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The Coming Of The Railway
By Dave Ackerley

The railway from Ormskirk to Skelmersdale commenced construction in the summer of 1858 after first being authorised in August 1846, with the delays being caused by the Directors of the East Lancashire Railway suspending work until they received notification from the owners of Blaguegate Colliery that they intended to use the line, in 1853 Parliament authorised the extension of the line through to Rainford, and in the meantime through all this they needed to purchase the land the line was to run through.

Skelmersdale Station 1 So the line which was initially completed to the north western edge of Skelmersdale was finally completed through to Rainford Junction and after being scrutinised by the Government Inspectors of Railways on Tuesday 23rd February 1858 was opened on Monday 1st March 1858. The line ran from the north end of the Ormskirk to Preston line and swept easwards along the northern edge of Ormskirk, ran along the northern edge of Westhead (you can see the raised edge where the line was from the road down to Westhead and the remains of the bridges down Castle Lane and Dickets Lane), across Plough Lane over Sephtons Bridge (now gone), under Firswood Road bridge until it arrived in Skelmersdale at the Station crossing the Ormskirk to Wigan Road (where the roundabout is now) - you can see where the line arrived if you look to the left as you drive up Neverstich Road you will see a valley shape go off in to the trees.

Skelmersdale Station 2 The line then continued to Rainford down where Railway Road is now, under the bridge on Liverpool Road (now a pedestrian bridge) and where the road bends left the line used to go straight on over White Moss Road where there was a Crossing Halt and on it went to Rainford. At first the station at Skelmersdale was called "Blaguegate" but from 1st August 1874 it was renamed "Skelmersdale" which it remained till its closure, and in the following year another line was laid making the track from Ormskirk double.

Here are some fare and timetable details (date not known)
Fares to Ormskirk:
Ist Class 7d
2nd Class 5d
3rd Class 3 1/2d
To Rainford & St Helens To Ormskirk
Weekdays Weekdays
8.37 am 9.59 am
11.24 am 12.30 pm
1.15 pm 4.28 pm
4.52 pm 6.37 pm
8.05 pm (Saturdays only) 
Note: All were 1st and 2nd Class apart from the first and last trains which also had a 3rd Class
Sundays Sundays
9.42 am 8.10 am
7.10 pm 2.30 pm
  8.55 pm
Note: All were 1st, 2nd and 3rd Class

The Railway did rather well for itself and on 1st July 1906 a steam railmotor service was introduced running 28 trains in each direction and also halts were opened at Westhead and White Moss. Another increase in use was due to the Army Remount Depot at Lathom Park which introduced a specially constructed branch line to Lathom House at the beginning of the First World War. This was completed by February 1915 and ran from the Station, across Engine Lane and Slate Lane, alongside Firswood Road, across Spa Lane, through Samples Farm and into the Lathom estate to the Depot. This branch line was mainly used to ship horses to the Depot, and after the War had ended it was last used to store unwanted railway wagons until after 1920 when the line was taken up.

Skem Jazzer in Ormskirk Station By the time the Second World War started the Skelmersdale Station offered facilities for Goods, Passengers and Luggage, there was a 5 ton crane and three sidings - one used by the Straw Rope Works and the other two by the Collieries. The one main memory people may have of the old railway is the old "Skem Jazzer" or "Skem Joey", this was the passenger train that serviced Skelmersdale and earned it's nickname through the rough ride it gave - people were "jazzed" about! The railway line and Skelmersdale Station was open until 5th November 1956 when the passenger service ceased. It remained open for Goods from Ormskirk until 4th November 1963 but the Goods service from Rainford had ceased on 16th November 1961. The line was dismantled and the remains of the Station and the Level Crossing on Ormskirk Road was removed in 1969 to make way for the appropriately named Railway Road as mentioned above.

For some further information and memories see the Ormskirk Road chapter in the "Streets" book