[Source: Paul Wright]

The Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) began work on the construction of Fiddler's Ferry Power Station in 1964 using the contractor Cleveland Bridge Company. Its location was chosen because there was a ready supply of water, the River Mersey, and a railway that provided an excellent link to the coalfields of Lancashire and Yorkshire. At that time the line between Ditton Junction and Skelton Junction had lost its passenger services and was a key freight artery directly linked to the electrified Woodhead route via Godley.

The power station was designed for automatic unloading of coal trains. To achieve this a loop line was built on the western side of the plant that would allow trains to pass through without having to reverse. An unloading facility was built on the east side of the loop. It was enclosed and allowed coal to empty from the bottom of specially built wagons and drop through a gap between the running rails. The concept was called the Merry-go-Round system. It was used at all of the new generation of power stations. Connection with the main line at Fiddler's Ferry was made at a point half-a-mile west of the former Fidlers Ferry station. An east facing junction was created and a timber BR LMR type 15 signal box called Fiddlers Ferry Power Station was built to control it. An interesting fact is that the St Helens Canal and Railway Company had spelled their station name as Fidlers Ferry but the CEGB used Fiddler's Ferry. Fidler's Ferry Power Station signal box opened on Sunday 30 July 1967.

Fiddler's Ferry Power Station had a direct impact on saving the former Midland Railway Hope Valley line between Chinley and Sheffield from closure. The Re-shaping of British Railways Report of 1963 (The Beeching Report) made much of the fact that in Great Britain there were many duplicated routes and it cited the Woodhead and the Hope Valley routes as one such example. Both connected Manchester to Sheffield and the report suggested that one should close. The route suggested the Hope Valley route should close. The Woodhead route had been electrified in 1954 and a new tunnel provided. It was considered to be the better route and more worthy of saving. British Railways knowing that they would be supplying coal to Fiddler's Ferry from Yorkshire in huge tonnages wanted to route passenger trains away from the Woodhead line so that it could become a conveyor belt of coal and other freight. To allow this to happen the passenger trains had to go another way and the only solution was to send them via the Hope Valley. It was saved and went on to become a very busy line. Ironically the Woodhead route is now closed but we will come to that later.

Trains would have run into Fiddler's Ferry Power Station from the opening of the signal box in 1967 but full production at the site did not commence until 1973. Throughout the 1970s the pattern of train services remained fairly constant. Loaded coal trains ran from Yorkshire via the Woodhead route to Godley. From Wath to Godley the trains were hauled by 1500v DC electrics that were built to an LNER design. By the 1970s they were given the designation class 76. At Godley the electrics were taken off and a Brush class 47 would take over. In the 1970s the norm was a class 47 3xx. The 47 3xx machines could operate a slow speeds through the coal unloading plant. Trains also ran from the Lancashire coalfield and reached Fiddler's Ferry via Warrington.

On 17 July 1981 British Rail controversially closed the Woodhead route. Although only electrified in 1954 the DC system had been used and from the 1960s it was the AC system that was rolled out on routes such as the West Coast Main Line. British Rail argued that the Woodhead route needed upgrading and the expense was not worth it as they could divert traffic along other routes. The closure of the Woodhead route meant that Yorkshire coal had to travel along other often more lengthy routes.

The catalyst for the biggest change to the train services to Fiddler's Ferry came in 1984/5 with the Miners’ strike. The CEGB had stockpiled coal at Fiddler's Ferry so there was no issue at first with regards supply. Very quickly though the Government looked at supplies from abroad and coal was brought in from Birkenhead Docks. After the strike was over imported coal became the norm as pit after pit was closed until eventually there were none. In August 1985 British Rail closed the line between Latchford and Skelton Junction because expensive repairs were required to the Latchford bridge over the Manchester Ship canal. By the 1990s Fiddler's Ferry was using mostly imported coal and much it was coming in via Liverpool. Locomotive types during this era included class 20, 47 and 56. The east facing loop now faced the wrong way as most trains came from the west. Much reversing had to be carried out.

Fiddlers Ferry Power station transferred to Power Gen PLC in 1990, passing to Edison Mission Energy in 1999, to AEP Energy Services Ltd in 2001 and then in July 2004 to its present owners Scottish and Southern Energy.

In 2013 Fiddlers Ferry was served by coal trains operated by DB Schenker and Freightliner Heavy Haul.

The power station closed on 31 March 2020.

The 8D Association - Dedicated to promoting the history of South Lancashire and North Cheshire railways. Web Site

See also stations: Cuerdley & Fidlers Ferry & Penketh

Looking west at the junction between the Garston and Warrington line and Fiddler's Ferry Power station in the 1970s. Fidlers Ferry Power Station signal box which controls the junction is seen to the right of the line. At this time the line leading into the power station was double track.
Photo by Graham Earle

Fiddler's Ferry Power Station seen looking north-west from the south bank of the Sankey canal in the 1970s. On the other side of the canal is Fidlers Ferry Power Station signal box.
Photo by Graham Earle

Fidlers Ferry Power Station signal box in the 1980s.
Photo by Graham Earle

The Fiddler's Ferry Power Station junction looking west on 4 March 2006. By this time the line into the power station had been altered from a double line to a single line.
Photo by Paul Wright

Looking east towards the Fidlers Ferry Power Station junction from the power station lines on 20 October 2012. Fidlers Ferry Power Station signal box and the junction with the main line can be seen beyond the signals. The Ferry-go-Round Rail Tour, an unusal visitor to the power station, is seen to the the left waiting for its signal to clear.
Photo by Paul Wright

The loading/unloading plant for limestone and gypsum trains seen looking west on 20 October 2012.
Photo by Paul Wright

On 8 September 1992 two class 20 locomotives stand at a signal within the power station. The view is looking east and the train had completed a circuit of the mery-go-round loop and discharged its cargo of coal. It would shortly run forward towards the junction with the main line and
then go onward to Warrington.
Photo by John Wilson

In the charge of two class 20 locomotives a coal train waits on the western side of the merry-go-round loop at Fiddler's Ferry Power Station on 21 April 1991. The view is looking south-east from the signal that is located on that side of the loop. In the distance another train can be seen. It is on the eastern side of the loop and has just passed through the unloading plant.
Photo by John Wilson

Looking north from inside the merry-go-round loop at Fiddler's Ferry Power Station on 11 June 1992. A class 56 hauled coal train is seen approaching the unloading plant.
Photo by John Wilson

The northern end of the merry-go-round loop at Fiddler's Ferry Power Station looking north on 20 October 2012. Coming round the loop is the Ferry-go-Round Rail Tour an unusual visitor to the power station which is usually the domain of freight trains.
hoto by Tony Foster

The control of trains on the railway system within Fiddler's Ferry Power Station is under the control of power station personnel. In this view taken on 20 October 2012 a power station employee tells the driver of the Ferry-go-Round Rail Tour what speed the train is to travel at when it passes through the unloading plant. The locomotive at the head of the rail tour, a class 66 locomotive number 66 197, is a type that has been common at the power station since the early 2000s.
Photo by Tony Foster

BR Class 20 No.20 082 at Fiddler's Ferry in September 1990.

The Ferry-go-Round Rail Tour prepares to depart from Fiddler's Ferry Power Station on 20 October 2012.
Photo by John Wilson




[Source: Paul Wright

Last updated: Sunday, 10-Apr-2022 12:31:00 CEST
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