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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:Constructing the railway system

scene:The beginning of the railway age


The programme for the official opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 15 September 1830. picture zoom © National Railway Museum

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened on Wednesday 15 September 1830. Its directors knew that they were starting a new epoch in transport, and made elaborate arrangements for the opening day. Guests, including the Duke of Wellington (then the prime minister) and many other VIPs, assembled at the Liverpool station for a tour of the line to Manchester. On returning to Liverpool they would sit down for a banquet. Unfortunately, events did not go according to plan.


Ticket for travel on the opening day of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 15 September 1830. picture zoom © National Railway Museum/Pictorial Collection

Every engine and carriage owned by the railway was in use and a procession of trains set off for Manchester. A stop was made a few miles out at Parkside, so that the engines could take water. Passengers were asked to remain in their carriages, but they ignored this request and descended on to the running lines. William Huskisson, the MP for Liverpool, fell into the path of Rocket as it came up to take water. The locomotive could not stop in time and ran over his leg, crushing it. As Huskisson was lifted up he murmured, 'This is the death of me'. So it proved. George Stephenson, driving the locomotive Northumbrian, rushed him to Eccles, near Manchester, to seek medical help, but Huskisson died that evening. It was the first fatality on a passenger railway. After the accident the procession descended into chaos. The guests reached Manchester eventually, but it was not until late in the evening that they arrived back in Liverpool, tired, hungry and far too late for the banquet.

Despite this sorry start the railway soon proved its worth. Full passenger services began on Friday 17 September and rapidly became more popular than the competing road coaches. In December, when sufficient engines had been delivered, goods services started. Before long the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was no longer an isolated point-to-point railway but part of an expanding network of lines in the north-west of England. Even before it opened, its likely financial success spurred the promotion of the first of the long-distance trunk lines: the Grand Junction Railway and the London and Birmingham Railway.


  © Ken Morse

Text only version


The scene at Edge Hill, Liverpool, as the ceremonial trains prepared to set out on the opening run to Manchester and back on 15 September 1830. Engraving by Isaac Shaw. picture zoom © National Railway Museum/Pictorial Collection


Resource Descriptions

The programme for the official opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 15 September 1830.
Ticket for travel on the opening day of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, 15 September 1830.
[Tour of Liverpool and Manchester Railway using T. T. Bury’s Views]
The scene at Edge Hill, Liverpool, as the ceremonial trains prepared to set out on the opening run to Manchester and back on 15 September 1830. Engraving by Isaac Shaw.
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