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London & North Western Railway Society
LNWR Society Publications

LNWR Society Portfolio No. 10 - Gateway to the West

Portfolio no 10 Front page


Although Liverpool Riverside was the terminus for main line trains, it was in effect a Branch Line. Like other Branch Lines its opening was the cause for celebration. Official photographs were taken and news of its opening published both locally and nationally. The idea of providing a Railway Station along side the Ocean Liner Terminal was typical of Victorian business enterprise. It was at a time when Liverpool was truly a great and prosperous city, and when threatened, took speedy action to protect its interests. With its Dock Board cooperating with the skilfully managed LNWR, success was assured. The planning and construction were carried out at a pace which would not be achieved today. It offered such improved arrangements for passengers that it was a success from the start. Traffic was brisk in the early years but changing conditions in the Trans-Atlantic liner trade brought decline. The First World War caused a burst of activity but this was followed by a drop in traffic to a level even lower than pre-war. Conditions were little changed over the next twenty years until another World War saw Riverside busy again. Peace in 1945 brought further decline and after eighty six years of operation it finally faded away in 1971. Unlike the closure of other branches there was not the customary ‘last train’ with locals and enthusiasts bidding the line farewell, it just slipped away unnoticed.
The story of Riverside is not only about trains, for ships must be included. But for the Trans-Atlantic liners the station would never have been built. It is therefore a story with an exciting beginning, a few years of prosperity, two spells of wartime importance but long periods of infrequent traffic and then a dismal end. Regrettably there seems to be little information available on the happenings with regard to about two thirds of its existence. It would appear to have been in the main overlooked and visited by only a few enthusiasts. Even they seem not to have taken their cameras with them. This state of affairs is particularly apparent with regard to the late LNWR period and throughout the days of the LMS. Perhaps on the publication of this Portfolio we shall hear from photographers who did take some shots of Riverside and its Specials.
At the time of publication not only has the old Station disappeared but the Prince’s Landing Stage it served has now been demolished. The tunnels remain but access at the Docks end is now much impeded by the filling in of the approach cutting. It is however a possibility that one day trains will run again through some part of the tunnels. In a future development, a connection could be made with Merseyrail as the old tunnel passes beneath its Northern Line about a quarter of a mile North of the site of the former Exchange Station. This would give the access to Edge Hill and beyond. But that is in the future and the Riverside story is of the past. The following pages are about to take you back a hundred years.