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Preston Station’s secret World War I underground platform and stables

Posted on - 9th July, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Transport
A locomotive hides underneath Preston Station Pic: Preston Digital Archive
A locomotive hides underneath Preston Station Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Underneath Preston Station there is a little known area, the bakehouse siding. The siding is still there as of 2023. There are also passages and rooms that are now used for storage, but were once used as stables, during World War I.

The room known as the Bakehouse Pic: Jessica Flynn
The room known as the Bakehouse Pic: Jessica Flynn

While the room is still known as the bakehouse, the reason for that seems to be lost to the mists of time. Presumably, it was used as a bakery, maybe for the buffet, that was used during both World Wars.

The 1880 Preston Station rebuild

The present station was substantially rebuilt in 1880. It was also extended in 1903 and 1913. Ultimately there were 15 platforms. A free buffet was provided for servicemen during both World Wars, and flour for bread and other food supplies, would have been brought to it via the bakehouse siding. This would have prevented the flour train from blocking the operational lines. The siding is shown as the bakehouse siding on large scale maps.

1890s map of Preston Station Pic: Preston Digital Archive
1890s map of Preston Station Pic: Preston Digital Archive

There are two subways, that are now used by the public. One was a former freight only subway that was converted to passenger use. All have lift access.

Electrification

Electric trains began to run through Preston in 1973. The West Coast Mainline had been gradually electrified, with the first stretch opening in 1960. 1973 also saw construction of a new power signal box, to the north of the station. Interestingly, the first part of the line to Blackpool was also electrified, in preparation for that line’s electrification. Unfortunately, it took another 40 years for that to happen.

The Bakehouse siding today Pic: Google Earth
The Bakehouse siding today Pic: Google Earth

World War I stables

During World War I, horses were stabled underneath the station. Here they were fed and watered in preparation for shipping to France. The Preston Station Free Buffet Association served free drinks and biscuits to serviceman who were passing through. Preston is on a major north-south route. 400 volunteer women worked 12-hour shifts, and served over three million men. The waiting room on platforms 3 and 4, was the former site of World War I buffet and has a commemorative plaque.

Read more: Preston Station Free Buffet 1915 to 1919 commemoration event

A commemorative mug from World War I Pic: Preston Digital Archive
A commemorative mug from World War I Pic: Preston Digital Archive

There is also a commemorative plaque for the Preston Pals  ‘D’ Company of The 7th (Service) battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. They would have left Preston Station full of trepidation. Unfortunately over 50 per cent of the Regiment were killed during the Battle of the Somme. That was 420 men out of 900.

One of the tunnels underneath Preston Station Pic: Jessica Flynn
One of the tunnels underneath Preston Station Pic: Jessica Flynn
Soldiers returning from France, at Preston Station in 1916 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Soldiers returning from France, at Preston Station in 1916 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Follow Geoffrey on Twitter for more Preston history.

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