Bootle Tunnel

(Photos 1-8 © George Toohey)

Liverpool's Alexandra Dock was opened in 1881, forming part of the northern dock system at Bootle and comprising a main basin nearest the Mersey and three branches to the east. Prior to the construction of Seaforth Dock, it was involved in the grain trade.

The Midland Railway opened the nearby Alexandra & Langton Docks Goods Station on 1st June 1885, served by the 2¼-mile Langton branch from Fazackerley North Junction on the Cheshire Lines Committee's North Liverpool extension. Climbing at 1:80, the branch reached its summit after 600 yards before falling at 1:64 for one mile. This took the two tracks about 100 yards into the route's principal engineering work, the 484-yard Bootle Tunnel; thereafter the gradient eased to 1:400 as far as the tunnel's west end.

Known locally as the 'Half Miley' tunnel, the structure is divided longitudinally by a central pier, through which occasional access holes are cut. It is constructed entirely in engineering brick and incorporates a curve at both ends. Running below Marsh Lane for most of its length and built using cut and cover methods, the two-compartment approach was adopted in order to restrict height requirements. This allowed a section of low segmental arch to be inserted where the Leeds & Liverpool Canal passes over the top. Also accommodated was a tramway - which cut through the arch above springing level - and an access road, both associated with the adjacent gas works. The tramway has since been replaced by a footbridge. The structure remains in good condition although the floor is flooded throughout.

Much of the Langdon branch was taken out of use on 1st January 1968, the last train having run on 24th November. The section from the main line junction to the gas works' siding survived for four more months. Tracks were lifted between June and August 1969.

The tunnel's western approach cutting has been backfilled although the portal's parapet remains visible. The eastern end is enclosed on all sides with fencing across the entrances.

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