Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Last Transporter, The (c. 1960)

Main image of Last Transporter, The (c. 1960)
16mm, black and white, silent, 4 mins
DirectorNorman Couche
Production CompanyHeswall Cine Club
ProducerNorman Couche

The Runcorn-Widnes transporter bridge, just before it was taken out of service.

Show full synopsis

One of the most common and persistent themes to emerge from Merseyside amateur film material is transport. These productions are typically nostalgic and elegiac in tone, capturing disappearing forms of transport, whether tram or ferry services, the much-missed Overhead Railway that served Liverpool's docklands, or, in this instance, the Transporter Bridge which spanned the River Mersey at Runcorn Gap. The bridge opened in 1905, providing vital transport communication links between Cheshire and Lancashire. By the 1950s, the rapid expansion in road traffic and car ownership around this area of Merseyside meant that the Transporter, with its limited carrying capacity and slow pace of operation, could no longer to sustain the demand placed on its services, and the bridge eventually closed, making way for the new Runcorn-Widnes road bridge.

Completed in 1961, shortly before its demolition, Norman Couche's film captures the bridge in all its iconic splendour. The new road bridge had already been opened and both this and Transporter are depicted; brief footage of the former bookends the Transporter sequences which comprise the bulk of the film. As well as memorialising the soon-to-be demolished bridge, the film also invites reflection on its passing and draws tacit comparisons between the Transporter and the new road crossing. As with Couche's ferryboat film of the same year, Boat for Businessmen, The Last Transporter documents a much-loved transport icon that was facing impending extinction.

With the closure of the Overhead Railway and tram services in Liverpool in the later 1950s (documented in Eric Knowles' 1957 'amateur newsreel', Charter Year), the passing of the Transporter coincided with a period of rapid urban and geographical change in Merseyside, marked not least by the early development of the motorway network in the region (of which the Runcorn-Widnes road bridge was to play an important role). These ambitious road schemes had a dramatic impact on the built environment of Liverpool and surrounding region, and in many instances were instrumental in the displacement of inner-city communities to 'overspill' towns such as Kirkby, Skelmersdale and Runcorn New Town, which began development in the mid-1960s (see also Who Cares, d. Nick Broomfield, 1971; Us and Them, d. Peter Leeson, 1969).

Les Roberts

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (4:11)
Charter Year 1957 (1957)
Topical Budget 1011-1: 4 Minutes instead of 4 Hours (1931)
Liverpool: Shaping the City