Line News & Events

  • Halton Curve Project

    18th November 2017

    Work is continuing on the Halton Curve Project ....

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  • Waiting for the Workers, Winter 1936

    6th September 2017

    Helsby and Alvanley railway station has been brought back to life by Nick Harling ....

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  • John Hobbs

    7th September 2017

    It is with great sadness that the North Cheshire Rail Users Group must report the death of John Hobbs ....

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  • John Hobbs - a true gent

    27th July 2017

    NCRUG recognise John Hobbs - a true gent ....

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  • News from NCRUG

    30th July 2017

    NCRUG report on the Parliamentary Train and confirm they are now on Facebook ....

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  • News from NCRUG

    19th July 2017

    Here is the latest news from the North Cheshire Rail Users Group ....

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Helsby Station

In 1997, NCRUG obtained an agreement with North Western Trains to adopt Helsby station and work started on clearing what had become a wilderness.

The group held weekly working parties on a Friday morning – something that still happens today. It took six months just to clear overgrown trees and shrubs. By 1998, the group were able to put in new plants and install flower tubs and hanging baskets.

In 2000, Helsby won a national award as the ‘most passenger friendly unstaffed station’.

John Hulme established the Cheshire Best Kept Stations competition in 2003, Helsby won the top award; the station has gone on to win an award every year since, winning the top award again in 2006 and 2010.

A successful bid to Helsby Parish Council; in the spring of 2013, allowed NCRUG to seek funds to re-plant a section of garden on platform 1 and initiate plans for a slate plaque to commemorate the occasion.  Following a visit to Llechwydd Slate Caverns’ at Blaenau Ffestiniog by a NCRUG member to source a suitable plaque, it transpired that the original slate for the roof of the station house had been obtained from the quarry.

Consequently a small group travelled to Blaenau Ffestiniog (courtesy of Arriva Trains Wales) on 1st July 2013 to bring back the plaque. Festivities followed a few days later with the unveiling of the plaque.

Helsby Railway Station celebrated its 150th anniversary on Saturday 6th July 2013 and in an imitative with Cheshire West & Cheshire Council (CWAC) and train operators ATW & Northern special Merchandise was produced which included Mugs, Postcards, bookmarks and a commemorative booklet celebrating 150 years of the Helsby to Hooton line. Northern Trains ran special services to Hooton the first since the early 1990’s. Northern also ran a special service round the Halton Curve. Other attractions included a Miniature Steam loco kindly donated for the day by Callum Darraugh from the Brookside Miniature Railway. It displayed a commemorative headboard. Helsby Junction 150th Anniversary 1863-2013. Blacks Railway Workshop also had a stand in the car park displaying their range of small steam locomotives. RSPB also attended with a stand. NCRUG paid for a celebration cake and Arriva Trains Wales managers  Kim Hawkins and Karen Kinder spent the day handing out special gifts. Graham Evans local MP unveiled the slate plaque for the new 150th Anniversary garden on Platform 1. The event was a remarkable success bringing out the best in community sprit.  

In the last two years, Network Rail have renovated the 150 year old buildings on platform 1. These were leased to a rail tour operator who had ambitious plans to open new facilities there. NCRUG secured some grant aid from Helsby Parish Council £1000 towards tables and chairs for the new waiting room and a painting of Helsby Station which would go on display in the refurbished building. Acclaimed railway artist Nick Harling was commissioned  to create the painting which he called “Between Showers Helsby 1960”. He decided to include in the painting a small Jack Russell Terrier on Platform 2. The dog, called “Pip”, who is now 13, belongs to NCRUG Publicity Officer Ian Whitley and she is often seen at the station with him. Pip has become something of a local celebrity since and many people ask after her. She has been brought up on the railways starting her life on the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway where Ian was a manager.

A copy of the painting was even bought by Arriva Trains Wales and proudly hangs in the Booking Office at Chester Station. As well as the painting a limited edition run of 25 prints were made as well as mugs limited to 25 also. These all sold out within days of going on sale. However a mouse mat and key ring set is available on request for £10 from Publicity Officer Ian Whitley, all profits go to maintaining the gardens at Helsby, Frodsham and Runcorn East stations. Ian’s details can be found below.

The new facilities, a waiting room cafe and small shop opened on Monday 15th September 2014 with much fanfare. A huge cake and the official hand over of the painting were just some of the highlights. Arriva Trains Wales Chester Station Manager Margaret Benson opened the new facilities along with Stakeholder Liaison Manager Ben Davies. Ben had originally closed the old booking office down in October 1993 and was thrilled to be at the opening of the refurbished buildings and seeing new life breathed into them something he said on the opening day he thought he would never see again.

During the opening week on Friday 19th Theatre in the Quarter did a special musical on the station platforms at Helsby called Over by Christmas to mark the 100th Anniversary of WW1. The performance was a remarkable success with hundreds of villagers turning out to make use of the new facilities there and watch the moving performance. Many villagers left with tears in their eyes.

Click here to take a look at the video of Over by Christmas at both Helsby and Frodsham stations.

However things weren't to run smoothly at Helsby Station, the rail tour operator who had leased the buildings felt footfall was way below what they had expected. Trading hours were cut after the first week not really giving it time to get established and just three  weeks later they closed the new facilities down for good. North Cheshire Rail Users Group who had put a lot of time and effort into the project were obviously bitterly disappointed with the decision. Week on week the facilities had become more popular and we feel the early closure was premature.  Volunteers at the station are regularly asked what became of the project.

Station house has seen better fortunes, an Equestrian has moved onsite and will be trading in the not to distant future. The former booking office by the footbridge has also been leased and we are awaiting news of who the lease holder will be.

Other improvements at Helsby have seen a section of platform raised on Platform one, making it easier for people with bikes and push chairs to board or alight from the trains.

Extra Car Park Spaces have been added, 6 in all for the new businesses that will be arriving at the station. Network Rail has also announced that the aging footbridge is to have a major refurbishment hopefully starting later this year.

Railway Heritage Trust are developing plans to totally refurbish the waiting shelter on the Island platform serving platforms 2 and 3. It’s not clear what the future use will be at this stage but we hope the improvements will be beneficial to those who use the Manchester and a few Ellesmere Port bound trains. It is understood the money for this is now earmarked  and work should start in the not too distant future.

A new waiting shelter has also been installed on Platform 4 for people using the limited Northern train service to Ellesmere Port. 

Helsby Station has always prided itself on its well kept gardens and it has won more awards that any other station in the UK for its appearance. Sadly Volunteers are down to just six and more are desperately needed.

If you can spare some time to help, please contact John Hobbs, our Publicity Officer, via our contact page form.

All new volunteers are safety briefed and hi-visibility clothing provided by Arriva Trains Wales to use while working at the station.

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