Hooton station is located on the former Birkenhead Railway, a joint railway owned by the Great Western Railway and the London and North Western Railway. The station was opened by the Chester and Birkenhead Railway, a constituent of the Birkenhead Railway, which opened on 23 September 1840 and was to become until 1967 the northern end of the GWR's main line from London Paddington to Birkenhead Woodside. A branch from Hooton to Helsby via Ince & Elton opened on 1 July 1863, and another branch to Parkgate (later extended to West Kirby) followed on 1 October 1866. In its heyday, the station had seven platforms. The West Kirby branch closed to passengers in 1956 and completely in 1962. The branch line trains frequently comprised a train of LMS coaches hauled by a GWR tank engine; there was also a gas-lit 'motor train' with a driver's compartment at the end of the carriage used when the train was running with the engine at the rear. The service to Helsby has been replaced by a couple of diesel "parliamentary" services between Ellesmere Port and Warrington Bank Quay, thus no longer serving Hooton; however the platform sign at Ince & Elton still displays Hooton and Helsby as the termini. The line connecting the former Birkenhead Railway with the Cheshire Lines Committee Railway at Mouldsworth via Helsby & Alvanley (east of the former wire works, now Tesco) has been abandoned since 1991.
Hooton's architecture is in the style of the Birkenhead Joint Railway, the brick-built station buildings being similar to those at Hadlow Road which date from 1866, rather than the rough-hewn Gothic style used at Little Sutton and Ellesmere Port stations from 1863. The original 1839 Birkenhead Railway was single track and few if any relics remain today along the route which was doubled in 1847 and widened to four tracks in 1891. The signalling and the signal boxes of Hooton North, a 90-lever box which closed on 9 December 1973, and Hooton South, a 128 and then 80-lever box which closed on 18 May 1985 and now replaced with a modern structure, were distinctly L&NWR. However, in spite of some local L&NWR (later LMS) trains and locomotives, it was very much Great Western territory - situated as it is near the end of the main line which earned that railway its major profits, even though it did not serve the rather more glamorous destinations with which the GWR liked to be, and generally is, associated.
From the 1850s until their withdrawal in 1967 there were regular through trains daily between London Paddington and Birkenhead Woodside, including a sleeper train, all of which were scheduled to call at Hooton: these trains carried boards along their carriage sides proclaiming "PADDINGTON BIRMINGHAM SHREWSBURY CHESTER & BIRKENHEAD". Between Birkenhead and Chester they would always be hauled by fast, powerful tank engines; between Chester and Wolverhampton a "Castle" would typically haul the train, and between Wolverhampton and Paddington a "King" (in the final years it would have been a Western Region diesel hydraulic). Each morning there was a train to Bournemouth (West) and a three-portion train, of green carriages provided by the Southern Region on alternate days, which travelled via Oxford and Reading to Redhill, where the Brighton portion was detached, thence to Ashford where it was split into a portion for Margate, and another for Dover, Deal and Sandwich. The summer timetable would typically include services to and from destinations on the Cambrian reached via Ruabon and Dolgelly (as Dolgellau was spelt by the railways at the time).
There was a cattle mart opposite the station, in use until the 1960s, with railway access parallel to the bay platform, then numbered Platform 1. Milk trains bound for the Black Country, Birmingham and London along the Great Western Main Line were assembled each evening on the then extensive sidings, and there was an extensive traffic of live cattle. Mr Parton of the Station Garage provided a taxi service with two luxurious black Packard limousines. Nowadays commercial premises occupy the site of the garage and the mart.
The Hooton Hotel, which is located adjacent to the station and the former cattle mart was briefly famous in the early 1960s as the place where workers from the newly established Vauxhall car factory were reputed to enjoy champagne rather than the more usual beer! Hooton handled a substantial trade in railway goods and parcels; even unaccompanied dogs (crated) could be sent in the care of the Guard who would attend to their needs en route. In the 1950s luggage was conveyed "PLA (Passengers' Luggage in Advance): if collected by the station lorry, transported and delivered the charge for a trunk was five shillings, if simply transported and delivered the charge was three shillings and ninepence. Among the passengers were frequently crates of homing pigeons: young ones might be sent only as far as Gobowen or Wellington for release by station staff, whilst more experienced birds were sent for release at destinations all over the former Great Western system, and indeed to Europe.
Hooton station is fully accessible. There is an induction loop, help points, toilets, lifts, MtoGo, shelters and lost property. Staff are available to help you from 15 minutes before the start of service until 15 minutes from the end of service. There is Car Parking with 418 spaces - please note that the large carpark at Hooton is run by the local council and so there are parking charges. A small number of free car parking spaces are at the front of the station, including 2 charge points. Cycle Racks with 14 spaces and Secure Cycle Parking with 40 spaces.
Trains between Chester and Liverpool operate every 15 minutes in each direction during weekdays, every 30 minutes in the evening and on Sundays. The Ellesmere Port/Liverpool service runs every 15 minutes during Monday-Friday peak hours and every 30 minutes at other times. Platform 3 serves northbound trains. Platform 2 serves trains for Chester and Ellesmere Port and its opposite face is Platform 1, a south-facing bay platform with electrified track used primarily for stabling. These platforms are all accessed by the overbridge/lifts. The booking office gives onto the fourth platform which is un-numbered; it was originally Platform 2 and is used primarily for loco-hauled rail-tour trains starting from and terminating at Hooton. The line serving it is not electrified, reverts to double track north of the road bridge, and continues northbound for some three-quarters of a mile. The original Platform 1, a bay serving the former Helsby branch adjacent to original Platform 2, has disappeared with re-modelling. Platform 7 was used by trains from the West Kirby branch bound for Birkenhead and lies abandoned and heavily overgrown, as is original Platform 6 which would form the other face of the present Platform 3 (formerly Platform 5) but for a central fence erected at the time of the re-modelling. Bus Connection Timetable.
Local Taxis 0151 355 1122, 01244 34 34 34
Connections: 2 (Chester to Neston Greenfields), 57 (to Neston Royal Oak) 58 (to Burton), 59,59A (Neston Royal Oak to Ellesmere Port)