David Clough

DAVID CLOUGH ex­am­ines the iconic Liver­pool & Manch­ester Railway, and dis­cov­ers how the route has changed since open­ing in 1830

Rail (UK) - - Contents - RAIL pho­tog­ra­phy: JO CLOUGH

“Ge­orge Stephen­son floated the track on a com­bi­na­tion of ma­te­rial that in­cluded waste cot­ton from the mills in Leigh. When heavy trains crossed Chat Moss it was pos­si­ble to ob­serve the track pan­els mov­ing.”

When it was built, the Liver­pool & Manch­ester Railway (L&MR) was an en­gi­neer­ing mar­vel. Over time, it be­came just one part of an ever-chang­ing railway net­work, al­though - un­like some of its lo­cal con­tem­po­raries - it has at least sur­vived.

As the canals were a re­sponse to Bri­tain’s in­ad­e­quate road in­fra­struc­ture to meet the de­mands of the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion, so in turn was the L&MR built to ad­dress the short­com­ings of the wa­ter­ways link­ing the two cities.

En­acted in 1826 and opened on Septem­ber 15 1830, the orig­i­nal route was 31 miles long, link­ing Wap­ping Dock on the Liver­pool bank of the River Mersey with its goods and pas­sen­ger fa­cil­i­ties at Liver­pool Road in Manch­ester.

Al­though the route for­ward from Edge Hill cut vir­tu­ally due east in a straight line to Manch­ester, a num­ber of en­gi­neer­ing is­sues had to be tack­led that would not have been faced had the orig­i­nal plan been passed by Par­lia­ment.

This had pro­posed leav­ing Liver­pool in a northerly di­rec­tion, to avoid the high ground be­hind the docks, and then across the western sec­tion of the railway as built. Op­po­si­tion to the northerly course came from lo­cal no­bil­ity, whose land had to be crossed when the railway turned east to serve St Helens.

Leav­ing Wap­ping, the line was on a steep in­cline in tun­nel. This posed an op­er­at­ing chal­lenge be­cause it was be­yond the ca­pa­bil­ity of con­tem­po­rary steam trac­tion, and called for the use of sta­tion­ary en­gines and rope haulage.

As part of the run­down in rail-re­lated dock ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the 1960s, Wap­ping Goods closed in 1965. The site re­mains as derelict land, closed off by high re­tain­ing walls - a sym­bol of the lack of de­mand for such land close to the city cen­tre.

Crown Street was the orig­i­nal pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nus in Liver­pool. A short tun­nel took the railway from there to meet the one from Wap­ping at Edge Hill. The sta­tion closed to pas­sen­gers in 1836, when Lime Street opened as a more cen­tral al­ter­na­tive. The site con­tin­ued in use as a goods de­pot un­til May 1972 but has been land­scaped in re­cent years, leav­ing no real trace of its for­mer use. One re­port says the sta­tion build­ing suf­fered bomb dam­age dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Edge Hill to­day bears no re­la­tion to the 1830s scene. Chatsworth Drive and Tun­nel Road cross the deep cut­ting where the Wap­ping and Crown Street tun­nels emerged, and it was here that the orig­i­nal sta­tion was lo­cated. The Moor­ish Arch at the Tun­nel Road end of the site has long gone.

The present Edge Hill sta­tion is on the op­po­site side of Tun­nel Road to the one it re­placed, but the course of the 1830 railway is quite ev­i­dent on the south­east side. From here, the 1836 route dives down in tun­nel to Lime Street.

Al­though ex­tended dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, sev­eral orig­i­nal fea­tures re­main. Th­ese in­clude the cob­bled drive­way from Tun­nel Road and some of the build­ings. Th­ese are claimed to be the old­est build­ings in use on an op­er­a­tional railway in the world, al­though an­other sta­tion on the L&MR stakes a sim­i­lar claim.

Metal Cul­ture Ltd, a char­ity, com­pleted a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion of the pre­vi­ously empty his­toric build­ings in 2009. The orig­i­nal En­gine House, Boiler Room and Ac­cu­mu­la­tor Tower now serve as a cul­tural and creative hub for artists, the neigh­bour­hood and Mersey­side. Tesco has pro­vided grant sup­port to Metal Cul­ture to fi­nance the plant­ing of a flower and herb gar­den.

Mean­while, Lime Street re­mains Liver­pool’s prin­ci­pal sta­tion. It re­opened on July 30, fol­low­ing eight weeks of up­grad­ing that formed part of the Great North Rail Project - a rail in­dus­try team ef­fort to trans­form rail travel for cus­tomers through track and train im­prove­ments across the North. Net­work Rail says this is the most ex­ten­sive up­grad­ing car­ried out here since the 19th cen­tury.

All sta­tion plat­forms have been re­mod­elled, with many length­ened and widened to cre­ate space for longer trains and more pas­sen­gers. Two new plat­forms, built last year, have also been com­mis­sioned. Pas­sen­gers de­part­ing from Plat­forms 1 and 2 tra­verse a sin­gle-bore tun­nel, which dates from con­struc­tion of the railway from Edge Hill.

Ad­ja­cent to the Lime Street tun­nel mouth at Edge Hill is an­other tun­nel that led to the river at Water­loo. This gave ac­cess to River­side sta­tion, which served those ar­riv­ing and de­part­ing Liver­pool by ocean liner. Mersey Docks & Har­bour Com­pany (MDHC) built the fa­cil­ity in 1895, and it closed on March 1 1971 (after the last train on Fe­bru­ary 25).

The land on the north side of Edge Hill was the lo­ca­tion of a large mar­shalling yard, pri­mar­ily for traf­fic as­so­ci­ated with Liver­pool’s north docks, ac­cessed along the Boo­tle branch from Boo­tle Branch Junc­tion.

MDHC ended its rail op­er­a­tions on its dock sys­tem on Au­gust 31 1973, leav­ing lim­ited traf­fic to be dealt with at Edge Hill, that even­tu­ally disappeared. Dur­ing the past 18 months, biomass trains from the pur­pose-built fa­cil­ity ad­ja­cent to Glad­stone Dock, bound for Drax Power Sta­tion, have sta­bled and staged at Tue­brook Sid­ings here.

A cou­ple of miles be­yond Edge Hill, Olive Mount cut­ting is 70ft deep and was orig­i­nally just over 20ft wide. It was widened in 1871, when the route to Huy­ton Quarry was quadru­pled. Spoil from the orig­i­nal ex­ca­va­tion was used to build the 45ft-high em­bank­ment at Roby, a few miles away. It would have been an im­pres­sive sight in 1830, just as much as Olive Mount cut­ting it­self.

Wavertree Tech­nol­ogy Park sta­tion, lo­cated at the west end of the cut­ting, opened on Au­gust 13 2000. It is one of sev­eral new sta­tions in the Mersey­side region.

Olive Mount Junc­tion is east of the sta­tion. The line comes in from Edge Lane Junc­tion on the Boo­tle branch, and means traf­fic off the branch can head east to­wards Manch­ester as well as west to Edge Hill. A pas­sen­ger ser­vice for sta­tions along the branch to Alexan­dra Dock ended in 1948.

The Boo­tle branch is the sur­viv­ing link across Liver­pool. Al­though used pri­mar­ily for north docks flows, the con­nec­tion at Boo­tle Junc­tion into Net­work Rail’s lines to Southport, Orm­skirk and Kirkby can be used for civil en­gi­neer­ing work­ings.

Taken to­gether with the in­clined planes on ei­ther side, the two miles of level track through Rain­hill pro­vided a good lo­ca­tion for the Rain­hill Tri­als, which were con­ducted over sev­eral weeks dur­ing Oc­to­ber 1829.


Liver­pool Lime Street re­opened on July 30, fol­low­ing a ma­jor re­fur­bish­ment. On Au­gust 3, North­ern 319371 and a Transpen­nine Ex­press Class 185 await their next duty.

Edge Hill Plat­form 1. The orig­i­nal 1836 build­ing is on the left and the tun­nel mouth to Lime Street is just vis­i­ble, with the tun­nel that led to River­side sta­tion to the right.

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