Station Name: CHESTER NORTHGATE

[Source: Paul Wright]
Date opened: 1.5.1875
Location: On the east side of Victoria Road
Company on opening: Cheshire Lines Committee
Date closed to passengers: 6.10.1969
Date closed completely: 6.10.1969
Company on closing: British Railways (London Midland Region)
Present state: Demolished now the site of a sports centre.
County: Cheshire
OS Grid Ref: SJ405669
Date of visit: 17.4.2005

Notes: Chester Northgate station was the western terminus of the Cheshire Lines Committee’s (CLC) line from Manchester to Chester via Northwich. The line opened in four stages: first between Altrincham and Knutsford on 12th May 1862, then to Northwich on 1st January 1863. It was then not until 1st September 1869 that the first goods trains reached Helsby, followed by passenger services on 22nd June 1870, and it took until 2nd November 1874 for the line to reach Chester. The CLC was formed on 5th July 1865 by the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR). A third partner became involved, the Midland Railway (MR) in 1866, and the CLC was given a corporate identity by an Act of 15th August 1867. The earlier sections of the Manchester to Chester Railway were originally promoted and built by the Cheshire Midland Railway.  

At first only goods trains ran to Chester but on 1st May 1875 the CLC opened its Chester Northgate station. Situated a short distance to the northeast of the historic ‘North Gate’ it was much more convenient for the city centre and than the GWR/LNWR’s Chester General, which had opened in the 1840s.

The station was provided with two platforms three-quarters of which were covered by an overall roof which consisted of two pitched spans. Each span covered one of the platforms and two lines, as there were two centre roads between the platform lines to facilitate the movement of empty stock. The spans were supported in the centre of the lines on iron pillars.
The main station buildings were on the western side of the station on what was, at the time of opening, the departure platform. The buildings were of brick and provided booking facilities, waiting and refreshment rooms, toilets, a parcels office and accommodation for staff.

The station was reached by an approach road that connected to the buildings on the west side. On the east side of the station, on what was originally the arrival platform, there were also brick buildings that contained facilities for passengers.

East of the passenger station was Northgate goods station, with nine sidings and a large goods shed. To the north was Chester Station signal box which controlled movements in and out of the station. A cattle dock and pens were sited in a separate area to the west of the station where there were further sidings. An engine shed with an adjacent turntable was opened by the CLC on 1st May 1975 on the appoach to the station on the east side of the line. The shed built by MSLR with classic MSL features. It was re-roofed by BR c1950 and closed to steam in January 1960. After that date it was used by DMUs.

At the time of opening passenger services would have run to Manchester and to points along the line such as Northwich and Knutsford. The constituent parts of the CLC would also have run express services to points further afield on their respective networks. The CLC never owned any locomotives. The three companies had agreed that the MS&LR would provide the motive
power for internal CLC services. However the CLC did build and own its coaching stock.

On 31st March 1890 the MS&LR opened a line between Chester Northgate and Hawarden Bridge. It made an end-on connection with the Wrexham, Mold & Connah’s Quay Railway at Shotton and created a through route between Chester Northgate and Wrexham Central. The route provided an alternative to the much older GWR line that linked Chester to Wrexham. The opening of the new line altered the layout of tracks north of Chester Northgate station, creating a triangle. Just north of the station was the southern point of the triangle, and this became Chester South Junction. A new signal box was opened on 18th August 1889 to control the junction. On the same day Chester Station Signalbox closed. The new arrangement allowed trains to depart from Chester Northgate and run west towards Wrexham or east towards Manchester. There was also a through line which made up the northern side of the triangle. It allowed trains to pass through Chester without having to call at Northgate, but most passenger trains did call at the terminus.

When the line to Hawarden Bridge opened there were four daily trains in each direction between Chester Northgate and Wrexham Central.

On 16th March 1896 the MSLR and WMCQR opened a line from Hawarden Bridge to a junction with the Wirral Railway (WR) at Bidston. Agreement had been reached with the WR that MSLR/WMCQR trains could operate on their system. A passenger service was introduced on 18th May 1896 between Chester Northgate and Bidston. On 1st May 1898 the
service was extended to Seacombe & Egremont on the west bank of the River Mersey where the ferry terminal offered a service to Liverpool. The new service provided Chester Northgate passengers with a link to Liverpool, but one that involved the use of a ferry. Direct services into Liverpool operated from Chester General, so the route was not so competitive. Nevertheless the links to locations in the Wirral did generate much extra traffic.

On 1st August 1897 the MSLR changed its name to the Great Central Railway (GCR). The GCR absorbed the WMCQR on 1st January 1905 giving it complete control of the entire route to Wrexham and to Birkenhead. In 1906 five trains per day ran to Seacombe & Egremont on weekdays from Chester Northgate. More services ran to Wrexham Central
and to Manchester Central.

On 1st January 1923 the GCR and GNR became part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). The MR became part of the London Midland Scottish Railway. The CLC remained independent, but it was two-thirds LNER owned and one-third LMS. It was agreed that the LNER would provide motive power for CLC services. At some point during this period the platforms at Chester Northgate were lengthened. The CLC continued to operate services to Manchester Central and the LNER operated services to Wrexham Central and to Seacombe.


On 1st January 1948 Chester Northgate became part of the nationalised British Railways’ London Midland Region (LMR) though the ex-LNER lines to the west were temporarily allocated to the Eastern Region, before being transferred to the LMR before the end of the year. The September 1956 timetable showed eleven weekday departures from Chester Northgate
to Manchester Central on weekdays. There was also a shorter working along that route that ran only as far as Altrincham & Bowden. There were eight trains to Shotton High Level, two to Buckley Junction and six to Wrexham Central. Extra services ran to all of the locations on Saturdays. At this time it appears that Seacombe passengers were encouraged to change at Shotton High Level.

At some point in the 1950s the pitched roof section on the east side of the station was removed, and the buildings on the eastern platform were demolished and replaced with simple red-brick flat-roofed structures. The platform on the west side retained its roof and original buildings On 4th January 1960 the Seacombe service was diverted to run to and from New Brighton,
and in he same year DMUs were introduced onto the services from Chester Northgate. Fuel tanks and a DMU stabling siding were constructed north of the station, west of the line. Occasional steam workings continued until 1966. A service pattern developed that was perhaps the most intensive that Chester Northgate ever had, with direct trains to New Brighton, Wrexham Central and Manchester Central.

The Reshaping of Britain’s Railways (Beeching) report of 1963 recommended the withdrawal of all services from Chester Northgate. However a year later the station still had fourteen weekday services to Wrexham Central, twelve to Shotton High Level, six to New Brighton and an hourly service to Manchester Central for most of the day.

Chester Northgate Goods Station closed on 5th April 1965.  After much argument, and despite local protest, services from Chester Northgate to New Brighton and Wrexham were withdrawn on 9th September 1968. This left the fairly large terminus station with only an hourly DMU service to Manchester.

The Manchester service was not recommended for closure, but Chester Northgate was. To solve the problem a connection was installed between the former CLC line and the former Birkenhead Joint Line at Mickle Trafford which allowed Manchester trains to be diverted to Chester General. As soon as the connection was ready it was brought into use, and on
6th October 1969 Chester Northgate closed completely. The lines into the station on two sides of the triangle were lifted shortly afterwards, and the station was demolished.

The through line remained in use as part of a route for goods trains between Hawarden Bridge Junction and Mickle Trafford.

In the 1970s the site of the station was redeveloped into a Leisure Centre called Northgate Arena.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, route map drawn by Alan Young, timetable from Nick Catford
Other web sites: See the Penmorfa web site for more on the Wrexham - Bidston line.

Sources:

To see other stations on the Chester Northgate to Wrexham Central Line click
Chester Liverpool Road, Blacon, Saughall, Sealand, Chester Junction Golf Club Platform, Chester Golf Club Halt, Hope High Level, Rhosddu, Wrexham Exchange, Wrexham Central

See also stations between Chester Junction and Bidston
Birkenhead Junction Golf Club Platform, Sealand Rifle Range Halt, Burton Point, Storeton

For the Chester Northgate to Mouldsworth line see:
Mickle Trafford East & Barrow for Tarvin

See also
Liscard & Poulton & Seacombe

See also related items

Hawarden Loop
Hawarden Bridge

Railways at Bidston


Chester Northgate Station in April 1914.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection



1874 1:2,500 OS map

1899 1:2,500 OS map

1959 1:2,500 OS map

Chester Northgate Station in August 1931
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

A two car Derby built type DMU prepares to depart from Chester Northgate's platform 1 for either New Brighton or Wrexham Central In October 1967.
P
hoto from John Mann collection

Looking north at the main entrance to Chester Northgate station in October 1967. By this date only one half of the original trainshed, that covering platform 1 was still in situ. Trains would have operated to Manchester Central, Wrexham Central and New Brighton at this time all provided by DMU's.
Photo from John Mann collection

A BRCW type DMU stands at Chester Northgate station’s platform 1 in early October 1969. The DMU would have been operating on a Manchester service.
P
hoto by Bevan Price

A view from the buffer stops at Chester Northgate looking north along platform 1 from inside the trainshed in October 1969. To the right can be seen a DMU on one of the centre lines that had by this date become a stabling siding.
Photo by Bevan Price

Looking south from the site of the north end of Chester Northgate station's former platform 1 in April 2011. The Northgate Arena leisure centre occupies the site of the trainshed. This is taken from approximately the same position as the 1931 picture above.
P
hoto by Paul Wright



 

 

 

[Source: Paul Wright]


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