Kew Gardens 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), just north-west of Altcar & Hillhouse station. At the time of opening Kew Gardens station stood in open country on the eastern side of Southport. It was close to a pleasure garden, from which it took its name, on the north side of the Southport and Ormskirk road which the line passed over on a bridge. The station was opened primarily to serve the gardens.
(northbound) Southport-direction platform.
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 line was double-track and at Kew Gardens it was on an embankment. The station had two wooden platforms connected to street level by paths. The main facilities were in a single-storey timber building on the ‘down’
Goods facilities were south of the passenger station, on the south side of the bridge over the Ormskirk road, west of the line. The facilities consisted of three sidings that could accommodate 40 wagons. The sidings were at street level, connected to the main line by a long incline. There was a corn mill at the road entrance to the goods yard off the Ormskirk road, just west of the passenger station. A Railway Signal Company timber signal box with a 12-lever frame was located on the up (east side) side of the line south of the passenger station and just south of Boundary Brook, which ran under the railway at this point. It controlled two crossovers: one at Boundary Brook, on the bridge, and another further south with a slip connection allowing access to the goods yard from the up main line.
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 Kew Gardens, 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 Kew Gardens for Southport Central at 8:36am, 2:31pm, 5:31pm and at 9:25pm. To Altcar & Hillhouse there were trains at 7:18am, 12:48pm, 4:38pm and 7:59pm. 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 Kew Gardens station became part of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) after they absorbed the LYR. The July 1922 timetable showed ten weekday departures from Shirdley Hill for Southport Chapel Street, four for Altcar & Hillhouse and six for Barton. The following year the LNWR merged with other companies to form the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS).
With effect from 13 November 1926 passenger services were withdrawn to Altcar & Hillhouse and all southbound services terminated at Barton, which had been renamed Downholland on 2 June 1924. By the early 1930s the northerly crossover (at Boundary Brook) had been removed.
In summer 1932 the LMS operated ten weekday services to Southport Chapel Street and ten in the return direction. The first departure from Kew Gardens was for Downholland at 6:53am and the first departure for Southport Chapel street was at 7:22am. The last Downholland service was at 9:31pm and the last Southport departed at 10:02pm.
on Saturday 24 September 1938 and was operated by a conventional locomotive and coaches.
|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
Kew Gardens remained open for goods services, but some time between March 1939 and December 1940 the down line from Downholland to a point south of Kew Gardens station was closed and converted into a storage siding, with the up line becoming a single line worked by pilot guard. From Butts Lane Junction to Kew Gardens, including the section through the station, the line remained double-track. From this time a pilot guard boarded a daily goods train at Kew Gardens box and worked the southerly signal boxes as shunt frames. When the pilot returned to Kew Gardens he worked the box in the usual way so that the train could proceed to Butts Lane Junction.
In 1945 Kew Gardens box was closed and replaced with a ground frame. The line from Butts Lane Junction through Kew Gardens to Downholland was converted to ‘one engine in steam’ regulations using a round, black single-line staff.
On 1 January 1948 Kew Gardens became part of the nationalised British Railways (London Midland Region). British Railways withdrew the goods service on 21 January 1952 and closed the line completely from Shirdley Hill to Downholland, although the track remained in situ until the early 1960s. The line through Kew Gardens remained open as a double-track storage siding which merged as a single track at Shirdley Hill.
Until August 1963 the sidings were used to store excursion stock which had run to Southport. Operations on the line were supervised by the person in charge at Kew Gardens ground frame. The line between Butts Lane and Shirdley Hill was lifted in July and August 1964.
The embankment on which Kew Gardens station stood has been removed, and the site is lost under a retail park.
Tickets by Michael Stewart and Bradshaw by Nick Catford, route map drawn by Alan Young.
- The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Vol 1, John Marshall, David & Charles 1969
- Merseyside & District Railway Stations, by P Bolger, 1994, The Bluecoat Press.
- The Cheshire Lines Committee, by P Bolger, 1984, Heyday Publishing Company.
- Lost Railways of Lancashire, by G Suggitt, 2003, Countryside Books.
- Bradshaw Timetable December 1895.
- Bradshaw Timetable July 1922.
- LMS Timetable Summer 1932.
- The research notes of Tony Graham taken from the National Archives.
For more about Altcar Bob see the Southport.gb.com
To see the other
stations on the Southport - Altcar & Hillhouse line click
on the station name: Southport
Ash Street, St. Lukes,
Meols Cop, Butts
Lane Halt, Heathey
Lane Halt, Shirdley
Cut Lane Halt, Halsall,
Lane Halt, Downholland