Ellesmere Port - Helsby line revisited

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Green Lane

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Quite an enjoyable day of hiking yesterday, including two visits to Ince & Elton.

I was very fortunate in that having no idea that a freight train even ran through the station on a Saturday, imagine my surprise when I arrived at the station at a completely random time (around 12:15 IIRC) and a frieght train passed through going towards Helsby.

Later on, after an almost three-hour walk I returned back at the station and got on the 15:20 back to Ellesmere Port. The guard told me he got a shock that someone had actually got on at Ince and Elton and he also said something along the lines of "wait until I let people know that someone actually got on at Ice and Elton!". I said I'd keep my ticket as a souvenir (see below). It is a very little used station, officially seeing around a few hundred passengers per year. Also, despite the incorrect (uncited) information on the Wikipedia article (which I have previously been misled by), the services at this station are not considered a parliamentary service, as a forum-member here quite rightly pointed out to me a while back. At four trains in each direction per day Mon-Sat, that's 48 passenger services available here per week. Which, on the face of it sounds not too bad. Although it could be argued the timing of the services is far from optimal, in terms of usefulness. The truth is of course that the X36 bus service, now running between Ellesmere Port and Liverpool Airport does offer a more frequent hourly service and serves more nearby villages not directly on the rail line e.g. Thornton-le-Moors. Although, two other passengers were on the train I boarded yesterday, having come from the Helsby direction - the first time I've not had the entire train to myself on this line. Also, some people boarded at Ellesmere Port - a sign that things are ever so slightly picking up?

Although I've walked past Ince and Elton station on previous occasions and passed through it on the train on several occasions, I'd never until yesterday actually used the station i.e. I'd never waited there for a while. I was pleasantly surprised. It's a really nice station in an incredibly quiet area - no constant sounds of traffic, just the hourly bus and very occasional car going over the bridge - otherwise, just the tweeting of birds and not a soul in sight. The station itself is also in very good condition with bin bags available, an up-to-date timetable and onward travel information and adequate seating and shelter.

The visit was also memorable because of the weather. One moment, it was an incredibly heavy downpour and then a couple of minutes later, the wind blew the clouds away and the sun came out and it was very warm.

Anyway, I got a few snaps for the perusal of anyone who might possibly be interested.

Please excuse the blurring on the train snaps, I am using a really cheap compact camera in auto-mode and it takes a few seconds before I take a second snap. Well, that and the fact that I was in such a sudden and surprised rush to photo this train, I probably didn't hold my hand quite still. :D

Freightliner passing through:-






Crossing showing red light, due to the imminent arrival of the above train.
I was amazed how quickly this went back to green, literally seconds after the train passed.




Some blossoms off a nearby tree have almost completely covered the end of the Ellesmere Port-bound platform.


Various views of the station


















AWS ramp on the Helsby-bound track


Up-to-date timetable


Outdated signage referring to Hooton/Chester services from (IIRC) around 20 years ago.


Seating


One of those barriers that only lets cars through, not larger vehicles. (There's probably a name for it).


Sign outside, visible from Ince Lane/Station Road


Exit ramp


I framed my ticket for posterity :D - just got to find eight more tickets to fit in here now. Next one will probably be Chester-Runcorn. After that, I'll have fun finding some "interesting" local trips to fill in the remaining seven slots. A4 frame - £1.49 from Wilkos.





Back in Ellesmere Port, showing the DMU I'd just alighted from next to a Mersyrail service.


And off it goes back to Helsby.


Thanks for viewing! :)
 
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142094

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Did the Chester - Runcorn service last month, and also Ellesmere Port - Warrington BQ. Suprisingly there were a couple of people on the Runcorn train, although obviously rail enthusiasts. Then there were a young couple on the Ellesmere train, think they got off at Hooton. No-one got on at any of the other stations that I could see.

You'll have to do Stanlow and Thornton as well!
 

Green Lane

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You'll have to do Stanlow and Thornton as well!

Thanks for the reply. Yes, I'd love to do it. Blogs like this one make me a bit apprehensive though. I also read a story in the "Ellesmere Port Pioneer" a couple of years back about a pedestrian who was thought to have got through a fence in the refinery there, and armed officers were immediately called in. I understand they never did find the man. Things like this mean I'm not in any real hurry to return on foot again. :D

So far, I've only passed through the station on the train. Although a few years back, I did walk along Oil Sites Road, right past the outside of the station. I went right past the main station sign and was close enough to see the platforms from the outside. On that occasion, I was walking through there simply because it was a quicker route to the village of Ince. Although, at that time regrettably, my personal interest in the railways had not revived as it has done in recent months, so I did not think much of it back then. (To think I could have got on the train there back then - there's one for the "travel back in time" thread :).)

In recent years, with the closure of the road to all public motorised traffic (except vehicles having business with the refinery), I'm even more reluctant to go to near Stanlow & Thornton station than ever before. I can quite understand the restrictions though, in light of previous issues such as illegal street racing, fuel protests and so on.

The signs along the road are quite intimidating (as stated in the above blog), and do make you question if you are allowed to be there, even on foot. I did read somewhere that cyclists and pedestrians are still permitted to travel along the road through the refinery - but when you actually get there things seem quite different - there is no indication whatsoever that it's allowed. The actual signs on the road really make you want to turn back the way you came.

It would be great if there was some sort of sign or notice there confirming that pedestrian/cycle access just along that road was permitted. If that was the case, I would visit the station ASAP. I can't see it happening though as it is technically a private road and understandably, the refinery would want to discourage public access. Also, it's not a right of way. If access is allowed, then technically it's permissive.

Of course, my only interest is in going to the station and getting on a train there, but because of the above issues with the access road, it's unlikely that I will visit anytime soon, which it is a bit of a shame. Perhaps other forum members have visited the station? Perhaps it's just that I'm too over-cautious.

But overall, I think I might stick to Hawarden Bridge for my next obscure station visit. Cheers! :D
 
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Eire Sprinter

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A great account and set of photos.

I travelled on the line early last year, commencing from Ellesmere Port and making a round trip on one of the afternoon services.

Having arrived into Ellesmere Port by Merseyrail I found the station ticket office is only open at certain times so purchased from the machine (had an All Areas Saveaway which covered my Merseyrail journeys). I've since realised that I could have probably bought my ticket onboard the Helsby train.

As I recall I had a wait of around half an hour (think I arrived on the train before the one I could have used) and whilst nothing amiss happened I felt that the station environs didn't have a particularly safe "feel". (Could have been just my perception!).

Didn't see any timetable info for the line on display at Ellesmere Port.

Just myself onboard to Helsby. Our Pacer slowed at both Stanlow & Thornton and Ince & Elton stations rather than actually stopping. On the return journey there were two other passengers onboard from Helsby. Again we slowed at both stations.

The train seemed to do a maximum speed of 40/45mph on the line.

Back in Ellesmere Port two passengers boarded the train for its next journey (think it was going beyond Helsby to Warrington).

An interesting account from a visit to Stanlow & Thornton can be found on this informative website:
http://www.merseytart.com/search?q=ince+%26+elton

A "passable" experience but would put me off rather than entice me.

PS: Snap! (had just posted the website link when I realised it's the same as the one mentioned under "this one"!)
 
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Green Lane

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Thanks for the interesting reply. Yes that sounds right, as Ellesmere Port is in Cheshire, it won't have the same ticket office staffing hours as Merseyrail stations inside Merseyside. Others on here know more than me about why this is, but I believe it's related to how the various local authorities subsidise public transport.

Like you I always have a habit of arriving on a train one earlier than the one I actually need for an onward connection. If so, then I might be tempted to go for a stroll outside the station, to kill some time and get a few photos. Either that or I'll eat my butties. :D

You probably did the right thing though by using the ticket machine. I boarded via the most forward door of the class 156 train, but I walked all the way down to the back of the train to buy my ticket from the guard. I just don't think they are that accustomed to many people using the service, so therefore the guard didn't bother doing a "visit" to us three passengers.. Still I'm one of those people who thinks it's wrong not to pay my way, so I insist on buying a valid ticket for the journey. :D

Also the first time I used this service a couple of years back, like you say, the train did not stop at the two intermediate stations, it just slowed down and then after confirming no-one was there it accelerated again.

On this most recent trip though it did stop at both. Ince & Elton, presumably because I was standing on the platform. Stanlow & Thronton, presumably to allow for the possibility that one of us passengers wanted to alight at Stanlow & Thornton.

I found a further interesting link regarding this line here:-
http://www.theghoststationhunters.c...rb/1382128720_bjsCRGv#!i=1382128720&k=bjsCRGv.

It contains the usual warnings about wandering off around Oil Sites Road!

Looking at that site, there is a plan though where you can visit Stanlow & Thornton station without trespassing on the private road.

You can get the 15:34 from Ellesmere Port for example, arrive Stanlow & Thornton 15:38. Then cross over the station bridge and just get the 15:53 back to Ellesmere Port, arriving at 15:59. You would remain entirely on railway property during the entire visit (lasting 15 minutes), which I presume is OK to do.

This would allow a visit, just to the station. Although as a bit of a hiker (hiking is my main hobby), I like to really either arrive or leave on foot at a station to say I've properly "done it". Just a shame this isn't apparently permitted at present.

Still, I may well do the "train only" visit at some point, just so I can see the station - it's really one of the few remaining so close to where I live that I've never set foot on the platforms of. Cheers!
 
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Lampshade

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Thing is that Stanlow and Thornton would be a fantastic commuter station for the oil refinery, but unless Shell subsidise it (which they won't, why would an oil company subsidise public transport), it'll never happen.
 

Green Lane

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Thing is that Stanlow and Thornton would be a fantastic commuter station for the oil refinery, but unless Shell subsidise it (which they won't, why would an oil company subsidise public transport), it'll never happen.

Indeed, there are also numerous other factories and businesses in the area. I learnt the other day that apparently the refinery has since 2011 been owned by Essar Energy not Shell any more, but yes I agree with your point.

With the refinery and the Vauxhall car plant, a lot of jobs in the area are based either around the automotive industry, the refinery or related businesses.
 

12CSVT

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So Stanlow & Thornton is in the same category as Lympstone Commando, IBM Halt and British Steel Redcar regarding restricted access ?
 

Green Lane

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So Stanlow & Thornton is in the same category as Lympstone Commando, IBM Halt and British Steel Redcar regarding restricted access ?

I think there's some uncertainty regarding pedestrian access to the road through the refinery which the station entrance is on (Oil Sites Road).

If this article from 2008 is still correct,
access will still be available for cyclists and pedestrians.
then it would suggest that pedestrians are OK to walk down the road, even though it has been closed to public motorised traffic since that time.

However, I haven't read anything directly from official sources, and a lot has happened since then including the refinery being taken over by Essar Energy.

What I would point out though in having gone through the station last week is that there are no apparent equivalent signs like at Lympstone Commando suggesting that "persons who alight here must have business with the refinery".

And then of course the name of the station "Stanlow & Thornton" suggests that it does still serve the village of Thornton-le-Moors (just across the A5117 road from the front of the refinery). This would necessitate a walk through the restricted road in order to gain access to/from the village to the station.

However, until I'm absolutely sure it's allowed, personally I wouldn't feel comfortable walking down the road to the station, as I'd be too worried that technically it is trespassing.
 

142094

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If I was going to do Stanlow and Thornton, I'd just stay on the station for half an hour and get the next one back.
 

Green Lane

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Interesting trip report. Despite living in Ellesmere port, I havn't done this line. It is definately a line I will be doing soon though

Thanks, yes that's understandable, given the irregular service. I've done both the early morning journeys (had to get up at 5am) and also the mid-afternoon ones. I'm trying to find ways to conveniently fit the short journeys on this route into an itinerary involving other lines, for example on a Cheshire Day Ranger or something. But because of the irregular, infrequent service and risk of missing the connections, I tend to just do this route on its own now.

Having said that, the most enjoyable one I did a couple of years back on a Saturday was Birkenhead -> Ellesmere Port -> Helsby -> Warrington BQ (using the early morning Ellesmere Port-Helsby service) then walking to Warrington Central, where I got the train to Liverpool Lime Street.

Visited Warrington museum that day then did a bit of shopping in Liverpool and then did the whole thing in reverse in the afternoon. Bit nuts really as I hold a TRIO ticket which normally gets me to Liverpool for nothing (needed for my job). But it was a bit of fun to go from Birkenhead to Liverpool and back without going via the direct route for a change!

If I was going to do Stanlow and Thornton, I'd just stay on the station for half an hour and get the next one back.

Yes, seems sensible to me. It's what I would do too if I were ever to visit this station. I'm sure somebody could correct me if wrong, but if you don't exit the station, then I presume you wouldn't be in any danger of potentially trespassing.
 
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Eire Sprinter

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Thanks Green Lane for that further info.

Staying within Stanlow & Thornton for the short time between arriving on one train and catching the same train on its way back seems fine. If I understand things correctly Network Rail own the station per se, with Northern managing it. The boundary would probably literally be on the last step down to the footpath/roadway.

One issue with this line is that while four services each way isn't spectacular it's not the worst by any means. Rather its how those four trains are timetabled as two clusters of two before the main morning and evening commuting peaks rendering them less useful than they potentially could be.

An idea may be if the morning trains were around an hour later and ditto for the evening trains they could possibly be much more useful to people (i.e. commuters). And if the four trains could be spread across the day (rather than two plus two) and all/nearly all run to/from Warrington it could mean people could viably use the service for a range of local and longer distance journeys to Ince & Elton (as well as Warrington - Ellesmere Port etc...). Wonder what the usual shifts at the refinery and other industries would be as surely it would yield revenue to timetable the trains around main shift patterns.

I daresay though that the units that work the Helsby - Ellesmere Port line are used for peak services in Liverpool/Manchester so this couldn't happen. But it certainly seems worthwhile looking at.

Been looking at this timetable for a possible future trip: http://www.google.ie/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=shuttle%20sp2%20ellesmere%20port&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CE8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk%2Fresidents%2Ftransport_and_roads%2Fpublic_transport%2Ftimetables_and_maps%2Fidoc.ashx%3Fdocid%3D56769627-d64f-4fb5-81a4-5b9234a697de%26version%3D-1&ei=KRL2T4v3BseZhQe80c3RBg&usg=AFQjCNHRPeew-4fSxJbJETfcTzwx-rKQtQ&cad=rja
By using it it's possible to get from Ellesmere Port railway station to quite close to Hawarden Bridge for an evening trip to and from Wrexham (18.07 ex Hawarden Bridge).Garden City seems to be the stop to alight at.
Map:http://www.borderlandsline.com/Deeside.pdf
 

Green Lane

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Thanks Green Lane for that further info.

Staying within Stanlow & Thornton for the short time between arriving on one train and catching the same train on its way back seems fine. If I understand things correctly Network Rail own the station per se, with Northern managing it. The boundary would probably literally be on the last step down to the footpath/roadway.

Thanks for the further reply. Yes, I tend to agree with this interpretation. I might also choose to break my journey there and get the next train in the same direction, about half an hour later. Assuming I'll find some other way to travel in the other direction.

I daresay though that the units that work the Helsby - Ellesmere Port line are used for peak services in Liverpool/Manchester so this couldn't happen. But it certainly seems worthwhile looking at.
Indeed, it seems that these moves have a benefit of positioning units in the correct place for both morning and evening peak time services around Liverpool/Manchester. I certainly agree though if all four services were just shifted about an hour or two later, it'd already arguably be a lot more useful to passengers on this line. Spreading them out would also be generally more useful. However having said that, from an enthusiasts point of view, this "bunching" does have the benefit of allowing a not-too long visit to either of the intermediate stations. :D


Yes it's a good plan. I have walked through Garden City on several occasions.

You have many choices of where to get off the bus.

To get off the bus in the vicinity of the distinctive "Blue bridge" across the Dee which is between Queensferry and Garden City, would not be a bad idea.

There is a bus stop a bit before the bridge and a stop a bit after it. You could get off at either depending on whether you feel like walking over the bridge on foot or not. It's quite pleasant on a nice day. There is a footpath/cycle-path immediately to the north of the bridge which leads to Hawarden Bridge railway station (just under a mile to the station from here). The start of the path from the road can be seen quite clearly on Google Street view. Again, it's quite a nice walk along the northern bank of the canalised section of the River Dee.

There are also alternative routes to walk there, like on another disused section of railway, now converted to a public footpath and cycleway, just north of RAF Sealand, by where the cycle-bridge/footbridge is (crosses ten lanes of traffic over the A550 and two other roads). Although that is a mile and a half to the station. I did this walk the other day in the opposite direction. The walk itself is quite a nice one.

Garden City is geographically an interesting place. The old boundary between England and Wales follows the old course of the River Dee. When the canalised section of the Dee was built in the 18th century, the river was re-routed to the south of Garden City. However the original border remains unchanged, to the north of this small town. So although Garden City remains firmly in Wales, geographically speaking it's on the Wirral peninsula side of the River Dee, separated from the rest of Wales, as is Hawarden bridge station itself.

As it happens, I had quite an eventful visit to Hawarden Bridge on Monday just gone, having taken the 08:33 from Upton, which was one of the morning peaks stopping there. I could probably make another thread on that trip report, if I wasn't in work right now. :D

One passenger mistakenly got off at Hawarden bridge instead of Hawarden. I wonder how many people have made that mistake?

Anyway, if you do it then have an enjoyable trip, cheers. :D

--- old post above --- --- new post below ---

Stanlow & Thornton visit

Just to say that unexpectedly, I ended up doing the trip to Stanlow and Thornton railway station today. :)

I did get a few shots of the station itself, but I haven't got around to uploading them just yet. And in all honesty, various photos that are already available via Google Image Search are superior to my efforts. Still, for me it's a local station that I've always wanted to do, so I'm really glad I have now finally visited it!

I could have started a new thread, but I'm sure both stations on the line mentioned so far are of interest to the same forum members and the discussion so far has been dominated by Stanlow & Thornton (S&T) as opposed to Ince & Elton (I&E). I suppose I should have really called the thread title "Ellesmere Port - Helsby line revisited". :D

Anyway, here's my trip report (of the whole day), for anyone who might be interested:-

Following on from where I left off last weekend, I decided to continue some local hiking opportunities in the southern part of the Wirral Peninsula. I used my TRIO season ticket (Merseytravel zones B1/C1) to catch a train departing Green Lane sometime around 9:00am this morning to Spital. This because Spital is the furthest south I can travel on the Wirral line on this ticket. The pigeon population at Green Lane has sizeably increased of late and at times it feels more like sitting in an aviary than a railway station. In fact it's starting to look more like one too - but I guess it's part of the charm.

With flooding at Capenhurst and the planned maintenance on the Liverpool Loop of the Wirral Line, trains were running a service truncated at both ends of the route, i.e. from James Street to Hooton. As 6-car trains were in operation (because of the Ellesmere Port-Hooton shuttle), suffice it to say under these conditions I had no problem at all getting a seat.

After a quite pleasant hike through Spital, Bromborough, Hooton, Childer Thornton, Little Sutton (crossing the station bridge there), Whitby (Ellesmere Port), Stanney Woods, Little Stanney, then onto a small part of the "Stanlow trail", to Wolverham and then back to Ellesmere Port, I arrived at the station a little after 13:15 having casually strolled something like 14 miles.

My original plan was to get the next train back to Birkenhead, but I'd had the (mis)fortune to miss the train really by a whisker. I was approaching the station overbridge as it pulled out.

So I got to the ticket machine in order to buy my ticket home. Having just missed the train, there was no queue and the station was for a few moments completely deserted. Of course, by then the thought occurred to me, "it's not too far from half one in the afternoon and the next Helsby train is only a couple of hours away." So, out of curiosity I punched in Stanlow and Thornton, and saw that the off-peak day return was only £2.20, so without much further thought, I purchased the ticket.

So, suddenly and unexpectedly having two hours to kill, I set about eating/drinkng what remained of my packed lunch before walking back in to Ellesmere Port town centre for a bit of light shopping, followed by a further two mile stroll around various parts of Ellesmere Port I'd never been to before e.g. the Westminster Road area, getting loads of photos (for Wikipedia) of various buildings of interest. So that was a nice bonus.

Arriving back at Ellesmere Port station around 15:10 or so, I sat in the Helsby-bound platform shelter, whilst brushing up on some local knowledge by flicking through my copy of the "Philips Cheshire Street Atlas".

Whilst doing so, I was surprised when a fellow passenger walked past on the same platform and asked me what time the next train was, I told him the time it was due (15:34), and he thanked me. I thought to myself, this service really does get the occasional non-enthusiast passenger!

Train pulled in around 15:28, bang on time as usual, but this time it's a class 142 pacer, unit 142005. I have to confess I am a Pacer fan, but I'm thinking, "Come on, where's my 156 gone to? Us Ellesmere Port-Helsby line travellers are an exclusive, discerning bunch, we like a bit of comfort during our five-minute train journeys". :D Suffice it to say that it's the first time I'd personally seen a pacer work this route.

I boarded the train along with the other passenger, and then decided to walk to the other (rear) carriage on a whim, near the left-hand side door for ease of alighting. Before the train moved out, the guard asked the other passenger where he was going to. I didn't hear the answer, but his destination was presumably somewhere on the Merseyrail network, so it turns out he did not want this train, he had just been waiting on the wrong platform! So, he immediately got off the train and crossed the bridge. I'm sure he got to where he was going, but unfortunately he'd already let one Hooton-bound train go before realising he needed the other platform, so would have arrived half an hour later than necessary.

Anyway, the guard then asked me and I said "Stanlow", and he said "That's fine, thanks". This question being par for the course for this little used route. The train probably would not even come to a complete stop at Stanlow & Thornton, unless someone was using the station.

I alighted at 15:38, and as I did so, I let the guard know that I'd be catching the train again on the way back. I thought it was sensible to do this, as the train crew would then know in advance to stop at S&T on the way back.

The train trundled off into the distance and first thing that struck me is the scale of this two-platform station. Looks like it's a place that must have seen far greater days. The overbridge is really long - straddling something like eight sidings to the south of the station, and what I think was previously some further tracks that have been lifted to the north of the station. Inside the bridge itself, it is permanently fenced off to the south with a warning sign, with only the small section connecting the exit to both platforms now publicly accessible.

The platforms are very long (well compared to the length of a pacer anyway). So long in fact that when I crossed over to the Ellesmere-Port bound platform, I did not even notice that there was a shelter on this side. So I stood there for a few minutes. When I did walk down to the "far end" of the platform though, I did find the row of shelters that were set back from the platform and partially obscured by foliage. I'm sure they would have proved very useful indeed if it had have been raining although they aren't exactly located near the part of the platform where the short trains of the current service stop. I do wonder if I would have had to have walked back down to the "in use" part of the platform or if the driver would have stopped short for me if I had emerged from there!

The atmosphere of the place is a world apart from Ince & Elton. Completely surrounded by industry, although thankfully the view is mostly blocked by rows of trees, it feels nothing like the laid-back "cherry-tree blossom" branch line sort of feel you get from Ince & Elton, if that makes any sense!

Instead this now oversized station, with its brick, concrete and corrugated iron shelters and footbridge painted in plain white has a definite eerie quality about it. It's a functional place, not particularly built for its aesthetics! I should also note that there is also a phone here, and it actually feels good that there is one here, like it's a real lifeline in case of getting stranded! But in reality of limited usefulness to those who possess working mobile phones.

Anyway, time appeared to fly so quickly that I'd not really had much of a chance to soak up this atmosphere before the pacer returned again. I could not believe I had been there for fifteen minutes, to me it seemed more like five.

The guard let me back on the train and to my surprise this time there were about four passengers on it, spread through both carriages!

That's a first, the first time ever on this service I could not get an entire carriage to myself.

The all too quick return to Ellesmere Port was followed by me getting a couple of snaps of the DMU before heading back to Hooton for some further snaps of the temporary Merseyrail "shuttle service".

Finally I took an ex-Chester train (which were now running again, presumably the flooding at Capenhurst must have subsided) back to Green Lane, where I was reminded not to try to alight on the end carriage as this is a 6-car train, before finally walking over the hill of Upper Tranmere and back home in just under a mile.

So job done, and I've now visited all four stations of the Ellesmere Port-Helsby stretch. I will probably visit some stations on other lines next. Thanks for reading!
 
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ATW Alex 101

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Another good trip report. I couldnt do your hike lol. Whitby is ok wolverham and the wessy (westminster) are absolute dumps. If you want nicer places try the great sutton area, not much but just a generally nice area
 

Green Lane

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Another good trip report. I couldnt do your hike lol. Whitby is ok wolverham and the wessy (westminster) are absolute dumps. If you want nicer places try the great sutton area, not much but just a generally nice area

Cheers, thanks for the feedback. Indeed I do like Great Sutton, funnily enough I walked through there last time I visited Capenhurst, back in June on an All Zones Saveaway. That was a memorable trip too - but alas I did not have the time to write it up back then.

As for hiking, I used to think nothing of walking from Birkenhead to Ellesmere Port and back again - the whole way. I even did Birkenhead-Chester once (32 miles round trip) but I could only do it because I've been hiking for years and slowly built up my stamina over a long period of time. When I first started hiking, I was so unfit could barely walk to the shops without feeling it :D

At the moment though, I'm down to about half of my usual hiking distances, due to damaging my left tibia six months ago (caused by overuse). Thankfully, the healing continues really well now and walking seems enjoyable again, but the great thing that came out of that injury was the fact that I started riding on trains at the weekend a lot more than I used to. So I've got back into enjoying this hobby again now. If that injury had never happened, I probably would never have ended up visiting Stanlow & Thornton station anytime soon. Funny how things work out!
 
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JoeGJ1984

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It does seem odd to me that the crew seem to be treating Stanlow & Thornton and Ince & Elton stations as request stops. They're not request stops in any timetable though, so they shouldn't be doing this. If they are doing this, they might as well give them request stop status.

A similar situation exists at Gilfach Fargoed on the Valley lines; the conductor asked anybody getting off to go to the front doors (it's a short platform and they just open the local door), then they slowed down and there was nobody there so started again without opening the doors (it seems to be a request stop in all but name).
 

185

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It does seem odd to me that the crew seem to be treating Stanlow & Thornton and Ince & Elton stations as request stops. They're not request stops in any timetable though, so they shouldn't be doing this.

Hardly going to leave thousands of people behind? Safe to assume this is the one line Lime Street crews can do this on without incoveniencing anyone. :)
 

12CSVT

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A similar situation exists at Gilfach Fargoed on the Valley lines; the conductor asked anybody getting off to go to the front doors (it's a short platform and they just open the local door), then they slowed down and there was nobody there so started again without opening the doors (it seems to be a request stop in all but name).

Gilfach Fargoed was a request stop until recently. It was an operational nightmare when they ran loco hauled services as only one door was in the platform.
 

Green Lane

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Thanks all for the further interesting replies and thanks very much to the mods/admins for renaming the thread title!

I finally got around to uploading some of my pics from yesterday:-

Departures screen at Ellesmere Port, taken sometime around 15:10. The text is a bit faint in the sunlight, but you can see the Helsby/Warrington services. Also of note are the Hooton services, due to the planned engineering work on the Wirral Line.


At Stanlow and Thornton now and I'm not using any zoom on this one, so it shows the long platforms quite well, even though I've already walked a bit down the platform before taking it. Also shows how the shelters are set back from the platforms.


Looking towards the shelters on the Helsby-bound platform.


Looking towards the overbridge. This one also shows the white lampposts with blue rings at a set height.


Looking towards the Helsby-bound platform.


The overbridge. It's a lot longer than shown here - a section now closed off to passengers crosses more sidings immediately to the south of the station (out of shot to the left).


Obligatory station sign!


Looking towards Ince & Elton and Helsby.


Looking towards Ellesmere Port.


The way out from the Ellesmere Port-bound platform and information sign.


Up-to-date timetable. Perhaps surprisingly, it does mention that rail-replacement bus services will drop off/pick up from Oil Sites Road (the restricted private road, owned by the refinery).


142005 approaching the Ellesmere Port-bound platform.


And back in Ellesmere Port


Heading back out from Ellesmere Port for the final time of the day, towards Warrington BQ.


Ticket, kept for posterity. :D


Now in the frame, from left to right, Ince & Elton, Hawarden Bridge (Borderlands Line), Stanlow & Thornton. Just six more tickets of obscure local journeys needed now, to totally fill the frame. The quest continues. :)
 
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Eire Sprinter

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Another excellent trip account. Glad you got to visit Stanlow and Thornton.

In my view a request stop could be formalised at both Stanlow and Thornton and Ince and Elton.

Wonder what those blue rings on the lampposts are for - perhaps just part of the station livery.

I wonder too do those sidings to the south see much/any use.

A trip on a rail replacement bus on this line would be very interesting. Even if there was no passenger already onboard for Stanlow and Thornton it would have to serve the station approach in case there was an intending passenger.

PS: thanks for the detailed info for the Hawarden Bridge trip.
 

Green Lane

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Another excellent trip account. Glad you got to visit Stanlow and Thornton.

Thanks again for the feedback! I am unsure as to whether the refinery still uses rail to move oil or petroleum products? For some reason, I had thought it had completely ceased. Clearly the sidings at Stanlow would have been busy some time ago (as seen in old photos etc..) But the fact that the set of sidings to the south of the platforms hasn't been lifted may suggest at the very least they've been mothballed. In any case, it may be prudent to shift some of the workload back to rail at some point in the future, so I can understand the potential benefits of keeping some rail options open.

On the issue of request stops, indeed, I have on many occasions used request stops that have far greater usage than the two intermediate stations on this line. Whilst I'm not opposed to the status quo, I am surprised they are not officially request stops at present.

As for the lampposts, yes to me the blue rings just appear to be part of the station livery. Although, it was something that stood out when I was there. Perhaps because there's a lot of plain white at the station!

In other news, I've just had a great week off work, I took a few rail trips again, but really no time to write them up sadly. I chose not to do the Ellesmere Port-Helsby line again as after recent trips, I now feel I've more or less completely covered it, so I instead did some other trips.

Funny thing was today, at Liverpool Lime Street, I jumped on the 12:16 Northern service to Liverpool South Parkway (ex Blackpool North I think), and it was the same guard on the train, who was on the Stanlow service last Saturday. It's a small world!

I'd never done this particular service before so it was the first time I'd actually travelled on the slow lines to Liverpool South Parkway.

The highlight of today though was probably my visit to Ditton railway station (in Widnes). It's been closed for 18 years, but the nearby bus stop outside still says "Ditton station" on it! Got a few snaps of the old station, but not had a chance to upload them yet. Cheers!
 

142094

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Blue rings are the Northern standard station painting design. Quite suprised that it isn't still in the ex-Arriva Trains Northern livery.
 

Green Lane

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Blue rings are the Northern standard station painting design. Quite suprised that it isn't still in the ex-Arriva Trains Northern livery.

A belated thanks for the info! Since you posted this, I have to admit I've noticed these blue rings or "stripes" on all other Northern-managed stations I've visited.

Anyway just another update to this thread. Recently I've been doing more walks in the general area of the Ellesmere Port to Helsby line. This is all part of a greater plan in that eventually I want to walk from Birkenhead to Liverpool via the Runcorn Bridge. (In fact I walked over the Runcorn Bridge on Saturday, that trip would be another thread in itself - and this isn't really a hiking forum :) ), but these "scouting" missions have led me into using the line twice more since last posting. Truthfully, the route has proven handy for me as I generally tend to return home around mid-afternoon from a hike, and the trains from Helsby have been at about the right time for me, when coming back. (A bit too early for me in the morning though!).

Firstly, I boarded the 15:20 from Ince & Elton on Saturday 28th July. As I arrived a little early, I walked around the station area a bit more and discovered the other, far more concealed entrance to the station. Namely a set of steps that come out onto Orchard Park Lane, Elton. This might be handy when walking to/from Elton village. I do have photos from this day, but have not yet got around to uploading them.

I also noticed that some people were sitting in a car in the station car park - the first time I have ever seen anyone in the vicinity of the station. I thought they might have been wanting to get a train or pick someone up from a train, but a few minutes later they just drove off! Also whilst waiting on the Ellesmere Port-bound platform, I noticed a woman walked onto the Helsby-bound platform and sat in the shelter. I started to think "this line is getting popular". But when I got up to put something in the bin, I presume that she must have noticed me as shortly thereafter she walked out of the station. I can only guess that she must have just wanted to sit somewhere quiet where there's (usually) guaranteed to be no-one around. Although it was ten minutes before the train was due, I'm guessing local people just aren't too used to seeing passengers here. So I have still yet to see an actual passenger either alight or board at this station - maybe one day! This trip was memorable though, as I chatted with the guard about rail stuff on the way back to Ellesmere Port. This time I was the only passenger. One passenger boarded at Ellesmere Port for the return trip though.

Second time on the line was today. After a hike from Helsby to Frodsham and then on to the A56 road bridge at Sutton Weaver, I walked back to Helsby and then halfway up Helsby Hill. Finally returned to Helsby station, Where I got back home via Ellesmere Port. At £4.85 for an off-peak day return from Birkenhead Central to Helsby - it's pretty good value. Suffice it to say I departed BKC at 09:52 and travelled via Chester on the way out.

I have posted some full-resolution images this time. Please click on the links to view. I did not want to use an "img" tag for these as some of them are over 4000 pixels across. If you then click on the actual image again (depends on browser) you should get the full blown-up images.

This first image, taken from halfway up Helsby Hill shows most of the line. Helsby station itself is just out of the shot, just beyond where the line curves at the bottom of the image. The red tower blocks at the top right of the image are the "Joseph Groome Towers" on the Westminster Estate, Ellesmere Port. They are very close to Ellesmere Port station (just slightly beyond it). In fact you can't miss them when in the vicinity of Ellesmere Port station.
http://java.cms.livjm.ac.uk/homepage/staff/cmspcar1/rail/DSCF4316.JPG

In fact on some other photos, I also managed to capture Liverpool City Centre and Cammel Lairds shipbuilding hall at Birkenhead from this same location, although because of the distances involved they are a little hazy!

Also, please feel free to have a look at these other high-res images in this folder:-
http://java.cms.livjm.ac.uk/homepage/staff/cmspcar1/rail/

156425 was the unit on the route this afternoon. It arrived from the Chester direction and then reversed. I then heard the signalman operate the points (Really worth going to Helsby to watch this in action). The train then reversed and arrived into platform 4. When I last boarded at Helsby around two years ago, platform 3 was the one for Ellesmere Port. But now it's platform 4, over the bridge. It's also great that the Ellesmere Port-bound platform now has an electronic information sign. This was useful as without it I might have wrongly waited at Platform 3.

The bench on platform 4 is overgrown by a large shrub though - I had to fight it back a bit so I could sit down and eat my banana!

Again I was the only passenger on this particular service today, and this time no-one boarded at Ellesmere Port for the return trip, as far as I could tell.

Anyway I hope you might find some of the above photos interesting, cheers!
 

JoeGJ1984

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156425 was the unit on the route this afternoon. It arrived from the Chester direction and then reversed. I then heard the signalman operate the points (Really worth going to Helsby to watch this in action). The train then reversed and arrived into platform 4.

Does anyone know if this always happens (i.e. the train arriving empty from Chester)? Or does the empty train sometimes come from Warrington Bank Quay?
 

Green Lane

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Does anyone know if this always happens (i.e. the train arriving empty from Chester)? Or does the empty train sometimes come from Warrington Bank Quay?

Although I can't answer your question. I have to admit, until I saw the train arrive, I also did think that it would originate from the Warrington BQ direction, rather than Chester. It was quite funny really, because for a moment, I thought to myself "what's that Northern train passing through platform 2?", before thinking about two seconds later "erm, I think it's my train". :D

Two years ago when I last boarded this service at Helsby, sadly I arrived at the station literally five minutes before it departed. The train was already in at platform 3 on that occasion. Although I remember it well, because as no passengers were expected, all of the doors were locked. When the guard eventually saw me trying to get in, she unlocked the doors for me.

Another difference was back then, the train did not come to an absolute complete stop at the intermediate stations. Whereas on Monday this week, it did completely stop at all stations. I guess it depends on the guard.

--- old post above --- --- new post below ---

Further to this, by sheer co-incidence, I arrived by Merseyrail train at Ellesmere Port today at 16:00, and the Helsby train was in. I hadn't planned to see this, but it was just how things worked out.

The destination blind on the Helsby train read "Chester". I have a photo of it on my camera. Perhaps it had originally come off the mid-Cheshire line or something? Just a guess. :)
 
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