Preston Station - Past & Present

The branch to Preston Docks was initially opened by the North Union in 1846 to serve Victoria Quay, later being extended to reach the rest of Preston Docks. The line still descends, as it did then, northwards from the West side of the station, on a gradient of 1 in 29, curving sharply westwards. After passing under Christian Road and through a cutting, the single line enters Fishergate Tunnel, emerging a short way from Strand Road, which is crossed on the level.

pic10Here is a general shot of Preston Dock when it was a dock! The view is taken from the North side, in front of what is now Morrison’s Car Park. The Harris Library and other still extant Town Centre buildings can be seen on the left horizon, together with the long-gone Grain Elevator, Conveyor Bridge and Ribble Power Station. The nearest vessel to the camera appears to be heading for the Transit Shed berth at the far end of the dock, whilst the ship on the right is discharging wood pulp direct into Preston Corporation internal user open wagons. The white ship centre is the Geestland, one of the regular banana boats on the run from the West Indies. Much of the wood pulp was conveyed from the docks by rail, generally only a few miles to paper mills at Darwen and Blackrod for example. Virtually all of the banana imports went out by train, usually much further affield including Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell

A network of lines developed as the docks grew, over 25 miles of it at its peak, ensuring that the Dock Branch was heavily used for around a century. However, the rise of larger container ports elsewhere resulted in the steady decline of Preston as a port through the 1970s and early 1980s. This was despite Preston handling more traffic than any other port at it's peak in the mid-1960s.

pic5One of the Preston Corporation Bagnalls lifts a handful of pulp-laden highs off the South side quay. There were around 7 of these locos which carried names such as – "Progress", "Princess", "Enterprise", "Energy" and "Conqueror".

There was also a Barclay fireless called "Duke" which usually lived at the oil sidings – there was a steam generator there which charged the loco as required so it would not have strayed far from there. Finally there was the dreaded diesel "Duchess" of which more later.

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell 2nd October 1966

These photos are from a 1917 copy of the tide tables book for Preston. They show some of the produce that passed through the port:

right : Wood Pulp
lower right : Esparto grass (used in papermaking)
below : Ore 

From the same publication, a map of Preston Dock as it was in 1917, with some 17 miles of railway.
pic14{Click to enlarge]

pic16 pic15

pic6Another of the Bagnalls, or possibly the same one, shunting around in the Exchange sidings parallel to Strand Road. 

Perhaps this, or the photo above, depicts "Princess", which was the only one of the Preston Bagnalls to have escaped the cutter's torch, and is now preserved at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell 2nd October 1966


pic18Energy is pictuered in this 1961 photo. Is this a train consisting  mostly of banana vans?

Photo : (c) Tony Gillett February 1961

pic7Progress idles its time away outside the shed, which was down near TW Wards scrapyard in those days - the opposite end of the Dock Estate to the present day shed.

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell 2nd October 1966

pic8The following year...yet another of the Bagnalls shunts a raft of BR "Hyfits" on the South Side. 

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell July 1967

pic9Here,  "Conqueror" rests between shunts in the yard behind the Dick Kerr Works, which is famous amongst diesel enthusiasts for having built DP1, the prototype "Deltic" locomotive which usually resides at the National Railway Museum, but in 2012 moved to The Ribble Steam Railway for an extended loan.

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell 4th November 1967.

pic11Taken in July 1968 as when most rail enthisiasts' cameras were occupied recording the last few weeks of BR steam, this photo depicts an 0-4-0 saddle tank in TW Wards scrapyard, opposite Ribble Power Station. It may have been there for scrapping or perhaps it was used it for shunting. Either way it doesn't seem to appear in any other published photo of the docks (other than here...see below!).

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell July 1968.

pic20Any notion that this loco may have been at Preston Dock for scrapping seems to be dispelled by this second, rare photo of the same locomotive, some seven years earlier.

This is from the camera of Tony Gillett, a locoman from Preston and Lostock Hall sheds, who identifies the loco as a Robert Stephenson & Hawthorne 0-4-0 saddletank.

Photo : (c) Tony Gillett 28th February 1961.

pic12The Bagnalls were withdrawn at the end of 1968 to be replaced by three brand new Sentinels named "Progress", "Energy" and "Enterprise". Here two of them stand outside the shed in December 1968.

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell December 1968.

pic13In 1932 Armstrong Whitworth built a 250hp Diesel Shunter - works No. D8 - which was trialled at various sites on the LNER and SR. The LMS also purchased a similar loco and later expanded their fleet. They were the forerunners of the vast numbers of diesel shunters built for use throughout the country, and Preston Corporation acquired D8 in 1933, at some point naming it "Duchess". Curiously this means it was older than the steam fleet! 

It doesn't seem to have seen a huge amount of work, possibly due to being somewhat prone to derailment. However here it is propelling a rake of Preston Corporation opens.

It is in almost the same position near the Grain Elevator as the photo dated c.1937 which appears on a number of websites and in Gordon Biddle's book "The Railways Around Preston - An Historical Review". Perhaps it didn't move very much at all!

The wagons shown here are Corporation opens There seemed to be hundreds of these, usually sporting pre-grouping railway initials on their axle-boxes and no doubt picked up cheap. 

Photo : (c) Trevor Machell July 1968.

pic19In 1961, Duchess is pictured either between turns, or perhaps during one of its spells out-of-action.

Photo : (c) Tony Gillett 28th February 1961.

pic1Bagnall 2893 "Conqueror"

Photo : (c) Stan Withers, Mid 1960s.

pic2Bagnall 0-6-0ST "Perseverance" 

Photo : (c) Stan Withers, Mid 1960s.

pic4Bagnall 0-6-0ST "Energy"

Photo : (c) Stan Withers, Mid 1960s.

pic3Bagnall 2840 "Enterprise" hauls an RCTS Brakevan Special Docks train.

Photo : (c) Stan Withers, Late 1960s.