Railway memories of Preston, the first station

Posted on - 23rd October, 2022 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Transport
The first Preston Station, 1862 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The first Preston Station, 1862 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The first Preston station was a ramshackle affair with poor track design, along with no footbridges or subways. It grew up piecemeal and had buildings from different eras crammed together.


Passengers had to negotiate dangerous wooden walkways across the tracks, as shown in foreground of the image above. The tracks narrowed before passing through a short tunnel under Fishergate.

Additionally the roof fell down several times. Not befitting a town of Preston’s stature the station was eventually rebuilt into a much more substantial structure. The ‘new’ station opened in 1878 five years before the Park Hotel was built.

Coketown in Hard Times

Approaching Preston in the 1860s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Approaching Preston in the 1860s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The above image shows the later East Lancashire line entering Preston over the viaduct that is still in use as a footpath. The amount of chimneys belching smoke is remarkable. The signal box is long gone and was known as Whitehouse North Junction. This may have been similar to the scene Charles Dickens saw when he visited Preston in 1854.

The Park Hotel plans

Unused Park Hotel footbridge plan Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Unused Park Hotel footbridge plan Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The Park Hotel opened in 1883. Before this plans were submitted for a covered footbridge that led directly from the station. The plan shown here was a ‘might have been’ and was not selected. William Pollard describes the structure that was actually built. Note the joint ownership of the project at the top left of the plan.


“The side walls of the glass-covered corridor are panelled and faced with glazed bricks in neutral colours. They are surmounted with Longridge stone cope or gutter, and roofed in with light iron principals, covered with Rendle’s patent glazing. Visitors reaching the hotel, either by road or rail enter through a glass-covered porch or vestibule.”

Peak network

During the Edwardian era the railway network was at its peak with thousands of miles of track. Preston was an important link on the network. The map below is from 1902. The Park Hotel and walkway are prominent as is the Butler Street goods station. Much of the track shown below has now gone.

A map of Preston station in 1902 Pic: Railway Magazine
A map of Preston station, 1902 Pic: Railway Magazine

Accidents and incidents

During the Edwardian era Preston saw an incredible number of trains passing through each day. This workload led to a major accident in 1903.

Preston rail accident, 1903 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Preston rail accident, 1903 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The image above shows the northern end of platform 9 at Preston Station. 1903 saw two accidents here, the one shown occurred during a bank holiday when a train approached the station too fast. 

The carriages of the time were flimsy wooden structures that would just ‘explode’ after an impact. Some still used gas lighting and were prone to fire.

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The extract below, from the accident report, shows that the entering train collided with another train waiting at the station. The driver was blamed for inattention.

James Sefton, second signalman, Preston No. 4 box, states: 

“….I cannot see the home signal from my end of the box but I saw the train as it was crossing from the up slow to the East Lancashire line and formed the impression myself that it was travelling too fast for a train entering the station under the Permissive workings. I heard inspector Ratcliffe shout to the driver of the train as it passed the box words to the effect ‘Look out there is one in front’. I could not see the driver at the time the inspector shouted and do not know whether his attention was attracted, but as the engine passed my end of the box I noticed that the driver was looking ahead. Shortly afterwards I heard a crash and saw that the express had come to a stand with the train just opposite the north end of No. 4 signal-box.” 

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