The Railway Inn on Crown Street

George Stephenson's 1830 map of Liverpool Crown Street shows a building opposite what would later become the yard of the Grand Junction Railway. This, however, is not a railway property but rather the Railway Inn, an early example of a building that would soon become commonplace in towns and cities across the country.

As ever, a work in progress, much conjecture…

liverpool crown street gages map 1836 fixed 2 railway inn highlighted
Fig: Michael Gage's map published in 1836 showing Crown Street expanding with yards to the north (left on the map) and the site of the Railway Inn highlighted in yellow.

Notwithstanding temperance sensibilities among the directors, local breweries were often quick to exploit the arrival of railway travellers and workers as at Patricroft. However, little seems to be known of Crown Street's equivalent, the Railway Inn, apart from the brief entry and 1904-dated photo in Freddy O'Connor's book "A Pub on Every Corner: South Liverpool".

Although a building is shown on the site on the 1830 map, the earliest building labelled Railway Inn is on the 1849 Town Map. It is assumed that the inn changed neither name nor location in the meantime.

Most of the images in the book (and pubs on Crown Street) derive from a chain owned by the brewer Peter Walker & Son. However, Walker only arrived in Liverpool from Ayr in 1836 so cannot have been the original owner if, indeed, the company later acquired the inn.

History of the parcel

Likewise the ownership of the parcel is unclear although it seems to have been entirely separate from the station and ran through to Olive Street, named for the nearby Botanic Garden. The Garden gradually migrated to Edge Lane to avoid pollution from the Crown Street yards and re-opened there in 1836.

Swire's 1824 map shows the parcel as directly adjacent to the Garden and apparently non-agricultural, perhaps cleared for building although it pre-dates the laying-down of Olive Street itself. There is an outside possibility, however, that it formed a carriage park for visitors to the Garden. Indeed, the land may have been owned by the Garden and parcels sold off to part-fund its running expenses, ultimately including the move to Edge Lane.

Adverts appeared in local newspapers around this time for land close to the Crown Street yard and the inn may have been one outcome. However, it does not feature in reporting about the opening day (15th September 1830) so it is also possible that it opened subsequently.

Opening day accounts generally mention the William IV Hotel whose proprietor, a Mr Harding, provided a grandstand with musical accompaniment. However, there was a King William IV hotel in Williamson Square and it seems not unlikely that this establishment sponsored the grandstand rather than one local to the station.

Stephenson's map suggests that the inn was among the first buildings on the parcel in 1830 although 1829 Gore's directory lists a Lightfoot court off Olive Street. However, there was in fact another Olive Street off Back Russell Street. This makes it difficult to unambiguously identify residents on the Crown Street parcel(s). However, one possible Olive Street resident was Thomas Rogers whose (highly pertinent) occupation was given as gardener. It is also possible that Stephenson's map was selective given that it fails to show the dominant building in the vicinity, Stephen White's windmill.

By 1836 the inn had been joined on its narrow parcel by a range of other buildings running through to Olive Street. Some were contiguous with the inn and may have been livery stables for those using the inn, for rail travellers or for those working in or visiting the yards. There was also a house or business on Olive Street itself. Mid-century much of the parcel was redeveloped to form a court-style housing project called Barton's Buildings (also known as Court No.2), albeit with an unusual pattern comprising clusters of four houses with a square rather than rectangular layout. By the turn of the century, however, much of the parcel was vacant apart from the Crown Street frontage.

The inn disappears from records sometime before 1912 and is not visible in an aerial view of 1934. Of the street directories available online, it appears only in the 1860 Gore's (street number: 236, proprietor: Samuel Hancock) but earlier editions may not have listed establishments on the outskirts of town.

Other businesses on the west side of Crown Street

Unlike the east side, the west side of Crown Street does not appear to have developed incrementally. Although the parcel was vacant in 1830, Gage's map shows the Halsnead coalyard on the corner of Crown Street and Myrtle Street South by 1836. The Halsnead colliery was served by the Willis branch just west of Huyton Quarry station. This probably opened in 1834, presumably at roughly the same time as the yard at Crown Street.

It seems likely that the Halsnead yard had rail access across Crown Street from its opening although presumably the line was worked by horses. Horses rarely feature in what little artwork of Crown Street survives other than in pulling road carriages. However, most of the coalyards had two buildings, one for offices, the other stables with nearby midden, and horses likely played a major role in shunting as well as off-site coal deliveries.

The only other western parcel shown as occupied on Gage's 1836 map was an oil works. This has two small buildings and whether manufacture or distribution took place there is unclear. The precise nature of the product being handled is unclear but the nearby railway would potentially have been a significant customer for lubricants in particular.

The appearance of the inn

liverpool crown st railway inn
Fig: The Railway Inn on Crown Street after the photo in O'Connor's book. There was probably a flight of stairs on the right that led down to an area at basement level, possibly staff accommodation. This is no longer present in the 1904 photo although the tops of the windows overlooking the area are still visible. Vaults may have been accessed via a passageway to the left.

The inn is perhaps a little more architecturally interesting than the average street corner pub of this era. This may fit with it serving both pub and hotel functions as with a traditional coaching inn. With the offset door it has what Murchison (pdf) calls a "shop" format. The giant pilasters are reminiscent of the Custom House Hotel; unfortunately the photo is truncated vertically so it is impossible to state what order (if any) they had, nor whether there were any further decorative elements above.

Whether the clock was an original feature is unclear; perhaps the idea was that travellers would immediately see that they had time for a drink before their train departed.

Business development

Inns played a key role in coaching and, indeed, in the early days of the Stockton & Darlington Railway which opened in 1825. However, by 1870 builder and former Liverpool mayor Samuel Holme was bemoaning the absence of good inns in many towns and ascribed it to the replacement of road coaches by railways. Those that survived were often less hotel, more public bar.

Unsurprisingly, railside taverns like Patricroft sought to ply passengers and staff on passing trains with food and drink, something the directors were anxious to avoid. Drunkeness among railway employees was a significant concern for the L&MR and the basis of a number of accident reports and disciplinary procedures.

By the 1870s railway hotels at mainline stations would become large and ornate. In 1830, however, the Railway Inn was notably less elaborate in appearance than the Mayfair (Kean's) Hotel on the corner of Tabley Street and Park Lane. Kean's (as it was more commonly known) was supposedly built to cater for rail travellers alighting at Wapping which, of course, turned out to be exclusively a goods station.

The end of passenger services at Crown Street in 1836 likely had significant consequences for the residential functions of the Railway Inn. However, even prior to that hotels in the centre of Liverpool were touting for business outside the station and provided their own transport into town.

There was one category of potential user that would persist, however, namely train crews who would need to stay at Crown Street overnight. However, in most cases these were likely accommodated in quarters above company offices.

While the station provided waiting-rooms, they did not provide food or drink beyond the services of a freelance orange-seller. Many would bring their own picnic basket but even so the inn must have been an attractive proposition to those whose departure was delayed.

With the closure and demolition of the passenger station and a switch to livestock (briefly) and coal, the inn was unfavourably situated in an industrial setting. There were works springing up in the vicinity with potentially thirsty staff to assuage but equally there were likely more handily placed public houses. One possibility is that at this stage the Railway Inn may have catered more to the needs of colliery agents and railway middle management wanting to socialise or entertain for business purposes.

According to Thomas (1980), William Hulton was obliged to apologise to the railway directors when in 1846 his agent at Edge Hill was seen to treat a large number of enginemen at "Mr Vidler's Hotel", i.e. the Tunnel Hotel. This anecdote, possibly linked to an upcoming election, illustrates use of the hotel by agents (and presumably coal merchants) as well as highlighting the dim view taken by the railway of such activity by its operations staff.

Nevertheless, both establishments must have turned some profit to have survived as long as they did (although vacant for some time, Kean's was demolished only relatively recently). In due course, however, there was considerable competition on and beyond Crown Street and this may ultimately have sealed the fate of the Railway Inn.

Crown Street and the Grand Junction Railway

On 4th July 1837 the Grand Junction Railway (GJR) commenced operations between [Liverpool Lime Street] and Birmingham Vauxhall and thus became the first UK trunk line. The following year the GJR would connect with the London & Birmingham and thus permit travel between Liverpool, Manchester and Euston. The GJR track in fact ran only as far as Warrington and the link to the lines of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) was provided by the Warrington & Newton Railway which was acquired by the GJR in 1835.

vauxhall_station_birmingham_1837
Fig: Birmingham Vauxhall station looking somewhat akin to Crown Street albeit with a larger train shed.

Opening day

As reported by The Times, the opening attracted large crowds but was otherwise low key: no celebrities or bands and just a single flag on the first carriage leaving the temporary terminus at Birmingham Vauxhall station at 06:30. It was noted that there were no Birmingham men on the Board of Directors which was largely drawn from Liverpool.

The first class train comprised 8 carriages and the locomotive Wildfire. As was the custom, the carriages bore names: Triumph, Greyhound, Swallow, Liverpool & Birmingham mail, Celerity, Umpire, Statesman and Birmingham & Manchester mail. Once clear of Birmingham it averaged 35-40 mph. The train from Liverpool, however, suffered delays due to the "obstreperous intrusion" of people from the "iron and coal districts".

The first mixed class train from Liverpool, however, suffered an engine failure and the delay in its arrival at Birmingham led to much consternation amid speculation that there had been an accident.

In normal service the first class journey was expected to take 4 hours 35 minutes with second classs trains an hour slower.

Liverpool and the GJR

liverpool crown st gateposts
Fig: The lefthand pair of gateposts are situated on what was originally the boundary of the GJR yard on Crown Street. The offices of the Haydock colliery were located where the brick wall stands.

The interaction between the GJR and L&MR was more profound than the above suggests with the L&MR's John Moss its chairman and Charles Lawrence his deputy. The GJR was given space at Lime Street and had its own engineering works at Crown Street and shared use of the locomotive works at Edge Hill. While it operated luggage trains to Wapping and had warehouse and crane facilities there, it also had a yard at the junction of Kent Street and Grenville Street, the site now occupied by Liverpool Community College.

While the engineering works at Crown Street was moved to Crewe in 1843, the GJR continued to operate in close conjunction with the L&MR. For example, with the closure of passenger services at Crown Street the station appears to have been adapted to manage cattle and pigs with the GJR probably having its own loading wharf.

The close working relationship was underpinned by George Stephenson's involvement at different times as Prinicipal Engineer in both companies. The cross-representation of directors between the Boards was not always without concerns regarding conflicts of interest. However, during a period of mergers across the growing industry and network the L&MR was absorbed into the GJR in 1845 and both companies into the London & North Western the following year.

GJR at Crown Street

The earliest maps of Crown Street show two vacant fields north of the station with a footpath between them and the station leading from Crown Street to Smithdown Lane. The L&MR appears to have acquired the fields from the Marquis of Salisbury (the ropeworks on Smithdown Lane were presumably excluded and later became the site of the surviving Victorian terrace).

It seems likely that the expansion northwards took place incrementally. An undated sketch map at Lancashire Archives shows the proximal parcel assigned to Haydock colliery and the adjacent one only part-levelled and largely given over to sidings. It may be that this was the original location of the Hulton colliery parcel given the presence of a weighbridge. Hulton's operation may thus have moved further north when the enabling legislation for the GJR was passed in May 1833.

Gage's map of 1835 (published 1836) shows the three yards north of Crown Street (Haydock, GJR, Hulton) and additionally the Halsnead yard on the other side of Crown Street. Unfortunately there is no track layout but it seems likely that track crossed Crown Street to the Halsnead yard.

liverpool gage map crown st
Fig: Gage's map. Top is east, left is north.

The GJR yard was an engineering works enagaged in manufacture and maintenance of rolling stock much as with Gray's yard on Crabtree Lane at the south end of Crown Street. It was here that Nathaniel Worsdell, formerly of the L&MR Crown Street works, built the first travelling post office, a modified horse-box, in 1838.

In 1843 this engineering activity moved to the new works at Crewe and the vacant GJR yard may have been leased to the adjacent Haydock collieries (later Turner & Evans and then Evans) before going through the hands of numerous coal merchants, including Laird's, Higginson's and latterly Martindale's, father and son.

After conversion to a coalyard the GJR yard was reconfigured with workshops to the east under Smithdown Lane being demolished to make way for sidings and an additional stable block being built along Crown Street. The large broad block on Crown Street, part-stables, part-stores with its own internal siding, seems, however, to have been retained. Plausibly the entrance pillars may date to this post-GJR as an attempt to unify the two yards although the GJR entrance was likely in the same location previously.

There is a photo of the Martindale's era that shows the company owning both the Evans/Haydock and the former GJR yards. The ex-GJR block can be seen to the rear and the windowless building to the left on Crown Street comprise additional stables. The building on the right contains the offices once belonging to the Haydock yard. The Martindale family was closely associated with Liverpool FC, two members becoming chairman of the club.

Ultimately the site became Oldham's scrap metal yard (founded in 1946 the company is now based in Kirkby and remains in the demolition and recycling business) before closing in 1972. A photo from this time shows the same office building with gateposts on either side and a large travelling crane over what had been the Haydock yard.

The Haydock yard also had stables at the south-east corner under Smithdown Lane and a covered wharf and siding adjacent to the passenger station. As with most yards, it had a weighbridge adjacent to the office.

A brief glimpse of the yard is available from a film demonstrating use of a petrol shunter at Crown Street in the 1930s. The introductory still shows from left to right the Haydock/Evans office, the later ex-GJR shed absent from Gage's map (the boundary between the two parcels was crooked), the broader ex-GJR block and, in the distance, the Hulton office/shed.

liverpool crown st aerial view 2 1934 with arrows
Fig: An aerial view of the location in 1934 shows the presence of the large GJR block (blue arrowhead) as well as the entrances flanked by the extant gateposts (red arrowheads).

Importance of the northern yard

There is always a tendency to focus on the L&MR passenger station at Crown Street but the GJR was also primarily a Liverpool endeavour with much in common and a longer reach. Even after the departure of the GJR works, the impact on the city of the northern coalyard was considerable. It provided the fuel for the dwellings and businesses that would soon populate the elevated outskirts of the growing town. Its success encouraged a similar development at Edge Hill.

Although the presence of the GJR was relatively fleeting, the persistence of the broad stables/stores block gives some indication as to the appearance of the contemporary buildings both at the far end of the GJR yard and, perhaps, the otherwise largely mysterious Millfield/Gray's works of the L&MR.

Thus the buildings are two storeys, brick-built with a low, hipped roof. There are no obvious skylights and access is via recessed doors, presumably to reduce risk in an environment with frequent movement of both road and rail vehicles.

liverpool crown st northern yards opensim v2
Fig: Work-in-progress build of the reimagined northern yards based on Gage's 1836 map and showing the pillars at the entrances to the GJR and Haydock yards. The building in the foreground is the Railway Inn. The rolling stock is not intended to be representative.

Wapping Goods Station

Having written about the Wapping Tunnel, it seems appropriate to mention the station of the same name. As with its extant counterpart at Liverpool Road, Manchester, it dates to 1830 but is much less well understood. As ever, a work-in-progress.

wapping bury aquatint
Fig: The tunnel portal in 1831 as viewed from beneath the warehouse situated over the cutting. The height of the cutting (and hence columns) is somewhat exaggerated. Artist: Thomas Talbot Bury.

The original intention had been for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&RM) to enter Liverpool to the north but the failure of the 1825 Bill led to a rethink and adoption of a more southerly route, largely to mollify influential landowners. Locomotives were not permitted on the streets of Liverpool and the solution was to site a passenger station at Crown Street just outside the boundary. Even so, locomotives did not enter the station but instead trains were hauled into the station by rope connected to a stationary engine in the Moorish Arch at Edge Hill.

Location

Goods trains also shed their locomotives at the Edge Hill Cavendish (now Chatsworth Street) cutting and ran by gravity down to Wapping Station, close to the Queens and Kings Docks but separated from them by the dock road, Wapping at this point and hence the name of the station. Wapping Dock itself, as we shall see, was a later addition.

The station was also bounded to the east by Park Lane (a later name for the station), to the north by Sparling Street and to the south by Crosbie Street, infamous for its crowded court housing. Over time the station would be extended to Blundell Street.

map gage wapping cropped
Fig: Detail from Gage's 1836 map. The station cutting runs down the centre with the 1830 warehouse roughly in the middle. Three small buildings just above it are clustered around the tunnel entrance where small rectangles represent weighing machines on both the up and down line. The long range of warehouses to the right (south) was likely absent on opening in 1830. The building opposite is the Up Goods Office.

The station was sited on a former ropery and indeed one continued in operation immediately to the north. The linear site sloping down to the docks obviously suited sidings although the incline required that the track run into a cutting. The restricted width of the site favoured location of the warehouse above the cutting although this meant that north-south movement on foot was awkward and required staircases on either side of the cutting.

liverpool wapping goods office opensim2
Fig: Looking east towards the 1830 warehouse across the cutting and tunnel portal beyond. The building on the left is the reimagined Up Goods Office.

Opening and operation of the station

The Manchester 1830 warehouse was a late addition and only completed shortly before the railway opened in September 1830 although the routine goods service only began in early 1831 due to a shortage of suitable locomotives. The late start was due to the L&MR directors changing their views on the need to provide warehousing at the station rather than requiring rapid collection of goods. It is likely that the warehouse was built at roughly the same time as the one in Manchester. The latter was designed by Haigh & Franklin and built, like the Manchester passenger station, by David Backhouse Jnr. The architect of the Liverpool building is unknown. As with the Manchester building it may have been timber-framed given the requirement for a rapid build.

liverpool wapping reduced clearance twitter
Fig: Looking west from the tunnel portal with the 1830 warehouse in the centre. Note that passenger coaches were not normally found at the goods station but did run down there on the opening day.

Trains ran down the Wapping tunnel under gravity with additional braking from pilot wagons and ultimately a slight incline in the yard at Wapping. The train was brought to rest under the warehouse and wagons unloaded directly into the warehouse by hoist and trapdoor. Bulk goods such as coal and lime were unloaded on the quays (as the sides of the cutting were called) beyond the warehouse. Movement of wagons was either by man-handling or by horses with much use of turnplates in the limited space available.

There was a need for additional storage of wagons and this took place to some extent by means of a tunnel through the north side of the cutting between the portal and warehouse. This facility was later removed and a cutting inserted in its place, access to the warehouse then being via a bridge.

Access

Although the Wapping gate was primarily intended for access of goods coming from the docks, I suspect some bulk goods exited there as well. Goods stored in the warehouse were notified and collected via the Park Lane entrance. The house above the cutting at that end may have monitored access as well as housing controls for the weighing machines on the ground floor in the cutting. The Park Lane entrance was also used for channeling live pigs down to wagons for shipping to Manchester.

However, up goods destined for Manchester mainly entered via the Wapping gate and hence there was a requirement for a goods office there which has been reimagined in the OpenSim build. Wagons would be marshalled and loaded on the north quay and pulled by horses up to the start of the continuous rope haulage system some 30 yards inside the tunnel. Initially the system was limited to rakes of five wagons so further marshalling was required at Edge Hill (goods trains were typically about 10 wagons long). To avoid contact with the warehouse floor or roof of the tunnel a loading gauge was provided at Wapping, the first known.

The role of the building on Crosbie Street is unclear but presumably there was also staff-only access from there.

Subsequent developments

As can be seen on Gage's map, by 1836 there were multiple warehouses running down Crosbie Street. The one nearest Wapping may have been designed by Franklin for the Bolton & Leigh Railway operated by Hargreaves.

The station subsequently expanded into the former ropery with a second cutting introduced as well as a tunnel connecting the two. Ultimately there would be four tunnel entrances into the station with access controlled by a signal box in a small cutting ("the Crow's Foot").

wapping panorama (2)
Fig: This 1865 panorama shows a second uncovered cutting north of the original. The 1830 warehouse now has an extension and the range of warehouses down Crosbie Street is also visible. By this time the Wapping Dock and warehouse (roof just visible at bottom) were operational.

In due course the company bought a yard nearer to the docks and the railway track extended across Wapping to the yard which ultimately reached the dockside and was used both for stabling of wagons and delivery of coal to the ships. This area would ultimately become part of Wapping Dock with the railway forking in either direction to connect with the line running along the docks and in the case of Wapping into the warehouse itself.

liverpool wapping station (2)
Fig: German transect of the pre-WW2 station.

Finally the station outgrew the limitations of the original block and was extended across Crosbie Street as far as Blundell Street.

liverpool wapping station east 1927 perhaps
Fig: Park Lane station from the west c1927. The original warehouse can be seen in the centre with a small extension to the west. It appears contiguous (and was probably continuous via doors above ground level) with another later warehouse.

The docks area was badly damaged as a result of bombing in the Park Lane and Wapping area during World War 2. One land mine in particular knocked out the overhead and docks railways at Wapping, including the junction for the (by then) Park Lane Goods Station. The Wapping warehouse was affected and as a result is now truncated and there was also damage to the adjacent goods station. Part of this is now a car park but the remnants of the station canopy above it are post-war. The 1830 warehouse clearly survived into the 1920s as it appears on photographs of that era. Its fate thereafter is unclear and its significance perhaps unrecognised.

Closure

As the need to handle larger ships became paramount, so shipping moved to less central docks served by other goods stations. Accordingly, both tunnel and station at Wapping closed in 1965 with the station being demolished over a period of time.

Although the photographic record of the station is limited, there are good accounts of its layout, both as an 1890 fire insurance map and as detailed plans in Lancashire Archives. As the contemporary of the 1830 station at Manchester, it merits both a place in history as well as further study.

liverpool wapping 1972 bfa
Fig: Remains of the largely demolished Park Lane Station (as it became from 1921) with Wapping warehouse showing evidence of WW2 bomb damage.

liverpool wapping portal 2019
Fig: The portal at Wapping in 2019.

Telford's section and the Wapping Tunnel

I blogged previously about Telford's section of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) but thought it worth considering the Wapping Tunnel in detail. When built it was the first railway tunnel to run under a major metropolis. It took gravity-worked goods trains from Edge Hill down to the station at Wapping on the banks of the Mersey with the reverse journey rope-hauled by a stationary engine in the iconic Moorish Arch at Edge Hill.

As usual, some caveats: I am not an historian, engineer or expert on the Wapping Tunnel; moreover, the build was a very quick hack and mainly shows information already on the chart. Nevertheless, it raises a few questions.

For those looking for insights as to how early railway tunnels were built, I found this video instructive.

liverpool wapping tunnel profile3
Fig: Two miles of the Telford section is mapped onto 512 m virtual land. The vertical axis is roughly to scale but the horizontal axis is compressed just over 6-fold. The blue prims represent air holes and the individual red prims the "borings", including eyes from which the tunnel was extended. Most, but possibly not all, were located on the south side of the tunnel as shown. The profile is roughly aligned with the 1836 Gage map.

Construction started in January 1827 and involved the sinking of side-access construction shafts ("eyes") at roughly 60 m intervals followed by 2.4 m square profiled horizontal shafts ("headings"). The final pair of headings met in June 1828 and the finished tunnel was gas-lit and opened to the public for inspection in July the following year. It entered service on the opening day of the railway on 15th September 1830 and closed to traffic in 1965. The current state of the tunnel can be gauged from a recent set of photographs.

liverpool wapping portal 2019
The Wapping Tunnel portal at the western terminus, now King's Dock Street

What is a boring?

The build shows borings 1-19 in the form of red-coloured "eyes". It is possible, however, that some of the borings shown on the section were for geological investigation rather than construction and these are rendered semi-transparent in the model. For example, the first boring is in the cutting at Wapping station although it seems unlikely that the tunnel was to continue under that area.

Which borings were used for tunneling?

Thomas (p.39) lists eight eyes (from west to east):

  1. Great George Square (White Street),

  2. Great George Chapel,

  3. White Delf (Duke Street),

  4. Yellow Delf (Hope Street),

  5. Bedford Street (Penitentiary),

  6. Mosslake Fields, east of Vine Street (also known as Myrtle Street; contractor: Copeland),

  7. Millers Close/Mill Field (Crown Street)

  8. Edge Hill.

The section is largely in agreement with the above although it suggests that there may have been additional eyes at Blackburne Place and Smithdown Lane.

Ventilation

The course of the tunnel continues to be marked by ventilation shafts erected in the 1890s to permit working of the tunnel by locomotives. Those at Rathbone Street and Vine Street have been lost but three remain at White Street, Blackburne Place and Crown Street.

liverpool wapping tunnel bfa eaw023593 1949
Fig: Ventilation shafts at White Street, Rathbone Street, Blackburne Place and Crown Street shown outlined in green with the so-called Crow's Foot at the Wapping end of the tunnel in the foreground. Vine/Myrtle St shaft not shown. Photo courtesy of Britian From Above, dated 1949.

By contrast with the borings, there are only nine air holes. My guess is that the main eyes used in construction were sited at borings with adjacent air holes. In some cases, presumably where land access was a limiting factor, the boring and air hole were co-located (e.g. White Delf) but the preference may have been to have them slightly offset where possible (e.g. Millers Close), the assumption being that in the initial stages the air supply from the eye would suffice but that subsequently a through draft was required.

However, Carlson (p.190) appears to suggest that no air flow was available other than between eyes and that the situation became critical for those working underground until such communication was established. This might suggest that the air holes were intended for subsequent routine use of the tunnel rather than during construction.

By contrast, Thomas (p.40) suggests that wooden ventilation ducts provided by the L&MR were extended along the tunnel as work progressed. This seems to imply that some form of forced ventilation was employed, at least at the workface. This suggests possible use of a fan although widespread adoption of such technology was probably still a decade or two in the future. Instead, in coal mines a flow of air was typically generated by means of a furnace at the bottom of an air hole.

The situation with the Wapping Tunnel remains ambiguous although, of course, circumstances may have varied between the sections under the three contractors and at different phases of the project.

Observations and discrepancies

From west (Wapping) to east (Edge Hill)…

The first oddity are the muliple annotations on the section indicating that the tunnel is 15 ft high when most sources quote 16 ft. Telford's assistant may have been erroneously informed by his "minder" (Stephenson was absent) rather than making an incorrect measurement himself.

The section shows that the western end of the tunnel was relatively level and indeed had a gentle upwards gradient into Wapping station, presumably to assist with braking at the end of a gravity run. This section was typically worked by horse or manpower and the western end of the continuous rope (later cable) haulage system was located inside the tunnel at the start of the incline and hence not visible in Bury's print of the Wapping portal.

The section shows a large number of borings at the western end of the tunnel. This may have been in part a consequence of the proximity of the tunnel to the surface in a builtup area. Indeed, there are reports of damage to house foundations in Great George Square by subsidence as a result of tunneling as well as disruption of wells. The section between here and Great George Chapel was completed in mid-May 1828.

As previously blogged, White Delf was a secondary quarry on St James's Mount in the vicinity of Rathbone Street. Curiously there is a separate boring at Rathbone Street but no air hole although a ventilation shaft was subsequently built there in the 1890s. Whether the pre-existing boring was reused is unclear.

Yellow Delf was presumably located at the foot of the original quarry, later St James' Cemetery, which appears somewhat distant from the tunnel but likely extended northwards before the construction of Upper Duke Street. Thomas notes that visitors could access the tunnel works here via a short flight of steps rather than a bucket hoist.

Oddly Telford's section attributes the same boring number, 14, to both White and Yellow Delfs.

The section suggests that there was both an air hole and an eye at Blackburne Place although the latter is omitted from Thomas's list and hence may have been a later addition opened to accelerate completion of the tunnel. A ventilation shaft is still located there.

liverpool blackburne place vent
Fig: Blackburne Place ventilation shaft. Was there an eye here as well?

There is an nearby air hole but no eye at the Penitentiary Garden, probably what Thomas refers to as Bedford Street in his list of eyes. A drift here was used to correct the surveying error that led to the resignation of Vignoles and his replacement by Locke. Perhaps the eye post-dated the section on which Telford's was based or it had a very short life. On the other hand, in the absence of an eye the value of an air hole midway along the longest stretch between two eyes would be negligible until the two tunnels met. That said, much work remained to be done before the tunnel came into service although the air hole has not survived.

The length between Vine Street and Crown Street was both long and problematic with flooding and also a tunnel collapse in May 1827 near to Crown Street due to inadequate propping. Nevertheless, junction with the tunnel from Millfield was effected on 26th November 1827. The section does not show any evidence of levelling, presumably as the original was compiled before such work started.

There was an additional air hole and eye at Smithdown Lane, probably roughly where the head shunt now enters Crown Street Park.

There appears to be a pond between Smithdown Lane and the Edge Hill portal although it does not appear on contemporary maps. However, a nearby street is called Water Street.

The section suggests that there may have been a footpath across the railway "under sufferance" east of the tunnel portal at Edge Hill. Whether this corresponds to the Moorish Arch is unclear. The potential of the surrounding fields to yield marl for bricks is also evident.

edge hill grand area tunnel entrance
Fig: Wapping tunnel portal at Edge Hill from Lancashire Illustrated

Conclusion

The availability of Telford's section confirms many of the published observations but also raises further questions, notably the possible presence of two additional eyes at Blackburne Place and Smithdown Lane as well as the fate of the various shafts after the tunnel was completed and prior to construction of the five ventilation shafts in the 1890s, three of which continue to the present day.

While the OpenSim build is presently rudimentary, it has been useful in terms of siting the borings and air holes as well as integrating the profile with a reasonably contemporary map (courtesy of TROVE). Although it does not reflect the actual topography, it has potential for further refinement in terms of annotation with images and video.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Paul of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway Trust and ICE for access to access to the section.

liverpool wapping tunnel looking west
Fig: Looking west from the tunnel portal at Edge Hill.

Manchester Victoria

On 4th May 1844 the first train of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) entered the new Manchester terminus at Hunt's Bank. The station was situated between a workhouse and a cemetery and approached by road up an incline from Great Ducie Street. The train entered via a bridge across the Irwell having traversed Salford on a raised viaduct in part alongside the Manchester & Bolton Railway. The train itself was dressed with flags but this was the only outward sign of celebration. The same day Manchester Liverpool Road, the former passenger terminus, became exclusively a goods station.

manc victoria photo ext
Fig: The refreshment room of the original station forms the first storey of the block by the red bins. An additional bay was later added to the left of the original five as well as the second storey.

In fact, Victoria station (as it had become known after a suggestion by a shareholder) had been open since 1st January but only to trains of the Manchester & Leeds Railway (M&LR) Company, the company that had built and still owned the station. Previously the company had used a station just over a mile to the east at Miles Platting (Oldham Road) and, while that station also went over to goods, many of the company administrative functions remained there as well.

As ever, a work-in-progress and some conjecture…

The inclined plane

The M&LR extension west from Miles Platting to Victoria involved a gradient and trains were to be worked into Victoria by a stationary engine that powered a continuous rope haulage system. Trains would be led into the station by a pilot wagon attached to the rope. On departure for Leeds the pilot would be coupled to the rear of trains leaving the station down the incline with the rope providing additional braking during the gravity run in addition to the brake on the pilot itself. Note, however, that the gradient reversed subsequently with the rope pulling the train up into the station at Miles Platting.

The system was coordinated between the two stations by telegraph. However, rope haulage was not working at the time of Victoria station's opening and, as was often the case, banking locomotives were frequently used instead.

The station

Victoria was owned by the M&LR but as with many large termini or stations at junctions was shared with other companies, including in this case the L&MR. Indeed, the plans published in The Builder are symmetrical about the shared refreshment room with the M&LR occupying the eastern half towards Leeds and the L&MR the western half towards Liverpool. The central refreshment room was operated independently by the restauranteur Vantini & Morigy (the former also managed the North Euston Hotel at Fleetwood).

manchester victoria ex builder 2 nb 256 x 36ft (2)
Fig: Plans published in The Builder for Liverpool Victoria station. The refreshment room is central and moving out from there in either direction (and speculating) there is the first and second class Ladies' Waiting Room, Booking Hall (one side for first and second class, the other for third class), general Ladies' Waiting Room, i.e. third class, Gentlemens Lavatories (first and second class), and in the wing pavillions a parcels office and superintendent's office. Third class and staff facilities were provided in the basement accessed via area steps on the platform.

The station architect was the Principal Engineer of the M&LR, none other than George Stephenson who had, of course, previously acted in a similar capacity for the L&MR. The primary responsibility, however, fell on his assistant from those Liverpool days, Thomas Longridge Gooch, and it is plausible that Gooch or his assistants carried out much of the detailed design.

Unlike Crown Street, plans for Victoria apparently exist in the Greater Manchester Archives and the station has been the subject of an eponymous book by Tony Wray. While I have yet to hunt these down, Wray has compiled a useful archive regarding the LYR (pdf) which deals in passing with the early days of Victoria station.

The visual record

The external appearance of the original station is recorded in The Builder. There are several early images, including one by Kirkham apparently made on behalf of the contractor Thomas Brogden.

In 1845 AF Tait produced a series of high quality views of the M&LR that included the interior and exterior of the station that will be mentioned subsequently. A view by CW Clennell shows two small lodges to the east that govern access to a street carriage park and loading bay. There is also an extension, most likely the telegraph office governing the inclined plane.

manchester victoria ex builder (2)
Fig: The exterior of Victoria station as depicted in The Builder. Hunt's Bank runs down on the left where a staircase was later provided for LNWR passengers as a shortcut.

Little of the original station exists apart from a somewhat modified refreshment room now used by staff. Originally it was a single storey and five bays wide. An additional bay may have been added later at the same time as the second storey. The third class refreshment room and staff facilities in the basement may also persist in some fashion?

Destination boards can be seen on the canopy above the booking offices in Tait's print of the exterior: Derby, Leeds, Selby and Hull are evident with others besides.

The Booking Halls

The twin Booking Halls again have a symmetrical layout with an office space bounded by a counter on either side running the width of the building, one for third class passengers and the other for first and second class. Each counter had its own entrance from the street and exit onto the platform with an additional counter facing the passengers on entry at right angles to the other. This may have been an attempt to separate processing of passengers on arrival (a waylist of passenger names was normally compiled) from advance booking. First and second class passengers may also have had their luggage collected at this stage for stowing on the roof; third class carriages had no roof storage and passengers received no assistance from porters. The relatively narrow space between the two counters may have regulated access to the platform.

However, the term Booking Hall in this case may have been something of a misnomer. The M&LR started limited service in 1839 and was, after the Newcastle & Carlisle, the first to adopt the standard cardboard ticketing system devised by Thomas Edmondson (pdf). This provided better accountability and faster processing by use of pre-printed tickets that were simply stamped with the date before use. According to Thomas (1980), the opening of the "Leeds Junction line" led to the use of such tickets on the Liverpool-Manchester line by the L&MR in May and the following month across its entire network.

A map from 1850 suggests that the arrangements shown in The Builder for the Booking Halls were subsequently modified.

Connecting Liverpool and Hull by rail

A continuous service between Hull and Manchester Oldham Road had been available since 1841 via trains operated by George Hudson's York & North Midland Railway. Determining the nature of the final link to Liverpool was, however, a protracted business given the often varying interests of railway companies, town councils, businessmen and populace more generally.

When the line beween two of England's premier ports finally opened in 1844, the track was owned by multiple companies. As we have seen, from Liverpool to Manchester employed the L&MR and from Manchester to Leeds Hunslet Lane the M&LR, albeit running on track owned by the North Midland Railway from Normanton to Leeds. Leeds to Hull was accomplished in two hops via the Leeds & Selby Railway and the Hull & Selby Railway, the terminus in Hull being at Manor House Street railway station adjacent to the Humber Dock.

Prior to the opening of Manchester Victoria, passengers would have needed to take a cab or omnibus from Manchester Liverpool Road to the M&LR station at Miles Platting. Even when Manchester Victoria opened passengers initially had to change trains there to complete the next stage of the journey to Leeds. However, pressure from passengers eventually told and through running of trains was negotiated.

The significance of the connection

The journey from Hull to Liverpool would later become a major route for mass emigration from Scandinavia, Germany and the Baltic states to America. However, in 1844 numbers making the crossing were relatively small, probably of the order of one thousand. However, in time the route would prove immensely useful for export of cotton goods from Manchester to the continent via Hull as well as of woollen goods from the West Riding to the Americas via Liverpool.

The interior and rolling stock

Tait's interior view shows five lines but only one platform albeit of roughly conventional height. Passengers were not expected to cross the lines and trains were accordingly worked from the single platform, albeit augmented by an additional bay for local services embedded in the platform at either end.

The lines were connected by a series of turnplates, including two sets adjacent to the refreshment room. This apparent redundancy may mark the limits of the two jurisdictions but they may also reflect the minor change in track gauge between the two companies (4ft 8.5in on the L&MR vs 4ft 9in on the M&LR).

Several carriage types can be seen in Tait's interior view. To the left at the platform is what appears to be a relatively conventional first class carriage, painted yellow with coupe windows so probably belonging to the L&MR. Porters can be seen handling luggage still stored on the roof although there is no evidence of external seating for a guard.

On the third line to the right is a mixed train of what appear to be first class carriages and third class "Stanhope"-style wagons.

On the remaining two tracks we can see a rake of brown coaches in the distance (later LYR livery was teak and subsequently brown) and a rather curious rake of what might be first class cabriolet-style coaches in which the end compartments are optionally open, perhaps intended for summer use. These are yellow so presumably L&MR. The fact that L&MR rolling-stock occupies the eastern end of the shed and putative M&LR the western suggests that observance of the demarcation at the centre of the station was pragmatic.

There were additional sidings external to the northern wall accessed via a series of turnplates.

After the opening

In a short time, however, both companies would merge into larger groupings, the M&LR into the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (LYR), the L&MR into the London & North Western Railway (LNWR). The LNWR appears to have been much less relaxed about having to use a station owned by a rival concern and in 1884 would establish its own station, Manchester Exchange, to the immediate east of Victoria and sharing one platform, the longest in Europe.

The OpenSim model

The OpenSim model attempts to replicate the views presented by AF Tait in his 1845 publication. It differs in some respects from the outline plans, notably in the projection of the refreshment room onto the platform. Tait also plays down the presence of a bay inserted into the platform for use by local rather than through services. Although several sources refer to a bounding wall on the south as well as north side, it does not appear in any of the images and is hence omitted. The windows, doors and staircases on the platform are a work-in-progress. There is no evidence of tackle associated with the inclined plane, possibly because it was no longer used, so this is omitted.

manchester vic ext2
Fig: Exterior seen from Hunt's Bank Approach off Great Ducie Street. L&MR station is to the left, M&LR to the right.

manc vict int2
Fig: Interior of Manchester Victoria looking west towards Liverpool.

Telford's section

The archives of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) contain the longitudinal section of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) used by Thomas Telford in his report to the Exchequer when the L&MR attempted to release the final tranche of its funding. On his recent visit to London Paul of the L&MR Trust digitised and reconstructed the section into a single enhanced image file.

I thought it would be interesting to render this in 3D using OpenSim so resized the image and then split it into 18 pieces and used these to texture 18 14x14 m panels mapped roughly onto a CC BY-NC-SA licensed 2D map of Lancashire from University of Manchester Archives. The 30-odd miles from the Mersey to Salford (the original intended terminus) were thus condensed into a virtual wall some 252 virtual metres in length.

I then adjusted the virtual terrain so that it followed the course denoted by the red line on the section (discussed below) except where embankments were to be constructed in which case red-shaded prims were added to show these.

telford1
Fig: General view of the OpenSim display which spans the breadth of a single region. The track is displayed at the foot of the vertical panels, either in black or, for embankments and bridges, in red.

The origin of the section

According to Thomas (1980), Telford's assistant, James Mills, found that the only section available in Liverpool during his inspection in December 1828 was the one drawn up by CB Vignoles for the Rennies in 1825 following Stephenson's dismissal. Mills therefore employed a draughtsman to make the copy now with ICE.

There is an immense amount of data in the section but I have no specialist technical knowledge so, as usual, some conjecture…

The Wapping tunnel

The section starts in Liverpool with the ascent of the Wapping tunnel from the goods station near the docks to Edge Hill. The small tunnel to the passenger terminus at Crown Street is not included (carriage of passengers was a secondary consideration) but there are some potentially interesting sidelights on the tunnel construction at that location.

Firstly, there is an air shaft in close proximity to the extant vent so there is support for the commonly supposed notion that a pre-existing shaft formed the basis for the vent.

telford2
Fig: The ascent of the Wapping tunnel (shown in red). Annotations on the panel above can be seen by manipulating the avatar camera.

However, there is also a "boring" roughly in the middle of the Crown Street field that may have been reused as part of the eye for construction of the tunnel as proposed previously. Note that the majority of borings were presumably carried out for geological purposes prior to construction. The assumption that some were subsequently reused seems reasonable but does not automatically follow.

In some cases borings and air shafts were in close proximity such as at the White Delf. The section confirms that these were at the level of the bottom of the quarry rather than the adjacent street. In this instance the proximity of the two shafts may have been a response to the limited space available either in a busy quarry or adjacent streets.

The red route

The section appears to map out two routes through Rainhill, the original (red) mapped by Vignoles and approved in the 1826 Act and an alternative subsequently adopted by the re-appointed Stephenson (black) with support from the Board of Directors but against the advice of the L&MR consulting engineer Josias Jessop.

The red route delivered a more level (and hence operationally cost-effective) railway but required a substantial cutting at Rainhill. The black route on the other hand follows the extant route which was originally to have required stationary engines at the Whiston and Sutton inclined planes which flanked the Rainhill Level. However, the subsequent Rainhill Trials suggested that travelling locomotives would suffice, if necessary either by splitting trains at the inclines or through assistance from a banking engine, i.e. locomotive.

Thomas (1980) suggests that Stephenson's adoption of the inclined planes may have been a strategem to prevent the use of horses for passenger services as specified by the Rennies. Stephenson, of course, had a vested interest in the use of locomotives as well as a profound belief in their being the best option for the future.

telford3
Fig: The track on the display follows the red route favoured by the Rennies. However, the costs of the construction of the huge cutting were such that the black route was adopted as can be seen on the display rising, reaching a level and subsequently falling again.

For the purposes of the display I have used the red route as it is historically interesting and leaves the black route visible above.

Bridges

There are some 91 bridges on the section, both over and under the railway, which are currently represented in the display by bridge icons on the track. Bridges were a significant cost element so it is possible that not all were built if alternative arrangements could be made. On the other hand footbridges were largely omitted from Booth's published list of 63 bridges. One footbridge that features early in the section is visible in the Bury prints of the Moorish Arch.

telford4
Fig: The embankments are shown in red leading to and from the viaducts as shown on the section for the Sankey valley (only 8 arches!) and at Newton. Note that bridges on the embankments will almost certainly be under-bridges.

Conclusion

The Telford section is a very valuable resource although some care needs to be taken in its interpretation as it represents an intermediate phase in development of the L&MR.

telford5
Fig: The section finishes at Salford. Passage across the Irwell and Water Street was a relatively late development.

The OpenSim display was put together in a few hours (terraforming was done manually and thus the principal time sink). The low resolution of the OpenSim terrain was a limiting factor but might be mitigated by building on a larger scale. The ability to program terrain height dynamically makes it feasible to consider simulation of the construction of the railway over time, at least at a gross level.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to ICE and Paul of the L&MR Trust for access to the section.

The ducal carriage

On the opening day of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in September 1830 there was a special running of eight trains to and from Manchester with the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, in a train pulled by the locomotive Northumbrian. This was the newest engine and ran on the southern track so that it could stop at will and also act as a static base for review of the other trains as they passed. Unfortunately the stop at Parkside to review and water the engines was marked by a severe and ultimately fatal injury to William Huskisson MP when he was knocked down and run over by Rocket.

The list

For an event that commanded national attention there is a surprising degree of uncertainty about aspects of the opening day so the posting of a partial passenger list in a blog by a SIM Manchester author is of some interest. The blog suggests that there is no indication of the train to which passengers were assigned (Thomas [1980] provides a longer consolidated list but again without assignment). It is, however, headed "No.1" and with the Prime Minister among those listed it seems plausible that this is a list of those accompanying the Prime Minister in the ducal carriage.

Another intriguing feature is the numbering which, I would argue, may reflect a seating plan. Suggestive evidence for this is the otherwise arbitrary placing of Mrs Arbuthnot, Wellington's close friend and confidante, adjacent to the Prime Minister in the list.

Moreover, the list as presented is divided into two halves, 1-24 and 25-40. Assuming the structure is replicated in the original document, this may reflect the seating provision in the ducal carriage. Those named in the first part of the list would be seated on four benches, six per bench, running round the sides of the coach and those named in the second seated on two ottomans running the length of the coach, eight per ottoman seated back-to-back.

Opening_of_the_Liverpool_and_Manchester_Railway.jpg
Fig: Print by Isaac Shaw of departure of trains from the Grand Area. Wellington can be seen acknowledging the crowd by raising his hat at the front of the red carriage on the left.

Various sources suggest that Wellington was situated at the front of the ducal carriage, presumably at the end of the ottoman. In Shaw's sketch and print he can probably be identified as the individual at the front of the large 8-wheeler carriage who has a large nose and is raising his hat.

There is another useful constraint, namely that Huskisson and Wellington (who might reasonably be felt to harbour a mutual grudge), were unable to communicate directly until Huskisson debarked at Parkside and walked around to the front of the carriage. It may be that Shaw shows Huskisson as the man standing towards the rear of the train. It is notable how few of the 40 passengers Shaw manages to depict from the relatively acute angle and how the preponderence of those is female, almost as if he wanted the viewer to focus on the two males whose faces are readily visible.

liverpool railway ducal carriage.jpg
Fig: Although the artist has truncated the train to focus on major points of interest (and this version is cropped further), the picture shows a significantly larger number of passengers with males mostly at the edges. The presence of a soldier by the (double) door suggests additional staff may have travelled in the ducal carriage as close protection.

The ducal carriage was primarily occupied by dignitaries, mostly aristocrats, ambassadors and politicians, with their wives and daughters sitting on the ottoman. In some early pictures the ottoman is in two halves and this arrangement is adopted here. A second print by an unknown, possibly amateur, artist gives a better feel for this arrangement with the duke (in the cloak) shown at the front, men primarily down the sides and women behind them on the central ottomans.

ducal carriage ex museum liverpool.jpg
Fig: Untruncated version from Museum of Liverpool. The composition of the train accords with most descriptions apart from the additional wagon for the flag bearers. Unlike Shaw's version, it suggests one rather than two smaller carriages for the directors. Given that some directors were in charge of other trains, seating for 20 in one carriage should have sufficed unless, as Shaw appears to suggest, they were accompanied.

The seating plan

northumbrian seating plan.png
Fig: Names in italics represent substitutes likely to have been present on the day. Ottomans shown with red background.

With the possible exceptions of Wellington and Mrs Arbuthnot, the positions are hypothetical and based solely on consecutive numbering. They do, however, position Mr Arbuthnot close to his wife (for propriety) and the Dacres, Belgraves, Salisburys, Huskissons, Delameres and Stanleys are either adjacent to or relatively close to family members. The concentration of women on the inside (the widowed Lady Glengall is an exception) may have reflected a wish to shield their clothes from smuts and cinders.

Assuming she remained seated at Parkside, Mrs Huskisson would not have seen the accident that took place on the other side of the carriage. Those seated by Wellington on the other side are primarily politicians. Lord Wilton's proximity to Wellington may be due to his acting as a guide. Indeed, the proposed addition of Mrs Moss and Mrs Lawrence may have been intended to serve a similar purpose as well as fill gaps.

The identity of most of those present is clear with one exception, Miss Long (Thomas calls her Hon. Miss Long). One possibility is that she is a daughter of 1(https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1820-1832/member/pole-tylney-long-wellesley-hon-william-1788-1857). At the time she would have been a ward of the duchess of Wellington so it is possible that she accompanied the duke though is seated here with young women of similar status.

OpenSim build

ducal carriage seating layout.jpg
Fig: Seating layout with a row of six bench seats down each half side and an ottoman in each half accommodating eight passengers sitting back-to-back.

A quick build suggests that the seating plan just about works based on 0.5x0.5 m per seat. Of course, those at the ends of the ottoman such as the duke can sit in either front-facing or sideways orientation. He can also make himself readily visible to crowds and passing trains.

While passing space in the aisles may be at a premium (as in a theatre), there are useful spaces at either end and the middle for socialising.

Conclusion

Further research is required to compare the list with those who actually travelled on the day (some substitutions have already been made). The motivation underpinning any seating plan may be of interest if it reflects the wishes of the directors to promote the railway or reward its supporters. Further understanding of the composition and arrangement of the passengers in this carriage may be assisted by analysis of published diaries. Such were the numbers of dignitaries travelling that day that their absence from the ducal carriage is also a subject of interest.


  1. William Long Wellesley, "surely one of the most odious men ever to sit in Parliament"

The modern world started here: Rainhill, Part 2

Previously I visited Rainhill to give some contemporary context to the 1829 Rainhill Trials whose 190th anniversary is celebrated in 2019. In this belated follow-up I expand coverage to the running grounds east of the Skew Bridge. As ever, much conjecture, work-in-progress, etc…

About the Trials

The aim of the Rainhill Trials was to test steam locomotives under tightly controlled conditions on a simulated journey from Liverpool to Manchester and back again. A prize of £500 would be given to the winner deemed to have advanced the then state of locomotive development. Opinion among the board of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) was divided as to the best means of hauling trains with locomotives favoured by the Prinicipal Engineer, George Stephenson. However, others such as Cropper, a sceptic so far as Stephenson was concerned, preferred an unwieldy series of stationary winding engines. The Trials (0r Ordeal as they were also known) would resolve the pressing question of motive force with (rather optimistic) hopes of at least a partial opening in January 1830.

As the track was incomplete in 1829 the distance was achieved by locomotives running a 1.5 mile course from Rainhill to Lea Green, reversing back to the start and repeating the journey 10 times in the morning and a further 10 times in the afternoon. Engines were required to pull a load three times the weight of the engine. A weighbridge was provided at the start to determine the load which was made up of the fuel, water and crew as well as wagons containing variable amounts of stone. The course had the advantage that it was level and complete (apart initially from track) although it was bounded at the western end by the Whiston inclined plane and, more distantly, at the eastern end by the Sutton inclined plane. Both were candidates for stationary engines and it appears a start had been made on housing for the western one.

This post will focus on the context of the Trials rather than the day-by-day events which have been well-rehearsed elsewhere.

The seven bridges

Rainhill at the time was a small village, albeit with some industry (a glassworks) and a stable for some 240 horses used in coaching by the company of Bartholemew Bretherton. The part of the village adjacent to the course already lay at the intersection of two turnpike roads, the Liverpool-Warrington and Eccleston-Cronton, at Kendrick's Cross.

The best-known feature of the Rainhill course was the Skew Bridge carrying the Liverpool-Warrington turnpike but this was just one of four bridges shown on the late 1840s map, one of which was probably a footbridge off what is now Kendrick's Fold and Dee Road but then mostly a rough track. Although there were some 65 bridges and tunnels in Henry Booth's official list footbridges were included only under an aggregated head.

The bridges (in order, west to east): Stone(y) Lane, unnamed footbridge, Spring (Old) Lane, Rainhill (Skew) Bridge.

One discrepancy is that the map shows all apart from the Skew Bridge as being wooden while Booth states that the Spring (now Old) Lane bridge was ashlar, stone and brick. The Stone(y) Lane bridge was wooden with brick piers.

An 1831 engraving by Isaac Shaw shows two of the bridges west of the Skew Bridge in the background. The bridges are very different in appearance with the nearmost looking decidedly unwooden (and hence in accord with Booth's account) and the more distant looking like a footbridge (as expected). Whether you could really see all three from that vantage point is moot as another view, albeit from the other side of the track, shows only two bridges. The parsimonious Bury gives us only the Skew Bridge from his perspective (presumably looking east-to-west). In any event there is far more trackside vegetation now to obscure any comparable view.

rainhill_bridge_shaw.jpg
Fig: Rainhill Bridge by Shaw (Science Museum CC NC-BY-SA 4.0). Looking west towards Liverpool, locomotive Planet pulling a luggage train. The bugle may be signalling the approach to the level crossing and adjacent station some 200 m further on.

rainhill skew bridge looking west.jpg
Fig: A similar, if more distant, view taken from the barrier at the end of the station platform

Shaw's print also reinforces the fact that the track ran in a gentle curve through a cutting on its way into Rainhill. While the Trials were held at Rainhill because the track was level, this was only because some 220,000 cubic yards had already been excavated. Moreover, east of Rainhill there is now a low embankment on the way into Lea Green.

An external assessor, Josiah Jessop, had recommended a deep cutting at Rainhill to avoid the 1:96 gradients at Whiston and Sutton but Stephenson was against this on grounds of cost and delay. This meant that a decision had to be made to manage the inclined planes by means of either stationary or banking engines, locomotives that would push or assist braking from the rear of large luggage (goods) trains. On the first morning of the trials the directors assembled at Huyton and travelled up the Whiston incline to Rainhill in a train hauled by Rocket with Stephenson at the controls. The decision in favour of banking engines was as good as made.

As far as the bridges are concerned, all but the Skew Bridge appear to have been subsequently replaced. Stoney Lane became a skew bridge to avoid the awkward Z curve otherwise imposed on the road while the Skew Bridge itself was widened by 4 feet in 1963 to add a second footpath. Three additional footbridges now lie east of the Skew Bridge, including one on the station and one at the junction of Victoria Street and Tasker Terrace, the site of the first station and former level-crossing. A final footbridge appears to maintain a right of way between Ritherup north of the track and the recreation ground to the south although the footpath itself is hard to discern.

These days the footbridges allow visitors to see something of the track, the remaining road bridges having had their sidewalls raised following overhead electrification.

The crowd

The Trials had been widely advertised and according to reports there were something like 10-15000 people watching. The spectators were presumably concentrated to the east of the Skew Bridge, the nominated running grounds. If we take the lower number as more probable and assume they were present on both sides of the track for a distance of 1 mile, we would expect a density of about 3 people per metre. Talk of crowds suggests, however, that spectators may have been concentrated at particular points and hence to a degree managed.

Only part of the course has been modelled in OpenSim. The model shows the permanent way as being fenced off as it presumably was when the railway opened in 1830. This would be to keep animals off the tracks as well as humans. We know, however, that some 300 company employees acted as stewards, i.e. one every 20-ish metres if evenly distributed, so it is is possible that fencing was either partial, absent or thought likely to be ignored. Nevertheless, spectators were not allowed to cross the track unless authorised by the directors. Stewards are notably absent from all supposed images of the Trials. Newspaper reports suggest they were largely ineffectual.

The start of the course

The course started to the west of Rainhill where there was a small depot comprising a weighbridge and associated shed together with supplies of fuel, water and stone as makeweight.

The course itself was double track with one track extending down the Whiston inclined plane to Huyton. The trains under test did not turn so used just a single line. Famously, one engine over-ran the designated stopping-place on the return journey and continued a short way down the incline beyond. It seems likely that the second track provided logistical support for the depot as well as serving as backup for the trial runs and for exhibition, testing and "pleasure" rides.

The exhibition at the Rainhill Library has a useful map (the original dates to the 1929 centenary) of the start location in a cutting between the Stone(y) Lane and Spring (Old) Lane bridges. This is bisected by a footbridge with the starting post to the west and the first time point 220 yards further to the east.

The cutting at this point is substantially wider than elsewhere. It later included a siding with a watering station on the south side and to the north a passing siding used by banking engines assisting trains up and down the Whiston inclined plane. Given that these engines were mostly constrained to the incline, it makes sense that the location was relatively self-sufficient. The 1840s map shows a terrace of three cottages west of Stoney Lane Bridge and it seems likely that these were for railway workers associated with the watering station. However, the locomotives used for banking were housed at Whiston at the foot of the incline. The terrace had disappeared by 1850 when permanently stationed banking engines were presumably no longer required or located elsewhere.

Although the width of this area in 1829 is unclear, any extra space would doubtless have come in useful for the depot during the Trials and one can imagine space being required for the shed and associated materials and perhaps even for an additional siding. Once weighed, the engine and load were pushed to the running-in point. There was then a 220 yard run-in to the actual first post on the other side of the footbridge during which time the engine had a chance to get up to speed before timing began. There was a judge's tent located at the start line with Rastrick stationed at this end.

Caveat on post locations

The guidance to spectators specify that the running would take place on the Manchester side of the bridge which for the most part is true. The course was marked out by posts at 440 yard intervals. One was located at "the bridge" and it is assumed that this refers to the Skew Bridge. However, a contemporary account states that the course ended at the 10 mile post which suggests that the course was based in part on these prexisting markers. If their position was the same as in the 1840s, the bridge post would be more than 100 metres west of the Skew Bridge and could even refer to the Spring Lane bridge.

Either way, the track would pass under the Skew Bridge, the most acute on the line and the fourth most expensive to build after the two viaducts and the bridge in Manchester over the River Irwell. The Skew Bridge featured prominently in pictures by both Bury and Shaw. Given that it carried the Liverpool-Prescot-Warrington turnpike over the railway, it offered artists a chance to juxtapose the old and the new with stagecoaches passing above the trains.

Entertaining guests and locos: the grandstand area, buffet and local inns

Rainhill_Trials_in_the_Illustrated_London_News.jpg
Fig: The conjectural view of the grandstand

The next interval post was at the grandstand, a further 440 yards east of the Skew Bridge. However, the most common view of the Trials shows a grandstand next to the Skew Bridge. Thomas (1980) accordingly describes this image as conjectural and, indeed, It seems unlikely that it is contemporary, more an attempt to cram as many points of interest together as possible. Related images, possibly derivatives, show the same content from slightly different angles. It is generally hard to discern the angle of the skew and hence determine whether the grandstand is on the north or south side of the tracks although on balance the north side seems more likely.

The provenance of the image is unclear although it is included in the 1868 US edition of the biography of the Stephensons by Samuel Smiles. Others have assigned it to the Illustrated London News. This was first published in 1842 so again it is unlikely to be a contemporary record of events. Newspaper reports indicate that the grandstand was equidistant betweeen the two ends of the course and on the south side, in other words not by the bridge.

The grandstand (also referred to as a booth) was apparently provided for ladies only, presumably by invitation, with a band present to entertain them. The number accommodated is unknown. It is plausible that the grandstand was reserved for the wives of engineers, proprietors and select local dignitaries. On that basis its capacity might have been 150-200, i.e. relatively small.

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Fig: A copy of the "French print", probably a reconstruction but notably lacking the distant Skew Bridge.

A corner of the grandstand also features in a supposedly contemporary French engaving reproduced c.1902 by Nansouty. While there are again questionable details, it usefully gives a reverse view that is consistent with some textual descriptions. We know, for example, that there was a maintenance workshop, sheds for the engines (presumably behind the vantage point) and probably a tent for refreshments. The location is plausibly on the meadow to the east of the crossing with Eccleston Hill in the background. This places the grandstand south of the permanent way on what is now the recreation ground or, more likely, on the eastern edge of the adjacent cricket field.

This area is flatter than the northern side of the track and it would seem more likely that both the workshop and sheds were on this side. Whether invited guests crossed the track to a tent is plausible only if running ceased at lunchtime (as, admittedly, it probably did).

While the French print is consistent with the position of the marker post, it does have some issues. The image of Rocket is similar to that shown in the Illustrated London News save for the presence of a tender lacking a water barrel, an innovation more commonly associated with the Northumbrian locomotive of 1830. The 6-wheeled coach is somewhat incongruous as most carriages at the time seem to have had four.

The locomotives are also somewhat mysterious. While Sans Pareil can be made out on the other side of the track (with its leading tender), other obvious candidates are missing (Novelty, Cyclopede, Perseverance) and some unidentified, possibly generic, locomotives substituted. Of course, It is not unlikely that others might have been present, e.g. Lancashire Witch, Twin Sisters, although no sources mention this.

Accordingly, it seems unlikely that the French picture is contemporaneous although it has sufficient merit to suggest that it may portray either a reconstruction or a reenactment.

According to some accounts, the food provided was distinctly simple, just bread, cheese and beer. Small wonder then that the few local venues, the Rainhill Tavern presumably amongst them, did excellent trade and the latter (termed Railway Tavern by Thomas) set aside a room for the "better class of person" (it is now the Victoria Hotel). Nicholas Robinson, former Liverpool mayor and owner of Sudley, was commended for his foresight in renting a farmhouse in which to entertain his friends, possibly the nearby Ritherup Farm.

Other accounts suggest that Melling's works was hired for use as a workshop. A later photograph of the works bears some resemblance to the structure in the French picture but Melling's works was, in fact, located adjacent to the level crossing some 200 m west of the grandstand. It was in any case only opened in 1840 when the L&MR made Melling redundant. Prior to that it had been a glassworks.

A second inn or tavern is also mentioned in some accounts but not named. Whether this was the nearby Coach & Horses, if extant, or the more distant Ship Inn, the focus of Bretherton's coaching business, is unclear. Curiously an inn called the Coach & Horses features in the background of a sketch published in 1884 supposedly by James Nasmyth which, according to Anthony Dawson, shows the post-Trials Northumbrian mis-identified as Rocket. Although Nasmyth indeed claimed to have sketched the locomotive during the Trials, this version is presumably later and based on a sketch of Northumbrian made by Nasmyth on the day before the opening in 1830. The inn and branchline therefore probably represent later artistic embellishment.

The OpenSim build

The build is very provisional as almost no local research has been done and few contemporary resources are available online. However, one potentially useful image is derived from a 3D model built by a local primary school which shows part of Rainhill as it was in 1829.

rainhill recreation ground.JPG
Fig: Rainhill recreation ground, formerly a meadow, from the railway footbridge. Looking west, the grandstand area may have been beyond the hedge and trees to the left, now part of the cricket club. The meadow may have been used by spectators in addition to the area by the Skew Bridge (and probably others).

rainhill opensim model.jpg
Fig: OpenSim build of Rainhill at the time of the Trials based on the French print. Looking west, the Skew Bridge is in the far distance beyond the level crossing. A gatekeeper's lodge has been included. Although there is no evidence of one being built by this stage, the need to manage the crossing would become increasingly important. The minutes of the Board of Directors indicate that Stephenson was asked to move the gatehouse near Bourne's Colliery, presumably at Lea Green, on 12th July 1830, the reason being that it was too close to the track. It seems likely that the gatehouse at Rainhill would also have been in place by this time. The early station (which this became) was partially destroyed in a serious accident and subsequently rebuilt in the present location by the bridge.

rainhill opensim model from bridge.png
Fig: OpenSim model seen from the Skew Bridge looking east. The gates of the level crossing are evident and the grandstand area lies beyond and to the right. The glassworks are to the left and the Rainhill Tavern to the right.

Conclusion

While the locomotive performance at Rainhill was recorded in considerable detail, the visual record of the event appears generally suspect. The French print may be more compatible with what little was written at the time and is the basis for the current OpenSim build. However, additional sources are required for purposes of cross-checking and local archives may prove valuable in that regard.

Pictures of the Past: educating future railway engineers in late Georgian Liverpool

Pictures of the Past is the autobiography of railway engineer Francis H Grundy, better known to his brother-in-law at least as Henry. It describes his early years in Liverpool around the time of the construction of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway (L&MR) which opened in 1830. While many books mention the railway in passing, few describe in any detail the principal characters engaged in this groundbreaking enterprise. While there are likely many errors in Grundy's recollections, the book also provides some curious insights.

Oh yes, spoiler alert…

Introducing Henry

Grundy writes his story in 1879 from the perspective of a civil engineer who emigrated to Australia 20 years previously after spending some 23-26 years in the UK (the experiences in Australia are discussed in the book but not here). This suggests that he was born in 1833 which does not fit with the events covered. It is possible that the period in the UK excludes his education and upbringing which would perhaps put him in his early or mid-teens in 1833. Unfortunately, Grundy is evasive as to the date and place of his birth, although it seems reasonably clear that his formative years were spent in 1820s/30s Liverpool after his family moved from Manchester with Henry aged two.

We are told that he lived on Parliament Street in a large house overlooking St James' cemetery and that his father was associated with the church. Indeed, the 1829 edition of Gore's directory shows the Rev John Grundy living at 45 Upper Parliament Street. Rev Grundy preached at the Paradise Street Unitarian Chapel with the more famous James Martineau who was greatly admired by Henry (he was somewhat intimidated by equally renowned sister Harriet). In 1835 Rev Grundy retired to Bridport, Dorset due to ill health. Henry had four sisters and three brothers.

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Fig: St James's cemetery in 1831 by Thomas Talbot Bury. Stephenson's house on Upper Parliament Street is third from left in the distance. The Grundys may have lived in the large house first on the left.

Grundy's schooldays

Grundy talks of "returning from school down the long vista of Old Parliament Street" and of his teacher at the age of 6 as being a "Miss Hurry". Fast forward to 1831-2 (probably earlier, in fact) and Miss Hurry is teaching chemistry, biology and astronomy with memorably dramatic practical demonstrations. Henry regards her as a "good soul" (perhaps suggesting a relatively mature woman) and "ahead of her years" as far as her teaching methods were concerned. There is a letter mentioning a Miss Hurry written to her mother in 1829 by 9-year old Elizabeth Jane Roscoe, granddaughter of William Roscoe, and alluding to a ball at school.

Gore shows that in 1829 a Miss Jane Hurry taught at a boarding school at Windsor, a district on the edge of Toxteth Park which is indeed uphill from the house on (Upper) Parliament Street and close to the station at Crown Street. The school is associated with several teachers named Bradley who give their address as 1 Crown Street, Windsor. One of these may be a John Bradley who compiled school textbooks on astronomy and geography.

Crown Street at this time crossed Upper Parliament Street and ran a short distance along what is now Kingsley Road. Swire's map of 1823 shows just two buildings on Crown Street, both in this area and to the rear of where Windsor Terrace would shortly be. By 1854 the Bradleys have moved to a school and seminary in Whitfield Street off Park Road.

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Fig: Henry Grundy's school may have been located behind Windsor Terrace which formerly extended into the space occupied by the new build shown here on the corner of Upper Parliament Street and what is now Kingsley Road but was then an extension of Crown Street.

Miss Hurry's celebrity lodgers

For Henry, however, the most remarkable lessons are those given by one of Miss Hurry's lodgers, the L&MR engineer Joseph Locke. In what was surely a piece of improvised pantomime, Locke would sit behind Miss Hurry and mimic her movements during a lecture demonstration until in exasperation she quit the room at which stage he would take over the class, typically with disastrous results. Miss Hurry would then return and scold him for endangering her students after which Locke would declaim loftily that they would all have died for science and announce a half-day holiday. Locke's amusing interventions were necessarily infrequent as he was mostly working "double tides", i.e. day and night, on completing the L&MR.

Locke was responsible for the western end of the L&MR but resigned in December 1829 to undertake work on other Stephenson projects, notably in Stockport. This was probably a consequence of the discovery by directors that L&MR staff were working on Stephenson's non-L&MR projects in the Clayton Square office. Locke was replaced by Stephenson's personal secretary and draughtsman Thomas Longridge Gooch. Grundy identifies Gooch as another of Miss Hurry's lodgers which is curious as most accounts state that he lodged with the Stephensons. However, his replacement, Frederick Swanwick, presumably took Gooch's place in the Stephenson household in early 1830.

The only address in Gore for Miss Hurry is the boarding school so presumably she was resident on Crown Street and, if Locke were her lodger, this would provide an alternative explanation for Locke's earlier use of Crown Street as address in a letter to William Roscoe (who would now be a relatively near neighbour in Lodge Lane). This assumes, of course, that Locke stayed on in Liverpool while undertaking the work in Stockport. Clearly a location so close to the station would have been of considerable interest to the engineers who may also have benefited from arrangements for meals and laundry in what was probably quite a new build.

Grundy's opinion of Gooch is a little lukewarm, calling him a good, painstaking man though lacking in the originality and ambition shown by his younger brother, the more famous Sir Daniel. Once he qualifies as an articled engineer, Grundy encounters Gooch again in Yorkshire where both are working on a new railway. Grundy indicates that by this stage the somewhat staid Gooch was not averse to "a little jollity", i.e. drinking, in the evenings (an occupational hazard for railway engineers at the time) but on this occasion suffered a monumental hangover.

The Stephensons

The Grundys must have been near neighbours of George Stephenson at no. 31 (now 34) Upper Parliament Street. While "Old George" is mentioned several times, it is not clear that he was close to the Grundys while in Liverpool as Henry recounts a story of George in later years attempting to eject him from a train. Recognising George, Henry had deliberately acted as though he had no ticket and, while being thrown from the train, protested both his innocence (he had a ticket) and that George had failed to recognise him from a previous meeting three years previously. Although Grundy never visited George after he retired to Tapton House, the book has an interesting chapter by one of George's (unnamed) personal secretaries from that era. He confirms that George's limited literacy did not prevent him giving fluent and accurate dictation.

George Robert Stephenson, son of George's elder brother Robert, also appears to have been a pupil of Miss Hurry at this time though whether he was boarding or living with George or his father (an engineer on the Bolton & Leigh Railway) is unclear. Gooch's enforced departure may suggest that space in the Stephenson household was limiting and that there was indeed an additional resident (there was probably also a guest room for the likes of George's son Robert who visited Liverpool not infrequently). Grundy later worked closely with his former schoolmate over a three year period in Yorkshire. George Robert Stephenson would go on to run Robert Stephenson & Company following the demise of George's son Robert.

The opening of the L&MR

Grundy's father was on one of the trains on the opening day but hired a driver and carriage to take seven of the family, including Henry, somewhere around midway and hence near to Parkside where Huskisson was struck and fatally wounded by Rocket. Grundy's recollections of the day are incorrect in several significant details but he adds some interesting colour to the published account. He claims that virtually all the horse carriages from four counties were parked three-deep along the length of the railway. As those awaiting the trains engaged in a picnic it resulted in a cold collation some 30 miles long! It also meant that news of Huskisson's accident spread rapidly in advance of any official announcement and that drivers were alerted to stand to their horses' heads as the unfamiliar and noisy engines approached.

Grundy claims to have seen his father pass by in advance of the incident at Parkside and to have later seen distant figures on the track. Of course, the accident delayed all the trains which were spaced out over a distance of more than a mile. Members of each crew would likely have left their train to find out what had happened and what was to be done. On the other hand Grundy claims to have witnessed an engine, presumably Northumbrian, speed to Liverpool (he means Manchester) for medical support. This suggests, somewhat improbably, that he was beyond Eccles where Huskisson was being cared for in the vicarage. An alternative explanation is that this was one of the engines that had gone from Manchester to Eccles to take on water and fuel only to have to backtrack to near Huyton (the first place beyond Manchester where they could change track) on encountering the ducal train which had departed Manchester earlier than anticipated on the same line.

In the evening the Grundy family had engaged a balcony on Williamson Square from which to view an assembly intended originally to celebrate a successful opening. Instead they saw Lord Stanley, later Earl of Derby, address a large crowd with news of the day's sad events,

The family also watched the funeral from their house on Upper Parliament Street although I suspect the procession came up the parallel Duke Street. This might explain why young Henry failed to see the coffin, the procession on Upper Parliament Street simply being crowds heading to vantage points in and above the cemetery from which to observe the interment.

The Edge Hill stations

Grundy recounts two stories about the environs of Edge Hill station (at that time meaning Crown Street). One happens on a Sunday morning when crowds have come to see trains start out from the Chatsworth Street cutting where the locomotives were connected to the carriages that had gravity run down through the short tunnel from Crown Street. According to Grundy, the cutting had a small footbridge, possibly the one that can be observed in Bury's print of the Moorish Arch, that was overloaded with people and failed. I have no independent verification for this apart from Bury's print which indeed shows the footbridge as though it might be damaged (compare with later edition).

Moorish_Arch_looking_from_the_Tunnel,_from_Bury's_Liverpool_and_Manchester_Railway,_1831_-_artfinder_122454.jpg
Fig: Bridge collapse at the cutting? A distant footbridge can be seen through the Moorish Arch.

The second story concerns Henry stowing away on a train to Manchester with classmate Will Booth, son of L&MR Treasurer and Secretary Henry Booth. Young Booth allegedly had free run of Crown Street station and was allowed by the stationmaster, an otherwise unknown Mr Hilbries, to sit in an empty compartment of one of the departing carriages running through the small tunnel to the cutting. On the day in question he was joined by Henry and the pair, for once evading the stationmaster's attentions, travelled through the tunnel as usual. However, instead of returning to Crown Street by pony, they hid under the carriage seats and went on to Manchester.

This sounds like an improbable counterpart to the Stephenson story but there are one or two points that lend interest if not credibility. Firstly, as expected for a first class closed carriage, the train stops just once. Although the guard calls this as Newton, it is in fact the watering station at nearby Parkside where, unusually for that time, a passenger gets into their compartment. Tickets having been checked on departure, the boys are able to leave the train at Manchester without hindrance.

The return journey, however, is more problematic as they are challenged while climbing the stairs from the booking hall to the first class waiting-room and platform (the geography here is correct). Unknown to staff at Manchester and without the means to pay (normally seats are booked in advance), they are required to quit the station. Deciding to walk to Liverpool, they get lost and, somewhat improbably, the first person offering assistance turns out to be a relative of Will Booth, namely Tom Potter (later Sir Thomas Potter, MP and Mayor of Manchester). Tom takes them for a brief sojourn at an unspecified "big house" after which they catch the 11pm mail train back to Liverpool where their respective families await them. Presumably this fortuitous reunion is either due to inspired guesswork or to news of the two strays being transmitted back from Manchester via the earlier train.

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Fig: The first class booking hall at Manchester Liverpool Road station. The boys would have entered by the door on the right and needed to get to the platform at first floor level via the staircase on the left.

There's more…

While the above description covers Grundy's time in Liverpool, the book also follows his career as a engineer during the early days of the national network. Written for general interest and, perhaps, to cash in on the jubilee the following year, there is much on what had been casual practices such as alighting from moving trains as well as a firsthand account of a serious crash. The extent to which the drama and colour has been embellished is, of course, unknown. People encountered are discussed in varying levels of detail, notable examples being poet and essayist Leigh Hunt and the ill-starred Branwell Brontë. Doubtless the Australian chapters will be of interest in those quarters as well.

Incidentally, there are, sadly, only word pictures.

A round trip with Rocket

Earlier this week Stephenson's Rocket arrived at Manchester's Science & Industry Museum and, of course, I went to see it.

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Fig: Rocket in its modified post-Rainhill form at SIM Manchester

At the same time the Science Museum released a downloadable 3D scan (CC BY-NC 4.0) on Sketchfab. It was too complex to import directly to OpenSim so these are the steps I took (as a relative mesh novice) to bypass this issue.

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Fig: The Science Museum Rocket mesh after import to OpenSim with prim-built models of Rainhill Rocket, Novelty and Sans Pareil

  • Firstly, I used IrfanView to scale the texture provided down to 1024x1024 px, the largest that Firestorm will import, and then imported this to OpenSim.
  • I then loaded the mesh into Autodesk Meshmixer (available free as part of the Feedback programme) and used Edit > Plane Cut to divide the mesh into smaller pieces. These were then exported in .obj format and imported into MeshLab.
  • In MeshLab I used Filters > Remeshing etc > Simplification: Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation to reduce each piece separately to 21500 tris before exporting in .dae format
  • The separate pieces of mesh were then imported into OpenSim, scaled, combined and textured using drag-and-drop. Finally they were linked and (optionally) made phantom.
  • The final product can be exported via the righclick menu (3rd level) and reimported if required.

At this stage I thought it would be interesting to test Convoar. This is an amazing utility by Robert Adams (aka Mr Blue) that converts OpenSim Archive files into glTF format. Austin Tate has a useful blog on glTF, including Convoar.

  • I downloaded an OAR file of the region I wanted to convert. This contained the Science Museum Rocket together with simple prim-built models of Rocket, Novelty and Sans Pareil locomotives (permissions were not an issue).
  • I downloaded the Convoar distribution from Robert's Github repository and unzipped it. I copied the OAR file to the dist folder.
  • I opened the Windows 10 CMD utility, navigated to the Convoar dist folder and invoked Convoar as "convoar rocket.oar". Use of the -m flag, i.e. "convoar -m rocket.oar" groups meshes with shared materials and accelerates loading. In my limited experience this worked best with widescale architectual builds while the simple rocket.oar was most satisfactorily handled without the flag.

rocket et al post convoar.png
Fig: Model viewed in Windows File Explorer after conversion to glTF format by Convoar. Good fidelity with the OpenSim model.

The glTF file (together with a number of buffer files and images, the latter in a sub-folder) that could be previewed in Windows File Explorer and loaded into Windows 3D Builder. However, for some reason I was unable to export from 3D Builder in glTF format (Sketchfab also generated an error from the original Convoar file; however, it may simply be a glitch with this particular scene) so I exported from 3D Builder in the binary GLB format and then uploaded the resulting file to Sketchfab. It is consequently now available for viewing via the web as well as various HMD options, including Cardboard.

rocket et al 3d builder.png
Fig: Convoar model imported to Windows 3D Builder. This seems to be where some of the glitches were introduced (I have negligible knowledge of 3D Builder).

The end-product is not without issues, some of which may be due to my ad hoc style of building. For whatever reason after exporting from 3D Builder some colours appear not to have been applied that were used to tint textures. In the interests of efficiency in loading and rendering Convoar also does some downscaling so Rocket's textures are not as well-defined as the original 1024x1024 used in OpenSim. Bear in mind also that I am very new to this at present.

That said, I am massively impressed with the ease with which content with suitable permissions can now be generated in OpenSim and exported for use on the web. Kudos to Robert who has his own viewer, Basil, together with a range of pre-converted content. However, it should also be possible to use the models in VR/AR development environments such as A-Frame as well as Sketchfab.

rocket et al sketchfab.png
The GLB model imported and annotated in Sketchfab