The Ribble Steam Railway reopens this weekend (Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 May). New attractions include murals of famous locomotives.Advertisement
Images are by the author and were shot prior to the pandemic, in June 2019. Lest we forget what the world used to look like!
The Ribble has been used by humans since neolithic times and Preston was first used as a port in the 12th century. Additionally, the river has always been prone to silting. It was first dredged in the 16th
Preston began to grow in the 18th century and the original docks known as Preston anchorage, began to struggle with the increasing number of ships. Importantly, larger ships could not berth in the shallow river.
Various improvements, from 1825 onwards, added new wharves, warehouses and shipyards. Furthermore, they dredged a larger channel. However by the 1880s even larger ships were needed and a permanent deep water basin was constructed using locks to keep the level constant.
Preston Docks opened in 1892 and was in full use until 1981, when it was closed and redeveloped. A new marina was constructed. The image below, shows how the river was diverted to accommodate the proposed basin.
The railway first to came to Preston Docks in 1846 with a branch line from Preston Station.
There was once an extensive network of standard gauge track, at Preston Docks. Over 27 miles of line were operated by eight steam locomotives. After 1889 the fleet was owned and operated by Preston Corporation. Steam was phased out in 1968, consequently, eight Sentinel diesel shunters were bought and some still remain in operation today, hauling bitumen trains.
Lancashire Tar distillers have an operational plant on the former dock site. Here they receive raw bitumen in tankers carried along the remaining line. The line is also the home of the Ribble Steam Railway. The tankers can be seen near the new station used by it.
Redevelopment in the 1980s had cut off the link from Preston Station to the remaining dock lines. Therefore, in 1985, a new line was built that crossed a swing bridge, close to the present marina. The bridge opens to allow boats access to the lock system. The Ribble Steam Railway runs from Strand Road to Riverside and is 1.5 miles long. Additionally there is a museum that opened in 2005, when trips began running on the line.
There are some great photography locations including road crossings and a swing bridge. The crossing below is fairly close to the station.
There is also a rather fascinating swing bridge where the track runs along the middle of the road. The bridge opens to allow boats access to the marina. Below, it has just started to rotate.
You can walk from Preston Station along the river, viewing the ex-Docks site. Paths also follow the line.
Landscaping makes this area look rural. The location here once rang to the sound of ships being unloaded and the clank of shunting engines.
Support the line by visiting over the coming months.
For more information visit https://ribblesteam.org.uk.
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Will you be visiting the Ribble Steam Railway? Let us know in the comments.