Monday, 13 January 2014

Manchester Bike Show (with a brief history of Central Station)

Yesterday Malc. Ivan and me met up with a few other reprobates at the Manchester Bike Show, held at Manchester Central, formerly GMEX, formerly Manchester Central Railway Station. We three caught the train from Wilmslow to Oxford Road and met the others at the venue.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

The venue was built by the Cheshire Lines Committee, opening in 1880 and used by Midland Railway (a CLC partner) as their Manchester terminus, with the magnificent arch of the train shed reminiscent of their London St Pancras terminus. Midland Railway trains previously ran into the Manchester, Sheffield, & Lincolnshire's London Road station (now Piccadilly) but relationships between the two railways was strained, driving the Midland to find its own Manchester terminus. 

The CLC never got round to finishing the station, the intention being to build a hotel in front of the train shed, so the station frontage comprised temporary wooden structures. The hotel (the 'Midland') was eventually built (opening in 1903) on the other side of Windmill St with a covered walkway connecting it to the station, and right until closure in 1969 the train shed still lacked permanent concourse buildings.

'Temporary' wooden buildings in the Manchester Central concourse

The platforms at the 'country' end of Central extended beyond the train shed. I can remember regularly travelling to Central on the diesel multiple unit from Sale (the train had originated at Chester) and arriving at platforms to the right of the picture above, outside the train shed.

Back in the '60s you could catch the stylish Midland Pullman luxury blue diesel train from Central to St Pancras, through the beautiful Peak District past the delights of Millers Dale and Monsal Dale.

After closure in 1969 the station was sold to NCP as a car park and fell into decay, symbolising the decline of the railways and of many formerly great northern cities at that time. In 1978 it was purchased by Manchester City Council and as Manchester began to resurrect itself from decline in the early 1980s the former station was reopened as the GMEX exhibition hall. It has since reverted to its original name, and its renaissance is symbolic of that of Manchester and UK railways generally. 

Central in NCP days

The low point, for the station and perhaps also for Manchester and, at that time, for UK rail

Manchester Central event venue in the vibrant city we enjoy today, with the Beetham Tower in the background

Malc had been briefed as a 'secret shopper' to check on internet access at the venue, so as Ivan tries it out, Malc records the results!

This ancient Honda 70, quite rare in being 6v with electric start, was for sale for a mere £1,300

 Ivan reads details of a home-brewed 'special'

Motorbike dragster; the rider lies prone, with the 2-cylinder 2-stroke engine behind him. Note the tuned 2-stroke exhausts. The frame is pressurised with compressed air which is used to activate the gear change lever (and kill the ignition during the gear change) when the rider operates a handlebar-mounted control enabling rapid upward-only clutch-free gear changes.

Malc admires some engine castings 

Social media? In the 'Ape & Apple' pub after we'd visited the show, Malc and Ivan chat to each other the modern way! 

We met up with Mike and Brian, and later five of us (me, Malc, Ivan, Ian and Tony) wandered across to Portland St for a Chinese 'Hoover' (as Malc calls it) - an 'all you can eat' buffet, before we caught the train home.


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