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Edge Hill Station
Tunnel Road, Edge Hill, Liverpool, UK
Edge Hill Station
associated engineer
George Stephenson
date  1826 - 15th September 1830, October 1833 - August 1836
era  Georgian  |  category  Building  |  reference  SJ370899
ICE reference number  HEW 752
photo  © Owen Dunn
Liverpool’s Edge Hill Station is the oldest railway passenger station in the world still in use. The present station building opened in 1836, and has been largely restored to how it looked at that date. It was preceded by an earlier station located nearby in a deep cutting. Both were part of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR, opened 1830).
George Stephenson (1781-1848) was the engineer for the groundbreaking 50km Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR), which is generally accepted to be the world’s first inter-city passenger line, connecting the industrial cities of Liverpool and Manchester. It opened on 15th September 1830.
Edge Hill is situated just to the east of Liverpool's city centre, at the top of an escarpment that rises from the River Mersey and Liverpool's docks. The western terminus of the L&MR was Crown Street Station (dem.), Edge Hill, to the west of the present Edge Hill Station. The site is now part of Crown Street Park. The first Edge Hill Station was always the second timetabled stop coming out of Liverpool, as it is today.
The first Edge Hill Station was unusually sited and set up. It was located 150m to the south west of the current station, in a deep cutting known as Cavendish Cutting. Although still there, the cutting is now somewhat overgrown. It measures 46m long and 12.2m deep and was excavated through marl and solid sandstone. Its sides are near perpendicular.
The eastern end of the station was marked by a masonry structure, known as the Moorish Arch (dem.), designed by Stephenson, which straddled the rail lines and was constructed in the cutting. It was sited between the present day Chatsworth Drive and the western end of the cutting, which also featured rock-cut engine sheds and workshops.
At the cutting's western end is a three-portal tunnel interface. The northern-most portal leads to the single-track Crown Street Tunnel (Crown Street Stephenson Tunnel, 1829), 266m long, which took passenger trains from Edge Hill Station to Crown Street Station. The coaches were unlinked from their locomotives at Edge Hill and cable-hauled up to Crown Street from the cutting, returning under gravity. This is the world's oldest rail tunnel running under streets.
The largest diameter tunnel is in the centre — Wapping Tunnel, 1.93km long, double-track and constructed for goods transport downhill to Wapping Dock and back. Locomotives and wagons descended from Edge Hill by gravity, and were hauled back up using a continuous rope system and a stationery steam-powered winding engine (until 1896).
The southern-most tunnel was originally constructed as locomotive storage. It was later widened to the size we can see today and became the double-track Crown Street Goods Tunnel (1846), serving the Crown Street Freight Yard (closed 1972).
In its early days, Edge Hill was not primarily a passenger stop. The cutting was used mostly as a marshalling yard for horse and for shunting trains and coupling/uncoupling locomotives. The engine sheds and workshops were accessed by turntables connecting to transverse tracks.
The stationery winding engines were housed in rock-cut side rooms near the Moorish Arch, with the boilers accommodated in the arch's legs. Rock-cut flues led smoke from the boilers to two tall chimneys, known as the Pillars of Hercules, sited above the tunnel portals.
Just two years later it was decided to establish Lime Street Station as the Liverpool terminus instead of Crown Street. In 1832, an extension line was authorised between Edge Hill and the Lime Street site. Work began in October 1833. A new tunnel (Lime Street Tunnel) was bored from Edge Hill junction towards Lime Street, covering some 2km. Trains descended under gravity and were cable-hauled back to Edge Hill by a stationary winding engine.
To serve the new passenger route, new station facilities were constructed at Edge Hill junction. The Crown Street and the old Edge Hill facilities were now used for goods and maintenance. Lime Street and Edge Hill new stations opened on 15th August 1836. The architects at Edge Hill were Joseph Franklin (1785-1855) and Thomas Haig, consultants to the Corporation of Liverpool.
Edge Hill Station has two platform islands, linked at their west ends to Tunnel Road by cobbled approach ramps. The double rail tracks of the L&MR ran between the islands, using two platforms (along the inner edges). On each island is a rectangular two-storey red brick station building, faced with red sandstone ashlar masonry, with a hipped roof. The buildings were originally six bays long, and housed the twin stationary steam-driven winding engines that worked the Lime Street incline.
In the 1840s, a roof was constructed over the platforms and two more tracks added. Both buildings were extended eastwards by four bays, probably at this time. The extensions are single storey with high brick parapets. They accommodate the stairs to the underpass between platforms.
In 1847-9, another tunnel incline was constructed — to Waterloo Dock (SJ336913) — with its east portal at new Edge Hill Station. A red brick building with a flat roof was constructed behind the north side station building to house the new Waterloo Tunnel’s winding engine. From 1870, the Lime Street incline ceased to be cable hauled as the locomotives of the day were now capable of pulling trains up the slope.
Sometime in the 1880s, the platform roof at Edge Hill was replaced by awnings when the line was quadrupled by the addition of platforms behind both buildings. Platforms now ran along both edges of the two islands, numbered 1 to 4 going north to south.
In 1882, an hydraulic plant house and adjoining accumulator tower were constructed to supply power to the Edge Hill gridiron. They are of red brick and stand to the east of the Waterloo Tunnel engine house. The accumulator tower is square with a pyramidal roof. From 1895, locomotives took over pulling trains on Waterloo incline.
The 1836 and 1849 station buildings were Grade II* listed in October 1974. The 1882 buildings were Grade II listed. In 1979, British Rail restored Edge Hill Station and by 1980, the buildings had been returned almost to their original appearance. However, only the north side approach ramp is now used to access the station. In June 1985, the entrance to Waterloo Tunnel was Grade II listed.
In 2007-9, the engine house, hydraulic plant house and accumulator tower were refurbished to become a cultural and creative hub. The large north side station building was refurbished in 2011.
In September 2012, a plaque was unveiled at the station to commemorate the architects Franklin and Haig. The text goes on to state — "These buildings at Liverpool’s oldest operational station replaced the original Crown Street Station at Edge Hill, opened in 1830 and used as a winding house to haul carriages from Lime Street for onward travel on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway".
Architects (1833-6): Joseph Franklin, Thomas Haig
Contractor (1826-30): Thomas Harding
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"An Accurate Description of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and the Branch Railways to St. Helen's, Warrington, Wigan, and Bolton" by James Scott Walker, 3rd edition, J.F. Cannell, Liverpool, 1832
http://openplaques.org
http://transportheritage.com
www.chiark.greenend.org.uk
www.edgehillstation.co.uk
www.historicengland.org.uk
www.ice.org
www.metalculture.com
www.thewebtrain.co.uk
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Edge Hill Station