Manchester Piccadilly Station
London Road, Manchester, UK
opened 8th May 1842, 1860s, 1880-3, 1969, 1997-9, 2003
ICE reference number
photo Anna J. Dunkerley / ICE R&D Fund
Manchester Piccadily is the city's principle railway station. Its original name was Store Street Station and it was built as the terminus of the Manchester & Birmingham Railway, which ran to Crewe. Four years after it opened its name changed to London Road, which is how it was known until 1960. It now serves the West Coast Main Line.
The mid 19th century was a busy time for railway construction. A great many lines, all run by different companies, competed to provide services between the major conurbations of London, the Midlands and northern England. Each constructed their own stations, resulting in multiple terminuses in cities like Manchester. The Store Street terminus was shared by the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne & Manchester Railway, which agreed to join tracks with the M&BR to reduce costs. Many other rail mergers soon followed.
The chief engineer for the M&BR was George Watson Buck (1789 - 1854), whose major works — the Dane and Stockport viaducts — are part of the line. It's unclear whether he had a hand in Manchester Piccadilly's original train shed.
The modern station complex consists of a series of modern buildings (1969), including a high-rise tower, and the main train shed roof extending over the platforms. It serves 12 terminal platforms and two through-train platforms (13 and 14), which carry what were originally the lines for the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway. The through-train platforms were always carried on a bridge — currently the prestressed concrete Fairfield Street Bridge of 1960.
The two eastern iron roof spans of the historic part of the station date from the 1860s, when the station was extended. Major roof rebuilding took place in 1880-3, at which time the number of spans was increased to four. The whole roof is curved in plan — 185m long at its eastern end, 150m long at the western end — and 105.2m wide. It is supported on cast iron columns, with masonry walls for support at the outer edges (platforms 1 and 12)s. There are two single rows of columns (platforms 4 to 5 and 10 to 11) and one double row (platforms 8 to 9).
Each roof span run is made up of series of wrought iron trusses between 24.4m and 30.5m long, with cast iron struts, carried on longitudinal girders spanning between columns. The trusses have curved top booms and combined ties, with X-type bracing at their centres and N-type bracing elsewhere.
The roof was originally clad in slate, with some integral glazing. This was later replaced with boarded felt and glazing. The part over the concourse, and the awnings over the platform ends, all date from 1960 when the main roof was re-clad. In 1997-9, the roof whole was refurbished and the cladding replaced by a toughened glass structure of somw 10,000 panes that ‘floats’ above the wrought iron trusses. Nets have been installed in case any glass should break.
Many of the original associated buildings were demolished in the mid 1960s. The only warehouse left unscathed is the London Warehouse of 1876. As part of the 1969 works, a new station approach area was constructed, along with Gateway House, which lines the approach road.
Below platform level, cast iron columns and brick arches support the building complex over a car park, formerly used as a goods station. The non-through platforms are also supported on cast iron columns. When Manchester's Metrolink system was built, for which Piccadilly is the terminus, its tracks and sidings were installed below the main platforms and the cast iron columns encased in concrete for collision protection.
The approach road, station facilities and station façade were modernised in 2003 at a cost of £60m.
Chief engineer M&BR: George Watson Buck
Assistant engineer M&BR: Charles Hutton Gregory
Design engineer (1860s station roof): R&J Rankin
Architect (2003 train shed): EGS Design
Engineer (2003 traffic, transport): Faber Maunsell
Main contractor (2003): Laing O'Rourke
"A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Greater Manchester"
by Robina McNeil and Michael Nevell
Association for Industrial Archaeology, 2000