Growing up in Burscough

nn7man

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My first ever railway memory was getting on a train with my mother, must have been c.1968, we were travelling from Burscough Junction to Preston to see family. I remember being frightened enough at the approach of the steam engine to hide behind her before we got into the compartment behind what I think was the Black 5 engine.

Fast forward a few years and I was fascinated by trains and attending Lordsgate school so I walked by the line twice a day. My dad worked in Liverpool and took the train to work every day so I'd often go down to the station to meet him after School and steal the used tickets out of the big wooden box in the ticket hall.

At the time, the Burscough MOD depot was still rail connected via the Burscough Bridge to Burscough Junction South Curve and I could hear the Class 25 loco from my house so often went down for a look. I managed to pinch the card from the wagons a few times with the Gathurst origin on but sadly I don't have them any more.

Fast forwarding bit more and I started spotting at Burscough Bridge. There were a lot of loco hauled excursions to/from Southport through the summer weekends, mostly class 47s with some 40s and 45s. I'd hear the inbound train from my house and then go and wait for the return which was always reliably 6pm - 7pm. A walk to the signal box at Burscough Bridge would often yield the timings if not the full WTT. I clearly remember 47484, IKB returning South on a Sunday evening with a WR returning excursion.

There were also a few freight trains. Firstly, there was a trip turn from Wigan to the Southport coal depot on most weekdays. I remember getting a cab ride from Burscough Bridge to Southport with my kid brother in a Class 25, the driver let us out in the sidings by Steamport and we had to leg it over across the tracks and over a fence with a maintenance worker shouting at us and giving chase half heartedly.

And then we had the bin liners to the Gathurst landfill site. They went West past it to Burscough where they ran round in the loop so was a regular spot for me if not at school. It produced a 45, 47 or 56 regularly. I did have a **** tonne of photos but sadly they've all gone.
 
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70014IronDuke

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My first ever railway memory was getting on a train with my mother, must have been c.1968, we were travelling from Burscough Junction to Preston to see family. I remember being frightened enough at the approach of the steam engine to hide behind her before we got into the compartment behind what I think was the Black 5 engine. ...
ITW would have been a Black 5 or 8F by 1968, 98% certain.
Strange - I mean to write here: It would have been a Black 5 or 8F by 1968. There were some Standard 5s and 4s left in service, but I don't think they would have normally have gone down the Liverpool line.
 
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Those recollections are very interesting. It sounds like I'm similar vintage to you - I too was frightened by an approaching steam train as a young child, but in my case I think it was a Liverpool Exchange to Rochdale stopper.

One aspect of "old railway" operation at Burscough Bridge - which you probably missed (as I did) on account of its unearthly hour - was that the station was served by one of Manchester Victoria's overnight newspaper trains.

For many years, there was an 03:15 Man Vic to Southport News (reporting no. 1F65). This was one of the last newspaper train departures of the night, as well as being possibly the shortest - I read somewhere it only loaded to a couple of vans.

The 03:15 ran (non-stop) via Bolton into Wigan North Western, where it spent about half an hour unloaded until about 4am, then proceeded via Wallgate (non-stop) to Burscough Bridge, where it was timed to spend about 5 minutes unloading around 04:20 or 04:30 before continuing to the final destination of Southport.

I read an account by someone who was a local newsagent's van driver, who said each day, all of a sudden in the small hours, vans, estate cars and the odd lorry would converge on a deserted Burscough Bridge station to meet this train.

After 5 or 10 minutes of frantic, noisy activity, everyone suddenly took off into the darkness with the day's papers for newsagents' shops all over West Lancashire, leaving the station silent again and the train's tail light disappearing up the dead-straight track towards Southport.

In the short interval between the end of steam in 1968 and diversion of Liverpool - Scotland expresses from Exchange to Lime St., another feature of the Southport News (according to my dog-eared Working Time Tables) was that the incoming loco was booked to depart from Southport at 05:00 and run light engine via Burscough Bridge, the south curve & Ormskirk to Kirkdale carriage sidings.

At the time Kirkdale was not an EMU depot, it was the place to stable the minimal amount of loco-hauled carriages still required for Liverpool Exchange. Here the loco collected the stock for the morning Glasgow/Edinburgh, took it ECS into Liverpool Exchange, then hauled that train to Preston where it combined with the morning Manchester Victoria - Glasgow/Edinburgh.

This was outside the mid-summer months, during which time the Liverpool - Scotland ran as a separate full-length train. When no portion working was involved, a "main line" Type 4 diesel was provided for the through Scottish train - resulting in the possible appearance of an occasional brand-new Class 50 passing Burscough Junction.

Comment: should this thread be in the Railway History & Nostalgia Forum?
 

L+Y

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My first ever railway memory was getting on a train with my mother, must have been c.1968, we were travelling from Burscough Junction to Preston to see family. I remember being frightened enough at the approach of the steam engine to hide behind her before we got into the compartment behind what I think was the Black 5 engine.

Fast forward a few years and I was fascinated by trains and attending Lordsgate school so I walked by the line twice a day. My dad worked in Liverpool and took the train to work every day so I'd often go down to the station to meet him after School and steal the used tickets out of the big wooden box in the ticket hall.

At the time, the Burscough MOD depot was still rail connected via the Burscough Bridge to Burscough Junction South Curve and I could hear the Class 25 loco from my house so often went down for a look. I managed to pinch the card from the wagons a few times with the Gathurst origin on but sadly I don't have them any more.

Fast forwarding bit more and I started spotting at Burscough Bridge. There were a lot of loco hauled excursions to/from Southport through the summer weekends, mostly class 47s with some 40s and 45s. I'd hear the inbound train from my house and then go and wait for the return which was always reliably 6pm - 7pm. A walk to the signal box at Burscough Bridge would often yield the timings if not the full WTT. I clearly remember 47484, IKB returning South on a Sunday evening with a WR returning excursion.

There were also a few freight trains. Firstly, there was a trip turn from Wigan to the Southport coal depot on most weekdays. I remember getting a cab ride from Burscough Bridge to Southport with my kid brother in a Class 25, the driver let us out in the sidings by Steamport and we had to leg it over across the tracks and over a fence with a maintenance worker shouting at us and giving chase half heartedly.

And then we had the bin liners to the Gathurst landfill site. They went West past it to Burscough where they ran round in the loop so was a regular spot for me if not at school. It produced a 45, 47 or 56 regularly. I did have a **** tonne of photos but sadly they've all gone.
Some great anecdotes here! Such a shame you lost the photos.

Your story of catching a train from BCJ to Preston will be prior to 1966- this was the last year the loco-hauled expresses stopped at Burscough Junction (DMUs of course continued). Oddly, southbound expresses continued to serve Burscough right up until the end.

How often did the MOD train work? I'm assuming this will be mid 1970s, or could it be a bit later?

In the short interval between the end of steam in 1968 and diversion of Liverpool - Scotland expresses from Exchange to Lime St., another feature of the Southport News (according to my dog-eared Working Time Tables) was that the incoming loco was booked to depart from Southport at 05:00 and run light engine via Burscough Bridge, the south curve & Ormskirk to Kirkdale carriage sidings.

At the time Kirkdale was not an EMU depot, it was the place to stable the minimal amount of loco-hauled carriages still required for Liverpool Exchange. Here the loco collected the stock for the morning Glasgow/Edinburgh, took it ECS into Liverpool Exchange, then hauled that train to Preston where it combined with the morning Manchester Victoria - Glasgow/Edinburgh.

This was outside the mid-summer months, during which time the Liverpool - Scotland ran as a separate full-length train. When no portion working was involved, a "main line" Type 4 diesel was provided for the through Scottish train - resulting in the possible appearance of an occasional brand-new Class 50 passing Burscough Junction.

Comment: should this thread be in the Railway History & Nostalgia Forum?

I'd love to see copies of those WTTs! I've got one from 1969, but it's for passenger and ECS workings only, not freight and parcels.

I know about this newspaper working though- it's probably the only time LM class 50s worked to Southport, as they were the usual motive power on the Exchange-Scotland trains between 1968 and the diversion to Lime Street in 1970. I've never seen a single photo of a 50 at Southport though, though I've collected a number of shots of them at Rufford and Ormskirk.

One odd thing about the working was, I believe, that the loco didn't run up the South Curve at all- instead it ran Southport-North Curve-Reverse-Kirkdale. Quite why this method of operation went on I'm not sure, although it must have ceased after the North Curve was cut in 1969.
 
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....... I'd love to see copies of those WTTs! I've got one from 1969, but it's for passenger and ECS workings only, not freight and parcels.

I know about this newspaper working though- it's probably the only time LM class 50s worked to Southport, as they were the usual motive power on the Exchange-Scotland trains between 1968 and the diversion to Lime Street in 1970. I've never seen a single photo of a 50 at Southport though, though I've collected a number of shots of them at Rufford and Ormskirk.

One odd thing about the working was, I believe, that the loco didn't run up the South Curve at all- instead it ran Southport-North Curve-Reverse-Kirkdale. Quite why this method of operation went on I'm not sure, although it must have ceased after the North Curve was cut in 1969.
I've attached two scans from the LMR WTT dated 6 May 1968 to 4 May 1969. One shows 1F65, the outbound 03:15 News from Manchester Vic. The "j" code at Burscough Bridge indicates "arrives 5 mins earlier".

Interestingly, the WTT gives no clues as to how each day's empty newspaper vans got back to Manchester (Red Bank Carriage Sidings, presumably) after the incoming loco took off for either Kirkdale, Wigan Wallgate or Springs Branch diesel depot, depending on the day.

The second WTT extract shows the light engine 0P08 on the portion of its trip between Burscough and Kirkdale Carriage Sidings.

As mentioned by @L+Y, this was booked to travel via Burscough North Junction and reverse. The loco also stopped for 5 minutes at Burscough Bridge station before proceeding around the North Curve. There could be all sorts of obscure reasons for this less-than-obvious routing, lost in the mists of history.

In some locations, daily light engine movements or trip workings were used to deliver water cans or other supplies to particular signal boxes, and this was sometimes noted in the WTT. Maybe this task was given to this loco for Burscough Junction North box (although not specified)? Travelling from a mandatory newspaper working to start a scheduled express passenger job meant it was certain to run every day - unlike a pick-up goods trip which might be cancelled at short notice due to no traffic, especially by the late 1960s. Pure speculation on this, however.

https://www.railforums.co.uk/media/wtt_1968_1f65-jpg.3977/
https://www.railforums.co.uk/media/wtt_1968_0p08-jpg.3976/
 

L+Y

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Looking through some old photos I've shamelessly nicked from online at one time or another, I think I can see one explanation- it looks like at Burscough Bridge the crossover was simply in the wrong direction! It allowed a Rufford-Southport movement, but not vice versa- see attached.

@Springs Branch - this is definitely a thread for another forum, but I'd love to see any more WTT scans you have for the West Lancs lines in this period, especially if you have any for freight!
s-l1600.jpg
 

Bletchleyite

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That's not facing the curves, that's taken from the road bridge looking west, the curves are behind the photographer and both are double lead junctions. So unless I've misunderstood you, a loco from Southport would definitely be able to go onto the South Curve.


Burscough Curves from the road bridge, not my photo
 

L+Y

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That's not facing the curves, that's taken from the road bridge looking west, the curves are behind the photographer and both are double lead junctions. So unless I've misunderstood you, a loco from Southport would definitely be able to go onto the South Curve.

D'oh- of course. For whatever reason I had in mind in my head that the South Curve only connected to the Down Main at Burscough Bridge Junction- not sure what I was thinking!
 

Gloster

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Two thoughts from someone who does not know the area:

Could the routing of the light loco via the North Curve be because the box at the south end of the curve at Burscough Junction was switched out?

If the newspaper vans were just ordinary parcels vans, they could either be worked away from Southport in an ordinary parcels train or in a goods.
 

Bletchleyite

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That box (which is still there) controls the line towards Wigan, I believe, so I don't see how that could happen.

Only sensible explanation I can think of is that it would have conflicted with another train or trains towards Southport.
 

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That box (which is still there) controls the line towards Wigan, I believe, so I don't see how that could happen.

Only sensible explanation I can think of is that it would have conflicted with another train or trains towards Southport.

I must have got confused somewhere: I though Junction was on the Preston-Liverpool line and Bridge on the Wigan-Southport. I thought that the oddity was that that the loco ran Southport-Burscough Bridge-North Junction (reverse)-Burscough Junction-Kirkdale.
 

Bletchleyite

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I must have got confused somewhere: I though Junction was on the Preston-Liverpool line and Bridge on the Wigan-Southport. I thought that the oddity was that that the loco ran Southport-Burscough Bridge-North Junction (reverse)-Burscough Junction-Kirkdale.

Oh, sorry, I misread you. It seems unlikely as that box would control the line towards Liverpool, wouldn't it? There wouldn't be likely to be one controlling only the Curves?
 

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Looking at google maps, I would suspect that there was a box at Burscough Junction station and another at the the south end of the curve round to Burscough Bridge. The distance between the station and the Junction, and the existence of the canal make me think this is likely. If there wasn’t much traffic over the Junction-Bridge South Curve, it might not be worth opening the box fairly early just for a light engine, which can reverse easily.

EDIT: Searching around on the Internet I found a diagram on the signalbox.org site that suggests that a single cabin at the station also worked the South Junction. It is still possible that this was switched out, particularly if the North Cabin was required during the night for trains, such as goods, going from Preston to Southport. (All guesswork, I am afraid.)
 
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L+Y

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@Gloster 's explanation might be right- there was a box at each corner of the triangle, of which today only Burscough Bridge Junction survives.

Burscough South Junction box was at the Ormskirk end of the South Curve, and was of wooden construction. I just wonder if the brick based North Junction box (at the Rufford end of the North Curve) was kept open overnight whilst South was switched out, maybe it was simply easier to heat and therefore a preferable place to work?
 

Gloster

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Burscough South Junction box was at the Ormskirk end of the South Curve, and was of wooden construction. I just wonder if the brick based North Junction box (at the Rufford end of the North Curve) was kept open overnight whilst South was switched out, maybe it was simply easier to heat and therefore a preferable place to work?

I don’t think that such considerations would come into the management’s thinking. The only reason would be for traffic purposes and I would suspect that there was far more likely to be traffic running between Preston and Southport than between Liverpool or/via Ormskirk and Southport. There doesn’t appear to have been a level-crossing, so it is possible that the box at South Junction was normally switched out or only worked one shift if the goods yard was still open. (All supposition, so could be wildly wrong.)
 

L+Y

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I don’t think that such considerations would come into the management’s thinking. The only reason would be for traffic purposes and I would suspect that there was far more likely to be traffic running between Preston and Southport than between Liverpool or/via Ormskirk and Southport. There doesn’t appear to have been a level-crossing, so it is possible that the box at South Junction was normally switched out or only worked one shift if the goods yard was still open. (All supposition, so could be wildly wrong.)

Potentially- but as per the WTTs, there were no other booked workings over the Curves, or indeed anywhere between Preston and Ormskirk, at that time in the morning!

Attached are a couple of photos of the boxes shortly prior to closure in June 1970 by Tony Graham, which seem to frequently appear and disappear from Flickr!

Burscough North Junction 1970.jpg
 

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S&CLER

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Potentially- but as per the WTTs, there were no other booked workings over the Curves, or indeed anywhere between Preston and Ormskirk, at that time in the morning!

Attached are a couple of photos of the boxes shortly prior to closure in June 1970 by Tony Graham, which seem to frequently appear and disappear from Flickr!

View attachment 86549
Have you any information/photos of the small Burscough Abbey box, between Ormskirk and Burscough Jn? Google doesn't come up with anything relevant. I think it closed quite early in the 1960s. It sticks in my memory because I remember reading a newspaper report of a signalman being found dead in the box, though I can't remember if he had died of natural causes or taken his own life.
 
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Could the reason for the North Curve routing be to avoid clashing with a Wigan-Southport service at the same time?
According to the WTT, there was no conflicting move on the Wigan - Southport line until about 12 mins after the light engine was scheduled to depart - although the reason for it being booked to wait 5 mins at Burscough Bridge station (06:21 to 06:26) was probably to wait for the 06:00 Liverpool Exchange - Preston DMU to pass, which departed Burscough Junction at 06:23. However the light engine would have conflicted with that DMU equally at North or South junctions.

I'm wondering if the unexpected routing has anything to do with the well-known "last steam on a scheduled express" situation on the Liverpool - Glasgow/Edinburgh trains? The timetables I've posted were from May 1968 onwards, so presumably covered this period.

Although both the 03:15 Man Vic - Southport News and the 09:00 Liverpool Ex - Preston - Glasgow showed "diesel" timings in the WTT (D600 & D450 respectively), could the routing be to allow for the possibility of a steam loco being deployed?

At the Southport end, the light engine was booked to travel "via fork" and took 8 mins for the normally 3 - 4 minute journey from Chapel St to St Lukes.
Could it have been to ensure a steam loco was eventually pointing the "right way" (i.e. smokebox first) when it came to depart Liverpool Exchange - there being no convenient turning facilities in Liverpool by that time?

See attachment https://www.railforums.co.uk/media/users/springs-branch.22734/

It would have meant the steam engine travelling tender-first between Burscough North Junction and Kirkdale Sidings, then on to Exchange, but I guess it avoided cold, early-morning draughts in cab on the section between Southport and Burscough.

I'm not sure exactly how and when the last steam workings ended on the Liverpool / Preston line, but as with many things on the "old railway", when steam was superseded with diesel on the Liverpool/Glasgows, maybe BR just carried on doing things the old way (albeit only for a short time, until the Scottish expresses moved to Lime Street).
 
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Gloster

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It is possible that the signal box hours had been arranged for workings in a previous timetable, but the workings had since been altered or withdrawn. It is far easier to keep the hours at one box unchanged than to remove a shift at one box and increase the hours/alter the staffing/reopen another box. This is particularly so if you are planning major changes, such as the closure of the North Curve. Never underestimate the effect of ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’ on the railway.
 
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I know about this newspaper working though- it's probably the only time LM class 50s worked to Southport, as they were the usual motive power on the Exchange-Scotland trains between 1968 and the diversion to Lime Street in 1970. I've never seen a single photo of a 50 at Southport though, though I've collected a number of shots of them at Rufford and Ormskirk.
Do you happen to have any of those pics posted on the internet? Or know of any links to them (e.g. on Flickr)?

I've tried Googling, but no results. I'm sure in the past I came across at least one image of a Class 50-hauled express, when I wasn't particularly searching for it - passing through Rufford, IIRC.

Hard to believe with the state of the Ormskirk - Burscough - Preston line today that it once saw full-length Scottish expresses, complete with restaurant car, hauled by shiny new EE Type 4s, as they were then. I suppose same thing could be said for many other locations, e.g. Blackpool South.
 

L+Y

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Do you happen to have any of those pics posted on the internet? Or know of any links to them (e.g. on Flickr)?
Yep- I've got a whole stack of them on my PC which I'll upload a few of later.

For now, here's a few I've got just this morning from the Images of Burscough Facebook pages. Most are shared copyright of a chap called Robert Medway.

There's also a couple of nice shots I hadn't seen before of a 1968 special on the curves.
 

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nn7man

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Thanks for all the replies, amazing how much knowledge there is on here e.g. the newspaper train to Southport that I never knew about nor managed to see and loving the pics.

I did post this in the Nostalgia forum but some misguided mod moved it to the Trips section, thankfully its been moved back to the right place.

I should have mentioned that I went to secondary school in Ormskirk so had a annual season courtesy of the LEA from Burscough Junction for 7 years. Almost all Craven or Derby units with a few turns from Birminghams or Metro Cammells or occasionally a 25 or 47 hauling a failed unit or even rarer a few Mk 1's.

I got my dad into it over the years and we did a regular weekend trip to Springs Branch (our nearest depot) which was always stuffed full of locos on a Sunday afternoon., maybe 40-50 of them, mostly 25, 40 and 47, the odd 50 too. This was in the late 70's so before the ingress of 20's, 37's and 56's. Happy days wandering around the sidings without any aggro, cabbing locos and spotting the electrics and 47's flying past on the WCML.

The next stage of my enthusiast career was a regular trip with my mother to see her sister on Leyland Road in Penwortham which she religiously did every Saturday. They lived a few hundred yards from Skew Bridge so I'd be down there asap, sat on the huge stone blocks of the bridge and watching the amazing variety of traction that could be had in the mid to late 70's. Mostly LMR AC electrics or diesels but with a few exotics like the Blackpool North to Sheffield 37's on summer Saturdays.
 
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Bevan Price

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Some great anecdotes here! Such a shame you lost the photos.

Your story of catching a train from BCJ to Preston will be prior to 1966- this was the last year the loco-hauled expresses stopped at Burscough Junction (DMUs of course continued). Oddly, southbound expresses continued to serve Burscough right up until the end.

.
The summer saturday service from Liverpool Exchange to Blackpool called at Ormskirk & Burscough Junction, and remained steam-hauled until 1967.
 

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