Down by the Riverside

Liverpool Riverside Station [left] and Princes Dock [right] from the Liver Building (1983)

Liverpool Riverside Station [left] and Princes Dock [right] from the Liver Building (1983)

My Isle of Man host-with-the-most John was puzzled when he parked up at the ferry terminal in Liverpool to find himself standing on cobbled roadway with a complex set of railway lines embedded.

This turned out to be all that is left of Liverpool Riverside station, a legendary line by which passengers were transported directly to the quayside, so that they stepped out of their railway carriage and walked across a covered roadway directly to their ocean-going liner.

Boat trains left the main line at Edge Hill station, which still exists, and followed a steep descent through Victoria and Waterloo tunnels and then over a tight curve on to the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board tracks that led to the three platforms of Riverside station.  On the dock estate these trains proceeded literally at walking pace, following a man carrying a warning flag.

The appeal for trans-shipping passengers who would otherwise have to make their way across town from Lime Street station is obvious, but the operational practicalities made the service cumbersome even in the heyday of rail travel.

In any case, not long after this link was constructed in 1895 the major transatlantic passenger traffic began to migrate to Southampton, where the London & South Western Railway cannily built docks big enough to take the new generation of vessels which included Oceanic, Titanic and Britannic.  (The reason that Titanic had the lettering ‘TITANIC – LIVERPOOL’ on its stern was because the White Star Line registered its vessels from its Liverpool head office.  The ship never visited Liverpool.)

The real heyday of Liverpool Riverside appears to have been wartime, when it was heavily used for troop movements.  Indeed, according to the Disused Stations website [http://www.disused-stations.org.uk], the very last train brought troops embarking for Northern Ireland on February 25th 1971.

The place stood derelict until the 1990s, and is now transformed by the regeneration of Liverpool’s riverside.

PS:  Since John got back “across”, as they say in the Isle of Man, he’s passed me this very informative link about the rail links between Edge Hill and the Liverpool docks: https://localwiki.org/liverpool/Liverpool%27s_Historic_Rail_Tunnels.

PSS:  A 1950s image from the same viewpoint as the image above, the western tower of the Royal Liver Building, is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/thanoz/2863774968.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on Liverpool architecture, please click here.

The 68-page, A4 handbook for the 2011 Liverpool’s Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To view sample pages click here.  Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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