The line opened for goods on the 1st February 1869 and for passenger traffic on the 1st April 1869. On the day of opening stations were also opened at Runcorn and Sutton Weaver. The station at Ditton Junction was not opened until 1st May 1871, though it would be the largest on the line with six platform faces.
The station at Sutton Weaver was an early casualty being closed to passengers on the 30th November 1931 and to goods on the 30th April 1942. Now no trace of the station remains only the station masters house stands as a reminder that there once was a station there.
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A Class 108 DMU departs from Runcorn station en-route to Chester General.The busy goods yard of the station can be seen to the right of the train which is now a car park. The castellated entrance to the Ethelfleda Bridge can just be seen in the background as can the Silver Jubilee Bridge.
The station at Runcorn has thrived throughout the years and has been the principal calling point for express trains to London for many years now. Today it is operated by Virgin Trains and is as busy as ever with ample parking and bus links.
Photo by R W Mercer.
Ditton station with Fowler 2P Class 4-4-0 no. 40693 standing in platform 3 en-route to Liverpool having arrived from Manchester via Warrington Bank Quay Low Level station. The photograph can be dated as between 24th May 1959 and July 1959 as resignalling work associated with the electrification of the route commenced on 24th May and the loco in question was withdrawn during July 1959. The two large signal posts situated either side of the street level booking office appear to be devoid of their arms.
Photo by J.C.W. Halliday.
58013 passing through Ditton Junction platform 5 with a loaded export coal train bound for Garston Dock. The photograph is taken from a similar position as the previous photograph with the brick built toilet block being the only surviving building from pre-electrification days. At this time only four trains per day called here.
Photo by Terry Callaghan.
The third and largest station on the line, Ditton Junction was re-built in conjunction with the Liverpool to Crewe electrification project in the 1960's when it was slightly reduced in size from six platform faces to five. Even though the area around it was not heavily populated the station was seen as an interchange where passengers could change to other services like the stopping trains toward Manchester. Within a couple of years of the major re-building the services to Manchester via Timperley were withdrawn and all intermediate stations closed, the slow decline of Ditton Junction had started. In the mid 1970's the London Euston trains were withdrawn from Ditton but the station still hosted charter trains to London for school children. By the late 1980's the Chester (summer only) service ceased to stop, the charter trains also ended and many of the local stopping trains had also ceased to call there, this was apart from two services each way in the morning and evening peak. The station did gain notoriety though becoming the first station to be closed by the privatised company Railtrack on the 27th May 1994. The station has since been demolished and Ditton No1 and Ditton No2 boxes both replaced by a new power box adjacent to the old station. There was also a timber yard adjacent to the station which had generated traffic flows with the supply of wooden sleepers. This has also closed and been demolished.
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A Class 86 has descended from the viaduct towards Ditton Junction Station.The lines bearing off to the right in the background formed the route to Manchester via Timperley which were withdrawn in 1962, they are still busy at this time with freight and especially coal for Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. The lines bearing off to the right in foreground form the slow lines into Liverpool.
5th April 1984.
Photo by John Wilson.
The 8 ½ mile line is still very busy today with a mixture of Virgin Pendolino expresses and London Midland stopping services. There is also a Summer Saturday only parliamentary service from Chester to Runcorn via the Halton curve, there is no return working as the junction from Runcorn to gain the Halton curve has been removed; although plans and funding is now in place for their reinstatement with a new Liverpool to Llandudno service being mooted. Freight flows are still numerous along the line with Freightliner container traffic to the port of Garston, new Range Rovers from the plant at Halewood, Stobart Ports now operate a container base on the site of the ex BOC plant and Ditton Foundry sidings have been brought back into use for a thrice weekly (Mon, Wed & Fri) service to and from Nievenheim, Germany to covey aluminium blocks. The Folly Lane branch at Runcorn has also seen a sharp up-turn in flows with the building of a power station on part of the former ICI Weston Workshops site. Freightliner operate several trains a day from the Manchester area conveying pelletised household waste to use as fuel.
66415 runs round its train at the new Folly Lane power station the loco is operated by Freightliner but still carries its previous operators, DRS, livery.
11th March 2014.
Photo by Paul Wright.
8a Rail has up to date freight timetables for this stretch of line click here