Site Records

Site Name: Liverpool Overhead Railway & Dingle Station

Kedleston Street (Dingle Station)
Liverpool L8
OS Grid Ref: SJ363876

Sub Brit site visit July 1999

[Source: Nick Catford - Historical text by Paul Bolger from 'The Dockers Umbrella']

By the 1880's, Liverpool's dock network was virtually complete. So too was the congestion along the Dock Road, as carriages, omnibuses, lorries, carts and drays all plied the route. Numerous railway crossings which connected goods stations and dockside lines only added to the confusion. With increasing trade, it became clear that passenger traffic had to be isolated from the cargo routes in the interest of efficiency.

An elevated railway had been proposed as early as 1852 but came to nothing. It emerged again, in 1877, when the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board sought permission for a single line with passing loops at stations.

This was rejected as being insufficient to meet the likely needs of the rapidly growing port but, five years later, an improved scheme did receive sanction. Unfortunately, at that time, the company had reviewed its policy towards transporting the public and, once again, nothing was done.

Finally, in 1888, a prominent group of businessmen formed the Liverpool Overhead Railway Company and obtained the Dock Board's powers by an Act of Transfer. Two leading engineers, Sir Douglas Fox and James Henry Greathead, were commissioned to design the railway and work commenced in October 1889.

Amongst the many problems encountered was the decision as to motive power. Steam was considered too dangerous to the many flammable cargoes within range of locomotive sparks.

This was one of the reasons electric traction was chosen, in 1891; other advantages being economy, speed, cleanliness and quiet running. Work was completed in January, 1893, and the line was formally opened on February 4th that year by the Marquis of Salisbury. Public transport commenced on March 6th.

Photo:James Street Station in the 1950's
Photo by T J Edgington

The Overhead was the world's first electric elevated railway and the first to be protected by electric automatic signals. The line stretched from the Seaforth Carriage Shed to Herculaneum Dock, with public services beginning and terminating at Alexandra Dock in the north. There were eleven intermediate stations at Brocklebank, Canada, Sandon, Clarence, Princes, Pier Head, James Street, Custom House, Wapping, Brunswick and Toxteth. However, it was soon found that receipts outside working hours were poor and a decision was taken to extend the line and to tap residential areas. A short extension to Seaforth sands was opened on April 30th, 1894, followed by another to Dingle on December 21, 1896.

Photo:Lattice Girder Bridge taking the line into the tunnel and Dingle Station

Photo:Tunnel portal above Herculaneum Dock. Click on the inscription above the portal for an enlargement.
Photo by Nick Catford

Dingle (Park Road) was reached by spanning the Cheshire Lines goods yard with a 200 foot lattice girder bridge and by boring a half-mile tunnel through the sandstone high ground further inland. Thus the Overhead belied its name at the southern terminus, passengers new to Dingle no doubt wondering why they had to descend steps and a subway to gain the platforms of an elevated railway!

For further information and pictures of Dingle Station click here

[Source: Nick Catford - Historical text by Paul Bolger from 'The Dockers Umbrella'

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