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Thread: St. John's Beacon visits 1989

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    Newbie timj's Avatar
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    Default St. John's Beacon visits 1989

    My (unofficial!) visits to St. John’s Beacon c1989


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    I was fascinated with the beacon since I saw it on my first visit to Liverpool for university entrance interview in 1986.

    I soon realised when I arrived at uni in Oct 1987 that it was closed to the public and my requests to visit were refused.

    In my 2nd year 1988-89 I noticed building work going on at the foot of the tower but it was just shopping centre refurb, ghastly garish green metal/plastic awnings were added and a false brick skin on the base of the tower.

    I then had the idea of simply trying the door – then as always there is the silver metal door facing into Houghton Street, this is the stairs entrance. The lifts are on the North side facing away from Houghton Street (you used to be able to see their upper doors from the cafe terrace/window of the Liverpool Museum). Then there is the lifts entrance now to the left of the tower, made into a kind of reception area and sandwiched in beside that strange little escalator up-only to the shops. I think the lifts entrance porch was on the right as you look from the street before the refurbishment. Of course the lifts and stairs haven’t moved, just the way you are brought round the back to the North side to access the lifts.
    Like a burglar trying every house or car and eventually one will be open, so it was with both stairs and lifts entrances of the tower, amazingly I don’t think anyone had had the nerve to try!!

    My first trip – the stairs entrance door was ajar one day so I simply walked in. Inside there is a metal staircase rather than concrete formed stairs, rather like a proprietary fire escape stair which is structurally independent of the building. I started climbing – I think there was lights every now and again eventually coming to a self-closing fire door, surprised as I didn’t think I had gone far enough to be at the top. However this led to a small enclosed landing with 2 metal sliding shutter doors beside each other and another fire door at the other end. I later realised the metal doors led to the back of the lift shafts. The metal stairs then continued with another landing later then finally I arrived at the top gasping at the view and that I had finally made it.

    There were some technicians working on telephone lines or something and they were surprised to see me but let me have a quick run round the circular restaurant floor before returning down the stairs with them when they finished their job. I realised that the landings were passed were at 1/3 and 2/3 stages of the climb and were to allow emergency/maintenance access to the lift shafts.

    On further tries of the doors/spotting doors open I had a couple of trips up the lift (Northern) side of the column, to be continued...

    Tim

    PS is anyone interested in the floorplans I drew (on my later visits) of the main floors?

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    Re-member Ged's Avatar
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    Nice commentary but a pity you didn't have a camera with you Tim.
    www.inacityliving.piczo.com/

    Updated weekly with old and new pics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ged View Post
    Nice commentary but a pity you didn't have a camera with you Tim.
    You are quite right, it is a GREAT pity!

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    Smurf Member scouse smurf's Avatar
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    Tim, if you've got the plans scanned post them here

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    Quote Originally Posted by scouse smurf View Post
    Tim, if you've got the plans scanned post them here
    OK here goes:



    Tim

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    Senior Member GeorgePorgie's Avatar
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    What was you at college for,Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgePorgie View Post
    What was you at college for,Tim
    Building Services Engineering

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    Senior Member Marty1's Avatar
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    I'm glad it wasn't Tec Drawing !

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    Quote Originally Posted by scouse smurf View Post
    Tim, if you've got the plans scanned post them here
    Hi
    more to follow soon:

    Description of visits via lift
    Explanation of diagrams
    Diagram of 1 of the other levels (when I have drawn it) - there were 2 at the bottom and 5 at the top!!

    Thankyou for your interest scouse smurf and ged.

    Tim

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    I went onto the observation deck in the early 70's, from what I remember it had railings and perspex around which obscured the view a bit !
    My dad worked on it ( electrician ) and he told a tale of going up the side in a bucket, as the lifts were broke !
    We, as kids were impressed, it was only later we found out it was one of his TALL tales !
    Started the Old Swan Website:

    http://oldswan.piczo.com/?cr=5

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    Senior Member GNASHER's Avatar
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    Went up there in 1979.Must have a search for the photos.

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    Hi

    Continuing my story of visits to the Beacon, I sometimes found the lifts entrance door to be open. On my 1st couple of visits I merely got as far as the lift doors, marvelling at what excitement it must have been to people in the past and took a photo (possibly lost / chucked as it was poor quality) of the plaque commemorating the visit by the Queen. Can’t remember if I tried the call button, but I do remember being told by centre staff that the lifts were out of order as they had never been maintained for years.

    Not long after I did hear that the lifts were being repaired and this prompted me to try again. Another random day, prob early afternoon I tried again, walked into the foyer and tried the button and the lift doors opened. I didn’t dare enter due to possible entrapment but sent it to the top and called back again. All seemed to be OK so I decided to brave it – now or never!
    The acceleration was in a series of jerks which I think is an early method of controlling motors in steps but deceleration was fairly normal. And there I was, right at the observation deck with no one in my way this time!

    I set about exploring the 2 main floors, discovering that there was another significant floor under the restaurant.



    Basement Floor This was reached using either one of two sets of stairs descending from the South (escape stairs) side of the restaurant and was a proper floor level but not round the whole circumference, just the Northern half roughly. This floor had male and female changing rooms / toilets, obviously for staff and a kind of maintenance room which contained the revolving floor mechanism spare bulbs, parts for machinery and possibly a workbench. There was access from at least one end of the semicircle to the floor void and you could see the light bulbs that illuminate the column and shine out of slatted holes down below. NB no access to escape stairs from this floor as it was on the ‘wrong’ side and I can’t remember if there were any access doors to the lift shaft from this level, certainly no formal stop here with automatic doors but the ubiquitous Bolton Brady access shutters would have made sense here.



    Back to the main (restaurant) floor, I discovered that staircases led off from here in 5 directions! At the South side there are staircases to left and right down to the changing rooms (only 1 strictly necessary but everything was double routed) plus up and down the metal stairs in the core. At the North side beside the lifts there was a relatively smart internal staircase leading up and clockwise round the core to the Southern side of the observation deck. This staircase was signposted as a fire exit from the North side of the restaurant ie people to walk up it and then down the escape stairs from the South side of the observation deck!

    Going clockwise from the main entrance (lifts, North side) there was a (full height poss.) desk in front as you walk out of the lifts that must have been for tills or the person that finds you a seat etc. Then the public internal stairs up to the observation deck and toilets. Next a room/space I have not labelled on my diagram unfortunately but I assume it could be a servery / wash up area served by dumbwaiter from the kitchen above. Next a gap in the kind of middle semi-inner core with possibly some flimsy doors (I can’t remember) concealing a lobby leading to all the multifarious staircases mentioned above. Next, a room labelled as ‘control room’ not sure what was meant to be controlled from here! Again, another unidentified space and then cloakrooms coming back to the lifts.

    Observation Deck Again clockwise from the lifts there was a lobby / café area with sliding/folding? doors out to the deck itself. Then the kitchen which I was able to walk through to a door leading to the top of the public staircase and therefore out onto the South side lobby which had its own set of doors out onto the roof. Perhaps this was another kind of 1st class area of the roof for restaurant customers!
    Continuing round there was a corridor with male/female toilets and then a door at the end back to the North lobby / café area with a tea bar (café servery) in this corner.


    Even Higher!

    Between the lift entrances (which were deep set here) on the observation deck, there was a metal ladder. In for a penny, in for a pound I climbed this it was more than a storey, perhaps 2 to climb and eventually reached a floor of lift equipment. Here there were electrical cabinets, Ward Leonard sets and diverter pulleys but no proper motors. The pulleys were presumably to take the drive cables from centrally mounted motors over to the North side of the core where the actual shafts are.

    Higher again up another ladder was finally the motor room. This contained 2 gearless direct drive machines, longer than other gearless lift machines I had seen ie more sausage than disc shaped and painted pale blue I can still see it today!

    There was a roof hatch with a ladder to it I think but enough was enough I seemed to have climbed halfway to the moon already! I was a little concerned about entrapment at this stage, this was before the days of mobile phones. I also had no water or toilet facilities and I was exhausted. I had had a scare earlier on trying the lift call buttons on one of the main levels while exploring to find that the door didn’t open nor did the machines above rumble and pull the lift up to me. After about 20 to 30 seconds the door opened there though. What had happened was that the lift car was just there in front of me but the Ward-Leonard set (motor coupled to a generator to covert ac to dc for lift control) needed to start up, they are often on a timer and so cut out if not used for a few minutes.

    And so down to ground travelling in the luxury by lift!


    Tim

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    Liverpool New Yorker! Ronijayne's Avatar
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    Any photos of this place please?
    Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronijayne View Post
    Any photos of this place please?
    Sorry no from myself a great pity as I had a very thorough exploration one day as above and didn't have a camera as it was an unexpected piece of luck that I was able to. I think others (Gerald Fleming for one) have mentioned they have more photos to bring out.

    The 2 main floors are probably reasonably well photographed so not too much loss there but its a shame I didn't capture the 'basement' floor especially the room containing revolving mechanism, other contraptions and general junk. The escape stairs will be virtually unchanged I reckon. The pinnacle at the very top is likely to contain the two original lift motors and diverter pulleys (almost irreplaceable due to physical size) but new electronic controls (you can feel it doesn't jerk now). Still a great loss I'm sure '28 days later' would have had a field day there.

    Tim

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    Senior Member Waterways's Avatar
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    I worked on the tower as a kid in 1968. When I was there is was just two concrete saucers and a crane out of the top. A temporary builders lift was inside with a permanent operator (an Irish guy). It was about 3 foot square and about 20 fellas seemed to get into the lift. There was no protection on the sides at the top and it was easy to fall off. I recall laying on my stomach to look over the edge on the bottom section (the floor). I remember a hole in the top section (the roof) with a bit of wood thrown over it. It would have been easy to fall through to the lower. Safety was not as it is today.

    A chimney was run up the inside of the tower for the boilers.

    Many years later I went to the top of the tower to the revolving restaurant. It was nice up there having dinner as it went around. At dusk on a high tide as the ships were coming from Liverpool Bay with their lights on, it was spectacular.
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