‘Life on Board’ Exhibition at Mersey Maritime Museum

Yesterday we went to have a look at this new exhibition which has recently been put tpgether by curators at Merseyside Maritime Museum. I say recently but it should have opened back in March however a certain lockdown stopped that happening. But with the relaxation of Covid 19 rules the exhibition indeed the Museum itself is now open for public viewing again, although it’s wise to pre-book your visit. It’s all free I might add.

‘Life on Board’ is a look into the lives of both crew and passengers of merchant ships and passenger vessels and it tells a story, indeed many individual stories, via the people who experienced work and travel by ship over many decades.

Now having been shown around this new exhibition by our daughter (one of the team behind it) means that my view of it must be biased; that said both Sheila and I really did find it fascinating and well worth the visit. What’s more, clearly great thought has been given into trying to keep visitors and staff safe during this awful pandemic.

I’m no maritime historian so the best way I can illustrate the exhibition is via the photos I took while at it. So here goes:-

There’s quite a bit about the loss of this ship including video interviews. So sad but the families got to the truth in the end thankfully.

The medal above was interesting to see as I’d blogged about Samuel Plimsoll a while back – Here’s a link to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/06/21/plimsoll-the-man-the-mp-and-the-line/

I picked this shot of a Harrison Line poster due to it’s connection with my former home town of Maghull – Historic England says – Harrison Home [at the junction of Sefton Ln & L’pool Rd Sth] was named after Frederic Harrison, the President of the [Maghull] Homes in 1902 who operated a shipping line out of Liverpool. The home was constructed by Brown and Backhouse at a cost of £5421 and opened in June 1902.

To add to the photo above my Mum worked at the Harrison Home in the 1970’s and early 1980’s and I recall going into the building (which is Listed) at the time and thinking how beautiful it was and indeed still is. The Maghull Homes, as it was then known, was an epileptic colony and this was one of their buildings, it’s now known as the Parkhaven Trust.

I took a lot more photos as the exhibition covers many shipping issues and matters but the ones I’ve picked for this review are those which particularly interested me. Of course, other aspects will be of greater interest to others so if this review has piqued your interest it’s best to go see the the exstensive collection for yourself – I’m sure you’ll not be disappointed.

Please click on the photos above to enlarge them.

Liverpool & The Mersey – Cruising the Cut

Liverpool Waterfront Panorama

My good friend Andrew Blackburn has a bit of a thing about vlogs entitled ‘Cruising the Cut’ of which there are a great many. He showed me a few some time ago and you know there’s something mesmerising about them and I’ve now watched quite a few myself, although I’m told that therapy may help:-)

The reason I’m blogging about this is that in October 2019 the vloger, former TV presenter David Johns*, came to Liverpool to experience crossing the Mersey estuary in a narrow boat. And here’s his vlog of the experience which sits with his many other vlogs on You Tube:-

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v9wASAnIvY

Museum of Liverpool and Link from the docks to the Leeds Liverpool Canal.

I hope you enjoy this vlogger’s take on Liverpool & the Mersey and you never know you may even get hooked on Cruising the Cut!

* He used to work as a local TV news reporter for ITV in the south east of England. After 13 years of doing this and working in radio, he decided to chuck it all in and buy a narrowboat to cruise around the canals on.

David even does his own merchandise and yes I bought one of these mugs for Andrew.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Another take on why Merseytram didn’t make the grade

I’ve commented on this very significant urban transport debacle many times before but the other day I came across an article published in June 2008 in an international magazine called Tramways & Urban Transit. Yes I know, railway/tramway enthusiast niche issue……..

The article covered the ever more desperate attempts to breath new life into a project which had been all but killed off by the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling back in 2005 when he withheld £170m of government funding. Quoted in the article was former Labour MP (for Liverpool Riverside) Louise Ellman who said the project had failed because there was a ‘lack of clarity’ from the bidding partners.*

This promotional Merseytram bookmark is about all that Liverpool City Region has to show for its big tram ideas.

Louise was of course right. If memory serves the big issue for the Labour government of the day was concern over the funding package and rising costs. The article points towards Knowsley (Lab Council) & Liverpool (Lib Dem Council) being unwilling to cover further cost over-runs.

I was leader of Sefton Council at that time and can recall the tortuous process of trying to get Merseytram going through 2004 to 2009, but where the article is silent is with regard to another big issue which led directly to what Louise Ellman called the ‘lack of clarity’. I refer to the destination of the first line – Kirkby. I took the view, as did many others on Sefton Council and indeed politicians across the wider Mersey Region at the time, that the first line should go to the airport. Liverpool John Lennon Airport was in our view the obvious destination to start a tramway system on Merseyside but our voices were lost as Merseytravel was determined the first destination should be Kirkby. We had nothing against Kirkby but it already had a 15 minute Merseyrail service which simply needed extending to a 2nd station in that Town, whereas the airport had no rail/tramway connection and indeed it still doesn’t.

One of the ‘pulls’ towards Kirkby for the 1st Merseytram line was a proposed and huge TESCO/Everton FC redevelopment in that Town but that plan fell over it’s own hurdles with Everton now likely to he headed to a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock at some point yet to be determined.

The other thing not mentioned in the article is the position of Wirral Council. They were hardly big supporters of Merseytram because being on the other side of the River Mersey they would be highly unlikely to see any benefit from the project at all. Maybe they and their residents still harked back to the first Mersey Tunnel which was supposed to have trams running through it to Birkenhead as well as road vehicles. Of course that never happened so once bitten (even though back in the 1930’s) twice shy?

Anyway, on with the thrust of the article, having given a bit of the local political background, as it was written on the basis that then (in 2008) Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly** had offered to revisit the stalled/virtually failed Merseytram project. In effect she was asking Merseytravel to come up with a new more viable scheme. At this point Merseytravel still had another 2 years to enact the powers given to it by Parliament to build the first phase of the tram system.

Sadly, of course, Merseysiders will know that no such viable plan was put forward and in 2010 the powers lapsed.

To me the project was a lesson in how not to plan major public infrastructure. It seems obvious now, as it should have been then, that the partners in the project needed to have a common view as to how it would be taken forward and as I think I’ve shown above there was no such common view. My feeling is that Merseytravel launched into the Merseytram project with far too many loose ends trailing behind it, hoping that all would be ‘alright on the night’ so to speak – It never was and probably was never going to be.

The irony is that within the same magazine there’s a celebration of NET (Nottingham Express Transit) which had won ‘Light Rail Operator of the year – 2007’ as it had been able to gain government support for it’s system (first opened March 2004) on the basis of it being clearly robust and well supported. I’ve travelled on NET; it is indeed a good system and I hope that I’m not just saying that as a Notts born lad.

A Nottingham NET Tram at the Phoenix Park terminus.

* The bidding partners were Merseytravel (the passenger transport body for Merseyside), Liverpool City Council, St. Helens Borough Council, Knowsley Borough Council, Sefton Borough Council & Wirral Borough Council.

** Ruth Maria Kelly is a former British Labour Party politician, serving as Member of Parliament for Bolton West from 1997 until she stood down in 2010 – Wikipedia

Liverpool and it’s beautiful North Western Hotel

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/lime-streets-forgotten-hotel-one-18332914

I’ve previously blogged about the architect of the North Western Hotel, Liverpool’s very own Alfred Waterhouse, back in March 2019 – Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/03/25/liverpool-alfred-waterhouse-the-citys-very-own-world-famous-architect/

Let’s hope that the present refurbishment is finished and that this iconic listed Liverpool building has many more years in front of it.

Liverpool Exchange Station – Long gone but not forgotten

Liverpool Exchange Station 1977, class 502 EMU’s in platform 5, for Ormskirk, & platform 7, for Southport

This is the second of my postings using the historic photos of Anthony Graham, who has given me permission to showcase them. The first posting concentrated on Maghull Station, this time I’m looking back at Liverpool’s former Exchange Station which was lost in the late 1970’s

Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box in June 1976

Liverpool Exchange No 2 Signal Box in April 1977

Here’s a detailed account of No.2 Signal Box from Anthony:- ‘Opened as Liverpool Exchange “A” box, with a temporary layout, on 12th December 1886, the box was a Railway Signal Company structure with a 168 lever RSCo frame. It originally controlled platforms 1 to 5, on new land, whilst Tithebarn Street station was demolished to make way for platforms 6 to 10. Platforms 6, the middle siding and platform 7 were added to the box on 23rd February 1888, platforms 8, 9 and 10 being added for the full opening of the new station on 2nd July 1888. The lines were named “Roads 1 to 11” on the signalling diagram, No 7 Road, the middle siding not being named as such until 25th May 1946. There were also five loco release ground frames bolt-lock released from the box. These were at the buffers end between platforms 2&3, 4&5, 6/Middle Road/7 and 8&9. A turntable siding and two carriage sidings were provided on the west side of the line, a turntable and two sidings were provided north of platforms 3&4 and four carriage sidings were provided north of the station, on the east side. In 1919 the west side turntable was moved to Sandhills (later known as Bank Hall) engine shed. The loco release ground frame between platforms 4&5 was replaced on 30th November 1924 with a 2 lever LNWR SK80 frame, the other loco release ground frames were removed between 1921 and 1937. On 25th May 1946 colour light signalling was brought into use on platforms 4 to 10. Much of the equipment was from the cancelled Preston North and South power box scheme of 1940. At this time the box was renamed Liverpool Exchange No 2, with the nearby Liverpool Exchange “B” box becoming Liverpool Exchange No 1. At the same time platforms 1 to 3 became known as “A Group”, 4&5 became “B Group”, 6/Middle Siding/7 became “C Group” and 8 to 10 became “D Group”. Platforms 1 to 3 received colour light signalling in 1948. On 26th April 1959 No 1 carriage siding on the east side was disconnected. Most of the levers were renewed in 1965 with BR-manufactured L&Y pattern levers, these were identical to the original Railway Signal Co levers except for a different type of gravity catch block at floor level. On 5th March 1967 platforms 1 to 3 were disconnected, together with the remaining three east side carriage sidings and one of the two sidings north of platforms 3&4. The loco release ground frame between platforms 4&5 was disconnected on 26th November 1972. Platforms 8 to 10 and the west side carriage sidings were disconnected on 6th May 1973 and quickly removed to allow construction of the new underground railway beneath them. The slow lines to Sandhills were disconnected on 16th December 1973, except for a short section of the up slow between No’s 2 and 1 boxes, this was retained as a shunting neck. The last train ran on 29th April 1977, but the box remained manned whist signalling equipment was disconnected over the next two days, the box still being manned until 07.00 hours on 2nd May 1977.’

Photo taken from Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box in 1976 looking towards Exchange Station, a 6 car class 502 EMU is departing for Southport.

Photo taken from Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box in 1977 showing track removal/lifting on the up slow line.

My own 2015 shot of the sign for the underground Moorfields Station, which replaced Exchange, with the retained facade of the old station in the background

And to close this posting an interesting piece of history about the old station subway which had, until now, passed me by:-

Liverpool Exchange Station Subway circa 1993

The Liverpool Echo takes up the story via an April 2019 article on its website – www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/secret-underground-tunnel-uncovered-city-16169509

Liverpool Exchange No 1 Signal Box interior in June 1976.
Levers 74 to 78, prepared for controlling the reversing siding at Sandhills, were never brought into use. The opening of the reversing siding was deferred and eventually connected to the new James Street Power Box on 1st May 1977.

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Liverpool – Poshest pub toilets in England get listed

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-51397915

I’m grateful to Keith Page for bringing this to my attention not least because I’ve just finished re-reading Bill Bryson’s wonderful book Notes from a Small Island.

‘And so, soon afterwards, I found myself, like all fresh arrivals in Liverpool, in the grand and splendourous surroundings of the Philharmonic, clutching a pint glass and rubbing shoulders with a happy Friday-evening throng.’