Friday, 20 December 2013

Return to Heysham

Having a 'free day' on Saturday 14th December, I decided to have a day out by rail. A brief internet timetable search suggested Morecambe as a suitable destination. I was surprised to find that the branch from Morecambe to Heysham still had a passenger service, albeit only one return working on the day of interest, so I determined to try to make it back to Heysham (sixty-odd years after my first trip there by rail).

On a Saturday, the first bus into Wolverhampton (where I normally catch trains) leaves at 08:05 and doesn't arrive in Wolverhampton until about half past eight. Allowing for the walk from the bus to the station and the need to buy a train ticket, it didn't seem very likely that I'd be able to catch the 08:37 to Edinburgh but, in fact, I just made it. The 'Pendolino' made an uneventful journey to Lancaster.

The station buildings in stone at Lancaster are listed Grade II. There's more on the British Listed Buildings site here.

Lancaster: View from Station Road of part of the station buildings on the Down side.

I spent a few minutes taking photographs before boarding the Morecambe train, arriving at a windswept Morecambe around 10:40. Outside the small, modern station building a dual carriageway led me via an equally-modern retail park of large warehouses to the promenade. Sixty years ago on my first visit to Morecambe, it was all very different - no dual carriageway, no retail park. Morecambe Bay itself presented the rather grey, forbidding appearance which I remembered from previous visits.

On the landward side of the promenade, I came to the stone-built preserved station building of the long-closed Morecambe Promenade station, which had so impressed me on my first visit. This is now a Grade II listed structure part of which is doing duty as a tourist information office. The roofed concourse area has been converted into a performance area called The Platform. See the British Listed Buildings site here.

Morecambe: The elegant facade of the former Promenade station.

Having photographed the station building and obtained a free street map from the friendly tourist office staff, I crossed to road to the distinctive art-deco Midland Hotel, still occupying its prominent location on the seaward side. Now listed Grade II*, it's been restored. There's more on the history of this iconic hotel on the 'Friends of the Midland Hotel' site here. The British Listed Buildings entry is here.

Morecambe: The Midland Hotel.

It was too early for lunch, but the hotel was serving morning tea and coffee in the (rebuilt) Sun Terrace room. I spent a pleasant half-hour here before heading east along the promenade to the War Memorial where I continued along the beach. It was blustery and starting to rain, but still pleasant.

Morecambe: The Beach.

I left the beach near the Clock Tower, having spotted The Old Pier Bookshop. This is a labyrinthine wonderland of second-hand books - I can't improve on the affectionate review I afterwards found here (on the 'Nothing To See Here' site). Carrying my purchases, I made my way back through the town to the railway station, in time to catch the Heysham Port train along with two middle-aged gentlemen.

The train took us to a deserted Heysham Port where the station was adjacent to the equally-deserted Ferry Waiting Room. It was clear that no ferry departure was imminent, although Sea Truck Ferries Roll-on, Roll-off ferry 'Sea Truck Panorama' was berthed against the south quay. I had less than twenty minutes to explore before the train returned to Morecambe. Outside the station, the most noticeable feature was the two nuclear Power Stations (logically known as Heysham 1 and Heysham 2) just a few hundred yards away.

Heysham 2 (l) and Heysham 1 (r) Nuclear Power Stations, viewed from the Ferry Port car park.

I took the public road leading away from the ferry area. If time had permitted, I could have walked to Heysham Village or even continued to Morecambe but, anxious to catch the train back to Morecambe, I didn't get far in the time available. Returning to the train, I was amused to find that the two other passengers had not even troubled to get off before returning to Morecambe. Certainly, the 2-car 'Pacer' was considerably warmer than outside - still overcast and with light rain.

The train made its way back to Morecambe where the train crew 'changed ends' so I didn't have to get off before being returned by the same train to Lancaster. Here, I had a little time to take more photographs of the station and its buildings before catching a southbound service to Wolverhampton. I was even early enough to catch the four o'clock bus back home.

I've deliberately omitted the railway, shipping and power generation technical comments from this post - they can be found in the post Railways around Morecambe.

My pictures

Morecambe area railways.
Lancaster area rail.