On 21 July 1845 the S&RGR became the St Helens Canal & Railway Company (SC&RC) when it merged with its competitor the Sankey Canal Company. In following years the original line was improved through doubling and the elimination of two inclined planes, and the overall network of the SC&RC expanded. From June 1850 intermediate stations were provided along the line, and passenger services improved.
On 31 July 1864 the SC&RC was taken over by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR). Union Bank Farm Halt was opened by the LNWR on 1st of November 1911 to serve a ‘Railmotor’ service which was introduced on the same day. The Railmotor was a single coach steam powered vehicle that was cheaper to operate than a conventional locomotive with coaches.
The halt was in a remote spot between the existing stations at Farnworth & Bold and at Clock Face. It was close to Union Bank Farm and served a number of isolated farms.
The line was double track so the halt was provided with two short wooden platforms that had basic waiting shelters. Access was via a lane that connected from the St Helens direction platform onto the Prescott to Warrington Road which lay to the south of the halt. On the east side of the line a footpath led from the Widnes Direction platform over fields to Tibbs Cross Lane.
The ‘Railmotor’ service ran between Ditton Junction and St Helens Shaw Street and was given the name of ‘Ditton Dodger’ by the locals who used it. The service proved popular and it was not long before the ‘railmotor’ was inadequate for the service and it was replaced by Webb Tank locomotives and Coaches which could be operated as ‘Push and Pull’ sets. The name ‘Ditton Dodger’ however stuck and the service was referred to by this name until it ceased to run.
On the 1st of January 1923 Union Bank Farm Halt became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). Very little changed though and the service continued to run between Ditton Junction and St Helens Shaw Street. The LMS Summer Timetable for 1932 had thirteen trains leaving Union Bank Farm for St Helens and thirteen trains for Ditton Junction on weekdays. Additional trains ran on Saturdays.
During the Second World War the passenger service was cut back to only six trains per day in each direction and they ran only in the morning and evening peak hours. There were midday services on Saturdays for shoppers but in the main the line was given over to goods services and troop trains. At the end of the War the services at Union Bank Farm remained sparse.
On the 1st January 1948 Union Bank Farm Halt became part of the nationalised British Railways (London Midland Region). British Railways wanted to concentrate on goods services and so they proposed that passenger services on the line be withdrawn. Despite local protest and despite the replacement bus service taking considerably longer passenger services were withdrawn on the 16th June 1951 and Union Bank Farm Halt closed completely. It was demolished shortly after closure.
In December 1967 the line from Widnes Junction to St Helens was reduced to goods line status although interestingly diverted passenger services continued to use it right up until the early 1980s. With effect from the 14th December 1969 the line through Union Bank Farm Halt was singled from a point to the north of Farnworth & Bold station through to Sutton Oak Junction signalbox.
British Rail announced its intention to close the Widnes to St Helens line in 1981 but as it had been thirty years since passenger services had run the decision caused no protest. The line closed as a through route on the 1st of November 1981 but the last movement through Union Bank Farm had been a light engine on route from Garston to Wigan on 31 October 1981. Track lifting had begun by December 1981 and in January 1982 only sleepers remained.
Ticket from Michael Stewart
- The St Helens Railway, Its Rivals and Successors – J M Tolston – The Oakwood Press 1982
- The Widnes to St Helens Railway in Halton 1833 - 1982 - P T Wright - Halton Borough Council 2008
To see the other
stations on Widnes - St. Helens line click on the station name:
Runcorn Gap, Ann Street, Appleton,
Farnworth & Bold,
Cross, St Helens (1st), St Helens (2nd) & St Helens (3rd)
Widnes 1st, Widnes South, Ditton