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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am doing a PhD on Manchester's railway viaducts (geography at Manchester Uni), and I've come across a number of threads where they are mentioned. However, there's no central thread for discussions relating to them (as some have suggested in the past), so I'm giving it a shot.

They play a huge role in the built fabric of the city, perhaps more than in any other British city. Many have said that they are the features that are most emblematic of the city. So let's talk about them!!

To start off, here are some things I would love to know: does anyone happen to know approximately how many arches there in in Manchester as a whole? Anyone have any maps showing where the railways in Manchester are on viaducts or embankments? Anyone love, hate or have interest in these structures? Why?

Also, how do they tie in with regeneration plans for the city centre? Are their role as barriers emphasised or alleviated? I'm thinking First Street here especially.
 

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Hi yankunian, I think that's a fascinating idea! I love them personally, allegorically in certain places the arches open up like Manchester's city gates, some of them having merlon-battlement ornamentation to boot (Oxford Street arch might be seen in this respect as the principal southern gate :) )

But then, unlike city-walls, I wouldn't say the viaducts cause too much of a problem to regeneration/development outside as they can be opened up. Certainly in places where they're combined with roads and rivers (I'm thinking Middlewood Locks) they don't help, but for me roads are the main physical barriers to regeneration in the city centre.
 

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The run from Longisght into Piccadilly is 200 spans, Piccadilly to Castlefield Jn. via Oxford Road (MSJ&A viaduct) is 130 spans, Ordsall Lane to Victoria (Deal Street Viaduct) is another 130 spans, Victoria to Collyhurst is 52 spans.

I can't currently find figures for Cornbrook Viaduct on the CLC, Ancoats Viaduct or Smedley Viaduct under the Metrolink.

Mayfield Station is also on arches (as is the whole of Piccadilly station)!

Trackmaps.co.uk will sell you just what you need (they used to be published by The Quail Map Company).

Amazon link
 

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I enjoy sitting in Knott bar and hearing the rumble of trains overhead.
I don't know what it is about these Viaducts and arches but I love them, Whitworth st west is one of my favourite streets. It seems so Big city when you roll out of a snooker hall and you can see trains gliding past in the early hours. It brings a certain life to the city. It will be interesting to see how this street changes over the years with First street being developed.

Of course these railway viaducts were not so welcome in the early days when they were built. They often ploughed straight through the poor districts and the conditions of the homes that were left in and around the arches become pretty grim. Don't forget that this was an age of steam and so all kinds of foul stinking air would emminate from them, sewage would be thrown onto the tracks, coal smoke was pretty pungent, they were noisy old trains as well. In short they were not welcome neighbours.

After a while people moved away from the viaducts where they could, and small industry filled the gaps, due to the lack of people living around them in the later years they became perfect locations for pubs and nighclubs, particuarly of the small independent kind, and so I suppose that these areas became associated with youth culture.

It seems now that trains are quieter and more human friendly that these areas are becoming habitable areas once again, especially considering the proximiaty to stations. So you see more and more flats appearing around them now, and not cheap ones either.

On a side note its interesting to look at the comparison between the Picadilly-Deansgate viaduct and the Mancunian way. Which one of those seems to be the biggest barrier to south manchester? Has to be the Mancunian way, and again the reasons are noise and air pollution, just like the railways used to be. So here's my tip, by land around the Mancunian way because in a few years time with the advent of electric cars these areas will be hot spots :eek:kay:
 

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On a side note its interesting to look at the comparison between the Picadilly-Deansgate viaduct and the Mancunian way. Which one of those seems to be the biggest barrier to south manchester? Has to be the Mancunian way, and again the reasons are noise and air pollution, just like the railways used to be.
Not sure I agree with that analysis. For a start the railway viaduct runs through the city centre, surrounded by office and uni buildings, whereas the Manc way actually borders the residential suburbs, and is a much worse physical barrier due to being on ground level/having access roads at ground level. By comparison the viaduct is much less of a barrier, but not for the reasons you suggest. Interesting analysis of the changing perception - I think it will take much more than electric cars to make the spaces around the Manc Way desirable.

yankunian - a factoid that might interest you. In the Blitz the Altrincham line viaduct near St George's island suffered a direct hit. During repair works the damaged arch collapsed onto the next, and a stretch of the viaduct collapsed entirely, domino style, burying several workmen. Grim.
 

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Not sure I agree with that analysis. For a start the railway viaduct runs through the city centre, surrounded by office and uni buildings, whereas the Manc way actually borders the residential suburbs, and is a much worse physical barrier due to being on ground level/having access roads at ground level. By comparison the viaduct is much less of a barrier, but not for the reasons you suggest. Interesting analysis of the changing perception - I think it will take much more than electric cars to make the spaces around the Manc Way desirable.
Well the Manc way (elevated section) is also surrounded by Uni buildings although I have to agree that the real barrier effect is the ground section.

Having said that I believe the elevated sections of the Manc way are a barrier unlike the railway viaduct for the following reason. The area's under the Manc way are empty spaces, save for skateboard parks. The reason is probably due to safety reasons or something. The railway viaduct on the other hand can utilise the arch spaces for access roads, shops, pubs etc, so in effect the viaduct does become a part of the city. The Mancunian way (raised section) is just a no mans land of empty space that people have to cross to be able to get to the city or vice versa.
 

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I wonder how appropriately the Bridgewater/Collier street arches in Castlefield could be converted into homes? There's no trains running overhead, though the tram is close enough.



It could be a fairly neat I think. The arches on the left of this image have canal/park views out the back too:



Does anyone know of any arches that have been converted into homes?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi yankunian, I think that's a fascinating idea! I love them personally, allegorically in certain places the arches open up like Manchester's city gates, some of them having merlon-battlement ornamentation to boot (Oxford Street arch might be seen in this respect as the principal southern gate :) )

But then, unlike city-walls, I wouldn't say the viaducts cause too much of a problem to regeneration/development outside as they can be opened up. Certainly in places where they're combined with roads and rivers (I'm thinking Middlewood Locks) they don't help, but for me roads are the main physical barriers to regeneration in the city centre.
Interesting point of the Oxford Street arch as the southern gate- that sounds right to me.

When you say 'opened up,' do you mean removing walls and making them permeable, or pushing out businesses that operate in them, or both?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The run from Longisght into Piccadilly is 200 spans, Piccadilly to Castlefield Jn. via Oxford Road (MSJ&A viaduct) is 130 spans, Ordsall Lane to Victoria (Deal Street Viaduct) is another 130 spans, Victoria to Collyhurst is 52 spans.

I can't currently find figures for Cornbrook Viaduct on the CLC, Ancoats Viaduct or Smedley Viaduct under the Metrolink.

Mayfield Station is also on arches (as is the whole of Piccadilly station)!

Trackmaps.co.uk will sell you just what you need (they used to be published by The Quail Map Company).

Amazon link
Wow, cheers for that! Out of curiosity, where are you getting these figures from?

Also, thanks on the reference books- hopefully I can find them through a library, because they seem to be out of print.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I enjoy sitting in Knott bar and hearing the rumble of trains overhead.
I don't know what it is about these Viaducts and arches but I love them, Whitworth st west is one of my favourite streets. It seems so Big city when you roll out of a snooker hall and you can see trains gliding past in the early hours. It brings a certain life to the city. It will be interesting to see how this street changes over the years with First street being developed.

Of course these railway viaducts were not so welcome in the early days when they were built. They often ploughed straight through the poor districts and the conditions of the homes that were left in and around the arches become pretty grim. Don't forget that this was an age of steam and so all kinds of foul stinking air would emminate from them, sewage would be thrown onto the tracks, coal smoke was pretty pungent, they were noisy old trains as well. In short they were not welcome neighbours.

After a while people moved away from the viaducts where they could, and small industry filled the gaps, due to the lack of people living around them in the later years they became perfect locations for pubs and nighclubs, particuarly of the small independent kind, and so I suppose that these areas became associated with youth culture.

It seems now that trains are quieter and more human friendly that these areas are becoming habitable areas once again, especially considering the proximiaty to stations. So you see more and more flats appearing around them now, and not cheap ones either.

On a side note its interesting to look at the comparison between the Picadilly-Deansgate viaduct and the Mancunian way. Which one of those seems to be the biggest barrier to south manchester? Has to be the Mancunian way, and again the reasons are noise and air pollution, just like the railways used to be. So here's my tip, by land around the Mancunian way because in a few years time with the advent of electric cars these areas will be hot spots :eek:kay:
Seems unclear what the First Street development will bring, but IMO it seems like the closing of the green room and the eventual closing of the Cornerhouse will really be removing an anchor. There have been various attempts since the 1980s, so it seems, to try to nice up Whitworth Street West- perhaps the site in the city centre where the most attempts have been made to deal with the viaducts.

Judging from what you hear from the council, the Manc Way is the biggest barrier, but at the same time, nearly every strategic redevelopment framework for the city centre has a viaduct as one of its site boundaries, so it seems to me that this might be emphasising their barrier effects rather than making any real attempts to deal with them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Not sure I agree with that analysis. For a start the railway viaduct runs through the city centre, surrounded by office and uni buildings, whereas the Manc way actually borders the residential suburbs, and is a much worse physical barrier due to being on ground level/having access roads at ground level. By comparison the viaduct is much less of a barrier, but not for the reasons you suggest. Interesting analysis of the changing perception - I think it will take much more than electric cars to make the spaces around the Manc Way desirable.

yankunian - a factoid that might interest you. In the Blitz the Altrincham line viaduct near St George's island suffered a direct hit. During repair works the damaged arch collapsed onto the next, and a stretch of the viaduct collapsed entirely, domino style, burying several workmen. Grim.
I do think it's interesting, though, to consider what we actually consider the city centre. There are official boundaries, drawn up by council wards, but these are always changing, and the centre is expanding. I suppose the argument can be made more for the Manc Way barrier effect, since it actually constitutes the boundary of the city centre on official maps (thus re-emphasising the relationship in the process).

Thanks for the info on the Blitz, perhaps I can dig something up on that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I wonder how appropriately the Bridgewater/Collier street arches in Castlefield could be converted into homes? There's no trains running overhead, though the tram is close enough.



It could be a fairly neat I think. The arches on the left of this image have canal/park views out the back too:



Does anyone know of any arches that have been converted into homes?
That was the idea in some of the original plans for railway viaducts, at least in London- to have the arches filled with individual worker's housing (which would help the company recoup costs for land purchase). I haven't really seen any examples of the arches being used for housing, except of course for people who are sleeping rough or living in caravans.

There was talk a while back about building houses on top of the redundant steel viaduct in Castlefield, though.
 

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Yankunian, here's some details of the demolished viaduct I mentioned in person today:
http://manchesterhistory.net/manchester/gone/ancoatsstation.html
I can't find the other resources I read about the line, but it actually ran down to a junction near Ashburys station - as shown on my very geeky Google map lost Manchester rail lines: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ms...19625&spn=0.014226,0.054932&source=gplus-ogsb


Here is also the remnant viaduct near the Velodrome in Beswick/Clayton - http://binged.it/H7qYih - the full route of the line is also shown on the above Google map.
 

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The Manchester Railway Arches Thread

Time for us to start appreciating our neglected railway arches I think. We have so many of them, and they scream 'Manchester' - especially the ones around Castlefield.

But as well as being beautiful and distinctly Mancunian, they also divide our city - particularly in the south, south west, west and north of the city centre, where the arches act as a dark, unwelcoming and sometimes unsafe environment severing the inner city areas from the rest of the city.

This thread should act as both a photo dump appreciation thread, a 'moan about the fact that many of our viaducts have vegetation growing out of them' thread, and a campaign thread: to raise awareness of the beauty of our railway architecture; as well as to look at exciting ways in which we can utilise our abundance of railway arches by looking around the world at what other cities have done.

I do think Manchester has done quite a good job with Deansgate Locks already.


Photo credit: notunmarked on flickr.


But there are so many other railway arches and viaducts in our city and the possibilities they present are endless. In a creative, hipster city like Manchester it beggars belief that many of them still lay abandoned. I guess it's because the arches tend to be on the periphery of the city, which is only just beginning to develop now. If we'd had railway arches through the Northern Quarter they'd have probably been developed years ago into indie shop units/markets etc.

Anyway. Lets look at some pictures of distinctly Mancunian railway arches, and I'll present my ideas about what to do with them.
I do think that if we utilised our railway arches in some creative, slightly wacky ways it could become quite an iconic symbol for Manchester's urban renaissance.


Your comments/ideas are of course welcome.


New Bailey

This is a little dream project of my own. I'd love to clean up the vegetation underneath these railway arches (on top of which sits Salford Central station), string up some lightbulbs/fairylights on the ceiling and then open the space up to cheap-rent market stalls. If the idea is successful it would be great to extend it all the way down to Middlewood Locks, and open it up further back so that it bleeds into the Chapel St area.

Probably requires the New Bailey/Chapel St/Middlewood Locks masterplans to hit completion first though, to produce the footfall.







Gravel Lane

Staying in Salford, moving a bit further down the same viaduct towards Victoria station we hit Gravel Lane. Aside from past Embankment, this is one of the main routes into town for the thousands of residents who will live in the Greengate area in future. Yet look at it - damp, dark, totally unwelcoming.




But look at those railway pillars - they ooze potential.

All of the railway arches in Manchester should have some form of lighting underneath them - whether this is just simple lights to illuminate the space and make it feel safe at night (and during the day on some of the longer railway arches which are very dark in the very middle even during the day) or artistic lights like some of the arches below will depend on how much footfall the thoroughfare receives.

Some precedents for viaduct lighting:







.... you get the point.

Going back to the Gravel Lane example, I wonder if that small space between the pillars and the brick wall of the railway arch could be used as a retail unit? Or cycle storage/cycle hub?

With the increased population of the area you could also have a pub built into the arch with the area used for outdoor seating, like this example from near home:







New Wakefield Street

Speaking of the Thirsty Scholar, I've always thought that the viaducts fronting New Wakefield St should be opened up in a similar manner to how the viaduct at the Thirsty Scholar has been. Inside these arches there could be market units similar to the ones I've proposed at New Bailey above, but I'd like the market at New Wakefield St to be a bit more food-orientated with outdoor seating spilling out onto a pedestrianised New Wakefield St in the summer.

There will be lots more footfall in this area in future with the many apartments being built in the area. It would be good if these people can get their food/groceries from a market rather than a commercialised supermarket.







Cornbrook

With the Cornbrook Hub plans being announced imminently, I really hope they're planning on making good use of these railway arches. The Metrolink station currently serves as more of an interchange than a destination, but with the apartments, hotels and offices planned for the area - as well as the redevelopment of Pomona Island beckoning - this will change in future. Cornbrook could become a high-footfall station, and I'd love supermarkets, hairdressers and other neighbourhood amenities to utilise these arches and create a 'high street' around the station. The land on the left of this picture should be built on with high-density apartment/offices/hotel blocks with retail units beneath, and I quite like the idea of the road there staying quite narrow to create quite a built-up, bustling pedestrianised scene outside the station:







Castlefield

This one requires some amazing (and probably prohibitively expensive) sound/vibration proofing, however I wonder if you could create unique houses/apartments underneath these railway arches? For apartments you could probably get a ground floor apartment with a first floor apartment above - the rest of the space would be taken up by the sound proofing. I think these would work better as houses, with front doors on the canalside and a first floor mezannine/balcony overlooking the canal. There are four arches which are 'ready to go' (one of them has another canal going through it) and then as the viaduct heads towards the Mancunian Way there are another load of viaducts but they're covered up or shrouded by vegetation - would take a bit more work to make habitable.





But probably the most pertinent thing that needs to be sorted out about our railway viaducts and arches is the vegetation overgrowth. It's pretty disgraceful really, especially around Castlefield and Victoria. Lets tidy these up, give the bricks a jetwash and install lighting on the undersides to make them feel more welcoming!

Post your ideas/photos/complaints below

:cheers:
 

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I am always amazed at how Manchester City Council let vegetation/bushes grow wild out of railway arches brickwork..

It can be there for many months, and more often than not, years..

(Excluding the purpose positioned Xmas trees at Deansgate Locks in one of the pics)

It looks unsightly, and most probably erodes the brickwork.
 

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I am always amazed at how Manchester City Council let vegetation/bushes grow wild out of railway arches brickwork..

It can be there for many months, and more often than not, years..
I have to correct you there. Unless you have a specific arch in mind that's owned by the council, all the railway arches are owned by Network Rail. They are responsible for maintaining them and keeping them clean and tidy.
 

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Castlefield

This one requires some amazing (and probably prohibitively expensive) sound/vibration proofing, however I wonder if you could create unique houses/apartments underneath these railway arches? For apartments you could probably get a ground floor apartment with a first floor apartment above - the rest of the space would be taken up by the sound proofing. I think these would work better as houses, with front doors on the canalside and a first floor mezannine/balcony overlooking the canal. There are four arches which are 'ready to go' (one of them has another canal going through it) and then as the viaduct heads towards the Mancunian Way there are another load of viaducts but they're covered up or shrouded by vegetation - would take a bit more work to make habitable.





But probably the most pertinent thing that needs to be sorted out about our railway viaducts and arches is the vegetation overgrowth. It's pretty disgraceful really, especially around Castlefield and Victoria. Lets tidy these up, give the bricks a jetwash and install lighting on the undersides to make them feel more welcoming!

Post your ideas/photos/complaints below

:cheers:[/QUOTE]

I agreed with everything you said for the most part, and think this is a great idea for a thread. I would expect much debate and discussion.

The reason why I am quoting you about Castelfield, is because I am not for filling in the archways of viaducts, or not in this location at least. The arches are what create a distinct and repetitive style running through Manchester. If all the arches were to be filled in, we would basically be looking at a wall, which isn't great. In fact the arches allows permeability for people and vistas, so to use Castlefield as an example, I think the best thing for them is to give them a good clean! Embrace those arches, because they are amazing!

They have been cleaning up the arches around Pamona. All the graffiti is being removed and the once bricked up arches are now open again, which is great to see.
 

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Once dark, utilitarian spaces that one would avoid, when used to their full potential, railway arches could be destination spaces like Melbourne's laneways.
 
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