Notes: Southport Central was the southern terminus of the West Lancashire Railway (WLR) Company’s Southport & Preston Railway which opened in stages between 19 February 1878 and 6 September 1882. The WLR was promoted by Sir Thomas George Fermor-Hesketh, Bart. Royal Assent was given for the ‘West Lancashire Railway’ on 14 August 1871.
The Act authorised construction capital amounting to £150,000. James Brunlees and Charles Douglas Fox were appointed as civil engineers, and the contract for construction was let to Clarke Pruchard and Co. The first sod was cut on 18 April 1873 at a special ceremony held at Little London, in Southport, attended by the Mayor, Alderman Squire JP. From the start the WLR project struggled financially and, although construction started successfully, it stopped abruptly when the contractor faced financial difficulties. A further WLR Act of 1875 authorised the raising of a further £187,500 and granted an extension of time for the line’s completion. A new contractor, Barnes & Squire, was appointed, and work resumed.
The first section of the line opened from Hesketh Park to Hesketh Bank on 19 February 1878, but it was extended southwards to a temporary terminus at Southport Windsor Road on 10 June 1878.
Southport Central opened on 4 September 1882; this coincided with the opening of the northern section of the WLR to Preston, although the station was not fully completed and on that date it was used only by special trains run for the Preston Guild week. Full public services did not begin until 16 September 1882.
Southport Central and the WLR Preston Station, the northern terminus, were designed by Charles H Driver in the Gothic style; Southport Central was the larger of the two. It had an imposing three-storey brick building with stone arch dressings above its ground floor doors and windows. There was a large booking hall of 40ft x 34ft, a secretary’s office on the first floor and stationmaster’s accommodation on the second. Waiting facilities were also provided. The station had two platforms: one for arrivals, the other for departures. Both platforms were 400ft long. A glazed roof with a span of 70ft and a length of 220ft, supported on 27 wrought iron pillars, covered the platforms.
On 1 November 1882 there was a partial collapse of the roof at Southport Central. It appears that despite the station being open for nearly two months contractors were still engaged on erecting the roof. There had been gales the night before 1 November. At 12:30 pm while the contractors were at lunch, one of the principal girders, in position but not fully secured, collapsed bringing down with it other girders and masonry. Thankfully nobody was killed, but a young railway employee who had been cleaning coaches went to return for a bucket he had left as he did not want it to be damaged. A bystander shouted to the youth to leave it, and he escaped unhurt. The top of the coach ended up covered in girders. Inspections found the damage to be limited, and repairs were speedily carried out, although for a time only the northernmost platform could be used.
Passenger train services from Southport Central operated to the Preston WLR station and, from 16 April 1883, also to Blackburn. Southport had become a popular seaside resort by this time, and excursion trains were also run, especially during the summer months. The promoters of the line had hoped for lucrative returns: every train had first, second and third class coaches, but a report in August 1883 showed that for every hundred passengers carried on the line there was only one first and one second class passenger. The company directors could see little point in continuing to haul empty first and second class carriages around - but continue to run they did.
On 1 October 1887 the Liverpool, Southport & Preston Junction Railway opened its line from Hillhouse Junction (on the CLC Aintree to Southport Lord Street Line) to two junctions with the WLR at Meols Cop for freight services. A special passenger train ran over the line on 17 October 1887 and regular passenger services began to operate between Southport Central and Altcar & Hillhouse on 1 November 1887, providing extra traffic for Central station. In February 1891 refreshment rooms were opened at the station.
During the 1880s the WLR involved itself in a number of schemes that would have extended its network. The schemes proved abortive, and by 1886 the WLR was hopelessly insolvent. In July 1897 both the West Lancashire and the Liverpool, Southport & Preston Junction Railways were absorbed into the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (LYR). The LYR had a large terminus at Southport Chapel Street and could see no sense in operating two termini at very close proximity. On 1 May 1901 the LYR completed a remodelling of the approach lines to Central to allow trains to be diverted onto the Manchester to Southport line and into Southport Chapel Street Station. Southport Central was closed to passenger services.
The station stood derelict for over a decade after which it was converted into a goods depot known as Southport Windsor Road and opened to traffic on 10 March 1913. The alterations carried out to make it suitable for handling goods included the construction of a central island platform equipped with a travelling crane. At some point the station was renamed Kensington Road Goods, which better described its location.
It was eventually amalgamated with Chapel Street,
Goods guards ceased to book on duty there in 1965 but the station remained in use, partly for administrative purposes until 3 December 1973. It is known that interviews for the recruitment of staff were held at the station in December 1971. The site was devoid of track by 1975.
Southport Central was demolished in the early 1982 and its site was later developed as a supermarket car park.
Ticket from Michael Stewart, Bradshaw from Chris Totty, route maps drawn by Alan Young
For more about Altcar Bob see the Southport.gb.com web site.
To See other stations on the Southport - Preston (West Lancashire) line click on the station name:Southport Windsor Road, Southport Ash Street, St. Lukes, Hesketh Park, Churchtown, Crossens, Banks, Hundred End, Hesketh Bank & Tarleton, River Douglas, Hoole, Longton Bridge, New Longton & Hutton, Penwortham (Cop Lane) & Preston West Lancashire
See also Tarleton Branch
Boat Yard Crossing Halt & Tarleton
To see the other
stations on the Southport - Altcar & Hillhouse line click
on the station name: Southport
Ash Street, St. Lukes, Meols
Lane Halt, Kew
Lane Halt, Shirdley
Cut Lane Halt, Halsall, Plex Moss
Lane Halt, Downholland & Altcar