Rail first arrived in Irlam in 1873, but the station was resited in 1893 to accommodate the new Manchester Ship Canal. After lying derelict for nearly a quarter of a century, the station building underwent extensive renovation and reopened as a railway-themed cafe in 2015. Although the station sees a high footfall of some 250,000 passengers per annum, it remains unstaffed.
Irlam itself is a Manchester commuter town about eight miles west of the city – trains reach Manchester Oxford Road in about 20 minutes, and also run west to Liverpool Lime Street. Today the area is mostly residential, but in the past the town enjoyed a profitable steel industry, with The Partington Steel and Iron Company opening their first works here in 1910. Surprisingly, there is agriculture here too: much of the town sits on a reclaimed peat bog, and moss land still exists to the north, supporting what is the largest farming community in Greater Manchester.