Report - - The End of The Line: Edge Hill Engine Station, Crown Street and Wapping Tunnels (Liverpool, Sept, 2020) | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The End of The Line: Edge Hill Engine Station, Crown Street and Wapping Tunnels (Liverpool, Sept, 2020)


28DL Regular User
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This week marks the 190th anniversary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first steam powered railway in the world built to carry both goods and passengers.

Opened on Sept 15th 1830, the first stop in Liverpool was Edge Hill Engine Station, located at the end of a sandstone cutting, as shown below.

Passenger carriages were then hauled uphill through a short tunnel (short red line, Crown Street Tunnel) into Crown Street Station.

Goods were transferred to the the docks by a much longer tunnel (long red line, Wapping Tunnel).

The current Edge Hill station was built later (1836) with a tunnel to Lime Street and the Victoria & Waterloo tunnel down to a more northerly area of the docks.

All the tunnels were sloping so were rope-hauled, with gravity return because the steam locos of the time couldn’t do hills.

The ropes, which later became wire cables, were only retired when more powerful locos were developed.

The main passenger station, Crown Street Station, was demolished not long after it was built, but the terminus survived as a goods depot into the 1970s. Part of this area is now student housing and the rest is a park.

This means that the Engine Station - together with the Manchester terminus, must be the oldest surviving stations anywhere.

Anyway, the main aim of this outing was to have a look at the station in the cutting because it’s a curious place with no buildings as such, just troglodyte-like holes in the walls.

Indeed when I first walked past in 2017 there was someone living there, but they seem to have gone now.

Having explored other places in Liverpool made out of sandstone I thought there were probably going to be tunnels, and there were, even if I’m still a bit hazy about their function.

Of course if I had bothered to do any research I would have known about the engine station tunnels.

Pictures are from a couple of visits - one of these was at night but not for any particular reason, I just happened to be passing after dark.

The Crown Street and Wapping tunnels are also included because they’re part of the story and I’d never bothered to take photos before.

There’s a huge amount of information available online about this area which I won’t reproduce here, instead just add bits as we go along.

Some of the illustrations are taken from https://www.subbrit.org.uk/sites/liverpool-edge-hill-cutting/

View over the cutting. The rooms of the station had to be built in the walls on either side to allow space for the rail lines.

Romanticised wide-angle print of the end of the cutting (1831, from Bury’s ‘Coloured Views of The Liverpool and Manchester Railway).

The two chimneys at the end, dubbed the ‘Pillars of Hercules’, were for the smoke from steam-powered hauling engines.

The crenellations and base of the right hand chimney can still be seen in the back wall of a school which now overlooks the cutting.

The remains of the left chimney disappeared when the cutting was widened later on (1864).

Ground-level view of the north wall of the cutting looking west.

The entrance on the right was one of several stores, maybe for fuel.

The higher-up hole a bit further along is another empty space which goes back more than 10 meters and was apparently occupied by a water tank.

Beyond is the remains of an arch which originally housed the hauling engines, and beyond that boiler rooms and offices, as shown in this illustration taken from the subbrit link above.

An engraving of the arch, looking east out of the cutting (another one of Bury’s coloured prints).

While the arch was supposed to be a grand entrance portal, it was also a bottleneck and was demolished (1862) when more lines were needed due to the success of the railway.

Remains of the arch and stairs.

View from the other end, with station offices on the left.

Looking out of the largest hole, which once housed the biggest boiler.

Some of the rooms are connected at the rear by holes and a flue, which heads upwards through the wall in the direction of the north chimney before being blocked.

The boiler rooms have holes in their roofs which connect via chambers to another, higher tunnel, most easily accessed by an opening with steps further east.

This tunnel was apparently for carrying steam to engines located outside the cutting near the current Edge Hill station - the engines had to be moved when the arch was demolished, but the boilers stayed where they were.

It goes quite a long way, maybe about 200 meters, inside the northern wall of the cutting.

The next three pictures are heading west from the middle of the steam tunnel.

A phone of pic of where it ends.

The following two pictures are heading east from the middle, with sandstone blocks lying around on the floor, possibly supports for the steam pipe(s).

It finally ends in a pile of earth. It looks as if someone has been digging - I approve.

The south wall of the cutting also contains two boiler rooms for the engine in the south side of the arch, one of which now has a brick shed in it, and two rooms further along of unknown function.

Like the the rooms in the north wall, there are low-level flues joining the rooms, which lead in the direction of the other chimney, although these ones don’t extend very far west before hitting a brick wall.

I didn’t notice holes in the roofs leading to a higher level tunnel on this side.

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28DL Regular User
Regular User

Moving on to the rail tunnels, there are three portals at the end of the cutting.

The one on the left is now just a shunt which is still in use - the opening was originally smaller and used as a store until it was enlarged to serve the Crown Street goods yard.

The middle one is the tunnel down to the Wapping goods station and the right one the tunnel up to Crown Street.

Starting with the Wapping Tunnel, there are several reports dating back to 2008:


A paraphrase of what subbrit has to say about it:

Constructed between 1826 and 1829 and opened in 1830 it was the first tunnel in the world to be bored under a city.

The tunnel is 2,030 metres (1.26 miles) long, passing beneath the Merseyrail Northern Line tunnel approximately a quarter of a mile south of Liverpool Central underground station.

Five ventilation shafts were added when steam locos replaced cables to haul goods up the tunnel (1896), although gravity and brake vans were still used in the downhill direction.

Despite the ventilation shafts - the remaining ones are shown as white circles on the map above - conditions were described as ‘choking’.

As more and larger docks were built north of Wapping, the goods depot, now called Park Lane, gradually declined and closed in 1965, with the tunnel rail tracks being lifted shortly after (other sources give the date of closure as 1972).

Remains of gas pipes and wall fixings for lighting.

One of the two capped airshafts.

Remains of a treadle gong. These clanged when a train passed telling the driver where he was if visibility was low due to smoke and steam.

I counted three of these, two on the north wall and one on the south - there could be others in the flooded section.

The one above is a bit mangled, but there’s a complete example in the Victoria tunnel nearby which illustrates how they work.

A passing wheel flange depresses a bar which flicks the the clapper onto the hanging plate, with a counterweight to reset.

Where Merseyrail trains rumble across at a slight angle.

The bottom section of the tunnel has been part-filled with building waste, maybe when Park Lane goods yard was demolished, similar to the Woodside and Monks Ferry tunnels in Birkenhead,


This has had the effect of flooding the last 100 yards or so, but the water’s not deep - no higher than crotch level if you keep to the shallow areas.

You eventually emerge into a cutting filled with more building waste, vegetation, and crap people have chucked over the walls.

Cutting ‘treasure’.

There’s a former ticket office on the north wall of the cutting and three exit portals, two of which are blocked.

The open portal leads through a short tunnel containing building supplies to the gate on King’s Dock Street.

If you’re inordinately fond of rail tunnels you can climb out from here, head across town and go up the Victoria & Waterloo one (always open) to get back to where you started at Edge Hill.

I went to the McDonalds round the corner instead.

Finally the Crown Street tunnel, which has also been covered before.


This is apparently the second oldest rail tunnel in the world and the oldest running under streets.

It’s now shorter than the original 292 yards due to a partial collapse at the end.

The only things to see in here are the 1829 date stone and some pretty stalactites at the far end.

Of course from an exploring point of view disused tunnels are only interesting if nobody has done them before and I’ve only found one new one in Liverpool (the Canada Dock tunnel).

But if it’s raining or you can’t find anything better the two long ones starting at Edge Hill (Wapping and Victoria & Waterloo) are not bad mooches.

Since these two bypass the city centre completely leading straight to the docks there have been proposals to reuse them in some way, and it seems likely that this will eventually happen.


subterranean explorer
Regular User
nice stuff, wapping's my favourite tunnel,
the gate was sealed on my visit, so had to return Edge hill.
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28DL Regular User
Regular User
Great report - really like the way you cross reference earlier reports as part of your text
Depends on the place, but I think more people should do this, particularly if the naming has varied.

Always fancied a look down those tunnels but never seem to get around to it, brilliant report again.
For those who like taking pictures of tunnels (not really my thing tbh) the Edge Hill ones are probably the best value, certainly the easiest to get at.

nice stuff, wapping's my favourite tunnel,
the gate was sealed on my visit, so had to return Edge hill.
Have a closer look at the external of the final gate - but access does vary so sometimes you have to plod back up again.


• Chief Noob Wrangler •
Regular User
Lovely report that Chemist! Loving the flooded tunnel actually, think I need to take my waders on a trip to Liverpool!