In Liverpool now, there is very little physical evidence that the world’s first electrically operated elevated railway was ever here.
The Liverpool Overhead Railway (known as the Dockers’ Umbrella, as many affectionally referred to it) was an overhead railway in Liverpool which operated along the Liverpool Docks and opened in 1893 with lightweight electric multiple units. The railway had a number world firsts; it was the first electric elevated railway, the first to use automatic signalling & electric colour light signals, electric multiple units, and was home to one of the first passenger escalator at a railway station. It was also the second oldest electric metro in the world being preceded by the 1890 City and South London Railway.
Originally spanning 5 miles from Alexandra Dock to Herculaneum Dock, the railway was extended at both ends over the years of operation, as far south as Dingle and north to Seaforth & Litherland. A number of stations opened and closed during the railway’s operation owing to relative popularity and damage, including air bombing during World War II. At its peak almost 20 million people used the railway every year. Sadly, in 1955 a report into the structure of the many viaducts depicted a sorry tale as major repairs were needed that the company could not afford. The railway closed at the end of 1956 and despite public protests the structures were dismantled in the following year.
The Overhead railway is a key part of Liverpool’s city history and is a lost hallmark of a global, outward looking Liverpool that based its built environment and infrastructure more on Chicago and New York than that of the UK. Sadly, like many other great structures and architecture, the line was lost as the city declined, but given Liverpool’s obvious and increasing revival, with the city’s focus again being its waterfront, is it time to see a return of this line to connect what is a growing number of major attractions and residential districts along the waterfront, not to mention the expanding port? That’s the questions being asked by Liverpool-born cityscape designer Michael McDonough, a man known for radical visions and ideas for transformation of his home city.
The visuals below are part of an ongoing project for y-imby to visualise a return of the Liverpool Overhead Railway, whether that be light rail similar to London’s DLR or perhaps something more akin to the monorails found in Seattle, Sydney and Dubai. The line they propose would largely run along the original route of the former Liverpool Overhead Railway, with new stations at established attractions such as the Pier Head as well as close to new developments, including provision for the multi-billion pound development by Peel at Liverpool Waters, Everton’s proposed new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock, as well as connecting to new developments at Bootle Strand, Stanley Dock, Dingle, Sefton Park, Festival Gardens and Garston. McDonough and y-imby also have some pretty big ideas about creating a Mersey super city where Birkenhead and Liverpool are connected by a bridge.
One of the key elements of the route illustrated is the creation of an extension of the line to Liverpool airport – a vital piece of missing city infrastructure that could take passengers to and from the city centre in less than 20 minutes, whilst connecting at key points to the extensive Merseyrail network. With ever more investment of scale at our world famous waterfront it is now time to explore how we connect these developments effectively to ensure, as our city centre expands, that the movement of people does not become something that holds the city’s progress back.
So, what do you think? Once the “monorail” tune from The Simpsons leaves the brain, is it a good idea? Has nostalgia blurred and a pretty beautiful looking 3D mockup blurred or judgement or is this an indication of bigger and better things for the city? Let us know.
Read the full info from y-imby here.