Looking west at the Kenlis Arms and beyond it Garstang & Catterall station in the early years of the 20th Century. Photo from the John Mann collection
Garstang & Catterall was opened as simply Garstang by the Lancashire & Preston Junction Railway (L&PJR) on 25 June 1840. The 20 mile L&PJR line had been authorised on 5 May 1837 and its purpose was to connect Lancaster with the North Union Railway (NUR) which ran between Preston and a junction with the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&M) at Lowton. The L&M had connections to Birmingham and London via the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) and the London & Birmingham Railway (L&B).
The L&PJR line passed Garstang about three quarters of a mile to the east of the town. The original intention had been to build the station due east of the town which would have placed it as close as possible to it. However there appear to have been difficulties in coming to an agreement with local landowners and in apportioning the cost of a new road between the station and the town. The site chosen was quite an isolated spot, 1½ miles to the south-west of the town of Garstang, on the north side of Ray Lane, which passed under the line. It was a very basic station having just a platform for each track and a two-story station house situated on the up side (east side) of the line, close to where Ray Lane ran under the railway.
Directly to the west of the station was the Lancaster Canal, which had opened in 1819.
At the time of opening there were no goods facilities at the station.
Agreement had been reached with the NUR that they would operate the train services (although interestingly the L&PJR purchased six locomotives of its own). At the time of opening there were five passenger trains in each direction, two of which contained through coaches to and from Euston Square (London). London was reached via the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) and the London & Birmingham Railway (L&B).
Before the line to Preston had opened the NUR had made changes to its plans for Preston which made the proposed site of the L&PJR station there unworkable. The NUR had agreed to extend its line to link to the L&PJR but they had insisted that the latter company pay towards the costs. This had strained the relationship between the two companies and it remained strained. Matters came to a head when the NUR served notice on the L&PJR that it would no longer run its trains from 1 January 1842. The L&PJR turned to the Bolton & Preston Railway (B&P) who agreed that they could run their trains into its Preston station (the B&P line was not complete at the time but its station site was available). The B&P had made arrangements with the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Railway (MB&BR) to provide locomotives for its trains and that agreement was extended to the L&PJR.
As a result of this inter-company rivalry, from 1 January 1842 local trains to and from Preston ran to and from the B&P station there. Through coaches for London continued to pass through to the NUR station but the NUR levied a toll on passengers who used the connecting line at Preston. This resulted in southbound passengers choosing to leave the train at the B&P station and walk to the NUR facility. The NUR counted this by trying to ensure that the southbound trains had departed before the passengers could walk the short distance between the stations.
These difficulties and stiff competition from the Lancaster Canal Company (LCC) meant that the L&PJR began to struggle financially. The L&PJR began discussions with the LCC and they agreed to lease their line to the canal company from 1 September 1842.
On 1 January 1844 the B&P railway was absorbed into the NUR, which once again threatened the services between Lancaster and Preston. However, agreement was reached and from 12 February 1844 Garstang trains started to use the NUR Preston station once again.
On 6 June 1844 the Lancaster & Carlisle Railway (L&C) was authorised. This 69 mile line made a connection with the L&PJR at Lancaster. In December 1844 the L&C began discussions with the L&PJR about leasing the line so that they would have a route between Preston & Carlisle. They believed that the lease to the canal was invalid. Talks then moved to an amalgamation which was supported by the L&PJR directors but ended up being rejected by the shareholders. The directors resigned which meant that the L&PJR was not legally constituted. This caused a problem for the L&C and their solution was to simply give notice that they intended to run trains over the L&PJR.
The L&C opened between Lancaster and Kendal on 22 September 1846 (opening through to Carlisle on 15 December 1846). Train services on the L&C were operated by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR). Local services between Lancaster and Preston were operated by the LCC, who still had a lease on the line. Garstang station would have been served by the local LCC trains.
The complex wrangling that had taken place in relation to the L&PJR left it in poor shape. The L&C believed that the owners should maintain it. The L&PJR believed that the tenant (the LCC) should maintain it and the result was that it fell into disrepair. Things came to a head on 21 August 1848 when a local Preston to Lancaster train was run into at Bay Horse (to the north of Garstang) by an express service running to Carlisle. The resulting enquiry was highly critical and it demanded improvements. The result was that the L&PJR company took back possession of the line and they eventually reached an agreement with the L&C which saw the latter take on management responsibility for the line from 1 August 1849.
By November 1849 northbound trains could travel all the way to Glasgow. A west coast trunk route linking London and Glasgow had been created. Garstang was of course on this main line but it remained very much a local station served by local trains.
The March 1850 timetable showed four up and seven down services Monday-to-Saturday. On Sundays there was one up and two down trains. The first weekday departure was at 4.35am, a down express service for Carlisle. The last weekday departure was also a down service. It departed from Garstang at 9.40pm and called at all stations to Lancaster.
On 10 September 1859 the L&C leased itself to the LNWR.
In December 1863 the Garstang & Knot (sic) End Railway (G&KER) company was formed to create an 11½ mile line that would unlock the potential of the land in the area. In their early publications grand ideas were put forward that included their line becoming part of an alternative route to the north-east of England. The idea that Knott End might be developed as a major port to rival nearby Fleetwood was also discussed. These statements alarmed the bigger railway companies who objected to the proposals, which incurred a great deal of cost for the G&KER. In the end they had to modify their aspirations and submit their bill as very much a local railway that would serve only the local area. The railway was authorised on 30 June 1864. From the start there were financial difficulties. The Parliamentary Act had authorised £60,000 in share capital, but the G&KER was unable to raise the subscriptions required. By December 1867 only half a mile of line had been created and it became clear that creating the route to Knott End was not going to be possible so the plans for the route west of Pilling were abandoned.
The G&KER had intended to make a junction with the LNWR east of the town of Garstang where the L&PJR had first wanted to put their Garstang station. The LNWR had intimated that they would re-site their station to the new junction. However the plans came to nothing and the LNWR insisted that the G&KER use its Garstang station. As the LNWR would not allow the G&KER to make a junction with their main line further north they had to incur further expense by building their own single track line parallel to the main line for almost a mile.
Once it became clear to the LNWR that the GKER would finally be completed and that it would form its junction with them at Garstang station they embarked on a gradual programme of improvements. Additional land was purchased to the south of the bridge over Ray Lane and the embankment there was widened on the west side to provide a site for goods facilities. By August 1869 a goods warehouse had been erected and steps were being taken to acquire a crane and a weighbridge. To accommodate the GKER, the bridge over Ray Lane and the embankment to the north of it were widened and a new island platform was constructed to replace the existing down line structure on the west side of the station. The widening of the embankment here, very close to the Lancaster Canal, necessitated the construction of a curved brick retaining wall. Parts of this failed prior to the opening of the line and had to be taken down and rebuilt. Down direction LNWR trains continued to use the eastern side of the new platform and the G&KER trains would terminate at the outer western face. To the north of the G&KER platform there was a loop which was used to facilitate engines running around their trains. The loop was also used for the transfer of goods wagons.
The G&KER opened on 5 December 1870. There were nine trains in each direction but only two of them each way served Pilling. The others all started from, or terminated at, the G&KER station. Because the G&KER had a Garstang station on its line the LNWR facility started to be referred to as the ‘Junction’ station. The G&KER was only physically connected to the LNWR main line via the goods yard and there was no through running of ordinary passenger trains from one system to the other.
In 1871, in order to accommodate travellers wishing to break their journey at Garstang (Junction), the Kenlis Arms adjacent was opened just to the east of the station. The Lancaster Guardian for 16th September 1871 noted that an application for beer and spirit licences had been made before the Garstang Brewster Sessions.
When Captain Tyler of the Board of Trade had inspected the G&KER in October 1870 he remarked on the inadequacy of the passenger accommodation at the LNWR’s main line station. It was, after all, now the meeting point of two different companies, but the passenger facilities remained at a standard appropriate for a small wayside station. This criticism seemed to spur on the LNWR. They purchased additional land from Lord Kenlis and in 1872 erected a new passenger station adjacent to the old station house, at a cost of £2,145. In February 1873, the Traffic Committee ordered furniture for the separate first class ladies’ and gentlemen’s waiting rooms. Each had a carpet, hearth rug, a table, a sofa, six chairs, and a fender with fire irons. The general waiting room was merely to have benches around the walls. The station clock was ordered to be removed from the old building to the new and altered from a single to a double dial.
On 21 July 1879 the LNWR absorbed the L&C company and in 1881 they renamed Garstang (Junction) as Garstang & Catterall.
The down island platform appears to have been lightly constructed and within ten years its condition had become a cause for concern. In November 1883, the LNWR Traffic Committee ordered that the platform, which was constructed of timber and was in a very bad state of repair, was to be renewed in stone. However, photographs taken at the beginning of the 20th century show that the platform walls were actually constructed of brick.
There does not appear to have ever been any formal agreement between the two parties governing the use of the station, the G&KER paying a nominal fee of £60 per annum. This sum had been fixed as part of the settlement of a court case in 1883.
The December 1895 timetable showed Garstang & Catterall as having six up and seven down trains on the main line Monday-to-Friday with an extra up train on Saturdays. On Sundays there were two trains in each direction on the main line. All of the trains were stopping services. On the G&KER branch there were four arrivals and departures Monday-to-Saturday with an extra train each way on Thursdays.
The 1904 Handbook of Stations listed Garstang & Catterall as being able to handle general goods, parcels, livestock, horses and private carriages.
In August 1906 Pilling was still the western terminus of the G&KER. It had a fairly meagre service, with 5 up and 5 down trains a day. Of these, the mid-morning trains ran only between Garstang and the mainline station. The first down train and last up train served only Garstang and Nateby, though the latter would continue a further 2 miles to the mainline station for a hefty 3/- surcharge per passenger. It would then have presumably returned empty to Garstang. There was no Sunday service on the line.
On 1 July 1908 the G&KER was taken over by the Knott End Railway (KER) company, who opened a 4½ mile extension between Pilling and Knott End on 30 July 1908. The opening of the extension saw an increase in passenger traffic on that line, especially during the summer holiday period when many visitors came to the Fylde coast.
In 1909 a comprehensive agreement between the KER and the LNWR was reached and the arrangements for the joint use of the station were put on a proper footing. Under the new agreement, the existing annual charge for the use of the station was confirmed and it was agreed that tickets for the KER could be purchased from the LNWR booking office. Prior to this, there was no facility for branch line passengers to buy a ticket at the junction, so these had to be purchased from the guard on the train. Under the 1909 agreement, the KER was to supply the tickets and racks, but the tickets themselves were to be issued by the LNWR booking clerk. Both companies were to contribute to his salary according to the ratio of tickets sold. The KER was also allowed to install a telephone in the LNW booking office. The long-established practice of the LNWR venturing onto KER metals to exchange wagon traffic was also confirmed, although the agreement suggests that this had been suspended at some point in the past owing to a dispute between the two companies. Finally, the LNWR agreed to add the words “change here for Knott End Railway” on the station running in boards but with the proviso that if larger boards were required, the KER would contribute to the cost. Photographic evidence confirms that the revised boards were in place by the spring of 1911.
From 1911 the KER started to handle salt traffic from a works at Preesall. By 1913 the KER was carrying 5,032 tons of salt for the United Alkali Company. The works also required considerable volumes of coal, and 7,970 tons were brought in during that year. All of this traffic had to pass through the goods facilities at Garstang & Catterall.
At some point, an additional siding was provided at the north end of the KER loop. It first appears on the 1910 revision of the 25 Inch Ordnance Survey. By 1930, this had been extended and a connection put in at the north end, effectively providing a longer loop with a crossover in the middle. This final addition is likely to have been put in during the Great War to facilitate the handling of the increased goods traffic on the line.
For the summer season of 1920 the KER introduced onto its branch a steam railmotor which they had hired from the LNWR. In the winter period the railmotor was used on nearly all of the passenger services for that line.
Salt traffic was at its heaviest in 1920. KER engines are known to have ventured into the LNWR goods yard on a daily basis to exchange loaded wagons and empties. During 1920 53,416 tons of salt and 24,135 tons of coal passed through Garstang & Catterall.
The July 1922 timetable showed an improvement in the level of passenger services serving Garstang & Catterall station. On the main line there were nine up and twelve down services Monday-to-Friday on the main line. There was an extra down train on Saturdays. On Sundays there were two trains in the up direction and one in the down. As with the 1895 timetable most trains were stopping services but some long distance expresses did call, including the down Belfast Boat Express which called at 10.25pm on Saturdays only. On the KER branch there were eight trains in each direction Monday-to-Saturday. Although no Sunday service was advertised for the branch services were operated on that day during busy holiday periods.
On 1 January 1923 the LNWR was absorbed into the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS) and the KER followed suit on 1 July 1923.
On 31 March 1930 the LMS withdrew the passenger service between Garstang & Catterall and Knott End but goods services continued to run on that line.
The LMS summer timetable for 1932 showed seven up and eight down trains Monday-to-Friday. There was one extra down train on Saturdays. On Sundays there were three trains in each direction.
Garstang & Catterall became part of British Railways London Midland Region (BR[LMR]) on 1 January 1948. On 13 November 1950 goods services ceased to run to Knott End, and Pilling became the western terminus of that branch.
The 1956 Handbook of Stations listed Garstang & Catterall as being able to handle general goods, parcels, livestock, horses and private carriages/motor cars.
In the Reshaping of British Railways Report of 1963 (the Beeching report) Garstang & Catterall was listed for closure. There seemed to be no hurry in implementing the closure of the station but the goods service to Pilling ceased on 1 August 1963. A short stretch of the former G&KER remained open as far as Garstang Town station which continued to see goods traffic until 16 August 1965.
The BR[LMR] timetable of 6 March 1967 to 5 May 1968 showed five up and six down services Monday-to-Saturday. All of the up trains went to Preston and most of the down trains went to Barrow-in-Furness. No trains called on Sundays.
The closure of Garstang & Catterall, recommended in 1963, was implemented in two stages, the first stage being the closure of the goods facilities on 30 December 1968. Passenger services were discontinued from 3 February 1969.
Shortly after closure the goods sidings were lifted and the down platform was demolished. The station building of 1872 survived until the early 1970s when it was also demolished. The station house of 1840 was extant in 2020 in use as a private residence.
With special thanks to Dave Richardson author of The Pilling Pig - A History of the Garstang & Knott End Railway