Saturday, 24 August 2013


Photograph Courtesy of GLEN LEIGH PHOTOGRAPHY
Please note that this image is copyright and cannot be used without the permission of the photographer
At the last meeting of the MRLC Committee in July mention was made of the fact that a Virgin ECS (empty coaching stock) train was running through Middlewich every Saturday morning until the first week of September.
We considered this an excellent opportunity to get hold of some up-to-date photos showing modern passenger stock on the line and issued an appeal to local photographers for shots of this train in and around Middlewich.
These pictures are the very satisfactory result of that appeal.
(Above) While out gathering photos on the 10th August  Glen Leigh had the brilliant idea of obtaining a shot which  includes that most potent of all Middlewich symbols, St Michael & All Angels church, with the train in the foreground.
This, to our knowledge, is the first time a train passing through the town has ever been photographed from this particular angle.
The shot would have been impossible before the late 60s/early 70s because, until that time, the view of the background, and the church, was obscured by the red-brick structure of Seddon's/Simpson's Salt Works in Brooks Lane.
The crumbling brick building to the right is one of the last remnants of that particular part of Middlewich's industrial heritage.
It's what used to be Seddon's railway wagon repair shop and to its left once stood the loading bay where block and ground salt were loaded onto railway trucks for despatch along the salt siding and onto the Middlewich branch for eventual delivery all over the railway network.
Glen's photo also gives us  a glimpse of some of the buses belonging to one of the many firms which now occupy the old salt works site.
Just visible above the roof of the old repair shop is the slender spire of the chapel in Middlewich cemetery.
More modern industry can be seen in the shape of the ubiquitous 'green sheds' in Brooks Lane - one of them housing Dutton's Aggregates.
The train has just passed signal no MS3737 (the 'MS' denoting that it is controlled from Manchester South). This is one of the signals installed on the line a few years ago as part of the Manchester South resignalling scheme.
This controversial scheme cost a fortune to introduce and engineer and caused months of delays to services on the Crewe-Manchester line before it could be made to work properly, but it is a token of the importance of the Middlewich branch that it was included in the scheme.
Like many modern signals this one is vastly over-engineered, with an elaborate ladder and safety cage for any signal technician who may need to attend to it.
A little further up the line and out of shot to the right is the proposed site for the new Middlewich Station just south of the Holmes Chapel Road (or 'station') bridge.

The week before, on August 3rd, Peter Cross ventured a little further out of town to get this classic 'train in the landscape' shot of the train heading towards Northwich and passing fields just off Croxton Lane. The parched condition of the grass on the field and the railway embankment are evidence of the heatwave which the country was experiencing at the time.

A little further down the line the train is about to cross the bridge taking the branch line over Croxton Lane, which links Chester Road with King Street and is now part of one of the main routes between Middlewich and Northwich. A simple picture of a train crossing a bridge; something which happens thousands of times a day all over the country and passes unnoticed, but, as we battle on with our campaign to bring back this most civilised form of transport to Middlewich, a picture which means a lot to our town and its hopes for the future.

And in this shot, which must have been taken only a second or so later, Peter's judicious use of spot colour in the processing highlights the train's Virgin livery - a livery which, if the privatisation process hadn't fallen to pieces when re-franchising time came around, would by now have been well on its way into history.

Many thanks to Glen and Peter for these superb and historic photographs.