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By an Act of 1884 the Wirral Railway was authorized to build a railway from Bidston to Hawarden Bridge on the River Dee. There it linked with the Great Central Railway's swing bridge over the River Dee opened by W. E. Gladstone on 3 August 1889 with the following speech:

"Sir Edward Watkin, ladies and gentlemen, I believe there is no fixed programme of proceedings for the present day beyond that which has just been accomplished. Still, I feel it to be a matter of absolute necessity that a few words should be said upon an occasion so remarkable and, of course, my very first duty, as you will all agree, is to connect this remarkable occasion with the name of Sir Edward Watkin (Cheers). Sir Edward Watkin makes it a boast that he draws his extraction from Wales, and if he draws his extraction from Wales, no man, I will venture to say, has ever rendered a more substantial and more effective Service to his country than he has done by promoting and procuring the erection of this bridge. (Hear, Hear) The skill of the engineer, the energy of the contractor, the limited time in which the work has been executed; the remarkable, and I will say splendid, application of mechanical science on which the whole thing turns - all of these are remarkable; all of them worthy of commemoration; but what appears to me to be a singular irony, and to us a very agreeable irony of fortune, ladies and gentlemen, is this: We belong on the western side of the country. From the railways on the western side of the country we have derived, for the purpose of establishing a communication of Wales with Lancashire and the Mersey, we have derived unhappily, no assistance. (Hear, hear) Not only have we derived no assistance, but we have derived a great deal of opposition and resistance (Hear, hear) which the united forces of Wales and all our ardent desires never would have been able to overcome if there had not arrived here from the extreme east of the island the chairman of a railway company which derives its name from the most eastern county, namely, the county of Lincolnshire. (Cheers) It is from Lincolnshire that the light of our deliverance has shone - (Laughter) -and all that energy and skill that are worthy of the British name and worthy of the experience and fame that Sir Edward Watkin has obtained in all matters connected with railways - from thence has come the execution of this work, done in a manner hardly less remarkable than the work itself. This is a great day for Hawarden and its neighbourhood - (Hear, hear) - it is a great day for all Wales - (Hear, hear) - it is a great day for all the northern districts of Wales, with its enormous mineral production wanting the cheapest and most direct access to the great markets, and to such a point of export as the Mersey. (Hear, hear) It is a great day for the interior of Wales - for all that lies beyond Wrexham, for those struggling railways which have been hitherto confined and condemned to making only local use of their resources, but which are now going to become part of the great system of the country. (Cheers) All this we owe to our friends of the Manchester. Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company, and, above all, to the energy of our friend Sir Edward Watkin. (Cheers) And if a cheer were a very reward, I think you might give three times three, and three times three times three cheers for Sir Edward Watkin in acknowledgment of his great exertions and of the splendid consummation to which they have now led."

The North Wales & Liverpool formed a junction at Bidston with their line to Birkenhead Park, and thence via the Mersey Railway to Liverpool. At Hawarden Bridge it formed a junction with the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire's Chester & Connah's Quay line to Chester and the then independent Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway to Wrexham. The Wirral Railway had difficulties raising the funds to complete the line, in response to which the Wirral Railway Transfer Act of 1889 empowered the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire and Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay companies to take over the Bidston to Hawarden Bridge line if the Wirral Railway had not been finished it by 1 December 1889. When this date arrived and the Wirral Railway had not completed, or indeed even started, the line, the Board of Trade appointed J. Wolfe Barry as an Arbitrator to determine how much money the MS&LR and WM&CQR should pay the Wirral Railway for taking over the line. The Wirral Railway was duly compensated for the money they had put into the line and the MS&LR and WM&CQR took over.

The first sod was cut at Hawarden Bridge by Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone, who lived near the line at Hawarden Castle, on 21 October 1892. At the ceremony Mr. Gladstone reported that he had travelled down from London with his friend Sir Edward Watkin and had asked him, "If I live long enough, will you take me through without any change from Hawarden to Folkestone?" "Yes, I will!" replied Sir Edward.

A joint committee of the two companies, the Dee & Birkenhead Committee was set up and under the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Act of 1895 was granted a further two years to complete the line.

The 19 mile line opened to traffic on 18 May 1896. In his speech at the opening, Mr. Gladstone said, "At Liverpool I first drew the breath of life and saw the light of heaven; with Hawarden, if it please God, my last acquaintance with the light and with the air is likely to be connected." Less than two years later this wish was fulfilled. By an Act of 7 August 1896 the name of the line was changed to the North Wales & Liverpool Railway Committee.

The Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway went into receivership in 1897, and this left the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire (now the Great Central) with a quandary. The WM&QR had running powers over the Wirral Railway from Bidston to Birkenhead, but the Great Central did not. This was because the Great Central's Chester & Connah's Quay line had not yet been completed at the time of the 1889 Act. The Great Central Railway overcame this in a rather sneaky way by the subterfuge of painting ten Pollitt 0-6-2 tank engines in WM&CQR livery, assigning them MW&CQR numbers 17 to 26 and using them to haul Great Central trains over the Wirral Railway to Birkenhead Park. The problem was solved by an agreement between the Great Central and Wirral Railways in 1898. A few years later the Great Central Railway Act of 1904 vested both the WM&CQR and the North Wales & Liverpool Railway Committee in the Great Central Railway from 1 January 1905.

Passenger services between Bidston and Wrexham Central still operate over this line.
1913 Railway Clearing House Junction Diagram showing the junction of the North Wales & Liverpool Railway with the Wirral Railway at Bidston.
The Birkenhead line linked with the 1889 Great Central Railway Swing Bridge over the River Dee joining the North Wales & Liverpool Joint Railway to the Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway at Hawarden
Pollitt 0-6-2 tank engine painted in Wrexham, Mold & Connah's Quay Railway black livery for working Great Central trains over the North Wales & Liverpool Joint Railway in 1896 to 1898
The Right Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, PC, MA, DCL (1809-1898), four times Prime Minister, who lived at his wife's ancestral home, Hawarden Castle, and opened the North Wales & Liverpool Joint Railway in 1896. Photograph by Elliott & Fry
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