A baby memory, and a recurring dream of my childhood this one.
I am gently rocking, in and out of sleep, on something moving. Sounding a bit like a train, but much more ‘woody’ than the steel rails I will come to hear later. I am on the Liverpool Overhead Railway, and my disappointed parents are taking one last ride as they’ve just heard it’s being closed down. It’s mid 1955 and I am one year old.
As an adult they will tell me about this shortly after I’ve identified the ‘woody’ sound in my dream as the sound inside the overhead railway carriages. I hear a recording in a museum, I think it’s the old ‘Large Objects’ down at the Princes Dock, and I’m taken back to being a baby again.
The Overhead closes at the end of 1956 and is demolished by the end of the following year.
This act of gross municipal vandalism enrages me more and more as the years go by. And I feel the Overhead, even now, as a great thing missing from my life. Checking its dates earlier I watched an old film, with tears in my eyes for the missing memories.
And I remember coming here a couple of times, around ten years ago with Sarah, who was having her Citroen 2CV maintained by them. They’re gone now and some of the tunnel has recently collapsed.
Overhead trains would emerge near to the Docker’s Steps and above the Herculaneum Dock.
In Liverpool now, there is very little physical evidence that the world’s first electrically operated elevated railway was ever here. Just this tunnel and a couple of girders set into dock walls further along.
Steam trains working the docks would run underneath the Overhead, no doubt adding further to its gradual rusting.
When the rest of Britain’s railways were nationalised in 1948, the newly created British Railways refused to take on the rusting Overhead. And in 1955 Liverpool City Council refused to support the proposed £2 million refurbishment.
And in the early 1900s collaborating with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway you could ride all the way to Southport or go to the races at Aintree.
But now the only surviving Overhead carriage has arrived at the Museum of Liverpool. So I can go and sit in it and remember being a baby again.
I’d rather be riding on it and filming from it, though. With a lifetime of memories behind me.
Many more pictures here.