Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Mid Cheshire passenger counting, a special day for Northwich Station, and a significant rail anniversary

I was out passenger counting on the lovely Mid Cheshire Railway today as a volunteer for the Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association (MCRUA). It was cold and sunny as I left Wilmslow Railway Station on a local electric service to pick up my first Mid Cheshire train at Stockport. I travelled to its terminus at Chester General Station (this line used to run to Chester Northgate station, but that station and its connecting lines were closed in 1969 - of which more later) and came back down the line on its return journey, as far as Northwich. The line between Greenbank and Mouldsworth climbs and crosses the Mid Cheshire Ridge, and the few hundred feet of altitude meant that the recent snow falls were still in evidence in and around Delamere Forest. Indeed on this return journey it was snowing up on the ridge.

Delamere Station in the snows of late March!

Snow in the forest

But once off the ridge, no sign of snow at all. At Northwich I stopped for a bacon butty and mug of tea at 'The Bean' cafe on the station. Recommended!

 A few miles away, no snow as we cross Leftwich Viaduct over the locks 
on the Weaver Navigation

Sitting at the counter in 'The Bean' was Sally Buttifant, the Mid Cheshire Rail Community Partnership Officer. Sally explained she had just been involved in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Northwich Station, built in 1863, which is of course the same year the Cheshire Midland Railway arrived at Northwich from Altrincham. The West Cheshire Railway later extended the tracks to Frodsham and Chester.

Here's a report from the MCRUA site:

Sally also mentioned that today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Beeching Report in 1963. That report led to the closure of significant parts of Britain's rail system.

I left 'The Bean' on the next Chester train to continue my passenger counting (we are doing this to get accurate ridership figures in support of the case to double the service to half-hourly, instead of hourly as the often overcrowded trains run at present). The snow over the Mid Cheshire Ridge had stopped, and on my return from my second visit to Chester today the sun was shining most of the way back to Altrincham, where I left the train to catch the bus home to Wilmslow.


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