Blackrod in New Thriller Novel
The plot of The Convenience of Lies based on real events of 1990 and the Arms to Iraq scandal.
New Book - includes Blackrod SBs
It is full of thoroughly researched detail, with plenty of photos and diagrams. It comes highly recommended to anyone with an interest in railway signalling andlocal railway history. Amongst many others, Blackrod Junction &Horwich Fork are covered, as are the other boxes on the Horwich Branch
The book is published by the L&YRS and is priced at £15.
RIP Blackrod Junction Signal Box
The February closure of Blackrod didn't quite spell the end for the old L&Y Signal Box. It has since then been empty and unused, awaiting the wrecker's ball. Demolition is due to finally take place on the evening of 5th May 2013.
Next year will see further big changes to Blackrod as the programme to electrify the line begins to take hold.
RIP Blackrod Junction Signal Box
Blackrod's signal box had survived a number of brushes with death over the last 50 years, in later years sandwiched between the large computerised systems at Preston and Manchester, and despite the loss of the station yard, coal sidings, Cooke & Nuttalls sidings and the Horwich Branch itself, during that period.
The end finally came at 3am on Sunday 10th February 2013, after more than 130 years of service, when it was finally switched-out and control of its signals and the cross-over passed to Manchester Piccadilly.
RIP Blackrod Junction.
Photo :Harry Gardner
Station Improvements - Almost complete
In the small hours of this morning (Sunday 30th Sept), the old 1970s footbridge which connected the two platforms, was removed. At the same time, the new access to both platforms was commissioned, leaving little more than a tidying-up exercise to complete.
The loss of the rather dilapidated 1970s is a bitter-sweet moment. On the downside, passengers arriving at the station from the top half of Blackrod, via the footpath from Whithall Lane, will now have a much longer walk to gain access to the Manchester platform. However, it signals a new era for the station, with modern facilities which will bring it (finally) up to the standard of near neighbours Adlington, Horwich Parkway and Lostock. This, it has to be said, is long overdue.
The new wheelchair-friendly ramps are just part of the story, with a new platform surface, new shelters already complete, or partially so. Also new lighting, passenger information and platform announcement systems will complete the picture.
Ian Fitter has kindly provided photographs of this work as it has progressed.
|Before work started:
The station as it looked last year before the construction of the new ramps began. The new ramps make use of the space once occupied by the goods yard sidings, to the right of the lines. Before the 1970s, there was a footbridge here, which provided similar access to the Manchester platform. It is clearly visible in this photo.
|29th September 2012 - the ramps are almost complete and the old footbridge completes its final day of service.|
|Gone...Work to remove the bridge began at midnight. Pictured here the following day, the new ramps are now in use and there's a whole new look to the station.|
More of Ian's photos, showing all areas of the station, before and after, are here.
Station Improvements - Phase 2 begins
Last year saw the completion of the local authority work on Blackrod Station, with the construction of a new pick-up/drop-off point and road works at the top of the old Station Yard approach.
Work has now begun on the new access ramps to the station, which consist of a steal walkway to the Manchester Platform and a longer path to the Preston platform. Both are designed with gradients suitable for wheelchair users.
All this sounds like great news for Blackrod, laying to rest any concern that it may have been squeezed out by Horwich Parkway. There is however one slight concern...
Independent access to both platforms from Station Road removes the need for the existing footbridge. Network Rail has two reasons to want rid of it in the near future - firstly, it fails to conform to applicable safety standards, by providing insufficient clearance between the steps and the platform edge. Secondly, when Electrification comes, all bridges on the route, will require modification or replacement to accommodate the overhead wires.
The significant number of Commuters who arrive at the station via the footpath at the north end of the Preston platform, will no doubt be a little miffed at having to take a long and rather circuitous (if wheelchair-friendly) route to catch a Manchester train. Lets hope that Network Rail recognise this and either modify the existing bridge, or provide a new one.
Blackrod Junction Signal Box - Closure Date
Blackrod Junction SB has lived something of a charmed life in recent decades. In the 1970s, it survived the introduction of Preston Power Signal Box and became the most northerly box on the line. In the 1990s, the new signalling centre swept-away all the boxes to the south - but Blackrod Junction survived, acting as an interface between the incompatible Preston and Manchester systems. Since then, the branch has finally been lifted, making "Blackrod Junction" something of a misnomer.
In 2009, Network Rail spent a considerable sum refurbishing "our" Signal Box, so it will come as no surprise to find that it s now earmarked for closure at the beginning of 2013.
The refurbishment of the box - other than being a huge waste of money - also means that there is probably no prospect of saving the box for a preserved line or private collector. Prior to receiving uPVC windows, it would probably have been worthy of preservation.
The first phase of the accessibility upgrades to Blackrod Station are now complete. Further work is expected, which will see the erection of a zig-zag ramp from the new pick-up / drop-off point, to the Manchester platform. On the other side of the station, a tarmac ramp will replace the existing stepped path from Station Road.
It's good to see some money finally being spent on Blackrod, which lays to rest any fears about a hidden agenda to close the station. Of course, there is still some way to go before the facilities will match those at close neighbours Horwich, Lostock and Adlington, but we live in hope!
The plan to electrify the line between Manchester, Bolton and Preston actually looks certain to happen now. Those of you with longer memories will remember that this is not a new idea...
The existing plan will see Blackrod "wired" as the last phase of a scheme which includes a number of other "in-fill" electrifications around the north west, including Wigan - Liverpool and Manchester - Liverpool.
Electrification is good news for commuters on the line. Train tend to be faster due to superior acceleration and services from Manchester to Glasgow would at last use quieter electric trains which are more suitable for long journeys than the current 185 TBE diesel trains.
On the downside, electrified lines can look a little ugly and some of the older structures on the line will have to be modified or replaced to give the extra clearnace needed to accomodate the overhead wires.
Steam Treble for Blackrod in July and August
6201 Princess Elizabeth passes through a rain-soaked Blackrod on the return leg of The Cumbrian Mountain Express. Assembled on the station were over a dozen people, including several children, all keen to see the veteran steam locomotive making a rare visit to Blackrod.
The same tour will run a further two times this year. Details are in the News item below.
Photo : Adrian Bradshaw
Steam Treble for Blackrod in July and August
This time last year, we had two steam tours passing through Blackrod. The first saw 6233 Duchess of Sutherland pass through our station - perhaps the first time that one of this class of Pacific locomotive had done so - certainly the first time an 40 years. A month later, 6201 Princess Elizabeth covered the same route on a second outing for The Railway Touring Company’s Cumbrian Mountain Express.
That was last year. The good news is that it’s happening again this year. Not once, not twice, but three times. The first of the three fortnightly outings is tomorrow (31st July 2010) and will again feature 6201Princess Elizabeth. The other excursions will be hauled either by the same loco, 6233 Duchess of Sutherland or 60019 Bittern. The last loco is an A4 class streamlined locomotive of the same type asMallard, which still holds the World Steam Speed Record.
The three tours are :
Saturdays 31st July, 14th August and 28th August. Times at Blackrod are booked as 08.20 (north) and 18.43 (south).
I won’t be able to photograph all these, so if you do manage to grap a photo, please send them to me and I’ll get them on the website...
Royal Train and Tornado passes through Blackrod
As part of their visit to the North-West, TRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall travelled in style behind newly-built Peppercorn A1 steam Locomotive 60163Tornado.
As part of the movements between Preston and Manchester, the train passed through Blackrod. The train was on its way back to Preston to take water and await a trip back to Manchester to collect the Royal couple.
The famous locomotive, built from scratch by enthusiasts at Darlington, was on the rear of the train as it passed Blackrod.
Photo : Rob Maynard