The Branch Line Society


The BLS Liverpool Saveaway Tracker
Wednesday 12th June 2019

Report by Rob Moorcroft

Just when you think you have covered all the passenger track at a large station and can turn your attentions elsewhere, NR spends £334M and it starts all over again. The new Lime Street layout had been on my 'to do' list since the track and platform alterations were completed, but I had been too busy to plan an itinerary and make a start. So when Tom Gilby offered to lead a group of like-minded members, as a prelude to our 'Conwy Cat' tour from Crewe the next day it was too good an offer to miss. I sent an email to Tom and my place was confirmed. Starting from Cannock just after the morning peak allowed plenty of time to reach Lime Street. I did look at using the train from Stafford to Merseyside, but add in the weekday cost of parking at a Virgin managed station and it wasn't very appealing, so in the end I drove to Crewe, with free roadside parking and a reasonable fare to Lime Street. Recent weather had been exceptionally wet and the day didn't look promising either. I boarded EMU 350265 & 370 and we soon eased out of Crewe P12 and effortlessly crossed the Cheshire plain, through Weaver Jn and over the Mersey for the run in to the magnificent station at Liverpool Lime Street station.

Originally opened in 1836 when the line was extended from Edge Hill, the city commissioned John Foster to design the façade. In 1867 the first of the train shed roofs was erected by William Baker; a second adjacent span was added in 1879, identical to the first. Baker's span, at 212ft was the widest in the world, until beaten by William Barlow's 243ft at St Pancras. With recent remodelling the roof and its supports are now at an angle to some platforms, particularly the lower numbered ones.

I paused to look at the bronze statues of MP Bessy Braddock and one of Liverpool's favourite sons Ken Dodd, complete with Diddy Men - all of today's tour participants were hoping for some 'Happiness' of their own and that it would not be too taxing. There were no diddy trains to Knotty Ash though as the station closed in 1960. The adjacent sculptures are entitled 'chance meeting'; they often used to catch the London train together. At the Northern booking office an off peak 'Saveaway' All Areas (only £5.40) and a TfW off peak day return to Chester were bought. Tickets sorted, I went for a walk for some liquid refreshment. There are two clocks at the station made by Joyce of Whitchurch, black numerals on a white face, high up on the glazed gables, a reassuring reminder of the pre-digital era. Tom Gilby appeared and ticked off the participants (in the nicest possible way, of course!) as they gathered - 13 names on his list. As is customary with BLS events, a specially prepared track map (thanks to the very industrious Martyn Brailsford) and souvenir ticket were issued.

Liverpool Saveaway Tracker Iinerary
[© Tom Gilby 2019]

Plan by Tom, the letters are for reference only, not official names
[© Tom Gilby 2019]

Part of Tom's interesting souvenir ticket
[© Tom Gilby 2019]

First of the planned moves was from P10 with 350246, this covered crossover 'C' to the Up Ditton as we made our way to Liverpool South Parkway. The weather played a part in the day's events, as we heard news that the Chester to Shrewsbury line was blocked due to flooding.

Merseyrail had also stopped running the Hooton - Chester line, as ground water was causing problems with the third rail network. 350245 arrived and we took it back to Lime Street, returning to P10.

Tom's planning allowed recovery time between trains and we had ample time to join TfW 158835 in P8. This move was to visit Chester via the recently returned to regular passenger use Frodsham Single (return tickets also acceptable). As travelling on this service would take us outside the Saveaway area, we had purchased separate tickets, only to discover later that TfW was accepting Saveaway (and other tickets not normally valid) due to the Hooton - Chester closure! At least there is an alternative direct route now. The conductress noticed I had a 'Quail' map of the route and commented 'I hate route learning' we explained what we were doing and Tom gave her one of the spares. She seemed to be interested and who knows by now may have become a Society member. We paused briefly at Chester where 67014 in Wrexham & Shropshire livery was stabled in P1. Our group returned to Lime Street on the same unit, now much busier due to refugees from the flooding problems. It was grey skies and flooded fields as we made our way towards Helsby. There various awards for Best Kept Station were on display in the style of crimson British Rail former London Midland Region station totems.

Two Class 08s were at Alstom Widnes Train Care Centre, their BR Rail Blue colour looking very 'retro' in this era of multi coloured liveries and vinyl wrapping. Harry Needle No4 shunter was at Halewood Exchange Sidings as we sped past back to Lime Street; this trip scored us crossover 'E' and a P8 arrival. We now moved under the 1867 (Northern side) train shed to 319381 in P5. These units pounded the Thameslink corridor for 30 years and are now giving an improved service between the main cities in the North West. It was announced that Roby station was closed, due to flooding in the subway between the platforms.

Our group rode this unit out to St Helens Central. Pilkingtons, inventors of the float glass process, still manufacture large quantities of glass here. Nine minutes after arriving we were all on 319370 heading back to Lime Street. Band new DMU 195111 was seen out on test running. Our arrival scored crossover 'A' and P5. Tom's plan allowed a 10 minute connection before the next move on 323235 from P3. Hunslet Transportation Projects built, the 323 units suffered from reliability problems when introduced, but are now giving good service in the North West (and West Midlands) years later.

A short eight minute run followed to Broad Green. The weather was still inclement, but thankfully a shelter was provided on the Down side as we waited for our next move. Then attention focussed on the outline of an unfamiliar shape appearing in the distance... It approached at speed and was identified as 195116 as it went past. Our next ride was more mundane: 319375 back through the Olive Mount cutting and past the Georgian sandstone pavilions at Edge Hill, then down the grade to use crossover 'B' and into P2. The next journey was on the same Class 319, within five minutes we were off to Huyton. It did stop at Roby despite the mention of flooding here. At Huyton it was an easy eight minutes via the subway to P1 for 319364. Lime Street arrival was into P4 (5 platforms down; 5 to go!).

A 25 minute comfort stop allowed participants time to seek (in no particular order) conveniences, refreshments, information, number collecting or otherwise. We were then in line for a real treat! Sitting in P6 were 142079 & 142037, we boarded and pacing ourselves, were gently rocked, shaken and bounced around as we made our way through Edge Hill and the suburbs, to turn left at Allerton Jn (Allerton Depot had some Class 195 units and a 331) past Hunts Cross to Hough Green. Our next train was 'delayed' so there was time to explore the station and its environs. A commemorative stone was noted near the Liverpool end of P1, dated 1872 the year the station was built.

156468 arrived a little late and was quite full. We all squeezed on and headed west via Hunts Cross Chord. After Liverpool South Parkway we crossed to the Down Ditton Slow (a regular Down move, but the Up equivalent is only booked for one train the 07.45 (SuX) Lime Street to Manchester Oxford Road). Lime Street P8 was reached via crossover 'E'. There was a 33 minute break until the next manoeuvre, so time to look round. The next platform was P1, where we boarded TPE 185141. As is customary the group took up seats at the rear of the train and on departure the female conductor kept the back cab door open (thank you) giving an interesting view of the tunnels climbing up the grade to Edge Hill. Our destination was the third 'Green' station today - Lea Green (appropriately our member Peter Green was in the group. The furthest participant had come from Sunbury-on-Thames). After 11 minutes we were soon on board 185145 back via crossover 'G' to Lime Street P1.

The poor weather affected our next planned move - a P7 departure. The Class 350 due to form the 18.05 was cancelled at Crewe, but all was not lost, as modern technology came to the rescue in the form of Realtime Trains. Tom discovered there would be a train arriving in to P7, so it was all aboard 175001 out to Liverpool South Parkway for 350232, which, although running late scored a P7 arrival.

The last move was a repeat of the first (for any who couldn't reach Lime Street for the start, or chose to join later). As I didn't need this, I thanked Tom for all the work he had put in planning and leading the group. P1-8 & 10 had been covered (P9 is only used by Virgin so Saveaways are not valid) and crossovers 'A','B','C','E' & 'G' crossed off ('D' & 'F have booked trains at 05.24 and 22.30, so didn't fit). All four running lines through Roby and Huyton had been covered plus Allerton West Jn Down Ditton Fast to Slow crossover. The fixture concluded 19.06 when two hardy members returned after doing P6 both ways. It had covered 118 miles with the £5.40 'Saveaway' plus the 54 miles return trip to Chester.

Lastly, I took the 18.47 390114 Pendolino to Crewe and as expected was sat in P9, so as we rolled out of the station I took some comfort in having covered all 10 of the remodelled platforms. A fast run back to Crewe rounded off a satisfying day of train travel. At home thoughts turned to 'The Conwy Cat' the following day - another drive back to Crewe. Many thanks to Tom Gilby (for planning, itinerary, historical information and leading on the day) and also Martyn Brailsford (track plan).

175001 in P2 on a TfW Chester via Runcorn service with 142079 & 142037 in P1.
[© Rob Moorcroft. 2019]

142079 & 142037 in P1.
[© Rob Moorcroft. 2019]

Left to right 319381 in P5, 319362 in P6 and 323223 in P7.
[© Rob Moorcroft. 2019]

185141 in P1, note how far this platform has been extended. The picture also shows why the former P1 (left) could not easily be extended and how retaining it would have shortened the effective useable part of new P1. Although the former P1 is now trackless the platform is now a staff walkway.
[© Rob Moorcroft. 2019]

350374 in Lime Street P10 before its 4¼ hour trip to Euston.
[© Rob Moorcroft. 2019]

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