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Earlestown Railway Station (L&MR)
Earlestown, Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, UK
associated engineer
George Stephenson
Robert Stephenson
date  circa 1839
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ576951
ICE reference number  HEW 946
Earlestown in east Merseyside has one of the earliest — and some think the world's oldest — surviving railway station building still in use by public passenger services. Though the interior is now derelict and the building closed, its canopy still provides a waiting area for travellers.
Earlestown Station lies midway along the west-east route of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) at its junction with a branch line south (Warrington & Newton Railway). The L&MR, designed by George Stephenson (1781-1848), opened on 15th September 1830 and the branch line, engineered by his son Robert Stephenson (1803-59), opened shortly afterwards on 25th July 1831. Both ran steam locomotives. The L&MR was the world's first inter-city passenger railway with a set timetable.
Since it is located in the suburbs of Newton-le-Willows, the intersection of the two lines was named Newton Junction — and is the first steam railway junction. As the branch line reached the mainline, its track curved westward to make a smooth connection.
The L&MR was extended by George Stephenson to Birmingham as the Grand Junction Railway (GJR), which opened on 4th July 1837. At the same time a second track was added to the Warrington branch, meeting the L&MR in an eastwards curve. The new layout formed a triangle with six platforms, and the three-way lines were used to turn trains round, effectively making it the first stationary turntable (or wye). A local railway for transporting coal from Haydock Colliery, north of Earlestown, to the River Mersey at Warrington also crossed the triangle.
With so much extra activity at the junction, it was imperative to have a passenger station as well. Between 1835 and 1841, and probably about 1839-40, the station building was constructed (in a mock Elizabethan style) at the west end of the triangle, on the curved island platform between the GJR and the south track of the L&MR. It was named Earlestown Station in 1861, after James Hardman Earle (1792-1877), who was one of the L&MR's original promoters.
The single-storey building is of yellow sandstone with paler blocks in the quoins and on the west elevation, which has a large bay window with stone mullions and a castellated parapet set with four panels of carved stonework. The south elevation includes a mullioned window below three oversize sawtooth crenellations bearing carved shields. The building’s pitched slate roof has three octagonal carved stone chimney stacks, two double chimneys at the east end and in the centre, and a single chimney at the west end.
A slate-roofed canopy shelters the north façade facing the straight L&MR track, running for seven bays along the platform and returning over two bays at the west end. It is supported on nine cast iron columns connected by a beam from which spring vertical and outwardly curving timber struts to support the outer edges of the canopy. The building was Grade II listed in 1966.
Earlestown Station now has five platforms — platforms 1 and 2 flank the Liverpool-Manchester line, Platform 3 lies on the western branch line curve, and platforms 4 and 5 flank the eastern curve. The original station building is inside the triangle, on Platform 2. A later building housing the ticket office is positioned at the west end of Platform 1. Platforms 4 and 5 serve the electrified services that link with the west coast main line and trains to Manchester, Chester and North Wales.
Although the original waiting room is now boarded up, and only the canopy is in use, the old station building is not forgotten completely. In 1980, its stonework was cleaned to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the L&MR, and an exhibition was held in the waiting room.
In 2010, platforms 4 and 5 were rebuilt to modern safety specifications at a cost of over £2m.
Platform works (2010): J. Murphy & Sons
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH northRS

Earlestown Railway Station (L&MR)