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Sunday, 12 June 2011

TICKET TO RIDE 1959


Here's a real relic of the past - a Third Class
early morning return ticket from Northwich to
Middlewich. The date stamp on the reverse is
not very clear, but we think it's either 25th March or 25th May 1959.
Either way, the ticket is for a journey during the 'Northwich Dodger's' final year of operation.The passenger service ceased on 31st December 1959. 
Here's the other side of the ticket. 
Over the weeks and months to come, we'll be
delving into the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich Railway's past in these pages, as
well as following the labrynthine machinations
necessary to get the line re-opened. If you're
interested in the latter, by the way, a good
starting point is www.middlewichstation.org.uk.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the
Middlewich line is one of those little rural rail-
way backwaters which time passed by, but this is far from being the case. Time and time again
in our dealings with Network Rail, they've stressed the line's importance as a freight and diversionary route; a lot of money was spent a few years ago re-signalling the line and relaying
sections of track and EVERY survey and study which has ever been carried out has come to the
same conclusion: that a passenger service on the Middlewich line would be viable,  well-used and relatively cheap and easy to introduce.
1s 2d, for our younger readers, is about 6p.
Like many people of a...er...certain age in this town I have fond memories of the steam and early diesel trains which passed through in the 1950s and 60s. In particular I remember going with my Dad on our last trip to Crewe on The Dodger. It was an exciting day, for Her Majesty The Queen was in Crewe to perform the official opening of the posh new shopping centre with its Westminster chiming clock tower and its gleaming new shops - a little taste of Welwyn Garden City in grimy old Crewe. I was even given a little flag to wave.
But the occasion was tinged with melancholy and sadness. When we got to Middlewich Station the waiting room was plastered with 'Withdrawal Of Passenger Service' notices, as were the windows of the train when it pulled in. The carriage seats had been slashed - an outrage perpetrated, according to my Dad, by 'Teddy Boys', those pioneers of Anti-Social Behaviour which were, at the time, every bit as threatening (and mostly illusory) as the phantoms which we fear now.
As we puffed off down the Sandbach line we knew that an era was coming to an end.
But something lodged itself at the back of my mind that day, and has stayed there ever since: it made little sense to me that a town like Middlewich was to have no passenger train service. Today, it makes even less sense.




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On Facebook, John Capper said:

The cost of the ticket, 1s 2d, had the same value as about £1 today. That seems good value to me.

Dave Roberts said...

Quite right John. We always hear a lot of talk about high rail fares, but the cost of short journeys in particular always strike me as very reasonable and certainly better value for money than bus fares.

Dave Roberts said...

On Facebook, Geraldine Williams commented:
The only complaint I had about the Crewe-Middlewich-Northwich line was that the stations were so far away from the centres of the towns (I speak as one who daily had to leg it from Northwich station down to the Tax Office in Leicester Street in time for work and back again in the evening to catch the only train running back to Middlewich)! It was the same going shopping in Crewe. If you have to get a bus to the town centre it defeats the object of using the train in the first place.

Dave Roberts said...

Yes, it's a common complaint about railway stations that they're often quite a way away from the town centres they serve. Crewe is a classic example, but in that case because, almost uniquely, the station was built before the town was. Ironically Middlewich station did not fall into this category, being only a short walk from the centre of Middlewich. The proposed replacement will also be very handy for the town centre. And using buses to connect railway stations to towns does work, if the timetables are integrated. There should, in effect, be a bus to meet every train which stops at a station. If bus and train are supposed to be in competition, then obviously they won't be inclined to co-operate in this way. Where trains score over buses is in speed. Even in 1959 the steam-driven Dodger could get from Middlewich to Northwich in seven minutes. And today, if I want to get to Crewe I get a bus to Elworth and then get the train to Crewe which gets me there in eight minutes rather than the further forty or so the bus will take.

Dave Roberts said...

I should explain that the proposed new Middlewich service will be aimed primarily at commuters living in the town and working on the Altrincham side of Manchester. Surveys have identified many such potential commuters living within the new station's catchment area and within easy walking distance of it. More will use their cars to drive to either Middlewich, Holmes Chapel or Goostrey stations, depending on which side of Manchester they work on. Trains in the other direction will terminate in Crewe for connections to anywhere in the country. In an ideal world, of course, bus companies would provide transport to the station to pick up and drop off passengers in time for every train, but that will have to wait for a further injection of common sense into transport planning matters.

Dave Roberts said...

Sorry about that. I seem to have switched into Railway Campaigning mode, and that's not what this particular site is all about. But please read the information available through the MRLC website and, I hope, you'll see what an excellent idea the
re-instatement of passenger trains for Middlewich is.

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