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#418598 - 7th Jul 2010 7:47pm Queensway ventilation shafts
chriskay Offline
Forum Veteran

Registered: 25th Oct 2007
Posts: 4868
Loc: shropshire
I've been bothered for some time by the frontispiece picture in the book "1947 Outline Plan for Birkenhead". It's an aerial view, reproduced below. It shows the Birkenhead Queensway entrance just about ready for opening, which was on 18 July 1934. The picture seems to show some tiered seating ready for guests. The significant thing which is missing from the picture is the Woodside ventilation shaft, although the Sidney St. shaft is there. The location of the Woodside shaft is shown by the red letter Y on the picture.

My question has always been, was the tunnel opened before the Woodside shaft was built? As far as I can discover, the ventilation system has not been uprated throughout its working life, which would indicate, since the system is coping with the vastly increased amount of traffic, that the system was over-engineered in the first place & would probably have coped in the early days without the Woodside shaft.

The whole of the construction was recorded in pictures by the firm of Stewart Bayle & Co. for the Mersey Tunnel Joint Committee. Merseytravel, as their successors, still hold the originals. Incidentally, the originals are on a mixture of glass plates and sheet film, much of which is now in cold storage, at sizes up to 12" x 10", which accounts for the excellent detail.
My contacts at Merseytravel and Liverpool Museums have kindly given permission for me to use a few of these pictures here.

Apart from the first picture, all are dated. As you can see, even by 9th. September 1933, just 10 months before the opening, work on the Woodside shaft had only just started. The pictures from the Liverpool side are included for interest: note how quickly work on the North John St. shaft proceeded.

If anyone can discover for sure when the Woodside shaft was completed, I'd love to know. I've tried contacting the contractors, Sir Alfred Mc.Alpine, but they can't help.


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Queensway.JPG

Woodside1.jpg

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#418600 - 7th Jul 2010 7:59pm Re: Queensway ventilation shafts [Re: chriskay]
Neil_c Offline
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Registered: 27th Sep 2009
Posts: 417
Loc: birkenhead
I believe it was. This was due to an accident in an American tunnel just before the Queensway Tunnel was opened. Many people died of carbon monoxide poison from fumes. This caused a bit of a panic in tunnel world at the time and forced Basil Mott to think again about ventilation.

I know the buildings were built around the fans that are driven by huge Metrovik motors (still in use today).

They do mention the ventilation design quite a bit on the tour.

Have you tried contacting Wirral planning to see if they have any planning applications that were once filed with Birkenhead CBC?


Edited by Neil_c (7th Jul 2010 8:09pm)

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#418609 - 7th Jul 2010 9:07pm Re: Queensway ventilation shafts [Re: Neil_c]
uptoncx Offline
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Registered: 24th May 2008
Posts: 683
Loc: Wirral

The accident was in Pittsburgh in late 1930, and the ventilation system was re-designed, using what is known as an Upward Semi-Transverse system. In this system air is blown into the tunnel through ducts at road level and sucked out through exhaust chambers in the roof.

It seems unlikely that the tunnel would be opened before the Woodside station was built as this, along with the one at George's Dock are the main stations and supply air to the under river section of the tunnel.

The ventilation system was upgraded in 1963 to provide an extra 500,000 cubic feet of air per minute in the mid-river section (an increase of 20%).

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#418634 - 7th Jul 2010 10:34pm Re: Queensway ventilation shafts [Re: uptoncx]
chriskay Offline
Forum Veteran

Registered: 25th Oct 2007
Posts: 4868
Loc: shropshire
Thanks, Uptoncx. I didn't know about the uprating in 1963. Interestingly, the book produced for the opening in July 1934 & re-printed in facsimile in July 1994, twice refers to the Woodside shaft using the term "when it is completed", so it wasn't complete whenever the book was printed which presumably would not have been long before the opening.
This book, which is still available as far as I know, is the definitive account of the building of the tunnel.(Unless anyone knows different). All the illustrations are from the Stewart Bayle collection. Last time I bought one it was £5: bargain.
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#418672 - 8th Jul 2010 11:53am Re: Queensway ventilation shafts [Re: chriskay]
w10694 Offline
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Registered: 31st Dec 2008
Posts: 240
Loc: cheshire
I have a book "The Mersey Tunnel", published by "The Mersey Tunnel Joint Commitee", undated, but I reckon just after 1950.

It mentions the unforseen ventilation problems (post the tunnel deaths in America), that forced a rethink. Experiments were also made in a 1000 foot walled off section on the Birkenhead side by Haldane and Hay.

The upshot was the construction of much bigger than anticipated ventilation systems, and an extra bill of £2,046,000, which almost caused the project to collapse. They had to go to parliament for a fourth time to borrow more money (in 1932), and it had the proviso that the toll period be increased from 25 to 40 years,.

The book also has a lot of very nice watercolours by Gordon Hemm.

It does not actually say the book is copyrighted anywhere, so is it ok to copy pictures ?

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#418679 - 8th Jul 2010 12:41pm Re: Queensway ventilation shafts [Re: w10694]
chriskay Offline
Forum Veteran

Registered: 25th Oct 2007
Posts: 4868
Loc: shropshire
I have that book too; bought it a couple of years ago from a book fair at Woodside.
As far as copyright goes, the pictures are copyrighted, whether stated or not. The photographs in the book are from the Stewart Bayle collection, same as the ones I put in the first post. He was commissioned by the Tunnel Joint Committee to document the project. Since I've been given the OK to use some pics., I can't imagine anyone will object if you do.
As far as the Gordon Hemm watercolours are concerned, they will still be in copyright. He died in 1956 & copyright exists for 70 years after death. Here's a bit I dug up about him.

Gordon Hemm (?1891--1956)
Born at Stockport, Hemm trained under C.H. Reilly at the School of Architecture, University of Liverpool. At the time of his collaboration with C.J. Allen on the University of Liverpool War Memorial (1927), he was a partner in the architectural firm of Foden, Hemm, and Williams, of Liverpool and Manchester. He was elected ARIBA in 1931. He was also the author of several books on Merseyside architecture and a painter of Liverpool architectural subjects, contributing to the RA summer exhibition in 1940 and 1947 (views of the Anglican Cathedral), and in 1953 (a view of the industrial dockside).
(sources: Builder, 27 May 1927; RIBA Journal [obit.], April 1957). [L1997]
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#418687 - 8th Jul 2010 2:36pm Re: Queensway ventilation shafts [Re: chriskay]
w10694 Offline
Addict

Registered: 31st Dec 2008
Posts: 240
Loc: cheshire
I always wondered who he was, I'll be ancient by the time the copyright runs out. It was a very well documented project by any standards.

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