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Preston goes Inter-City Electric… eventually

Posted on - 17th December, 2023 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - History, Nostalgia, Preston News, Preston Railway Station, Transport
B.R. Float, Preston Guild 1972 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
B.R. Float, Preston Guild 1972 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The year 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the electrification of the West Coast Main Line through Preston. The London to Glasgow travel time was reduced to five hours. The lead image shows a float from the 1972 Preston Guild. As can be seen, the original opening date was set for May 1973. However, as is usual with infrastructure projects in this country, the opening was delayed until 1974! The mainline had been electrified in sections beginning in 1960. However, we had to wait until 2018 for the line to Blackpool to be electrified.

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Electric at last

The Queen unveils the electrification plaque at Preston Station, 1974 Pic: Preston Evening News
The Queen unveils the electrification plaque at Preston Station, 1974 Pic: Preston Evening News

British Rail was keen to ‘modernise’ and many fine Victorian stations had been demolished by 1970. Shiny new stations were built at London Euston and Birmingham New Street. However, Preston escaped this fate and got a plaque on Platform 4 instead. Joking aside, the service speed improved and you could get to London in two-and-a-half hours from Preston.

Before and after

LMS Coronation Class City of Carlisle leaves Preston in 1964 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
LMS Coronation Class City of Carlisle leaves Preston in 1964 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

In 1964 steam still dominated on the West Coast Main Line. Above, an LMS-designed Pacific City of Carlisle leaves Preston for Glasgow. Ten years later the boxy Class 87 electrics had taken over. The LMS Coronation class went into service in 1937. They had been specifically designed for the West Coast Main Line heavy expresses. The first batch had streamlined casings. In total 38 were built, with the last in 1948. A Coronation class held the speed record for steam at 114 mph until beaten by Mallard in 1938.

A Class 87 leaves Preston in 1974 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
A Class 87 leaves Preston in 1974 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

The British Rail blue corporate livery was introduced in 1966 and steam had ended by 1968. The Class 87 was capable of 110 mph. Pulling out of Preston the locomotive had a characteristic whine and the rapid acceleration was impressive. Also by this time continuous welded rail was in use so the journey was smoother and quieter.

In contrast, the derelict West Lancashire Railway Station

Abandoned West Lancashire Railway station in 1976 Pic: Preston Digital Archive
Abandoned West Lancashire Railway Station in 1976 Pic: Preston Digital Archive

In contrast, the ex-West Lancashire Railway Station on Fishergate Hill was derelict and abandoned by 1976. For a while, it had been occupied by Silcock’s provender merchants before succumbing to the bulldozer.

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The ex-West Lancashire Railway Station as Silcock’s Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The ex-West Lancashire Railway Station as Silcock’s Pic: Preston Digital Archive

Read more: Dig into more Preston history with Geoffrey

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