FRODSHAM and Helsby residents were among a record 96 passengers aboard a ‘ghost train’ for a rare rail trip which highlighted growing public demand to reinstate the Halton Curve and resume regular passenger services to Liverpool.
For the third year running, Northern Rail agreed to extend its Parliamentary Train from Chester to Runcorn Main Line Station – a one-way early morning summer Saturday service which usually runs empty – on to Liverpool South Parkway.
Halton Curve was closed to regular passenger services in the 1970s and this short stretch of line has effectively been abandoned, the Parliamentary Train running only to avoid the cost and inconvenience of a statutory closure process.
Frodsham-based North Cheshire Rail Users Group (NCRUG) organised the event last Saturday including return journeys on vintage buses.
Chairman Janet Briggs said the “very pleasing” turnout by supporters boosted the group’s longstanding campaign to reinstate regular two-way train services over Halton Curve, connecting North Wales, Chester, Helsby and Frodsham to the main line running into Liverpool.
She added: “I hope we will get there eventually, because it would benefit the whole community.”
On the same day, NCRUG also celebrated the £400,000 restoration of Frodsham’s historic former Stationmaster’s House which is nearing completion.
The group arranged with owners Network Rail for it to be open for a couple of hours to allow locals a glimpse inside the building that had been boarded up and derelict for more than 30 years.
Around 100 people toured the stationhouse and enjoyed a display of historic photographs of the building, which dates back to 1850.
Chris Dawson, chartered building surveyor for the project – which has been entered into the Railway Heritage Trust’s annual awards scheme - said the building has been restored to its former glory with traditional materials, including sheep wool insulation, limecrete floor slabs and lime plaster, Welsh slate roof and cast iron rainwater pipes, bespoke Victorian doors and bespoke original pattern sash windows.
The building is capable of housing two separate units, or one single unit, which Network Rail suggests would be suitable for offices, restaurant/bar, art studio/workshop or “some kind of community use”.