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Exchange Station

Exchange Station1850
Located on Tithebarn Street, Exchange Station was one of the four terminal stations in Liverpool's city centre it was also the only station not accessed via a tunnel. The station was designed by John Hawkshaw.The grandly appointed station opened on 13 May 1850, replacing an earlier temporary station at Great Howard Street further north up the track. The station originally had two names as the joint owners could not agree on a name. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway named the station Liverpool Exchange Station with the East Lancashire Railway naming the station Liverpool Tithebarn Street.

ExchangeStationTithebarnStreet 1920s
It was not until the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway absorbed the East Lancashire Railway  on 13th August 1859 that the name of the station became Liverpool Exchange Station. The station was the terminus of the East Lancashire Railways line to Preston, the LYR' Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways route to Bolton as well as the Liverpool, Crosby and Southport Railway routes to Crosby and Southport.

Exchange Station circa 1930
© Edward Chambe Hardman 
The station was elevated with ramps for road vehicles to access the station. The existing station could not cope with demand by the 1880s. The approaches were widened to accommodate more tracks. The station was extensively rebuilt and enlarged between 1886 and 1888, opening on 2 July 1888. Its site expanded from the original location to cover Clarke's Basin (the original end of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal). The station continued to be the Liverpool terminus of the LYR and was also the terminus of the company's Liverpool to Manchester line. Under four extremely long glass train-shed roofs lay ten platforms, with an access roadway between platforms 3 and 4, providing long distance services to destinations such as Manchester Victoria, Blackpool North the Lake District, Whitehaven and Glasgow Central. Bradford Exchange and Leeds Central.

Author and First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon frequently lodged in the hotel adjoining Exchange station and it was there in 1917 wrote his A Soldier's Declaration which appeared in the press and was read to the House of Commons.

During world war two, Liverpool, being then prime convoy port, was a major strategic target for German aircraft bombers. Damage was caused to the approach lines to Liverpool Exchange. In December 1940 the viaduct north of the station received a direct bomb hit and collapsed. The collapse precluded trains from running into the station. Commuter services were diverted to Southport's Lord Street station from Liverpool Central High Level. The route was much longer initially running south to Hunts Cross from Liverpool Central high-level, then circling Liverpool via the North Liverpool Extension Line to the east of the city heading north to Aintree and onto Southport. The temporary service ran from 24 December 1940 until 5 July 1941. Temporary wooden bridges were built over the collapsed section of the viaduct restoring electric services. The bridges were not strong enough to take steam-hauled trains. Steam-hauled trains and main line services were resumed on 18 August 1941 terminating at Kirkdale with passengers transferring to buses or trams to the city centre. In May 1941 the worst air raids of the war hit Liverpool. A northern section of the train-shed roof at Liverpool Exchange was badly damaged entailing demolition. Other parts remained iron frames until closure in the 1970s. Train services to Liverpool Exchange returned in late 1942.

Stanier 'Black 5' 
On 3 August 1968, the last British Rail scheduled passenger train to be hauled by a standard gauge steam locomotive, ended its journey at Liverpool Exchange, Stanier 'Black 5' no. 45318 having hauled from Preston the Liverpool portion of the evening Glasgow to Liverpool and Manchester train. Long distance services from Exchange switched to Liverpool Lime Street in the 1960s, with trains to Yorkshire, Blackpool and the Lake District being withdrawn in 1969 and Glasgow trains following suit in 1970. Exchange was left with only medium distance journeys to Wigan and Bolton, operated by diesel multiple units, plus the still-busy urban electric services to Southport and Ormskirk.

The approach to Exchange Station in 1963
© Disused Stations.org
The programme of route closures in 1963, known as the Beeching Axe, included the closure of two of Liverpool's mainline terminal stations, Liverpool Exchange and Liverpool Central high-level in Liverpool, and also Woodside Station in Birkenhead. The Beeching Report in 1963 recommended the closure of the Liverpool Exchange to Southport electric commuter route, and the line to Wigan Wallgate via Rainford Junction. The Liverpool Exchange to Preston via Ormskirk was not recommended for closure. All routes into Central High-level station were recommended for closure. Long and medium distance routes were to be concentrated on Lime Street Station Liverpool City Council took a different view, and proposed the retention of the suburban services around the city and their integration into a regional rapid-transit network. This approach was backed up by the Merseyside Area Land Use and Transportation Study, the MALTS report. Liverpool City Council's proposal was adopted and Merseyrail was born.

Within a few years of closure the old station was demolished by Oldham Bros, a local demolition company. However, the frontage of the station building was preserved and incorporated into a new office building built behind, named Mercury Court. The station site is still largely intact used as surface car parking. The approaches to the station still exist on the old brick viaducts. The lines descend and disappear just before Leeds Street and down under the old station into the Link Tunnel of the Merseyrail Northern Line. Parts of the original station wall can still be seen when walking down Pall Mall or Bixteth Street. Refurbished in 2014 it is now called by its original name Exchange Station.


Liverpool Central Library
Disused Station.org
Liverpool Records Office

By Robert F Edwards

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