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Wakes Weeks Special Holiday Trains

B.R. Mismanagement of LancashireTown Holiday Traffic


First published in NOVEMBER, 1963 in Railway World


THE L.Y.R. and subsequently theL.M.S.R. made lavish provision for the peak summer Town Holiday traffic of Lancashire. The practice of Lancashire and West Riding towns of closing down for a week led to a mass exodus of the population from each town in turn, and meant that for eight weeks a full programme of outward-bound trains set out on Friday night and Saturday, to return one week later. Since the motorcar was the perquisite of only a few, the peaks of holiday traffic were far greater than today.

Peaks, we are now told, are always unprofitable—and the present holiday peak decidedly so. But in years past the railway companies not only catered for the peaks but actively encouraged them; and they were trading companies out for profit. Why is it that the much more severe peaks of times past were profitable to the private companies, but that they are not so, it seems, to British Railways? The truth seems to be that successful operation of Town Holiday Traffic calls for imagination and energy, which the present management seems unwilling to exercise.

As long as millworkers received one week's holiday there was little difficulty; trains went out the first weekend and returned on the second weekend. However, since 1945 two weeks holiday has become the rule; and no solution to this problem has been forthcoming from British Railways. Every year (and with only two exceptions) the railways management have ignored the second week's holiday and continued as before: all trains run outward on the first weekend, and all return on the second weekend. For people who wanted to go away for the whole fortnight—not an insignificant number by any means—an outward service was run; but they had no return at all. For the people who wanted to go away only for the second week, nothing at all was run. This is all very well only so long as people only go away for one week, but with fares as high as £8 to Newquay for one adult, who can afford to travel by train for only one week ? The rail fare bill for a

single family can easily exceed £30.

For this the passenger has been treated to an overnight journey completely without refreshment facilities of any kind, in stock that is often dirty, at an average speed little better than that of a stage coach. The return journey is made by day, but the inevitable underpowering of these trains by the L.M.R. has made for the slowest journeys imaginable.

For years the only exceptions to the general rule have been Stockport, Ashton and Rochdale. These three towns can be served by the same trains travelling via the Oldham, Ashton and Guide Bridge line and a full programme of outward bound trains has been run on the first weekend, a reduced programme of outward trains for the second weekend, a reduced return programme on the second weekend and a full return programme on the third weekend. Surely this has always been the most sensible solution for all towns? Even so, there were some anomalies; the Bournemouth service ran outward on the first weekend and returned the second weekend, but there was nothing on the third weekend. The reason for this unique treatment appears to have been that Rochdale alone observed the second week of the fortnight as the major week, i.e. those going for one week only would go in the second week; everywhere else—Ashton and Stockport included—regarded the first week as the major week.

A combination of recession in the cotton and textile machinery industries, astronomical fares, unattractive facilities and energetic road competition has caused Town Holiday traffic to decrease severely. As late as 1959 there were three Paignton trains, two on Friday and one on Saturday morning, for the Stockport, etc., fortnight. In 1962 this was down to one only and Rochdale holidays in 1963 could muster only half a train combined with coaches for Newquay.

The crowning blunder happened in 1963 when Rochdale changed the holiday fortnight from August to June 15-29.

The railway management then decided that a full fortnight's programme could no longer be afforded for Rochdalians and that they would have to toe the line with a single week—like all the rest, the first week. For the expenditure of a piece of notepaper, envelope and a 3d. stamp Hunts Bank (or Euston) could have contacted the local Chamber of Commerce, when they would have learned that the shops in Rochdale would close completely for the second week, not the first week. The programme of special trains could then have been drawn up for the second week, when all the single-week holidaymakers would be away.

The result of picking the wrong week was foreseeable. At the end of the first week, a return relief from Paignton bound for Castleton not surprisingly was terminated at Bristol because there were fewer than ten passengers on board. A relief from North Wales was cancelled, and a portion off the Newquay-Manchester ran as empty stock because there was no one on it.

The second week of the Rochdale fortnight coincided with the beginning of Oldham and Accrington holidays. A full outward programme was arranged and without exception these trains (e.g. for Eastbourne, Yarmouth, London, Paignton, Newquay and Bournemouth) passed through Rochdale. The only one the local railway officials at Rochdale could persuade Hunts Bank to stop at Rochdale was the Portsmouth. The reason given was likely overloading if the others called at Rochdale. My information is that any of them could have accommodated 50 more passengers. Some were half empty. Similarly Saturday's trains for shorter distances were not allowed to serve Rochdale.

Even after evidence of poor outward loadings few of the return trains for Oldham and Accrington, though passing through Rochdale, were allowed to stop there. These return trains were particularly badly loaded because they catered only for Oldham and Accrington people who had been away for one week only; no trains were run for those who had gone away for two weeks from those towns, although that weekend a full programme was provided for Bolton holidaymakers who had been away for only one week. A slight diversion could have made the returning Bolton trains also serve Oldham for fortnight holidaymakers. Bolton's fortnight holidaymakers (again totally ignored) could easily have been served by slight diversions of the returns provided for Bury and Colne week trippers. So it went on throughout the summer. A little imagination could have filled all the extras by making them serve the fortnight holidaymakers of other towns as well as the first-week-only people.


Photo 1. British Railways Standard Class 5MT number 73036 is seen in the down loop at

Castleton on the Saturday of Rochdale Holiday week.   In a few minutes time it will

draw into Castleton station bound for Paignton.  It will call at Rochdale and most

stations on the Oldham line. RS Greenwood


Photo 2. Fowler Class 4 Tank 42322 and Jubilee number 45643 "Rodney" are on a returning

holiday train from Eastbourne for all stations on the Oldham line to Castleton on 22

August 1959 before the local holidays were changed from August to June, seen

between Royton Junction and Shaw.


Photo 3. A Pen-y-Chain to Castleton returning holiday train 18 August 1962

behind a Royal Scot class 46138 "Royal Warwickshire Regiment" near Dunlop

Mill, Castleton.   Royal Scots were supposed to be banned from the Oldham line but this one

managed to avoid the ban.   Pen-y-Chain was the station for a Butlins Holiday Camp at



Photo 4. A double header, Stanier Tank number 42623 and Black Five 45381

between New Hey and Milnrow stations with a return holiday train from Bournemouth to

Castleton.  Ellenroad Mill is prominent in the background.  25th August 1964.


Photo 5. This time it's a diesel, a Metrovick Co-Bo D5714 seen at Shaw with a return holiday

train from Morecambe to all stations on the Oldham line.


Contact Information


Meeting Place: Woolworths Social Club
Gipsy Lane
OL11 3HA

Meeting times

1st Tuesday of each month at Woolworths Club, Gipsy Lane, Castleton, Rochdale OL11 3HA.