One hundred lucky members of the public got the chance to tour one of Birkenhead’s most iconic landmarks over the weekend after Network Rail organised rare access.
The railway company teamed up with local organisation Big Heritage to provide six guided tours of Shore Road Pumping station on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September as part of Wirral’s Heritage Open Days festival and the national Heritage Open Days weekend.
It’s the first time in 15 years people have been able to experience the Victorian architectural and engineering marvel.
Built in the 1880s, Shore Road Pumping Station kept the railway tunnel under the river Mersey free from flooding.
Back then two steam powered beam engine pumps continuously ensured tracks and trains were safe from the millions of gallons of water above.
One of the original 19th century pumps, nicknamed ‘The Grasshopper’, remains in the building – but is no longer in use.
The pumping station still serves its original purpose today however – with three modern pumps in place to keep the Merseyrail network running smoothly in the 21st century.
As with so much Victorian-built railway infrastructure, the architects at the time did not scrimp on the building itself.
Designed in a beautiful Italianate style from brick and slate – it was given listed status in 1992.
Around that time the site opened as a council-run museum, but it closed in 2008 due to lack of funding and hasn’t been accessible to the public again until now.
Because of the level of interest in these latest tours, Network Rail is working with Big Heritage for further tour dates later in the year.
Allan Gibbs-Monaghan, from Network Rail, said: “We were blown away by the number of people who applied for tickets to get a rare glimpse of Shore Road pumping station, to learn about its history and also the vital role it still plays keeping thousands of passengers safely moving every day on the Merseyrail network.
“Looking after our railway heritage is a huge part of the work we do, alongside running a modern and efficient railway– and what better building shows both things at play at the same time? It’s been great working with Big Heritage to get the doors open to Shore Road again and given the demand we’re working together on more chances for people to get inside this iconic piece of Victorian architecture.”
Dean Paton, CEO of Big Heritage, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Network Rail to bring this Birkenhead gem back to the public’s attention. It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to learn about the engineering genius of the rail tunnels and the work that still goes on today by Network Rail to keep the tunnels clear of water. We are using these Heritage Open Days to gauge public interest in the site, with a view to opening the site permanently in 2024 to add yet another attraction to the already exciting new redevelopments happening around Woodside.”
Further evening ticketed events at Shore Road Pumping Station will be announced later in the year.
For more on how Network Rail works to protect the main line railway’s heritage and the conservation work it carries out, you can follow this link: www.networkrail.co.uk/working-with-railway-heritage.
Photo credit: Network Rail