Peter’s Gallery 2 – Trains, Boats and Planes

All photos on this page Copyright © Peter Spilsbury
In this section we look at buildings and buses. The descriptions are from Peter’s own notes, with additional notes from me where indicated.
See more of Peter’s photographs throughout the Making Tracks sections.

TRAINS – BANK QUAY 1971-1982

In the early hours of Sunday 5th September 1971, the three arches of Bank Quay bridge were dynamited by “blaster” Bates for British Rail’s electrification of the West Coast Main Line from Euston to Glasgow and Edinburgh (photo, above left). This was required to raise the bridge to provide the necessary clearance for the overhead wires. In this scene, taken a couple of months earlier, the driver of the diesel locomotive on the right looks back for a signal from the train’s guard, while a

Manchester to Chester diesel multiple unit approaches the station. A line of vans on the left completes the scene with the three arches in the background. The experimental Advanced Passenger Train (APT) shown in the second photo approaches the station on a test run from Carlisle on 11 June 1982. The modifications to the bridge can be seen in the background. Electric passenger services started in May 1974. you can see an APT at the Crewe Heritage Centre.

This photo is of the cattle pens just off Froghall Lane bridge. From soon after the railway came to Warrington, until the appearance of the motor lorry, cattle had arrived and departed by train from here, and herded to the town market. The ramp can still be seen behind the wire fence on the bridge and the pens are still there, although they cannot be seen because of the trees and bushes that have grown since this photo was taken on 13-6-82.

It would be nice to see this bit of Warrington’s history being restored. The road services vehicles of British Rail can be seen in the background (now the location of Aldi and Iceland stores)

Still on the railways, Warrington Central Station was opened by the Cheshire Lines Committee in 1873. The ticket office for Manchester was incorporated in the brick structure on that side. On the Liverpool side, seen here, they constructed a “temporary” wooden ticket office which lasted until the new entrance and booking hall was opened in 1983 (110 years). It was accessed by a flight of stairs from Winwick Street, with a tunnel linking to the Manchester stairs. Many’s the time I have joined the queue to file past the ticket office, handing in my half ticket on the way out. The photo was taken on 6-6-82.


The sand barge Mary P. Cooper collided with the coastal ship Foamsville on 21st March 1961. It took nearly six weeks to raise the sunken wreck and provided entertainment for sightseers.

Thames Board Mills. This view of the barges at Thames Board Mills was taken in 1974. This operation must have finished soon after. The concrete wharf can still be seen when walking along Chester Road.

This is Howley wharf in the early 1970’s. Part of it became the Mississippi Showboat club, which was burnt down on 2 March 2004. Bishops Wharf and Isherwood had a road haulage yard to the left of the warehouse. It must have been an interesting sight years ago when barges regularly came up this part of the river.

This is the motor barge PANARY by Fairclough’s Mill at Atherton Quay on 5th September 1977. Barges delivered grain here until Fairclough’s closed in about 1987. The tall building now has an eye painted on it on the other side. PANARY can still be seen from time to time at Frodsham Bridge. As a matter of interest, Crosfields had a ship, called LUX, that worked up the river from Liverpool to their factory. Peter remembers it passing Fiddlers Ferry in his early youth. It is now called SAFE HAND and still works around the Liverpool docks.

The two oil tankers here are sailing down the Manchester Ship Canal. On the left is Eluthera leaving Latchford Locks, whilst further up the Ship Canal is Superiority at Runcorn Docks (photo, right). Runcorn Dock has a history as a port stretching back to medieval times. During this period it was in competition with Chester to be the major port of Cheshire. In 1481, Chester was granted a monopoly on Cheshire trade with Ireland, stalling Runcorn’s growth.

And now some photos of RNLI boats

Lifeboat Week on the Isle of Man has the Douglas lifeboat ready to go (far left) and actually being launched in 1962. Even the rain did not put visitors off seeing the action.

In 1971 it was the turn of the Port Erin (left) and Ramsey lifeboats to face my camera.

RNLB William & Laura lifeboat from Newcastle, Northern Ireland, visited the Liverpool Maritime Museum during the city’s Parade of Sail week in 1986. The photograph was taken on 30th June.

On 5 June 1988 it was the turn of the New Brighton lifeboat to be on duty during the Parade of Sail.

Hoylake’s lifeboat took its turn at the Parade on 18 June 1989, with the Royal Iris in the background.

Fleetwood lifeboat 47-038 sailed up the River Wyre on 22 July 1990.

The ex-volunteer lifeboat Elizabeth Simpson, which being a volunteer boat did not belong to the RNLI, ties up at Great Yarmouth quay after taking passengers up Braydon Water to visit the mill there. She was launched on the River Yare after being built by Beeching Brothers in 1889.

She operated as a “wet” boat, being flooded to the gunnels and then rowed out to rescue. She retired in 1939 and became a passenger ship operation on the river until retiring in 1973. She is now laid up for restoration at Fakenham, Norfolk.


RAF Burtonwood was the name of the Royal Air Force station that used to be situated in the northwest of the town. The base opened in 1939 and covered an area of 1,471 acres, containing 18 miles of roadway and 13 hangars. During World War II it acted as a servicing centre for the American Air Force. By the end of the war there were 18,000 servicemen stationed there. Following World War II the station declined somewhat with numbers being reduced. The Americans left the station in 1965, but the US forces moved back there in 1967 and the site was developed into a storage and forward supply depot. The base provided service functions for the 1991 Gulf

War. It closed in August 1993. The M62 motorway now occupies part of the old runway. At present the site is being entirely demolished to make way for a new commercial development and the building of a new village called Chapelford.

In 1956 and 1957 Peter attended open days at the air base. Here he presents some of his photos from that visit. For those interested in the technical stuff, some were taken using a fixed exposure box camera, whilst others were taken using a Kodak Retinette camera without a rangefinder or exposure meter.

Douglas C47 Skytrain/Dakota. It featured two 1,200-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S1C3G Twin Wasp radial piston engines. Its maximum speed was 230 mph at a height of 23,200ft. Its length was 64 ft 5.5in and had a wing span of 95ft. This type of plane was used in the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49.

T-33A Shooting Star 53-5150 (35150). It was the first USAF jet trainer. Its range was 1,345 miles with a maximum speed of 600 mph. 7,000 of the type were built. Its length was 37ft 9in and it had a wing span 38ft 10.5in.

The Vickers Valiant B(PR)K WZ405 belonged to 207 Squadron based at Marham, Norfolk. It was the first of Bomber Command’s V class aircraft, and established Britain’s air-borne nuclear deterrent force before pioneering operational in-flight refuelling in the Royal Air Force.

Douglas C-124C Globemaster. It was used for long-range cargo and operated between 1925-1962. It featuring 4 Pratt & Whitney R-4360-63A engines, and had a range of 4,030 miles, with a top speed of 304 mph.

Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter. This was the cargo/transport version of the B-29 bomber. It had four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines of 3,500 hp. each and two General Electric J47s of 5,970 lbs. thrust each. Its crew consisted of a Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator, and a Flight Engineer. A height of 38ft 4in, length of 117ft 5in and a wing span of 141ft 3in gave it a maximum speed of 400 mph. They cost $1,205,000 each. The C-97 served in the Berlin Air Lift.

de Havilland Comet C2. The maiden flight of the type was 27 July 1949 and it was Britain’s first commercial jet airliner. They had 7 fuel tanks – later versions had 9. The Comet 2 featured Rolls-Royce Avon engines and were allocated to the RAF and assigned to No. 216 Squadron.

Boeing B-47 Stratojet No. 17045. It was never based at Burtonwood, just visiting this day for the Open House. It was introduced in 1951 and cost $1.9million each. It was primarily designed for penetrating the Soviet Union. Length was a 107ft 1in in and it had a wing span of 116ft. Maximum speed was 607 mph.

The Blackburn Beverley was a medium range military freighter built here in the United Kingdom. It flew with a crew of four and had four Bristol Centaurus 173 or 273 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engines of 2,850 hp (2,125 kW). It was 99ft 5in long, had a wing span of 162ft and flew at a maximum speed of 238mph, attaining a height of 5,700ft.

Douglas C-47D Skytrain. it weighs in at 15,326 lb with a wing span of 95 ft and a speed of 150 mph. A large order was placed in 1940 for the military DC-3, which was designated C-47 and became known as “Skytrain,” a name it would soon be asked to live up to. It was powered by two 1,200-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S1C3G Twin Wasp radial piston engines, with a maximum speed of 230 mph and a range of 2,125 miles.

Fairchild C-119C Boxcar 37844. It featured Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines. Maximum speed was 296 mph and its range was 2,280 miles. The type first flew in 1947. The C-119 was a redesign of an earlier Fairchild transport design, the C-82 Packet, which was built for the USAF between 1945 and 1948.

de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk. It was developed just after World War II to replace the Tiger Moth. It had one 145-hp de Havilland Gypsy Major 8 inline piston engine, a length of 25ft 5in and a wing span of 34ft 4in. Top speed was 138 mph at sea level and a range of 280 miles. It is seen here with a Gloster Javelin FAW4 XA 631, described next.

Gloster Javelin FAW4 XA631 was an all weather fighter of No. 23 Squadron from RAF Coltishall, Norfolk. It is a fighter designed by George Carter and the maiden flight was on 26 November 1951. There were 10 versions of the javelin and this fourth version was one of 50 manufactured. The two crew members were the pilot and a radar operator. It was 56ft 9in in length, had a wing span of 52ft and was powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 7 turbojet engines.

de Havilland Vampire T11 XK584. They were powered by One 3,350-pound thrust D.H. Goblin 3 turbojet. A wing span of 38ft and a maximum take-off weight of 12,390lbs added to its maximum speed of 548 mph and a range of 1,229 miles. The first version of the model was first flown in 1943 with Geoffrey deHavilland at the controls, although it didn’t see active service until 1946.

The Hawker Hunter F6 XF527 was part of 19 Squadron and was based at Church Fenton in Yorkshire. It was powered by one Rolls Royce Avon RA.28 engine of 10,000 lb thrust. Its speed was Mach 0.95 (just below the speed of sound). It featured the ability to carry a wide range of under wing stores such as bombs and rockets and equipped 19 RAF squadrons.

North American B-45A Tornado 47-087. It was a light bomber and photo reconnaissance aircraft and had a top speed of 550 mph. It was powered by four 5,200 lb static thrust General Electric J476-GE-15 turbojets giving a bombing load of 20,000 lbs. Its maiden flight was on 17 March 1947, and it was introduced into service on 22 April 1948. The unit cost was $1.1 million.

Douglas B-66B Destroyer BB302 (5032). It was designed by Ed Heinemann and the maiden flight took place in 1954. It entered service in 1956 and was retired in 1973. 72 models were built. It had a crew of 3 and flew at a maximum speed of 631 mph. Its length was 75ft 2in and the wing span measured 72ft 6in. It could climb at a rate of 5,000ft/min.


The RAF has recruiting exhibitions from time to time but this one was a bit unusual. This Gnat trainer was displayed on the Town Hall lawn when I took its picture on 7-5-76. There was also a Bloodhound missile on show as well.

A Steam Engine Party was held in Victoria Park on 11-5-86. Among the dozen or so engines was this Aveling & Porter roller belonging to Fred Dibnah, who can be seen at the controls (possibly with the help of a member of the family). A heavy shower dampened the show a bit but the sun came out as they were making their way home.

Addition from Gordon: I met Fred Dibnah on 17 April 1994 when he visited Greenings factory on Bewsey Road to blow up the old chimney. One spectator, unaware of Fred’s sense of humour, asked what time the chimney was coming down. Fred replied, “Five to 12”. “How can you be so precise?” asked the spectator. “Because the pub opens at 12”, said Fred. Five to 12, BANG, one chimney down and one Fred Dibnah supping his pint of best Greenall’s five minutes later!


The name and plaque from the old fire station
in Queen Street in the centre of town. Golden Square shopping centre is on the spot now.

The plaque is now outside the current fire station on Winwick Road.

Thanks to Cheshire Fire Brigade for assistance on the day.

Display of fire appliances at the front of the station in Winwick Road.

A water tender leaving the station and crossing Winwick Road (L968 TFM, 1994).

The foam tender and its equipment. This appliance is useful at oil and petrol spillage accidents.

A demonstration of the hydraulic lift using the training tower (ML02 MTJ).

No one is in the wet suit, it is just part of the display of equipment that accompanies the Chinook rigid inflatable and its towing vehicle (DK56 JYP).

Hazard Management Unit (DK52 VZG) is one of the vehicles that attend traffic accidents on roads and motorways.

This 1954 Dennis F2 engine, NED 146, once worked for Joseph Crosfields & Sons, and was garaged at their fire station on Liverpool Road. It is now looked after by the Cheshire fire and rescue service at their headquarters at Winsford. Its registration gives its affectionate name of NED.