[Source:Tony Graham & Paul Wright]

The Penwortham Triangle was situated on what had been the West Lancashire Railway (WLR) Company’s Southport & Preston Railway which had opened in stages between 19 February 1878 and 6 September 1882. It was located on the south side of the River Ribble to the south-east of the settlement of Penwortham.

When the WLR opened its final section of the Southport & Preston Railway from Longton to Preston in September 1882 there was not a triangle at Penwortham, only the route of the line running up to the WLR Ribble Bridge that carried the line over to the north side, and into Preston where the WLR had their own station. Just seven months later, on 16 April 1883, a line opened from what became Penwortham Junction to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s (LYR) Preston and Blackburn Railway at Whitehouse, a distance of 79 chains. The line allowed through running from Southport to Blackburn. So that trains could run directly from WLR Preston station to Blackburn a line was also installed that diverged from the original WLR 26 chains north of Penwortham Junction, at what became Ribble Junction, and from here it ran north-to-east for 22 chains until it joined the line to Whitehouse at what became Middleforth Junction. This arrangement created the Penwortham Triangle. All of the lines were double-track.

Penwortham Junction was controlled by a McKenzie & Holland signal box east of the tracks, which opened with the line in 1882 before the junction was is use. The box had a brick base with a wooden top and contained 16 levers.

At Ribble Junction there was also a McKenzie & Holland box with 18 levers. It had a brick base and back-wall and timber superstructure. The box was located just south of the Ribble Bridge, south of Leyland Road on the west side of the line.

At the eastern side of the triangle Middleforth Junction was controlled by another McKenzie & Holland box that opened with the line in 1883. Passenger and goods services were operated by the WLR over all sides of the triangle.

The Penwortham Triangle as seen from the air c.2008. The triangle itself is still clearly visible and within it the Penworthan Residential Park. To the north is the River Ribble with the five stone piers that supported the Ribble bridge. Ribble Junction which made up the northern point of the triangle was just south of the road that can be seen running through the trackbed towards the top of the picture. Middleforth Junction was bottom right were houses now stand. Penwortham Junction was within the wooded area bottom left

On 1 July 1897 the WLR was amalgamated with the LYR. The LYR upgraded the former WLR route and their plans brought about changes. The LYR had their own station at Preston (opened in 1838 and shared with the London & North Western Railway) and they had no need of the WLR facility. They decided to close it and run Southport services into the joint station. To do so they needed to build a west-to-north spur at Whitehouse, for which an Act was obtained on 1 July 1898. The contract for its construction was awarded on 26 October 1898 to J Strachan for £9,713. In the same year a new 16-lever LYR frame was installed at Penwortham Junction. A new siding was installed on the down (Preston direction) side of the line, south of the signal box.

On 16 July 1900 the new line opened from Whitehouse West Junction to Whitehouse North Junction which created the Whitehouse Triangle, only 30 chains east of Middleforth Junction.

With the opening of the new line Preston WLR station closed. Middleforth Junction box closed around this time and by 1905 the junction itself had been removed, although track remained in situ from just beyond the site of the junction up to Ribble Junction. The Middleforth signal box structure was not removed until 1922. From 1905 there was no longer an operational triangle at Penwortham.

Ribble Junction box closed around 1902 and was dismantled in 1922; the north-to-east spur would have been removed by this time. The original WLR line into Preston WLR station, which remained open for goods services, effectively became a long siding from Penwortham Junction controlled by Penwortham Junction box.

In January 1922 the lines became part of the London & North Western Railway and a year later passed to the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). In 1948 the former WLR lines became part of British Railways London Midland Region.

In December 1960 Penwortham Junction signal box burned down. It was replaced with a ground frame of two levers, opened on 18 June 1961, electronically released from Whitehouse West box. At this time the line to Preston WLR station was singled. On 7 September 1964 the former WLR Southport & Preston Railway closed as a through route. The line between Penwortham Junction and Hesketh Park closed completely. So that a daily goods service could operate to the Preston WLR station the ‘up’ line from Whitehouse West Junction to 300 yd south of Penwortham Junction was retained for operational use; the down line remained in situ but out of use. To the east of Whitehouse West Junction the line remained double-track. On 25 January 1965 the lines from Whitehouse South Junction to the former Preston WLR station closed. 

In July 1963, Stanier 2-6-4T No 42494 comes off the long, sweeping curve from the site of the former Middleforth Junction, with the 5:30 pm Preston - Southport and rattles over the point-work at Penwortham Junction. The tracks to the right carry straight on across the River Ribble into the former Preston WLR terminus, known in 1963 as Preston West Lancs Goods. The latter was a route, reduced by this time to a daily trip working carrying cattle foodstuffs to the depot of Messrs. J. Silcock & Sons, whose headquarters were in the old station buildings. Penwortham Junction was, in 1963, a ground-frame operated by the guards of trains requiring access to the branch, and the point-locking was released electrically as necessary by the signalman on duty at Whitehouse West Junction. Beyond the bridge and to the right was the large expanse of railway-owned land which had been appropriated on construction of the railway for use as storage sidings for rolling stock using the severely
congested old terminus.
hoto by Alan Castle

The Penwortham Triangle as shown on an 1893 map when all sides were operational and in regular use. Preston West Lancashire station was to the north on the other side of the River Ribble. Trains departing for Blackburn would have travelled over the eastern side of the triangle; those for Southport travelled over the west side. Through services between Blackburn and Southport used the southern side.

The Penwortham Triangle in 1912. By this time Preston West Lancashire station was closed to passenger services. The southern side of the triangle had become the main line into Preston, via the Whitehouse Triangle that lay to the east. The western side and the line up to Preston West Lancashire station had become a branch used only by goods services. Close observation shows that the lines on the east side had been disconnected at Middleforth Junction. It is not known why they were left in situ and still connected at Ribble Junction, but it is assumed that they were used as sidings.

By 1960 there were effectively only two sides to the Penwortham Triangle although the embankment formerly occupied by lines on the eastern side is shown on this map. The main line between Southport and Preston, on the south side, was still in regular use. The original line leading to Preston West Lancashire Goods had been singled and was carrying only one weekday goods train. Close to Middleforth Junction on the former east spur, a scout hut is visible, erected on the trackbed.

On 22 September 1962, having already propelled the 5 ex-LMS coaches forming the RCTS 'Mid Lancs Railtour' over the tracks to the right up from Preston (West Lancs Goods) former LNWR 'Super D' 0-8-0 No. 49451 had reversed and was about to traverse the short section towards Whitehouse South Junction. Penwortham Junction was a ground-frame that had been operated by the guard, the point locks released electrically by the signalman on duty at Whitehouse West Junction. After leaving the former WLR lines the train continued along former East Lancs Railway tracks through Todd Lane Junction, before turning right through Lostock Hall and onto LNW tracks-proper at Farington Curve Junction, completing a full circle in order to head north again towards another long-closed passenger terminus, that at Longridge.
Photo by Alan Castle

Looking north-east towards Penwortham Junction in August 1964. One of Southport's Caprotti valve geared Class 5s, No. 44745, shuts-off steam and rolls up the last few yards of the gradient into Penwortham (Cop Lane) station. 44745 was built by BR in July 1948 and entered service at Leeds Holbeck, where it stayed for 12 months before moving to 22A, Bristol Barrow Road. Further allocations were Derby and Bank Hall, before its final allocation to Southport on 17.3.1962. It was withdrawn on 24.10.1964 and cut up by Wards of Killamarsh in February 1965.

The reason for the apparently over-engineered three-arch overbridge for what is merely a farm track is that, upon construction of the original route into Fishergate Hill station, the WLR purchased a considerable area of land immediately to the left of the train for carriage-siding accommodation to relieve the severely congested terminus. Although not used for railway purposes for many years, the land remained in railway ownership until closure in 1964. Today the bridge has gone and in its place sprawl the lanes of the Penwortham bypass, all traces of the railway having
been obliterated in the process.
Photo by Alan Castle

In August 1964 Lostock Hall's long-serving Fairburn 2-6-4T No. 42286 rounds the curve between the site of the former Middleforth Junction and Penwortham Junction Ground Frame with the 6:59 pm Preston - Southport. The long-abandoned third side of the triangle from Middleforth Junction to Ribble Junction, which originally provided direct access from the East Lancashire line to the former original Preston West Lancs terminus at Fishergate Hill, can just be discerned in the background. By this time the trackbed, disused since 16 July 1900, had for some years been occupied by a hut belonging to the Middleforth scouts; this building can also be seen to the left of the rear coach,
Photo by Alan Castle

Looking north in August 1964 the 6:35 pm Southport - Preston service, headed bunker-first by a Fairburn 2-6-4T rumbles over Leyland Road Bridge, Middleforth, and slows to pass under the six tracks of the West Coast main line. It will then take the left-hand curve at Whitehouse West Junction and make the short climb beyond into the East Lancs platforms of Preston Station. Middleforth Junction is out of view to the left of the picture.
Photo by Alan Castle

The northern point of the Penwortham Triangle was Ribble Junction, just south of the River Ribble. In this view from the late 19th century looking south-west the signal box that controlled the junction can just about be seen to the far left; this is the only known photograph of it. The fork of the junction itself was to its left, out of view. In the top centre the signals that controlled the junction in the up direction can be seen. The signal arms to the left controlled movements over the east spur to Middleforth whilst those to the right controlled the line to Southport via the west spur. The arms at equal height indicated that both spurs had equal status.

Looking south towards the site of Ribble Junction, the northern point of the Penwortham Triangle, in January 2012. The actual junction was on the far side of the road (Leyland Road); the bridge was removed shortly after the line had closed in January 1965. Ribble Junction signal box was located on the right side of the line just beyond the advertisement hording.
hoto by Paul Wright

Looking north at the site of Penwortham Junction in January 2012. The original line to Preston WLR station continued straight on; the 1883 line to Whitehouse veered to the right.
Photo by Paul Wright

Looking east towards Middleforth Junction from the trackbed of the southern side of the Penwortham Triangle in January 2012. The actual junction was at a point within the housing estate seen in the background.
Photo by Paul Wright

Looking east at the Penwortham Triangle from a point just south of Ribble Junction in January 2012. The tree-lined bank to the left of the picture was the Ribble Junction to Middleforth Junction spur. In the distance, at the far end of the Penwortham residential park (Park Road), can be seen the Middleforth Junction to Penwortham Junction spur. The residential park is located inside the triangle.
Photo by Paul Wright

Last updated: Thursday, 18-May-2017 17:22:23 CEST
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