Site Records

Site Name: Liverpool - Edge Hill Cutting & Tunnels

Chatsworth Street
Liverpool 7
OS Grid. Ref: SJ367898

Sub Brit site visit September 1998

[Source: Nick Catford]

The Crown Street passenger terminus soon proved inadequate due to its size and distance from the city centre and it was closed on 15th August 1836 on the opening of a new terminus at Lime Street, much closer to the city centre.

Photo:Edge Hill cutting in the 1930's with the Crown Street tunnel on the right

This was reached by a new double track 1006 metre tunnel; although the new line was less steep than Wapping it was still cable hauled. A new engine house was built at Edge Hill, in what is now the station building. Steam for this engine was supplied from a boiler in the old Edge Hill cutting through a long tunnel excavated through the sandstone on the north side of the cutting; this was known as the 'steam tunnel'; the boiler was housed in a chamber cut into the cutting wall. Goods and coal traffic continued to be handled at the old Crown Street station and a second wider tunnel into Crown Street was driven in about 1846. In the 1860's in order to facilitate a new track alignment the Edge Hill cutting was widened forcing the demolition of the Moorish Arch.

Edge Hill track plan in 1914. The Crown Street tunnel passes over the Wapping tunnel, this has been omitted for clarity.

From 1870, the line into Lime Street was locomotive hauled and a huge chimney with a powered fan was built on Smithdown Lane, near Edge Hill. This was only used for a few years although the chimney lasted until just before WW2. Smoke in the tunnel was always a problem so after a couple of accidents and the need for increased traffic, the two track tunnel was opened up into a deep four track cutting with seven short lengths of tunnel remaining to support various roads and houses. At Edge Hill a further tunnel opened in 1849, north of the Lime Street tunnel. This was another ambitious undertaking comprising two end on tunnels collectively known as Waterloo.

The Moorish Arch in the Edgehill Cutting published by
Ralph Ackerman in 1831

The Waterloo Tunnel at 862 metres is, in reality, the shorter of the two tunnels. Immediately to the west of it is the longer Victoria Tunnel at 2475 metres. The tunnels ran north west to Waterloo Goods Station and the harbour railway system and were, again, cable hauled from Edge Hill.

Crown Street Station
Published by Robert Ackermann

Crown Street Tunnel in August 1958 (click to enlarge)

Cable haulage continued through the Waterloo Tunnel until 1895 when it went over to locomotive haulage and the line was extended to a new passenger station, Riverside, near the pier head, The Wapping Tunnel went over to locomotive haulage the following year. Waterloo Goods Station remained in use until 1963 while Crown Street goods terminal lasted a further five years, closing in 1968; the site was landscaped in 1980.

Photo:Crown Street goods yard (on the site of Crown Street Station) in 1964

The Edge Hill cutting is rectangular in shape, bounded on three sides by the vertical walls of the cutting, and at the east by the Chatsworth Street overbridge. North of Chatsworth Street the tracks continue, still in a cutting, to join the main line north of Edge Hill Station.

Plan of the Edge Hill cutting
Reproduced from Industrial Archaeology Review Volume II/1 - Autumn 1977

At the western end three tunnels enter the west wall of the cutting. The northernmost (the 'Stephenson' tunnel) to Crown Street and the central one to Wapping date from the opening of the line while the southernmost tunnel was driven through an original storage recess in about 1846 and was further opened up when the south cutting wall was cut back by three metres after 1864 to accommodate an extra track.. Of the three tunnels the Stephenson tunnel is the smallest, being 5.15 metres high to the crown of the arch, and 4.60 metres wide. At the far end, which is now blocked, there is a date stone of 1829 set into the roof. There is also a hole in the floor dropping down into the roof of the Wapping Tunnel. The tunnel is cut through solid rock and unlined with brick arching; internally it is in good condition with a large quantity of long stalactites hanging from the roof.

Photo:Inside Stephenson's Crown Street Tunnel
Photo by Nick Catford

The Wapping tunnel entrance is 5.60 metres high and 7.05 metres wide and considering its length it was a very ambitious project for 1830. Like the Crown Street tunnel the Wapping tunnel is also cut through solid rock with brick arching. For much of its length it is dry but close to the western portal there is standing water which eventually becomes deep. The southernmost tunnel is the largest and although entering the cutting about 1 metre higher than the others, it is 6.50 metres high and 7.60 metres wide.

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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