Chat Moss on the Liverpool Manchester Railway

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grumpyxch

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I've just been watching a documentary on the building of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway by George Stephenson. Where the line crosses Chat Moss, he built a 'floating' track bed using bundles of brushwood and stuff because the Moss just swallowed rock and the normal embankment material. That line is still in use today, and as the train crosses it, it can be seen that the trackbed rises and falls.

My question is "what do they have to do these days in the way of maintenance to ensure the embankment still does its job safely?" I'm thinking more along the lines of those things that are special to Chat Moss, rather than used everywhere.
 
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Bald Rick

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It’s not floating as such, it is founded on all the rocks Stephenson chucked in.

In terms of maintenance, I suspect the track needs tamping a little more frequently than most other stations to keep it in shape, others nothing much.
 

WAO

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The speed limit over the soft bits is 75mph and the OLE mast foundations needed thought, IIRC. The timber and brush foundations will be anaerobic, so won't decay.

Hence the L&Y and CLC routes.

Greetings,

WAO
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The speed limit over the soft bits is 75mph and the OLE mast foundations needed thought, IIRC. The timber and brush foundations will be anaerobic, so won't decay.
Hence the L&Y and CLC routes.
Line speed dips to 60mph for 1/4 mile at Astley, but it's never been clear if that is a formation issue or the crossing/signalling setup.
In that area the OLE foundations include some huge gravity pads, set some distance away from and below track level.
That continues east almost to the M60 bridge, after which normality returns.
West of Astley it's 90mph.
 

Ploughman

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Similar problem on the NYMR at Fen Bog.
This, as the name suggests, is a seemingly bottomless bog crossed by the railway.
Again the cure by Stephenson was sheep fleeces acting as a fascine.
A bit more attention to track patroling with extra tamping as required is the only difference between the bog and the rest of the line..
 

Watershed

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Line speed dips to 60mph for 1/4 mile at Astley, but it's never been clear if that is a formation issue or the crossing/signalling setup.
In that area the OLE foundations include some huge gravity pads, set some distance away from and below track level.
That continues east almost to the M60 bridge, after which normality returns.
West of Astley it's 90mph.
Surely has to be related to the signal box and/or the crossing given that it's for such a short distance (20ch on the Up, 24ch on the Down). Goes down from four aspect to three around there on the Up IIRC, not sure if that has anything to do with it.
 

Taunton

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My understanding is that the ground conditions are very different to 1830, for what was a near-swamp at that time has, by long-term drainage, been converted into agricultural land, and the land itself, drained, has sunk, as the peaty character has dried out. You can find this at places like Astley level crossing, where the road now rises from each side to rail level.

I don't know how close the conditions are to the two routes to the east of Taunton across the Somerset Levels, also a onetime wetland; Brunel's Bristol line, engineered around 1840, has certainly stood the test of time, whereas the Castle Cary line, from about 1900, has been nothing but trouble, apparently almost since it opened.
 

Efini92

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My understanding is that the ground conditions are very different to 1830, for what was a near-swamp at that time has, by long-term drainage, been converted into agricultural land, and the land itself, drained, has sunk, as the peaty character has dried out. You can find this at places like Astley level crossing, where the road now rises from each side to rail level.

I don't know how close the conditions are to the two routes to the east of Taunton across the Somerset Levels, also a onetime wetland; Brunel's Bristol line, engineered around 1840, has certainly stood the test of time, whereas the Castle Cary line, from about 1900, has been nothing but trouble, apparently almost since it opened.
You can see where the ground has sunk on the down near parkside. Over the years it’s got lower and lower.
 

Halish Railway

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Is anyone able to shine a light on why the line east of Chat Moss wasn’t upgraded to the same standard as its western counterpart i.e. 90mph and 4-aspect signalling?

Also 90mph does seem like an odd linespeed for a 2010s program - Why not 100 mph?
 

Lloyds siding

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I remember some lineside video that Look North West did for a news item (about 20-25 years ago): you could see the track falling and then rising as a train passed.
 
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Is anyone able to shine a light on why the line east of Chat Moss wasn’t upgraded to the same standard as its western counterpart i.e. 90mph and 4-aspect signalling?
I always thought the 1970s-era signalling on the Chat Moss line (the bit under Warrington PSB control) was very generously provided - frequent automatic 4-aspect track circuit block signals on open plain line - given the reasonably sparse level of traffic at that time:- usually 1x Trans-Pennine, 1x Lime St/Victoria stopper and 1x N. Wales train per hour. Maybe BR was planning to send a lot of freight over Chat Moss?

You can see where the ground has sunk on the down near parkside. Over the years it’s got lower and lower.
Separate to the boggy issues on Chat Moss itself, the line probably has had problems with mining subsidence anywhere on the section through the coalfield between Astley - Parkside - Rainhill (give or take a mile or two).

The shallow underground coal workings which cause subsidence were abandoned many decades in the past, a lot of them well over 100 years ago, so eventually you'd hope everything that could subside will have done so, and this will not be a problem in the future
 
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Purple Orange

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I find this line fascinating, simply because of the engineering hurdles Stephenson had to overcome. But I do wonder, what would need to happen for the Chat Moss line to be able to have Liverpool-Manchester journey times of circa 25 minutes and have 4 fast Liverpool-Manchester TPE trains each hour?
 

Watershed

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I find this line fascinating, simply because of the engineering hurdles Stephenson had to overcome. But I do wonder, what would need to happen for the Chat Moss line to be able to have Liverpool-Manchester journey times of circa 25 minutes and have 4 fast Liverpool-Manchester TPE trains each hour?
Well the key to going fast is not going slow. Probably not much point increasing the linespeed on the bits that are 90mph, but if you could get the 1 or 2 miles of 30/40mph at either end up to 60mph, you'd already save quite a bit of time.

Obviously that would probably require in-cab signalling to avoid killing the headway behind stoppers or freight, along with some substantial infrastructure work. It's questionable whether that would present value for money when an equivalent - or greater - reduction in Generalised Journey Time could be effected by increasing frequencies.

As for such increased frequencies, in theory they're perfectly possible now - the headway is 3 mins all the way so if you ignore platforming for a moment, you could theoretically have 20tph fast! It's just a question of the tradeoffs you're willing to make.

To achieve 4tph clockface, you'd probably have to get rid of all daytime freight, and rework the stoppers so they ran to Earlestown/Wigan/Warrington rather than Liverpool-Manchester. Obviously I imagine the local RUGs and politicians might have something to say about that! Otherwise you'd need a dynamic loop somewhere between Newton-le-Willows and Huyton, which would cost £££.
 
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The Planner

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I find this line fascinating, simply because of the engineering hurdles Stephenson had to overcome. But I do wonder, what would need to happen for the Chat Moss line to be able to have Liverpool-Manchester journey times of circa 25 minutes and have 4 fast Liverpool-Manchester TPE trains each hour?
Which Manchester station? You would probably need 125mph and some four tracking to overtake slower trains. Its 32 miles Lime St to Victoria near enough. You need an average of 77mph to get 25 minutes. Once Port Salford gets going the freight traffic will rise a fair bit too.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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I find this line fascinating, simply because of the engineering hurdles Stephenson had to overcome. But I do wonder, what would need to happen for the Chat Moss line to be able to have Liverpool-Manchester journey times of circa 25 minutes and have 4 fast Liverpool-Manchester TPE trains each hour?
Much of the line once had 4 tracks, although a lot was in goods lines rather than in passenger service.
Despite the quadrupling Huyton-Roby, it's still an awkward 2-track line much like the CLC for most of the distance, with the stoppers impeding the fast services.
Traffic on the eastern end is variable with the Golborne-Parkside curve sometimes in and sometimes out of favour for through services (currently out).
There is still the prospect of a freight connection west of the M60 to the new Port Salford on the MSC, which would further complicate the pathing.
But really, the fast TPE solution is the new NPR route from (presumably) Ditton to Manchester Airport/Piccadilly via Warrington BQ LL.
I can't see major development of the Chat Moss route if that is the strategic plan.
But maybe there will be signalling improvements at the eastern end if the Port Salford branch goes in.
 

Watershed

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But really, the fast TPE solution is the new NPR route from (presumably) Ditton to Manchester Airport/Piccadilly via Warrington BQ LL.
It's actually no faster than the Chat Moss currently is, as it will be a considerably more circuitous route. Just that, being entirely segregated from existing traffic except between Edge Hill and Lime Street, it will enable far more stopping/semifast/freight trains to operate on the Chat Moss route without them being constrained by fast trains running up their backsides...
 

SJL2020

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My understanding is that the ground conditions are very different to 1830, for what was a near-swamp at that time has, by long-term drainage, been converted into agricultural land, and the land itself, drained, has sunk, as the peaty character has dried out. You can find this at places like Astley level crossing, where the road now rises from each side to rail level.
There are several projects underway to re-wet and restore some of peatlands on Chat Moss, which was once one of the largest lowland bogs in England. e.g. Some of the restoration on Astley and Bedford mosses can be seen from the train window.

Another area a bit south of the railway line is Little Woolden Moss. This video shows some of the work that the Lancashire Wildlife Trust are doing to restore the moss.

A tour of Little Woolden Moss from Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust - YouTube
 

Taunton

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Anyone interested in the Chat Moss line should read Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Lost Special". Written around 1900, it has the author's usual Sherlock Holmes (who makes a cameo appearence) style of just mixing up real locations a bit in the story. Doyle was no mean knowledgeable railway buff, apparently, and doubtless a Bradshaw aficionado, but delighted in having trains depart from slightly the wrong station, especially in London, and this one is typical in transposing various points along this line. Remember, it's a fiction.

Fortunately it's available on the Internet. Give yourself 20 minutes to read it!

Short Stories: The Lost Special by Arthur Conan Doyle (eastoftheweb.com)

Wikipedia has an explanation of its background:

The Story of the Lost Special - Wikipedia
 

Senex

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It's actually no faster than the Chat Moss currently is, as it will be a considerably more circuitous route. Just that, being entirely segregated from existing traffic except between Edge Hill and Lime Street, it will enable far more stopping/semifast/freight trains to operate on the Chat Moss route without them being constrained by fast trains running up their backsides...
35 minutes is really pretty pathetic between two major cities only 30-odd miles apart, especially after spending the amount of money proposed for this "high-speed" line. It seems to be down to the two planned intermediate stops in such a short journey and the roundabout route proposed. The best time I've seen for Chat Moss since modernisation is 29½ minutes eastbound, and I think for a time the best schedules were 32 minutes eastbound—very significantly better than the planned new line even without further work on the line.
 

Watershed

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35 minutes is really pretty pathetic between two major cities only 30-odd miles apart, especially after spending the amount of money proposed for this "high-speed" line. It seems to be down to the two planned intermediate stops in such a short journey and the roundabout route proposed. The best time I've seen for Chat Moss since modernisation is 29½ minutes eastbound, and I think for a time the best schedules were 32 minutes eastbound—very significantly better than the planned new line even without further work on the line.
It certainly could be better, but with pre-Covid frequencies (which are due to return in May) "only" being 2tph, there's still leeway for GJT to be reduced by increasing frequency. If the new line has a clockface 4tph service you'd decrease the GJT from 47 mins (pre-Covid) to 42 mins, despite the increase in the travelling time.
 

185

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Its 32 miles Lime St to Victoria near enough. You need an average of 77mph to get 25 minutes.
Ah, but the law says everything including passing spacecraft must stop at short-platformed Newton, Lea Green and Wavertree Theme Park as railway managers live there. So 47 minutes at best. ;)
 

Foxcover

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The 32 min nonstop TPE schedules from Lime St to Manchester Victoria about 4 years ago on the Newcastles never felt overstretched and you’d often be waiting/slowing for time (or a platform) at one end or the other. I always felt there was room to bring it down below 30 mins quite reliably, with no stops of course.
 

Halish Railway

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The 32 min nonstop TPE schedules from Lime St to Manchester Victoria about 4 years ago on the Newcastles never felt overstretched and you’d often be waiting/slowing for time (or a platform) at one end or the other. I always felt there was room to bring it down below 30 mins quite reliably, with no stops of course.
Although compromises will have to be made, most likely by accelerating the Liverpool to Manchester (Crewe) stopper so that it doesn’t get caught up, meaning that some stations will either loose direct trains to Liverpool or Manchester. These stations may also have to be served by additional services that the current infrastructure doesn’t have capacity for.
 

class 9

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35 minutes is really pretty pathetic between two major cities only 30-odd miles apart, especially after spending the amount of money proposed for this "high-speed" line. It seems to be down to the two planned intermediate stops in such a short journey and the roundabout route proposed. The best time I've seen for Chat Moss since modernisation is 29½ minutes eastbound, and I think for a time the best schedules were 32 minutes eastbound—very significantly better than the planned new line even without further work on the line.
It's not bad compared to road though, just under an hour usually, considerably more in the rush hours.
 

Bevan Price

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I find this line fascinating, simply because of the engineering hurdles Stephenson had to overcome. But I do wonder, what would need to happen for the Chat Moss line to be able to have Liverpool-Manchester journey times of circa 25 minutes and have 4 fast Liverpool-Manchester TPE trains each hour?
First, you would somehow need to straighten the track between Ordsall Lane Jn & Manchester Victoria, which might save about 1.5 minutes - and totally unaffordable.
Also, you would have to raise speed limits between Liverpool Lime St. & Edge Hill, which could save another 1 to 1.5 minutes. Current actual times from Lime St. to Edge Hill are significantly slower than used to happen in the 1960s/1970s.
 

Senex

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First, you would somehow need to straighten the track between Ordsall Lane Jn & Manchester Victoria, which might save about 1.5 minutes - and totally unaffordable.
Also, you would have to raise speed limits between Liverpool Lime St. & Edge Hill, which could save another 1 to 1.5 minutes. Current actual times from Lime St. to Edge Hill are significantly slower than used to happen in the 1960s/1970s.
You can put the dreadful alignment between Ordsall Lane and Salford down to the LNW wanting to save money in the 1840s — the alignment as at first planned was significantly better.
The Liverpool end is a different sort of problem, isn't it? Coming out, you could come up the bank faster but would then have to slow for the curves round the platform at Edge Hill, and rebuilding that would be quite a pricey job (though surely by no means impossible). But westbound, would a faster descent of the bank be permissible leading as it does straight to the buffers at Lime Street? What speed is allowed for the descent to Glasgow Queeen Street?
The one you haven't mentioned is doing something with Astley and eastwards. If that quarter mile at Astley could just go even only to the 75 of Chat Moss, then it might be worth while going to 90 onwards to Ordsall Lane, with both those changes together giving about a minute.
 
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