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Hale Station CLC - Facilities and Trackplan

NB Please note this section is in very rough form, my notes are currently in storage. The sketches used for illustration are NOT scale drawings. More, and better, photographs are to be added to this page, once I get time to sort through, scan and scale them. I am deeply indebted to the members of the uk.railway and uk.rec.models.rail newsgroups who have provided a great deal of the information used in this section.

Hale station on the former Cheshire Midland (Midland Railway, Cheshire Lines Committee) line between Altrincham and Chester opened as 'Bowdon Peel Causeway' in 1862, renamed 'Peel Causeway' in 1899 and 'Hale' in 1902. At the Manchester end the line had running powers over the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway, allowing trains to run into Manchester (terminating at Manchester Central station) or to divert via the CLC complex at Skelton Junction to carry on to Liverpool, Stockport (and the main LNWR line to Manchester) or Warrington. At the Chester end it reached Chester Northgate station. Local passenger services from Manchester Central (Midland Railway) were withdrawn in 1967 however alterations to the tracks approaching Manchester enabled the former CLC Liverpool via Warrington and Chester via Northwich services to run to Oxford Road or Piccadilly from 1969. Manchester Central was closed in 1969, for a time it was used as a car park but was then redeveloped as the Greater Manchester Exhibition and Events Centre (G-Mex) in 1986.

Area Map

sketch of the railways around Hale

Given the proximity of the large station at the nearby market town of Altrincham the facilities at Hale, the first station on the line to Chester, might seem rather extensive. This station served not only the local urban population but also a great many farms and even some smaller local industries and off loading in Hale avoided the busy streets of the town. Hale has been used elsewhere in this document to illustrate a range of points from track formations to signalling, however it is perhaps worth reiterating the basic track plan.

Hale Station track plan

sketch of Hale station track plan

We are frequently told to avoid S curves on model railway layouts, and I have heard these described as unprototyical, however the line between Altrincham and Hale follows a lengthy left hand curve then does a very tight S curve. This allows us to add such curves, and justify them, when fitting the layout onto a single baseboard such that the station is inset to allow for the two sidings on the cattle dock side. The curves would be the mirror image of those on the prototype (shown below), the bridge shown on the right hand end of the track plan above is just out of sight beyond the far curve.

Track approaching Hale Station

Photo of track approaching Hale station from Altrincham

The traffic on this line has been quite varied, although seldom what one might call intensive. There are passenger and freight services on the line and occasional light engine movements as well, with a wide range of motive power being used. The line has always been favoured by 'specials' of various kinds, since the end of steam traction on BR it has regularly been used for steam-hauled excursions, of late these have featured Black Five haulage, and usually guarantee a good turn out at the station.

Black 5 'steam special' at Hale 2006

photo of a Black 5 'steam special' at Hale 2006

More modern engines have also been used for 'specials' on this line, including (in the 1980s) 50007 Sir Edward Elgar in commemorative green livery, D200 (40122) in full green livery (with original BR totem) in 1986, 33025 in Engineers livery in 1995, a pair of EWS liveried Class 37s in 2003 (leading engine was 37042) and 67019 in EWS livery heading the Waverley Express in 2004.

Hale Signal Box and Signalling

Hale Signal Box (disused)

Photo of Hale signal box

The box at Hale resembles a Midland design (for which see the Airfix/Dapol Oakham signal box) but whereas almost all the Midland boxes were of all wood construction the box at Hale has a brick base (this is not simply a brick covering as was added to some boxes during World War Two to provide additional protection against bombing). Most boxes built by the CLC prior to 1904 had hipped roofs (with some gable roofed exceptions, including one or two on this line), the box at Hale is the standard hipped type. The signal box is located at the end of the to-Manchester platform, with the former 'gents' tucked in behind, so unlike many similar boxes there was on 'earth closet' and the steps were arranged down the side of the box, toward the platform edge, rather than leading away from the box. The stairs were wooden and were not boxed in in any way (although obviously there was a handrail).

I am not certain of the colours used on the signal box in CLC days however the MR used a yellowish cream for the woodwork with white window frames. In the BR era the original standard was red corner posts and beams, a cream colour called light biscuit for the panelling or planking, and white window frames. In the 1960s this changed to a rather military looking dark green in place of red for the corner posts and beams. In the BR era the name plate on the signal box (where fitted) would be an enameled metal plate with the regional colour background and the box name in white, this changed in the post 1964 'Corporate' colour scheme to a white metal plate with the name in black, however the basic building colours seem to have remained unaltered (Hale box today (2007) is still in the BR green and cream colours, as are the various signal boxes still in use at either end of Stockport station).

At the time of writing there is a rather interesting photograph of Hale level crossing, taken I believe in about 1905, on the web site of the Hale Civic Society . Click on the link for Origins of Hale Civic Society in the left hand menu. The picture is interesting in many ways, the box has no name plate on the front and the gates themselves are not as seen on most model railways. The gates are asymmetrical, each side having one long and one short gate, supported by tall rectangular posts about nine feet high for the longer end, seven feet at the shorter end. The taller posts carry a flattened pyramid capping stone above which rises a four foot cast metal post carrying a lantern or lamp (similar in appearance to the nearby gas street lights). On other crossings on the line there were four lanterns, one on each post as shown in the sketch. The gates themselves reach a height of about five feet above the roadway and in the photograph they do not appear to be painted white (they are rather darker than the posts, possibly red). There is a porter in the photograph standing by the gates, suggesting they are hand operated, but I believe his job was to stop traffic so the gates could be closed using a wheel mounted inside the signal box. I believe these asymmetrical gates remained in operation until the crossing changed to lifting barriers in the early 1980s. Also on the photo the platform mounted starter signal for the line to Chester can be seen, mounted on a very substantial (foot-square) signal post. In the background of the photo can be glimpsed Smedley's brewery, home of a brew known locally as 'Smedley's Purge'.

The road crossing was slightly unusual in that it was skewed and not at right angles to the tracks, so a little surgery would be required to use a commercial level crossing kit if the model is to be accurate. This may have some connection with the use of asymmetric gates but I am not sure about that. The centre sketch shows the gates as I remember them in the 1970s, I believe the large lantern mounted above the 'bullseye' on the longer gate was always painted red (this was certainly so in the 1970s). The bottom sketch below shows a standard pair of symmetrical gates, some of these had taller posts with angled rods similar to those on the longer Hale gates.

Level crossing gates at Hale station

Sketches showing 1905 and 1970 gate styles at Hale and standard symetrical gates

One of the problems with the old style level crossing gates was that the signalman had no means of stoping the traffic on the road, he had to wait for an appropriate moment to start closing the gates. This was one of the reasons for changing to lifting barriers, fitted with traffic lights and a warning siren, bell or horn. At first the barriers installed at Hale had an electric bell to indicate they were about to close, this was changed to a two-tone horn after complaints that people in the local pubs were fooled into thinking it was 'last orders'.

The signal box at the crossings in Hale did not control the goods yard, the points and ground signals used in the yard were operated from a ground frame in a hut about eight feet long by six feet deep with gabled roof located close by the connection with the running lines. The hut in the photo below was close by the ground frame but rather more substantially built, it may have served as a mess room for the yard staff. Note the tall signal beside it, the photo was taken in about 1984 shortly before the signals were replaced with BR standard types.

Tall signal mast at Hale in 1984

Tall signal mast at Hale in 1984

One curiosity at Hale was a 'sky signal' (a signal on a very tall lattice mast) on the Manchester side of the station beyond the cattle dock which could be seen my the driver of a train from Manchester coming round the curve and under the road bridge. This signal had a low-mounted repeater arm as it was very tall and would be difficult to see let alone read when the train drew close. Because of Health and Safety regulations all these tall masted signals were replaced by a standard British Railways upper quadrant semaphore on a nine foot tubular post in the mid 1980ís, and then the whole section was converted to colour light signalling in the early 1990ís.

The photo below shows the full-disc ground signal that used to control the cross-over at Hale in the early 1980s.

Ground signal at Hale in about 1984

Ground signal at Hale in about 1984

Hale signal box was finally closed in July 1991, at the same time as Altrincham North and Navigation Road boxes, under the SSI re signalling scheme for Deansgate Junction in preparation for Metrolink. Mobberley also lost its frame in favour of a panel at the same time.

I asked on the uk.railway newsgroup and Kevin Allsop advised there were photos of a similar box on - The base is slightly different but the basic design is the same and the interior does look very like my memory of the interior of the Hale box. One point though, as I remember it the Hale box had brown wooden cased instruments right to the end of its life, not the black BR plastic cased examples shown in the Mobberley box.

Passenger Facilities at Hale

There are two platforms, each long enough to take six Mk3 coaches (I counted the coaches of a diverted express held up at Hale en route to London). The original platforms were rather shorter, perhaps long enough for four coaches, but these were extended at some point. There were no bay platform facilities, although there is a track on the non goods yard side which could be made a bay if required by the modeller. This could be for providing a commuter service into Manchester and would use the single slip to cross onto the appropriate line at departure. In reality I believe this track served as both an end-loading dock and also a shunting spur to handle the rakes of horseboxes at the small cattle dock at busy times. Commuter traffic on the line was substantial into the 1970s and might reasonably justify a bay platform (especially if the services using the bay ran via Skelton Junction to Stockport and thence to Manchester). The main station buildings and the station masters house are on the Manchester platform, with the signal box beside the level crossing and the Gents tucked in behind this (the Gents had a series of large louvered openings on the outer wall, visible in the photographs). As the road crosses the line at an angle the Gents wall is also at an angle, adding some interest to the shape of the buildings.

Hale station main building and station master house

Photo of Hale station

At the opposite end of the main building from the signal box is the station masters house, built at an angle to the main buildings as the road outside curves at this point. The main station building has an angled end wall at this end as well, in line with the station masters house, so although there are four windows and a double entrance door on the street side there are five windows and two additional doors on the platform side.

Hale station main building platform side

Photo of Hale station Manchester platform side

On the Chester side there is a smaller but still substantial building and connecting the platforms is a steel lattice footbridge. Until about the 1970s this foot bridge was covered and it used to extend across the adjacent yard to the roadway. Although the area adjacent to the Chester platform is marked on maps as a coal yard there was (in about 1910) an extension to the platform canopy at the level crossing end, suggesting a facility for handling perhaps parcels or possibly milk churns. No trace of that extension now remains.

Hale station secondary building

Photo of Hale station Chester platform side

As noted above the footbridge originally had an additional span reaching across the yard to Victoria Road. Hence there are four supports at the end on the Manchester platform but on the Chester platform there were originally two supporting the stair side and a single support on the other side. When the bridge was shortened (in the later 1960s I believe) a simple steel girder was added to provide a fourth 'leg' at this point. I believe that the roof and side windows were removed from the footbridge at this time.

Hale station footbridge

Photo of Hale station footbridge

One curious feature is the ornate plate inserts at the ends of the span close by the stairs. There is a metal hoop at the foot of each staircase, mounted on raised posts. I suspect this originally supported a gas or oil lamp but today it has no function.

Hale station (line from Altrincham to Chester on the right)

Photo of Hale station, to-Chester side

Both platforms are equipped with ornate canopies which have remained well maintained to the present day. The photo below shows one of these as seen from the footbridge.

Hale station canopy

Photo of Hale station canopy from above

On the real canopy there is a distinct greenish tinge to the top side due to moss or something of that ilk growing on the glass. The tall wooden wall at the rear of the platform encloses the station masters garden.

Goods Facilities at Hale

According to the British Transport Commission's 1956 Station Handbook (see Links page, British Railways in the Manchester Area website) Hale was equipped to handle a considerable range of goods. This included General Goods Traffic, either accessed by road vehicles from sidings in the open or via the goods shed. The cattle dock was suitable for live stock such as cattle and sheep, the local polo club saw regular visits by horse boxes and I gather there was an occasional Prize Cattle Van.
Goods trains might also deliver Furniture Vans, Carriages, Motor Cars, Portable Engines and Machines, on Wheels. The crane, mounted inside the goods shed, could handle 5 ton loads. There was a coal yard by the station master house, and I have seen references to the area on the cattle dock side being used for coal (as shown on the sketch). The station also saw what the commission describes as; Passenger, Parcels and Miscellaneous Traffic including Carriages and Motor Cars by Passenger or Parcels Train. I can find no reference to an end-loading dock at Hale, however I believe the two tracks feeding the area marked 'coal yard' may be involved. I suspect that the shorter track may have run up to a raised area of ground, allowing for end-loading. This makes sense in that it would be eminently sensible as a 'carriage shoot'. The line that curves round the outside of this area may have been used for loading coal carts, I have seen a photograph of a local traders wagon at the end of that line (where the ground level is at track level.
The goods yard was closed in (I believe) 1968, traffic being passed to the yard at Altrincham.

Hale goods shed (in use as corporation depot mid 1980s)

Photos of Hale goods shed

I have only a couple of photos of the rear of the shed, difficult to photograph because of the trees and bushes along the road side opposite and the sun usually being on the far side. The example below is the best I could find, again taken after the Corporation had added the extension to one end of the building.

Hale goods shed rear elevation

Photo of Hale goods shed rear elevation

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