The 8D Association

The LNWR Widnes Deviation.

An 8F loco based at Heaton Mersey shed comes off the deviation at Carterhouse Jct.the original line which carries on to the left was still intact through to Ditton but was only used to access Hutchinson Street yard at this time. The loco was returning to its home shed. April 1968. Photo by Les Fifoot.

The London & North Western Railway’s (LNWR) Widnes Deviation had its origins in the take over by the LNWR of the St Helens Canal & Railway Company (SHC&RC) on the 1st of September 1864. The LNWR had been keen to absorb the SHC&RC as it had strategic lines that carried lucrative flows of goods in particular coal. However the LNWR inherited a situation at Widnes that was not ideal with regards to the easy movement of traffic. Effectively two lines crossed on the level and there were connecting spurs leading from one to the other. The lines were the original St Helens & Runcorn Gap Railway, which had opened between St Helens and Widnes on the 21st of February 1833, and the line between Garston and Warrington which had opened in two stages, that between Widnes and Garston on the 1st of July 1852 and between Widnes and Warrington on the 1st of February 1853.  The St Helens line ran north south and the Garston and Warrington line west to east. They crossed just to the north of Widnes Dock which was the southern terminus for goods of the 1833 line. 

A view looking west from the west end of the Widnes deviation towards Ditton Junction. Widnes West Deviation signalbox can be seen beyond the locomotive. 27th April 1968.  Photo by Les Fifoot. 

There was a connection that ran north from the St Helens line to west on the Garston line and a connection that ran from east on the Warrington line to south on the St Helens line. The connections allowed trains to travel directly between St Helens and Garston and between Warrington and Widnes Dock.

In close proximity to the flat crossing and connecting chords there were by the mid 1850s numerous sidings and branches into factories. By the time that the LNWR took over there was a great deal of congestion. The solution was to built a new line running west to east that would pass over the St Helens line but at the same time have a connection to it. This would allow through trains to avoid the flat crossing.

As part of its takeover of the SC&RC the LNWR had pledged to spend £100,000 at Widnes carrying out improvements and the money was duly set aside. On the 5th of July 1865 Authorisation was given for the construction of the Widnes Deviation and work started on its construction shortly after.

The Deviation opened to traffic on the 1st of November 1869. On the 1st of March 1870 a new station was opened on the Deviation and from this date all passenger services operated over it. The original lines saw only goods services and the original Widnes Station which had been on the west side of the Waterloo Level Crossing was closed.

A mineral train on the Deviation passing through the now closed Wines South station the signal box is Widnes No7 which controlled the spur to the SH & RGR. 2nd January 1968.
Photographer unknown.

Looking at the Deviation from a west to east perspective it started at Widnes West Deviation Junction which was located to the west of Victoria Road and to the east of De-Sotto Bridge. The line ran for one and a half miles where it rejoined the original route to Warrington at Carterhouse Junction. From Widnes West Deviation Junction the Deviation line climbed steeply until it passed over Victoria Road. On the east side of Victoria Road was the 1870 Widnes Station. Immediately to the east of Widnes Station was the Widnes Junction. Controlled by Widnes Number 7 Signalbox which was located on the south side of the line at the east end of Widnes Stations west bound platform, a spur line turned south at the junction and dropped down at a gradient before turning towards the north where it made a connection with the 1833 St Helens line at Ann Street. The spur allowed passenger services that ran between Ditton Junction and St Helens Shaw Street to use the 1870 Widnes Station. The Deviation line continued eastwards from Widnes Junction, it crossed over a bridge, continued for a short distance on an embankment after which it ran onto a brick built viaduct. At the eastern end of the viaduct the Deviation crossed over the St Helens line on a bridge. The rest of the line was on an embankment but there were two further bridges before the line dropped down to ground level at Carterhouse Junction. The junction at Carterhouse was controlled by a signalbox, called Carterhouse Junction which was situated on the south side of the line to the east of the actual junction.
In the space between the main line and the spur the LNWR built a Locomotive Shed which was named Widnes Shed (later to become 8D). Access to the shed for locomotives was from the St Helens line via Ann Street. To facilitate the movement of locomotives into and out of the shed from the Deviation there was a crossover line at the eastern end of Widnes Station. The shed itself initially had three roads but it would later be extended to six roads. 

Carterhouse Junction signal box with the Runcorn/Widnes 'Jubilee Bridge' in the background. Taken 30th June 1995.  Photo by Doug Birmingham.
In the 1870s the Deviation would have been used by passenger services running between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester London Road, along with shorter workings along that route and by the Ditton Junction and St Helens service. Through goods trains that would have outnumbered passenger services tenfold would also have used the Deviation at this time. The entire route between Garston and Skelton Junction became a major goods artery for the LNWR for services that ran east and west.
In 1879 the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway and the Midland Railway opened a joint line that became known as the Widnes Loop line that ran parallel with the Deviation for much of its length but to the north of it. The two lines were at their closest to the east of Ann Street but there was no connection between them.
In 1923 the Widnes Deviation became part of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). The Deviation continued to perform the function for which it was built throughout the LMS years but the locomotive sheds were given a new identification code 8D. Traffic flows of note in the 1930s included Banana trains that ran from Garston Dock eastwards and coal from both the Lancashire and the Yorkshire Coalfields that ran to Garston Dock for export. 
On the 1st of January 1948 the Deviation became part of the Nationalised British Railways (London Midland Region). On the 16th of June 1951 the Ditton Junction and St Helens passenger service was withdrawn but the service between Liverpool and Manchester continued to operate although some trains started and ended their journeys at Ditton Junction or at Warrington Bank Quay. An express passenger service, The York Mail which ran from Liverpool Lime Street to York, ran along the Deviation on Sunday Nights. The York Mail did not stop at Widnes Station.

On the 10th of September 1962 regular passenger services, except the York Mail, over the Deviation were withdrawn and Widnes South station was closed. It was used though for Rugby League Specials until 1965. In the early 1960s goods traffic began to decline. Widnes Locomotive Shed closed on the 16th of May 1964. The Widnes Loop which ran parallel to the Deviation closed completely on the 6th of December 1964 except for the goods yard at Tanhouse Lane which was very close to the Deviation at its eastern end. In 1961 a connection had been put in from the St Helens line to Tanhouse Lane which was the first physical link between the former LNWR system and the Widnes Loop. There was still no direct connection from the Deviation to Tanhouse yard at this time but the idea to create one would be revisited two decades later.
On the 4th of November 1968 the line from Ann Street to Widnes Dock, part of the original 1833 line, closed and in March 1969 the original route between Carterhouse Junction and Widnes West Deviation closed as a through route although lines were retained at both ends of the route at Hutchinson Street Yard to the west and between Carterhouse and the flat crossing to the east. These events meant that all traffic now ran over the Deviation and the connecting spur to the St Helens line.

Taken in the 1960's, the Widnes Deviation at its western end with Hutchinson St Goods Yard where the Class 08's are standing.  Photo by Gordon Howarth.
Throughout the 1970s the Deviation continued to be used by a variety of goods services. Coal from the Yorkshire pits passed along the line from Carterhouse to West Deviation Junction and from the Lancashire pits it joined the deviation at Widnes Junction having come up from the St Helens line.
Stone products came into Hutchinson Street yard from Hope and were then sent as trip workings to the Everite Works at Farnworth and Bold and to the Blue Circle Cement works at Tanhouse Lane. Car trains from Fords at Halewood travelled east along the line to Warrington and north via the St Helens line. 
In the early 1980s British Rail decided that it could close the St Helens line as a through route. The last through trains ran in November 1981. So that Cement could still be delivered to the Blue Circle works a new connection was put in from the deviation to the sidings at Tanhouse Lane. The new connection had its junction with the deviation line to the east of the St Helens line. It was controlled by Carterhouse Junction signalbox and opened on the 18th of April 1982. The opening of the new connection allowed the remaining section of the St Helens line from Widnes Number 7 box to Widnes No 1 to close. Widnes Junction was taken out of use and Widnes Number 7 box was closed.


A Class 60, No 60077 in 'Mainline' markings enters the 'Deviation' at Carterhose Junction with an empty Fiddlers Ferry PS to Liverpool Bulk Terminal coal train. One part of the the original line can be seen in the foreground which was used in the 1980s by Tarmac as sidings for roadstone deliveries. January 2001.  Photo by Doug Birmingham.

Traffic declined along the deviation in the 1980s especially after 1984 when a great deal of coal traffic was lost. There was an upturn in the 1990s when many coal trains from Gladstone Dock to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station were routed via the deviation. Hutchinson Street Yard closed at the end of the 1980s and with it West Deviation Box. In 2000 the Blue Circle Cement works was closed and traffic ceased. Carterhouse Box was no longer required and in 2001 it was switched out. It stood in a derelict condition until 2008. The removal of the junction into Tanhouse Lane sidings allowed it to be demolished.

The site of Carterhouse Junction at the eastern end of the Deviation. The home signal for Carterhouse signal box can be seen in the clear position and was pegged off long after the box had closed. December 2005. Photo by Paul Wright.
In 2020 the Deviation line is still open although traffic is virtually non-existent. Coal deliveries from Liverpool Bulk Terminal and Ellesmere Port, to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station have now ceased, as the power station officially closed on 31 March 2020. An occasional weekly train of vans, for cleaning, can sometimes be seen travelling from Jaguar Land Rover at Halewood to Arpley (and back) but this service can often run very early (if at all). Currently you may see (MO) a DB Cargo train operate to Ditton Foundry Lane loaded with Aluminium from Dollands Moor but that will only freight train that would transverse the whole line. In the medium term, the line does have a future as Fidlers Ferry PS has approx currently 15 years worth of Fly Ash on site and some of this will be continue to be moved by train. 

Further Information.
8A Rail with information on current freight timetables, locations and passenger TOC's in Merseyside and North Cheshire.

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