Preston Station - Past & Present
PRESTON STATION REMODELLING
BY MIKE NORRIS

Mike would like to hear from anyone involved with the remodelling and resignalling of the station and surrounding area to aid historical research for future documentation, please contact via the Feedback page.

SECTION CONTENTS
1.
Background
2. Project Approval & Planning
3. The Work at Preston
4. Signalling & Power Box Commissioning
5. Electrification, Catenary & Electricity Supply
6. Delays
7. Locomotives
8. Media
9. It's Official!
3. The Work at Preston Station
The track rationalisations work around Preston included: Standish Junction to Balshaw Lane Junction was reduced from four to two tracks. The removal of the East Lancashire line from Preston to Bamber Bridge. Preston station layout was be extensively remodelled. A number of lines through Preston would become reversible including the approaches from the south over the Ribble bridge.

The original platforms 3 to 8 would become the new 1 to 6. With the old platform two reserved for parcel traffic.

Firstly the horse dock, through lines and former platform 1, were removed, this area now forms the road apron of what was the parcel concentration depot but now is Network rails Preston offices. For a while the former platform 1 line remained to be used for construction traffic. Also a stub of the through line remained to form a siding. 

pic1This picture taken by Bill Ashcorft (Copyright Mike Norris) shows the track rationalisation west of the former platform one in the winter of 1971. The horse dock and through lines have been removed. The line of the former platform one remains in situ to provide access to the north and south ends of the station for the works trains. Eventually this line would be cut and this area paved to provide the road apron for the parcel concentration depot and these days is part of NetworkRail's Preston site.

On the west side of Fishergate Bridge the track was lowered to provide the necessary clearance for the overhead traction supply wires. Apparently during this work soft ground or sliding sand meant that other techniques needed to be used on other parts of the bridge.

The former platforms one and two were extended well north of Fishergate Bridge to form the new parcel platform, passing either side of the bridge pier. The foot bridge connecting this platform to the rest of the station was removed to save having to raise it.

The centre sidings between the former platforms two and three were relayed as goods lines.

An 8" clearance was needed between live equipment and the bridge structure and minimum of 6" between tops of passing trains and the live conductor.

In order to get this clearance for the former platform four and five lines the steelwork of the bridge was modified by adding a new web higher up the girder then the original foot of the beam was removed, this difference is still noticeable today.

As the new track alignment progressed a number of temporary signals including a gantry which was just south of the Preston No.5 box, started to appear. The new track layout and signals being temporarily connected to the mechanical frames. Generally this was done electrically but some mechanical connections were used, possibly for detection and locking. I believe from personal accounts these were very heavy to work and proved difficult to maintain 'fag paper' detection reliably.

Towards the south end of the station the work moved to the former platform three with the loco head shunt and slow lines all being removed, temporary buffers stops were placed at the south end of platform 3 to isolate the work site from the live railway. By this time the original lines under the control of Preston No2A signal box had been re-worked and the box closed on 17th May 1971.

Gradually the new tracks on the west of the station were brought into use, starting with the through lines, but all still under mechanical control. As the work moved east the signal gantry at the south end of the station had various arms removed and reduced in size, until finally there was just one span over the bay platforms. This final piece was to allow realignment of platforms 4 and 5. A new wider and longer platform face was built; today the line of the original platform edge can still be traced by following the 1950's laminated timber canopy at the south end of platform 3.

At the north end of platform 4 a temporary crossover was used as the slow lines were being worked on and connections to these were being installed. Once platform one (the former platform 3) was brought into use the work moved to the East Lancs side of the station, where the former platforms eight and nine had buffer stops at the south end in effect forming two bay platforms. This allowed work to commence on the southern side to swing those two lines over to form platform 6 and the goods loop, routing them into the up main line.

This work also entailed the removal of the carriage loop and Preston No.3 Signal box which closed on the 13th March 1972. This box controlled several lines into East Lancs, which by now had also been lifted. The routes to East Lancs closed on 4th September 1972 when Preston East Lancs Goods box closed, although parts of this route would remain, for engineer's traffic until 10th August 1973.

By May 1972 the new track had been laid at the south end of platform 6, the current points being rod controlled by Preston No.1 box. Electrification masts and the new colour light gantries had also started to appear, although the signal aspects were 'masked' to show they were not in use. The 'masking' was performed by a box type cover which was fixed over the lenses and hoods of the signal head and displayed a white cross to signify they were not yet in use. The covers also enabled the signals to be lit during testing without being visible to train crews and provided a rapid means of commissioning the signal heads, when the time came, by simply removing the covers.

The foot bridge (or glass bridge) to the Park Hotel, which by then was council offices had been removed to save raising it, following extensive discussions with Lancashire Country Council and staff representatives who had used this route as a short cut between Country Hall on Fishergate and the Park Hotel. As the council were not prepared to pay for the re-work of the bridge it was closed and removed.

As overhead stanchions were being added the signalling engineer had further work and had to re-route point rodding or provide cranks around these structures, while maintaining a safe reliable railway on what were in effect very temporary features.

Once the new signalling (Stage 7) went live on the 5th February 1973, the old temporary signals had their arms removed and then the posts taken down and recovered. Finally one part of the project was completed.

The Butler Street side of the station was completely cleared over several years and was used as a 'Park and Ride' scheme, allowing intending passenger to reserve a car parking space before the day of travel. Eventually the site was developed, forming the Fishergate Centre and car park, with a brand new multi-story car park built for rail travellers in 2009.