Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Midland - Clitheroe review 1


16/1/09 Blackburn to Clitheroe

Class 142 Pacer 2-car DMU

Weather: raining

Dept Blackburn: 15.10 Arrive Clitheroe: 15.32

Double track all the way

Blackburn station has been completely modernised in recent years, having three platforms, two of them on an island. The original station building is still standing though and looks impressive from the outside. The train I get comes from Manchester Victoria and is twenty minutes late due to signalling problems in the Salford area. It doesn't matter, as I will be getting the same train back to Bolton. The train, a class 142 is about half full, but I get a seat OK. We leave Blackburn and go straight into a tunnel for about a mile and then slow down, as we pass an old converted mill on the right. We then pull off the mainline to Bradford on our right and turn left onto a single track, as we pass Daisyfield signal box and go over a level crossing. The track becomes double again as we pass terraced housing on both sides and we start to climb uphill, with a large mosque on the right. We pass a new housing development on the right, then an old factory. There's more housing on both sides, then scrubland on the left. We pass through a cutting and then arrive at Ramsgrave & Wilpshire, a great name for a firm of solicitors, but in this case it is actually a railway station! It has aluminium framed shelters on both its platforms, which have been rebuilt in recent years. We briefly glimpse the countryside on the left, before entering a cutting, then a short tunnel and another cutting. There are fields on both sides now, some with sheep in them, as we leave Blackburn behind. There are gentle slopes on the right, but higher hills in the distance on the left. The main A59 is below us on the left, whilst large detached houses appear on the right as we come into Langho station. It is a modern station, with split platforms, each having a perspex shelter. We go straight out into open countryside again and the slopes on the right start to get steeper. We enter a low cutting, which lasts for about a mile and then we pass council houses on the left and go over the A39. We are now on an embankment, which becomes a viaduct, which crosses the river Calder. There is an old gatehouse on the right, which looks like it once belonged to a grand castle. We then arrive at Whalley, which is a newish looking station, with a shelter on the right platform. On the left platform, the original station building is still there, cut off from the platform by a fence. As we leave, we pass a new office development on the right, then open fields again. We enter another cutting as the A39 passes above us. There is a large farm on the right and then more fields full of sheep grazing. You can now see the Pennine Hills clearly on the right, including the towering Pendle Hill. We pass through a wooded area, cruising at a steady 40 mph. Then there is a golf course on the right and scrubland on the left. We pass through another cutting, then along an embankment as houses start to appear on both sides. Then you see a castle on a hill on the right as we slow down for Clitheroe station. It has two split platforms and has a newish ticket office and waiting area in a building on the right. Next to it is the original station building, which is now a private business. Our train arrives at 15.32, 15 minutes behind schedule, so the driver did manage to claw back five minutes from the delay. The train then continues up the line to Horrocksford Junction, where the train changes tracks and comes back on the other line.

Summary: A much more vibrant branch line compared to the Colne branch, which I travelled on earlier in the day. Obviously money has been spent on improving the stations on this line. The fact that it has a summer service through to Hellifield must bode well for the future. Maybe the line through to Hellifield could be used more - perhaps even as a through route from Manchester to Carlisle via the Settle & Carlisle route - though the fact there is single track between Blackburn and Bolton would be a barrier.   MC