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Imagined MCR: Liverpool Road Station Gets Love

Jonathan Schofield dreams dreams over the Grade I listed building

Written by . Published on April 22nd 2014.


Imagined MCR: Liverpool Road Station Gets Love
 

TWICE EVERY Saturday and during holidays between 1 May and Labour Day (the first Monday in September) there are re-enactments of the 1869 Golden Spike ceremony in Utah, USA. We have a picture of one such re-enactment above. 

My vote is for a big celebration based around the 'oldest and first passenger railway station' on the weekend closest to each anniversary in September. 

These take place at the site where a golden spike was driven into the ground to mark the spot where America became linked by transcontinental railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

A more important event took place in the North West of England on the 15 September, 1830. This was the date the Railway Age began when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened. Its immediate success led to lines criss-crossing the globe. 

In Manchester the original passenger railway station in the world, the oldest railway station anywhere, exists as part of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).  

Twice every Saturday and during holidays between May and September nothing happens in Manchester to celebrate this huge event that made the world smaller, accelerated social mobility, boosted economies and, as is the case with the USA, knitted nations together.

Plaque marks the spot

Plaque marks the spot

Curiously the Golden Spike Historic Monument Site, to give it its full name, has less than 50,000 visitors a year while MOSI has more than 600,000. The Liverpool Road Station at MOSI is in a city centre too whereas the American place is in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere. 

So why the singular lack of celebration in Manchester? 

Perhaps this is down to cultural differences.

A relatively new country such as the USA tends to indulge itself when it comes to re-enacting significant events in its history, using it as an excuse to play the anthem, wave the flag and get all patriotic.

Older European nations are more cynical, distrustful of US excess, too damaged by flagwaving.

Or maybe it's simpler than that, maybe nobody's thought to celebrate the day the world's infrastructure exponentially lurched forward? Manchester, so used to 'firsts', sometimes misses the obvious events. 

There is a point to all this talk of Utah and Manchester. 

MOSI is calling for ideas on how to best utilise their Grade I listed ex-railway station. They've smartened it up and added an original colour scheme resulting in a lovely, calm and tranquil space. 

Meg McHugh, curator of industrial heritage, at MOSI says: "We want to show how we love the building and we want to develop ideas of how best we can tell its story and underline its importance. After all it is such an important 'first'." 

Meg McHugh stands in the Wellcome Trust exhibition currently occupying Liverpool Road Station

 

Meg McHugh stands in the Wellcome Trust exhibition currently occupying Liverpool Road Station

My vote is for a big celebration based around the 'oldest and first passenger railway station' on the weekend closest to each anniversary in September. 

Rail enthusiasts, family events, costumes, 1830s food stalls (street urchin food perhaps), exhibitions on HS2, lectures on the future of rail travel (hosted in the station building maybe), a torchlit procession and a symbolic lighting of a big boiler. Fire, steam and noise. Dawn of a new age.

MOSI is the perfect place to celebrate the Iron Horse and the Iron Way.

Not only does it have the station but it also has the oldest railway warehouse. This would provide a perfect host for model rail enthusiasts to create a massive diorama - perhaps one of the whole route between Liverpool and Manchester. Release the inner child I say.

The oldest railway warehouse anywhere

The oldest railway warehouse anywhere

There's even a sort of 'public square' between two of the railway arms on the MOSI site while a stroll away is the grossly underused Castlefield Outdoor Arena; both fine for extravaganzas, markets and shows. Liverpool Road is in a permanent state of being closed off so events could be held there too. 

Finally someone should slap the management of the Commercial Hotel across the back of the head and shout, "Hey your pub is directly opposite the oldest railway station in the world and is thus the oldest purpose built railway hotel in the world. Why not smarten the place up, bring in the memorabilia and turn yourself into a place of pilgrimage for rail enthusiasts?"

That's my idea. A version of the Utah re-enactment but not so frequent and one with far more international resonance.

The EditorThe EditorMaybe Richard Branson could pay for it all - he likes trains. 

Anyway, put your ideas below if you have some for how MOSI might utilise Liverpool Road Station. Let's get the splendid building making a real contribution to city life.

And if it takes me dressing up as the Duke of Wellington, the Prime Minister who opened the railway in 1830, so be it.  

Cool and lovely interior

 

Cool and lovely interior

MOSI and BeethamMOSI and Beetham

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station

Liverpool Road StationLiverpool Road Station 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

James SmithApril 22nd 2014.

Who would pay for it? Sorry, it may be phenomenally important but it's in the wrong city. It barely gets enough funding to survive never mind put on something like this. Now, it it happened to be in one another certain city that I can think of.....

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Nick NameApril 22nd 2014.

If you build it they will come.... Makes perfect sense to me. Hope someone in power is reading this and thinks the same.

AnonymousApril 23rd 2014.

I agree with you, Nick and not Negative Nancy above.

James SmithApril 25th 2014.

Not being a Negative Nancy, it would be a magnificent attraction, but things like that don't get funding unless the are in London that's the point I'm trying to make! Hence, MOSI and the Railway Museum in York threatened with closure due to funding cuts but the Science Museum in London getting money thrown at it hand over fist. Us Northerners clearly being too stupid, busy breeding homing whippets for museums.

Poster BoyApril 23rd 2014.

Bang on. The post-retail city. It's another of the big ideas waiting to be adopted by Messrs Leese and Bernstein.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 23rd 2014.

Be careful Poster boy......you'll have David on here in a minute

Mark FullerApril 23rd 2014.

This sounds great, bring it on etc. Time for Manchester to blow it's own trumpet loud and clear.

crisbyApril 23rd 2014.

Love the diorama idea. Maybe there's space for a permanent area for the city's model rail enthusiasts to display their exhibition layouts? It surprises me when I go in the station that there isn't more life, and more railway themed content. Perhaps there's scope for a tie in with the National Railway Museum - they must have stuff in store. Maybe a catering outlet - i.e. a tea room, something a bit less canteen-like than the existing cafe. A bar even. That could help make a financial case especially if it enabled the station front entrance to be opened.

Ed GlinertApril 24th 2014.

Good idea, Jonathan. I've also written to MOSI and MM to express my astonishment that there is nothing to proclaim the existence of the world's oldest station outside the building. It's a secret except to the likes of me, you and some of our walks customers. I reckon hardly anyone at the council even knows the story. MOSI's marketing is hopeless. Imagine such a building existed in America or Japan or even in that there London. You wouldn't be able to move for information. There would be a huge banner outside saying something like: "World's Oldest Railway Station". And as part of that inability or unwillingness to maximise potential the entrance on Liverpool Road opposite Woollam Place is permanently closed! It makes me despair of tourism in this city. If MOSI was run properly there would be huge displays on Liverpool Road and the old station entrance would be open when the museum's open.

Neil DaviesApril 24th 2014.

Good idea Jonathan. BUT, as others have said, there are a few minor problems. MOSI may be 'the Manchester.....' in name, but in fact, is an outstation of national museums in London - as are the National Railway Museum in York and Maritime Museum in Liverpool - fighting for funding crumbs off that table. Crisby mentioned material in store, yes but the store is darn sarf - Oxford way - and call me me cynical but us being north of Watford means it's a long way for crumbs/stored items to travel, particularly with a downsized, demotivated staff. Developing your idea further why isn't there a proper Museum of Manchester along the lines of the Museum of Liverpool given Manchester's history maybe just running from being the starting place of the Industrial Revolution, politics,transport, engineering, physical science, pollution control and public health up to the recent development of Graphene. Do we really need to be shown how to demonstrate Manchester's history by some oiks from the wrong end of the Mersey!

AnonymousApril 24th 2014.

Soon the Ordsall Chord will mean no more MOSI. We are a city that looks forward.

ShuttyApril 24th 2014.

Why let The Commercial get the 'theme pub' business? I'm not wishing them ill, but if there is space to spare, why not have a transport cafe and themed pub- if there's so much room they could even brew their own, all of which could potentially add to the commercial viability of MoSI. Why not also consider a boutique hotel, situated between the city centre and Castlefield? The hotel sector is booming and I'm sure this could have unique appeal because of the historical importance mentioned in the article. I believe that The Commercial had also considered the boutique hotel option and with the St John's Quarter (Granada Studios) being developed, there is further potential. As mentioned in a post above, the Ordsall Curve will mean that this line will no longer goes anywhere, so my idea would be to run one/some of the iconic vintage trains/trams on a new line to and from Albert Square possibly via Spinningfields if this would add to the number of users and private funding, as it is not served by the current tram network, or second city crossing? This could be a great attraction, similar to the vintage tram loop in Melbourne and a superb built in advertisement for MoSI outside of the Town Hall and something that could put the museum on the map as a must visit, for anyone having a leisure break in Manchester. I'm not sure that it is regarded as 'must-see', or even on the radar for many at the moment. In the longer term, it could even run to Heaton Park, giving the city centre a direct 'Green-link' and via the transport museum as a multi-venue attraction?

AnonymousApril 26th 2014.

I'm of the older age so forgive me if anyone has already thought, or even done this already, but many years ago there were events where you could ride on a model of the first passenger train along the tracks at the museum and it was a huge success, bunting up and people dressed in period dress, it attracted families as it was a unique 'ride' and a history lesson in one! I have often wondered why, (much like the old Granada Tours) it wasn't continued, we need to bring visitors in and to see our city, old and new alike.

Hero
Dom77April 26th 2014.

I'm always left a little bit disappointed having visited the MOSI - it never really lives up to my expectations - there are still some great elements but it falls well below where it could be - probably owing to funding but if the current funding model isn't working can this not be changed? I agree with Anonymous above - I'd love to see a vintage station offering trips to Liverpool with a living museum such as Ironbridge or Beamish celebrating Manchester's history.

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