Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 162,539 pages of information and 244,522 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Liverpool and Manchester Railway

From Graces Guide
Early trains on the railway.
Moorish Arch, Edge Hill.
1830. The Northumbian Locomotive.
1833. The Hibernia and Vauxhall engines.
1880. Old Manchester Station.
Jug commemorating the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR) was the world's first intercity passenger railway in which all the trains were timetabled and operated for most of the distance solely by steam locomotives.

The LMR was primarily built to provide faster transport of raw materials and finished goods between the port of Liverpool and mills in Manchester in north-west England.

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway - History Series

Read the series of articles about The Liverpool and Manchester Railway from One Hundred Years of British Railways in The Engineer here:


The initiative to build the Liverpool and Manchester Railway came from Joseph Sandars and William James and subsequently, a group of Lancashire businessmen, led by Charles Lawrence, Lister Ellis, Robert Gladstone, John Moss and Joseph Sandars asked George Stephenson to build them a railway between Liverpool and Manchester.

The first means to give better communication other than by road, between Liverpool and Manchester, was the improvement of the river Mersey, then navigable from Liverpool to Runcorn so that boats could sail eastwards as far as Warrington. This work was sanctioned in 1694.

By the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Act of 1720, the Irwell also was improved so that it was available westwards to Warrington. There was, thus, through waster communication between Liverpool and Manchester. The route taken was, however, so circuitous that boats followed a course of from 30 to 40 miles to cover a distance of no more than 20 to 25 miles. Moreover, there was rarely a sufficient depth of water in the summer, whilst in the winter the floods prevented navigation.

1755 Sankey Brook was canalised to improve navigation, but was unsuccessful due to flooding, and the crooked course taken by streams. These difficulties were however solved by the cutting of a new canal.

The next step towards improving communication between Liverpool and Manchester was taken at the Manchester end in 1759. The then Duke of Bridgewater obtained powers to construct a canal from his collieries at Worsley to Manchester. The distance was only 7 miles, but the roads were impossible, and the Mersey and Irwell Navigation, would not reduce its charge of 3s. 6d. per ton, even though the Duke volunteered to provide his own boats. His canal was opened on July 17th, 1761 and in the following year he secured a Bill to make a canal from a junction with the Worsley Canal at Lingford Bridge, Manchester to Runcorn.

1822 July. Notice that there is interest in the idea and that the use of steam carriages is contemplated. [1] [2]

1822 September 23rd. Announcement of intention. [3]

1824 20th May. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company was founded. It was established by Henry Booth, who became its secretary and treasurer, along with other merchants from Liverpool and Manchester.[4]

1824 October 29th. Prospectus published for the 'Liverpool and Manchester Rail Road Company'. Charles Lawrence is Chairman of the Committee with 26 members (see below). [5] [6]

1824 December 10th. Notice about the sale and transfer of shares not being authorised. [7]

The initial survey for the line was carried out by William James and Robert Stephenson and, being done surreptitiously and/or by trespass, was defective. Robert departed for South America and William James became bankrupt.

In 1824 George Stephenson was appointed engineer in their place. By this time, he was taking on too much. As Robert was absent, George (who could not do the calculations required, and had relied on his son for this part of the business) left checking the survey to subordinates.

1825 In January, John Urpeth Rastrick was engaged by the promoters along with George Stephenson, Mr. Sylvester, Mr. Brunton, Philip Taylor, Mr. W. (now Sir W.) Cubitt, James Walker, Nicholas Wood and others, to visit the different collieries in the North of England, with a view of experimenting and reporting upon the tram-roads, and engines at work upon them. For this purpose a series of experiments was made with the locomotive engines on the colliery tramways at Killingworth and Hetton. Their recommendation was that a combination of locomotive with stationary power should be used; but their Report was replied to so effectively by Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke, that the celebrated Rainhill trials were instituted, and the locomotive system was fully established.

1825 February 11th. Business in Parliament. [8]

1825 Marge 2nd. Business in Parliament. Long report on debate. [9]

1825 June 21st. Notice about the rejection of the Bill. [10]

1825 July 1st. Editorial / Leader in the Times newspaper. [11]

1825 July. The bill presented to Parliament was rejected [12]

1825 December. Charles Lawrence is Chairman and 25 members of the committee are named. Long and detailed response published to the problems that caused the first application for an Act to fail. [13]

1826 May. The Bill was passed. In Liverpool 172 people took 1,979 shares, in London 96 took 844, Manchester 15 with 124, 24 others with 286. The Marquess of Stafford had 1,000, giving 308 shareholders with 4233 shares.

Upon presentation to Parliament in 1825 it was shown to be inaccurate (particularly in relation to the Irwell bridge), and the first Bill was thrown out. A key opposition figure in this had been G. H. Bradshaw, one of the trustees of the Marquess of Stafford's Worsley estate, which included the Bridgewater Canal.

In place of Stephenson, who was now in disgrace, the railway promoters appointed George Rennie and John Rennie as engineers, who chose Charles Vignoles as their surveyor. They also set out to placate the canal interests and had the good fortune to be able to approach the Marquess directly through the good offices of their counsel, Mr. Adam, who was a relative of one of the trustees, and the support of William Huskisson who knew the Marquess personally. Implacable opposition to the line changed to financial support, a considerable coup.

1829 The line was completed and the Rainhill Trials were run to find the best locomotive. The Rocket by George Stephenson was the winner.

The Western terminus was at Crown Street in Liverpool.

The line was officially opened on September 15th, 1830. The Mechanics Magazine for September 25th, 1830, gave an account of the ceremony, from which the the following description of the return journey from Manchester is extracted:

"The 24 vehicles thus left, behind were now formed into one continuous line, with the three remaining engines at their head and at 20 minute past 5 o'clock we set out on our return to Liverpool. The engines not having the power, however, to drag along the double load that had devolved upon them at a faster rate than 5 to 10 miles an hour -- once or twice only, and that but for a few minutes, did it reach the rate of 12 miles an hour -- it was past 8 o'clock before we reached Parkside, the scene of Mr. Huskisson 's melancholy accident. Here the engines again stopped for water and a good deal of time was wasted in the operation. Proceeding onwards we were met on the Kenyon embankment, by two of the missing engines which were immediately attached to the three which had drawn us from Manchester. It would be superfluous for us to inquire how it was that we happened to be deprived of the assistance of these engines since, instead of now accelerating out progress, they seemed actually to retard it. We went still slower than before, stopping continually to take water -- query, to take breath -- and creeping along at a snail's pace till we reached Sutton inclined plane, to get up which the greater part of the company were under the necessity of alighting and making use of their own legs. On reaching the top of the plane we once more took our seats and at 10 o'clock we found ourselves again at the company's station in Crown Street, having accomplished the distance of 33 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes"

The passenger service was opened two days later - on September 17th, 1830 - and for goods traffic on December 14th. [14]

1833 Of the 32 locomotives up to and including 1833, 26 were from Robert Stephenson and Co and most of the others were on designs approved by them. The first eight were of the 'Rocket' type [15]

In 1836 the locomotive department of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway considered that, in view of the increased speed of passenger trains, it might be desirable to reduce the piston velocity by shortening the stroke. Eleven passenger engines of the standard 2-2 2 type were built by Tayleur, R. and W. Hawthorn, and Mather, Dixon, with cylinders 14in. diameter by 12in. stroke, instead of the 12in. by 16in. and 12in. by 15in. cylinders which were then generally used. There does not appear to be any record of the actual performances of these engines in their original condition. Edward Woods (Observations on the Consumption of Fuel and the Evaporation of Water," in Tredgold's "Steam Engine ") stated that their use coincided with an extravagant increase in coke consumption, but added that it was erroneously attributed to the mechanical disadvantage of the short stroke. The slide valves on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at this time had no lap, and the steam was not worked expansively. The engines were certainly not a success; the short stroke was abandoned and no more were built. Robert Stephenson ("Proc.," Inst. C.E., 1849) stated that these engines consumed too much water. [16]

1840 They were running 11 trains a day in each direction with fares for a single journey ranging from 6s 6d to 4s 6d.

In 1845 the L&MR was absorbed by its principal business partner, the Grand Junction Railway; the following year the GJR formed part of the London and North Western Railway.

A Brief History

Taken from The Newcomen Society Meeting of November 16th 1921, "The Liverpool and Manchester Railway" by C. F. Dendy Marshall.

The Railway

In 1797 William Jessop suggested that a tram-road to be worked by horses should be laid down between Liverpool and Manchester, and he surveyed a route. The following year Benjamin Outram made another survey for the line, but nothing came of either proposal.

The credit for the earliest practical scheme is due to William James, who drew up a plan in 1821, based on a preliminary survey, for a “Line of Engine Railroad from Liverpool to Manchester,” in which he succeeded in Joseph Sandars, a Liverpool merchant, who became one of the most active promoters of the line.

The first survey, in which Vignoles took part, was very imperfect, and a second one was made in 1822, with the assistance of Robert Stephenson. Soon afterward, owing to ill-health and financial embarrassments, James became incapable of proceeding further with the matter, and it was put in the hands of George Stephenson.

Read More Here.

1824 Committee

The committee of 29th August 1824 consisted of: Charles Lawrence, John Moss, Robert Gladstone, Joseph Sanders, Lister Ellis, Thomas Shaw Brandreth, Robert Benson, H. H. Birley, Joseph Birley, Henry Booth, James Cropper, John Ewart, Peter Ewart, William Garnett, Richard Harrison, Thomas Hedlam, Isaac Hodgson, Adam Hodgson, Joseph Hornby, John Kennedy, Wellwood Maxwell, William Potter, William Rathbone, William Rotheram, John Ryle, Thomas Sharpe, John Wilson.

Liverpool Tunnels

Three tunnels were constructed in Liverpool for the L&M Railway, partly because of geographical reasons, and partly because locomotives were forbidden from working within the town limits. They were called the Wapping, Crown Street, and Lime Street Tunnels.[17]

For the first several decades of service, trains were cable-hauled through the tunnels by fixed winding engines, rather than by locomotives. For the Wapping and Lime Street Tunnels, the engines worked endless ropes. The train was attached to the stationary rope by a 'messenger rope', and a signal transmitted to the remote engine driver to start the rope moving. The systems had some similarities to the remarkable surviving installation at Middleton Top on the former Cromford and High Peak Railway.

A winding engine said to be from one of the tunnels was sold to Richard Evans and Co of Haydock Colliery, where it worked driving workshop machinery until 1943. It is now preserved at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. See article in the Railway Magazine, July 1951, reproduced here and here. Richard L. Hills doubted that it was one of the winding engines, one reason being that he considered that the slide valves were designed for lower steam pressure than that provided for the Liverpool engines.[18]

Construction Work at Salford, 1830

Extract from an 1830 newspaper report[19]:
We had the pleasure last week of laying before our readers a report of the proceedings at the general annual meeting of the proprietors of this great work, which was held at Liverpool on Thursday week.
Since the cessation of the frost, considerable progress has been made in the various works at this end of the railway. The entire line of the road has been marked out to its final termination and the level has been formed, and rails laid down nearly as far as Ordsall-lane. The bridge at Cross-lane, the completion of which was delayed by the accidental falling of the arch originally constructed, has for some time past been completed, and when seen from the railroad itself, forms a neat and pleasing object in the perspective. Another bridge, constructed on the same principle, and uniform in appearance with all the bridges on this line, has been thrown over the railway at Oldfield-lane; and a third bridge is in course of erection between Oldfield-lane and Cross-lane, and about three hundred yards from the latter. As there was never any cross road near the site of this last bridge, it has puzzled many persons to discover the motive for its erection. We understand, however, that when the company applied to parliament for their act, Mr. George Jones, who owns or has a long lease of the greater part of the land between Oldfield-lane and Cross-lane, stipulated that the company should erect three bridges across the railway, between these two lanes, on account of certain streets which he intends to lay out upon that part of property. In pursuance this arrangement, the company are constructing the bridge in question ; and they have, during the present week, laid the foundation of a second, still nearer to Cross-lane. The third, we believe, is to be dispensed with, in consideration of a sum of money to be paid in lieu of its erection....
.....Mr. Stevenson's engine, the Rocket, which gained the prize of £500 during the late experiments at Rainhill some months past, has been constantly employed in coveying quantities the soft red rock found at Eccles, to Chat Moss, for the purpose of forming the surface of this road. This material is found so excellently adapted for that purpose, that the whole surface of the road at this end has been thickly laid with a super-stratum of it, after having been pounded into a fine sand. No other carriage, with the exception of the common waggons, has been employed in traversing this part of the railway; but when the work is visited by any of the directors, or when a pleasure party obtains permission to take a trip to the moss, a neat light carriage is employed for the purpose, and is drawn by horse power.
Wooden mile-posts have been placed every quarter of a mile along the whole line, commencing at Liverpool and extending to Manchester. The last of these mile-posts yet erected is a little beyond Oldfield-lane, where the distance from Liverpool is stated to be 30 1/4 miles. The whole distance to Water-street will be about 30 3/4 miles. The figures appear in black paint upon a white ground.
During the last summer the company purchased no less than eight millions of bricks, for the erection of their bridges, warehouses, wharfs, &c. Of these five millions were purchased from Mr. Jones, two millions from Mr. Brownbill, and one million from Mr. David Bellhouse, junior; and they were all made from clay excavated from the land lying between Cross-lane and Oldfield-lane, and principally from the excavations necessary for the level of the railway itself, which varies from fifteen to twenty feet below that of the field in question. The whole of this quantity and probably still further supply will be required for the erection of the different works and warehouses to be built at this end of the railway. Immediately on this side of the bridge now building, between Cross-lane and Oldfield-lane, the railway which runs all the way from Eccles in a perfectly straight line, and on a dead level takes a sweep or curve towards the north-east, and after passing Ordsall-lane, takes another sweep in contrary direction or towards the south-west. The object of this deviation from a right line is two-fold. In the first place, the valuable buildings in Trafalgar-place, and Well Meadow buildings is avoided ; and in the second place, the railway is thus brought nearly at right angles with the river, instead of crossing it in an oblique direction. The bridge across the Irwell, however, will not be exactly at right angles with the direction of the stream, but will trend to the northwards to the extent of about twelve feet in each arch, or twenty-four feet on the whole length of the bridge.
The bridge over the Irwell will consist of two arches. Its progress has been considerably impeded by unlooked for difficulties. After a good deal of interruption during the middle of the winter, partly from the long and severe frost, and partly from repeated inundations of the works, by floods in the river, the foundations of the piers on each side were at length laid, and the superstructure has since proceeded with all due rapidity and success. The piers on each side have been raised to nearly their full height, and the springers or first row of stones forming the arches have been laid. In laying the foundation of the centre pier, however, much greater difficulty has been experienced. A cofferdam was formed in the centre of the river, and the piles of which it was composed were driven, as was imagined, down to the solid rock, which forms the sub-stratum of the bed of the river. On the water pumped out, however, by means of a small steam-engine, of six horse power, which had been erected for the purpose on the bank of the river, it was discovered that the water flowed in copiously at the bottom of the piles, and on farther examination it was found that these had not penetrated to the rock, but were embedded in very thick stratum of gravel which lines the bed of the river. To remedy this defect a new set piles were driven to a proper depth outside of the former, all the interstices were carefully secured. This work has only been completed during the present week, and whenever the coffer-dam is thus rendered water-tight, the water will be pumped out, and the foundation the pier immediately laid. We understand that the workmen will then be employed night and day to hasten forward the work.
The arches at first were intended have been built of brick, like the other bridges on the line, with a mere edging of stone work; and the contractor became bound, under heavy penalty, to have a bridge, upon this principle, completed by the 31st of May. The directors, however, afterwards determined that the arches should formed entirely of stone, and a fresh contract to that effect was entered into. We believe it is not now expected that the bridge will finished much sooner than the end of the present year.
On the Manchester side of the river, several of the minor arches, contiguous to the bridge, are already completed. The railway will be carried along a viaduct consisting of a succession of arches, over Water-street, and as far as the upper end of the field lying on the north side Liverpool-road. The railway will there terminate, and the wharfs and warehouses of the company will also be erected there. An advertisement respecting contracts for the building of these, will be found in another part of our paper. The vacant space left beneath the arches the viaduct, will, we understand, be enclosed, and be used as cellars and depositories for goods. Some of the larger arches adjoining the river, will also be tenanted, we believe, by Messrs. Rothwell and Harrison, as dye-houses, instead of some of their present buildings, which they rent from the company, and part of which are intended to be taken down.....'


See here for a table of dimensions, materials and costs of 63 bridges on the line, published in 1843.

Railway Locomotives

1830 Eight locomotives, constructed at the Stephenson works, were delivered for the opening of the line:

Engine No. Name Built Builder Detail
Locomotives belonging to the L&MR up to 1840[21]
9 Planet 1830
? Northumbrian 1830 Robert Stephenson and Co
11 Mercury 1830
19 Vulcan 1831
21 Fury 1831
22 Victory 1831
23 Atlas 1832
26 Liver 1832 Edward Bury and Co
27 Pluto 1832
28 Caledonian 1832 Galloway and Co
29 Ajax 1832
30 Leeds 1832
31 Firefly 1833
32 Experiment 1833 Sharp, Roberts and Co.
33 Patentee 1834
34 Titan 1834
35 Orion 1834
36 Swiftsure 1835 George Forrester and Co
37 Rapid 1835
38 Speedwell 1835
39 Hercules 1836
40 Eclipse 1836
41 Star 1836
42 York 1836
43 Vesuvius 1836
44 Thunderer 1836
45 Lightning 1836
46 Cyclops 1836
47 Milo 1836
48 Phoenix 1836 be completed

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Monday, Jul 29, 1822
  2. The Times, Monday, Sep 23, 1822
  3. The Times, Monday, Sep 23, 1822
  4. Wikipedia
  5. The Times, Saturday, Nov 20, 1824
  6. The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), Saturday, November 6, 1824
  7. The Times, Friday, Dec 10, 1824
  8. The Times, Monday, Feb 14, 1825
  9. The Times, Thursday, Mar 03, 1825
  10. The Times, Tuesday, Jun 21, 1825
  11. The Times, Friday, Jul 01, 1825
  12. The Times, Friday, Jul 15, 1825
  13. The Times, Thursday, Dec 29, 1825
  14. The Engineer 1924/09/05
  15. Timothy Hackworth and the Locomotive by Robert Young. Published 1923.
  16. The Engineer 1925/01/23
  17. 'The tunnels of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, 1830-1845' by Anthony Dawson, R&CHS Journal, Vol 40 Part 5, No. 241, July 2021
  18. [1] The North Western Museum of Science and Industry, some reminiscences, by Richard L. Hills, p.38ff.
  19. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 3 April 1830
  20. Wikipedia [2]
  21. The Engineer 1881/03/18