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Liverpool and Manchester Railway

The Liverpool and Manchester Railway (LMR) was the world's first passenger railway, also built to provide faster transport of raw materials and finished goods between the port of Liverpool and mills in Manchester in north-west England.

Designed by George Stephenson and Joseph Locke, the 35-mile line was authorised by Parliament in 1826, at the second attempt, but construction was quite difficult, including the famous 4.75 mile crossing of Chat Moss, a bog, where the line was ingeniously floated on fleeces -- to this day an observer can see the line sink under the weight of trains passing over it!

In 1829 there was still sufficient doubt as to whether the locomotives of the day would be powerful enough to operate the railway that the directors of the company prepared an alternate plan to use stationary steam engines and haul the trains between engines by rope. To determine whether and which locomotives would be suitable, the directors organised the Rainhill Trials.

The line opened on September 15, 1830 with termini at Liverpool Road, Manchester (the station is now part of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester) and Edge Hill, Liverpool (trains were run through the 1980-yard (~2km) Edge Hill tunnel to Lime Street station by means of a rope hauled by a stationary engine as the locomotives were not powerful enough). The festivities of the opening day were marred when William Huskisson, the popular Member of Parliament for Liverpool, and President of the Board of Trade, misjudged the speed of the approaching locomotive Rocket and was run over, becoming the world's first railway passenger fatality. The somewhat subdued party returned to Liverpool, and the train was pelted by vandals from some bridges (things don't change!).

Notwithstanding the unfortunate start to its career, the LMR was very successful. Within a few weeks of opening the LMR had run its first excursion trains, carried the first mails, and was conveying road-rail containers for Pickfords; by the summer of 1831 the railway was carrying tens of thousands by special trains to Newton Races.

Being the first railway many lessons had to be learnt from experience, but not many passengers were killed except by their own negligence. The LMR developed the practice of red signals for stop, green for caution and white for clear which spread by the early 1840s to other railways in Britain and the United States.

In 1845 the LMR was absorbed by its principal business partner, the Grand Junction Railway; the following year the GJR formed part of the London and North Western Railway.

The original Liverpool and Manchester line still operates today as a secondary line between the two cities. For anyone wishing to travel on the LMR today, as of (2003) a stopping local service operates on the line between Manchester Victoria station and Liverpool Lime Street Station.