Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Midland - Birkenhead review 1

Chester railway station in 2009

25/7/09 Chester to Birkenhead Hamilton Square.
Dept: Chester 11.30
Arrive: Birkenhead Hamilton Square 12.14
Weather: sunny
Traction used: Class 508 3-car EMU

The train is a little late leaving from platform 7b at 11.32 and goes past the newish Alstom depot on the right built in the 1990's. The North Wales line leaves us on the left, whilst a freight by-pass line comes in to join us soon after. The old line to Chester Northgate passes over us. It is now a walkway/cycle track. We then go onto an embankment with housing on both sides before we stop at Bache, a newish station built in 1984 to replace Upton-by-Chester, about 50 yards to the north. It has two shelters and a footbridge and has signs to say that this is the stop for Chester Zoo. About ten people are waiting to get on. Still on the embankment, we go past a golf course on the right and pass the site of the old Upton-by-Chester station, before entering a short cutting and then coming out into the countryside. We pass the Dale army camp on the right and then another golf course as it gets more hilly and we cross over a viaduct.

We then we enter a cutting, which lasts for about two miles. We go under the M56 and then soon arrive at Capenhurst, which is situated next to a British Nuclear Fuels establishment. It used to have a large station house, but two perspex shelters and a footbridge have replaced this. There is a car park on the right and factory units on the left. We go into a cutting, which at one time was four tracks wide all the way to Birkenhead, but now just two are in use. The cutting then clears to green fields on both sides and then the line from Ellesmere Port joins us from the right and we come into Hooton station, which has four platforms, three of which are still in use. It has a nice red brick station building at one end and there is an island platform in the middle with two glass shelters, painted yellow and black in the livery of Merseyrail. The original wooden covered footbridge links the platforms with the station building on the bridge.

Whilst four tracks go north from the station, two non-electrified tracks become one and then stop at some buffers. We go under the M53 and then continue in a dead straight line all the way to Birkenhead. Next up is Eastham Rake which has two nice grey glass shelters on either platform and was built as a new station in 1995. We are on an embankment once again with newer type semi-detached houses on either side below us. We then arrive at Bromborough station, which has an original red brick station building on platform 1 and a glass shelter on platform 2. It is a well-kept station, with bushes and flowers to be seen, though the third and fourth tracks are all overgrown. We go about 50 yards and then arrive at another recently built station on the line, Bromborough Rake, opened in 1. It has the usual yellow and black perspex shelters. About ten people get on here and we are still in a cutting as we go on a little further to Spital station, which although is one of the older stations on the line, still has the usual two perspex platforms, plus the original covered wooden footbridge as at Bromborough.

The cutting now goes and we see smallish redbrick houses on the right as we come into Port Sunlight station, or as the sign says, "Port Sunlight for Port Sunlight Village and Lady Lever Art Gallery". There are the usual yellow and black shelters on both platforms. We are now on an embankment again, with houses on both sides, though the ones on the right are the original ones from Port Sunlight village built by the Lever brothers. We then come into Bebington station, with two yellow and black shelters on both platforms. Around twenty people are waiting to get on. The same message about the Lady Lever Art Gallery is on the station signs here. We then go into a deep cutting for about half a mile, before emerging just before Rock Ferry station. There are new houses being built on the right and a third track has appeared next to us, which continues into the station.

Rock Ferry has six platforms, two of which are closed and overgrown, two of which are in use by through trains and two of which are terminal bays. The original red brick station building remains on the island platform, whilst a yellow and grey shelter is on the other through platform. There are many red brick terraced house on the left and as we pull away we go onto another embankment, There are views across the Mersey to Liverpool on the right, including the two cathedrals and the Cammel Laird shipyard just below us on this side, but sadly bushes and trees have been allowed to grow unchecked here and so the view is obscured at times.

We then start to descend as we go underground and come into Green Lane station. You can still see the sky above through an opening but the station looks damp and mouldy. We then go into a tunnel before emerging at Birkenhead Central, which has the old carriage shed on the right. There are three platforms, including an island platform and the station has shelters on its platforms. The train then goes into another tunnel before arriving at Birkenhead Hamilton Square, where it joins the lines from West Kirby and New Brighton, before descending under the River Mersey and arriving in Liverpool.

Summary: A busy line, that has improved its service in recent years with more frequent trains. The only problem is there is just the one platform at Chester and the trains have a very quick turnaround time before leaving again. Maybe a bay platform could be built between platforms 4 and 7 like at the opposite end for the Manchester? MC