Issue Date: 04/02/2018
Issue Name: 125th Anniversary of the Liverpool Overhead Railway
Producer: Buckingham Covers
This rail cover celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Liverpool Overhead Railway. it was the first electrically operated elevated railway and it served Liverpool for 60 years before its demolition in 1957. Our cover features a 2017 Post & Go Machin stamp (our choice) and has been cancelled with our special Liverpool postmark on the anniversary date(4th February, 2018).
The Liverpool Overhead Railway
The idea of an elevated railway was one of a number of proposals put forward to solve the heavy congestion in the Liverpool dock roads. The Liverpool Overhead Railway Company (LOR) was formed in 1888 and obtained permission for a double-track railway. Engineers Sir Douglas Fox and James Henry Greathead were commissioned to design the railway. Work commenced in 1889. Sir William Forwood, the Chairman of the LOR, had studied American electric railways, and in 1891 electric traction was chosen as the preferred method.
The structure was made of wrought iron girders, 16 ft (4.9m) above the roadway. Standard gauge railway was laid on the elevated sections and four bridges were built to cross the wider streets. To allow goods access to the docks, hydraulic lifting sections were constructed at Brunswick, Sandon and Langton Docks, and a bridge was replaced by a combined lifting and swing bridge to allow shipping access to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, at Stanley Dock. Originally the conductor rail was placed between the rails, the power supplied by a generating station at Bramley-Moore Dock. Special lightweight passenger cars were designed with each having a driving motor car.
The railway operated along the Liverpool Docks and became affectionately known as the Dockers’ Umbrella. Spanning 5 miles from Alexandra Dock to Herculaneum Dock, the first official journey on the railway took place on 7th January 1893, when the railway chairman took various important people on a tour of the railway. The railway officially opened on 4th February the same year by the Marquis of Salisbury, who turned on the main electrical current.
The railway carried low traffic outside of working hours and so the line was extended northwards to Seaforth Sands on 30th April 1894 in order to reach more residential areas; it was further extended at both ends over the years, south to Dingle and north to Litherland.
The first electrically-operated elevated railway in the world was also the first to use automatic signalling and electric colour signals. Home to one of the first passenger escalators at a railway station it was also the second oldest electric metro in the world.
In 1955, a report into the structure of the many viaducts showed major repairs were needed that the company could not afford. Despite public protest, the LOR closed on 30th December 1956 after more than 60 years of operation. It was the first electrified urban railway in the UK to close.
Demolition of the structure began in September 1957. Little evidence of the railway remains, but a small number of columns at Huskisson Dock, and the tunnel at Herculaneum Dock have survived. One of the original wooden carriages, on a recreated section of elevated track, remains on display with other artefacts at the Museum of Liverpool.
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Eric "Ricky" Tomlinson is an English actor, comedian, author and political activist. He is best known for his roles as Bobby Grant in Brookside, DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker, Mike Bassett in Mike Bassett: England Manager and Jim Royle in The Royle Family.