers. It is now on display at the Darlington Railway Centre and Museum, located in the same building as Darlington's North Road railway station, on long-term loan from the National Railway Museum.

The official opening of the line was on 27 September, 1825; the first steam-hauled passenger train ran and carried up to 600 passengers. The first passenger train was not fast, taking two hours to complete the first 12 miles (19 km) of the journey. Most of the passengers sat in open coal wagons but one experimental passenger coach, resembling a wooden shed on wheels and called "The Experiment," carried various dignitaries.

By 1833, the S&DR had become entirely steam-operated, and it gradually began to resemble a modern railway. The S&DR company became the sole train operator on the line, parallel double tracks were built for trains travelling in opposite directions, timetables were established and a crude signalling system was established to prevent collisions. These methods of operation became standard on railways across the world.

The S&DR was absorbed into the North Eastern Railway in 1863, which merged into the London and North Eastern Railway in 1922. Much, but not all, of the original S&DR line is still operating today.

Read more in Wikipedia

Railway firsts: 1837 - first railway in Austraila runs from Norfolk Bay to Long Bay on the island of Tasmaina

Railway firsts: 1839 - first railway timetable is Bradshaw's Railway Companion published in Manchester

Rainhill Trials (1829)  Text from Wikipedia

The Rainhill Trials were an important competition in the early days of steam locomotive railways, run in October 1829 near Rainhill (just outside Liverpool). When the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was approaching completion, the directors of the railway ran a competition to decide whether stationary steam engines or locomotives would be used to pull the trains. The Rainhill Trials were arranged as an open contest that would let them see all the locomotive candidates in action, with the choice to follow. Regardless of whether or not locomotives were settled upon, a prize of £500 was offered to the winner of the trials.


Locomotives that were entered were to undergo a variety of tests and conditions. These were amended at various points, but were eventually nailed down to:

The weight of the locomotive engine, with its full complement of water in the boiler, shall be ascertained at the weighing machine, by eight o'clock in the morning, and the load assigned to it shall be three times the weight thereof. The water in the boiler shall be cold, and there shall be no fuel in the fire-place. As much fuel shall be weighed, and as much water shall be measured and delivered into the tender-carriage, as the owner of the engine may consider sufficient for the supply of the engine for a journey of 35 mile [56 km]. The fire in the boiler shall then be lighted and the quantity of fuel consumed for getting up the steam shall be determined, and the time noted.

The tender-carriage, with the fuel and water, shall be considered to be, and taken as a part of the load assigned to the engine.

Those engines that carry their own fuel and water, shall be allowed a proportionate deduction from their load, according to the weight of the engine.

The engine, with the carriages attached to it, shall be run by hand up to the starting-post, and as soon as the steam, is got up to fifty pounds per square inch [345 kPa], the engine shall set out upon its journey.

The distance the engine shall perform each trip, shall be one mile and three-quarters [2.8 km] each way, including one-eighth of a mile [200 m] at each end for getting up the speed, and for stopping the train; by this means the engine with its load will travel one and a half mile [2.4 km] each way at full speed.

The engine shall make ten trips, which will be equal to a journey of thirty-five miles [56 km]; thirty-miles [48 km] whereof shall be performed at full speed, and the average rate of travelling shall not be less than ten miles per hour [16 km/h]. [Note: The only other passenger railway in the world at that time, the Stockton and Darlington Railway, had an average speed of only about 13 km/h (8 mph).]

As soon as the engine has performed this task (which will be equal to the travelling from Liverpool to Manchester) there shall be a fresh supply of fuel and water delivered to her; and as soon as she can be got ready to set out again, she shall go up to the starting-post, and make ten trips more, which will be equal to the journey from Manchester back again to Liverpool.

The time of performing every trip shall be accurately noted, as well as the time occupied in getting ready to set out on the second journey.

Should the engine not be enabled to take along with it sufficient fuel and water for the journey of ten trips, the time occupied in taking in a fresh supply of fuel and water, shall be considered and taken as a part of the time in performing the journey.


Ten locomotives were entered, but on the day the competition began - 6 October 1829 - only five locomotives actually began the tests:

Cycloped, built by Thomas Brandreth.

Novelty, built by John Ericsson and John Braithwaite.

Perseverance, built by Timothy Burstall.

Rocket, built by George and Robert Stephenson.

Sans Pareil, built by Timothy Hackworth.


Locomotives were run two or three per day, and several tests for each locomotive were performed over the course of several days. The Rainhill strech of the railway was dead level for a mile or so, meaning it was perfect for the Trials.

Cycloped was the first to drop out of the competition. Built with "legacy technology", it used a horse walking on a drive belt for power, and was withdrawn after an accident caused the horse to burst through the floor of the engine.

Next to go was Perseverance. Damaged en route to the competition, Burstall spent five days repairing it. When it failed to reach the required 10 miles per hour on its first tests the next day, it was withdrawn from the trial. It was granted a £25 consolation prize.

Sans Pareil nearly completed the trials, though at first there was some doubt as to whether it would be allowed to compete as it was 300 lb (136 kg) overweight. However, it did eventually complete eight trips before cracking a cylinder. Despite the failure it was purchased by the Liverpool & Manchester, where it served for two years before being leased to the Bolton and Leigh Railway.

The last drop-out was Novelty. In complete contrast to Cycloped it was cutting edge for 1829, lighter and considerably faster than the other locomotives in the competition. It was accordingly the crowd favourite. Reaching a then-astonishing 28 mph (45 km/h) on the first day of competition, it later suffered some damage to a boiler pipe which could not be fixed properly on site in the time allotted. Nevertheless it continued its run on the next day, but upon reaching 15 mph (24 km/h) the pipe gave way again and damaged the engine severely enough that it had to drop out.  

So, Rocket was the only locomotive to complete the trials. It averaged 12 miles per hour (achieving a top speed of 30 miles per hour) hauling 13 tons, and was declared the winner of the £500 prize. The Stephensons were accordingly given the contract to produce locomotives for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

Railway firsts: 1841 - first semaphore signals installed on the London & Croydon Railway


Stephenson's Rocket (1829) Text from Wikipedia

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Rocket was a steam locomotive of 0-2-2 wheel arrangement, built by George Stephenson in 1829.

A common misconception is that Rocket was the first steam locomotive. In fact the first steam locomotive to run on tracks was built by Richard Trevithick 25 years earlier, but was not financially successful.

George Stephenson, as well as a number of other engineers, had built steam locomotives before. Rocket was in some ways an evolution, not a revolution.

Rocket used a multi-tubular boiler, which made for much more efficient and effective heat transfer between the exhaust gases and the water. Previous boilers consisted of a single pipe surrounded by water.

Public licenseWikimedia Commons
Taken by
w:en:User:William M. Connolley 
on 13 March 2004

Rocket also used a blastpipe for the first time - using the blast of exhaust steam to induce a partial vacuum to pull air through the fire. Credit for the invention of the blastpipe is, however, disputed between Sir Goldsworthy Gurney and Timothy Hackworth. Nearly all steam locomotives built since have been based upon Rocket's basic design.
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After the Rainhill Trials, it was used near Tindale village and on Lord Carlisle's Railway. Rocket was donated to the Patent Museum in London in 1862 by the Thompsons of Milton Hall, near Brampton, in Cumbria. It still exists, in the Science Museum, London, in much modified form compared to its state at the Rainhill Trials.

The cylinders were altered to the horizontal position, compared to the slanted arrangement as new, and the locomotive was given a proper smokebox. Such are the changes in the engine from 1829 that The Engineer magazine, circa 1884, concluded that it seems to us indisputable that the Rocket of 1829 and 1830 were totally different engines.

Illustration of Rocket.
Wikipedia. Public license
In 1979 a replica Rocket was built by Locomotion Enterprises for the 150th anniversary celebrations. The main difference between the replica and the original is the shorter smoke stack of the replica, due to the increased trackbed height under the bridge at Rainhill.
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Statue of
Rocket replica Manual
Items from the collection at National Railway Museum, York.
Photos © GI Gandy 2006, mywarrington.

Railway firsts: 1841 - first railway excursion by Thomas Cook from Leicester to Loughborough by the Midland Counties Railway for a temperance Sunday School outing (5 Jul)

Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1830)  Text from Wikipedia

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) was the world's first intercity passenger railway in which all the trains were timetabled and operated for most of the distance solely by steam locomotives. The LMR was primarily built to provide faster transport of raw materials and finished goods between the port of Liverpool and mills in Manchester in northwest England.

Historic Line

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company was founded on 24 May 1823. It was established by Henry Booth, who became its secretary and treasurer, along with other merchants from Liverpool and Manchester.

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 A bill presented to Parliament in 1825 was rejected, but it passed in May the following year.

The initial survey for the line was carried out by William James and Robert Stephenson and, being done secretly and/or by trespass, was defective. Robert departed for South America and William James became bankrupt. Consequently, in 1824 George Stephenson was appointed engineer in their place. He lacked the skills to do the required calculations and upon presentation to Parliament in 1825 it was shown to be inaccurate (particularly in relation to the Irwell bridge), and the first bill was thrown out.

It was intended to place the Manchester terminus on the Salford side of the river, but the Mersey and Irwell Navigation withdrew their opposition to a crossing of their river at the last moment, in return for access for their carts to the intended railway bridge.

Stephenson's viaduct crossing the Sankey
Wikipedia. Public license

The Manchester station was thus fixed at Liverpool Road in the heart of Castlefield.


The 35-mile line was a remarkable engineering achievement for its time, beginning with the 2250-yard Wapping Tunnel beneath Liverpool from the docks to Edge Hill.

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Following this was a two mile-long-cutting, up to 70 feet deep, through rock at Olive Mount, and a nine arch viaduct (each arch of 50 feet (15.2 m) span), over the Sankey Brook valley, around 70 feet (21.3 m) high. Not least was the famous 4.75-mile crossing of Chat Moss.

Having found it impossible to drain the bog, Stephenson began constructing a large number of wooden and heather hurdles, which were sunk into the bog using stones and earth until they could provide a solid foundation. It was reported that at one point tipping went on solidly for weeks until such a foundation had been created.

The line was built as double track. Firstly, there was no convenient means of operating the line as single track as the line predated the telegraph. Secondly, the amount of traffic was expected to require double track.

A Manchester to Chester
DMU passes Huskisson's
memorial at Parkside
on 3 Jul 1984.
© Peter Spilsbury.


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The line opened on 15 September 1830, with termini at Liverpool Road, Manchester (now part of the Museum of Science and Industry) and Edge Hill, Liverpool. The festivities of the opening day were marred when William Huskisson, the popular Member of Parliament for Liverpool, rode down the line in the same train as the Duke of Wellington, when at Parkside, close to Newton-le-Willows, the train stopped to observe a cavalcade on the adjacent line. Several members of the Duke's party, including Huskisson, stepped onto the trackside to observe more closely. As they were standing outside, the locomotive Rocket approached on the parallel track.

Stephenson's bridge over the Warrington  to Wigan Turnpike road at Newton. Wikipedia Public license Taken by Lmno on 9 Oct 2004.

Railway firsts: 1843 - first carriage heating apparatus, London & Birmingham Railway

Huskisson was unable to get out of the engine's way in time, and his left leg was crushed by it. He become the world's first railway passenger fatality. (He was not killed instantly; the locomotive Northumbrian was detached from the Duke's train and rushed him to Eccles, where he died in the vicarage). The somewhat subdued party proceeded to Manchester, where, the Duke being deeply unpopular with the labouring classes, they were given a lively reception (bricks thrown, etc), and returned to Liverpool. A memorial to Huskisson was erected by the side of the L&M railway line at Parkside where the accident happened.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate start to its career, the L&MR was very successful. Within a few weeks of opening it ran its first excursion trains, carried the first mails, and was conveying road-rail containers for Pickfords. By the summer of 1831 it was carrying tens of thousands by special trains to Newton Races. Initially trains travelled at 17 mph, due the limitations of the track.

The tunnel from Lime Street to Edge Hill was fully completed in 1836. When it opened, carriages were separated from their engines and lowered to Lime Street Station by gravity, their descent controlled by brakemen, and hauled back up to Edge Hill by rope from a stationary engine. The tunnel is approximately 1,811 metres (1,980 yards) long.

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Huskisson's Memorial
at Parkside.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

On 30 July 1842 work started to extend the line from Ordsall Lane to the new Manchester Victoria Station. The extension was opened on 4 May 1844 and Liverpool Road closed.


The L&MR developed the practice of red signals for stop, green for caution and white for clear, which spread by the early 1840s to other railways in Britain and the United States. These colours later changed to the more familiar red, yellow (amber) and green. The L&MR was also responsible for the gauge of 4' 8½", or 1435mm, which came to be used more or less universally.

In 1845 the L&MR was absorbed by its principal business partner, the Grand Junction Railway; the following year the GJR formed part of the London and North Western Railway. The original Liverpool and Manchester line still operates between the two cities - the former Cheshire Lines Committee route via Warrington Central is the busier route. A stopping service operates between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool Lime Street, while a fast service leaves from Manchester Piccadilly.

Railway firsts: 1848 - first through railway journey from Northern Scotland to London

LMR 57 Lion  Text from Wikipedia

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The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (LMR) 57 Lion is an early 0-4-2 steam locomotive. One of a pair designed for hauling freight (the other, number 58 was called Tiger), built by Todd, Kitson & Laird (later Kitsons) of Leeds in 1838. In 1845 the LMR was absorbed by the Grand Junction Railway (GJR), which in turn was one of the constituents of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) a year later. It was used in traffic until about 1858, and in 1859 it was sold to the Mersey Docks for use as a stationary engine. It was used in that role until 1928 when it was replaced by an electric pump.

It was then "rediscovered" and preserved. A new tender for it was constructed based on contemporary drawings.

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Lion 5" gauge model
at Daresbury in 1969.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

Lion was steamed as part of 
the Rainhill Trials 150th
anniversary cavalcade in
May 1980. © John Stubley
Wikimedia Commons.

Lion took part in the LMR centenary celebrations in 1930 and the London and Birmingham Railway centenary in 1938. It starred in the 1953 film The Titfield Thunderbolt. It is the second-oldest locomotive to be steamed, the older being the British-built American locomotive John Bull. Lion is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

Railway firsts: 1848 - first train lavatory, Great Western Railway


Warrington and Newton Railway (1831)

Warrington and Newton Railway was an early railway company in England that acted as a feeder to the original Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It opened on 25 July 1831, and ran from near the Three Pigeons Hotel, along Dallam Lane, Warrington, to Newton Junction, better known as Earlestown.

This was for the Haydock Park races, and passenger trains ran regularly after that. The Newton curve and connection to the L&MR was completed on 25 July 1831. There were four trains each way Monday to Saturday only, although Sunday trains were put on by 1833. The trains were worked by three locomotives, named Warrington, Newton and Vulcan.

The Bank Quay branch was not completed at first, and it was probably opened about 1835, diverging from the Dallam line at Jockey Lane Until 1837 it was used for goods and mineral traffic only; it was close to the River Mersey where shipping could berth.

The line was taken over by the Grand Junction Railway on 31st December 1834, and by the London & North Western Railway on the 16th July 1846. It moved to Bank Quay when that opened. It is believed that a small window at the side of the pub was the ticket office but it has never been authenticated. The engine shed was in what later became the Co-op coal yard. Only a bit of the far wall now survives. (Peter Spilsbury)

The Three Pigeons Hotel on 28.2.07. The platform and coal yard were located
behind the building, with the line running alongside where the car is.

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Information: Wikipedia

Railway firsts: 1850 - first train-ferry service on the Edinburgh & Northern Railway

Earlestown Railway Station  Text from Wikipedia

Earlestown Station lies on the former Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which was opened in 1830, and in 1831 the Warrington and Newton Railway was opened. It made a junction at a point in the township of Newton, facing in the direction of Liverpool. Earlestown Station was built at the point of intersection of these two early railways, incidentally forming the first steam railway junction, which was given the name Newton Junction.

It was later named 'Earlestown', after James Hardman Earle, a director of the Liverpool and Manchester company. It was selected as the site of the company's carriage and wagon works (discussed later), and thus developed into something of a 'company town'. There was also a branch to a local colliery.

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44907 at Earlestown Station and Earlestown Station waiting room.
Photos © Peter Spilsbury.

The junction had very tight curvature and this caused problems - instructions were issued on the maximum speed at which trains could go from one line to another. The original building now forms the (currently unused) waiting room of Earlestown Station.  

The Grand Junction Railway absorbed the Warrington and Newton company and used it to access the Liverpool and Manchester line in 1837. A new "Curve" was built at Newton Junction so that trains could run towards Manchester; this gave the station a triangular formation with 6 platforms.

The method of operation involved the despatch of a Grand Junction train from both Liverpool and Manchester to meet at Earlestown. These were joined together and continued as one train to Birmingham. Both portions conveyed through carriages (after 1839) to London. The Grand Junction trains arriving from Birmingham were usually split at Warrington Bank Quay, and passed through Earlestown as separate Liverpool and Manchester trains.

In contemporary times, there are frequent services to Liverpool (Lime Street), Manchester (Victoria and Piccadilly), Warrington (Bank Quay), Chester and then to North Wales. The line through the 'curve' is electrified as part of the spur which runs from Winwick Junction (on the West Coast Mainline north of Warrington) and Golborne Junction (south of Wigan, where the main line is rejoined). There are no regular electric passenger services through Earlestown or Newton le Willows, though. Only diverted electric trains use this section.

Railway firsts: 1857 - first use of steel rails on the Midland Railway in Derby

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44888 at Earlestown 
Station on 21 Mar 1964.
41286 on a Push & Pull
rail tour at Earlestown 
Station on 12 Feb 1966.
70052 Firth of Clyde at Earlestown Station (left)
on 27 Mar 1965 and Blue Pullman at Earlestown
Station on Grand National Specials (Jay Trump won).

All Photos © Peter Spilsbury.

Railway firsts: 1861 - first proper bed in a British train, London & North Western Railway

Vulcan Foundry  Text from Wikipedia

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Vulcan Foundry was a British locomotive builder sited at Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire (now part of Merseyside). It was originally opened in 1832 as Charles Tayleur and Company to produce girders for bridges, switches and crossings, and other ironwork following the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Because of the distance from the locomotive works in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, it seemed preferable to build and support them locally. In 1832, Robert Stephenson became a partner for a few years. The first two locomotives were 0-4-0 Tayleur and Stephenson for the North Union Railway, similar to Stephenson's "Planet" design. Next were three 2-2-0s of a later "planet" type for the Warrington and Newton Railway. From 1835 the company was selling to France, Austria and Russia, the beginnings of an export trade which was maintained throughout the life of the company.

46238 City of Carlisle
passing Vulcan Works.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.
The company's locomotives had a strong Stephenson influence, many during the following decade being of the "long boiler" design. In 1852, the first locomotives ever to run in India were supplied to the Great Indian Peninsula Railway.

The company had become The Vulcan Foundry Company in 1847 and acquired limited liability in 1864. A number of Fairlie locomotives were built, including Taliesin for the Ffestiniog Railway. During 1870 the company supplied the first locos to run in Japan, and a flangeless 0-4-0T for a steelworks in Tredegar, which was still using angle rails.

From the beginning of 1898, the name changed again to the Vulcan Foundry Limited, dropping the word 'company.' The healthy export trade continued, particularly to India and South America, and continued after World War I. Following the formation of the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1924, some very large orders were received, including over a hundred 0-6-0T engines and sixty-five 4-4-0 "Compounds".

Throughout the 1930s the company survived the trade recessions with the aid of more orders from India, some from Tanganyika and the Argentine, and a large order in 1934 from the LMS for 4-6-0 "Black Fives" and 2-8-0 Stanier-designed locomotives.

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45432 was taken on the
last day of Vulcan Halt
as a stopping station
on 14 June 1965.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

making_tracks_vulcan_fairlie.jpg (42974 bytes) From 1939 the works was mostly concerned with the war effort, becoming involved in the development and production of the Matilda tank.

From 1943 large orders were received from the Ministry of Supply - nearly 400 2-8-0s and fifty 0-6-0 saddle tanks.

A Vulcan Fairlie
from Wikipedia

Public license

In 1944 the Vulcan Foundry acquired Robert Stephenson and Hawthornes Limited, and in 1945 received a large order for 2-8-0 locomotives for UNRRA in Europe.

The war had left India's railways in a parlous state and in 1947, with foreign aid, embarked on a massive rebuilding plan. The Vulcan Foundry benefited from orders sub-contracted from the North British Locomotive Company, but the writing was on the wall for all British manufacturers. Not only was the competition fierce from other countries, but India had developed the ability to build its own locomotives.

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45034 at Vulcan Bank. 

41286 at Vulcan Halt
on 12 Feb 1966.

46115 Scots Guardsman
passing Vulcan Bank in 1965.

All 3 Photos © Peter Spilsbury.

The company had experience of both diesel and electric locomotives, having built thirty-one so-called "Crocodile" electric locomotives in 1928 for India and, in 1931, the LMS's first experimental diesel shunter.

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So the factory gradually changed over to diesel and electric production, and in 1955 became part of the English Electric group. Under the new ownership, the works has produced many locomotives for both domestic and foreign railways, notably the Deltic. In 1961 the works ventured briefly into gas turbine power with the experimental British Rail GT3.

Although the works still produced diesel engines under name Ruston Paxman Diesels Limited, which had been moved from Lincoln, locomotive manufacture finished in 1970. Output was mainly for marine and stationary applications, but the company was the supplier of choice for British Rail Engineering for locos built at Doncaster and Crewe. The factory passed through various hands, firstly as GEC Alsthom then Alstom, and finally as part of MAN B&W Diesel in 2000. 

D9009 Deltic at
the National Railway
Museum, York
Photo © GI Gandy
, mywarrington 2006.

At the end of 2002 the works closed. It is now an industrial estate (appropriately called "Vulcan Industrial Estate") and this can still be seen as one passes on the train. The site is just north of Winwick Junction where the line to Newton Le Willows branches off to the east from the West Coast Main Line.

NB: Vulcan being associated with fire and ironwork, names such as "Vulcan Foundry" were common in many towns and cities. There was no connection with Vulcan Iron Works in the United States.

External Vulcan Works website

Railway firsts: 1863 - first passenger underground railway is the Metropolitan Railway in London

We'll be right back...after this commercial break

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Items from the collection at National Railway Museum, York.
All photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington 2006.

Railway firsts: 1869 - first use of walk-through connection between carriages, London & North Western Railway

Grand Junction Railway (1833)
Text from Wikipedia ( Grand Junction) Wikipedia (Chester & Crewe)

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The Grand Junction Railway (GJR) was an early railway company which existed between 1833 and 1846. The line built by the company was one of the first railway lines to be built in England, and arguably the world's first long-distance railway.

Authorised by Parliament in 1833 and designed by George Stephenson and Joseph Locke, it opened for business on 4 July 1837, running for 82 miles from Birmingham through Wolverhampton (via Perry Bar and Bescot), Stafford, Crewe and Warrington, before joining the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at a triangular junction at Newton Junction. The GJR established its chief engineering works at Crewe, moving there from Edge Hill near Liverpool.  

The Grand Junction
Railway Bridge at Arpley.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

Shortly after opening with a temporary Birmingham terminus at Vauxhall, services were routed to and from Curzon Street Station, which it shared with the London and Birmingham Railway (LBR), whose platforms were adjacent, providing a link between Liverpool, Manchester and London.

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In 1840 the GJR absorbed the Chester and Crewe Railway shortly before it opened. It was the absorption of this company that led the Grand Junction Railway to build its locomotive works at Crewe, which led to Crewe becoming a major railway town.  Seeing itself as part of a grand railway network, it encouraged the development of the North Union Railway which took the tracks onward to Preston, and it also invested in the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway and the Caledonian Railway.

In 1845 the GJR merged with the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and consolidated its position by buying the North Union Railway in association with the Manchester and Leeds Railway.

Daresbury Station,
which closed in 1955.
Photo supplied by C Ball.

Daresbury railway station (above) was in Moore on the Birkenhead Joint Railway between Runcorn and Warrington. It was named after the village of Daresbury about a mile away, as Moore had a second station on another line (A note in Wikipedia says Daresbury Station was initially called Moore but the name was changed to Daresbury in April 1861.) It was open to passengers between 18 December 1850 and 7 July 1952. It continued to be served by goods trains until full closure on 1 June 1965. (Some information from Wikipedia. See also the Disused Railway Stations website where you can see photos of the station site as it today. 
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5151 at Walton. Class 40 at Walton Old Junction. 44987 at Moore.
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48271 at Moore. DMU at Moore. 92055 at Moore.
Photos © Peter Spilsbury.

The GJR was very profitable, paying dividends of at least 10% from its opening and having a final capital value of over £5.75 million when it merged with the London and Birmingham Railway and Manchester and Birmingham Railway companies to became the London and North Western Railway in 1846, and the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1922. Today, the lines which made up the GJR form the central section of the West Coast Main Line.

William Allcard, born 1801, lived at Bank House on Sankey Street by the Town Hall between 1839 and 1854. He was heavily involved in the Grand Junction Railway and was given the task of building the Sankey Viaduct on the Liverpool and Manchester. He went into partnership with William Buddicom in the manufacture of railway engines. Read more about him in Warrington People.

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Grand Junction Railway/West Coast Main Line 9 Jul 2004.
Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

If you are in northwest England in summertime why not pay a visit to The Railway Age at Crewe to see the railway heritage which made the town famous. They open from Easter to the end of September. Check out their website.

Railway firsts: 1869 - first coast-to-coast railway is the Pacific Railroad in America. Union Pacific meets the Central Pacific Railroad in Promontory, Utah

Broad Gauge  Text from Wikipedia

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The railway gauge is the distance between the two rails. Today in the United Kingdom we use "standard gauge" (4 feet 8½ inches - 1.435 metres), but when Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the Great Western Railway, he used a "broad gauge" system. His broad gauge was 7 feet and ¼ inch (2.14m).

This caused problems for through trains as passengers and luggage had to be moved from the standard gauge to the broad gauge trains. The other type of gauge is narrow gauge, and is the name given to any track narrower than standard gauge. In the GWR days of Brunel, they always referred to standard gauge track as 'narrow gauge'.  

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Iron Duke at National
Railway Museum, York.

Photo © GI Gandy
, mywarrington 2006.

A replica Iron Duke.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

The Firefly was a class of broad gauge 2-2-2 steam locomotives used for passenger services on the Great Western. The class was introduced into service between March 1840 and December 1842, and withdrawn between December 1863 and July 1879.

Railway firsts: 1873 - first complete sleeping-carriage in Britain put into service between Glasgow and London Kings Cross (2 April)

North Wales Coast Line (1840)  Text from Wikipedia

making_tracks_ps_chester_no2_signalbox_810802.jpg (70554 bytes) The North Wales Coast Line is the railway line from Crewe to Holyhead. Virgin Trains consider their services along it to be a spur of the West Coast Mainline. The first section from Crewe to Chester was built by the Chester and Crewe Railway and absorbed by the Grand Junction Railway shortly before opening in 1840. The remainder was built between 1844 and 1850 by the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company as the route of the Irish Mail services to Dublin.
Chester No 2 signal box
on 2 Aug 1981.
© Peter Spilsbury.
The line was later incorporated into the London and North Western Railway. Between Chester and Saltney Junction the line was from the start used by trains of the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway, later to be incorporated in the Great Western Railway.  
making_tracks_flint_station_060524.JPG (78901 bytes) In April 2006, Network Rail organised its maintenance and train control operations into "26 Routes". The main line through Crewe forms part of Route 18 (The West Coast Main Line). making_tracks_ps_cheshire_lines_chester_25076.jpg (64289 bytes)
Big Foot outside
Flint Station.
Photo © GI Gandy
, mywarrington.
The North Wales Coast Line from Crewe (North Junction) to Chester and North Wales has been designated Route 22 (North Wales and Borders), and this includes the line to Chester from Acton Grange Junction, south of Warrington. The line from Shrewsbury to Chester via Wrexham is Route 14 (South and Central Wales and Borders) until Saltney Junction. 25076 and 08665
at Chester Station
on 10 Sep 1984.
© Peter Spilsbury.
making_tracks_ps_cheshire_lines_chester_MPD.jpg (59134 bytes) The line contains several notable engineering structures, namely Conwy railway bridge across the River Conwy, and Britannia Bridge across the Menai Strait. During the evening of 23 May 1970, the bridge was greatly damaged when boys playing in the bridge dropped a burning torch, starting a fire. making_tracks_ps_moore_troughs_73157.jpg (45287 bytes)
Chester Motive Power
Depot (MPD).
© Peter
As a consequence the bridge was completely rebuilt. So important was the line in the 19th and early 20th centuries to passenger, mail and freight traffic between Britain and Ireland, that the world's first experimental and operational water troughs were installed at Mochdre between Colwyn Bay and Llandudno Junction. BR 73157 at
Moore Troughs.
© Peter Spilsbury.

The long Welsh railway station and village name is often shorted to Llanfair P.G. these days. The translation of the full-length word is:
"St Mary's church near the pool of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and St Tysilio's church by the red cave". However, the original name of the village is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. It was lengthened by a nineteenth century publican who thought it might entice more of the many visitors to the attractions of Snowdonia to cross into Anglesey if he "enhanced" the name to a record length. Hence its current long-winded modification. For the original village name translation, stop after "white hazel". My thanks to Mike who supplied the additional information.
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Their purpose being to enable steam engines (especially on the Irish Mail) to collect water without stopping. Later, considerable stretches of line between Chester and Colwyn Bay were quadrupled to increase line capacity but these sections have now been reduced to two tracks.

Principal through passenger services are London to Llandudno and Holyhead, operated by Virgin Trains, and Crewe to Holyhead, Cardiff to Holyhead and Manchester to Llandudno via Warrington Bank Quay along the route of the former Warrington & Newton Railway currently operated by Arriva Trains Wales (who replaced First North Western).

The line still provides the UK railway part of the through passenger service to Dublin using fast car ferries from Holyhead to Dublin Ferryport.

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The original Britannia
Bridge, destroyed by
fire in 1970, when a group
of youngsters accidentally
dropped their torch whilst exploring the tubes.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.
The new Britannia Bridge
facing east along the Menai
Strait with a Virgin Voyager
train visible on the lower
deck and road traffic on the
upper deck.
Author: Andrew Dixon.
Taken 10 Jan 2005.
Public license

Railway firsts: 1885 - first Canadian transcontinental railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway

Reader Story: In 2003 when on holiday in Porthmadog, I actually rode on the footplate of an engine on the Welsh Highland Railway. They had an 'open day' where for £5 (adults only) you could ride the length of the track and back .... it was just brilliant. The heat, the smoke and smell .... HEAVEN. I even got to pull the cord and toot the hooter. A DREAM COME TRUE.

Great Northern Railway (1846)

making_tracks_cheshire_lines_great_northern_logo.JPG (15661 bytes) Text from Wikipedia

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The Great Northern Railway (GNR) was founded by the London & York Railway Act of 1846. The first section of line was opened in 1848 between Lough and Grimsby. By 1857, a working arrangement was made with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincoln Railway (MSLR), which enabled the GNR to run London-Sheffield-Manchester express services. In 1875, the increase in revenue was out-paced by investment, which included items such as block signalling systems and interlocking, and improvements to stations and goods sidings.

The Great Northern warehouse in Manchester. In February 2009 Manchester City Council pulled out of plans to buy the
Grade II* listed building, which is being used as a cinema with cafés and shops. Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington 2006.

In the 1870s, the GNR participating in various extensions to the CLC network in Lancashire, thereby risking overextending itself on marginally profitable lines well outside its natural territory.

The GNR, along with North Eastern and North British Railways, ran the 10am departures on the east coast from King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley, which began running in June 1862, known as the "Flying Scotsman" by 1870. The main revenue of the GNR was derived from freight, mainly coal, for which major marshalling yards were built at Doncaster, Colwick (Nottingham), New England (Peterborough) and Ferme Park (London). For merchandise traffic, the GNR was a pioneer of the fully braked goods train.

The Great Northern Railway Company's Goods Warehouse in the centre of Manchester has been put to a new use. It is now the Great Northern shopping and leisure complex on Peter Street. I am pleased to say they haven't messed about with it much, having retained the original look. Under the 1923 Grouping, it became part of the London and North Eastern Railway.

Railway firsts: 1897 - first electrically-lit corridor train, Great Western Railway


London and North Western Railway (1846)  Text from Wikipedia

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The London and North Western Railway (LNWR) existed between 1846 and 1922. It was created by the merger of three railway companies - the Grand Junction Railway, the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway, and is effectively an ancestor of today's West Coast Main Line.

In 1864 it took over the St Helens Canal and Railway Company (see On The Waterfront for more).

46251 City of Nottingham
pulling into Bank
Quay on 5 Oct 1963.
It should have been the
last passenger tour of its
class but was re-instated.
© Peter Spilsbury.

It was known as the 'Premier Line' - though disputed by many, it may be thought that it deserved this title as the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first passenger railway in the world, was one of its ancestors through its merger with the Grand Junction Railway. As the largest joint stock railway in the United Kingdom, it collected a greater revenue than any other company. It served some of Britain's largest cities: Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester, and (through co-operation with the Caledonian Railway) Edinburgh and Glasgow.

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It also handled the Irish Mail for the Government between Euston and Holyhead.

The LNWR became a constituent part of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) railway when the railways of Great Britain were merged in the grouping of 1923. The LNWR's main engineering works were at Crewe (locomotives) and Wolverton (carriages and wagons). The locomotive livery is described as 'blackberry black'. 

46256 Sir William
Stanier at Bank Quay
on final class tour
26 Sep 1964.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

It still runs through Warrington Bank Quay, travelling under the Cheshire Lines route at Froghall Lane. In recent years it has been suggested that this junction should become the location of one big railway station to cater for all journeys to and from Warrington. This would take away the need for Warrington Bank Quay and Warrington Central stations. Cost is the main stumbling block and the millions of pounds required isn't available.

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These elaborate cast iron gates are from the Doric Portico that formed the entrance to the original Euston Station in London. They were designed by the inventor and locksmith J J Bramah for the Euston terminus of the London & Birmingham Railway in 1838.

From the Collection at the National Railway Museum, York. Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Railway firsts: 1899 - first AC electric locomotive built by Charles Brown of Brown Boveri in Switzerland

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45140 at Bank Quay. 45652 Hawke at Bank Quay. 45343 at Bank Quay.
Photos © Peter Spilsbury.

Railway firsts: 1907 - first use of mechanical ventilation and electric cooking equipment, Great Northern Railway and North Eastern Railway


Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (1847)

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Text from Wikipedia

The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) was the major part of the Great Central Railway. It was an east to west line, and had been formed by the amalgamation of various lines in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Lancashire. The headquarters of the MS&LR was at Manchester London Road (now Manchester Piccadilly). The MS&LR, also had part ownership of the Cheshire Lines Committee with the GNR and MR, and had direct access to Liverpool, Chester and Warrington.

History of the MS&LR

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In 1864 Sir Edward Watkin took over directorship of the MS&LR. He had grand ambitions for the company, with plans to transform it from a provincial middle-of-the-road railway company into a major national player. Watkin was a visionary who wanted to build a new railway line that would not only link his network to London, but which one day would be expanded and link to a future channel tunnel.

This latter ambition was never fulfilled completely. When Watkin became chairman of the South Eastern Railway in the 1880s he was, however, involved in the earliest attempt to construct the Tunnel. The locomotive works was situated at Gorton, Manchester, which opened in 1849. Alongside it were the works of Beyer-Peacock, and many of its locomotives were built there.

Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Railway firsts: 1912 - first diesel locomotive is built by Swiss company Sulzer for the Prussian-Hessian State Railway, but never put into regular service

Low Level Line via Bank Quay (1850s)

Cuerdley    Fiddler's Ferry & Penketh        Sankey Bridges      Warrington Arpley        Latchford       Thelwall       Lymm    Heatley & Warburton

Text in this section (except photo captions) courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also 

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On 3 July 1851, an Act of Parliament created the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway, which became the Warrington and Stockport Railway on 4 August 1853. Meanwhile, west of Warrington, the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway opened a line from Garston to Warrington in 1853.

Low Level line at Crosfields on 22 Apr 2003 Photo © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Warrington Bank Quay Low Level Station was situated on what was to become known as the Ditton Junction to Skelton Junction line, on a section that was opened by The St. Helens Railway on 1 May 1854. The station was opened by the London & North Western Railway on 1 January 1853. The name ‘Low Level’ was its unofficial name and used for identification purposes only.
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The Low Level line near Fairclough's old flour mill - the Big Pink Eye.
All Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington 22 Apr 2004.
The St. Helens Railway arrived in the town at a temporary terminus at Whitecross on 1 February 1853, with a line from Garston Dock. Six months later the Warrington and Stockport Railway (which actually ran to Altrincham) ran to a temporary terminus at Wilderspool, and opened on 1 November 1853.

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On 1 May 1854, the two lines were joined together at a new joint station called Warrington Arpley, which was situated less than half a mile to the east of Bank Quay. The railway was absorbed by the LNWR, jointly with the St. Helens Canal and Railway, on 13 August 1859. By the 1950's services had settled into a routine which saw services from Liverpool Lime Street to Warrington Bank Quay, and from Bank Quay to Manchester Oxford Road.

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Crosfields signal box,
22 Apr 2003.

Photos © GI Gandy, mywarrington.

Littons Mill,
22 Apr 2003.

Regular passenger services finished on 10 September 1962, but a York Mail train continued to serve the Low Level platforms until 14 July 1965, after which the Low Level Station closed. It was demolished and no trace now remains.
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A Class 40 leaves Bank Quay
   on the  Low Level for Sankey.  
A Class 47 on the Low Level
   near Crosfields on 5 Sep 1977.   
The Staffordshire Ranger
   DMU at Bank Quay Low Level.  
All photos © Peter Spilsbury.
The Low Level line was always busy with goods services, and remains so to this day, although the line to the east, the original Warrington and Stockport Railway, is now truncated at Latchford. By the 1980's, expensive repairs were needed to the bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal at Latchford and alternative routes were available. The line closed east of Latchford with the last booked trains running on 7 July 1985.

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47323 at Bank Quay on 14 Sep 1983. When Factory Lane was open under Bank Quay Station, There was a footpath on one side of it. At the other side one crossed over to a footbridge over the Low Level railway lines, where I took this photo. The path from the bridge led to British Aluminium. The path and bridge closed after the 'Alla' closed.

Photo and caption © Peter Spilsbury.

Read a more detailed account of the Low Level Line in Making Tracks 3

Railway firsts: 1917 - first Australian transcontinental railway line between Sydney and Perth opens, the world's longest stretch without a curve at 297 miles (478km)

Other Warrington Stations on the Low Level Line (west to east)


Text in this section courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

The St. Helens Railway opened this station on 3 January 1856. It was situated on their eastern extension from Widnes to Warrington which opened on 1 February 1853. It closed on 1 January 1858, and has since been demolished. Its exact location is unknown.

Railway firsts: 1921 - first diesel in regular service runs on Tunisian Railways

Fiddler's Ferry & Penketh

Text in this section (except photo captions) courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

The St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway opened this station on 1 February 1853. It was located on the west side of Station Road, adjacent to the Sankey Canal. In April 1881, the station was renamed as 'Fiddler's Ferry and Penketh'.

The station closed to passengers on 2 January 1950, but the line was still used for passenger services by the Ditton Junction to Manchester Oxford Road via Warrington Bank Quay Low Level train, which continued until 1 September 1962. A nearby coal yard operated into the 1960s. The station was closed altogether on 2 December 1963 by British Railways (Midland Region). The station was demolished but the Station House still standing as private residence.

Today the line is a busy freight route from Ditton to Warrington Arpley.  

Railway firsts: 1931 - first railway air service inaugurated between Cardiff and Haldon aerodrome near Teignmouth, Devon

Sankey Bridges

Text in this section (except photo captions) courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

Sankey Bridges Station was located on the south side of Liverpool Road/Old Liverpool Road, and was opened on 1 February 1853 by its owner, the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway.

Sankey Bridges Station stood at a point where the line crossed the Sankey Canal (1757) by way of a swing bridge, which remained in use until the 1950s. The eastbound platform still exists and can be seen from a public footpath which crosses the line at the east end of the platform.

The station was closed by British Railways (Midland Region) on 26 September 1949.

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A DMU at Sankey in 1971. Monks Hall sidings. Monks Hall sidings. Crossing the Sankey-St.
Helens Canal
at Sankey Bridges.
The original bridge could
swing to allow barges to pass.
Monks Hall site was being
cleared when this photo was taken. The Coach and Horses pub is in the background.

Photos and captions © Peter Spilsbury.

Railway firsts: 1960 - first standard-gauge railway preservation society, the Middleton Railway Trust, goes into operation

Warrington Arpley

Text in this section (except photo captions) courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

Arpley Station comes next after Bank Quay Low Level and served as the headquarters of the Warrington and Stockport Railway. The St. Helens Railway and Warrington & Stockport Railway opened it on 1 May 1854, which completed a line from Liverpool (Garston) to Altrincham. The station had a grand façade and overall roof but only ever had two platforms, even though four tracks passed through it.

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90477 at Arpley.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.
Site of the Bank Quay
Low Level Station.
Arpley Sidings.
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Capstone of the road
bridge over the railway.
Signalling and points equipment near Wilderspool Bridge. Wilderspool Bridge.
Originally a level crossing.
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Foundation Stone for
Wilderspool Bridge.
Entrance to the works by the
iron bridge over the Mersey.
The iron bridge
over the Mersey.
The route eastwards
towards Thelwall, etc.
All other photos and captions © G I Gandy, mywarrington.
The LNWR tried to close the station on 16 November 1868 as they felt it was too close to Bank Quay. But there was a massive protest from townsfolk who felt that Arpley was closer to the town centre. However, it did close to passenger use on 4 September 1958. It was closed for good by British Railways (London Midland Region) on 9 August 1965. It was located on the south side of Wilson Patten Street. The station building was demolished.
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45305 at Arpley
on 4 Aug 1968.
92053 at Arpley. 25307 on 27 Oct 1985.
The old tall London
& North Western
signal stands proudly
in this scene at Arpley
Class 56 56093
on Wilderspool bridge
with a merry-go-round
(mgr) train of empty
coal wagons from
Fiddler's Ferry
Power Station
on 28 May 1982.
56063 at Arpley
signal box on
9 Sep 1985.
Photos and captions © Peter Spilsbury.

Railway firsts: 1964 - first high-speed passenger railway is the Tokaido Shinkansen Bullet service in Japan


Text in this section (except photo captions) courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

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Latchford Station was located on the north side of Station Road, and was opened on 10 July 1893 by the London & North Western Railway.

In the 1890's the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal made it necessary to divert and realign a number of railway lines in the Warrington area to create the required 75 feet clearance for the ships. The original line was at a fairly level elevation, and a station was provided at Latchford called Latchford & Grappenhall Road, which opened with the line and closed on 9 August 1893.  

A large girder bridge called Latchford Bridge took the line to a high elevation and over the canal.

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47530 at Latchford
signal box on
28 Apr 1985.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

47490 at Latchford
Bridge on 28 Apr 1985.
Photo © Peter Spilsbury.

Peter adds: Passenger trains were diverted from the Manchester - Stockport line for a few Sundays for repairs to that line. The opportunity to photograph them was taken though typically the weather was not at its best. Seen here passing Latchford signal box and approaching the viaduct over the canal.

The bridge opened on 9 July 1893, after which the original alignment was cut by the canal construction. Part of it was kept as sidings and part was used by the canals own industrial railway. The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894.  
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45446 at Latchford. 31163 at Black Bear
Park 12 Jul 1984.
47117 at Latchford
on 4 Jul 1984.
Photos © Peter Spilsbury.

Latchford Station was closed to passengers on 10 September 1962, closing for good on 1 July 1965 by its owners, British Railways (London Midland Region). The line continued in use as a busy freight artery, particularly for coal heading west towards Fiddlers Ferry Power Station and Garston Docks.

Today a single track still remains hidden in the tree growth. The station was demolished, and in April 2005 the station forecourt was being developed with an apartment block. Only a boundary wall and entrance gates remain on Station Road.


Text in this section (except photo captions) courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

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Warrington and Stockport Railway opened Thelwall Station on 1 November 1853. It remained open until 17 September 1956. British Railways (London Midland Region) owned the station at the end.

It was located on the south side of Stockport Road (A56). Today the route east of Latchford Bridge forms part of the Trans Pennine Trail. The station building still exists, but the platforms have been demolished.

47068 at Thelwall on 25 Apr 1984. This is the site where the original line went at road level to Latchford old station and this deviation was made to go over the viaduct when the Manchester Ship Canal was built. Photo and text © Peter Spilsbury.

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45052 at Thelwall on 6 Apr 1987. When the Low Level line closed on 6 July 1985, the line was just left in situ until June 1987 when it was prepared for lifting. In this scene they are unloading rail for relaying. They lifted the original rail in sections for use elsewhere and re-laid it again to lift again in sections and remove the track completely.

Photo and text © Peter Spilsbury.

Railway firsts: 1975 - first testing of the Advanced Passenger Train (APT), the first 'tilting train'. It failed


Text in this section courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

Lymm Station was opened on 1 November 1853 by the Warrington and Stockport Railway. It was located on the west side of Whitebarrow Road. It was finally closed by British Railways (London Midland Region) on 10 September 1962. The station house and section of footbridge are still present as a private residence, but the rest of the site has been demolished and is now a car park and Ranger Centre.

Heatley & Warburton  

Text in this section courtesy of Paul Wright. See more of Paul's work at (see also

Built on the east side of Mill Lane (now the B5159) by the Warrington and Stockport Railway, Heatley & Warburton Station came into existence on 1 November 1853.

It closed on 9 August 1965, but British Railways (London Midland Region) spared the station building, which still stands, but the platforms have been demolished.

Today the trackbed is used by pedestrians and cyclists alike as part of the Trans Pennine Trail.

Railway firsts: 1994 - first under-channel rail link, The Channel Tunnel, between England and France

Making Tracks Part 2    Making Tracks Part 3    Peter's Gallery

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