All change at Blackpool North

IMG_7526.jpgAt 01.04 on Saturday 11 November 2017, the 23.30 hrs Northern Rail service from Manchester Airport will draw into Platform 6 at Blackpool North station and go down in railway history as the last train to be signalled into the station by Blackpool North No. 2 Signal Box and its splendid semaphore signals.

IMG_5263Once the empty stock has left the station, it will be closed for complete re-building, the signals and box demolished, and the 17.5-mile line from Preston shut to until next spring, as work begins in earnest on the route’s modernisation, electrification and re-signalling. This diagram inside the signal box shows the final truncated layout, with just four remaining platforms.

IMG_5268.jpgReaders of my earlier post (“A Signalman’s Farewell”) will know that a considerable amount of preparatory work had already been undertaken along the route in recent months, with the terminus reduced from eight platforms to four, a junction at Poulton-le-Fylde and fast lines at Kirkham & Wesham removed, while electrification masts have  been installed at the Preston end of the route.IMG_7509.jpg

But the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway signal boxes have remained, along with some fine semaphore signalling along the three-miles of line between Blackpool and Poulton-le-Fylde, so this seems the right moment to pay a final photographic tribute as this significant piece of railway history meets its end.IMG_5346.jpg
Once the upgrading has been completed, which should be by May 2018, the new Blackpool North station will have six straight platforms, with platforms 1 & 2 being long enough to accommodate an 11-car Pendolino train, in order to allow an improvement in direct links between the resort and London Euston.

IMG_7538.jpgAmong changes at Poulton-le-Fylde will be the installation of a facing cross-over east of the station, that would allow for the potential future restoration of services on the branch line to Fleetwood, with the current up platform being made bi-directional. On 15 June 2016, 150270 departs the station with a service for Huddersfield.

IMG_7595In preparatory work for the upgrade project, the double line junction for the Fleetwood branch was removed, despite never having seen a train across it. On 15 June 2016, Northern Rail 156491 passes the junction and Poulton No. 3 box with a service for Manchester Airport.

My thanks once again to the team at Network Rail who arranged a visit for me on 22 September 2017 to the signal boxes at Blackpool North, Carleton Crossing and Poulton-le-Fylde in connection with my forthcoming book on Britain’s last mechanical signalling.
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Two final glimpses of the semaphore signals at Blackpool North on 22 September 2017. Pictured above is 142038 departing with the 10.21 service to Huddersfield, while below is a panoramic view of the truncated station complex, where 156491/428 wait to depart from platform 6 with the 10.40 service to Manchester Airport.

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