The past year has finally seen a gradual rollout of Merseyrail’s brand new state-of-the-art trains following seven years of anticipation since the bid for a contract was held.
Inevitably, however, this means that the fate of the old class 507 trains has been sealed; a one-way ticket to retirement and scrapping.
First brought into service in 1978, the class 507 trains have served Merseyside for 45 years. They kept the city moving when the Giants took over town , they have shipped Santas across Merseyside for their annual Liverpool dash, they were there to keep the ball rolling for the Royal Liverpool Golf Open, but most important of all, who hasn’t taken a trip on one at least once?
What makes the trains even more impressive is their scarcity. Only three other cities across the UK have a commuter train and metro network like Merseyside does, those being London, Glasgow, and Newcastle.
It is something unique to our heritage and is only supported by the fact that the train line includes the oldest ‘deep-level’ stations on Earth.
Out of respect for their service, rail enthusiasts have banded together to save one of the trains in particular; the 507001.
As stated on their website, they believe it would be the best to preserve considering it was the first, and could likely be one of the last to face withdrawal from usage.
Most interestingly though, it was the train that served Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II from Moorfields to Kirkby, five days before the fleet’s introduction.
The Class 507 Preservation Society, chaired by rail enthusiast Robert Hampton, who contributed towards the successful predecessor ‘Friends of the 502 Group’, was founded in October of 2023, and has reached 180 members on their mailing-list so far.
They have laid out a seven-step plan, which is as follows:
- Publicise the campaign.
- Hold an initial meeting.
- Contact the company which owns the unit to discuss a purchase.
- Identify a place of storage.
- Raise funds and transport the unit.
- Restore the train.
- Display the train, possibly by operating a heritage route.
In an interview, Robert states that they have contacted Angel Trains, the owner of the unit, and Merseytravel, who were very happy to see somebody come forward about the issue and are very much on board.
Robert Hampton said, “Angel Trains have basically said that they are happy to give the train away to anybody who can come up with a credible plan for it… the onus is on us to convince them.”
Currently, the five people on the project’s committee are working to find an appropriate storage place, where they can renovate the train and to buy time to flesh out long-term goals, “We’ve approached a lot of places, heritage railways, museums… A lot of them have knocked us back straight away.”
Despite their struggles, they have recently come into contact with somewhere which has expressed interest in holding the train.
Robert claims that they are also continuing to establish a further level of support, especially considering that the question of how they will transport the train to storage is on the horizon, “Once we’ve found somewhere to keep it, then we can start the process of fundraising… The big expense is to get the train moved… it’s a three-coach train, each coach is 20 metres long, we’ve been quoted £5,000 per coach.”
He moved on to discussing how they have attempted to get the word out, being present at the Wirral Transport Show, and being featured in the Railway Press and similar railway magazines.
When asked about their plans for the future of the train, Robert mentioned how ideally, they would operate it on a designated heritage railway as mentioned in the seven-step plan. It would allow people “get on board and actually see what rail travel used to be like around Liverpool and Merseyside”.
This poses a problem, however. Most heritage railways lack an electrified third rail as they mainly host steam or diesel trains, so there would be no way to power the electric class 507 train. To combat this, they have considered fitting a battery, or towing it with a diesel locomotive.
If you are interested in reading about the project further, donating time or money to help the cause, or signing up for their newsletter, consider visiting their website at the link below. Time is running out, as it is likely the final trains of the type will be scrapped by the middle of 2024. https://www.class507.org.uk/
North-west musician Tim Blackburn is doing his bit to help save 507001 by donating profits from sales of his latest song to the Class 507 Preservation Society.
The song is called “Yellow and Grey” and was inspired by the classic trains following his journey on one of them along Merseyrail’s Wirral Line.
Tim Blackburn, who records under the name “Mistrust” has released the song on both limited-edition CD and digital download. The CD is available in two different versions – “heritage” blue and grey cover and disc label, and “traditional” yellow and grey cover and label.
Buy or Download “Yellow and Grey” at https://mistrust.bandcamp.com or at HMV in Liverpool and Warrington.