I first got to know Manchester Victoria as a teenager in the early 1970s. In those days I was growing up in Southport, some 40 odd miles away – or an hour by train, so it was easy for me to make my way over when pocket money (or summer jobs) allowed. Then the place still had a steam age feel to it as it was almost unchanged since the days ‘Black 5s’ or Stanier tanks or 8Fs would have darkened its decrepit roof with soot and steam. Instead, dirty diesels added their patina and fumes to the place. That said, it was an atmospheric place for a young rail enthusiast.
Sadly, I couldn’t afford a camera then. It was only in the late 1980s when I’d moved to London and was working as a Housing Officer in Tower Hamlets that I bought a second-hand Pentax ME super off a friend (thanks, Paul Martin! Neither of us knew at the time what that would lead to!)…
My photographic memories start in 1990, just as the station started to change with the arrival of the new Manchester metrolink tram system. Here’s a look across the old platforms 4 to 10 taken in May 1990.
Here’s a 21st June 1991 view of the old South side platforms used by the electric services to Bury which were operated by 2 car Class 504s. Note the staff facilities, which were reduced to a garden shed! These units, which had operated the Bury line since 1959 (the year I was born) were in the final few months of service as the line was closed in August 1991 for conversion to the tramway.
Here’s a view taken on the same day looking across to these platforms, showing work on building the new curved tram platform. The garden shed marking the cut back Bury platforms can be seen on the left…
Now let’s fast forward 24 years to 2015 and look at the area again. It’s unrecognisable!
Despite the impending arrival of metrolink platforms 11-16 were largely unchanged as can be seen from this shot from May 1990, looking across to platforms 12 and beyond. Two Class 47s sit in the loop that was used to stable banking engines (engines which would give heavy freight trains a push up the Miles Platting bank).
This is how I remember Victoria! A woman watches a Class 31 trundle through platform 11 from the ‘comfort’ of an unprotected wooden bench, surrounded by puddles of water from the leaking roof! People often get nostalgic about the ‘good old days’ and British Railways, but this was the run-down reality.
37371 stands in the loop whilst 47343 passes through platform 12. The sir of decay in this 1991 shot is evident with weeds growing on both track and platform, plus graffiti no-one’s bothered to remove.
Here’s platform 12 bereft of trains (and passengers) with the wooden waiting room and the buffet next door. I spent many a cold and windy day stood on the end of here, looking up the bank to see what might be approaching…
The waiting room on platform 12 as it was in 1991. A Class 37’s reflected in a fading and peeling mirror. The room was tatty but it was somewhere to get warm in winter!
Over the far side of the station opposite platform 16 was an un-numbered bay which was used for parcels traffic or (on this occasion) stabling empty stock. On the 18th June 1991 it was occupied by 37430 and a rake of coaches.
On 19th June 1991 31420 and 31232 rest in the stabling siding by Victoria West signalbox.
On the 25th May 1990, 32427 heads one of the Southport ‘club trains’ at platform 13.
Sadly, BR decided to downsize the station after the Windsor link had opened and many services (including long-distance trans-pennine) had been transferred away. Between 1992 and 1994 platforms 12-16 were demolished and part of the area was sold to build the Manchester arena. It was an incredibly short-sighted move, but typical of the BR era. It severely reduced the capacity of the station (capacity we really could have done with now). It didn’t do much for the station’s aesthetic qualities or passenger comfort either! Here’s a series of shots of the demolition taken on the 19th August 1993. The first shows the view along platform 14, looking towards Salford and across to the other island platform (the now disused 13 and 12). The roof and buildings have already been torn down, only some of the roof pillars remain. Meanwhile, the new footbridge which will span the four remaining through tracks is under construction. In the background is the temporary footbridge that allowed access to platform 14
Here’s the view from the Salford end of platform 14. To the right you can see the new roof on platform 11 starting to take shape. This is now platform 3.
150203 is framed by the exit of the temporary footbridge as it waits to leave platform 15 with the 17:00 to Rochdale.
A staff member framed is surrounded by the truncated remains of the old roof supports on platforms 14-15. As you can see, there was little in the way of shelter (or facilities) for long-suffering passengers – or staff.
Here 47576 leads a mail train through platform 14. These trains were once synonymous with the station as the vast Red Bank parcels stock sidings used to be a few hundred yards away on the Manchester loop.
1994 to 2013
This (yet to be written) will cover the years between the rationalisation of the station and it’s rebirth.
2013 to the present day
Work on a £44 million pound rebuilding of the station began in April 2013. The work included demolishing and replacing the Edwardian roof, rebuilding the tram stop with extra platforms, refurbishing the station buildings and providing a new access deck for the Arena. At the same time, work was carried out on the trackwork to allow for electrification and ease congestion. Network Rail commissioned me to document some of the work so some of the photos you’ll see in this section aren’t taken from places the public normally get to see…
Here’s one of the original T68 trams leaving the side of Victoria to head up to Shudehill. The area’s swathed in scaffolding to allow the old roof to be dismantled.
Here’s a shot taken from atop the 1909 station building, looking down on construction of the bases for the roof piers and the new Metrolink platforms. The crash deck that was built to allow the old roof to be demolished is gradually being dismantled. The project site offices are visible in the former car-park behind the Ainscough crane which had been erected to lift the ribs of the new roof into place.
On 28th December 2013 engineers were busy lowering the track under the A665 road bridge at the Eastern end of the station to create sufficient clearance for electrification.