In 1845 Parliament passed an enabling Act authorising the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) to construct a new line from Edge Hill Station to Waterloo Docks. The two tracks would be pushed beneath Liverpool in a tunnel of just over two miles. On 31st July 1846 LNWR director Henry Booth put its construction out to tender, requiring proposals to be submitted within six weeks. These were reviewed by its Chief Engineer Edward Woods. By this time, the tunnel had already been set out and several of the construction shafts - of which there were at least 13 - were being sunk.
From Byrom Street eastwards the work proved difficult and perilous, labourers driving through treacherous ground and having to support the excavations with the great care. Buildings were demolished between Byrom Street and Fontenoy Street to allow the section to be fully opened out, becoming a box cutting of 69 yards in length where two sidings were laid.
Attempts to drive the tunnel’s remaining portion through clay towards the docks resulted in some houses giving way or being rendered so dangerous that their inhabitants were forced to abandon them at short notice. In April 1848 Edward Kilshaw lodged a claim against the LNWR as a result of damage caused to his soap manufactory on Gascoyne Street. He was compensated to the tune of £126. It was around this time that the LNWR was forced to apply for an extension to its compulsory land purchase powers.
By circumstance or design, the tunnel had become two separate structures - the western part (852 yards) being named Waterloo whilst the longer section eastwards (2,706 yards) earned the title Victoria. By January 1849 the route was almost through and the first goods traffic travelled it in August. But in a final act of defiance, a three-foot section of Victoria Tunnel collapsed in September 1852.
Approximately 26 feet across, the tunnel could accommodate wagons 9 feet wide and 13 feet 3 inches high at their centre.
The Electric Telegraph Company installed wiring through the tunnel, together with bells, magnets and instruments at either end, allowing workers at Byrom Street to communicate with those at Edge Hill where a brick building housed a stationary engine.
Having previously been a conduit only for freight, 12th June 1895 saw passenger trains introduced to the tunnel, using it to reach the now-demolished Riverside Station via the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board’s railway. But the terminus entered a steep decline during the 1960s and saw its last services in February 1971. By then, docks traffic had dried up and the tunnel officially closed on 19th November 1972.
In 1972, as plans were being developed for the Merseyrail network, a proposal was made to use part of the tunnel to create a connection to the low-level Liverpool Central Station. The project failed due to budget constraints and some local opposition. Attempts were made to revive it in 1985 and again in 2007 by Merseytravel, driven by plans to redevelop the north shore area.
Victoria’s east portal features a rusticated arch flanked by buttresses, together with a modillioned cornice and ashlar-coped parapet. It has been Grade II listed since June 1985.
Victoria/Waterloo Tunnels remain in the custody of Network Rail and are subject to its structural maintenance regime.
Its quite a long walk through the tunnels but enjoyable and worth the effort.
Visited with Georgie.
Bryon Street cutting
From Waterloo Dock, wagons were taken by locomotive as far as Byrom Street cutting, encountering falling gradients of 1:86 for 217 yards, 1:139 for 400 yards and 1:513 for 251 yards. From there it was a stiff climb all the way to Edge Hill, rising at 1:57 until a point close to the east portal where it eased slightly to 1:72.
The old engine house on the right of pic.
Refuges were fashioned in both walls as well as two bothys on the Down side, providing storage space for track gangs and a place to rest. The larger of these is close to the Byrom Street portal.
Accumulations of calcite on the brickwork