[Source: Nicholas Crosby & Paul Wright]

Date opened: 1.3.1858
Location: Railway Road (B5312) runs through the station site. Station was on the south side of the Ormskirk Road (A577) roundabout.
Company on opening: East Lancashire Railway
Date closed to passengers: 5.11.1956
Date closed completely: 4.11.1963
Company on closing: British Railways (London Midland Region)
Present state: Demolished - site and trackbed occupied by B5312 Railway Road
County: Lancashire
OS Grid Ref: SD464063
Date of visit: 19.2.2006

Notes: The first railway line to Skelmersdale had been opened as a freight branch from Ormskirk to Skelmersdale in 1849 or 1850 - the date is not recorded - to serve the large coal mines in the Skelmersdale area. When the St Helens Canal & Railway Company proposed a line from St Helens to Rainford, the ELR applied to extend its line from Skelmersdale to Rainford, the two Acts being granted on the same day, 4 August 1853. Skelmersdale received its first passenger station when the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) finally opened its Ormskirk – Rainford Junction branch five years later on 1 March 1858. Skelmersdale was the only intermediate station on the line and opened as Blague Gate.

The ELR line made an end-on connection with the St Helens Canal & Railway Company (SHC&RC) St Helens – Rainford Junction just east of Rainford Junction. Although a through route between St Helens and Ormskirk had been created, passenger services on the ELR branch ran only to Rainford Junction (as did the SHC&RC services). Rainford Junction station was located on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s (LYR) Liverpool and Bolton railway which had opened in 1848. Rainford Junction station opened on 1 February 1858 to serve the ELR and the SHC&RC branches.

The line was originally single track, and Blague Gate station was originally provided with one platform located on the west side of the line on the south side of Ormskirk Road which passed over the line by means of a level crossing. The main facilities at the time of opening consisted of a two-storey red brick house with a pitched roof. A single-storey brick structure was added to the south of the original within a few years and, like the earlier building, it was somewhat austere. Built of red brick it had a shallow pitched roof and rectangular openings.

In May 1859 the ELR was absorbed by the LYR. The SHC&RC was taken over by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) on 1 June 1864.

The December 1869 timetable showed six trains in each direction on weekdays with three on Sundays.

In 1875 the line was doubled. and an extra platform was added. The original platform became the down and the new one the up platform (Rainford Junction direction). The up platform was provided with a simple waiting shelter. A broad ridged awning of shallow pitch with serrated valancing provided additional shelter.

The station’s goods facilities were located east of the passenger station. They included a goods shed, five sidings, a weighing machine and a 1 ton 10 cwt crane. To the south of the station were areas of sidings that served local collieries.

On the north side of Ormskirk Road, east of the line, a signal box was opened for the doubling of the line. It was inspected on 22 October 1875 (along with others on the line) but found not to be complete. The box was equipped with a 30 lever frame of which 24 were working and 6 were spare. The box controlled the crossing and traffic movements through the station. A second box, known as Skelmerdale South, also opened in 1875, controlled the colliery sidings to the south of the station. It had a 21 lever frame of which 17 were working and 4 were spare. Skelmersdale South box was a high structure so that the signalmen could see over a road overbridge (Liverpool Road).

On 1 August 1878 Blague Gate was renamed Skelmersdale.

By the end of the nineteenth century a footbridge had been provided at the north end of the station.

In 1907 a rail-motor service using Hughes rail-motors and trailer carriages was introduced onto the Ormskirk and Rainford Junction service, and halts were opened on the line at White Moss and West Head. Four years later, in 1911 an additional halt was opened at Heys. With the introduction of the rail-motor the passenger service was intensified and there were 19 trains in each direction on Monday-to-Saturday. As with the services prior to the introduction of the rail-motor there were connections with St Helens services at Rainford Junction.

The July 1920 timetable showed 19 trains in each direction of which three ran through to St Helens and back, operated by the LYR, and the LNWR provided a balancing three services which covered the same route. Ten trains were operated on Sundays with none going through to St Helens.

On 1 January 1922 the LYR merged with the LNWR bringing the entire route between Ormskirk and St Helens under the ownership of the same company for the first time. The change of ownership did not change the pattern of services. On 1 January 1923 the LNWR became part of the London Midland Scottish Railway (LMS). The LMS replaced the rail-motor with the famous LYR 2-4-2T engines and coaches equipped to run as push-and-pull trains using the LMS vacuum system.

The LMS summer timetable for 1932 showed 17 up and 18 down services Monday-to-Saturday. The was also a terminating service from Ormskirk. On Sundays there were 7 up and 6 down trains.

During the Second World War passenger services were reduced and after the war they did not return to their pre-war levels. Skelmersdale South signal box was closed on 15 October 1944 and replaced with ground frames that were controlled from Skelmersdale Station box.

The LMS timetable of summer 1947 showed 14 trains to Ormskirk and 13 trains to Rainford Junction on Monday-to-Saturday as seen in the table below. Eight of the Rainford Junction services connected with a St Helens train on Monday-to-Friday and nine did on Saturday. There was also a terminating train from Ormskirk. There were eight trains in each direction on Sunday, but St Helens could not be reached as no trains ran from Rainford Junction to the town on that day.

Down Trains Summer 1947


Up Trains Summer 1947





Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)



12.10pm (Saturdays Only)

Rainford Junction



12.20pm (Saturdays Excepted)

Rainford Junction




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)




Rainford Junction




Rainford Junction




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)




Rainford Junction




Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens)

10.58pm (Saturdays Excepted)



Rainford Junction (with a connecting service for St Helens on Saturdays Only)

11.28pm (Saturdays Only)



Terminating train from Ormskirk

On 1 January 1948 Skelmersdale became part of British Railways [London Midland Region] (BR[LMR]).

On 18 July 1951 passenger services between Rainford Junction and St Helens were withdrawn and the three halts on the Ormskirk – Rainford Junction line closed leaving Skelmersdale as the only intermediate station, which had been the situation prior to 1907. By this time the services were operated by Ivatt 2-6-2T engines fitted for push-pull work; the trains were known locally as the “Skem Jazzer”.

The summer 1953 timetable showed 12 up and 13 down trains Monday-to-Friday. On Saturdays there were an extra 3 up and 2 down services. There was still a Sunday service of 8 up and 8 down trains with a terminating train from Ormskirk at 11.32pm.

Although there was still a good level of service on the line many passengers deserted the railway and BR[LMR] proposed its withdrawal. The last trains ran on Sunday 4 November 1956 and the station closed to passengers on Monday 5 November 1956. Skelmersdale station remained open for goods services until 4 November 1963 when it was closed completely. Goods services had already been withdrawn between Skelmersdale and Rainford Junction on 16 September 1961 when the line between White Moss Crossing and Bushey Lane Junction was closed. Latterly the goods services ran as a trip service from Ormskirk.

From 21 September 1964 Skelmersdale Station signal box was brought back into use so that track lifting trains could run. Between 21 September and 2 November 1964 the line was lifted from Bushey Lane Junction to a point just to the south of Skelmersdale station. Skelmersdale Station signal box was closed on 2 November 1964. Track was still in situ at the station in March 1965 but it was lifted back to Westhead shortly after.

From the late 1960s a New Town was developed at Skelmersdale. The station site and a section of the trackbed was developed as a road. In the 1970s consideration was given to providing a rail link to the town, and over the following decades various options were considered which included new alignments or using the trackbed of the former ELR line from either Rainford or from Ormskirk. In 2014 plans were published that favoured a reopening of the line from Ormskirk with an extension along a new alignment into the centre of the town. At the site of the original Skelmersdale station nothing survived to show a railway ever existed although a pub, dating from the time of the station, called ‘The Railway’, was still open for business.

Tickets by Michael Stewart and route map by Alan Young.

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


  • Industrial Railways of St Helens, Widnes and Warrington - Part 2 St Helens Coalfield and the Sandfields - C H A Townley & J A Peden - Industrial Railway Society 2002
  • The St Helens Railway, Its Rivals and Successors – J M Tolston – The Oakwood Press 1982

To see signal diagrams of Skelmersdale click here

For other Stations on the Rainford Junction - Ormskirk line click on the station name: Rainford Junction, Hey's Crossing Halt, White Moss Level Crossing Halt
& Westhead Halt

See Also stations on the St Helens - Rainford Junction line: St. Helens 3rd, Gerards Bridge, Moss Bank, Crank, Old Mill Lane, Rookery 1st, Rookery 2nd, Rainford Village & Rainford Junction (St. Helens platform).

Skelmersdale station looking north along the up platform in the early 20th Century.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Skelmersdale station shown on a six-inch scale map from the late 1850s when it was still called Blaguegate. At this time there was little habitation in the area.

By the time this six-inch scale map was drawn in 1906 much development had taken place around Skelmersdale station. To the north of the station can be seen the Blaguegate Colliery branch veering off to the east. At this time the branch also served Glenburn Colliery.

Skelmersdale station shown on a station masters plan from the 1915-19 period.
From the Trevor Moseley collection

Skelmersdale station shown on a 1:2,500 scale map from 1926.

Looking north along the down platform at Skelmersdale station 1905.
Copyright photo from Stations UK

Skelmersdale station looking north on a wet day in 1907.

Skelmersdale station seen looking north from the up platform in 1910. Standing on the down line is a train of coal wagons that was in the process of being shunted.
Photo from the John Mann collection

Looking north at Skelmersdale station from track level in the early months of 1965.
Photo by Jim Peden

Skelmersdale station looking north in the winter of 1965, two years after closure.
Photo by Keith Rose

The site of Skelmersdale station looking north in October 1982.
Photo by John Mann

Looking south towards the site of Skelmersdale station in February 2006.
Photo by Bevan Price

To see more photos of Skelmersdale click here




[Source: Nicholas Crosby & Paul Wright]

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