[Source: Paul Wright]

Date opened: 2.9.1887
Location: South side of Station Road
Company on opening: Liverpool Southport and Preston Junction Railway.
Date closed to passengers: 26.9.1938
Date closed completely: 21.1.1952
Company on closing: London Midland & Scottish
Present state: Platforms still remain although heavily overgrown.
County: Lancashire
OS Grid Ref: SD357089
Date of visit: 27.12.2005

Notes: Downholland station was situated on the Liverpool, Southport & Preston Junction Railway (LSPJR) Barton Branch that ran between two junctions with the West Lancashire Railway (WLR) on the east side of Southport to Hillhouse Junction on the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway (S&CLER), which was just north-west of Altcar & Hillhouse station.  Downholland was at the southern end of the line, 1¾ miles north of Hillhouse Junction.

The LSPJR was authorised on 7 August 1884 to build a 7½-mile route to link the WLR line to the S&CLER. It was really a creature of the WLR who were its main backers. The WLR wanted to develop an alternative route to Liverpool which, in theory, would compete with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (LYR). However the LYR had much more direct routes from both Southport and Preston to Liverpool. The line was built by C Braddock and was inspected on 20 August 1887. It was planned to open on 1 September 1887 but the contractor was in dispute with the LSPJR, and he removed rails at both of the junctions with the WLR. An injunction was sought and the line opened on 2 September 1887.

There appears to be some confusion about just when a full passenger service was operating and it was not until 1 November 1887 that the first trains ran as far as Altcar & Hillhouse. The station opened as ‘Barton’. The line was double-track, and the station was provided with two platforms. The main facilities were in a single-storey brick building on the up (southbound) Altcar & Hillhouse-direction platform. A small waiting shelter was provided on theopposite platform.

Goods facilities were located east of the passenger station and consisted of three sidings, one of which was provided with a loading platform. A Railway Signal Company timber signal box with a 12-lever frame was located at the south end of the station on the down platform; it controlled traffic movements through the station and access to the goods yard. There were two crossovers, one north and the other south of the station, which allowed engines to run around their trains. 
Initially six trains ran in each direction between Southport Central and Altcar & Hillhouse but, owing to insufficient use, the service was reduced to four trains in each direction. From May 1888 the WLR operated through services between their Preston terminus and the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) Liverpool Central station. The trains ran via Barton, but it is not known if they served the station. Through goods services also ran between the CLC and the WLR via the Barton branch.

In December 1895 there were weekday departures from Barton for Southport Central at 8:26am, 2:21pm, 5:21pm and at 9:16pm. To Altcar & Hillhouse there were trains at 7:27am, 12:57pm, 4:47pm and 8:07pm. There were also three trains in each direction on Sundays. The LSPJR and its sponsor, the WLR, struggled financially from the start and were insolvent
by the 1890s. Despite grand plans both had become nothing more than local lines which, unfortunately, ran through sparsely populated areas for much of their length. As a result both companies were absorbed into the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (LYR) on 15 July 1897. On 1 May 1901 the LYR closed Southport Central and diverted the Barton line trains into their Southport Chapel Street station. They also ceased to operate through trains between Preston and Liverpool Central. They did gain running powers over the SCLER up to Aintree, but it appears that very little traffic actually ran that way from the Barton branch.

In July 1906 the LYR introduced a ‘railmotor’ service which became known as ‘Altcar Bob’. Consisting of an engine and single coach combination with a driving cab at one end of the coach there are a number of suggestions how the service acquired its name. Some local people say that the original driver was called Bob, while others think that the name could be related to the ticket fare, ‘bob’ being the general term for a shilling. A more likely explanation is that it was named by railwaymen who, it is said, referred affectionately to small engines as ‘Bob’.

From the 1st of January 1917 until May 1919 the railmotor ceased to run as far as Altcar & Hillhouse as the SCLER was closed as part of a wartime economy measure. All services would have terminated at Barton.

On 1 January 1922 Barton station became part of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) after they absorbed the LYR. The July 1922 timetable showed ten weekday departures from Barton for Southport Chapel Street and four for Altcar & Hillhouse. By this time six of the trains that arrived from Southport Chapel Street terminated at Barton. The following year the LNWR merged with other companies to form the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS).

On 2 June 1924 the LMS renamed Barton station ‘Downholland’. With effect from 13 November 1926 the station became the southern terminus for passenger trains when passenger services were withdrawn to Altcar & Hillhouse. Few passenger termini in northern England can have served such a small community. The southernmost section of the line, south of Downholland station was little used, other than to Marquis Siding, a mile further south on the up side of the line; very few goods trains, if any, ran from the Barton branch to Altcar & Hillhouse.

In summer 1932 the LMS operated ten services to Southport Chapel Street and ten in the return direction. The first arrival at Downholland was at 7:06am and first departure at 7:10am. The last arrival was at 9:46pm and it left for a return journey to Southport at 9:50pm. The usual practice for terminating railmotor services was for them to arrive at the ‘Up’ platform. Passengers would alight and then the railmotor would run south for a short distance. It would then use the southern crossover and pull into the ‘Down’ platform where passengers for stations to Southport could join the train. Four minutes was allowed for the manoeuvre.

Since the railway opened there had been no significant growth of housing along its route beyond Southport, and the mosslands remained thinly populated. During the 1930s competition from local buses had a detrimental impact on the number of passengers and, as a result, the passenger service was withdrawn completely on 26 September 1938. The last train ran on Saturday 24 September 1938 and was operated by a conventional locomotive and coaches.

Downholland remained open for goods services, but some time between March 1939 and December 1940 the up line from Marquis Siding to Hillhouse Junction and the down line from Downholland to Hillhouse Junction were closed. At the same time the down line from Downholland to Kew Gardens was closed and converted into a storage siding, with the up line becoming a single line worked by pilot guard. In 1942 the line from Downholland to Marquis Siding also closed. A pilot guard travelled with a daily goods train and worked the signal boxes as shunt frames. In 1945 Downholland box was closed and replaced with a ground frame on the up side near to the points which connected the goods yard sidings to the remaining through line. The line from Butts Lane Junction to Downholland was converted to ‘one engine in steam’ regulations using a round, black single-line staff.

On 1 January 1948 Downholland became part of the nationalised British Railways (London Midland Region). British Railways withdrew the goods service on 21 January 1952 and closed the line from a point just to the north of Shirdley Hill to Downholland. The track was left in situ until the early 1960s. The site of Downholland station was later developed as a local
nature reserve, and the platforms could still be seen in 2011.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, Bradshaw from Nick Catford and route map drawn by Alan Young


For more about Altcar Bob see the web site.

To see the other stations on the Southport - Altcar & Hillhouse line click on the station name: Southport Central, Southport Ash Street, St. Lukes, Meols Cop, Butts Lane Halt, Kew Gardens, Heathey Lane Halt, Shirdley Hill, New Cut Lane Halt, Halsall, Plex Moss Lane Halt & Altcar & Hillhouse

See also
Hillhouse Junction

The Railmotor that operated on services between Southport Chapel Street and Altcar & Hillhouse stands at Downholland Station, when it was still called Barton, in c1910. The service could well have been one that terminated at Barton, as not all trains ran through to Altcar & Hillhouse. The train, known locally as the 'Altcar Bob', was standing at the Up (Altcar direction) platform. Before returning to Southport it would have run southwards for a short distance and then crossed over to the Down line and run into the Down platform were passengers could have boarded.
Copyright photo from Stations UK

Barton station as it was in 1893.

On this map from 1927 the station was labelled with is final name 'Downholland'. The facilities remained unaltered from 1893.

Downholland station in 1928 when part of the LMS. Standing at the 'up' platform is the railmotor that was known as the 'Altcar Bob'. Standing next to the locomotive are driver George Rigby and fireman Joe Lee. The railmotor, was no. 10600 built in 1906 by the LYR and originally numbered 3. It was one of 18 built, an 0-4-0 loco permanently welded to a coach with one 4-wheeled bogie at the rear and a small driving compartment to enable the driver to comply with the instruction that he must be at the front of the train in each direction. Communication with the fireman was usually by bell. All 18 of the class survived into LMS ownership although a number were scrapped between the wars and one, 10617 passed into BR ownership but was scrapped in 1948. 10600 was scrapped in 1947 having spent it's last years at Bolton MPD.
Copyright photo from the John Alsop Collection

Looking south at Downholland station in 1949. The station still had its building at this time and it was served by infrequent goods services.
Copyright photo by Stations UK
Looking north from the 'Down' (Southport direction) platform at Downholland station in 1954. Goods services had ceased by this time, but the track was still in situ and would remain so until the 1960s. The station appeared to be in use as a storage area for timber.
Copyright photo by Stations UK

Downholland station looking north in October 1982.
hoto by John Mann

Looking north along the former 'Up' (Altcar direction) platform at Downholland station in December 2005. The platforms were still in situ at this time but heavily obscured by vegetation.
Photo by Paul Wright

The bridge at the north end of Downholland station as seen in December 2005.
Photo by Paul Wright

Click on thumbnail to enlarge




[Source: Paul Wright]

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