The 8D Association



The SH & RGR Warrington Extension,

The Low Level.


40 177 is seen on the low level at its western end from the box at Carterhouse Junction heading towards Ditton. From this point the loco would run on to the deviation line.
28th February 1984.
Photo by John Wilson.

Introduction.

The St Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway obtained the St Helens Railway Act in 1847 to grant the company powers to construct a line from Runcrorn Gap to Warrington Arpley. With Warrington at the time being a major industrial centre of metal working the company could see an opportunity to gain new traffic. The chemical industry in the shape of Joseph Crossfields on the banks of the Mersey was rapidly expanding.

The railway was to burrow under the exiting Grand Junction line at Warrington Bank Quay which had opened on 25th July 1831. After passing under the station at Warrington the railway was to eventually meet end on with the Warrington and Stockport Junction Railway at Arpley.


Another shot from the box at Carterhouse with a 9F passing on a steam special the train is taking the deviation line but the original line can be seen carrying straight on following the course of the canal.
April 1968.
Photo by Les Fifoot.


Crewe built Stanier LMS Black 5 Class 4-6-0 is seen passing Speke Junction with the Edge Hill breakdown train. Built at Crewe Works and delivered in October 1945, shortly after the second World War ended, one of the 842 examples built. The loco was withdrawn from Edge Hill 8A in March 1968 and cut up by Cohens of Kettering in August 1968.
Late 1950's.
Photographer unknown.
From the Dave Tollit collection.

Construction.

Work started slowly, mainly due to the company concentrating on the completion of the extension to Garston. So in 1851 work finally began on the line. From Runcorn Gap the railway was to follow the Sankey Canal for most of its length. It was upon reaching Sankey Bridges that the railway was to cross the canal and carry on east to Warrington. Work also had to be completed at Warrrington Bank Quay with the main line being raised to allow the SH & RGR to pass underneath it. 

Progress with the line was slow but steady and the company hoped to have the line open by the start of the following year. On 1st February 1853 a temporary terminus at Whitecross was opened. It would be over a year before the remaining section to Arpley would open for traffic the line was completed in 1854 but opening was delayed until the W & S was completed. The line finally opened on 24th April 1854 when it was inspected by Captain Wynne and was to be found satisfactory for traffic. Public services were to commence on 1st May 1854 with the joint temporary station at Wilderspool opening from that date.


Having just left the power station 66140 accelerates towards the level crossing en route to Latchford sidings where the train will reverse.
14th March 2007.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.


Stations.

Cuerdley.

Opened around March 1856 the station was a result of pressure from local residents for one adjacent to the local bone yard. It was sited east of Carterhouse Junction and was obviously never profitable as it was closed in January 1858. The owners of the SH & RGR sought to ensure that the situation would not arise again were they would be opening an unprofitable station due to the locals wanting one. They placed a level of £ 3 per week minimum income that had to be generated from any future station. 


66140 is hauling an empty MGR train from Fiddlers Ferry Power Station to reverse at Latchford sidings. The canal is still accessed via the lock into the River Mersey here, tide permitting.
14th March 2007.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.


Fidlers Ferry and Penketh.

Opened on 1st February 1853 the station was located at the end of a track leading to the Ferry Inn it was directly adjacent to the Sankey Canal which at the time was still a busy waterway. The station was provided with two platform faces and a small goods yard to the east. Traffic was probably light due to the low population in the area at the time. As with the other intermediate station on the line the passenger service was withdrawn on 2nd January 1950 but passenger trains would continue to use the line to Manchester and Liverpool until they too were withdrawn in September 1962. No trace of the platforms exists today but the station houses directly adjacent to the station are still in use as a private residence. The goods yard is now a car park for the Ferry Inn.


The platform building at Fidlers Ferry can be seen in the left of this picture the station the station had been closed for more than ten years at this point.
17th June 1961.
Photo by Harry Arnold MBE/Waterway Images.
View more of Harry's Waterway Images here 


Fidlers Ferry and Penketh station  the mound shows where the eastbound platform once was. The two cottages were the railway cottages built for the station but now a private residence.
22nd March 2006.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.


Standing in the garden of one of the properties is this excellent handbarrow from Ditton Junction.
22nd March 2006.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.

More information on Fidlers Ferry & Penketh here


Sankey Bridges.

Opened on 1st February 1853 the station was directly to the west of the canal swing bridge. Unlike Fidlers Ferry the area surrounding it was more populated thus giving higher passenger numbers. The station was closed as a Wartime measure during WW1, like many others, on 1st January 1917 and happily re-opened on 1st July 1919. It had its passenger service withdrawn on 2nd January 1950 and was subsequently closed.  Whilst the canal was still in use the swing bridge which was controlled by the signal box situated on the east end of the westbound platform was left open after the final train of the day had run. This practice allowed the canal traffic to pass unhindered and was standard throughout the railways. Unfortunately in November 1858 the bridge was left open, as usual, after the passage of the final booked train when a special light engine working from Garston fell into the canal. The engine was subsequently recovered. Today no trace of the box or the westbound platform remains but the eastbound platform is still visible from the foot crossing to the east of the site. There are also still some railings present to the rear of the platform.


The overgrown eastbound platform of Sankey Bridges station complete with some of the railings. The station had been closed for over 50 years at this point. The semaphore signal has recently been removed.
20th March 2006.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.

More information on Sankey Bridges station here


  Whitecross.

The temporary terminus at Whitecross opened on 1st February 1853 and was used until the opening of the line on 1st May 1854. All traces of the station have been lost under the Lever Brothers works which are still situated in the area. The site of this station has been completely lost with the building works that have occurred in the area we do not believe any pictures exist or that the site of the station can be located.


Warrington Bank Quay Low Level.

Opened by the LNWR on 16th November 1868 and was an interchange station between the ex SH & RGR  and the ex Grand Junction line. The possibility of changing between local services and main line should have made this a busy station. It was unfortunate that passenger services were withdrawn from the line on 10th September 1962. Which was probably a short sighted move but with all intermediate stations along the line closed an interchange station such as this one could not be viable. The Night Mail, continued to use the station until 9th September 1963 but the cost of opening the signal boxes along the route for one train on a Sunday saw the train diverted via Earlestown. With this the station finally closed and was completely demolished.


Ivatt Class 2 41211 from Dallam shed takes on water at Warrington Bank Quay Low Level before departing with a train for Manchester Oxford Road.
1961.
Photographer unknown.
From the Les Fifoot collection.



37 417 drifts past the site of Warrington Bank Quay Low Level station the line weaves its way under the WCML and through the Lever Brothers works.
5th November 2011.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.

More information on Warrington Bank Quay Low Level station here

Warrington Arpley.

The impressive terminus was opened on 1st May 1854 and was a well used centrally located station. The station was not favoured by the LNWR and was closed on 16th November 1868 with the company feeling that passengers should use the Low Level station located nearby. The residents made a legal challenge to the closure and the LNWR was forced to re-open Arpley which it did begrudgingly. The station enjoyed a long life and would finally close to passengers on 15th September 1958 and to goods on 14th June 1965. The station has since been completely demolished and no trace remains. 


The site of Warrington Arpley station would have been somewhere to the centre of the train it is a real pity that the impressive station was demolished. 70 004 hauls its train to Ellesmere Port having reversed at Latchford sidings. 
14th April 2010.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.

More information on Warringto Arpley station here

Fiddlers Ferry Power Station.

What probably saved the line from total closure was the building by the GEGB of Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. The station was to be coal fired and rail connected with an east facing junction in between Fidlers Ferry and Penketh station and Carterhouse junction. The decision to provide an east facing junction only has provided later operational difficulties. The junction was provided facing east as the majority of the coal that was to be consumed by the power station would come from the Yorkshire coalfield and be delivered via the Woodhead route. The trains would simply run via Warrington Low Level into the loop then back out eastbound back to the collieries. In recent years the coal has been imported with the vast majority coming in through Liverpool Bulk Terminal. This now requires trains running via Ditton to pass the power station and reverse at Latchford sidings. The when empty they have to return to Latchford and reverse again to pass the power station once more. Many of the trains have been recently run via the L & M line and the West Coast Main Line. This too involves a reverse at Walton Junction and then again at Latchford sidings with the same happening with an empty train.


With the power station in the background 60 027 regains the Low Level after discharging its load of coal. The hoppers are ex National Power vehicles now owned by EWS but still in the formers livery.
4th March 2006
Photo by Paul Wright.



Today.

The Low Level is still open virtually in its entirety with the line from Carterhouse Junction to Widnes West Deviation Junction being the only section which has closed. The closure of the section was facilitated by the building of the Deviation by the LNWR. The line had been unused for through traffic since the late 1960's and was then truncated with the section from Carterhouse latterly being used as sidings. These were cut back and used by Tarmac for the delivery of road stone these sidings and the remaining connection from Carterhouse was finally lifted in the late 80's. Since the 1970's the traffic flows along the line have declined in line with the decline of the chemical industry in the Widnes and Runcorn area. A new flow in the 70's was to come from the new BOC plant at Ditton which was to transport many of its products by rail this plant closed in the early 90's and the traffic was lost. Another loss was the Tanhouse Lane to Earles sidings cement trains which ran until the late 90's. The twice weekly salt trains from Folly Lane Runcorn to Roche at Dalry also ceased to run around the same time as the cement trains. The development by the O'Connor Group of the ex BOC terminal into an inland port did bring a new flow along the line from Arpley in the form of a twice weekly intermodal train. Since the site was taken over by the Stobart Group it has flourished but the rail traffic has now been diverted by the Ditton to Weaver line. The line sees plenty of coal trains between Fiddlers Ferry and Warrington but has only around four booked services over the Ditton to Carterhouse section of the line. This section of line has been recently re-laid to a high standard so the future of the line looks safe it could just do with a few more trains!


67015 head the 6F44  Arpley to Ditton O'Connor Group intermodal train along the Low Level towards Carterhouse Jct. The signal box at Carterhouse was demolished the following day.
13th April 2007.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.
 
Further Information and used as source material.

Warrington Railways by Bob Pixton.

Widnes and St Helens Railways by Bob Pixton.

The St Helens Railway by J M Tolson.

Website.

8A Rail up to date freight timetables for the Low Level






Dedicated to promoting the history of the railways of South Lancashire and North Cheshire.
Community Web Kit provided free by BT