Notes: A station was opened to serve the Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory on 9 December 1940. It was on a branch from the Liverpool Exchange and Wigan Wallgate line which was opened by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (LYR) as part of the Liverpool and Bury Railway on 20 November 1848. The line had become part of the London & North Western Railway on 1 January 1922 and a year later, on 1 January 1923, it became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS).
By the second half of the 1930s the British government had recognised the serious threat to national security from Nazi Germany and a re-armament began. Authorisation was given for the construction of a munitions factory on rural land at Kirkby. Britain entered the Second World War on 3 September 1939 and work began on the Kirkby site at the end of that year. A complex of a thousand buildings was laid out which included 18 miles of road and 23 miles of railway.
The railway first appears to have been used on 8 May 1940 when Dale Lane No.1 signal box was opened to control the junction between the ordnance factory branch and the main line.
The factory produced its first shells in September 1940 at which time there were only between 50 and 100 workers at the site. After September the numbers of employees quickly rose into the thousands and most came from Liverpool which was six miles west of Kirkby. Transporting the workers to the remotely located ordnance factory was a problem. To facilitate travel to and from the site the Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory station was opened.
The station was located in the north-west corner of the factory site close to the perimeter road. It consisted of a single island platform that had precast concrete faces backfilled with cinders. There were six flat-roofed timber shelters spaced along the length of the platform to protect the workers from inclement weather. The station was fully signalled at its north end, the signals being controlled by a ground frame located north of the station. The Kirkby Factory Station Ground Frame was a 5-lever open London & North Western Railway pattern, Sketch 446, ground frame that was a block post signalling to Dale Lane No.2 signal box.
Passenger train services were unadvertised and provided purely for the munitions workers. The name Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory was not used on destination boards as the site was subject to intense secrecy; instead the trains were shown to be running to Simonswood. The trains would have run between Liverpool Exchange and the ordnance factory calling at all stations en route. Trains operated around the factory shifts. During December 1940 the viaduct that carried the approach lines to Liverpool Exchange received a direct hit from a German bomb and it collapsed. This prevented trains from using the station. Trains from Kirkby had to terminate initially at Preston Road and then at Kirkdale. They were not able to run into Liverpool Exchange until 18 August 1941.
By the summer of 1941 the factory was employing 10,000 workers and at shift changeover times the station must have been extremely crowded.
Liverpool Corporation had an extensive tram network that extended to Gilmoss, two miles west of Kirkby. It was extended during 1943 to the ordnance factory with the first trams running in December 1943 to the southern end of the factory, and they could serve numerous destinations within Liverpool.
The factory continued to expand with the workforce reaching a total of 23,000. Vast quantities of munitions went out by rail, and by the close of hostilities Kirkby had produced 10% of all of the ammunition used by Britain during the Second World War.
On 19 April 1945 there was an accident on the main line at Dale Lane Number 1. A locomotive and brake van came off the Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory branch via the west fork of the triangle without authorisation to do so. It was run into by a Bradford to Liverpool Exchange express with the loss of five lives. Nineteen people had to be taken to hospital and thirty suffered minor injuries. In his report into the accident dated 28 May 1945 Colonel A C Trench describes the events that led up to the accident. Mention is made of two trains from the Liverpool direction and one from the Wigan direction that were heading to the Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory station being delayed at signals at 6.20am. The trains are described as running to the station for the shift changeover. It is clear therefore from the report that the Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory station was still in use in April 1945 and that at that time trains were running towards Liverpool and Wigan.
Kirkby was designated as a wartime-only Royal Ordnance Factory and closed in March 1946. By 1949 Dale Lane No.2 signal box was open only as required. On 9 September 1951 it was abolished along with the Kirkby Royal Ordnance Factory Station Ground Frame. From that date Dale Lane number 1 signal box was renamed as simply Dale Lane.
The factory site was taken over by Liverpool Corporation who developed it as an industrial estate. This was rail-served using the lines laid for the ordnance factory. Dale Lane No.1 signal box continued to control the junction with the main line but only through the west-facing connection (the east-facing chord was removed shortly after 9 September 1951).
The station remained unaltered until at least 1952 after which its shelters were removed. The platform was shown on a town plan from the early 1960s when the track running through it was still in situ. On 8 May 1970 Dale Lane signal box was closed but the building was retained to house a ground frame as part of a singling of the main line. Trains were still running into the industrial estate on 2 September 1975 when a new ground frame, adjacent to the points that connected with the main line, was opened after the levers in the former Dale Lane signal box had been wrecked by vandals. However, traffic must have finished shortly after as the Dale Lane ground frame was abolished on 18 January 1976.
In 2000 the junction was reinstalled and the branch was re-laid for a distance of about one mile and opened on 8 April 2001 to serve a chipboard factory. The line was out of use in 2015 but from 2017 it will be used by waste trains serving a new domestic waste handling centre as part of a 25-year contract with the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority.
Route map by Alan Young.
The 8D Association - Dedicated to promoting the history of South Lancashire and North Cheshire railways. Web Site
- A Nostalgic Look at Liverpool Trams 1945 - 1957 - Steve Palmer & Brian Martin - Silver Link Publishing 1996
- Railway Passenger Stations in Great Britain - A Chronology - Michael Quick - RCHS 2009
- The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway - Volume 1 - John Marshall - David & Charles 1969
- The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway - Volume 2 - John Marshall - David & Charles 1970
To see other stations on the Liverpool Exchange - Wigan Wallgate line click on the station name: Liverpool Exchange, Liverpool Great Howard Street,
Rainford, Rainford Junction, Upholland 1st,
Wigan (LYR) 2nd & Wigan (LYR) 1st.
See also Second World War Railways at Kirkby