[Source: Paul Wright]
Date opened: 2.3.1874
Location: At the junction of Ranelagh Place & Bold Street
Company on opening: Cheshire Lines Committee
Date closed to passengers: 17.4.1972
Date closed completely: 17.4.1972
Company on closing: British Rail (London Midland Region)
Present state:

Extensive sections of the station’s walls can still be seen behind the present Central station. The former station parcels office on Bold Street is extant and in use as a coffee bar.

County: Lancashire
OS Grid Ref: SJ350902
Date of visit:

June 1968, 2005, 1.3.2009 & 22.7.2011

Notes: Liverpool Central station was the western terminus of the Cheshire Lines Committee’s (CLC) main line that linked the northern cities of Liverpool and Manchester. The CLC was a joint company made up of three partners: the Great Northern Railway (GNR), the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR) and the Midland Railway (MR). The CLC’s Liverpool and Manchester line had opened as a through route between Cornbrook East Junction (Manchester) and Cressington Junction (Garston) on 2nd September 1873. The line linked with the former Garston & Liverpool Railway at Cressington. The Garston & Liverpool had opened from Garston to a terminus at Liverpool Brunswick on 1st June 1864. It was a joint railway of the GNR and MS&LR that became part of the CLC on 5th July 1865.

At the eastern end of the line at Manchester there was a connection with the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJ&AR) that allowed trains to run to Manchester London Road.

Liverpool Brunswick station was over a mile south of the centre of Liverpool and therefore inconvenient for passengers. Just over a month after it opened an Act was obtained by the partners on 29th July 1864 to build a line called ‘The Liverpool Central Station Railway’. The line was one mile and forty-three chains in length, and to reach central Liverpool it needed five
tunnels and sections of very deep cuttings. There were two stations on the line, St James and Liverpool Central.

Due to the heavy engineering required the new line and Liverpool Central did not open until 2nd March 1874. Being a relative latecomer to Liverpool the CLC had to make do with a cramped site but in the heart of the city’s shopping district; nevertheless the CLC built an imposing station which served as their headquarters.

Liverpool Central station fronted onto Ranelagh Street which ran in an east/west direction at that point. The main entrance was through two imposing gates at the western end of Ranelagh Street at its junction with Church Street and with Bold Street. The gates were separated by a large sandstone column. Over the westernmost gate there was a sign that read ‘Central
Station’. East of the gates was the large high-roofed single-storey parcels office. East of the parcels office was another set of gates and, beyond them, a building similar to the parcels office that housed refreshment rooms. Beyond the gates and behind the parcels office was an open area for cabs and other road traffic. Photographic evidence suggests that a one-way system for road traffic was implemented from quite an early date. The easternmost gates were for traffic entering the station, and the westernmost for departing traffic.
Facing onto the open area, but set back from the street, was the main station building. It was a three-storey sandstone building with decorative window features and columns. In the centre of the building, at roof level, was a large Baroque clock. The booking offices and other passenger facilities were on the ground floor. On the first and second floors there were
offices occupied by departments of the CLC and its constituent companies.

Part of the open area at the front of the main station building was sheltered by a large canopy. On the western side of the building an access road for vehicles passed directly into the station. The station also had an entrance on Bold Street with a two-storey sandstone structure in the same style as the other buildings.

Behind the main building was a single arched trainshed of164ft span which reached 65ft at its highest point. The station had three island platforms giving six platform faces. The longest and widest island platform was on the west side of the station, its west face numbered platform 1, and it was designated as the arrival platform. It had one line to serve it, and no run around facilities as the track was adjacent to the station’s western outer wall. The east face was platform 2 - the departure platform for long-distance services. Being wide the platform had a roadway along its centre for vehicles delivering or collecting merchandise. The platform extended beyond the trainshed at its southern end, but a roof covered it at that point almost to the ramp.

There were three lines between platform 2 and the next island platform, which was in the middle of the station. It was both narrower and shorter than platforms 1 and 2 but did extend beyond the trainshed at the southern end; its western face was platform 3 and the eastern was platform 4. On the eastern side of the station was the shortest island platform which did not extend
beyond the trainshed, but its eastern face, platform 6, was outside of it. The western face was numbered platform 5. Between platform 4 and 5 there were three lines. On the eastern side of the station were three sidings, one of which had a goods dock.

At the southern end of the station site, sandwiched between the platform 1 track and the western boundary wall, was the wooden Liverpool Central signal box. It opened before services started on 25th February 1874. The main lines all curved sharply southwards at the southern end of the station and entered Great George Street Tunnel. Beyond the tunnel mouth was a wide cutting through sandstone in which there was a turntable. A water tower was also provided at this end on the eastern side of the station.

When the station opened only platforms 1 and 2 were ready so train services were confined to its western side; it was fully operational by 25th June 1874. At first there were sixteen trains per day to Manchester London Road. On 9th July 1877 the CLC opened a temporary Manchester Central station and from that date the Manchester services used it. An hourly express service was introduced on the same day that completed the journey in just over 45 minutes. The temporary Manchester Central was replaced with a permanent facility on 1st July 1880.

Other services ran to Stockport and to destinations further afield (including London) on the networks of the owning companies. On 1st December 1879 a train service to Walton-on-the-Hill in north Liverpool was introduced via Hunts Cross and the new North Liverpool Extension Line, east of the city. On 13th July 1880 it was extended to Huskisson, only to be cut
back to Walton-on-the-Hill again on 1st May 1885. On 1st September 1884 a service to Southport Lord Street was introduced which also ran via the North Liverpool Extension Line, then over the Southport & Cheshire Lines Extension Railway.

In 1882 some parts of the retaining walls on each side of the station were found to be defective and in danger of collapse, so strengthening works were carried out. On 23rd June 1889 the original signal box was replaced with a larger 88-lever structure.

During the 1880s the CLC offered the fastest journey times between Liverpool and Manchester, at 45 minutes for a 34 mile journey. In 1883 this was reduced to 40 minutes for some services which used a Warrington avoiding line. Although compared to the other major terminus stations in Liverpool (the LNWR at Lime Street and the L&YR at Exchange) Central had fewer feeder lines and therefore handled less traffic, services increased to 85 departures on weekdays. On 1st July 1897 the MS&LR changed its name to the Great Central Railway (GCR) and on 15th March 1899 it opened a main line to London Marylebone.

On 11th March 1892 the Mersey Railway opened an extension to its under-river railway from Liverpool James Street to Liverpool Central. An island platform in a tunnel was created underneath platforms 1 and 2 which became known as Liverpool Central Low Level . Trains ran into the low level platform from the opposite direction to those that entered the mainline station. A short section of tunnel continued towards the south under the

main line tracks; this was used to allow the Mersey Railway Trains to run round. The main entrance to the Mersey Railway station was on Ranelagh Street, west of the main line station. Steps led down to a passageway that connected to the platform. At the northern end of platform 4, inside the main line station, a further entrance to the Mersey Railway platform was provided. Again steps led down from the station concourse to the Mersey Railway platform providing a very convenient interchange between the CLC and Mersey Railway systems.

Trains ran from the Mersey Railway low level platforms to Birkenhead Park and to Rock Ferry. They were steam-hauled at first but from 3rd May 1903 the line became one of the first in Britain to be electrically operated. The low level platforms handled large volumes of passengers equal to the numbers handled by the other six platforms at the higher level.

By 1907 each of the CLC partners served London. The GCR ran trains to London Marylebone, the GNR to London Kings Cross and the MR to London St Pancras. The GNR service took over six hours, so it was hardly competitive with the LNWR services from Lime Street, and offered only one service per day. GCR services – one outbound and two returns - took a similar length of time. MR trains took four hours and twenty minutes which was still slower than the LNWR, but their trains were luxurious and so proved popular with passengers.

Other regular services in the first decade of the 20th Century included the CLC Manchester expresses, CLC local services to Warrington, Walton-on-the-Hill and to Stockport, MR semi-fast services to Sheffield via Chinley, GCR services to Norwich, Lowestoft and Harwich, and GNR services to and from the east coast. One service of significance was the GNR Hull
service. In the early years of the 20th Century it brought hundreds of thousands of eastern European migrants from Hull to Liverpool Central, who travelled cross-country to Liverpool to board ships to the United States. Central station required numerous porters and carters to move the migrants and their possessions from the station to the docks, and extra railway policemen were deployed as migrants made an easy target for thieves and con-men.

In August 1911 the Liverpool General Transport Strike reached its zenith. Thousands of workers including railwaymen, who came out on 7th August, joined the strike which created major civil unrest that was described as ‘near to revolution’. Central station was blockaded by strikers, which halted train services. Soldiers and extra police were brought into the city by
rail and ship. As Central station was blockaded the old terminus at Brunswick was used to bring in detachments of cavalry. The CLC offices at Central station were guarded by soldiers. On 13th August there was a major riot in the city. In the days following two men were shot dead by soldiers in a clash by the docks. By 25th August 1911 the strike was over and a degree of normality was restored.

On 15th October 1913 there was a crash on the approach lines to Liverpool Central. A CLC train was stationary at St James station when a MR express ploughed into the back of it; six people were killed.  

The Great War of1914-18 disrupted scheduled passenger services from Central, and some local services were withdrawn as a war time economy measure. With its links to the east coast ports Liverpool Central was used by troop trains as were the other Liverpool termini. On 1st January 1918 the Walton-on-the-Hill service was withdrawn. By this
time most services had been terminating at Gateacre where connection could be made with northbound services from Manchester. 

After the war services returned to normal. On 1st January 1923 the railway companies of Great Britain were merged into four big concerns. The CLC and the Mersey Railway remained independent. The MR became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), the GCR and the GNR became part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER). The CLC became two-thirds owned by the LNER and one-third by the LMS. The LNER provided the motive power for CLC services.

The CLC Manchester expresses continued to run and to be highly competitive with the services out of Liverpool Lime Street which was now part of the LMS, as was Liverpool Exchange which also ran Manchester express services.  Services still ran to both London Marylebone (LNER) and London St Pancras (LMS). The LMS tended to concentrate its London services on its route from Liverpool Lime Street although by summer 1932 they still provided four weekday services to St Pancras. They also ran trains to both Cheadle Heath and Chinley from where connections with southbound mainline services could be made using the former MR route. Direct LMS services also operated to Buxton.

During the 1930s the CLC had services to Gateacre, Stockport Tiviot Dale, Southport Lord Street, Warrington Central, Widnes Central and, of course, to Manchester Central. The LNER ran a number of services to the east coast, in particular to Hull. They also provided trains to Harwich for onward connections to Holland.

In 1934 modern colour light signalling was installed at Liverpool Central - one of the earliest schemes in Britain.

On 14th March 1938 trains from the Mersey Railway platforms started to serve West Kirby and New Brighton as the LMS had electrified these lines to allow through running. The services proved popular resulting in even more passengers using Central.

World War II saw a reduction in services at Liverpool Central but in May 1941 Liverpool suffered its worst air raids. The former L&Y line into Liverpool Exchange was badly damaged preventing trains from reaching the terminus. To help move the many commuters who travelled between Southport and the city on the line out of Exchange the CLC laid on extra
trains between Liverpool Central and Southport Lord Street. Once the approaches to Exchange were able to cater for a full service again the CLC service reverted to its infrequent pattern.

On 1st January 1948 the railways of Great Britain were nationalised. Liverpool Central became part of British Railways’ London Midland Region. Nationalisation included the Mersey Railway. At first services remained similar to those before the war. On 7th January 1952 the Southport service was withdrawn when the line from Aintree to Southport Lord Street closed to passengers. The North Liverpool Extension Line was served from Liverpool Central mostly by trains that
terminated at Gateacre, although some peak hour trains continued to Aintree (renamed Aintree Central in January 1952).

The September 1956 - June 1957 timetable listed 37 weekday departures from the main line platforms: the first was at 5.05 am to Stockport Tiviot Dale. The last departure was at 10.10 pm, also to Stockport Tiviot Dale, but via Manchester Central. There were regular services throughout the day to Manchester Central and to Warrington. Other services ran to Gateacre, Hull, Nottingham Midland, Tanhouse Lane (Widnes) and Harwich. At 9.30 pm a train left for London Marylebone.

From the low level platforms there were 260 departures on weekdays, with trains every few minutes from 6.00 am until 11.33 pm. The significance of the low level platforms is clearly demonstrated by the intensive service.

In 1959 and 1960 DMUs were introduced on many services from the main line platforms. For the Manchester Central service the four-coach DMUs had doors at all seats so passengers board or alight briskly at stations. Some services were improved with the introduction of the DMUs.

In 1960 daily departures from Liverpool Central were listed to Aintree Central, Gateacre, Harwich Parkeston Quay, Hull, Hunts Cross, Leicester Central, London Marylebone, Manchester Central, Nottingham Victoria, Stockport Tiviot Dale, Tanhouse Lane, and Warrington Central. All services north of Gateacre to Aintree Central were withdrawn on 7th November
1960. By this time, though, an hourly DMU service between Liverpool Central and Gateacre had become the norm.

Liverpool Central Low Level was fitted with LMR totem name signs which were unusual in being 4ft in length, 3ft being the standard size. The main line platforms did not receive totems.

Despite the level of traffic from Liverpool Central’s main line platforms it was listed for closure under the Reshaping of British Railways  (Beeching) report of 1963 as most of its services could be re-routed into Lime Street via the Allerton Curve. In September 1966 all services, except those to Gateacre, were diverted to Liverpool Lime Street. British Railways intended to withdraw the Gateacre service but local pressure kept it in operation. In 1969 the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority (MPTE) was formed, and it provided financial assistance for rail services within its area, including the Gateacre service.

Following the diversion of services to Lime Street there was no need for six platforms, so platforms 1, 2, 5 and 6 were taken out of use. Platforms 1 and 2 became a car park; 3 and 4 were retained for the Gateacre service. By 1969 the lines at the decommissioned platforms had been lifted leaving only tracks adjacent to 3 and 4. In 1970 platform 3 also
lost its track leaving only platform 4 for the Gateacre trains. The platform area under the trainshed took on a neglected air, but the concourse of the station remained heavily used as the low level platforms continued to be extremely busy. 

The MPTE was keen to promote rail travel in the Liverpool area and, building upon work carried out by its predecessors within the local Councils, it obtained an Act in 1971 to build new underground lines in the city centre and electrify existing routes. It branded the local rail network Merseyrail. One such route for electrification was from Liverpool Central towards Manchester. The proposals required a complete re-configuration at Liverpool Central so that a new underground loop line at a deep level and a link line at a sub-surface level could be constructed. The loop would serve trains that used the former Mersey Railway allowing them to pass through the city without reversing, and to serve more destinations. The link was designed to connect the former CLC system with the former L&Y network.

There was some argument that the trainshed should be retained as an indoor shopping area, but demolition was the favoured option. To allow the work to commence the Gateacre service had to be withdrawn. The service carried an average of 750 passengers per day, and local people campaigned to have it diverted to Liverpool Lime Street - but to no avail. They were told that it would later be re-introduced as part of the MPTE’s Merseyrail plans.

During the first few weeks of 1972 the lines were cut back to the very southern end of platform 4. Only a short section of platform, capable of taking a four coach DMU, was retained for passenger use. Demolition of Liverpool Central began while the Gateacre trains were still running. Access to the Low Level platforms was restricted to the Ranelagh Street
entrance only. The last Gateacre trains ran on 15th April 1972. The entire station area became a construction site for the Merseyrail Loop and link lines. The line between Brunswick and Liverpool Central remained officially open until 10th December 1972, possibly for the recovery of assets; Liverpool Central signal box closed on the same day.

On 28th July 1975 Liverpool Central’s Low Level platforms also closed, after Liverpool Central station had been obliterated from the landscape.

This was not to be the end of the station, as on 9th May 1977 a new Liverpool Central, part of the revived Merseyrail Network, opened to the public. The new station’s platforms were all below street level. On the surface, set back from the street, a booking hall was developed that later had a shopping precinct built around it. Behind the booking office a car park was developed on the site of the platforms. By 2011 the new Liverpool Central had become the busiest station on the Merseyrail network - and one of the busiest outside London.

Tickets from Michael Stewart


See Also
Liverpool Central Low Level & Liverpool Central Merseyrail

For other stations on the Liverpool to Manchester CLC line click on the station name: Liverpool St. James, Brunswick, Otterspool, Garston, Halewood & Manchester Central.

Looking south-east towards Liverpool Central station from Church Street in 1890. The CLC had erected a sign above the main entrance gate which proudly proclaimed ‘Central Station’ and could be seen by anyone walking through Liverpool’s main shopping district.
Photo from John Mann collection

1850 1:500 OS Town Plan and 1893 1:2,500 OS map. By the 1870s central Liverpool was very built up, and being the ‘second city of the Empire’ land was at a premium. To buy property and demolish it was very costly even at that time. The CLC identified a site in the centre of the city that would require the demolition of few properties. The 1850 map shows the site had a large timber yard located on it. The open nature of the yard made the site ideal for the station. However the site was still small for a large city centre terminus, and, as a result, Liverpool Central was very cramped: there was no
room for future expansion.

A CLC service hauled by an LNER locomotive stands at platform 3 at Liverpool Central station c. 1940s. 2321 entered service for the GCR as No 1037 in May 1902. Built by Sharp Stewart to a Robinson design, this loco passed to the LNER and, classified D9 in 1924, it received the number 6037. Renumbered by the LNER in 1946 to 2321, this loco passed to BR and was again renumbered 62321 until it was withdrawn less than two years into BR ownership from 13E, Brunswick shed in October 1949 and cut up 2 months later.
Photo from John Mann collection

The 7.30pm express service to Manchester central departs from Liverpool Cental in April 1950.
Photo by H C Casserley

Looking northwards from inside the trainshed at Liverpool Central station in October 1959. Platform 2 is on right, where a train is standing. 42466 was built at Derby in October 1936 to a design by William Stanier. Classified 4P, this passenger 2-6-4 tank, lasted until 12.1.1963, when it was withdrawn from 17F, Trafford Park shed and scrapped at Horwich works in June of the same year.
Copyright photo by H C Casserley

Looking north along platforms 3 and 4 at Liverpool Central from the southern end in October 1959. Trains can be seen at both of the platforms waiting to depart. 42598 was built in September 1936 by the North British Loco Co., Glasgow, for the LMS to a design by William Stanier. This Class 4, 2-6-4 passenger tank carried the LMS number 2598 from its birth, receiving the 4 prefix at nationalisation in 1948. Withdrawn from 8C, Speke Junction shed on 30.11.1963, it was scrapped by J Routledge,
Bootle, in June 1964.
Copyright photo by H C Casserley

Derby-built Class 115 4-car suburban sets are usually associated with Marylebone services, but some were allocated to Allerton to work ‘express’ services on the CLC between Liverpool Central and Manchester Central; these stopped only at Widnes North and Warrington Central. One of these workings is seen leaving Liverpool Central in early 1964.
Photo from Grumpy's Trains Flickr photostream

Looking north along platform 3 in April 1969. The picture gives a good impression of the layout of Liverpool Central within the trainshed. Large platform canopies extended beyond the arched roof. At the far end of the platform is a two-car Derby-built class 108 DMU. It would have been
operating a Gateacre service.
Photo by M A King

Looking south from the buffer stops at Liverpool Central station along platform 3 in June 1969. By this date only platform 3 and 4 were in use serving an hourly Gateacre service.
hoto by Nick Catford

A Class 108 Derby Built DMU arrives at Liverpool Central from Gateacre in 1971. By this time the station only had one platform still in use.
Photo by Les Fifoot

During the last days a class 108 DMU, forming a four-coach enthusiasts’ special, prepares to depart from Liverpool Central station. During the last month before closure the line had been cut back to the very end of platform 3 so that demolition work could proceed on the trainshed.
Photo by Tom Baxendale

Liverpool Central station in the early months of 1972. Demolition work is underway on what had once been the headquarters and pride of the CLC. In the bottom right of the picture  is the entrance to Liverpool Central Low Level station, which remained open until 1975.
Photo by Tom Baxendale

Demolition of Liverpool Central station in an advanced state in 1972.
Photo by Tom Baxendale

The site of the original Liverpool Central station looking north in July 2011.
Photo by Paul Wright

Click here for more pictures of Liverpool Central High Level station




[Source: Paul Wright]

Last updated: Wednesday, 30-May-2012 23:04:13 BST
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