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.
TypeHeavy rail
LocaleWirral, Merseyside
TerminiRock Ferry
Bidston Dock
StationsRock Ferry
Birkenhead Town
OwnerNetwork Rail
Peel Holdings
Operator(s)Network Rail
Depot(s)Mollington Street
Rolling stockFreight
Line length4.5 mi (7.2 km)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Route map
Bidston Dock sidings
Bidston Moss Nature Reserve
to Wallasey Village
Bidston North Junction
to Birkenhead North
to Bidston
Bidston East Junction
to Birkenhead North
Wallasey Bridge Road sidings
formerly Birkenhead Dock station
Wallasey Bridge Road
level crossing
Network Rail
Peel Holdings
Anglo-American Oil Company depot
Cavendish sidings
Duke Street level crossing
to Vittoria Wharf
and Duke Street bridge
to Vittoria Wharf
Peel Holdings
Network Rail
Cathcart Street Goods station
Rendel Street footbridge
Rendel Street level crossing
Canning Street North
signal box
to Morpeth Dock Goods station
and Seacombe
Shore Road Goods station
to Wirral Tramway
Cleveland Street
Brook Street
Price Street
Adelphi Street
Argyle Street
Haymarket Tunnel
to Birkenhead Woodside
and Birkenhead Monks Ferry
Birkenhead Town
Queensway Road
Tunnel flyover
Waterloo Place bridge
Mollington Street Depot
Mollington Link bridge
to Cammell Laird sidings
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 and, 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.

Up until the 1980s, goods yards around the docks were much more extensive, with lines along the sides of both East and West Float.[3] Further lines and sidings were along Duke Street, around Vittoria Dock, along Four Bridges Road and Birkenhead Road into Seacombe, and in the area around Wallasey, Egerton and Morpeth Docks.[3]


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.[4] During February and March 2016, tree clearance work was undertaken for safety reasons from Rock Ferry towards Birkenhead.[5]


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.[6] The 1.125 mi (1.811 km) section, from Grange Lane to Bridge End near Cathcart Street, was built into a cutting known as the Sough (pronounced "Suff"),[7] opening the same day as Birkenhead Park, on 5 April 1847.[8] The connection with the Great Western Railway at Green Lane Junction was made in 1847.[2]

In 1856-7, the Birkenhead Railway acquired a pair of 0-4-0T saddle tank locomotives, for use around the docks, from Sharp, Stewart.[9] These were renumbered as 95 and 96 by the GWR, after the joint takeover of the railway, with the LNWR, in 1860.[9]

At Bidston, the line was connected to the Great Central Railway in 1896.[2]

20th century[edit]

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

British Railways steam era[edit]

The Class 9F locomotive 92203, later named as Black Prince, worked the final steam-hauled iron ore train from Bidston Dock in November 1967.[10][11][12]

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.[13][14][nb 1] Fully loaded, a train was limited to eleven of these wagons.[16] 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.[17] However, pairs of Class 20 diesels were also occasionally used, although very infrequently. This work was ceased in March 1980,[18] when the steelworks at Shotton was closed.

Between 1983 and 1985, Class 503 electric multiple units were stored at Cavendish Sidings, before scrapping.[19]

Amongst the few and final passenger workings on the line was the Birkenhead Bandit railtour, hauled by Class 40 locomotive 40122 D200, on 16 February 1985.[20] Others included the Mersey Meanderer railtour on 19 April 1986,[21][22] Hertfordshire Rail Tours' Wirral Withershins charter on 18 January 1986[23] and their Cheshire Cat charter, on 24 June 1989.[24]

Goods workings continued on the line, for traffic to the Spillers Mill on East Float until the late 1980s[25] with grain wagon traffic from Whitemoor Yard.[2] Afterwards, a thrice-weekly coal train operated on the line until 1992.[2]

Some of the last locomotives to have served within the dock complex were Birkenhead North TMD's allocation of Class 03 shunters,[26] 03073, 03162, 03170 and 03189[27][28][29] all of which have been preserved. Indeed, the railways around the docks saw the last mainland use of the class by British Rail, before their withdrawal in March 1989.[30] The last traffic along the line, from Birkenhead North to Rock Ferry, was a Class 08 shunter on 10 May 1993.[31] Subsequently, the line was mothballed by Railtrack. 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.[32]

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,[33] Kathleen Nicholls, Pegasus, WH Salthouse,[34][nb 2] Dorothy Lightfoot,[36] Narvik,[37] Teucer and Pepel.[35][38] A further 0-4-0DE locomotive built by the Yorkshire Engine Company, named Labrador,[39] and of similar design to a Class 02, also worked around the Bidston Dock area.[38] After the end of the iron ore traffic through Bidston Dock, Rea Ltd. ceased its railway activity around the docks and the remaining shunting duties were taken over by Class 03s.[40]


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.[41] 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.[42][43] Options to connect this new system to Conway Park and Birkenhead Park stations are also available.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ By 1988, some of these wagons were in use on Buxton stone trains.[15]
  2. ^ W.H. Salthouse was one of Rea Ltd.'s senior engineers.[35]


  1. ^ a b ld-birkenhead_cns.pdf (PDF), The Rail Regulator, archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2007, retrieved 16 January 2012
  2. ^ a b c d e Cragg, Bob (February 2005). "When the docks rocked". Traction. No. 124. Warners Group Publications. p. 50. ISSN 1354-2680. OCLC 499798607.
  3. ^ a b Hendry & Hendry 1992, pp. 122–123
  4. ^ "Branch012". Xan Asmodi, Flickr. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  5. ^ Tree removal works at Rock Ferry, Network Rail, retrieved 4 April 2016
  6. ^ Station Name: BIRKENHEAD TOWN,, retrieved 22 January 2012
  7. ^ Greenwood 2007, p. 69
  8. ^ Maund 2000, pp. 16–17, 38
  9. ^ a b Hendry & Hendry 1992, p. 121
  10. ^ "The Famous Black Prince". Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Memories of Bank Hall, Birkenhead & Beyond, Part Two, as recalled by Mal Pratt, Birkenhead 1966 - 1968". Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  12. ^ "Black Prince Steam Locomotive". The Olden Days - A Trip Down Memory Lane. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  13. ^ "I.C.I. PHV Bogie Limestone Hopper Wagons". Paul's Wagon Pages. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  14. ^ "J Summers BSSH13092 - 13175 bogie iron ore hoppers PHO". Paul Bartlett's Photographs. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  15. ^ Shannon, Paul (August 1988). "Buxton Stone". RAIL. No. 83. EMAP National Publications. pp. 44–45. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  16. ^ Wirral Steam Vol.58 (DVD). B&R Video Productions.
  17. ^ Mitchell & Smith 2013, fig. 101
  18. ^ Maund 2009, p. 204
  19. ^ "Graveyard of the LMS EMUs". Flickr. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  20. ^ What's Up, Dock?, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012
  21. ^ "Railtour review". Rail Enthusiast. No. 54. EMAP National Publications. March 1986. p. 19. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.
  22. ^ "Canning Street North Meanderer". Flickr. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Railtour Review: Points of view". Rail Enthusiast. No. 55. EMAP. April 1986. p. 16. ISSN 0262-561X.
  24. ^ Cragg, Bob (February 2005). "When the docks rocked". Traction. No. 124. Warners Group Publications. p. 53. ISSN 1354-2680. OCLC 499798607.
  25. ^ 47 203 on the local trip working in Birkenhead Docks., Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012
  26. ^ 03170 Duke St Birkenhead, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012
  27. ^ British Rail Locomotives. Ian Allan ABC. 1985.
  28. ^ British Rail Motive Power Combined Volume. Ian Allan ABC. 1986.
  29. ^ "Birkenhead Class 03 finale". RAIL. No. 96. EMAP National Publications. 18–31 May 1989. p. 46. ISSN 0953-4563. OCLC 49953699.
  30. ^ Hendry & Hendry 1992, p. 125
  31. ^ Maund 2000, p. 75
  32. ^ 66214 propels Seacows onto the Up/Down Goods, John and Dave Skipsey, Youtube, retrieved 19 January 2012
  33. ^ Drewry shunters Birkenhead 10/11/83, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012
  34. ^ Drewry shunters Birkenhead 10/11/83, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012
  35. ^ a b Booth, Adrian (September 2000). "Rea's of Birkenhead". Railway Bylines. Vol. 5 no. 10. Irwell Press. p. 480. ISSN 1360-2098.
  36. ^ Bidston Ore Dock, Flickr, retrieved 22 January 2012
  37. ^ "1982-09-28 94358 KCooke Narvik Birkenhead sm". Flickr. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  38. ^ a b Maund 2009, p. 206
  39. ^ Booth, Adrian (September 2000). "Rea's of Birkenhead". Railway Bylines. Vol. 5 no. 10. Irwell Press. pp. 479–480. ISSN 1360-2098.
  40. ^ Booth, Adrian (September 2000). "Rea's of Birkenhead". Railway Bylines. Vol. 5 no. 10. Irwell Press. p. 481. ISSN 1360-2098.
  41. ^ "Peel reveals streetcar plan for Wirral Waters". Liverpool Echo. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  42. ^ a b "Wirral Streetcar: Pioneering small-start systems in the UK" (PDF). Sun Link. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  43. ^ "Wirral Streetcar". Wirral Waters. Retrieved 8 June 2015.


Further reading[edit]

  • S. K. Baker (2013). Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland. Oxford Publishing. ISBN 978-0-86093-651-0.
  • Paul Shannon and John Hillmer (2002). British Railways Past and Present: Liverpool and Wirral. Past & Present Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85895-199-7.
  • Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (2014). Birkenhead to West Kirby. Middleton Press. figs. 106-115. ISBN 9781908174611. OCLC 885451764.
  • Heavyside, Tom (April 2010). "Class 03s at Birkenhead". BackTrack. Vol. 24 no. 4. Pendragon Publishing. ISSN 0955-5382.
  • "Readers' round-up". Rail Enthusiast. EMAP National Publications. October 1983. p. 44. ISSN 0262-561X. OCLC 49957965.

External links[edit]