Opened on 4 February 1893, the Liverpool Overhead Railway was built to ease congestion along the Dock Road following the completion of the dock network in the 1880's. It also provided shelter from the rain for the dockers walking beneath it, thus earning the nickname, the 'Docker's Umbrella'.

Building work commenced in October 1889 and took six years to complete. It was the first electrically powered overhead railway in the world. The original line stretched from Seaforth Carriage Shed to Herculaneum Dock. The railway was formally opened by British Prime Minister, the Marquis of Salisbury on Saturday 4 February 1893.

A decision was taken to extend the line south to Dingle and in order to do this, a half mile tunnel had to be bored high in the sandstone rock near Herculaneum station. Underneath this tunnel was a goods yard serving the Cheshire Lines railway system whose railway tunnel was next to and beneath the new railway excavation.

Extensive modernisation followed German bombings after the war, however, curved metal plates that supported the track were in a state of decay and needed urgent repair. At an estimated cost of two million pounds the repairs were considered beyond the financial resources of the company.



Liverpool City Council and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board were approached for financial assistance, without success. The railway was unable to continue without the essential repairs and after 63 years in operation, the Railway was closed down on 30th December 1956.

Several rescue attempts and public protests followed, but on 23 September 1957, dismantlers moved in. By January 1959 the Liverpool Overhead Railway had disappeared forever and with it another Liverpool institution was lost forever.

The only traces of the railway that remain today are the original metal supporting columns built into the dock wall behind Wapping Dock. Cleaned for the Garden Festival in 1984, the tunnel entrance to the Dingle is the most impressive sight of what now remains only a distant memory for those privileged enought to have travelled on the 'Ovie'.


"The time will come when Merseysiders must rue the day when they permitted the City Fathers to throttle the
lifeblood of this unique undertaking and in addition to scrap the last vestige of their remarkably
efficient tramway system."

H. Maxwell Roston (General Manager, Liverpool Overhead Railway)

Credited images used with kind permission of Dewi Williams


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