The Skelmersdale branch was a standard gauge railway (SKE) which connected the Liverpool, Ormskirk and Preston Railway at Ormskirk with Rainford Junction via Skelmersdale. At Rainford it connected with the Liverpool and Bury Railway and the St. Helens Railway. It was built by the East Lancashire Railway, which was taken over by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway shortly afterward. The steam railmotor which served the line was sometimes known locally as the "Skem Dodger" and other times as the "Skem Jazzer".
Opened on 1 March 1858, passenger services ended 5 November 1956, with goods trains to Rainford ceasing on 16 November 1961 and to Skelmersdale on 4 November 1963. Since then Skelmersdale has had no rail connection but has grown considerably.
Proposals have been put forward for the reopening of a section of line, reconnecting trains for Skelmersdale into Merseyrail's Northern Line Ormskirk branch. In June 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies, in its Expanding Access to the Rail Network report, called for funding for the reopening of this station as part of a £500m scheme to open 33 stations on 14 lines closed in the Beeching Axe, including seven new parkway stations. The report proposes extending the line from Ormskirk railway station by laying 3 miles of new single track along the previous route towards Rainford Junction, at a cost estimated to be in the region of £31m. The route is largely intact, however deviation north of Westhead would be required. The proposed Skelmersdale station would be on the north west corner of the town near the Skelmersdale Ring Road, right next to where the old station once was.
In February 2017 Lancashire County Council confirmed that the preferred site for Skelmersdale railway station was the former site of Glenburn Sports College/Westbank Campus. County Council Transport portfolio holder John Fillis said that the site "is big enough to provide a high quality station with scope to expand to meet future demand.". By September, Merseytravel announced that they would be committing £765,000 to the study into the re-opening, estimating that the station could be open within a decade with a lot of additional funding. Merseytravel's plan would also see a new station built at Headbolt Lane in Kirkby. It has been proposed a new station at Skelmersdale would act as the terminus for Merseyrail's Northern Line, with connections available to Wigan and Manchester. Initial estimates suggest that the scheme could cost around £300 million to develop. On page 36 of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Long Term Rail Strategy document of October 2017, it states that Merseytravel is currently working with Lancashire County Council and Network Rail to develop a plan to extend the Merseyrail network from Kirkby through to Skelmersdale, with work completed in 2019. They are considering 3rd rail electrification and other alternatives with a new station at Headbolt Lane to serve the Northwood area of Kirkby. The document on page 37 states two trials of electric 3rd rail/battery trains will be undertaken in 2020, this is one of the "alternatives". 
This line has been identified by Campaign for a Better Transport as a priority 1 candidate for reopening.
- Ormskirk railway station
- Westhead Halt railway station
- Skelmersdale railway station
- White Moss Level Crossing Halt 
- Hey's Crossing Halt railway station
- Rainford Junction railway station
- Engineers' Line Reference & mileages via railwaycodes
- Local History Archives
- Pixton 1996, p. 91
- Potential Rail Improvements in North Western England Archived 2007-03-11 at the Wayback Machine - Evidence presented to the Transport Select Committee, 2002-03
- "£40m rail link plans are backed". Liverpool Echo. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2009-04-15.
- "BBC NEWS - England - Operators call for new rail lines". BBC News. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- "Connecting Communities – Expanding Access to the Rail Network" (PDF). London: Association of Train Operating Companies. June 2009. p. 20. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
- Preferred Site Identified for Skelmersdale Railway Station Lancashire County Council
- Preferred site identified for Skelmersdale railway station Southport Visiter
- Houghton, Alistair (18 September 2017). "Skelmersdale rail link moves step closer as £5m funding revealed". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
- Westhead halt on Disused Stations
- White Moss Level Crossing on Disused Stations
- Hey Crossing on Disused Stations