West Lancashire Railway

Not to be confused with West Lancashire Light Railway.
West Lancashire Railway
Locale Lancashire
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Route map

The West Lancashire Railway (WLR) ran northeast from Southport to Preston in northwest England.


Construction was started by Samuel Swire the Mayor of Southport, on 19 April 1873. It opened on 15 September 1882.[1] A branch was constructed from Penwortham to the Blackburn line at Whitehouse Junction allowing direct services from East Lancashire Railway to Southport.

In 1881 a further branch was constructed from east of Hesketh Bank station southwards to Tarleton Lock on the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal by the River Douglas. This was mainly intended for goods, but a passenger service did run on the branch until 1912/3. The branch closed completely in 1930.

Expansion, bankruptcy and take-over

It also sponsored the Liverpool, Southport and Preston Junction Railway, opened in 1887 to provide greater access to Liverpool (in competition with its rival the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) and in an attempt to forge a commercial alliance with the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. At one time the line featured as a potential alternative route to Blackpool. The line was never successful and its construction bankrupted the West Lancashire Railway. Finally in 1897 the two railways were taken over by their competitor, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

Up to the take-over, the WLR used its own stations at each terminus. These were Central station in Southport and Fishergate Hill in Preston. The new owners built a west-to-north connecting chord at Whitehouse Junction which enabled them to redirect all of the WLR passenger trains into their own Preston (ELR) Station. Likewise at the Southport end, passenger trains were rerouted into the adjacent Chapel Street Station. Both WLR termini became goods depôts with that at Preston seeing occasional passenger use when it played host to special services during the Preston Guild.


From 22 March 1904 the line from Crossens to Southport was electrified using a third rail to provide an electric service all the way to Liverpool. From 15 February 1909, electrification was extended to Meols Cop; most electric trains between Southport and Crossens called at Meols Cop and reversed out.[2]

Railway Junction Diagram of railways around Preston in 1913


Passenger services, including the electric ones, ceased in September 1964 (as a result of the Beeching Axe) and most of the line was closed. A goods service to Hesketh Park continued until November 1967. The line was quickly lifted in 1965.



  1. "Opening of the Southport and Preston Railway". Liverpool Mercury. British Newspaper Archive. 16 September 1882. Retrieved 7 August 2016 via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)).
  2. Cotterall, pp.3132


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