Robert Hampton

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15th September 2010

Posted by at 9.45pm | Liverpool, Trains | No responses

Happy birthday to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, which opened 180 years ago today. There were other earlier attempts, but the L&M was the first proper railway as we would recognise it today, with all trains working under their own power rather than drawn by horses and using fixed stopping places and timetables.

What an adventure it must have been for the early travellers. Those first nervous passengers travelled aboard rickety four-wheeled carriages, with uncomfortable seats, low speeds and poor ride quality. We’ve come a long way since then.

The line contains several engineering marvels, including the crossing of Chat Moss and the Sankey Viaduct. The route is of course still in use today, with Earlestown station having the distinction of being the oldest railway station in the world. A few stops down the line at Rainhill, a plaque and exhibition commemorate the famous locomotive trials which proved that steam power was the way of the future.

City Line map of Liverpool and Manchester Railway

Despite some early hiccups (killing the guest of honour on launch day is the sort of PR snafu that would make even Max Clifford’s palms sweat) the L&M’s success inspired a swathe of copycat enterprises. Within a few years, a vast network of lines criss-crossed the country, opening up areas previously inaccessible without an arduous journey. Trips that previously took days were reduced to a few hours. The railways created tourism and introduced the concept of commuting.

Do many people riding the overcrowded Pacer into Lime Street in 2010 recognise the historical importance of this section of the City Line? Probably not, but the world would have been a very different place without it.