Reviving a ‘forgotten’ Lancashire rail route dream

Postcards depicting the original route of the Garstang rail line through rural Wyre
Postcards depicting the original route of the Garstang rail line through rural Wyre

Campaigners on track to try and restore parts of old Garstang to Knott End line

Railway revivalists are to launch a campaign which could see part of an almost forgotten rail route restored.

Members of the Garstang and Knott End Light Railway group at Hackensall Crossing, Knott End, with the part of the route to Knott End behind them

Members of the Garstang and Knott End Light Railway group at Hackensall Crossing, Knott End, with the part of the route to Knott End behind them

The team of transport enthusiasts have long since dreamed of seeing parts of the route of the former Garstang to Knott End Railway being re-tracked and used by local passengers and tourists.

Decades after the last trains ran, the newly-formed Garstang and Knott End Light Railway Group is hoping to turn the revival dream turned into reality - at least on part of the old route.

The 30 member volunteer group has identified a section of the route from Preesall to Knott End as the stretch where they believe a new track and a train will boost the tourism fortunes of the neighbouring communities.

A formal launch of the project is planned within the next few months, but fundraising to pay for a feasibility study, tracks, sleepers and other infrastructure has already begun.

We believe the railway plan will help bring in tourists

The proposed rail route would initially link Park Lane bridge, near Preesall Bowling Club, to the Hackensall Crossing area, a distance of just under a mile. A longer term aim would see track continuing to Knott End at a point near the old railway station (now the Knott End cafe) and ferry slipway.

The group has decided on a 2ft gauge for the railway so the countryside corridor can be used by both trains and walkers.

Members recognise they have a tough challenge ahead with its project, but are determined to succeed.

Group chairman, Ray Langford of Bispham, said: “We are confident of getting things up and running and want to keep local people fully informed.”

Garstang showing the new station nearing completion in 1909

Garstang showing the new station nearing completion in 1909

Mr Langford said fundraising had already begun with the printing of T-shirts showing the route of the original railway.

A publicity and fundraising stall is to be held regularly at Fleetwood Market and similar stalls will be held at local transport festivals, including Fleetwood’s Tram Sunday this summer.

His colleague, Chris Griffin said local landowners were to be approached and the G&KELR group’s vision shared.

He said the G&KELR would be applying for charitable status and added that the project could also give a boost to the ferry link between Knott End and Fleetwood.

Garstang Town railway station taken about 1900. In 1909 it was rebuilt.

Garstang Town railway station taken about 1900. In 1909 it was rebuilt.

Another colleague, Roger Hosier said: “Knott End has been in the news for banks closing and bus services under threat.

“We believe the railway plan will help bring in tourists.”

The G&KELR group hopes to tap into lottery funding to raise the cash needed, not only for a feasibility study but the purchase of sleepers and track. The team have yet to get their plans costed, and believe it could take anything from two to five years to achieve their aim.

The original Garstang to Knott End railway had a troubled operating history.

The first section, to Pilling, opened in 1870 with the extension to Knott End not 
being completed until 38 years later. The line closed in stages between 1950 and 1965 and the sleepers and track were removed.

Fundraising efforts will include the sale of T-shirts, key fobs, and various kinds of sponsorship.

One of the early locomotives on the Garstang to Knott End line. This is either Hope or Farmers Friend at Pilling about 1890

One of the early locomotives on the Garstang to Knott End line. This is either Hope or Farmers Friend at Pilling about 1890

Preesall Town Council, which is keen to learn more about the project, has invited group officials to speak at its next meeting.

The meeting will be at Preesall Youth and Community Centre, Lancaster Road, on Monday, February 13 at 7pm.

• For more information contact Ray Langford via rlangford003@gmail.com

A goods train coming through Garstang station in the 1950s

A goods train coming through Garstang station in the 1950s

Railway memories: this month's Rural Life walk features part of the route of the former Garstang to Knott End railway. This picutre is thought to have been taken in the 1950s when the Pilling to Knott End section closed

Railway memories: this month's Rural Life walk features part of the route of the former Garstang to Knott End railway. This picutre is thought to have been taken in the 1950s when the Pilling to Knott End section closed

Garstang and Catterall main line station about 1960. The line to Knott End can be seen on the right hand side

Garstang and Catterall main line station about 1960. The line to Knott End can be seen on the right hand side