Preston Station - Past & Present

The direct line from Preston to Liverpool Exchange opened in 1849, as part of the East Lancashire Railway, which had absorbed the former Liverpool, Ormskirk and Preston railway company before opening. Within ten years, the ELR was itself absorbed by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, under whom Liverpool Exchange flourished as a major terminus station, with trains running throughout the north of England and Scotland. Third rail electrification was extended as far as Ormskirk on the Preston line in stages, completed by 1913. 

The line was not originally scheduled for closure in the Beeching-era: instead, Dr. Beeching suggested shutting most of its intermediate stations to allow for faster running of express trains to Liverpool from Scotland, Blackpool and Blackburn. In 1965, steam hauled stopping services went over to DMUs, but the line's expresses continued to be steam hauled from Preston as far as Liverpool until the very end, with Preston's final regular steam-hauled departure being a the Liverpool portion of a Glasgow to Liverpool and Manchester express on the evening of August 3rd 1968. Thereafter, expresses were largely in the hands of the then new class 50 locomotives, with stopping trains consisting of class 105 and 108 DMUs in the main. 

In 1969, a change of heart was had with regards to the line's future- the intermediate stations would be saved, but the price would be the severing of the line at Ormskirk, as the new Merseyside PTE sought to concentrate more on its electric network without the hassle of having to accommodate other services south of Ormskirk. From the autumn of that year, Blackpool and Preston DMUs terminated at Ormskirk, with expresses running without any stops between Liverpool and Preston before being discontinued altogether in May 1970. A few months later, the line was singled, although very occasional freight trains continued to use an emergency loop at Ormskirk station to access facilities in Liverpool from Preston for another few years. 
pic1A shot of the Glasgow to Liverpool Exchange passing under Bee Lane Bridge at Farington Curve Jct. This train used to split at Preston, the other portion going to Manchester Victoria. Today, the line is singled to Ormskirk.

Photo and caption by Stan Withers (c)

Today, it remains a long term aspiration of Merseyrail to extend its electric network north to Preston, reuniting the two halves of the divided line, which to this day remains by far the most direct route from Liverpool to points further north. Given the small size of the population centres served by the Ormskirk to Preston branchline, though, one has to question whether this will ever truly be worth considerable investment on behalf of Merseyrail.

Thanks to George Rear for the text on this page.