Tag railway

Rail remains of Liverpool Riverside Station

Following the curve of Princes Parade, on the north west side of Princes Dock, are a set of rails which are one of the few clues left to the presence of Liverpool Riverside Station.

Today the rails might look odd, as they are constructed like a tramway’s, with heavy stone setts bringing the level of the ground up around the top of the rails. The rails themselves, though you cannot necessarily see it, are heavier than normal tram rails, though they are the same shape, as they are built to carry much heavier leaods. The rails were especially built for the network around the docks, owned by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and all the rails in the circuit are similar.

These are all clues to the unique history of Liverpool Riverside Station, and the unusual measures taken to keep it competitive.

Liverpool Riverside Station

Photograph of Liverpool Riverside station taken in 1914

A transatlantic liner alongside the London & North Western Railway’s Liverpool Riverside station, about 1914. © National Railway Museum and SSPL

Liverpool Riverside Station was a railway station owned by the administrators of the Liverpool dock estate, the  Mersey Docks and Harbour Board (MDHB). It was opened on 12th June 1895, and provided a link for liner traffic (cargo, post, passengers) to get onto the intercity rail network without having to first navigate bustling Liverpool itself. The trains to Riverside came across the city using the Waterloo Tunnel from Edge Hill Station.

Before the station existed, anything or anyone disembarking from a liner at Princes Dock would be far from any of the main Liverpool rail terminals – Lime Street, Central and Exchange, for example. Until the late 19th century they were forced to make their own way across town, but with increasing competition for liner traffic with Southampton, a decision was made to remedy the situation, and Riverside was built right next to the landing stage.

In fact, passengers were protected from the elements right from the moment they left the ship, by a glazed roof over the roadway which ran between the station and the river, right up to the large, wide doorways flanked the station as it sat parallel to the waiting ships. Passengers were further treated to an immaculately-kept station with refreshments, booking facilities, and a waiting room all maintained to exacting standards within the two storey building. For more practical purposes, offices of the MDHB and customs facilities were also in that building.

The station did so well to improve the link between liner arrivals and the national rail network that it was chosen to serve arrivals soldiers from the US and the Empire during both world Wars. Nearly 2.5 million passed through its doors.

The landscape of Riverside Station

Map of Liverpool Riverside Station

Liverpool Riverside Station shown on an Ordnance Survey map of 1954 (Scale 1:1250). (Click for larger version)

However, things were not perfect for Riverside Station. The route between Waterloo Goods Station and Riverside shared road space with other vehicles and foot traffic. Coupled with the tight curvature of the railway lines, this means that all of the MDHB lines were operated at walking pace. Between Waterloo and Riverside, a man walked in front of the rail vehicle with a red flag, ensuring the safety of other road users, while another man walked ahead of the train operating Annett’s keys to prepare the swing bridge and points. The steep ascent to back to Edge Hill just slowed journey times even more.

This wasn’t made any easier by the small locomotives in use. The ground around the docks was not strong enough to deal with mainline locomotives (this was, after all, reclaimed land), so at first the only engines light enough to service the Waterloo-Riverside route were LNWR Coal Tank locomotives. These small engines moved trains from the river to Edge Hill station, where carriages could be transferred to larger engines for the onward journey. The small tank engines were more able to take the tight curves than the larger main line trains would have been, but the incline to Edge Hill challenged them, and sometimes both the Webb engines were needed to force a single heavy train up the hill.

Plans were already in place by 1949 to strengthen the infrastructure of the area when a ship hit the landing stage and damaged the station. Once the works to repair the station and strengthen the land were complete, mainline locomotives could finally come all the way to Riverside Station. British Railways trains now ran on the MDHB lines.

Riverside Station’s days were numbered, however. The rise of air travel in the 1960s led to a decline in Atlantic liner traffic. Shipping in general was declining by this point too. In addition, the main line to London was electrified in the 1960s, but this did not extend past Edge Hill, and Riverside Station floundered in a technological backwater. The last train to use the station was carrying soldiers bound for Belfast in 1971, and the station building was demolished in 1990. The trackbed was used as a car park for a decade (and some parts still are), until dockland redevelopments brought buildings to the site in the early 21st century.

But some of the rails of the ‘Riverside Railway’ are still there today, and literally point the keen historian towards the site of one of Liverpool’s most important disappeared stations.

References

Station Name: LIVERPOOL RIVERSIDE, http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/l/liverpool_riverside/, accessed 19th February 2016

Photos

Liverpool Riverside station, about 1914, is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) licence, and is available at http://www.nrm.org.uk/ourcollection/photo?group=Euston&objid=1997-7409_LMS_3143.

The Great Floating Landing-Stage at Liverpool Photo: Mersey Dock & Harbour Board, by Andy Dingley (scanner)Scan from Harry Golding , ed. (1931) The Wonder Book of Engineering Wonders (2nd ed.), London: Ward, Lock & Co., and is Public Domain via Wikipedia

Blackburne Place ventilation shaft and the Wapping Tunnel

This red brick and sandstone tower on Blackburne Place is a beautiful ventilation shaft for a railway which once ran beneath it, and could be seen as representing the tunnel and railway in a nutshell.

The tunnel itself, Wapping Tunnel, is partly bored through the local natural sandstone, with brick lining above, mirroring the architecture of the Blackburne Place building. The arches on the ventilation shaft are suggestive of the tunnel entrances which can be seen all along the line of the railway – the original Liverpool & Manchester Railway – particularly around Edge Hill Station and Chatsworth Drive.

The building was originally one of five, with only three others – between Crown Street and Smithdown Lane and on Grenville Street South, remaining. Two were demolished, once having stood on Great George Street and Myrtle Street respectively. The shaft building on Crown Street is of a simpler, brick-only octagonal design, while that near Grenville Street South is square like at Blackburne Place.

When Wapping Tunnel was being constructed, vertical shafts were dug and the excavation of the tunnel was begun at these spots, heading outwards in two directions with the intention of meeting up with the other pilot holes. After some controversy surrounding the original survey calculations the surveyor Charles Vignoles resigned and was replaced with Joseph Locke, who re-did the work.

It has been suggested that the ventilation shafts like that on Blackburne Place sit on the position of those original holes, with the buildings above ground being constructed over those holes first dug in 1826.

Wapping Tunnel

Wapping Tunnel, begun in 1826 and opened in 1830, was an impressive feat of engineering. No other tunnel had been dug under a city before, and the 22 feet by 16 feet dimensions of the tunnel were unlike anything attempted before.

What is more, the tunnel was on a 1:48 incline, meaning that locomotives built in its early years were not powerful enough to pull trains up to Edge Hill from the river front. To get around this problem, carts were pulled up via ropes (and, later, cables) by stationary steam engines located close to the Chatsworth Drive exit of the tunnel.

Within the tunnel itself are signal gongs, which were placed near the end of the tunnel to warn drivers that they were approaching the tunnel entrance. A small number of accidents had happened at tunnel entrances in the past where drivers had become disoriented. These gongs are still in place in brackets on the Wapping Tunnel’s wall.

When opened, the interior walls were whitewashed, and the length of the tunnel was gas-lit. Pedestrians were allowed to walk through the tunnel for several years, even after it became operational, though eventually it was realised just how dangerous this was!

As the southern docks declined in use with the development of ships too large to use them, the Wapping Tunnel railway became unviable, and closed to traffic in 1965.

Image: Martin Greaney

References

Wapping Tunnel, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wapping_Tunnel, accessed 14th January 2016

Site Name: WAPPING TUNNEL , Subterranea Britannica, http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/w/wapping_tunnel/index.shtml, accessed 14th January 2016

Hartley Quay Dock Railway

The dock railway was built in Liverpool to solve a challenge which other cities did not face. With dock expansion, ships were docking further and further from the central business district. Places like Manchester and Bristol stood astride their rivers, and twice the mileage of docks fit in each mile of river than in Liverpool.

Therefore, much more than other places, railway transport became important to transporting goods. This could be from the outlying docks into town. Some went further, carrying on their journeys further into Britain, or onto new ships going elsewhere.

Dock railway remains

The remains of the dock railway are still embedded in parts of the docklands, even though the roads are now dedicated to other vehicles. It’s interesting to note that at one time the roads would have been shared between the locomotives on the one hand, and vehicles like trucks and horse-drawn carts on the other.

Even in the early 1960s steam engines could still be seen following a man with a flag near the Pier Head. But by then the increasing pressure from the motorcar was becoming too much. The main roads along the docklands – e.g. the Strand – were in need of modernisation to deal with the increased traffic.

Today, you can see the rails outside the Maritime Museum entrance, bounded by two sets of buffers. The rails run into a large iron-banded door to the north east side.

More information

The Dock Railway, 1962, Streets of Liverpool, Colin Wilkinson

Candles, Carts & Carbolic: A Liverpool childhood between the wars

Is this the best Liverpool memoir? It’s certainly different to all the rest.

There are plenty of memoirs and autobiographies written by people who lived through some of Liverpool’s darkest days (or, at least, they lived in Liverpool’s darkest areas – not many memoirs by the Victorian gentry). Some are semi-fictionalised, like Her Benny, and Helen Forrester’s Twopence to Cross the Mersey, while others form the basis of photo books, like Scotland Road: the old neighbourhood, by Terry Cooke. Still more are dotted around the Web, shared on Facebook and passed around. Read more

Here’s 5 views of Google’s 3D Liverpool you might not have seen

It’s been all over the news lately: Liverpool is one of the first British cities to be rendered in three full dimensions on Google Earth. There was, as a crazy extra, a rumour going around that it was in preparation for a new Google office which was opening in the city.

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Bootle: seaside village

Today’s map is taken from a detailed one that I picked up recently, from the Illustrated Globe Encyclopedia printed in 1878.

The point of interest I’m drawing your attention to is Bootle. In 1878, and also visible on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, the village of Bootle sits alone to the north of Liverpool. The docks to the west have stretched this far north, but Bootle’s strong links with the port were still a little way in the future. Read more

Liverpool Heroes 4: Jesse Hartley

Continuing our look at the men and women who have had the greatest impact on the Liverpool landscape, this time we examine the work of Jesse Hartley, dock engineer.

Jesse Hartley (1780-1860) is best known as the architect of the Albert Dock. But this was just one of his achievements as Civil Engineer and Superintendent of the Concerns of the Dock Estate in Liverpool from 1824 to 1860, and his career was one which changed the face of Liverpool. It’s a landscape we can still see today, and his buildings continue to affect how we move through and how we deal with the built environment of the city.

Read more

History of Childwall: a village, a railway, and the car

Childwall, once a suburb, remains a green space within Liverpool. There is a surprising number of streams, wells and brooks, and a green, sometimes park-like appearance kept across centuries.

Edge Hill – the First Ever Passenger Station

Edge Hill has had two stations. The earlier of these was the first passenger station in the world, along with Liverpool Street in Manchester.

The first of the two stations opened in 1830, and sat in a sandstone cutting with three tunnels at one end. The passenger terminal at Crown Street lay at the end of one of these tunnels, but was rarely used. At the other end of the station sat a stationary steam engine. This powered the system which brought trains up the hill from Wapping Dock station.

Edge Hill’s new station

The new Edge Hill station opened in 1836, further north-east than the original. A tunnel ran from here to the new Lime Street Station, which was built as a more central passenger terminus for Liverpool than the Crown Street one.

All that’s left on the ‘surface’ are the fascinating ruins of the Wapping cutting, and a small stretch of track which still sticks out into the green space between Overbury Street and Smithdown Lane. Below ground the new tunnel still takes passengers from the new Edge Hill Station to Lime Street. The tunnel and cutting now blaze an impressive streak across the inner city.

Mapping the History of Liverpool

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Recommended Reading

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