Not just for train spotters ! This page shows the kind of trains you can expect to find operating your service on the Walkden line.
There are three different types of train used on services from Walkden, all of them are Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) ranging from 20 to 24 years old.
The infamous class 142 is based on a Leyland National bus body and was built by British Rail Engineering Ltd at Derby between 1985-87. The Pacer was British Rail's attempt to obtain a low-cost, light-weight unit that could reduce running costs and "wear and tear" on secondary lines around the country. Judged against these objectives alone the design could be said to have been successful - indeed some credit the class with having saved routes that might otherwise have been closed - but the class has never been popular with the travelling public due to the limited leg room, poor quality seats, shuddering ride and high noise levels.
Concerns have also been raised about the protection offered to customers by a class 142 in case of an accident. One collision at Winsford in 1999 caused particular alarm due to the way the unit's body became separated from its undercarriage, but the Pacers continue to be certified for use and look set to remain in service for a few years yet.
Having inherited Pacers from predecessors First North Western, as well as taking them in from other operators around the country, Northern Rail have an on-going programme to refurbish and repaint all their Pacers into Northern Rail colours at Newton Heath depot in Manchester. By February 2009, only a handful of "rogue" Pacers remain in non-Northern colours.
Like their smaller cousins the Pacers, class 150 trains were built between 1984 and 1987 by British Rail Engineering Ltd. Class 150's, with their sturdier, longer bodies, were intended for longer distance journeys while the 142's were designed for shorter trips. Sprinters and Pacers now make up almost all trains from Walkden. Compared to Pacers the 150's offer more space and a superior quality of ride.
Some units (called class 150/2) have connecting doors built into the front of the train so passengers and guard can move between the units when several units are coupled together. The units without connecting doors are called 150/0's.
With longer bodies and table seating, the class 156 is as good as it gets from Walkden, although these inter-urban trains are only seen a few times a day.
Class 156's were built between 1987 and 1989 by Metro-Cammell in Birmingham for the Regional Railways "cross-country" division of British Rail. Their longer bodies provide a smoother ride and more comfortable accommodation than either the Pacers or Sprinters, but having just a single sliding door at the end of each carriage means they can be slow to board or disembark their passengers on busy commuter services. However, this is just about the only disadvantage to these trains and their arrival is generally welcomed by passengers at Walkden !
As the Walkden line is a common diversionary route for trains bound north-west from Manchester, it is occasionally visited by different types of trains. The most common amongst these are Class 185 "Desiro" trains operated by Trans-Pennine Express. The Desiro's are modern, 100-mph diesl multiple units built by Siemens in Germany in 2006, although the Walkden line speed limits mean they barely achieve half their full speed on this route.
Diverted Desiro's have been known to excite expectations of a modern train from passengers waiting at Walkden, but unfortunately they don't stop on their way through !
The Walkden line has been used as diversionary route for many years, resulting in some interesting sights when Newcastle-Liverpool expresses were operated by Class 55 "Deltics" during their final years of use on mainline services.
The picture below was taken on an overcast day in June 1981 and shows 55 015 Tulyar thundering past the old signal box en route to Manchester Victoria and Newcastle.