THE WOODSIDE AND BIRKENHEAD DOCK STREET TRAMWAY

Of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company

[Source: Paul Wright]


Notes: On 1 July 1872 the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company (H&BR&TC) was formed and authorised to take over the bankrupt Hoylake Railway. As early as 1866 plans had been developed to create a tramway between that company’s Birkenhead Dock station and the ferry at Birkenhead Woodside. Since the Birkenhead Town commissioners did not permit passing loops on the line it would have proved to be unworkable and the plans were dropped. The idea was resurrected again on 19 November 1870 by the Hoylake & Birkenhead Tramway Company which was dissolved on 1 July 1872 to allow the H&BR&TC to be formed. The H&BR&TC was authorised to build a tramway 3.2 miles in length and mostly double track between the Dock station and Woodside at the time of its formation.

Construction of the tramway commenced on 22 April 1873 and it opened on 6 September 1873. The eastern terminus was at Woodside Ferry on the north side of the plaza in front of the ferry terminal buildings. On the south side of the plaza was the terminus of the Birkenhead Street Railway Company (the Birkenhead Tramway Company from 1877) which dated back to 30 August 1860, being Europe’s first street tramway. There was no physical connection between the systems.

From Woodside the H&BR&TC curved into Canning Street and ran north-west as a double-track formation as far as Sandford Street. The Birkenhead Dock direction line turned southwards into Sandford Street and upon reaching Bridge Street it turned north-west once again. The Woodside direction line continued north-west along Canning Street and turned southwards at Taylor Street which it ran along until it reached Bridge Street. Both lines came back together at Bridge Street and headed west passing over the London North Western and Great Western Joint Railway on a bridge. The tramway became single track on the bridge but became double before it reached Cleveland Street.

The line continued in a north-westerly direction along Cleveland Street to its junction with Corporation Road. After running along Corporation Road for a short distance it passed into Beaufort Road and ran along its entire length until it reached Wallasey Bridge Road. The line passed to the east of the Birkenhead Dock station running along Wallasey Bridge Road and then turned sharply to the west terminating on the north side of the station platform. A roof was provided over the tram terminus and a cross-platform interchange allowed passengers to transfer easily between the two modes of transport. Birkenhead Dock station was probably the world’s first rail-to-tram interchange station.

Horses for the tram services were supplied by local contractors and within a few years stables were built at Dock station to house them. Tram sheds were later erected at the station located to the north of the tramway and accessed by a triangular junction.

The trams were provided by the manufacturer George Starbuck who had a factory on the route of the line fronting onto Cleveland Street between Charles Street and Victoria Street. There was a good relationship between Starbuck and the H&BR&TC who allowed him to test his products on the line. On 11 May 1876 he tested a steam tram that had been built for Vienna between Woodside and Dock station.
The opening of the tramway put the railway on a much better footing as it was far easier for passengers to reach from Birkenhead and via ferry from Liverpool.

By the late 1870s the tramway had become very busy and was carrying far more passengers between points within Birkenhead than it was in connection with the railway. The H&BR&TC decided to sell it, and it was bought by the Birkenhead Tramways Company (BTC) for £27,500 on 12 October 1879. The price included the line, eight cars and the stables and shed at Dock station.

After the sale of the tramway the H&BR&TC reconsidered its name and in 1881 it was authorised to become the Seacombe, Hoylake & Deeside Railway (SH&DR). The name suggested the railway’s aspiration to create a route to North Wales and a branch to Seacombe Ferry. The 1881 Act that authorised the name change also authorised the construction of a branch between Bidston and Seacombe. The BTC petitioned against the Act as it would reduce their traffic; railway passengers would have direct access to Liverpool by the Seacombe Ferry. Their objections were withdrawn when the SH&DR agreed to pay £500 in compensation.

The line to Birkenhead Park and the New Brighton line as far as Wallasey opened on 2 January 1888. With the opening of the new lines the former HR Birkenhead Dock station closed to passengers and its replacement station opened - the new station was renamed Birkenhead North on 1 May 1926. The tramway was cut back to Beaufort Road, there being no purpose in trams running as far as the former station. The tramway passed to municipal ownership in 1890 and closed in 1901.

After closure the route of the line between the junction at Cleveland Street/Bridge Street and the western end of Beaufort Road was adapted for electric tram operation. The rest of the line became disused and was eventually lifted although sections of it are known to survive under the tarmac at Canning Street.

Sources:

  • Railway Passenger Stations in Great Britain - A Chronology, by M Quick, RCHS 2009.
  • The Wirral Railway and its Predecessors , by T B Maud 2009.

The Woodside terminus of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway as it would have appeared in 1877. The Hoylake line is seen in the background with a tram waiting to depart for Dock station. In the foreground are trams of the Wirral Tramway Company. The two systems had no physical connection.
By G S Cooper courtesy of Dave Cooper


The Birkenhead Woodside terminus of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway that linked Birkenhead Dock station to the Liverpool ferries shown on an 1874 map.

Birkenhead Woodside shown on an 1876 town plan. The rails of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway are to the north. To the south are the rails of the Birkenhead Tramway Company.

Birkenhead Woodside shown on an early 20th century map. The Woodside and Birkenhead Dock tramway is shown as disused at this time.


A close up view of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway terminus at Birkenhead Woodside in 1877. One of the company's trams is seen waiting to depart for Birkenhead Dock station. The company simplified its name on the side of its trams to The Hoylake Railway.
By G S Cooper courtesy of Dave Cooper

Looking east towards Birkenhead Woodside along the route of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway on 3 September 2013. The 1990s heritage tramway follows very closely the original route at this point.
P
hoto by Paul Wright

The site of the Hoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway Woodside terminus looking west on 3 September 2013.
P
hoto by Paul Wright

Looking east along Beaufort Road towards Woodside on 3 September 2013. TheHoylake & Birkenhead Rail & Tramway Company street tramway ran in the centre of the road. In 1888 when Birkenhead Dock station closed its new western terminus was adjacent to the white van.
P
hoto by Paul Wright

Looking north-west towards the site of Birkenhead Dock station from Beaufort Road on 3 September 2013. The tramway followed the curve of the road and then passed north along Wallasey Bridge Road before curving west and terminating alongside the station. From 1878 the tramway crossed the railway that connected the Hoylake line to the Birkenhead dock system. The level crossing gates of that line can be seen in the photograph. After 1888 the tramway was cut back to
a point just to the east.
P
hoto by Paul Wright


Looking south along Wallasey Bridge Road on 3 September 2013. Birkenhead Dock station was to the right of the black car. The street tramway curved west at this point and ran into a covered shed which was its western terminus. Passengers could transfer directly between train and tram making Birkenhead Dock the worlds first tram to train interchange.
P
hoto by Paul Wright

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[Source: Paul Wright]




Last updated: Sunday, 04-Jun-2017 08:45:23 BST
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