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APOLLO

Railways around Wigan, Leigh & the surrounding areas

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As discussed in this thread todayhttp://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/105447-a-lancashire-triangle-revisited/  I think there is enough interest and material around to discuss the once extremely complex network of railway lines within the Wigan & Leigh area. Apart from the well known (and photographed) West Coast Main Line we also had the L&Y east west routes, LNWR lines to St Helens and Manchester via Tyldesley, GC to Manchester Central via Glazebrook & the CLC and countless (mainly colliery) industrial railways.

 

In a sense Wigan is lucky, we still have two stations in the town centre, and eight routes out of town (Preston, Warrington, St Helens / Liverpool, Kirkby, Southport, Bolton and Manchester via Walkden, and recently also the new Trans Pennine electrics via Golborne and Chat Moss). Apart from the loss of all the industrial systems (and the industry) we only lost three passenger routes, The joint LNW / L&Ylink to Chorley & Blackburn, The LNW route to Tyldesley and Manchester Exchange and the GC branch from Wigan Central to Glazebrook & Manchester Central.

 

Wigan was in early with railways, The Wigan Branch railway connected with the Liverpool & Manchester at Parkside, later becoming part of the West Coast Main Line. We also had one of the first industrial branch lines, the New Springs branch serving many collieries and iron works. This line gave its name to Springs Branch the famous (!!) loco shed.

 

I'll start with this interesting RCH map of  the area, though of course not all of Wigan's railways are shown, and neighbouring Leigh also had complex and interesting lines. I'll try and find a map.

 

post-6884-0-63761000-1449337111_thumb.jpg

 

There are quite a few of my Wigan photo's in my link below. I'll post a few more here and some other interesting local stuff in due course

 

Please feel free to add your comments / memories / photo's / material. Wigan deserves its railway history etc to be aired more.

 

I'm modelling a section of both the LNW Springs Branch and the GC line, both at Ince, Wigan, where they crossed and connected.

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO
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I agree Wigan's railway history deserves more attention that it seems to get.  Although I have lived here for about 7 years, I have only recently started to investigate where the old railways ran, and there are far more than you would ever imagine!

 

There is a fantastic resource available from the National Library of Scotland where you can show old maps alongside the current Bing/Google aerial views which demonstrate how many lines have been lost, yet are still visible from the air as green lines through the landscape.  If I have copied the right link, this http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/sidebyside.cfm#zoom=13&lat=53.5478&lon=-2.6393&layers=1&right=BingHyb  should show the same area as your RCH map.

 

I would be interested to know the date of that RCH document, as the 1885-1900 OS map doesn't show either Goose Green Junction to Norley Colliery or 'End of Springs Branch.'

 

Regards

 

Moxy

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That stretch of South Lancashire between Liverpool and Manchester and from, say, the Ship Canal up to Wigan, had an incredible and varied railway network, both main line and industrial. Endless interest and inspiration.

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That stretch of South Lancashire between Liverpool and Manchester and from, say, the Ship Canal up to Wigan, had an incredible and varied railway network, both main line and industrial. Endless interest and inspiration.

 

Agree, and perhaps this thread should also encompass the area mentioned, it was certainly full of railways !!

 

The RCH map is dated 1907. Perhaps when Wigan's railways were at their zenith.

 

Brit15

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That's an interesting link Moxy, not seen the side by side version up to now.

 

Maps / plans early on in thes thread are useful I think. This is an interesting one again from the Wigan World site,   it shows the route taken by the Zeppelin raid on Wigan in 1918. The main target was the then large Wigan Coal & Iron co's steelworks at Kirkless (AKA Top Place). They didn't bomb that, but caused a bit of bother around the area.

 

post-6884-0-56462000-1449400391_thumb.jpg

 

Again courtesy of Wigan World, with more info on the site.

 

http://www.wiganworld.co.uk/album/photo.php?opt=8&id=12573&gallery=ZEPPELIN+RAID+1918&offset=0

 

Of interest is the "New Springs" Branch (Which terminated in New Springs - hence the name) running from south to north on the plan, showing just a few of the many collieries, iron & steel works and wagon works this very interesting line served.

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO
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These are the Wigan Coal & Iron Co.s (WCICo) Coke Ovens, shown top right on Apollos map.

 

post-6861-0-43039800-1449404589.jpeg

 

Another here;

 

http://www.wiganworld.co.uk/album/photo.php?opt=3&id=25997&gallery=Wigan+Coal+%26+Iron+Co.&offset=200

 

They provided coke for the ironworks.

 

Like much industry in the late 20's the company was struggling. In 1930 Montague Norman, chairman of the Bank of England, put together a rescue plan which involved the formation of the Lancashire Steel Corporation and the smaller Wigan Coal Corporation. These two took over several coal and iron interests, the three largest being the Partington Steel & Iron Company, Pearson & Knowles Coal & Iron Co., and WCICo.

 

The Lancashire Steel Corporation held a 40% share of the Wigan Coal Corp. The LSC rationalised it's assets concentrating on the almost complete rebuilding of the more modern and better situated Partington Company's plant at Irlam. WCICo's older Kirkless iron works and coke works, those above, closed around 1930/31.

Edited by Arthur
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I think one reason the GCR Wigan branch survived as long as it did was that there was considerable 'commuter' traffic from Wigan to Irlam for the steel works. No doubt this was in part due to the earlier displacement of workers when the Wigan works closed.

 

This is a rich area for private owner wagons by the way. Although many of the wagons would need to be scratch built, as the local collieries had loads that were locally built, of ancient design, or both. No suitable kits, still less RTR.

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Yes indeed when Kirkless closed (the iron & steel works) there was  heavy use of the Wigan Central to Irlam via Glazebrook line, and workmens trains ran daily from Wigan Central to Irlam & back, timed to coincide with the steelworkers shifts.

 

There is lots of this type of info in various books about Wigan's railways. I have quite a few, and as an aid others I'll list them below along with a brief description. If anyone owns / knows of other books with interesting  Wigan railway content, please post on this thread. I may find one or two more I have hidden away / forgotten about !!

 

Triangle Publishing

 

D J Sweeney Colour of a Lancashire Triangle   ISBN 095293333 0         Full page colour photos of Wigan Leigh Atherton area.

ditto                A Lancashire Triangle Part 1       ISBN 0 952 9333 06       A history of LNWR railways in and around the South Lancashire Coalfield

ditto                A Lancashire Triangle Part 2       ISBN 0 952 9333 22       A history of LNWR railways in and around the South Lancashire Coalfield

ditto                A Lancashire Triangle Revisited  ISBN 978 09550030 73  A supplement to the above 2 books just published

ditto                The Lancashire Union Railway    ISBN 978 09550030 42  A history of the LUR St Helens to Wigan, Chorley and Blackburn line

ditto                The Wigan Branch Railway         ISBN 978 09550030 35   A history of the Parkside to Wigan line, (later LNWR & part of the West Coast main line) This book includes the New Springs branch.

ditto                The Wigan Junction Railway        ISBN 978 0 9550030 5 9 A history of the GC Glazebrook to Wigan Central line

ditto                The St Helens & Wigan Junction Railway ISBN 978 0 9550030 6 6  A history of the GC St Helens branch from the Wigan line at Lowton St Marys

ditto                 Plodder lane for Farnworth            ISBN 0 952 9333 65       A history of the Kenyon Jcn & Worsley to Bolton Great Moor St LNWR lines 

 

ditto                The South Lancashire Tramways Co Ltd ISBN 0 955003 0 24 A history of the SLT tramways, around Leigh, Atherton Hindley etc

 

HMRS The Historical Model Railway Society

 

A J Watts    Private Owner Wagons from the Ince Wagon and Ironworks Co. History of Ince wagon works with many ex works private owner coal wagon photos.& diagrams

 

Ian Allen

 

Eric Mason The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway  no ISBN, published 1954    History of the L&Y, some Wigan history

 

David & Charles

 

John Marshall  The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Vols 1 & 2   ISBN  0 7153 4906 6 

I only have vol 2 and this deals with the later years, Manchester to Liverpool  improvements, Pemberton loop line etc.

 

Manchester Transport Museum Society

 

E K Stretch  The Tramways of Wigan   no ISBN published 1978  A history of the Wigans Tramways

 

Runpast Publishing

 

Townley Smith Peden   The Industrial Railways of the Wigan Coalfield Part 1 West & South of Wigan  ISBN 1 870756 18 2

Townley Smith Peden   The Industrial Railways of the Wigan Coalfield Part 2 North & East of Wigan    ISBN 1 870754 23 9

 

There are other books in this series touching on the Wigan / Leigh area, (also two covering the nearby St Helens / Widnes areas)

 

Townley Smith Peden   The Industrial Railways of the Bolton Bury & Manchester Coalfield Part 1 Bolton & Bury    ISBN 1 870754 30 1

Townley Smith Peden   The Industrial Railways of the Bolton Bury & Manchester Coalfield Part 2 The Manchester Coalfield  ISBN 1 870754 32 8

 

Bob Pixton  Main Line Railways around Wigan ISBN 1 870754 45 X  Illustrated history of all Wigan's main lines

 

Landmark Publishing

 

Geoffrey Hayes  Collieries and their Railways in the Manchester Coalfields ISBN 1 84306 135 X

 

Kestrel Railway Books

 

Bob Pixton  Liverpool - Manchester Vol 3 L&Y Lines ISBN 9 781905 505074  Illustrated history of the L&Y route some Wigan photos

 

Book Law Publications

 

73156 Standard 5 group  Requiem at Ince ISBN 99 781907 094958 Illustrated history of Thompsons / Central wagon loco scrapyard in the 60's A superb little book.

 

Foxline

 

Ray Farrell  Wigan to Preston The North Union line Remembered (Scenes from the past No52) ISBN 9 781870 119887  Illustrated history of the WCML from Springs Branch to  Preston

 

Fred Darbyshire

 

Fred Darbyshire    A Footplateman Remembers  No ISBN   A locally produced book about footplate experiences on the ex GC Wigan line and later at Springs Branch

 

Steam Image

 

Chris Coates  The Wigan Sheds Vol 1 Springs Branch  ISBN 0 9543128 4 8  Illustrated history of Springs Branch MPD 

 

edited 5/6/2016 to add

 

Chris Coates  The Wigan Sheds Vol 2 Wigan L & Y depot  ISBN 0 9543128 7 9  Illustrated history of Wigan L & Y  MPD

 

Vol 3 will be Wigan GC shed - no date given for publishing.

 

Smiths Wigan (former local bookshop now sadly closed)

 

D Anderson & AA France  Wigan Coal & Iron ISBN0 9510680 7 5  A must have for anyone interested in this company. Many old photos / maps / plans etc

 

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society

 

C Littleworth    Signalboxes on L&Y lines North & West of Manchester ISBN 978 0 9559467 5 2 Includes photos & diagrams of many Wigan area signal boxes.

 

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO

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Hi, Judging by these map extracts (  from the History Shop I think), it looks like Pagefield Ironworks may have been a possible target.

post-19569-0-20905400-1451915981.jpg

 

post-19569-0-24809900-1451916003.jpg

 

Kevan

 

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Good job "The Hun" did not bomb the adjoining Wigan Corporation sewage outfall works - or we would all have been in the s**t !!!.

 

Incidentally, shown on the above plan is the original L&Y loco shed, which was replaced by Prescot St shed, the lead lines to this are just on the above map in the bottom right hand corner.

 

Brit15

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Here are some photos my dad took around 1973 of Wigan gas works, alongside the L&Y line, just before demolition. The original negs were 8 on 120 and I had to adapt my 35mm scanner, so some bits are missing / scanned twice. I did part of my apprenticeship here with the North Western Gas Board, starting in 1969 when they still made gas here. On my first day of work I nearly got run over by a diesel loco shunting the yard !!

 

Many fond memories of the place, and especially the camaraderie of the lads (and lasses) who worked (!!) there, especially when we converted to North Sea gas, which coincided with the Miners strikes, power cuts and 3 day week. As an apprentice I held the torch whilst the fitter did the conversion, and it was 7 day weeks and 12 hours a day for us for a while.

 

post-6884-0-01451900-1451944437.jpg

 

post-6884-0-31641300-1451944447.jpg

 

post-6884-0-69532400-1451944506.jpg

 

post-6884-0-54339000-1451944529.jpg

 

post-6884-0-19894600-1451944549_thumb.jpg

 

post-6884-0-32208000-1451944569.jpg

 

post-6884-0-29176800-1451944582.jpg

 

post-6884-0-30307100-1451944617_thumb.jpg

 

post-6884-0-79887900-1451944639.jpg

 

post-6884-0-99131400-1451944657_thumb.jpg

 

post-6884-0-00976600-1451944671_thumb.jpg

 

post-6884-0-77855900-1451944684.jpg

 

post-6884-0-03121200-1451944706.jpg

 

post-6884-0-11102400-1451944729.jpg

 

post-6884-0-14823700-1451944743_thumb.jpg

 

The place had atmosphere, almost if it was "alive" when in production, steam traps hissing everywhere etc. And yes, it stank to high heaven !!!!

 

Brit15

 

 

 

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Great stuff Apollo, it's good to see 'insider' photographs of industrial plant, detail rarely recorded otherwise.  Official works photos tend to be of new or rebuilt plant.

 

The building featured in images 3 and 7, was that the retort house?

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Yes Arthur, it was the "New" retort house, not sure when built. The "Old" retort house was in front of it & was demolished in the mid 60's (the railway lines that led to it are in the photos". The land was used for the Transmission pressure breakdown station built around 1970.

 

For the record, in the North West four super size "High Pressure Reforming Plants" (Gas works !!) were built in the mid 60's at Lostock Hall (Preston), Hawleys Lane (Warrington), Wavertree (Liverpool) and Partington (Manchester) all connected to each town by a then new high pressure welded steel gas transmission system. This allowed closure of coal fired gas works over a span of around 5 years. One of the last to go was Wigan. These 4 plants catalytically converted PFD (petroleum fuel distillate) from Stanlow and Shell Partington refineries. PFD steel pipelines were also built in the 60's from the refineries to the works.100 ton rail tankers also supplied Lostock Hall from time to time.

 

The plants made a substitute town gas, so no appliance conversion was needed. Sod's law dictated that as soon as all this work was done North Sea gas came on the scene !!. Thus again over time these 4 plants were closed (after around 5 or 6 years use) as North sea gas came on stream, town by town, area by area, a huge undertaking in the early 70's. All the high pressure pipelines were converted to natural gas, so not all was lost.

 

Thus there was a spell between closing of coal plants (pictured above) and conversion to North Sea gas. That's the basic North West story, what happened in other areas of the UK I do not know.

 

Very busy times for us gas engineers back then. On completion of my engineering apprenticeship I went to Warrington and worked on the low and medium pressure mains conversion there. What a job that was !!!!

 

A note to add, the Stone buildings pictured were the original retort house of around 1870, used as a vehicle garage towards the end. Two very large stone lions guarded the entrance on Chapel Lane. I believe these were preserved and are now at Haigh Hall country park, though I've never seen them.

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO

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A note to add, the Stone buildings pictured were the original retort house of around 1870, used as a vehicle garage towards the end. Two very large stone lions guarded the entrance on Chapel Lane. I believe these were preserved and are now at Haigh Hall country park, though I've never seen them.

 

Brit15

 

Is this one of the lions? http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3442249

 

The caption suggests it may have come from another estate in Leigh, but also mentions the gasworks.

 

Moxy

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Yes, that looks like one of them, wonder where the other went ?. I remember them when I was a lad, one each side of the old (disused by then) entrance in Chapel Lane, on a high wall one each side. They were removed well before the works was demolished. Thanks for posting.

 

Brit15

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Great circa !920 or 30's view of Wigan Gasworks, L&Y main line crossing diagonally, LNW main line top left, and the GC line on the right showing the goods shed and sidings at Darlington Street, line continues north to Wigan Central. Note the goods shed is new. This building still stands as a tool & equipment store.

 

The old retort house is shown, the new one in my photos not yet built on the land behind the old one.

 

lowerince.jpg

 

Area above is top left hand on this map

 

lower_ince_map.gif

 

Bit more detail here

 

quabefof.jpg

 

Photo & plan from Wigan World

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO
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During the summer of 1975, my mate and I worked as fence erectors for Fencelines in Trafford Park putting up chain link and barbed wire fencing around commercial sites.

 

One job we did was at Partington Gasworks. The entire plant had a perimeter fence but several bits of plant within the works were individually fenced off and it was job like this that we were doing. Quite what I don't recall.

 

The gasworks contact we had showed us around one lunchtime and I remember being shown these horizontal high pressure storage tanks which each of which, we were told, essentially held as much gas as a conventional gasometer at some incredible pressure.

 

I read recently that these things went out of favour when local authorities realised the potential for disaster should one of them rupture. Don't know how true that is.

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For some interesting track work look at the photos on this link. Scroll down to second post

 

http://www.lner.info/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=8220

 

Its the GC line bridge over the Leeds Liverpool canal in the above photo.

 

I'm modelling this bit, but as my bridge is on a removable bit I dared not put the point work directly on the bridge as the GC did !! I'll post a couple of pix along with some I took in 1967 after I have scanned them

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO
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Did you ever go spotting by the East Lancs at Golborne Apollo?

 

It was the closest accessible bit of the WCML for me, a brisk bike ride along the East Lancs from Worsley/Boothstown. The embankment on the west of the line, south of the bridge, usually had a crowd of spotters and ragamuffins. You either saw things for a while heading north across the open fields or they burst out, previously unseen, from under the road bridge.

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Never got to Golborne in my spotting days Arthur, it was Taylors Lane at Springs Branch, Westwood Lane or the embankment alongside the Leeds Liverpool canal where both LNW & L&Y trains could be seen. After retiring from the Gas I worked for several years for the gas contractor situated alongside the WCML at Golborne (The old Ski Yogurt factory) around 2004-9.

 

Everything changes. Here is the "New" Hawleys Lane Warrington High Pressure reforming plant, closed around 1975 when Warrington converted to North sea gas, the last town in the North West.

 

9379456328_79a0fca80c_b.jpg

 

More like an oil refinery, built alongside the West Coast main line and always brightly illuminated at night. The Warrington rail served Royal Mail depot is built on this site today.

 

The  horizontal high pressure storage tanks you refer to were known as "Bullets". Around 200ft long and 12ft dia they indeed held a vast quantity of gas at (then) line pressure of around 600PSI. They were located near the four new plants mentioned above, with some other locations also (Skelmersdale was one). Usually 4 or 6 in a line, some were double decked. They were not without their technical problems, One was flexing caused by pressure cycling. They all had to have their supports rebuilt and reinforced. I actually climed into one once when this work was being carried out. They were works of the welders art - beautifully constructed and very well maintained. (as was everything gas back then).

 

In 1993 I was back working in Wigan when the IRA struck the "old" gas works (gas holder station as they became known as then) at Longford, Warrington. A bomb damaged and ignited a large low pressure holder, and this was in the news. What was not in the news was a couple of devices attached to the bullets. These did go off though the over 1" thick special steel barely damaged the paintwork. Half of Warrington would had disappeared had their intended purpose been fulfilled, an occupied block of flats being less than 50 yards away.

 

You are right Arthur that these things went out of favour when local authorities realised the potential for disaster should one of them rupture. And it was not just the local authorities either who voiced concern. Most of the bullets in the NW were decommissioned within weeks of the above incident, and alternative arrangements made for the others. They had all gone by 1996 or so.

 

Low pressure holders have nearly all gone now throughout the UK. Gas is stored where required by "Line Packing" that is storing gas at high pressures in certain transmission pipelines, underground, unseen and safe.

 

There should have been a live pair of Lions prowling around Longford gas works that night !!!

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO
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Thanks for that Apollo, a very interesting and informative post.

 

Yes, your description of the 'bullets' tallies with what I recall at Partington, I seem to think that they were double decked but I couldn't be sure.

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Since being a kid, I've long held fascination with the railways of Wigan. As a very small child, I was held up to watch a lengthy passenger train go under Hall Lane bridge on the Whelley Loop line - I know know that this would have been a southbound WCML diversion around the time electrification was happening in the area - probably double headed class 50's too! A few years later when I was old enough to look over myself I remember being shocked that there was no track there - just the remains of scattered ballast. Hooked ever since.

 

 

I have a few HC Casserley photos of the Wigan GCR and the Boars Head, Red Rock, Adlington line - particularly interested in that one if anyone's got a previously unseen photo knocking around!?

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Rooting round the loft this afternoon I found these newspaper cuttings. Derailment at Wallgate undated, Springs Branch steam closure was in the weekly "Wigan Observer" newspaper dated Friday 8 Dec 1967

 

post-6884-0-57872000-1453404939_thumb.jpg

 

post-6884-0-51636700-1453404974_thumb.jpg

 

post-6884-0-45398800-1453404996_thumb.jpg

 

Brit15

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Also found this - not Wigan but Crewe, and goes well with the above !!

 

Undated and newspaper unknown.

 

post-6884-0-17062800-1453405736_thumb.jpg

 

Brit15

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