I'll start with Underground Railways
The first railway
Liverpool can boast the first fully-operational railway line in the world, the Liverpool and Manchester Line, which was opened on 15 September 1830 . George Stephenson, the railway builder, had many problems to face along the route. The relief of the land was relatively flat for much of the way but when the line arrived in Liverpool there were two major obstacles. The Woolton-Broadgreen ridge was steep and a massive cutting was excavated to maintain a reasonable gradient along the line. The Olive Mount cutting, which is half a mile long, 80ft deep and 20ft wide, is still one of the deepest in the world and later railway engineers would have dug a tunnel through a ridge such as this.
Crown Street Tunnel
From Olive Mount, the railway line crosses a plateau on which extensive marshalling yards were built. The next obstacle was the ridge at Edge Hill. The first station at the Liverpool terminus was built at Crown Street which is situated at a higher elevation than the plateau. The trains had to travel up a steeply-inclined tunnel to Crown Street and were drawn up by cables. Similar cables were also needed at the other end of the Liverpool to London line where they were needed to pull the trains from Euston to Camden . The Crown Street tunnel was completed in 1829 and was 290yds long, 15ft wide and 12ft high. A line can still be seen entering the area adjacent to Smithdown Lane . On the return journey, the trains would be lowered down to Edge Hill using the cables.
The Lime Street Tunnel
Crown Street was not used for long because the Lime Street tunnel was opened on 15 August 1836 . This tunnel was 2,230yds long and went downhill at a gradient of 1 in 93. This may not sound steep to motorists but was about three times as steep as the Liverpool to Manchester Railway. In section, this tunnel was 25ft wide and 17ft high. At first, this was a relatively narrow tunnel which could only accommodate two railway lines but, in the 1880s, it was widened to take four tracks and much of the rock over the tunnel was removed making it open to the sky for much of its length. It can now be seen from the surface through these openings, which are surrounded by high walls for safety. There are seven sections of true tunnel along this line.
The Olive Mount cutting which is half a mile long, eighty feet deep and twenty feet wide is still one of the deepest in the world.
The first tunnel is about 50yds long and lies under aptly named Tunnel Road and Moorgate Street . This tunnel had a double bore in the centre with single bores on either side. Tunnel Road was built to give access to Edge Hill Station.
The second tunnel runs under Harbord Street for over l 00yds.
The third tunnel, only 20yds long, runs under Mason Street and is little more than a bridge.
The fourth tunnel of just under 100yds in length, runs under Smithdown Lane .
The fifth tunnel of 30yds has twin bores and runs under Crown Street .
The sixth tunnel goes under Brownlow Hill and the University for about 130yds and has twin tunnels each with two tracks. Since the end of steam in 1968, the open cutting between the fifth and sixth tunnels has been raftered over by Liverpool University to improve the environment.
The seventh tunnel of just over 100yds runs under Russell Street and then opens out onto Lime Street Station platforms.
In addition, there is a single line tunnel labelled as a shunting tunnel, on the north side of the main track which runs east from Lime Street Station and joins up with the main track at Brownlow Street . Initially, trains travelling down this incline had to be uncoupled from their locomotives at Edge Hill and the carriages then lowered down to Lime Street Station by cables. At Lime Street , the carriages were marshalled about by teams of horses working in fours. Horses could only cope with lighter carriages and, as they became heavier, locomotives were needed to move them about. This tunnel cost a staggering £150,000 to build.
The mechanism for hauling the trains was described as an ‘endless rope’ and it was made of hemp. Two engines located beside the track at Edge Hill would haul and lower the carriages down to Lime Street Station. An enormous chimney associated with the winding engine was located at Edge Hill. It was 310ft high and was only demolished in 1937. In March 1870, the engines and ropes were replaced by steam locomotives and the horses were dispensed with altogether.
The opening out of the Lime Street Tunnel
There were several problems associated with the Lime Street Tunnel. When steam locomotives started to use the tunnel, smoke was a major hazard. The solution was a giant, steam-driven fan at Smithdown Lane . This was designed by John Ramsbottom, the Chief Mechanical Engineer for the LNWR and was built in 1870. A tunnel was cut into the sandstone from the railway tunnel. The engine was located in a large, subterranean cavern. Above this was a massive chimney, rising 198ft above rail level. The fan was only used when a train entered the rail tunnel and it took only eight minutes to clear the tunnel. The massive chimney was only demolished in the 1960s. The fan soon became redundant when, in 1881, the Lime Street Tunnel was opened out.
The second problem was that the two original tracks in the tunnel were inadequate for the growth in traffic using Lime Street Station. In 1873, it was decided to increase the lines from two to four. Excavation started at Lime Street Station where the ground under the present Copperas Hill and St Vincent Street was dug out. Few explosives were used because of safety considerations. As the cutting progressed back up the line, the engineers were pleased that little additional support was needed for the vertical rock walls. The railway company wanted to close some streets completely but the council refused and cross streets were carried on brick and stone arches constructed as the cutting was deepened. Where the cutting was deeper, rock arches were left to carry the roads. The sewers, on the other hand, had to be diverted. In the deeper sections of the cutting, the sewers could be carried within the stone arches over the railway. One sewer, however, could not be contained within the stone arch and was carried over the cutting in a cast-iron box as a ‘flying sewer’. Powers were obtained in 1878 to take a four-track line all the way back to Edge Hill, mostly in the form of open cuttings. Tunnels were only excavated where important roads crossed the line. Accidents occurred in 1879 and 1880 in which one locomotive ploughed into the back of the train in front. These accidents were caused by smoke obscuring the driver’s view and demonstrated the need for the opening out of the line. The cutting was dug to its full depth on the south side first and the new tunnels were cut before the old tunnel could be exposed.
A fifth line was built from Lime Street Station to Brownlow Street following an act passed in 1882. This line was built in a separate tunnel to avoid disturbing the new four-track construction and was needed for shunting purposes. The new works were opened in 1885.
The Wapping Tunnel
Construction of the Wapping tunnel commenced in 1827 when a series of vertical shafts were sunk along the line of the proposed tunnel. From these shafts, pilot headings were excavated in both directions until they met other headings from the nearby shafts. This tunnel was designed by George Stephenson and the engineer was Charles Vignoles. Houses near and above the line of the tunnel were threatened with collapse by the tunnelling operations in Great George Square . The line of the tunnel was surveyed by TL Gooch, whose brother worked for the Great Western Railway. The initial survey for the tunnel had serious errors and Joseph Locke submitted a report exposing them and Charles Vignoles resigned. To rectify the errors, side shafts were cut to check alignment and the mistakes were corrected. At its upper end, the Wapping Tunnel uses the same approach as the Crown Street Tunnel and runs parallel to it for about l 00yds. The Cheshire Lines tunnel crosses over the Wapping tunnel at Great George Street and is carried on girders. Most of the Wapping Tunnel is cut in sound red sandstone. Where this was not the case, some of it had to be lined with brick to give extra support.
The Wapping tunnel is about 11/4 miles long and for much of its length has a gradient of 1 in 48, very steep for that time. In fact, gradients as steep as 1 in 38 are used at the upper and lower ends of the tunnel. The Wapping tunnel was built to carry goods to the docks and the Wapping Goods Station (known as Park Lane goods station after 1923) was built at the river end of the line opposite the Wapping dock. A report in Fraser’s Guide dated 1855 states that at the lower end of the tunnel near Wapping Dock, the tunnel went under dockside warehouses where trap doors in the basements allowed goods to be loaded and unloaded directly onto the trains. The famous Moorish Arches at Edge Hill were built to house the engines that worked the cables. As at Lime Street , these cables hauled the wagons up and down the incline of the tunnel on an ‘endless rope’ system. Six wagons, with an average weight of 4 tons, could be hauled at any one time giving a total load of 27 tons. When stronger steel cables replaced hemp, sixteen wagons could be hauled at one time. On 11th May 1896 , locomotives replaced the cables, much later than on the Lime Street line.
A series of shafts still exists to provide ventilation for the tunnel. These presumably correspond to the shafts dug to excavate the pilot headings. They are in Crown Street , Myrtle Street , Blackburne Place , Rathbone Street and White Street . At Blackburne Place , the depth of the line from the land surface was 92ft. When it opened, visitors were taken down the tunnel for excursions and it must have been quite an impressive day out. Sadly, the tunnel is no longer used and the lower section near the river is blocked with debris and full of water. The tunnel remains more or less intact and could at some future date be reopened, perhaps for tourist use? Consideration has been given to using the Wapping tunnel to provide a rail link from the Central-Hunts Cross Line to the Broadgreen area. Another proposal was to take the M62 into Liverpool using the Wapping and Waterloo tunnels.
The Waterloo-Victoria Tunnels
The Victoria tunnel is 2706yds long and runs from Edge Hill to where it opens out into an open air section at Byrom Street .
The Waterloo tunnel is 852yds long and is a continuation of the Victoria tunnel. It runs down to the Waterloo Dock and Goods Station. At its lower end, it ran under the Liverpool and Bury Railway (later part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) which was elevated on viaducts as it ran along parallel to the Mersey shore. In 1849, the Waterloo Goods Station opened and it closed in 1963. In 1873/74, the Waterloo Station was enlarged and, in 1895, the line was extended south to the Riverside Station to meet the passenger liners. The Riverside Station extension was opened on 10 July 1895 and closed in 1971.
The Waterloo-Victoria Tunnel, an arched structure lined with brick, is 26ft wide and can take a double line. The portal at Edge Hill is lined with stone and the portal at the western dockside end is lined with brick. Both lines carried a double railway track and were opened in August 1849.
An ‘endless rope’ was also used in the Waterloo-Victoria Tunnel; a stationary engine was located at Edge Hill to work it. In February 1895, the rope broke and locomotives took over hauling wagons.
The Northern lines and tunnels
In 1848, the Liverpool and Bury Railway Company constructed a railway line from north of Liverpool into Great Howard Street where a temporary passenger station was built. In 1850, this terminus was extended to Tithebarn Street Station. The delay in the extension of the line to Tithebarn Street was caused by the construction of the Hawkshaw arch. In 1849, the East Lancashire Railway Company also brought the Preston Line into Great Howard Street and Tithebarn Street stations. In 1884-88, Tithebarn Street Station was demolished and Exchange Station was built.
Railways approaching from the north ran over ground that was generally flatter than the ground faced by railways coming from the south. So low was much of this ground that viaducts were built, some of which remain today despite the closure of Exchange Station. The truncated viaduct can be found in the Love Lane area and the arches are still used for lock-ups and workshops. Despite the level ground, several small tunnels were cut in the Kirkdale area. Kirkdale Number 1 tunnel is 498yds long and carried the Liverpool , Bolton and Bury Lines under Bedford Road . Kirkdale Number 2 tunnel is 210yds long and carried the Liverpool , Bolton and Bury Lines under Breeze Hill.
The Bankfield Branch, which ran through St John ’s Tunnel (109yds long), the Brasenose Road Tunnel (67yds long) and the Canal Tunnel (51yds long) linked the main lines with Bankfield and Canada Dock Goods Station.
The Cheshire Lines route approaching from Walton had a branch which, after passing through Walton Hill Tunnel (242yds long) under Rice Lane, then Breeze Hill Tunnel (646yds long), ran alongside the Lancashire and Yorkshire and the Liverpool, Bolton and Bury Lines and reached Huskisson Goods and Passenger Stations situated between Bankhall Lane and Boundary Street.
The Midland Railway had a branch off the Cheshire Lines at Bootle Branch Junction in Fazakerley with the Bootle Branch Tunnel (481 yds long) under Marsh Lane before reaching the Alexandra and Langton Goods Stations.
The Cheshire Lines tunnels
In the 1860s the Manchester , Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&L) and the Great Northern Railway (GNR) constructed a railway line into Liverpool and this became the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) when the Midland Railway joined them. In 1864, the MS&LR and the GNR built the Garston to Liverpool Line which terminated at Brunswick Station.
In 1880, the CLC built a railway line from Hunts Cross to Huskisson Dock, i.e. an outer loop line. The approach to the city from Garston to the south was along the Mersey shore. Although the land here was reasonably flat, the company constructed several sections of tunnel. The Fulwood Tunnel runs for nearly 200yds under Fulwood Park . A shorter tunnel runs under Southwood Road near St Michael’s Station. The Dingle Tunnel is much longer and runs for 1082yds from near Buckland Street to where Beresford Road meets Grafton Street .
Passengers travelling into Liverpool along these railway lines at that time had to alight and take a free bus ride into the town centre which was inconvenient. In 1874, the link between Brunswick Dock Station and Central Station was built with an intermediate station, St James Station (closed in 1916) at St James Place on Parliament Street . This extension into Liverpool had to travel underground. It first disappeared under the high ground in Toxteth at Grafton Street . The tunnel ran underground for about 721yds.
Occasionally, gaps in the roof exposed the line to the open air at Upper Mann Street , Beaufort Street , and Hill Street . At St James Place , the station was also open to the air. The Central CLC Tunnel, then continued underground for 1007yds to Central Station at the bottom end of Bold Street . Ventilation shafts were located in Back Berry Street and Great George Street/Raffles Street .
Wavertree Sidings tunnels
The Runcorn Railway Bridge and Line through Allerton and Mossley Hill was built in 1864 to shorten the route to London . It occupied low ground and therefore needed embankments rather than tunnels. Later, when the Edge Hill marshalling yards were built (1873-1881) tunnels, viaducts and bridges were needed so that the traffic to and from the sorting sidings could reach the Edge Hill and Bootle Branch Lines, the Wapping Tunnel, the Victoria/Waterloo Tunnels, the Manchester Line and the main line via Mossley Hill. The tunnels were the Picko Tunnels to the Edge Hill and Bootle Branches under the sidings. They included Picko No 2 (167yds long) and Picko No 1 (52yds long) to Pigue Lane and a second tunnel from Mossley Hill (about 60yds long) under the sidings. The third tunnel was the Olive Mount Tunnel (147yds long) from the Manchester Line to the Bootle Branch.
On the Edge Hill and Bootle Branch line, the first tunnel was the Spellow Tunnel (347yds long) under St Francis de Sales School , Carisbrooke Road , Roxborough Street and Delamore Street . Next came the Westminster Road No 1 (62yds) and the Westminster Road No 2 (276yds) which ran under Westminster Road and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Line to Ormskirk. Here at Atlantic Docks Junction, the Alexandra Dock Branch swung north. Straight on, however, under the Lancashire and Yorkshire Southport Line and the Leeds/Liverpool Canal, was the Canada Dock Tunnel (427yds) leading to the Canada Dock Goods Station. From the Atlantic Docks Junction, the Alexandra Dock Branch swung north through the Oriel Road Tunnel (288yds) under Falstaff, Portia and Romeo Streets. After a connection to the Southport Line, the Berry Street Tunnel (140yds) almost beneath Oriel Road Station took the line quickly to Alexandra Dock Tunnel (11 7yds) under the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to the Alexandra Goods and Passenger Station.
The Mersey Railway Tunnel
The Mersey Estuary can be said to have made Liverpool as a port but it also made development on the Birkenhead side of the river very difficult. The monks of Birkenhead started a ferry service hundreds of years ago. In 1877, 26 million passenger journeys were made and 750,000 tons of goods were carried on the Mersey ferries. A better crossing would have increased these figures substantially. In 1825, a road tunnel was considered and planned by Isambard Kingdom Brunel of Great Western Railway fame.
The construction of the Birkenhead to Hoylake Railway in 1866, together with the development of steam ferries, made commuting to Liverpool by ferry a viable proposition. It was now possible to live in many parts of North Wirral and work in Liverpool . In 1866, an Act of Parliament was passed which permitted the construction of a railway tunnel under the River Mersey and the project was backed by merchants and industrialists. They proposed a ‘pneumatic railway’ which would use air pressure to drive the trains. Brunel had used this technology in the south-west of England but with limited success. The pneumatic railway was not a practical proposition given the technology available at that time and a more conventional railway was built.
Construction of the Mersey Railway Tunnel
In 1879, a contract was signed between Major Samuel Isaac and the tunnelling company to sink shafts, erect pumps and drive trial headings towards the river. In December 1879, work had commenced and, in 1880, tunnelling began with vertical shafts sunk at George’s Dock in Liverpool and on the Wirral side at Birkenhead . From these shafts, trial headings were driven towards the river. Unfortunately, the contractor constructing the tunnel failed, so Major Isaac took over the operation and completed the project.
Three tunnels were in fact built. The main tunnel was 26ft wide and 19ft high from the rail level to the roof. There was room for two railway tracks side by side. The tunnel was lined with 6-8 layers of brick and millions of bricks were used for this purpose. The other two tunnels were for drainage and ventilation. In order to save money, cut and cover methods were planned for excavasion in I Liverpool itself where the tunnel was near the surface. Unfortunately, the builders encountered strong opposition to this method from traders and residents and had to resort to tunnelling. Despite this, the foundations of several buildings in Hamilton Street were damaged by subsidence.
The work of cutting the tunnel was started using explosives and pick axes. Progress using this method was slow and work progressed at only 10-13yds per week. In February 1883, a new machine, the Beaumont Cutter, driven by compressed air, was introduced and weekly progress was raised considerably. The same machine was used in trial borings for the early Channel Tunnel, which was started around the same time.
The workmen digging the tunnel had the advantage of electric lighting, unlike the men who built the Wapping Tunnel. In December 1885, the tunnel was complete and the public were allowed to walk through. On 20 January 1886 , the tunnel was opened by the Prince of Wales and, on 1 February, the first public transport was allowed through; 36,000 passengers using the line on the first day.
The construction of the tunnel also allowed a telephone link to be laid between the Liverpool and Birkenhead exchanges, improving the telephone network. Four large ‘Guibal’ fans were built through a special vent passage 7ft 4ins from the railway to the pumps.
Drainage of the Mersey Railway Tunnel
Drainage was bound to be a major problem under the river and large pumps were built above ground at each of the main shafts on either side of the Mersey . The engines could have been located underground but might have been flooded if the pumps failed. At the base of the main shafts, massive standage headings were excavated which could take 80,000 gallons of water, enough to allow workers to escape should the pumps fail, or a sudden influx of water occur.
Smaller tunnels led from the lowest point on the rail tunnel down to the standage headings, i.e. they sloped towards the land to allow the water to drain away from the tunnel. The pumps could expect to deal with 7,000 to 8,000 gallons of water per minute. The headings for the drainage tunnel were driven at gradients of 1 in 500 and 1 in 900 from the vertical shafts at George’s Dock to the Birkenhead shaft up to the central low point of the tunnel. Initially, these tunnels were cut by hand but the Beaumont cutting machines speeded up the work to as much as 65yds per week in the softer rock on the Liverpool side. Ironically, the wettest section of the heading was under the land, rather than the river. The Beaumont machine cut a tunnel 7ft 3ins in diameter but this was widened to 9ft by 8ft to provide enough space for two working roads. The tunnels were lined where the rock was softer but over most of their length this was unnecessary.
Stations were built at Hamilton Square in Birkenhead and James Street in Liverpool . Both were located 80ft below the surface. They were cut out of rock and were 400ft long, 50ft wide and 30ft high. Gas lights were used in the stations and tunnel itself as gas was more reliable than electricity at this time and a gas works was built at Birkenhead to provide the gas. The locomotives travelling along the tunnel were special six wheel tank engines.
The stations were also provided with lifts. The lift cages were 20ft long by 17ft wide and 8ft l Dins high. They could take 100 people at any one time and were worked hydraulically from a 120ft high tower over Hamilton Square Station. A similar water tower at James Street was damaged during the war and had to be demolished but the Hamilton Square Station water tower still exists. In 1886, a l Oft wide subway was built from James Street Station to Water Street . In January 1888, a branch line was opened from Hamilton Square to Birkenhead Park . In 1891, the Birkenhead line was extended from Green Lane to Rock Ferry and, in March 1895, a connection to the Birkenhead-Chester line was built. On 11 January 1892 , the line on the Liverpool side of the river was extended from James Street to Central Station (low level. Its alignment was adjusted to link up with the line from St James Tunnel. The construction of the Bold Street link ran under Lord Street and Church Street and hit severe problems. Because the station and its approaches were very near the surface, the roof had to be supported with iron girders. The entire roadway at Ranelagh Place had to be removed and replaced with heavy timbers until the tunnel was finished and now Ranelogh Place rests on girders supported by brick and cement supports. To avoid traffic problems, much of the roadway work was done at night. The section of line under the Central Station Booking Hall was taken through three separate tunnels to spread the weight. The tunnels were only 14ft below the booking station and its walls had to be underpinned.
Subways and stairs were constructed to give access to the station from Waterloo Place and the basement of the Lyceum was used as a waiting room. A hydraulic lift was installed for luggage. At its widest, the underground station was 55ft wide and a row of steel columns on the platform carried girders which supported Central Station. Excavated rock was carried to trucks stationed on the railway lines below and then railed to the Wirral for use as track ballast. As explosives could not be used, all the rock was excavated by hand. Soft clay layers in the sandstone had to be excavated and refilled with brick to stop sliding. Guibal fans were installed to ventilate this station and, together with a large chimney, were located at the eastern end of Central Station. The lower tunnel extension did not link up with the Cheshire Lines until the Link Line was constructed in the 1970s. The total length of the tunnel from Hamilton Square to Central Station is 1 mile 1,430yds.
Electrification of the Mersey Railway Tunnel
In 1890, the Mersey Railway Tunnel carried 10 million passengers. Unfortunately, there was a severe smoke problem as the ventilation system was inadequate. As a result, the decision was taken in 1899 to electrify the Mersey Tunnel line and, by 1903, the electrification was complete; the first such electrification in the world. This was followed, in 1938, by the electrification of the West Kirby and New Brighton Line and a through rail route to North Wirral was now possible without changing trains.
In 1886, a tunnel was planned from the Cheshire lines Central Railway Station to Huskisson Dock but this was never built.
The New Link Line
In 1962, as part of the integration of Merseyside transport, the Railway Link Line was proposed to link up the Southport and Ormskirk lines with the other railways approaching Liverpool from the east and south. In 1967-68 Liverpool City Corporation sponsored a Parliamentary Bill to carry out the rail improvements and, in 1968, the Mersey Railway Extension Act was passed, under which the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive, the MPTE, was formed. The Link Line was built by the British Railways Board and the electrification was extended to Garston and Kirkby. Seventy-five per cent of the construction costs were met by the Ministry of Transport. In 1974, Merseyside County was formed and the County Council endorsed the proposed co-ordination and integration of transport.
The Link Line started just south of the Hawkshaw Arch and rapidly descended to pass under Leeds Street where the first sections were built using the ‘cut and cover’ technique. From there, twin bore tunnels were cut to a point just past the site of the original Cavern Club where they joined up to the double track single bore original Mersey Railway Tunnel at Paradise Street Junction. Working shafts had been constructed at Moorfields and the Cavern Site.) Beyond Central Station, the floor of the disused CLC Tunnel was lowered to join up with the Central Low Level Station of the Mersey Railway. However, it was envisaged that a branch would be built to connect with the Broadgreen line via the Wapping tunnel so that an additional single bore tunnel was also constructed parallel to the CLC Tunnel to enable a ‘flying’ or ‘burying’ junction to be constructed at a later date to avoid conflicting train movements. Short headings were also made to avoid disruptions to train services, should this line ever be built.
Reverting back to Paradise Street Junction, a single line connection has been left in between the Link and the Loop Lines along the Old Mersey Railway Tunnel, to enable stock transfers to be made, but this is never used for passenger services. One new station was built on the Link Line at Moorfields which allowed Exchange Station to close, while the old Central Low Level Station was refurbished to serve Southport instead of the Wirral.
The New Loop Line
The line consists of a single line loop, 3.2 kilometres long, 4-6 metres in diameter with traffic moving only in a clockwise direction. There are five stations along the line: Moorfields deep level, Lime Street deep level, Central Station and two James Street Stations.
During 1972- 73, headings were cut in sandstone from four vertical shafts at Mann Island , Moorfields, William Brown street and Central Station. The depth of the tunnel varied from 17-6 metres to 37.8 metres. The nearness, of the loop line to the surface is obvious to anyone who has visited theatres and shop basements in Liverpool Unlike the Old River Tunnel, the Loop Line was lined with concrete.
The Overhead Railway
The Overhead Railway may seem to be a very odd topic to include in this book but its construction involved considerable tunnelling. The ‘Dockers’ Umbrella’, as it came to be known, was built in the 1890s and opened on 6 March 1893 . At first, the railway terminated at Alexandra Dock and an extension, opened a year later, took the line north to Seaforth. The southern extension from Herculaneum to the Dingle was opened on 21 December 1896 . The Overhead Railway line ran all the way from Seaforth in the north, to Dingle in the south, a distance of 7 miles 160yds. Most of this route ran along an elevated track carried on iron girders. The remains of the vertical supports can still be seen in the walls along the dock road.
The Overhead Railway Tunnel
At the southern end of the line, the Overhead Railway swung inland over the ground-level railways and along a viaduct and bridge. Just to the north of Herculaneum Dock, it went straight into the side of the sandstone hill at Grafton Street in the Dingle and is clearly visible today. As the line went straight into the side of the hill, it crossed over the Dingle Railway Tunnel on the Cheshire Lines Railway. At least 2ft 9ins of rock separated the two tunnels vertically and additional support was provided in the form of a segmental screen arch over the Cheshire Lines Tunnel. A condition of the construction was that the Overhead Railway Tunnel was to allow for a second Cheshire Lines Tunnel to the east of the existing tunnel but this was never built.
The Overhead Railway Tunnel is just under half a mile long and terminates at Dingle Railway Station on Park Road . The first 605yds of the tunnel was 25ft 6ins wide and 19ft high. As the line approached the station, the tunnel widened to 52ft with a height of 24ft 6ins for a distance of 163yds. The final 41 yds had the same dimensions as the first 605yds and the tunnel ended with a vertical wall of rock. The wider section of the tunnel housed the underground station, which at the time was the largest tunnel arch in Britain . In the centre of the station, was an island platform 170ft long and 28ft wide. Stairs at the eastern end of the station took the passengers up to the surface and the booking hall on Park Road . The station and tunnel were illuminated by electric lights.
The construction of the Overhead Railway Tunnel
Five shafts lOft square were sunk along the line of the tunnel and from these shafts headings were cut in both directions. These headings met with remarkable accuracy, unlike the Wapping Tunnel many years earlier. Black powder explosives, along with pick axes, were used in the digging of the tunnel. Where the Overhead Railway Tunnel crossed over the Cheshire Lines Tunnel, explosives were not used and here the work was all done by hand - an expensive undertaking. A sewer above the line of the tunnel route also needed support and modifications to the tunnel arch had to be made to prevent damage to the sewer. Although the tunnel was cut into sandstone, it was not always easy to excavate. Wet clay layers made the working conditions difficult and stout timbering was needed to shore up the rock. A lining of brindle brick was essential throughout.
During the war, bombing caused extensive damage to the Overhead Railway but was quickly repaired. In February 1956, fire gutted a station building at Seaforth and damage costing £30,00 was caused to two trains. Arson was suspected when a fire was found in one of the trains.
After the war, the Overhead Railway needed modernisation and, although some work was done, the cost of repairs, estimated at two million pounds, was beyond the resources of the company and the line closed on 30 December 1956 .
Liverpool has four underground stations:
James Street Station is the oldest of the underground stations and has a tunnel providing pedestrian access to Water Street .
Moorfields Station with separate platforms on the Loop and link lines has a tunnel connecting it to the business district around Old Hall Street . It also has a commemorative plaque to Vivien Hughes (1909-1994, a civil engineer who played a major part in the development of Liverpool’s Underground Railway system and who was born and died within sight and sound of the railway.
Lime Street Station, the surface part of which goes back to 1836 The underground station was built at the same time as the Loop line Much of the station and booking area is under St George’s Platau which provides a convenient second pedestrian underground crossing to Lime Street . Like all the other stations there are stairs and escalators as well as a lift for those who need it. Central Station is interesting because it has two clear levels. The main pedestrian exits are to Ranelagh and Bold Street but those are others to Fairclough Street and Lewis’s department store.