Liverpool and Manchester railway locomotive 'Lion', 1838

Lion's story

Curator of land transport Sharon Brown talks about the history of Lion locomotive.

Read a transcript of this interview with Sharon Brown.|

Lion takes centre stage

Rail enthusiasts John Hawley and Jan Ford talk about their involvement with Lion locomotive.

Read a transcript of this interview with John Hawley and Jan Ford.|

Lion's working life

In 1837 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway ordered two locomotives to haul luggage trains, which were later called 'Lion' and 'Tiger'. They were the first locomotives built by Todd, Kitson and Laird, who used a conventional 0-4-2 wheel arrangement with inside cylinders.

In 1859 Lion was sold to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and installed as a stationary pumping engine at Princes Dock. She was rescued by members of the Liverpool Engineering Society, to which body she was presented by the Dock Board in 1928. After restoration at the Crewe railway works she took part in the centenary celebrations of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1930, pulling a replica train. During the period prior to the Second World War Lion stood on a plinth at Lime Street Station but was removed in 1941 and not replaced.

Becoming a film celebrity

Lion appeared in three films, 'Victoria the Great' (1937), 'The Lady with the Lamp' (1951) and 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' (1952), the latter making her something of a celebrity in view of its popular appeal.

Lion was stored at the Crewe works and was not seen by the public, apart from her film appearances and railway publicity events. In 1967 she was loaned to Liverpool Museum (as World Museum was then known) by the Liverpool Engineering Society. This was changed to an outright gift in 1970.

'Retirement' from public appearances

In 1980 Lion took part in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at Rainhill under her own steam. Afterwards she made a number of working appearances at railway heritage centres and museums until 1989 when she was withdrawn from steaming for conservation reasons.

Following a condition survey in 1992 which showed that Lion’s original structure would need substantial modification if she were to be steamed again, the Trustees of National Museums Liverpool decided, on the basis of Lion’s internationally important status, to conserve her for museum display only.

Land transport top ten

Lion is one of the top ten vehicles in the museum's land transport collection. See the Land transport top ten| feature on this website for details of more.

Accession number 1967.41

old photograph of Lion locomotive in a busy railway station, with crowds in front, trains on the tracks behind and arched roof overhead