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Thread: Liverpool Overhead Railway 1957

  1. #1
    Senior Member Colin Wilkinson's Avatar
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    Default Liverpool Overhead Railway 1957

    A depressing image for anyone who cares about Liverpool’s history. The Overhead Railway officially closed on December 30th 1956. Subsequent rescues failed and, in September 1957, the dismantlers moved in. The photograph was probably taken at the beginning of the demolition process – although it might have been as late as 1958. The cigarette booth is still [...]


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    Pablo42 pablo42's Avatar
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    Nice one Colin.

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    Martin hmtmaj's Avatar
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    That a great pic Colin, the cars and the scooter and the old Lamp post, in colour too, thanks.
    Started the Old Swan Website:

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    "The cigarette booth is still trading but the scene is a melancholy one (the Goree Piazzas are in the background awaiting their fate). As I have mentioned before, the fate of the Railway was probably inevitable. Its original function of servicing the docks no longer was viable when set against the rapid growth of car ownership. Tourism was not an option and the cost of repairing the whole line was prohibitive. The 1950s was not a time for sentiment – the vision was of a shiny new city of concrete and steel with rapid transit road systems based on the American model. The Overhead was the past and although the campaign to save it was vociferous, no solution other than demolition could be found."

    The Overhead Railway lost ground when the telephone came in, in a big way. 1000s of runners would use it to go from office to office along the docks. British Railways did not nationalize it, obviously assessing the railways beforehand. British railways was created to keep the railways going as they had been neglected and creamed off by private ownership. Private profit and socialized debts - the taxpayer picked up the tab again. The taxpayer was weary about this railway and "maybe" rightly avoided taking it on. It paralleled much of the now existing Northern Line, being not near many residential homes.

    The Overhead was an industrial passenger railway to get people to work and give communication along the docks. Like most of Liverpool's railways, it was freight profit first and people second. A railway so people can travel from district to district improving the quality of life - and economy- was never considered. The original idea was to extend the Dingle tunnel inland to around Sefton Park/Smithdown Road and may even further with no firm route set out. The section from Princes Dock (Irish ferries) to Dingle should have been kept and the tunnel extended inland from Dingle. It would have been a true urban railway then taking people from the suburbs into the city centre and ferry terminals.

    Merseyrail came about in the 1970s when three railways were merged in the city centre to form a complete whole of a Merseyside-wide metro/commuter rail network - London Underground did it in the 1930s. It had been suggested Liverpool do the same pre-WW2. The southern section of the Overhead Railway could have been a part of the new Merseyrail with tunnel and station extensions from Dingle linking into Merseyrail at a convenient point further inland. The Overhead could have been diverted into both the Wapping and Waterloo Tunnels serving people further inland. Its advantage was when it went inland and that could be achieved at three points: Dingle, Wapping Tunnel & Waterloo Tunnel.

    Railways create economic growth. The Overhead as it stood in Dec 1956 would not create much at all. As an integrated part of Merseyrail it would have, so it was worth keeping the structure and bringing forward the creation of Merseyrail metro by 15 years or so. It appears few had such vision.

    The rot on the steel structure would not re-occur as it did. The prime cause of the rot was the steam engines under the railway. It was in effect a two-level railway. The corrosive steam engines had gone being replaced by diesel shunters.

    It is true that of the time no one gave much of a hoot about anything old. The bible black buildings in the city (how Ben E King described the city), due to coal smoke - no one would not had shed a tear if they had all gone, inc the Liver Blgs. Their idea was shiny and new and who could blame them as Liverpool was a very grimy place then - all buildings were dirty because of coal burning. Promotion of gas fired appliances should have been much earlier - the council should have fitted gas appliance in their extensive housing stock immediately post-WW2, if not before.
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    Local Historian Cadfael's Avatar
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    Hope you have seen this Colin:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyycp23Tuqs

  6. #6
    Senior Member Colin Wilkinson's Avatar
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    I do agree. The city was definitely looking the worse for wear at that time - and it is easy to criticise decision-makers who wanted to improve the place, even if their vision in retrospect looks flawed. I remember too the reaction (it lasted well into the 1970s) against Victorian architecture. It was regarded as dowdy and ugly (as you say, not helped by the blackened stone/brick). Quentin Hughes like to tell how he took an Italian professor on a guided tour of Liverpool and being asked 'where did you get all this black stone?'.
    At least I feel the days of pulling down buildings without due thought have gone.

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