[Source Tony Graham &: Paul Wright]

Date opened: 4.9.1882 for Guild Week use and fully open on 16.9.1882
Location: South of the junction of Derby Road and Kensington Road
Company on opening: West Lancashire Railway
Date closed to passengers: 1.5.1901
Date closed completely: 3.12.1973
Company on closing: Lancashire and Yorkshire
Present state: Demolished the site is now a supermarket car park
County: Lancashire
OS Grid Ref: SD343171
Date of visit: 3.1.2006, 30.7.2011 & 23.6.2015

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 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 Central, Southport Ash Street, St. Lukes, Meols Cop, Butts Lane Halt, Kew Gardens, Heathey Lane Halt, Shirdley Hill, New Cut Lane Halt, Halsall, Plex Moss Lane Halt, Downholland & Altcar & Hillhouse

Southport central station looking south-east in 1949. Running left to right is Derby Road onto which faced the main entrance of the passenger station.
Copyright photo from Stations UK

Southport Central as it was in 1890. The WLR had a cramped site compared with its neighbour the LYR whose yard can be seen to the south of the station. The layout of the station is clearly shown on this OS town plan and it even identifies the functions of different parts of the station building. The only addition made to the station whilst it was a passenger facility, after this map was drawn,
was a refreshment room.

Southport Central shown on a six-inch scale map from 1892.

Southport Central as it was in 1894 shown on a 1:2,500 scale map. Note the extensive railway yards to the south which make it look as if the WLR had a spacious layout at Southport. In fact they did not, as the lines to the south of the station belonged to the LYR.

Road vehicle drivers are awarded for safe driving outside Southport Central when it was known as Kensington Road Goods in October 1960. Click here to compare with a June 2015 photo.

Southport Central seen from the air during the period when it was a goods facility on 14 September 1967. The station is to the right and to its left is the Southport Locomotive Depot which had closed by this time. To the bottom left part of the Southport London Street Excursion platform can be seen.

Looking north-west into Southport Central in 1970. Click here to compare with a view from June 2015.

Looking north-west towards the buffer stops at Southport Central on 3 August 1975. The station was much as it had been when it opened. The only significant difference being the island platform seen to the right. It was installed during the goods station period.
Photo by Ian McLoughlin from his 10B Flickr photostream

Looking west at the north side of Southport Central station in January 1980.
Photo by Barbara Dolan

A view of Southport Central looking south, showing the front of the station which faced onto Derby Road as it was in June 1982.
Photo by Martin Brown

The site of Southport Central looking west on 23 June 2015.
Photo from Tony Graham

Click here to see more photos of Southport Central




[Source Tony Graham &: Paul Wright]

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