Monday, 30 December 2013

Railways around Morecambe

I was first introduced to the railways around Morecambe in 1952 as I described in the post Steam around Morecambe. I've been back to the Morecambe area by road a few times since, notably in 1967 when I saw how Lancaster (Green Ayre) had changed. There's a post based on the 1967 visit titled Track Diagrams: Lancaster (Green Ayre).

Recently, I made a brief foray back to the area by rail, described in the post Return to Heysham which includes architectural comments. I've left my more technical railway musings for this present post.

Brief History


Click here for enlarged view
Details of the lines around Morecambe in 1913 originally published by the Railway Clearing House. Reprinted in 'Pre-Grouping Railway Junction Diagrams 1914', published by Ian Allen (ISBN 0 7110 1256 3).


The North Western Railway (usually called the 'Little North Western' to distinguish it from the mighty L&NWR) built a line from Settle to join up with the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway (now part of the West Coast Main Line) and that spawned a branch to Morecambe, terminating at Northumberland Road, which opened in 1848. This branch was first leased by the Midland Railway in 1859 and subsequently acquired by them.

The L&NWR constructed its own branch from their main line to Morecambe in 1864. This branch initially shared the Northumberland Road terminus but, in 1886, a dedicated L&NWR terminus opened at Euston Road.

The Midland Railway were anxious to develop the Irish traffic and in 1904 opened a branch to a new ferry port at Heysham. In 1907, the Midland replaced Northumberland Road station with a spacious station nearer the sea called 'Promenade'. Keen to try out electric traction, the Midland's Lancaster - Morecambe - Heysham network was electrified in 1908 at 6,600 volts, 25Hz a.c. with overhead current collection. This scheme was very successful but, by 1951, the electric rolling stock was life-expired.

British Rail decided to refurbish the line, changing the supply frequency to that of the National Grid - 50Hz, so as to provide a test-bed for subsequent main line 50 Hz electrification. Steam-worked push and pull services maintained the service from February 1951 until August 1953 when the 50Hz electric trains resumed operations. See Steam around Morecambe for more details.

In 1966, as part of Beeching's simplification of the network, the former Midland line from Lancaster Green Ayre to Morecambe (and the electrification) was abandoned and remaining services from the West Coast Main Line were routed into Morecambe Promenade station.

In 1994, a new station was opened a little inland of Morecambe Promenade and the now-redundant area around Promenade Station was redeveloped, although the main building on the promenade was preserved for non-railway purposes.

Wikipedia has an article on the Morecambe Branch here.

The Routes in the 1950s

In the 1950s, the routes were mainly controlled by semaphore signals, manual signal boxes and Absolute Block Signalling.

Ex-L&NWR signal boxes:
Lancaster No. 1
Lancaster No. 2
Lancaster No. 3
Lancaster No. 4
Morecambe South Junction
Hest Bank
Bare Lane
Morecambe Euston Road
You can find detailed signal box diagrams in the excellent series of publications from the Signalling Record Society 'British Railways Layout Plans of the 1950's'. Lancaster (Castle) and the L&NWR lines to Morecambe (Euston Road) are in 'Volume 6: West Coast Main Line (Euxton Junction to Mossband) and branches' (ISBN: 1 873228 05 8).

Ex-Midland signal boxes:
Ladies Walk
Lancaster Green Ayre
Torrisholme Jn. No. 1
Morecambe Promenade
Torrisholme Jn. No. 2
Heysham Moss Sidings
Heysham Harbour Jn.
Heysham Harbour Jn.
Again, you can find detailed signal box diagrams in the Signalling Record Society publication 'British Railways Layout Plans of the 1950's'. Lancaster (Green Ayre) and the Midland lines to Morecambe (Promenade) and Heysham are in 'Volume 12: ex-MR Main Line Carlisle to Leeds, associated branches and joint lines' (ISBN: 1 873228 15 5).

The Routes in 2013

The double-track West Coast Main Line is now electrified at 25 kV a.c. and the other routes are either abandoned or simplified. The entire area is signalled with colour-light signals remotely controlled from Preston Power Signal Box. To see what remains in 2013, refer to 'Railway Track Diagrams Book 4: Midlands & North West', Third Edition, published by Trackmaps (ISBN: 978-0-9549866-7-4).

Lancaster station today

This L&NWR station on the West Coast route was formerly called Lancaster (Castle) to distinguish it from the Midland Railway's Lancaster (Green Ayre) station. Well, the Castle still sits on the hill brooding over the L&NWR station but the station is now simply called 'Lancaster' and is one of the stations operated by Virgin.

Lancaster Station looking north with a 'Pendolino' arriving in platform 3.

Bare Lane station today

Bare Lane has become a rather curious junction. Two single lines approach from the West Coast Main Line, forming a triangle. Trains from Lancaster direction leave the main line at Morecambe South Junction. This was formerly a double-track connection but is now singled. Trains from Carlisle direction leave the main line at Hest Bank: this connection was always single. I didn't visit Hest Bank this time but there's a post based on a visit to Hest Bank back in 1967 titled Track Diagrams: Hest Bank. The two single lines combine east of Bare Lane station and then immediately split into two parallel single lines (the original double track L&NWR route converted into two 'long sidings' both used by trains in both directions from Bare Lane to the new Morecambe station each used by trains in both directions). The former Down line is now designated 'Heysham' and the former Up line is designated 'Morecambe'. The Bare Lane signal box structure (with lever frame) remains, overlooking the barrier-controlled road crossing. Colour light signals control movements through Bare Lane. The Bare Lane signal box controlled the area until 2012, when Preston Power Signal Box took over.

The attractive stone-built former station building on what was the Up platform at Bare Lane.

Morecambe station today

The original Morecambe station lay right on the promenade and its rather grand station building survives (listed Grade II) although now divorced from the railway. The L&NWR built their own route to Morecambe with a separate terminus a little inland called Morecambe (Euston Road. Crossovers between the L&NWR and Midland lines outside both stations allowed trains from the L&NWR to arrive at either station. This juxtaposition of the two routes has allowed a fairly ingenious adaption of the original complex arrangement of lines to today's very simple facilities. The two parallel single lines from Bare Lane divert onto the former Midland trackbed and continue to an island platform at the present station.

Rush hour at Morecambe: view from the buffer stop end looking towards Bare Lane. Class 156 Lancaster train in platform 1 (left) and Class 158 Leeds train on right.

The 'Morecambe' line (platform 1) is just a simple siding but the 'Heysham' line (platform 2) has a run-round loop. This is so that nuclear 'Flask' trains arriving at Morecambe for Heysham Nuclear Power Stations can run-round before reversing direction and diverting onto the single line to Heysham. The connection to the Heysham Branch is normally set for running to and from Bare Lane, but a 2-lever ground frame at the junction points (I assume electrically released from Preston P.S.B.) allows the train crew to change the points. The points at either end of the run-round loop appear to be spring operated without manual levers. There is a 'Point Indicator' reading from headshunt to the run round loop. The 'Point Indicator' looks like a 2-aspect colour light signal and presumably is lit yellow when the points are correctly fitted-up for the loop, as proved by an electrical detection box.

View of headshunt beyond platform 2 and spring points set for the run round loop.

The view below shows the present junction with the Heysham line.

This view, from the Westend Road bridge shows the two lines to Bare Lane on the left, the single line to Heysham curving away at the top. In the centre, the two-lever ground frame with the 'Point Indicator' for Up movements adjacent. The are two more point indicators for Down movements on the left of the junction. On the right, the spring points at the Bare Lane End of the run-round loop.

The Ground Frame is operated by Train Crew - on my journey to Heysham, the driver had a trainee with him. We stopped clear of the points, driver and trainee both climbed down, shutting the door from outside (the 'Pacers' don't have a separate driver's door). My picture below shows the trainee with the cabinet open, presumably obtaining the release. The Point Indicator changed from 'Yellow' to 'flashing red' whilst he inserted the release key into the ground frame, operated the release lever to reverse (withdrawing the Facing Point Lock from the point stretcher), operated the second lever to change the points for the Heysham line, placed the release lever normal (inserting the Facing Point Lock through the second notch in the point stretcher) and withdrew the release key. I assume they carried the key as authority to occupy the line, but I didn't spot it. The point indicator had gone back to 'yellow' as the driver and trainee clambered back on and we set off for Heysham, bouncing quite well (as these dreadful Class 142 4-wheel vehicles do).


The 2-lever ground frame controlling access the the Heysham branch.

Heysham Port station today

Just before arriving at Heysham station, we passed another 2-lever frame (presumably released by the release key used at the Morecambe end) which allowed trains into the Power Station Siding. We continued to the present single used platform. The remains of the original three platforms were still visible, but only one was served by railway track. Originally, the three platforms were longer and led to pointwork at the far end of the station but a modern ferry terminal now occupied the space. I remember the all-over roof originally made it a rather dark station. Although the roof has now gone, many of the supporting columns remain, with a 'T' shaped head where the horizontal supporting girders had been cut short. I was able to take a few pictures before the train returned to Morecambe.

Heysham Port station.

After a few minutes, we were approaching Morecambe. The driver stopped when the train was clear of the Heysham junction points (the guard at the rear 'buzzed' the driver when he was 'over') and the driver and his trainee worked the Ground Frame to restore the points to the Bare Lane direction, ready for their working to Lancaster and then Leeds. Having picked up more passengers at Morecambe station, we made our way back to Lancaster, where I left the train.

Heysham Port and its Ships

There's a Wikipedia article on the port here. Heysham Port is now operated by Peel Ports (who operate a number of U.K. ports, including Liverpool.

Years before, I'd seen British Rail's TSS Duke of Lancaster which operated on the Heysham - Belfast route. This ship was a replacement for the earlier L.M.S. owned RMS Duke of Lancaster. Oddly enough, the 1956 'Duke of Lancaster' can still be seen, beached in a creek on the North Wales coast. Nowadays, the Belfast service is operated by Seatruck Ferries with a fleet of modern 'Roll-on, Roll-off' ferries. I found the Seatruck Ferries site particularly helpful - there's comprehensive data on each of their vessels, including Seatruck Panorama which was berthed on the South Quay.

A fairly deserted Heysham Port, viewed from the approach road. 'Seatruck Panorama' is berthed on the South Quay, dwarfing the 'Pacer' which would return me to Morecambe.

Heysham Nuclear Power Stations

I was surprised at just how close to Heysham Port railway station the two power stations were. The Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) was heralded as the way forward when introduced but technical difficulties during meant that that promise was unfulfilled. There are useful Wikipedia articles on the AGR design and the two slightly different designs in use at Heysham Nuclear Power Stations.

View of Heysham No. 1 Power Station from the road. Note the railway sidings beyond the fence. The output from the power station is delivered by the dual three-phase high voltage transmission line. Heysham No. 2. has its own transmission line.

Since we 'privatised' our electricity production and distribution, the two Heysham Power Stations have been operated by EDF Energy which is owned by the French state-owned organisation √Člectricit√© de France. Huh? There's information on the web which is regularly updated - see Heysham No. 1 and Heysham No. 2.

The two dual transmission lines from the two power stations enter a High Voltage Switch Yard after a few hundred yards and from there, various transmission lines march off to serve different areas.

The High Voltage Switch Yard just outside Heysham Port Station.

My pictures

Morecambe (includes pictures of former Promenade station building).
Morecambe area railways.
Lancaster area rail.

[Spelling of 'Torrisholme' amended - 24-Mar-2014]