Notes: The Liverpool Overhead Railway (LOR) opened on 6 March 1893 and Canada Dock was one of the original stations of a five mile line that ran between Herculaneum Dock and Alexandra Dock. The LOR was an elevated railway track level being 16ft above the street. The line was carried on an iron deck supported on iron pillars. By the late 19th century the Liverpool dock system had become so congested that a passenger railway was required and the LOR was built to meet that need. From the start it was an electric railway using three coach electric multiple units that collected their current from a live rail laid in the centre of the running rails.
Canada Dock station was on the west side of Regent Road on the east side of the dock system. To its east was the Canada Dock Goods Station of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) which had opened on 15 October 1866. In common with the other stations on the line Canada Dock was elevated above the street and had the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board (MD&HB) railway running underneath. Passengers accessed the station by stairways located at each end of the station. There were two platforms and shelters were provided on both. Ticket facilities were located on the platforms.
The line was an immediate success when it opened and it was not long before the first extensions were planned. The first was a northern extension to Seaforth Sands which opened on 30 April 1894. On 21 December 1896 a southern extension opened to the residential area of Dingle.
With the opening of the southern extension Canada Dock was served by a high frequency service of trains that ran between Seaforth Sands and Dingle.
On 2 July 1905 a further extension was opened from Seaforth Sands to Seaforth & Litherland which was situated on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway's (LYR) Liverpool and Southport line. The LYR had electrified that line in 1904 and saw opportunities for through running of services between Southport & Dingle. The LYR had electrified their system with live rails laid to the side of the running rails. So that through trains could run the LOR altered its live rails accordingly.
The LYR introduced a Southport and Dingle service on 2 February 1906 using specially constructed lightweight electric units. The LYR services called at Canada Dock station and ran hourly in each direction. Later that year the LYR also introduced a through service between Aintree and Dingle but it was not a success and was discontinued in September 1908. For the race meetings that were held at Aintree through services continued to run.
The Southport and Dingle service was withdrawn in August 1914 never having lived up to expectations. Through tickets between Canada Dock and Southport line stations continued to be sold passengers having to change trains at Seaforth & Litherland.
By the early 1920s the LOR was carrying millions of passengers every year and many of them were passing through Canada Dock station. The line was used by dock labourers, sailors, shoppers, businessmen and also tourists. The LOR had soon recognised that the commanding views from their trains of the dock estate and the ships within it were an attraction; they therefore provided day tickets allowing passengers to alight and board trains at any of the stations along the line, with unlimited travel. Locally the line became known as the ‘Ovee’ or the ‘Dockers’ Umbrella’. The later name referred to the fact that dockers would walk under its structure in inclement weather to avoid the rain.
As a major Atlantic-facing seaport, Liverpool had been crucial to the war effort during the Great War, and the LOR had played its part by moving millions around the dock system. In the Second World War it was called upon to do so again, but in this conflict Liverpool found itself directly in the firing line. Between December 1940 and January 1942 Liverpool was bombed by the German Luftwaffe; the worst periods of bombing were in December 1940 and May 1941. The LOR suffered badly and was hit many times, and Canada Dock received a direct hit in December 1940. Because it was an essential transport network for the docks the line was patched up each time it was damaged, and trains were reintroduced as quickly as possible. The last Grand National meet was in 1940, after which the race was suspended owing to the war, and it did not resume until 1947.
After the war the LOR was as busy as ever. There was a boom in trade at the docks, and the railway reaped the benefit. The Grand National was run again on 29 March 1947 - it was moved to a Saturday: before the war it had been run on a Friday - and trains operated between Dingle and Aintree for the first time since 1940. They continued to do so for every Grand National until the LOR closed.
The railways of Great Britain were nationalised on 1 January 1948, but the LOR remained independent. For the Grand National on the 26 March 1955 the LOR ran nine trains from Canada Dock (originating from Dingle) to Aintree and charged passengers one shilling single, or two shillings return. There were seven return workings which all ran forward to Dingle.
In 1955 an engineering survey was carried out on the iron structure of the LOR. It was discovered that the deck plates on which the tracks were mounted were severely corroded, owing both to the effects of the weather and of smoke from steam engines operated on a dock railway beneath the LOR. The plates needed to be replaced within a few years, and the cost was estimated at £2 million. The LOR did not have the funds to carry out the work and, although the line was still carrying millions of passengers every year, complete closure of the line was proposed. Suggestions were put forward for saving the line, including taking it into municipal ownership, but none was successful, and the line closed completely on Sunday 30 December 1956.
Canada Dock station was demolished towards the end of 1957.
Route map by Alan Young
- Seventeen Stations to Dingle - John W Gahan - Countyvise 1982
- The Dockers Umbrella - A History of the Liverpool Overhead Railway - Paul Bolger - The Bluecoat Press 1992.
- The Liverpool Overhead Railway - A Liverpool Echo Nostalgia Publication 2011
To see the other
stations on the Liverpool Overhead Railway click on the station
name: Dingle, Herculaneum Dock 1st,
Herculaneum Dock 2nd,
Street, Pier Head,
Clarence Dock, Nelson
Dock, Sandon Dock,
See also: Canada Dock Goods
for a brief history of the Liverpool Overhead Railway