The world’s first railway warehouse was built in 1830 for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It stored goods moved by rail in and out of booming industrial Manchester.
The building’s designer ingeniously adapted canal warehouse features. He created a new type of storage facility for the pioneering railway. Made with Baltic timbers and local bricks, builders had less than six months to complete the warehouse in time for the railway’s opening.
From cotton to corn, oil to oranges, goods from across the world flowed in and out of the bustling warehouse. Railway wagons arrived at the warehouse’s huge loading doors. Workers then rolled the wagons into the building using turntables. Once inside, mechanical hoists unloaded their cargoes or filled waiting wagons with goods ready for shipment.
At the other side of the warehouse, carters pulled up with their horses. There they collected goods or delivered products made in Manchester’s factories for dispatch by rail.
The warehouse was a hive of activity and clerks kept a careful record of everything coming in and out.
Faster and cheaper than canal or road transport, moving goods on the new railway was instantly popular. Demand for warehouse space at Liverpool Road Station grew quickly. In 1831, the railway company hastily added extra floors to the warehouse and installed a steam engine to power its lifting gear.
1830 Warehouse: surviving the fire
This railway warehouse only narrowly escaped destruction when a huge fire ripped through Liverpool Road Station in 1866.
Originally, the 1830 Warehouse sat alongside two other stores. Bridges connected the three buildings, allowing wagonloads of goods to be shunted between them.
In the early hours of 23 May 1866, a fire began in one of the stores. Full of highly flammable goods like oil and turpentine, the blaze quickly took hold of the building. It spread rapidly to the second store, then threatened to cross the bridge into the vulnerable, timber-framed 1830 Warehouse.
Firefighters connected hand pumps to a water tank on the warehouse’s top floor, working tirelessly to hold back the fire. The heat became so overwhelming that it destroyed their coats.
The fire reduced both stores to rubble, but the firefighters’ brave actions saved the precious 1830 Warehouse.