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Ski Club City Walk — Sunday 8th November 2021

Reporter: Joy Parsons

This ever popular event was this year on the theme of Railways and we were as usual guided by Ed Glinert, meeting at the Midland Hotel. Thirty of us were booked for a 3 mile+ walk featuring old railways, defunct stations, historic bridges and associated buildings.

The Midland Hotel boasts the meeting between Rolls and Royce but apparently they discussed aviation, motor vehicles came later!

We were escorted through the hotel to the back door, facing the old Central Station, formerly G-Mex which is now a smart conference centre. In former days there was a covered way from the station to the hotel as Londoners were not used to rain!

Central Station opened in 1878, it’s construction involving the demolition of hundreds of houses, with no compensation. The adjoining Great Northern Warehouse is a huge 5 storey building which was sited over a canal, the goods being raised through a series of shafts by hydraulic power, the trains coming in at first floor level. It took 25 million bricks to complete the warehouse. Since 1999 it has been a leisure complex and in the war it was used as an air raid shelter.

Manchester’s other stations were not built more centrally as the railway companies were unable to buy the land — No compulsory purchase in those days!

We were then shown the house of William Bradshaw of timetables fame. The first railway was opened in 1830 and the initial run from Liverpool to Manchester was watched by thousands of spectators. It was the first steam hauled railway service carrying passengers. Before that time the few railways in existence were horse drawn but this had severe limitations in terms of capacity.

The Museum of Science and Technology now occupies the old Liverpool Road Station site at Castlefield which was designed to look like a Georgian terrace having separate entrances for first and second class passengers. Just west of this area is a huge overhead junction, the meeting point of four lines, two of the lines being used by trains and another used by the Metrolink. There is another large derelict goods line which no longer connects with anything but is a superb piece of Victorian engineering with massive metal supports and cast iron structures.

This station was closed in 1844 and the line was rerouted, being used mainly for cargo. We then visited Stephenson’s original 1830 bridge over the Irwell, the last of the former 64 bridges, now Grade 1 listed though largely hidden under a modern bridge, visible from a footpath running underneath.

A really fascinating tour and apologies for much that I have left out in spite of Jonquil’s copious notes, handed to me as she and Barry escaped to France!

Thanks to our guide Ed and to Barry for organising the tour. We were ready for lunch at Giorgio’s who provided the usual excellent feast. See you next year!

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