I’m off on my travels today although my style’s being cramped by the need to be in Huddersfield for a dental appointment later. Still, I made an early start and headed over the Pennines to Manchester before catching an Arriva Trains Wales service out to Cheshire. My timing was perfect as the train I was aiming for from Piccadilly was one of ATWs loco hauled sets, providing a bit more capacity than the normal Alstom Class 175s used on the Holyhead services.
That said, the extra capacity was needed as the train was busy with lots of Mancunians heading off to the North Wales coast whilst other travellers were off to the Emerald Isle. I stayed on the train as far as the pretty little station of Helsby, the junction for the line via Ellesmere Port to Hooton. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve visited Helsby since the early 1970s. Probably 1973 or 74. In those days British Railways used to sell a ‘Merseyrover’ ticket which was priced at the princely sum of 50p for the whole weekend! I’ll have to dig one out but I think we must have ‘bunked’ the train from Ellesmere Port to Helsby as I don’t think they were valid that far. It explains why I only went once – twice might have been risking it!
Whilst Helsby station’s delightful architecturally it’s also a bit of the building site at the moment. The reason for that is the footbridge is being shot-blasted as part of an extensive refurbishment so it’s swathed in plastic sheeting. In the meantime access across the platforms is provided by two temporary footbridges. Their lightweight construction means they have to be held in place by multiple water tanks acting as ballast!
Here’s the main station building which was built out of Coursed rock-faced red sandstone in 1849 for the Birkenhead, Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway Company. It’s grade 2 listed. Although recently refurbished, the main part is vacant and available for letting. I was surprised to find the rest (to the left of the picture) has been occupied by a craft beer bar called Beer Heroes (see link) since 2016. Sadly, it was closed when I was there, but I’m definitely going to have to pop back in the future!
Here’s the signal box with the footbridge beyond. The box is a London and North Western Railway Type 4 signal box dating from 1900 which is also grade 2 listed. The box retains its original 45 lever London and North Western Railway Tumbler frame.
Here’s a shot of one of the two temporary footbridges. This one crosses the Ellesmere port lines. Not the big plastic tanks full of water which hold the lightweight structure in place! Sadly, trains on this section of line are few and far between. There’s a total of six across the morning and evening peaks between Helsby and Ellesmere Port.
An ATW service from Manchester Airport to Llandudno worked by 175116 approaches the station past a semaphore signal guarding the line in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t play ball as much as I’d hope it would so I moved on and headed back to Frodsham to try my luck with some other shots. If only the cloud had stayed away for this one – as an ATW Class 175 crosses the Weaver Viaduct to East of Frodsham.
It’s time to draw this one to a close. The day’s been a bit rushed but the good news is I sailed through my dental check-up for another 6 months! Now I’m enjoying a quiet night at home – emailing pictures that a magazine has requested…
As usual I’ve plenty of pictures to process and tomorrow is another day. I’ll be off on my travels again then, but I’m not sure where until I check the weather forecast first thing. Let’s see what happens in the morning.