Liverpool has many railway `firsts' in the world: an inter-city service, an electrified overhead railway, a large-scale marshalling yard, a deep-level suburban tunnel and one under a tidal estuary. In Britain it can boast of other firsts: an escalator in a railway station, conversion from steam to electricity and the first main-line electrification, a widely reported death in a railway accident, a proper train shed constructed of iron and glass and automatic signalling and electric signal lights.
Some of these are still working well 185 years later, still fit for purpose, like the railways to Manchester and the Wirral. Liverpool also claims the oldest continuously operated station in the world. But others have totally disappeared along with the dock railway system which serviced the port that used to be the second busiest in the British Empire. However, illuminating traces of former greatness can still be observed and the revitalised Merseyrail system is among the best performers in the country.
Hugh Hollinghurst is the chairman of the Crosby and District Historical Society, and is an expert on the Liverpool Overhead Railway, giving regular talks on the subject. He has written many previous books on local history for Amberley Publishing.