Liverpool Central Station opened as part of the Cheshire Lines Railway’s extension of their Liverpool and Manchester line into Liverpool’s city centre, it has previously terminated at the inconveniently located Brunswick station. The line, which ran from Brunswick, was entirely in tunnels or cuttings until it reached Central Station.
Being a relative latecomer to Liverpool the CLC had to make do with a very cramped site. Nevertheless they built an imposing station that had a grand three-story station façade behind which was a single arched train shed that reached a height of 65 feet. The station had three island platforms giving six platform faces.
By 1880 the CLC was offering the fastest journey times between Liverpool and Manchester at 45 minutes for a 34-mile journey. By 1883 this was reduced to 40 minutes. Within a few years of its opening Central Station offered services to Manchester, Stockport, Southport and shorter all stations workings along these routes. It also offered through the constituent parts of the CLC journeys further a field. The GNR ran services to Hull, Harwich and London Marylebone whilst the Midland ran services to London St. Pancreas.
On the 11.1.1892 the Mersey Railway opened Low Level platforms at Central Station which catered for its services that ran deep beneath the River Mersey to Rock Ferry and Birkenhead. This made Liverpool Central Station an even busier place, as interchange opportunities were very good.
In 1923 at the time of the grouping the CLC was left as an independent company but its shares became split between the LNER (two thirds) and the LMS (one third). The CLC had never owned any locomotives they had always been provided by the parent companies. After 1923 LNER types where the most dominant.
Services still ran to both London Marylebone (LNER) and London St. Pancreas (LMS) but the LMS tended to concentrate its London services on its route from nearby Liverpool Lime Street.
The station remained busy throughout the period from 1923 and well into the nationalisation period. In 1960 daily departures are listed to Aintree Central, Gateacre, Harwich Parkeston Quay, Hull, Hunts Cross, Leicester Central, London Marylebone, Manchester Central, Nottingham Victoria, Stockport Tiviot Dale, Tanhouse Lane, and Warrington Central. However despite this level of traffic Liverpool Central was listed for closure under the Beeching report as most of its services could be rerouted into Liverpool Lime Street Station via the Allerton Curve. This happened in September 1966 but it was not to be the end of the station. It was kept open to serve the hourly Gateacre Service.
In its later years the high level platforms at Central made for a sad spectacle. Only two running lines were left in situ straddling one of the island platforms. Other than the concourse that provided access to the low level platforms and remained busy the rest of the station took on a derelict air.
By the early 1970’s the station site was needed as a construction base for the planned Merseyrail Loop and Link underground system. On the 17.4.1972 the Gateacre service ended and the high level platforms at Central closed for good. On 28.7.1975 the Low Level Platforms also closed but for them it was only a temporary measure as they re-opened on 9.5.1977 as part of the new Link Line, which formed the cross-city section of the Merseyrail Northern Line. New Deep Level platforms also opened to cater for the former Mersey Railway Service by then the Merseyrail Wirral Line.
In January 1978 the original route east out of Liverpool Central High Level also re-opened but it was excavated out a few hundred metres from the end of the original platforms to allow trains to drop down to the low level platforms.
Today the High Level station has been swallowed up as part of a new shopping development. The name Central station still lives on through the Merseyrail Station that occupies the same site although trains are now relegated to below the streets. On a brighter note though the modern Central Station is probably as busy as it ever was.