RAILWAY / POLITICAL INTEREST: A Victorian electroplated inkwell,
The building of the Mersey Railway Tunnel was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1871. The work of building the tunnel did not begin until December 1879 when the railway company entered into an agreement with Major Samuel Isaac to dig a trial tunnel. In May 1881 Isaac decided to begin the construction of the tunnel proper after the trial tunnel proved a success. Digging began on both sides of the River Mersey at the same time.
Local traders and residents successfully fought plans to build the tunnel using the cut and cover method (when a tunnel is dug from ground level and then covered over). Progress was also slow to begin with as only explosives and pick axes were used. From February 1883 a compressed air boring machine called the Beaumont Cutter was used. This speeded up progress. By 1884 around 1400 men were working on the tunnel.
On 17 January 1884 the two tunnel headings met 1115 yards from the Birkenhead shaft. This occasion was marked by a ceremony attended by important people connected with the project. The Mayors of Liverpool and Birkenhead, Mr Ratcliffe and Mr Patterson, were both there. Major Isaac, James Brunlees, Charles Fox, Mr Cecil Raikes (the Chairman of the Mersey Railway Company) and Mr Beaumont (the inventor of the Beaumont Cutter) also went. By December 1885 the tunnel was complete.
On October 11th, 1883 the Prime Minister William Gladstone and his wife visited the tunnel, along with Lord and Lady Derby.