Dingle Tunnel

(Photos 1-7 © pacef8; photo 8 © Sue Adair)

Work on the much-delayed Liverpool Overhead Railway got underway in 1889, with the intention of taking some of the strain off the dock’s congested road system. The first phase opened four years later, enjoying state-of-the-art electric traction.

To attract users from residential districts, two extensions were soon built; the southerly one reached Dingle on 21st December 1896 via a 200-foot lattice girder bridge and 605-yard tunnel cut beneath housing through unstable red sandstone. Five constructions shafts were sunk, each 10 feet square, from which headings of 11 feet and 12 feet were driven in each direction. The greatest error in line and level was less than three-quarters of an inch. When complete, the tunnel boasted a width of 25ft 6in and a height of 19ft.

Around 170 feet from its portal, the tunnel crosses over another at an angle of 28° - the lower one carrying the Cheshire Line Committee's railway. The LOR's rails sat just 2 feet 9 inches above the crown of the CLC's tunnel - the two structures being separated by an air-gap of six inches.

Dingle Station was below ground - rather contradicting the railway’s name - and in a much wider 163-yard section of tunnel. Indeed, at 52 feet wide and more than 24 feet high, no tunnel arch of such magnitude had previously been constructed in Britain. Two sidings were added beyond the station, accommodated within a further 41-yard section of tunnel, giving the structure an overall length of 809 yards.

On 23rd December 1901, a fire broke out onboard the late-running 5:32pm arrival - a train of three coaches. It came to a stand in the tunnel, 80 yards from the platform, owning to the failure of its rear motor. The driver's attempts to reset the tripped circuit breaker caused an arc which resulted in the coach's woodwork catching fire. This was fanned by a gale blowing from the portal. Within minutes, both the train and the station had been enveloped by flame. Six lives were claimed and the terminus remained closed for over a year.

The last service left the tunnel’s gloom on 30th December 1956; dismantling started the following September when attempts to rescue the railway failed.

Today the brick-lined tunnel is used as a store by the garage which occupies Dingle’s underground LOR station.

At around 11:30hrs on 24th July 2012, it was reported that a section of the tunnel had collapsed, resulting in some local road closures.

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