The historic viaduct and crane bridge at Manchester Museum are to be restored

Essential repair work has begun on an 1830 viaduct and crane gantry that were once at the heart of industrial Manchester and now form part of the city’s Museum of Science and Industry.

This is one of the UK’s most important ongoing heritage restoration projects.

The viaduct and portal are connected to the Energy Hall and show how a historic station was transformed into a busy warehouse.

Gantry crane covered with scaffolding.  // Credit: Drew Forsyth
Gantry crane covered with scaffolding. // Credit: Drew Forsythe

During the multi-million pound restoration programme, visitors can see the engineering in action when scaffolding is erected around the portal to allow repair and conservation work to be carried out.

At the same time, the viaduct will be waterproofed using innovative solutions so that it is future-proof for years to come.

Funding for the work came from £14.2m of capital funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for urgent repairs to the New Warehouse as well as the viaduct and portal.

The Museum of Science and Industry is located on the oldest passenger railway in the world. Liverpool Road station opened in 1830 and was the Manchester terminus of the world’s first intercity railway linking Manchester and Liverpool. The famous engineer George Stephenson designed both the railway and the viaduct, which he built to overcome the sloping land around Liverpool Road.

Formerly Liverpool Road Station.  // Credit: Drew Forsyth
Formerly Liverpool Road Station. // Credit: Manchester Museum of Science and Industry


Mostly hidden by the station buildings, the viaduct runs from the middle of the Electric Hall towards Water Street.

Water seepage was a growing problem, necessitating these urgent repairs and to protect it from an expected increase in rainfall in the coming years. To repair the viaduct you will need:

  • Temporary removal of track and ballast so museum staff can monitor the extent of water damage and repair work required.
  • Drain the water currently trapped on the Viaduct.
  • Apply a new waterproofing solution to protect the Viaduct in the future.
  • Recast the track to reflect the site’s original history as a working railway station.
Overhead crane outside the goods shed, Liverpool Road Station, 1982. // Credit: Drew Forsyth
Overhead crane outside Goods Hall, Liverpool Road Station, 1982. // Credit: Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

The gantry

The gantry was built in the 1880s to support cranes that carried heavy goods between wagons.

It is 72 meters long and nearly 8 meters high and was built after the station was closed to passenger services and converted into a freight station.

It is not legally listed, but as it is inside the Grade II listed hall of power, it contributes to the historic setting of the museum.

To ensure that the portal remains structurally sound, it is necessary to:

  • Old paint and rust must be removed and areas affected by water damage must be repaired.
  • Perform fundamental structural repairs to metalwork, including filling in areas after removing rust and corrosion.
  • Waterproofing to protect the portal from further water damage.
  • Installation of new canopies over the southern end of the Gantry beam to divert rainwater.
  • Adding drainage points in the crane beams to allow trapped water to escape.
  • Repainting the portal as protection against future corrosion and deterioration.

In further restoration work to the museum, Welsh slate will be used to restore the roof of the 140-year-old Grade II listed New Warehouse.

We are so excited that another stage of the multi-million pound site restoration project is underway. The Portal is an iconic structure on the Castlefield skyline and we look forward to repairing and restoring it for future generations. The 1830 Viaduct also plays such an important role in telling the story of our historic site by connecting Manchester to the wider world.

This work may cause some disruption which we will try to keep to a minimum, but we hope that visitors continue to enjoy visiting the museum, where they can see engineering and innovation in action as we continue to look after our historic site.

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Museum of Science and Industry

To be part of this significant restoration project at the Museum of Science and Industry is a privilege for us. Contributing to the preservation of Manchester’s significant industrial heritage through the repair work to the iconic 1830 Gateway and Viaduct is truly rewarding. This effort, along with ongoing restoration work, underscores our dedication to protecting historic landmarks for future generations. We look forward to seeing these structures restored to their former glory as testaments to Manchester’s pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution.

Alex Scrimshaw of Buttress, an AJ100 design studio based in Manchester and Leeds, operating in the heritage, residential, educational, ecclesiastical, commercial and arts and culture sectors


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