Notes: Seaforth Sands station opened as the northern terminus of the Liverpool Overhead Railway (LOR) on 30 April 1894. The LOR had originally opened from Herculaneum Dock to Alexandra Dock on 6 March 1893. The LOR was, as its name suggests, an overhead (or elevated) line, the track level of which was 16ft above the streets. The line was carried on an iron structure of columns which supported a deck to which the track was attached. It was an electric line from the start.
Seaforth Sands station was also supported on iron columns. It was located on the western side of Rimrose Road in the Seaforth area of Bootle. In 1894 the area had extensive sand dunes which were popular with day trippers.
Two covered stairways led up from the street to track level where there were two platforms which were protected by an overall roof of iron, timber and glass.
An intensive train service provided by three-coach electric multiple units was operated throughout the day, sometimes at only a few minutes’ intervals.
On 21 December 1896 a southern extension to Dingle was opened which became the southern terminus.
On 9 June 1900 the LOR introduced a tram service between Seaforth Sands and Crosby village which was 2½ miles to the north. At Seaforth Sands the trams terminated on the northern side of the station. The tramway was laid by the Waterloo-with-Seaforth and the Crosby corporations and was leased for 25 years to the LOR. A covered shed was erected at street level at the eastern end of Seaforth Sands station which allowed passengers to change between tram and train without being exposed to inclement weather.
The trams were painted in a green and cream livery emblazoned with ‘Liverpool Overhead Railway’. The trams created a useful link to Crosby which brought additional passenger revenue to the railway, and through tickets covered travel by both modes.
Trams of the Liverpool Corporation had also reached Seaforth Sands by 1901 but they had their terminus to the south of the station. There was no connection between the LOR and the Liverpool tram systems.
In 1901 an escalator was installed at Seaforth Sands to make access easier for passengers; it is believed to be only the second escalator in use within Great Britain. Due to the length of the skirts worn by women at that time there were many incidents and accidents on the escalator, and it was removed in 1906.
On 2 July 1905 the LOR began running trains from Seaforth Sands to Seaforth & Litherland station on the Lancashire & Yorkshire (LYR) Liverpool and Southport line. To accommodate the service a new line of 46 chains was built. It passed to the south of the Seaforth Sands station before crossing over Rimrose Road. It then ran parallel to the LYR North Mersey Branch until it reached the Southport line. From the east side of Rimrose Road to Seaforth & Litherland the line belonged to the LYR, and the LOR had running rights over it.
Two new platforms were built on the extension line giving Seaforth Sands four in all. The new platforms were each independently approached via stairways from the street. The Seaforth & Litherland direction platform was linked to the original terminus platforms by a bridge. The new through platforms were provided with canopies of timber and glass.
After the opening of the line to Seaforth & Litherland some services continued to terminate at Seaforth Sands and they used the original platforms.
The LYR introduced through trains between Southport and Dingle on 2 February 1906, which called at Seaforth Sands. Special lightweight electric units were constructed by the LYR for the service. By the summer of 1906 there were hourly trains in each direction. In the same year the LYR also introduced a service between Aintree and Dingle which used the North Mersey Branch of the LYR. A connection between the LOR and LYR had been installed to the east of Seaforth Sands station which was called Rimrose Road Junction. The Aintree service was made possible because the LYR had electrified the North Mersey Branch in 1906 (scheduled services between Liverpool Exchange and Aintree Sefton Arms beginning on 1 June 1906).
The Aintree service was not a success and it was withdrawn in 1908. Rimrose Road Junction was left in situ to serve specials that ran between Dingle and Aintree, calling at Seaforth Sands, for the Jump Sunday and the Grand National horse races.
By this time the LOR was carrying millions of passengers every year and many of them were passing through Seaforth Sands station. The line was used by dock labourers, sailors, shoppers, businessmen and also tourists. The LOR 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 board and alight from 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 shelter from the rain.
The hourly LYR service between Southport and Dingle was withdrawn in August 1914. It was not generating the receipts that the LYR had hoped for. Passengers could still travel between Southport and Seaforth Sands on through tickets but a change of train at Seaforth & Litherland was required. With high-frequency services on both the LOR and the LYR lines a change of trains was no impediment to travel.
During the Great War the Liverpool dock system, being located on the west coast of the country, was a vital part of the war effort. Millions of tons of additional cargo passed through the docks and the LOR played its part moving dockers, seamen and soldiers around the system.
From 1 January 1923 the North Mersey Branch and Seaforth & Litherland station had become part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS). Through ticketing was still provided and LOR trains still ran to Aintree on race days.
In 1925 the lease on the Crosby tramway expired. The tramway was in urgent need of refurbishment, and discussions took place with Liverpool Corporation Tramways with a view to them taking it over as an extension to their own system. Disputes over what fares should be charged led to a breakdown in the talks, and the last LOR trams ran on 31 December 1925. A bus service was introduced between Crosby and Seaforth Sands, and the Crosby tramway was dismantled after closure.
In 1926 the original platforms and trainshed at Seaforth Sands were demolished and a maintenance shed was built where they had stood. The shed was larger than the station, extending northwards. It was on two levels there being ground floor workshops.
With the creation of the maintenance shed Seaforth Sands was reduced to two platforms. A number of services still terminated at Seaforth Sands, and they had to be accommodated at the through platforms. A crossover was installed at the east end of the station. Terminating trains ran into the Seaforth & Litherland direction platform and deposited their passengers; the train then ran forward to the east side of Rimrose Road where it performed a reverse move and ran back into the Dingle direction platform where passengers could board.
Work had begun on the Gladstone Dock complex in the early years of the twentieth century, and a graving dock that was part of the complex had opened as early as 1913. By 1930 the area around Seaforth Sands station had become an industrial docklands and the sand dunes were no more. The station, however, was busier than ever.
The outbreak of the Second World War on 3 September 1939 resulted in the last Aintree race meeting being held in the spring of 1940 which meant that no traffic passed over Rimrose Road Junction until 1947. Between December 1940 and January 1942 Liverpool was bombed by the German Luftwaffe, the worst period being between December 1940 and May 1941. The LOR received a number of direct hits but, being vital to the smooth running of the docks, it was patched up and services were restored as quickly as possible.
After the war there was a boom in trade coming through the Liverpool Docks, and the LOR was busier than ever. Aintree race day services resumed on 29 March 1947, the Grand National having been moved from a Friday to a Saturday.
On 1 January 1948 most of the railways of Great Britain were nationalised, but the LOR remained independent.
For the Grand National on 26 March 1955 the LOR ran nine trains from Seaforth Sands to Aintree Sefton Arms all of which originated at Dingle; there were seven return workings which ran on to Dingle.
For most its length the LOR ran directly above the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board railway which had been steam-worked from May 1895, although it was originally worked by horses. In 1955 an engineering inspection of the LOR structure showed that extensive damage had occurred over the years and in places it was seriously corroded. Despite having a healthy revenue the LOR did not have the finance to undertake the repairs. There was much discussion, including talks with the city council about a municipal takeover, but nothing could be agreed.
In February 1956 there was a serious fire at Seaforth Sands station which caused a great deal of damage. The fire was a result of arson, tyres being used to start it. The station was patched up and services were able to operate from the station within a few days.
As no rescue package could be agreed the LOR decided upon complete closure and, despite a great deal of local protest, the last train departed from Seaforth Sands at 10.06pm on 30 December 1956. The last arrival was at 10.36pm on the same day. After the train had arrived at Seaforth Sands a message was relayed to Dingle and the electricity supply to the line was switched off.
At 8:45am the next day (Monday 31 December) the current was switched on and a staff train was run from Dingle to Seaforth Sands; a further service departed in the afternoon. Over the coming weeks trains were transferred from the southern end of the line to Seaforth Sands. On 23 September 1957 demolition began, and the overhead structure was taken down; the process was complete by January 1958.
The area on which the station stood was substantially altered after closure, and in 2013 there was nothing to show that it had ever existed.
Click here for a brief history of the Liverpool Overhead Railway
Click here to see a selection of photos of the LOR by D J Norton
Tickets by Michael Stewart, except 4989 Nick Catford, Bradshaw by Nick Catford and route map drawn by Alan Young.
- Disused Stations - Lost Termini of North West England , P T Wright, Silver Link Publishing, 2010.
- Lost Lines - Liverpool and the Mersey , by N Welbourne, Ian Allan, 2008.
- Seventeen Stations to Dingle , John W Gahan, Countryvise Ltd, 1982.
- The Dockers Umbrella , by P Bolger, The Bluecoat Press, 1994.
- The research notes of Tony Graham taken from the National Archives.
To see the other
stations on the Liverpool Overhead Railway click
on the station
Dingle, Herculaneum Dock (1st), Herculaneum Dock (2nd) , Toxteth Dock, Brunswick Dock, Wapping Dock, Canning, James
Street, Pier Head, Princes Dock, Clarence Dock, Nelson Dock, Sandon
Dock & Gladstone