Birkenhead Dock Branch

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Birkenhead Dock Branch
Railway Footbridge, Rendel Street, Birkenhead - - 1433400.jpg
Footbridge at Canning Street North
(Rendel Street) level crossing.
Type Heavy rail
Status Disused
Locale Wirral, Merseyside
Termini Rock Ferry
Bidston Dock
Stations Rock Ferry
Birkenhead Town
Opened Circa. 1848[2]
Closed 1993[1]
Owner Network Rail
Peel Holdings
Operator(s) Network Rail
Depot(s) Mollington Street
Rolling stock Freight
Line length 4.5 mi (7.2 km)
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Route map
Bidston Dock sidings
Bidston Moss Nature Reserve footbridge
To Wallasey Village
Bidston North Junction
To Birkenhead North
To Bidston
Bidston East Junction
To Birkenhead North
Wallasey Bridge Road sidings
Boundary of Network Rail
Wallasey Bridge Road level crossing
Boundary of Peel Holdings
Cavendish sidings
Duke Street level crossing
Rendel Street footbridge
Boundary of Peel Holdings
Rendel Street level crossing
Boundary of Network Rail
Canning Street North signal box
To the Wirral Tramway
Cleveland Street
Brook Street
Price Street
Adelphi Street
Argyle Street
Haymarket Tunnel
To Birkenhead Woodside
Birkenhead Town
Queensway Road Tunnel flyover
Waterloo Place bridge
Mollington Street Depot
Mollington Link bridge
Green Lane bridge
Chamberlain Street bridge
Union Street bridge
St. Pauls Road bridge
To Green Lane
Rock Ferry
To Bebington
Map of the railways around the Great Float.
Canning Street North signal box, in its present state.

Birkenhead Dock Branch is a disused railway line running from the South junction of Rock Ferry, to the site of the former Bidston Dock on the Wirral Peninsula, England. The branch is approximately 4 12 miles (7.2 km) in length. Although called a branch, the line was accessible from both ends, from Bidston East junction and from Rock Ferry railway station. The former Mollington Street Rail Depot was branched into the line. A section of the line runs through Haymarket Tunnel and a low-level cutting through the centre of Birkenhead; visible from the road flyovers. The disused Canning Street North signal box and level crossing are also situated on the branch. Level crossings are also located at Duke Street and Wallasey Bridge Road. The steel railway lines are still intact never being raised.

Goods yards[edit]

At the northern end of the branch, disused goods yards are situated parallel to Birkenhead North TMD, Wallasey Bridge Road sidings, & adjacent to the Kingsway Tunnel approach road, Bidston Dock sidings. These two sets of sidings are also accessible by rail, through a series of points between Birkenhead North TMD and Bidston station.


The northern part of the track to the west of Canning Street North signal box and to the east of Wallasey Bridge Road level crossing, was owned by Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. It is presently understood to be in the ownership of Peel Holdings. The main part of this section runs parallel, on the northern side, to Corporation Road, across Duke Street, parallel Beaufort Road. The sections of the branch between and inclusive of Rock Ferry railway station, Canning Street North signal box, and the section west of Wallasey Bridge Road level crossing are understood to have been in the ownership of Railtrack and, subsequently, Network Rail.

Present Condition[edit]

Most of the trackwork is still in place, along the line. However, most of the sidings at Bidston Dock, and all of the sidings at Wallasey Bridge Road and Mollington Street Depot have been removed, though the track foundation remains serviceable in all of these places. The track from Bidston East Junction to Bidston station has been removed, however, here, the track foundation also remains serviceable. Cavendish sidings have been removed and replaced with warehouses adjacent to West Float. Further up the line, the tunnel from Birkenhead Town to Birkenhead Woodside has been partly infilled. Two of the four tracks in the Haymarket Tunnel have been removed. Mollington Link bridge has been replaced and narrowed to a twin-track width. As yet, no track has been relaid onto the Mollington Link bridge. The line is heavily overgrown with flora, along its entire duration. There has been a degree of flytipping on the line in the centre of Birkenhead.[3]


As part of the Chester and Birkenhead Railway, the railway from Rock Ferry to Birkenhead Town is one of the oldest stretches of track, in the world. The line was completed and opened on 23 September 1838, less than nine years after the Rainhill Trials, across the River Mersey, on the outskirts of Liverpool. Before Monks Ferry was opened in 1844, the line was originally to a temporary terminus known as Birkenhead Grange Lane station. Grange Lane engine shed was opened on 23 September 1840.[4]

Pre-World War I[edit]

Ownership of the railway circa. 1913-1914 was as follows:

British Railways steam era[edit]

The Class 9F locomotive 92203 Black Prince worked the final steam-hauled iron ore train from Bidston Dock in November 1967.[5][6][7]

British Rail diesel era[edit]

During the BR era, the line was used by various classes of diesel locomotive, primarily for hauling offloaded iron ore from Bidston Dock, to the John Summers Steelworks in Shotton. The John Summers wagons came under the TOPS code of PHO. Fully loaded, a train was limited to eleven of these wagons.[8] This work was carried out by engines with a high traction capacity, usually either a Class 40 locomotive, or pairs of Class 24 or Class 25 locomotives. However, pairs of Class 20 diesels were also occasionally used, although very infrequently. This work was ceased in March 1980,[9] when the steelworks at Shotton was closed.

Between 1983 and 1985, Class 503 electric multiple units were stored at Cavendish Sidings, before scrapping.[10]

The final passenger working on the line was the Birkenhead Bandit Railtour, hauled by Class 40 locomotive 40122 D200, on 16 February 1985.[11]

Goods workings continued on the line until at least 1987, for traffic to the Spillers Mill on East Float.[12]

The last known locomotives to have served within the dock complex were Birkenhead North TMD's allocation of Class 03 shunters,[13] 03073, 03162, 03170 and 03189[14][15] all of which have been preserved. The line was mothballed by Railtrack during the 1990s, however, the trackwork remains in place and various other railway artefacts are still in existence.

The line has been used on only two occasions since 1993, both a day apart. In January 2008, an EWS Class 66 diesel entered the line at Rock Ferry station.[16]

Rea Bulk Handling locomotives[edit]

The Rea Bulk Handling Company had a small fleet of nine Drewry 0-4-0DM and 0-6-0DM diesel shunters, which operated on the dock lines. The names of these locomotives included; Theseus, Wabana,[17] Kathleen Nichols, Pegasus, WH Salthouse,[18] Dorothy Lightfoot,[19] Narvik,[20] Teucer and Pepel.[21] A further 0-4-0DE locomotive built by the Yorkshire Engine Company, named Labrador, and of similar design to a Class 02, also worked around the Bidston Dock area.[21]


The former Railtrack has, in the past, indicated an interest in seeing the line reopened for goods services.[1] However, Network Rail as of 2012 has not followed through with any action in this regard.[citation needed]

The Peel Group, who are behind the multibillion-pound Wirral Waters redevelopment of the docks, announced in February 2013 that they intend on using the abandoned route to run a streetcar system.[22] The plan involves connecting Wirral Waters to the Merseyrail network at Birkenhead North and Hamilton Square stations, utilising the stretch of dock branch trackbed along Beaufort Road and Corporation Road, with inner and outer loops around Vittoria Dock and East Float, respectively.[23][24] Options to connect this new system to Conway Park and Birkenhead Park stations are also available.[23]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • S. K. Baker (2013). Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland. Oxford Publishing. ISBN 978-0-86093-651-0. 
  • T.B. Maund (2009). The Wirral Railway and its Predecessors. Lightmoor Press. ISBN 978-1-899889-38-9. 
  • Paul Shannon and John Hillmer (2002). British Railways Past and Present: Liverpool and Wirral. Past & Present Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85895-199-7. 


  1. ^ a b ld-birkenhead_cns.pdf (PDF), The Rail Regulator, retrieved 16 January 2012 
  2. ^ Birkenhead Dock Branch photo, Xan Asmodi, Flickr, retrieved 16 January 2012 
  3. ^ "Branch012". Xan Asmodi, Flickr. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Station Name: BIRKENHEAD TOWN,, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  5. ^ "The Famous Black Prince". Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Memories of Bank Hall, Birkenhead & Beyond, Part Two, as recalled by Mal Pratt, Birkenhead 1966 - 1968". Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Black Prince Steam Locomotive". The Olden Days - A Trip Down Memory Lane. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Wirral Steam Vol.58 (DVD). B&R Video Productions. 
  9. ^ T.B.Maund (2009), The Wirral Railway and its Predecessors, Lightmoor Press, p. 204, ISBN 978-1-899889-38-9 
  10. ^ "Graveyard of the LMS EMUs.". Flickr. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  11. ^ What's Up, Dock?, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  12. ^ 47 203 on the local trip working in Birkenhead Docks., Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  13. ^ 03170 Duke St Birkenhead, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  14. ^ British Rail Locomotives. Ian Allan ABC. 1985. 
  15. ^ British Rail Motive Power Combined Volume. Ian Allan ABC. 1986. 
  16. ^ 66214 propels Seacows onto the Up/Down Goods, John and Dave Skipsey, Youtube, retrieved 19 January 2012 
  17. ^ Drewry shunters Birkenhead 10/11/83, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  18. ^ Drewry shunters Birkenhead 10/11/83, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  19. ^ Bidston Ore Dock, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  20. ^ 1982-09-28 94358 KCooke Narvik Birkenhead sm, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012 
  21. ^ a b T.B.Maund (2009), The Wirral Railway and its Predecessors, Lightmoor Press, p. 206, ISBN 978-1-899889-38-9 
  22. ^ "Peel reveals streetcar plan for Wirral Waters". Liverpool Echo. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  23. ^ a b "Wirral Streetcar: Pioneering small-start systems in the UK" (PDF). Sun Link. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  24. ^ "Wirral Streetcar". Wirral Waters. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 

External links[edit]