The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) was a railway opened on 15 September 1830 between the Lancashire towns of Liverpool and Manchester in England.[i] It was the first railway to rely exclusively on steam power, with no horse-drawn traffic permitted at any time; the first to be entirely double track throughout its length; the first to have a signalling system; the first to be fully timetabled; the first to be powered entirely by its own motive power; and the first to carry mail. John B. Jervis of the Delaware and Hudson Railway some years later wrote: "It must be regarded ... as opening the epoch of railways which has revolutionised the social and commercial intercourse of the civilized world".
Trains were hauled by company steam locomotives between the two towns, though private wagons and carriages were allowed. Cable haulage of freight trains was down the steeply-graded 1.26-mile Wapping Tunnel to Liverpool Docks from Edge Hill junction. The railway was primarily built to provide faster transport of raw materials, finished goods and passengers between the Port of Liverpool and mills in Manchester and surrounding towns.
The railway was a financial success, paying investors an average annual dividend of 9.5% over the 15 years of its independent existence: a level of profitability that would never again be attained by a British railway company. In 1845 the railway was absorbed by its principal business partner, the Grand Junction Railway (GJR), which in turn amalgamated the following year with the London and Birmingham Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway to form the London and North Western Railway.
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first public transport system on land which did not use animal traction power. Up to then, the only rail systems for public use had been:
Often described as the Grand British Experimental Railway, the success or failure of which would decide plans for all future railways, the L&MR was intended to achieve cheap transport of raw materials, finished goods and passengers between the Port of Liverpool and east Lancashire, in the port's hinterland. Huge tonnages of textile raw material were imported through Liverpool and carried to the textile mills near the Pennines where water and then steam power enabled the production of the finished cloth.
The existing means of water transport, the Mersey and Irwell Navigation and the Bridgewater Canal, dated from the previous century, and were felt to be making excessive profits from the existing trade and throttling the growth of Manchester and other towns. (Similar feelings with regard to the railways led in turn to the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in the 1890s). There was support for the railway from both Liverpool and London. Manchester was largely indifferent, but opposition came from the two local Lords, the Earl of Derby and the Earl of Sefton over whose land the railway was proposed to pass, plus the canal operators.
The original promoters are usually acknowledged to be Joseph Sandars, a rich Liverpool corn merchant, and John Kennedy, then owner of the largest spinning mill in Manchester. They were influenced to do this by William James. Now something of a forgotten figure, James was a land surveyor who had made a fortune in property speculation. He advocated a national network of railways, based upon what he had seen of the development of colliery lines and locomotive technology in the north of England.
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company was founded on 20 May 1824. It was established by Henry Booth, who became its secretary and treasurer, along with other merchants from Liverpool and Manchester. Charles Lawrence was the Chairman, Lister Ellis, Robert Gladstone, John Moss and Joseph Sandars were the Deputy Chairmen. A bill presented in 1825 to Parliament was rejected, but it passed in May the following year. In Liverpool 172 people took 1,979 shares, in London 96 took 844, Manchester 15 with 124, 24 others with 286. The Marquess of Stafford had 1,000, giving 308 shareholders with 4,233 shares.
The initial survey for the line was carried out by William James and, being done surreptitiously or by trespass, was defective. Robert Stephenson departed for South America and William James became bankrupt. Consequently, in 1824 George Stephenson was appointed engineer in their place. By this time, he was taking on too much. As Robert was absent in South America, George (who could not do the calculations required, and had relied on his son for this part of the business) left checking the survey to subordinates. Upon presentation to Parliament in 1825 it was shown to be inaccurate. Stephenson's lack of understanding of the work of his subordinates on major issues—including the levels of the track and the cost of major structures such as the Irwell Viaduct—was ruthlessly exposed by the opposing counsel Edward Hall Alderson and the bill was thrown out. A key opposition figure in this had been Robert Haldane Bradshaw, one of the trustees of the Marquess of Stafford's Worsley estate, which included the Bridgewater Canal.
In place of George Stephenson, who was now in disgrace, the railway promoters appointed George and John Rennie as engineers, who chose Charles Blacker Vignoles as their surveyor. They also set out to placate the canal interests and had the good fortune to be able to approach the Marquess directly through the good offices of their counsel, Mr. Adam, who was a relative of one of the trustees, and the support of William Huskisson who knew the Marquess personally. Implacable opposition to the line changed to financial support—a considerable coup.
The second Bill received the Royal Assent in 1826, and was for a railway on a considerably different alignment, avoiding the properties of particularly vociferous or effective opponents of the previous Bill, but as a consequence facing the challenge of crossing Chat Moss bog. It was intended to place the Manchester terminus on the Salford side of the river, but the Mersey and Irwell Navigation withdrew their opposition to a crossing of their river at the last moment, in return for access for their carts to the intended railway bridge. The Manchester station was thus fixed at Liverpool Road in the heart of Castlefield.
The terms asked for by the Rennies proving unacceptable, George Stephenson was reappointed as engineer with his assistant Joseph Locke. Previous experience with civil engineers set Stephenson against allowing Vignoles to continue his survey and he resigned. L. T. C. Rolt in his biography of Stephenson suggests that a faction on the Board continued to ask Stephenson for second opinions, and Rennie took umbrage at this. Vignoles may have resigned because he had been appointed by Rennie, and as an ex-army engineer thought it the honourable thing to do.
The 35 miles (56 km) line was a remarkable engineering achievement for its time, beginning with the 2,250 yards (2,057 m) Wapping Tunnel beneath Liverpool from the south end of Liverpool Docks to Edge Hill. This was the world's first tunnel to be bored under a metropolis. Following this was a 2-mile (3.2 km) long cutting up to 70 feet (21.3 m) deep through rock at Olive Mount, and a nine arch viaduct (each arch of 50 feet (15.2 m) span), over the Sankey Brook valley, around 70 feet (21.3 m) high.
Not least was the famous 4.75 miles (7.6 km) crossing of Chat Moss. It was found impossible to drain the bog at Chat Moss, and one of the men on the site, Robert Stannard suggested timber in a herring bone layout. Stephenson began constructing a large number of wooden and heather hurdles, which were sunk into the bog using stones and earth until they could provide a solid foundation—it was reported that at one point tipping went on solidly for weeks until such a foundation had been created. To this day the track across Chat Moss floats on the hurdles that Stephenson's men laid and if one stands near the lineside one can feel the ground move as a train passes. It is worthy of note that the line now supports locomotives 25 times the weight of the Rocket, which hauled the first experimental train over the Moss in January 1830.
The railway needed 64 bridges and viaducts, all of which were built of brick or masonry, with one exception: the Water Street bridge at the Manchester terminus. A cast iron beam girder bridge was used here to save headway in the street below the line. It was designed by William Fairbairn and Eaton Hodgkinson, and cast locally at their factory in Ancoats. It is important because cast iron girders became an important structural material for the growing rail network. Although Fairbairn tested the girders before installation, not all were so well designed, and there were many examples of catastrophic failure in the years to come, resulting in the Dee bridge disaster of 1847 and culminating in the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879.
In 1829 adhesion-worked locomotives had not proved particularly reliable. The experience on the Stockton and Darlington Railway was well-publicised, and a section of the Hetton colliery railway had been converted to cable haulage. The success of the latter method was indisputable, while the steam locomotive was still untried. The L&MR had sought to de-emphasise the use of steam locomotives during the passage of the bill, the public having become alarmed at the idea of these monstrous machines which, if they did not explode, would fill the countryside with noxious fumes.
Moreover, attention was turning towards steam road carriages, such as those of Goldsworthy Gurney's. There was thus a division in the L&MR board between those who supported Stephenson's "loco-motive" and those who favoured cable haulage, the latter supported by the opinion of the engineer, John Rastrick. Stephenson was not averse to cable haulage—he continued to build such lines where he felt it appropriate—but knew its main disadvantage, that any breakdown anywhere would paralyse the whole line.
The gradient profile of the line had been arranged so as to concentrate the steep grades in three places (either side of Rainhill at 1 in 100 and down to the docks at Liverpool at 1 in 50) and make the rest of the line very gently graded, say 1 in 2,000. To determine whether and which locomotives would be suitable, the directors organised the Rainhill Trials. When the line opened, the final passenger section from Edge Hill to Crown Street railway station was cable hauled, as was the section down the Wapping Tunnel.
The line was built to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) and double track. Firstly, there was no convenient means of operating the line as single track as the line predated the telegraph. Secondly, the amount of traffic was expected to require double track.
A decision had to be made about how far apart the rails of the double track should be. It was decided to make the space between the separate tracks the same as the track gauge itself, so that it would be possible to operate trains with unusually wide loads up the middle during quiet times (there is no evidence of this having occurred). In later years, it was decided that the tracks were too close together, restricting the width of the trains, so the gap between tracks (track centres) was widened. The narrowness of this gap contributed to the first fatality, that of William Huskisson, and also made it dangerous to do maintenance work on one track while trains are operating on the other.
The line opened on 15 September 1830 with termini at Manchester, Liverpool Road (now part of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester) and Liverpool Crown Street. The festivities of the opening day were marred when William Huskisson, the popular Member of Parliament for Liverpool, was killed.
L.T.C. Rolt, in his biography of the Stephensons, describes the event in some detail. The southern line was reserved for the special opening train, drawn by the locomotive Northumbrian and conveying the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, in an ornamental carriage, together with distinguished guests in other carriages (including Huskisson). When the train stopped for water at Parkside, near Newton-le-Willows, it was intended that the other trains should pass in review on the northern line.
As the surface was covered with earth and cinders to rail level, it was easy for passengers to get down and stretch their legs, particularly as there was an interval between the delayed passing trains. Huskisson seized the opportunity to alight and stroll alongside the train. He then caught Wellington's eye through the Duke's carriage window. As the two were politically estranged, it was a golden opportunity to commence a reconciliation. The Duke inclined his head, someone opened the carriage door, and the two swapped pleasantries.
Then, people noticed Rocket approaching on the Northern line and shouted a warning. The Austrian ambassador was bodily pulled into the carriage, but Huskisson panicked. He tried to climb into the carriage, but he gripped the open door, which swung back, causing him to lose his grip. He fell between the two tracks, but the Rocket ran over his leg which was fouling the rail, shattering it. He is said to have uttered the tragic words "I have met my death—God forgive me!"
The Northumbrian was detached from the Duke's train and rushed him to Eccles, where he died in the vicarage. Thus he became the world's first widely reported railway passenger fatality. The somewhat subdued party proceeded to Manchester, where, the Duke being deeply unpopular with the weavers and mill workers, they were given a lively reception (bricks thrown, etc.), and returned to Liverpool without alighting (a grand reception and banquet had been prepared for their arrival).
Notwithstanding the unfortunate start to its career, the L&MR was very successful. Within a few weeks of opening it ran its first excursion trains, carried the first railway mails in the world, and was conveying road-rail containers for Pickfords; by the summer of 1831 it was carrying tens of thousands by special trains to Newton Races.
Although the Act had allowed for it to be used by private carriers paying a toll, from the start the company decided to own and operate the trains itself. Although the original intention had been to carry goods, the canal companies reduced their prices, (an indication that, perhaps the railwaymen had been right to suggest their charges were excessive) and the extra transit time was acceptable in most cases. In fact the line did not start carrying goods until December, when the first of some more powerful engines, Planet, was delivered.
What was not expected was the line's success in carrying passengers. The experience at Rainhill had shown that unprecedented speed could be achieved. The train was also cheaper and more comfortable than travel by road. So, at first, the company concentrated on this, a decision that had repercussions across the country and triggered the "railway mania".
Initially trains travelled at 17 miles per hour (27 km/h), due the limitations of the track. Drivers could, and did, travel more quickly, but they would be reprimanded: it was found that excessive speeds could force apart the light rails, which were set onto individual stone blocks without cross-ties. In 1837 work started to replace the original fish-belly rail with parallel rail of 50 pounds per yard (24.8 kg/m), on sleepers.
The tunnel from Lime Street to Edge Hill was fully completed in 1836, and when it opened carriages were separated from their engines and lowered to Lime Street station by gravity, their descent controlled by brakemen, and hauled back up to Edge Hill by rope from a stationary engine. The tunnel is approximately 1,980 yards (1,811 m) long.
On 30 July 1842 work started to extend the line from Ordsall Lane to the new Manchester Victoria station. The extension was opened on 4 May 1844 and Liverpool Road station was thereafter used for goods traffic for over a century.
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first railway to have a system of signalling. This was undertaken by policemen, who were stationed along the line at distances of a mile or less. Initially these policemen signalled that the line was clear by standing straight with their arms outstretched. If the policeman was not present, or was standing at ease, this indicated that there was an obstruction on the line ahead. Gradually a system of hand-held flags was developed, with a red flag being used to stop a train, green indicating that a train should proceed at caution, blue indicating to drivers of baggage trains that there were new wagons for them to take on and a black flag being used by platelayers to indicate works on the track. Any flag waved violently, or at night a lamp waved up and down, indicated that a train should stop. Until 1844 handbells were used as emergency signals in foggy weather, though in that year small explosive boxes placed on the line began to be used instead.
Trains were controlled on a time interval basis: policemen signalled for a train to stop if less than ten minutes had elapsed since a previous train had passed; the signal to proceed at caution was given if more than ten minutes but less than seventeen minutes had passed; otherwise the all clear signal was given. If a train broke down on the line, the policeman had to run a mile down the track to stop oncoming traffic.
After the opening of the Warrington and Newton Railway four policemen were placed constantly on duty at Newton Junction, at the potentially dangerous points where the two lines met. Initially a gilt arrow was used to point towards Warrington to indicate that the points were set in that direction, with a green lamp visible from the L&MR line being used to indicate this at night. Later a fixed signal was used, with red and white chequered boards on 12 foot high posts being turned to face trains from one direction if another train was ahead.
In 1837 the London and Birmingham Railway conducted trials using a Cooke and Wheatstone telegraph to direct signalling and in 1841 held a conference to propose a uniform national system of coloured signals to control trains, but despite these advances elsewhere the Liverpool and Manchester Railway continued to be controlled by policemen and flags until its merger with the Grand Junction Railway in 1845.
Being one of the first railways, many lessons had to be learnt from experience, but not many passengers were killed except by their own negligence.
The L&MR was also responsible for the gauge of 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm), which came to be used more or less universally. The L&MR used left hand running on double track, following practice on British roads. The form of couplings using buffers, hooks and chains, and their dimensions, set the pattern for European practice and practice in many other places.
Even before the LMR opened, connecting and other lines were planned, authorised or under construction, such as the Bolton and Leigh Railway.
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The original Liverpool and Manchester line still operates as a secondary line between the two cities—the southern route, the former Cheshire Lines Committee route via Warrington Central is for the moment the busier route. This however has already started to change (from the May 2014 timetable) with new Transpennine Express services between Newcastle/Manchester Victoria and Liverpool and between Manchester (Airport) and Scotland (via Chat Moss, Lowton and Wigan). From December 2014, with completion of electrification (see below) the two routes between Manchester and Liverpool will have much the same frequency of service.
On the original route, a new (May 2014) hourly Transpennine Express non-stop service runs between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool (from/to) Newcastle), an hourly fast service is operated by Northern, from Liverpool to Manchester, usually calling at Wavertree Technology Park, St Helens Junction, Newton-le-Willows and Manchester Oxford Road, and continuing via Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport. Northern also operates an hourly service calling at all stations from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria. This is supplemented by an additional all-stations service between Liverpool and Earlestown, which continues to Warrington Bank Quay.
Between Warrington Bank Quay, Earlestown and Manchester Piccadilly, there are additional services (at least one per hour) operated by Arriva Trains Wales, which originate from Chester and the North Wales Coast Line.
In 2009, electrification at 25 kV AC was announced. The section between Manchester and Newton, including the Chat Moss section, was completed in 2013; the line onwards to Liverpool opened on 5 March 2015.
The historic passenger railway station of Manchester Liverpool Road is a Grade I Listed building, and is threatened by the Northern Hub plan. After this project is completed, it will no longer be possible to run trains into or out of Manchester Liverpool Road station. The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry management had initially objected to the scheme and an inquiry was set up in 2014 to investigate the potential damage to the historic structure.
All stations opened on 15 September 1830, unless noted. Stations still operational in bold.
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