Liverpool and Manchester Railway

From Academic Kids

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (LMR) was the world's first intercity passenger railway operated solely by steam locomotives. (The Stockton and Darlington opened the first passenger rail line operating steam trains five years earlier, although some trains were still hauled by horses.) The LMR was also built to provide faster transport of raw materials and finished goods between the port of Liverpool and mills in Manchester in north-west England.

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Stephenson's Viaduct crossing the Sankey Brook

Up to Construction

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was intended to achieve cheap transport of raw materials and finished goods between Manchester and its natural port outlet; Liverpool. The main means of transport (the Bridgewater Canal ), built some 50 years earlier was felt to be making excessive profits from the existing trade and throttling the growth of Manchester. (Similar feelings with regard to the railways led in turn to the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in the 1890ís). There was support for the railway from the cities at either end, but opposition from the landowners over whose land the railway was originally proposed to pass. The initial survey for the line of the railway being done surreptitiously and/or by trespass was defective, (George Stephenson was given a very hard time on this during Parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill), and Parliament threw out the first Bill for construction of the railway on these grounds. The second Bill 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


Designed by George Stephenson and Joseph Locke, the 35-mile line was authorised by Parliament in 1826, at the second attempt, but construction was quite difficult, including the famous 4.75 mile crossing of Chat Moss bog.

Having found it impossible to drain the bog, Stephenson began constructing a large number of wooden and heather hurdles which were placed on the surface of the bog and sunk into it 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 which 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 twenty-five times the weight of the Rocket, which hauled the first experimental train over the moss in January 1830.

In 1829 there was still sufficient doubt as to whether the locomotives of the day would be powerful enough to operate the railway that the directors of the company prepared an alternate plan to use stationary steam engines and haul the trains between engines by rope. To determine whether and which locomotives would be suitable, the directors organised the Rainhill Trials.


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Stephenson's bridge over the Warrington - Wigan Turnpike Road
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Huskisson monument

The line opened on September 15, 1830 with termini at Liverpool Road, Manchester (the station is now part of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester) and Edge Hill, Liverpool. The festivities of the opening day were marred when William Huskisson, the popular Member of Parliament for Liverpool, seized the opportunity of a temporary halt to alight and talk to the Duke of Wellington, then Prime Minister, through the Duke's carriage window. Standing on the permanent way, he misjudged the speed of an approaching locomotive Rocket and was run over, becoming the world's first railway passenger fatality. (He was not killed instantly; an engine was detached and rushed him to Eccles, where he died in the vicarage). The somewhat subdued party proceeded to Manchester, where (the Duke being deeply unpopular with the labouring classes) they were given a lively reception (bricks thrown, etc), and returned to Liverpool.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate start to its career, the LMR was very successful. W ithin a few weeks of opening the LMR had run its first excursion trains, carried the first mails, and was conveying road-rail containers for Pickfords; by the summer of 1831 the railway was carrying tens of thousands by special trains to Newton Races.

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 1811 metres (1980 yards) 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 closed.


Being the first railway many lessons had to be learnt from experience, but not many passengers were killed except by their own negligence. The LMR developed the practice of red signals for stop, green for caution and white for clear which spread by the early 1840s to other railways in Britain and the United States. The LMR was also responsible for the gauge of four feet eight and a half inches (4' 8½") that came to be used more or less universally.

In 1845 the LMR was absorbed by its principal business partner, the Grand Junction Railway; the following year the GJR formed part of the London and North Western Railway.

The original Liverpool and Manchester line still operates today as a secondary line between the two cities. For anyone wishing to travel on the LMR today, as of (2003) a stopping local service operates on the line between Manchester Victoria station and Liverpool Lime Street Station.


  • Lime Street (work started on Edge Hill - Lime Street tunnel 23 May 1832; opened 15 August 1836)
  • Edge Hill (original Liverpool terminus - now virtually unused; at first Edge Hill linked the Wapping Dock to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway; the Wapping Tunnel was opened in 1829).
  • Wavertree Technology Park (built in 1990s)
  • Broad Green
  • Roby
  • Huyton
  • Whiston
  • Rainhill
  • Lea Green (closed and then re-opened with a completely new station in the late 1990s)
  • St Helens Junction (sometime between 1833-1837; junction with the St Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway)
  • Collins Green
  • Earlestown (built in 1831 by the Warrington and Newton Railway company; originally named Newton Junction; renamed sometime after 1837)
  • Newton-le-Willows (originally named Newton Bridge; renamed after Newton Junction was renamed Earlestown)
  • Parkside (in 1833 the line to Wigan was opened)
  • Kenyon Junction (built sometime between 1833-1837; junction with the Bolton and Leigh Railway; closed 2 January 1961)
  • Glazebury & Bury Lane (closed 7 July 1958)
  • Astley (closed 2 May 1956)
  • Flow Moss Cottage (closed 1842)
  • Lamb's Cottage (closed 1842)
  • Barton Moss 1st (closed 1 May 1862)
  • Barton Moss 2nd (closed 23 September 1929)
  • Patricroft
  • Eccles
  • Weaste (closed 19 October 1942; destroyed when M602 built)
  • Seedley (closed 2 January 1956; destroyed when M602 built)
  • Cross Lane (closed 15 August 1949; destroyed when M602 built)
  • Ordsall Lane (work on extension of line to Manchester Victoria started 30 July 1842 and the extension opened on 4 May 1844; station closed 4 February 1957)
  • Liverpool Road (original Manchester terminus, closed 4 May 1844)
  • Exchange Station (closed 5 May 1969)
  • Victoria (opened in 1844; not now what it once was)

(stations still open in bold)


  • The Last Journey of William Huskisson: The Day the Railway Came of Age; Simon Garfield (UK 2002); ISBN 0571210481

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