LUPTS history: railtours 

The success of the Glasgow Tram tour showed that a student society could achieve as much as a society with a more general membership.   LUPTS went on to prove this by running four railtours between 1964 and 1976 which were critical, if never financial, successes.   Others may have taken place if circumstances had permitted. 

The first of the four railtours was the ‘Liverpool Suburban’.   An ex LMS 0-6-0 Jinty (47487) and three coaches pulled out of Edge Hill station at 12:30 on Saturday 13 June 1964 bearing the reporting number 1T90, returning there at 19:00.   The fare was 19/6 (97½p) or 11/- (55p) for under 16s.   The route included the following stretches of line: Edge Hill circular goods line, Waterloo tunnel to Riverside MDHB, LNWR Alexandra Dock branch, Kirkby Estate branch, Aintree Sefton Junction to LYR North Mersey goods, Walton-on-the-Hill branch to Huskisson CLC goods and LNWR Garston Dock Branch.   The total itinerary was 60 miles and it was the claim of the organisers that 70% of this was over lines normally closed to regular passenger trains.  

Pictures of the train about to pass over the former LNWR Bootle branch and of 47487 running round its train at Huskisson appear in Paul Anderson’s Illustrated history of Liverpool’s railways.   A picture of the tour at Riverside, albeit not credited to LUPTS, appears in a 1981 book Forgotten railways: North West England.    

The second tour, the ‘Mersey Docks Rail Tour’, is believed to have been unique.   The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board were anxious not to set a precedent for such tours and it is thought to have been the only steam hauled tour ever to take place wholly within the Liverpool Dock Estate.   The tour took place on Saturday 8 May 1965 using the MDHB’s 1904 built Avonside 0-6-0ST No 1 with the passengers being carried in a rake of open wagons.   The loco was subsequently preserved and now resides in Liverpool Museum.   The loco and wagons were made available to the Society at no cost but LUPTS charged a fare of 2/6 (12½p) to cover expenses and insurance.   The following is taken from the itinerary produced for the day:


9.00 a.m.              Assemble Princes Locomotive Shed (situated at the eastern approaches to the bridge separating Princes Half Tide and Princes Dock: about ½ mile north of Pier Head) for a brief introduction by the Dock Railway Manager and an opportunity of comparing steam locomotive No 1 with the latest diesel engine No 42.   The locomotive foreman will be present to answer any questions.


9.30 a.m.              Depart on a northerly course accompanied by a Railway Inspector, following the main dock lines to East Huskisson No 1, where a brief look at North No 1 and South No 3 Huskisson Branch Dock Sheds may be possible.   Thence via South No 1 Canada to West Canada Dock and a view of West Brocklebank Shed and Langton River Entrance.


10.15 a.m.              Continue via North No 3 Canada Branch and the main dock lines to the Gladstone System.


10.45 a.m.              Return via North No 3 Alexandra Branch, West Alexandra (if time permits, a short look at West Langton Dock), South No 1 Alexandra Branch, following the main dock lines to Princes Locomotive Shed (arriving at approximately 11.45 a.m.)


A picture by Ian Holt of the tour arriving back at Princes Dock appears in Ian Allan’s Industrial steam album.   A short film sequence, taken from a precarious vantage point by John Ryan’s father, appears in Online Video’s The Liverpool Overhead Railway. 

LUPTS did try and repeat this tour some years later but the MDHB turned down the request.   As a gesture, the MDHB gave LUPTS the worksplate from No 26 and the bell from No 30.   Again the problem of an ever changing membership presented itself and it was later decided to donate these two mementoes to the Museum as well.   This took place during a LUPTS visit to the Museum’s Land Transport Gallery on Wednesday 11 February 1970.   The two items are still in the possession of the Museum but currently not on public display. 

Returning to railtours which did take place, the most ambitious one was ‘The Wirral and Mersey Special’ which took place on Saturday 22 October 1966.   By this time, steam had only about two years to run and the tour gave many people their last opportunity to be hauled by particular types of locomotive on particular routes.   An article and map by Alan Atkinson on this tour appeared in the 1976 LUPTS Journal.    

The tour began at Liverpool Riverside at 09:00 with ex LMS Fairburn 2-6-4T 42233 at its head deputising for the advertised Stanier equivalent at the head of an eight coach rake.   From Riverside it was double headed by Stanier Black 5 45015 to give assistance up the severe incline through the Waterloo tunnel, the Black 5 coming off at Edge Hill.   It is a sign of the times that, many years later, it was possible to park a LUPTS bus tour in almost exactly the same location, by then part of the Wavertree Technology Park, as the locomotive change had taken place.   From the Edge Hill Gridiron, the railtour then turned off onto the Bootle branch to Bootle Junction, along the Southport line as far as Marsh Lane Junction continuing to Rainford Junction where the first of a number of photographic stops took place. 

Progressing from Rainford, the tour then passed through Wigan Wallgate, Tyldesley and Patricroft, before reaching Manchester Exchange.   The advertised traction from thereon was an ex LMS Jubilee but, again, circumstances on the day dictated otherwise and Stockport Edgeley provided Britannia 70004 ‘William Shakespeare’ instead.   Although by that time it was possible to believe that BR steam livery was dirt and rust, the Brit had been tidied up at short notice and cut an impressive sight at the head of the train. 

70004 took the train through the adjacent Manchester Victoria, Guide Bridge, Stockport Tiviot Dale, Altrincham and Knutsford before stopping at Northwich to take on water.   The passengers took the opportunity to visit the steam shed.  On leaving Northwich, the train continued through Delamere, and another photo stop, Mouldsworth, where it diverted onto the single line goods only line to Helsby, and onto the Birkenhead Joint line.    

On reaching Green Lane Junction, just north of Rock Ferry, there was the final change of locomotive.   The Britannia pulled onto Birkenhead shed to be replaced by Hughes Fowler ‘Crab’ 2-6-0 42942, by that time the only locomotive of its class still in service.   The engine looked pristine due to the efforts of a LUPTS working party which had been to Birkenhead the previous day.   Polishing had been so thorough that the letters LMS could just about be seen beneath several layers of paint on the side of the tender.   A picture of this locomotive, being cleaned by a group of enthusiasts, accompanies a piece about the locomotive’s end of life use on railtours in Kenn Pearce’s Shed side on Merseyside. 

The Crab took the train north onto the goods only line down to Birkenhead docks, along the dock road to Bidston and onto the ex GC line to Wrexham.   The final photo stop of the day was at Neston North from where the train continued to Dee Marsh Junction and Chester, where water was taken on at Chester Liverpool Road, a station which had closed in 1951.   From Chester the train travelled to Runcorn via Mickle Trafford and Halton Junction, providing a contrast with the then brand new 25kV electric trains which were operating the bulk of scheduled services at that time.   Journey’s end was past Speke Junction engine shed and its lines of derelict steam locomotives and onto the subsequently electrified Gateacre line and into Liverpool Central High Level.    

It had been hoped that this tour would have been the last steam hauled train into Central but this was not to be.   However, the tour was viewed as a success and as one of the best tours ever by many of the passengers.   The finances were not viewed in quite the same light.   Slightly lighter loadings than planned meant that the tour ran at a loss of £76/13/1 (£76.65½) and put LUPTS into financial difficulties for a number of years.   Ciné film of the train, by Brian Faragher and John Ryan has recently been issued on the Online Video Steam on the Wirral and more is due to appear on Steam around Liverpool which is currently in preparation. 

The financial failure did not however dampen the enthusiasm of those involved with organising ‘The Wirral and Mersey Special’ and they began to organise an even more ambitious event, the ‘Caledonian’.   The date planned was Saturday 11 March 1967 and a display advert appeared in the February 1967 edition of Railway Magazine.   The advert promised an “A2 or V2 from Liverpool, 70004 William Shakespeare from Carlisle” with the train running on high speed timings over both Shap and Ais Gill and being composed of six LMS coaches plus Buffet car.   It was promised that extra coaches may have been added if demand warranted and the Committee were of the opinion that this would have been the case.   Unfortunately, the tour fell foul of a railtour ban introduced by BR and never took place.   Even so, in the tradition of LUPTS railtours, the tour that never was cost LUPTS the sum of £20/19/6 (£20.97½) in cancellation costs. 

A number of events in the general area of railtour activity took place over the next few years, including a brake van trip between Woodley Junction and Garston with Stanier 8F 2-8-0 48684 at the head of a 16 wagon coal train and the hiring of a special train on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway one Friday afternoon in June 1969.   On 2 December 1970, a small group travelled from Edge Hill to Huskisson Dock in the brake van of a train hauled by type 2 D7648.   On arrival at Huskisson, the party adorned the front of the loco with the LUPTS TOUR headboard.   This is believed to have been the first time the headboard, made by Peter Eastham from a scrap one from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, was used.   Originally black with white lettering, it was briefly repainted blue and gold but later reverted to its original livery.   It occasionally still sees service when appropriate.

It was to be ten years after ‘The Wirral and Mersey Special’ that LUPTS finally returned to the mainline with a charter special - ‘The Mancunian’.   The full, unexpurgated story of the planning of this event was told by Jonathan Cadwallader in the 1978 LUPTS journal. 

A newly elected committee of John Forrester, Dave Ventry and Jonathan approached their task with boundless enthusiasm (Jonathan’s words) when they took office in May 1975 and an approach was made to British Rail’s Liverpool Division to get some idea of the cost of chartering a train.   Early plans were as ambitious as anything attempted in the 1960s - a Class 50 (one of the few remaining in the area) and a rake of blue and grey coaches to Tyseley and Stratford-on-Avon was one of the early suggestions.   The costs of doing something on this scale proved too much of a risk and so the plan was scaled down to using a four car dmu and limiting the tour to the north west of England. 

The date chosen was Saturday 28 February 1976, an uncommon time of year for rail tours but free from competition from others.   A selling point was to be the fact that it was thought that it would be the last special train out of Liverpool Exchange before it closed the following July.   As with the last steam train into Central, LUPTS was to be thwarted, as BR ran a special train out of Exchange on the very last day.   LUPTS can at least claim to have run the last dmu special. 

Advertising was extensive, booking forms being sent out to all known former LUPTS members, friends of the Society and other local transport groups.   A press release was prepared and picked up by well read papers such as the Liverpool Echo and the Bootle Times and adverts were placed in the railway press.   Unfortunately, the response was disappointing and, by Christmas 1975, there was a real possibility that the tour would not take place. 

With only a few weeks to go, a meeting was held with BR management and a revised plan was made.   The tour was now to use a 2 car dmu which brought the finances slightly, but not much, closer to break even.   The Guild of Undergraduates provided an assurance that any losses would be covered so the tour was definitely on although, as with ‘The Wirral and Mersey Special’, the Society was going to have to carry a significant deficit forward to the following year. 

The tour, with reporting number 1L75, left Liverpool Exchange at 08:37 and also picked up at Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria.   A clockwise trip around the Oldham loop followed, with approximately 80 passengers enjoying the vista of soot blackened terraces and mill chimneys.   On its return to Manchester Victoria, the dmu (M52041 and M50933) undertook a shunting manoeuvre to gain access to one of the platforms of the Bury line, now part of Metrolink.   The tour passed the former steam shed at Bury before reversing in Bury Bolton Street station, now home to the East Lancashire Railway. 

The tour returned to Manchester and then headed east up Miles Platting bank towards Stalybridge.   Reversal there produced a surprise as the dmu proceeded via OA&GB, Ashton Moss South, Crowthorne and Denton Junctions to reach Stockport and Alderley Edge.   It therefore avoided Guide Bridge, a route not expected by the LUPTS committee or the relief guard who was waiting on the platform.   He finally caught up with the train at Manchester Piccadilly. 

‘The Mancunian’ then travelled over the former Great Central route as far as Dinting.   The now closed Dinting Railway Centre had steamed a small industrial tank engine especially for the occasion, admission being included in the tour fare.   The dmu spent an hour or so in Mottram Yard before returning to take the participants back to Guide Bridge via Glossop and Hadfield.   Yet another reversal took the tour via Hyde Central and Marple Wharf Junction to Rose Hill Marple.   The guard on this section remarked favourably on the local scenery, adding that he had never been on the line before. 

Manchester Piccadilly was revisited via Bredbury before a return was made to Stockport.   At Edgeley Junction, 1L75 took what was at the time the freight only line via Northenden and Skelton Junction to Altrincham.   A quick run along the former MSJ&A line followed to bring the tour into Manchester Oxford Road for a final reversal.   Return to Liverpool was via the freight only line to Ordsall Lane Junction and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway route, setting down at Earlestown before arrival at Lime Street. 

The tour lost the sum of £181.64½, an enormous amount when viewed in the context of LUPTS’ Guild grant at that time of £90.   Judicious restructuring of finances and peripheral sales of refreshments and journals reduced this loss somewhat but, even at the reduced level, it was something which couldn’t easily be repeated.    

In later years a special train ran on the Welshpool and Llanfair to celebrate LUPTS’ 25th anniversary in 1983 but LUPTS never did run another on the main line.   A “serious” suggestion made (it’s not recorded by whom but Jonathan Cadwallader is certain it was Dave Ventry) at the 500th OGM in October 1983, that LUPTS run a “celebration ‘Mancunian’ relives tour”, was not apparently pursued further.

Back to LUPTS history index

Next section

Last updated: 04 March 2002

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001/2002

Page hosted by