Heritage Locations

Liverpool Overhead Railway

The sole relics of this historic railway are perversely the tunnel and underground station at Dingle.


Period of construction:
1850 - 1899

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:


Greens-Health and Fitness

1, Riverside Drive


L3 4EN

L3 4EN

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

The Liverpool Overhead Railway was the world's first electrically operated overhead railway. The railway was carried mainly on iron viaducts, with a corrugated iron decking, onto which the tracks were laid. It ran close to the River Mersey in Liverpool, England, following the line of Liverpool Docks. The railway opened in 1893 and closed in 1956.

As early as 1852 the railway had been suggested. Engineers Sir Douglas Fox and James Henry Greathead were commissioned to design it. From the outset in 1888 electric traction was chosen due to the possibility of sparks from the burning coal of steam power igniting the shipping cargoes in close proximity to the railway. The railway was thus the world's first urban railway designed from the outset for electric traction. The works commenced in 1889 and were completed in 1893. The City and South London Railway was the first railway to operate on electric traction in 1890; however cable traction was originally planned and it was during construction that electric traction was adopted in 1889, due to the cable contractor's liquidation.

The Liverpool Overhead was the world's first electric elevated railway and the first to use automatic signalling and electric signal lights. Special advanced lightweight light-rail passenger cars were designed with each having an electric driving motor. This gave the cars the distinction of being the first light rail trains. These cars made up the world's first electric multiple unit trains bearing a strong resemblance to modern EMUs.

The Liverpool Overhead Railway was opened on 4 February 1893 by the Leader of the Opposition the Marquis of Salisbury. The railway ran from Alexandra Dock to Herculaneum Dock, a distance of six miles. It used standard gauge track with 11 intermediate stations along the line. The railway gained the affectionate nickname of Dockers' Umbrella, as a great proportion of the railway was elevated and dockers could walk beneath it as they travelled around the docks.

In 1896 the railway was extended at the southern end through a 605 yd. tunnel to a new station constructed underground at Dingle. This tunnel survives as does Dingle station, though both are in private use.


Biddle, Gordon, Britain's Historic Railway Buildings, Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0198662475 (2003)

Biddle, Gordon & Nock, O.S., The Railway Heritage of Britain : 150 years of railway architecture and engineering, Studio Editions, ISBN-10: 1851705953 (1990)

Biddle, Gordon and Simmons, J., The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, Oxford, ISBN 0 19 211697 5 (1997)

Bolger, Paul, The Docker's Umbrella, Bluecoat Press, ISBN 1 872568 05 X, (1992)

Bonavia, Michael, Historic Railway Sites in Britain, Hale, ISBN 0 7090 3156 4 (1987)

Box, Charles, E., Liverpool Overhead Railway, Railway World, (1959)

Conolly, W. Philip, British Railways Pre-Grouping Atlas And Gazetteer, Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0-7110-0320-3 (1958/97)

Jarvis, Adrian, The Liverpool Overhead Railway, Ian allan, ISBN 0 7110 24685 (1996)

Jowett, Alan, Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland,  Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0086-1. (March 1989)

Morgan, Bryan, Railways: Civil Engineering, Arrow, ISBN 0 09 908180 6 (1973)

Morgan, Bryan, Railway Relics, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 0092 1 (1969)

Simmons, J., The Railways of Britain, Macmillan, ISBN 0 333 40766 0 (1961-86)

Simmons, J. The Victorian Railway, Thames & Hudson, ISBN 0 500 25110X (1991)

Smith, Martin, British Railway Bridges and Viaducts, Ian Allan, ISBN 0 7110 2273 9 (1994)

Turnock, David, An Historical Geography of Railways, Ashgate, ISBN 1 85928 450 7 (1998)

Opening Times:
The tunnel entrance is visible at all times from a car park

How To Find:

By rail:To Brunswick Station.

By road: From Albert Dock follow the A5039 towards Wapping then A 5036 Sefton Street. At the second roundabout take the first exit. The tunnel is visible ahead from the car park of Greens-fitness and health.


Weather Feed currently unavailable.