Amusement parks, theme parks, ride photography

Southport Lakeside Miniature Railway

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Originally built by G.V. Llewellyn in 1911 the Southport lakeside miniature railway has been operating for nearly 100 years on the site alongside the marine lake in Southport. The first train ran on the 25th may 1911 when the railway was called Llewellyn’s miniature railway after the builder and creator, this was later renamed to the Southport lakeside miniature railway as it’s known today.


The original route was a straight line which was extended in 1938 to add a sharp turn under the pier into the second station on the line the Marine Parade Station. The original station at this end of the line was called Princess Park which was closed when the extension and Marine Parade stations were built.

The materials for the line were supplied by Bassett-lowke a toy company based in Northampton who was established in 1899, the bassett-lowke brand name was bought by the famous model company Corgi in 1996 and railway locomotive products were relaunched by Corgi in 1999 at which point Bassett-lowke would have been 100 years old.


I have lots of memories of this railway as a family we would visit Southport every summer and spend a few hours on Pleasureland and take a trip on the miniature railway.

 

Lets take a look at how the railway is looking today

 

 

 

The main station as viewed from Pleasureland. I can remember back to when you bought tickets for the railway from the turnstile on the right hand side, this has been closed for a number of years now and these days tickets for the railway are purchased on the train. The fare for 2009 is £1.50 one way and £2 return.

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On the platform looking back at the entrance way above.

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Today the signage around the area is looking a bit washed out.

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The main platform. I haven’t seen the line on the left operate for some time, can anyone confirm if this is still used, it certainly doesn’t look overgrown.

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Looking back to the entrance from the top of the platform.

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One of the storage sheds on the left hand side.

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The Southport Miniature railway also operate a second engine, which I can only assume runs when the Miniature railway is busy. The shots below were taken on a busy day for the railway the passenger carriages were extended to almost double the previous size.

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Train in the second station

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The Marine Parade Station.

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Signals

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A view from the roadside looking at the station.

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Again another shot from the second station

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A look down at the second station

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This shot is taken from a footbridge over the track.

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A shot taken from above showing the track going of toward the main station.

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Bridge just before pulling into the Marine Parade station – which can be seen in the distance.

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A longer range shot of the bridge above adorned with graffiti

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A view from the train this time, going under the bridge shown in the above photographs.

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I seem to have an obsession with this bridge.

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At this point the train has cleared the bridge above and its in the distance of the shot below just around the corner.

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Moving quickly toward the main station, this is a shot from the rear of the train.

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Southport Marine left is on the right hand side of the shot below.

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Coming into the main Pleasureland station.

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A view from the Pleasureland station showing the trains maintenance areas on the left hand side.

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One of the maintenance areas.

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And the second.

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I would recomend this railway to anyone who has some spare time while visting Southport as it really is a gem. If you would like to contribute to this article or have any amendments you feel are factually correct then please get in touch via the contact form I would love to hear from you. Im not a railway enthusiast so any additional information is more than welcome.

Thanks for reading

There Are 17 Responses So Far. »

  1. WOW !!! This is a superb set of photographs.

  2. Thanks Jim, it was a nice set to shoot to. It helps if its a subject you are interested in.

  3. Fantastic photos as ever Paul!

    I love this railway. It’s short, sweet and packs a punch when it comes to speed as well.

    Last time I rode it I noticed it was sponsored by a local paper.

    Anyone notice the sign just before you turn the corner under the bridge that marks out the original end of line?

    All railway enthusiasts and day trippers and tourists should ride this gem!

    Cheers Paul for putting these great photos up on RM and drawing people’s attention to a classic attraction.

    Long may this miniature railway prosper!

    Gary

  4. Cheers Gary thanks for the comment. Yes its sponsered by the local reporter (i think) . I did consider paying for ridemad.com to be advertised on the station for the season, it would have been a waste though as the site isnt that commercial. purely for novelty value 😉

  5. Hi

    I Noticed this article a few weeks back, some great shots of the railway, i done some work here in 2008, including restoring some of those carraiges that you see in the siding, which is why there is not a full set there.

    You asked on how the second platform hasnt been used in a while but is not overgrown, i can confirm that the platform does not get used anymore, the reason for this is that Lakeside dont have the need to use it, reason being the only ever run one train no matter how busy it is now(they simply add more coaches to the train running), in its “Day” Lakeside would run up to three trains at once.

    As some of the photos taken suggest the railway still does get busy. Jenny (blue engine) cannot haul more than the standard two or three coaches, meanwhile golden jubilee can haul six, so at busy times at the railway, all we simply did was change engines.

    I am sorry i cannot update you more than that, I last visited around august 2009, so i am unsure of the current situation lakeside is in, but as you can tell from some of your photos, some parts of the railway are in a bit of a state, e.g. graffiti on bridges and the station sign falling to peices & whilst i was working there in the 2008 season there was parts down the line were the youth could easily gain entry onto the railway.

    Thankyou for posting these photos, i am glad to see people still take an interest in the railway.

    Cheers

    Alex

  6. I was born and bred in Southport. It is such a pity That it is not as cared for as it used to be. It looks like it needs a good tidy up and all thar grafiti. Shame there just is not the care anymore.Sould never have gone into Mersyside.

  7. A very interesting set of photos of a line I knew well as a child in the 1950s – early 1960s. It does look rather run-down but I think the present owners are doing their best to maintain and improve it, e.g. the new locomotive. No doubt the closure of Pleasureland is another problem for them. The line has an important place in the history of 15″ gauge railways (like Rhyl, centenary next year!) though there are lot of discrepancies in the published and Wikipedia accounts of its history, e.g. the dates of the Marine Drive extension and the new engine shed. I’d like to get to the bottom of some of these. Let’s hope there may be a return to steam for a centenary event in 2011!

  8. Hello. I too was born and bought up in Southport and my Grandma used to take me on this railway on many occasions.
    In later years, the railway was bought by a friend of mine, John Spencer, Sadly John is no longer with us. He owned the big Cafe in the middle of Pleasureland. I used to work in the cafe at weekends and when John bought the railway I went working on that. I was as happy as could be on the occasions I got to drive the train. Sadly all deisel, No steam!

    My friend, Dennis Ellis and I laid a phone cable from one end of the railway to the other to enable the two ticket offices’ to communicate. That was over 30 years ogo, and as far as I know, the phones are still working!

    John sold the railway a few years ago and retired. I visited the railway a couple of years ago and spoke to the new owner. I am afraid I can’t remember his name.

    As the photographs suggest, the railway has run down a lot. When Southport council sold the Pleasureland complex, it remained open for a couple of years, run by the same company that runs Blackpool pleasure beach.

    After a couple of years, they decided it was not a profitable venture and the fair closed. Southport council then sold the site for development.

    As soon as the site was sold, demolition started, with the wooden cycalone being destroyed first. It was then found that the land where the fair stood, had been donated to the town many years previously, with the proviso that it was always kept for entertainment purposes. The upshot of that was that the council had illegally sold the land for commercial development.

    Unfortunatly the damage was done and the trade was lost, the knock on effect being the railway lost many custmers.

    The children’s fairground at the other end of the line had closed many years ago (it’s now a shopping area), and the railway has suffered greatly.

    Pleasureland has reopened with a new owner who is making valient efforts to frestore the fair and visitors are once again coming to the railway.

    There is a children’s farm near Burscough, outside Southport. It’s called Windmill farm and they have a miniature railway there. Last time I visited I noticed that they had a couple of the diesel engines from the Lakeside railway, along with other items of rolling stock and its well worth a visit. A lot of the items are inside in a small minimature railway museum. The trains are always running and at weekends – STEAM!!!

    Please forgive me for this overlong ‘note’ but I thought Iwould share a few of my many happy memories of the Lakeside Miniature Railway. It is a shame that commercial interest helped it’s demise.

    Regards,

    Frank Hope.

  9. i have today been shown a collection of old postcards and photos dating back to 1911 of LMR including when it was in Lellwellyns ownership.I was given to keep for myself some of the photos which go back to 1922.

  10. I remember the Lakeside Miniature Railway from my boyhood in Southport during World War II. The railway then extended only from Pleasureland (closed during the war) to the Pier. The extension around the curve was not put in until after I left in 1946. There were no runaround loops then; the trains ran push-pull. At the pier end there was just a single platform, so when two trains were running, they alternated from the two platforms at Pleasureland. I remember seeing the additional siding at Pleasureland being put in.

    In the early 1940s there was a fire in the engine shed. I remember seeing pictures in the local paper (probably the Southport Visiter) of the damaged engines.

  11. I have just aquired a postcard of this miniture railway showing two steam tender engines on a “double header” at Princes Park station(circa early 1900’s?) They have been hand coloured in red with brass domes and safety valve covers. The station is in immaculate condition with raised flowerbeds. Unfortunately the card has a crease acrss the R/H side, but I’m sure it will copy OK if you would like to see it.
    I had to do a search on ‘Google’ as I had never heard of Llewelyns M.R. and luckily was directed to your excellant site. I am now going to explore the rest of the site!
    Best wishes,
    John Phillips(Wiltshire)

  12. Hi John,
    Thanks for your comments, I would love to see it thanks. If possible I would like to include it on the site, I would of course give you full credit for the image, so often gems like this are lost over time.

    It took me a while to get some decent history on the railway.

    Thanks again for the comments
    Paul

  13. Thanks Paul for quick response. I will have a go at copying the postcard in the next few days and send it on to you. cheers, John.

  14. I came across these photos and never realised what a joy it was to look through them and remember how it used to be in Southport. I have very fond childhood memories of the railway and how the area used to look before long before the cinema and retail complex moved in. Back then it was a real playground for children and both this and the fairground never failed to delight on every visit. Such a gem for the town and Lancashire but unfortunaltey lost.

  15. I have fond childhood memories of the railway and went on it as often as I could when I was visiting from my home town of Blackburn. I agree with comments about how tired the place is looking now and I have offered my voluntary services to help out with litter picking and some DIY, painting the benches and getting rid of some of the graffiti, so far my offer has not been taken up but its early days and Im hopeful. It woud be a good use of some of my time now I am retiring and the railway could use some TLC

  16. The railway has undoubtedly suffered with the gradual decline of the area and attractions around it but the situation today is very different and arguably it’s the Lakeside Miniature Railway that stands out as a barely operational eyesore.

    I’m not going to pretend that Southport is as popular a tourist destination as it was in decades past but unlike a local of seaside towns across England the damage has not been permanent and there has been a fair amount of investment.

    There a lot of fond memories around for the railway but it’s been in such a state and limited operation over the last few years that many can only assume that the owners are waiting for someone to buy them out for big money if and when a major development occurs on the Pleasureland site. The local press have repeatedly run stories of financial ruin and other local businessmen have publicly expressed interest in running the railway but the follow-up from the owners, despite it being a rarity to see it open even in the height of the summer holidays, is always that everything is business as usual. At the moment, given the level of redevelopment and investment around it, it’s a missed opportunity with hundreds of thousands of visitors seeing the ghostly presence of the Marine Parade Station from the park, pier and Ocean Plaza and wondering if any trains ever arrive (or depart) from its weed and graffiti infested platforms.

    I also feel I need to correct/add opinion to Frank Hope’s comments made in 2010.

    First the matter of Pleasureland. Blackpool Pleasure Beach did indeed take exclusive control of ride operations in the late 90s and then all concessions by the early 2000s but I think it’s unfair to put this in a totally negative light. If anything the railway benefited from a continual upsurge in visitors that occurred as millions were invested in the site, not only in major attractions but in a gradual transformation of the facilities from that of a rickety funfair to a modern themepark.

    In the years prior to closure Sefton Council had signed a long-term lease with the Pleasure Beach company to expand Pleasureland over the now closed Southport Zoo site (which also closed in the early 2000s) and through part of Princess Park to Ocean Plaza, increasing the total size of Pleasureland by over a third. This was to be part of an investment totalling several million.

    Unfortunately, as has happened a few times with major developments in the town, bad luck struck with the death of Geoffrey Thompson the chairman of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. While Southport’s fortunes were on the rise as a day-trip destination Blackpool’s were nosediving and it was no secret that visitors to the Pleasure Beach were in steady decline. Geoffrey saw greater potential in the Southport site as a self-contained themepark compared with the sprawling running costs of the Pleasure Beach, which he was rumoured to be looking for foreign investment to keep afloat. Sadly his death saw a complete reverse in direction by the company who under the leadership of Geoffrey’s daughter took a strategic decision at the end of the 2006 summer season to close Pleasureland. Business as a whole for the Pleasure Beach company was on the wane, albeit largely caused by the albatross of the Blackpool operation, but the Southport site was effectively sacrificed to save the homeland.

    No effort was made to try to sell Pleasureland, either to another investor or back to the council, for the very simple reason of not wanting a ready-made competitor in close proximity. The closure itself was therefore tantamount to scuttling the ship with a scorched earth policy of damage intentionally and permanently waged against the site in the following weeks by the Pleasure Beach company before Sefton Council could act, legally or otherwise. It wasn’t just the fixed rides such as The Cyclone that had axes taken to them. Cranes were put through the roofs of any buildings. Toilets were smashed. Anything of worth was ripped unceremoniously away. Even the electrical substations were destroyed to prevent proper power to the site. Eventually Sefton Council won a settlement following a multi-million-pound claim against Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the damage they waged.

    Following this Sefton Council did put the site up for development but alas this was just as the financial crisis of 2008 was kicking in and so unsurprisingly the site has remained as it is after the proposed tenant, some unspecified eco-attraction, never got off the drawing board.

    The current ‘New’ Pleasureland is a shadow of what it once in terms of rides but the Norman Wallis, the operator, has made great efforts to tidy what started as a derelict husk with travelling rides to something that is closer to the original funfair. It’s nowhere near as busy as Pleasureland used to be but it’s still bringing in the punters during the holidays. The King’s Gardens and Marine Lake area has recently been subject to a £5m restoration project that restored some of the former Victorian glory. Southport’s Swimming Baths saw a multi-million-pound investment to became Splashworld.

    The Marine Parade Station side was surrounded by dereliction and decay for most of the 90s. Peter Pan’s Playground closed in the early 90s (irrespective of Wikipedia claiming it was the late 80s!) and hadn’t seen so much as a lick of paint let alone new attractions in decades. Southport Pier was literally falling apart and was in a very sorry state until finally being closed for renovation at the turn of the millennium. The nearby Marine Bridge had been condemned for years but was left to rot as an eyesore. The former public Outdoor Swimming Baths, Model Boating Lake, Aquarium and a few Cafes had long closed or in little more than vandalised ruin.

    Now the station is within the Ocean Plaza entertainment, hotel and shopping complex which is highly popular throughout the year. Southport Pier was completely refurbished and again carries reasonable foot traffic throughout the year. The old Marine Bridge has been replaced and there have been major developments to the nearby Southport Theatre including the addition of a Ramada Plaza. We have a sea wall that prevents the frequent flooding that used to occur!

  17. Thank you for sharing your comments sandgrounder, excellent response.

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