Many of you are aware of my keen rail interests. It crossed my mind that I was running across the country investigating other sites located with rail myths. Although it may not be a part of the rail myth, I actually lived opposite the site of the old Accrington Steam Locomotive Shed. I was finding out about trains from other parts of the country but knew very little about the depot - now closed - on my own doorstep. It was time to remedy this, so please forgive my foray down memory lane.
I recall the buildings located on Charter Street in Accrington but I do not recall ever seeing them in use. I remember being asked by my primary schoolteacher to find out how wide the gauge on railway tracks was. I promptly, after school went with a friend and laid on the tracks. The lines were not in use and I knew I was in no danger.
I recall semaphore signals in Accrington. I also remember a steam locomotive crossing the now long abandoned bridge over a lodge out of Accrington on the Bury line. I remember Accrington with five platforms and quite a large yard, though this was mostly abandoned. Accrington is now a two-platform station and all the evidence of how large the station was along with the depot have long gone.
The station at Accrington opened on June 19th 1848 having been passed to run two days previous to that by Capt. Wynne. Initial plans for the railway had started in 1845. The Blackburn and Preston Railway were extending their network to Accrington. There was also a line from Bury proposed by the East Lancashire Railway and work started on this. The line was to run right through to Colne and on into Yorkshire.
Before the completion of the line from Blackburn to Accrington both rail companies merged into the East Lancashire Railway. The track layout was configured as a triangle. There was the Bury to Colne line, the Colne to Blackburn and finally the Blackburn to Bury line.
The booking office was situated on the Blackburn to Colne line. Sense was not to prevail and only one platform had been built on the Colne Bury line that ran through the station. Trains from all three directions were booked to arrive virtually together. One platform and three trains were not a good combination. Many shunting manoeuvres were carried out to get the trains in the right place at the right time and on time, which happened very rarely.
There was usually a fifteen-minute turn around and this was a virtually impossible task. Many complaints were forwarded to the various rail companies who served Accrington. In 1882 the station was rebuilt with platforms on the Blackburn to Colne line as well as the existing line to Bury. It was not essential to have platforms on the Blackburn to Bury line as most trains involved a change at Accrington anyway and there were very few through trains to Bury.
The triangle was useful for routing freight from Blackburn to Bury. Although Accrington had originally had a turntable in the station vicinity, this was done away with in the 1882 modification. The engine shed located barely half a mile away had its own turntable but this was at the rear of the shed. A quicker way of turning a steam locomotive around was to traverse the triangle and many engines were turned in this way rather than use the shed's turntable.
Accrington locomotive shed came into being in 1848. The shed was a small affair and was only capable of holding six locomotives. The allocation of locomotives to the Accrington shed soon rose and there just was enough space for them. Consequently many of the locomotives had running repairs done on them outdoors. Ill health within the depots staff rose quite drastically but any complaints for better facilities fell on deaf ears.
In 1869 to settle frustrations at the shed, many locomotives were serviced in the carriage shed. Accrington by now had an allocation of over twenty locomotives. Conditions were only slightly better but the facilities in the carriage shed were not sufficient to cover locomotive maintenance.
In 1873 a new eight-road engine shed was built and the original engine shed was abandoned, much to the relief of staff. Obviously Health and Safety was not as important or probably not realised as much as today but suffice it to say that the conditions suffered would not be tolerated now. The new locomotive shed was built further to the west but on the same site. At the same time a warehouse was built and this is the only building that still exists. The warehouse is now a steel storage facility.
Around 1899 the shed was further modernised and re-roofed. The shed was cut down to six roads, with the two now not being covered were used as holding points. The original eight-road shed was butted up to the warehouse and to this day you can still see the outline of the old roof on the warehouse. Now the buildings were two separate ones.
In 1936 a new coaling and ash handling plant was built. The unit had two 75 ton bunkers and an electrically driven hoist. Coal could now be loaded onto the locomotives more efficiently without the need for hard grafting by many men. The ash was processed and disposed off here also.
The building was very large and could be seen from many parts of Accrington.
Accrington gained the shed code, C22. In 1935 this was changed to 24A when there was a reshuffle and depots were being re-designated. Accrington became quite important and was virtually the head office for the region. Indeed disciplinary hearings against staff were heard here. Also training was carried out here. The sheds in Burnley, Bury and Blackburn all came under the jurisdiction of Accrington. The District Locomotive Supervisor resided at Accrington
There was a turntable provided to the rear of the locomotive shed. There were a number of accidents here when locomotives overshot the turntable and ended up in someone's backyard. One train overran the buffers in the siding of the depot and fell down between the two bridges on Lonsdale Street. The turntable was used to get the engines facing the right way but as stated earlier many engines were turned in Accrington Station.
The allocation of locomotives fluctuated over the years and Accrington could boast as many as fifty at its peak. However, all good things must come to an end and the shed was to see a decline. In 1961 the last steam locomotives were transferred to Rosegrove, Burnley. The only thing that remained was an allocation of Craven's diesel multiple units. Many of the drivers from Accrington transferred to Rosegrove as they were not to keen to drive the very unpopular diesel units.
So what remains from all the facilities at Accrington? As Paul Daniels would say, "Not a lot." The carriage shed, the coaling tower, the engine shed, the turntable and all the lines in the depot have long been removed. Houses were built opposite the warehouse and the bulldozers pulled up a number of old lengths of railway track. Recently new houses have been built in the centre of the area but much of it is now overgrown and is used by many people to walk their dogs.
The main line that runs along the side of the depot has been reduced from four running lines into two. There were two loops that were retained for faster passenger trains to overtake slower freight trains. The first one on the Blackburn side was removed when an oil train derailed pulling up half the track. The following year the loop on the Burnley side was removed.
As for Accrington Station, the line to Bury has long since closed. There were always problems with this line, it was always suffering from extreme wetness and the 1 in 38 climb did the line no favours as a favourite to be saved. The original station buildings have been demolished and there is only a small booking office on platform one. There now remain only two lines in Accrington served by two platforms. The trains run from Colne to Preston and vice versa. There are trains direct to Leeds and York and it's only in recent times that these have run all year round. The Leeds trains tended to be seasonal at one time. A number of freight trains pass through daily.
The platforms to Bury were still present until the mid 80's when they were demolished to make way for a training centre and the St. Johns Ambulance building.
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