For a few brief months in 1962, the Wirral made history as the location of the world’s first ever passenger hovercraft service.

The Vickers VA3 was a wonder of modern engineering. It weighed 10 tons and could carry 24 passengers at speeds of up to 60 knots.

It was popular too. Owners British United Airways were fully booked for the six daily crossings from Leasowe to Rhyl when the hovercraft came into service on July 20.

But the VA3 had a fundamental flaw. It lacked a skirt and could only hover eight inches above a flat surface. Conditions had to be calm for the VA3 to venture out.

The Vickers VA3 hovercraft draws a big crowd as it prepares to make its maiden crossing from Leasowe to Rhyl, July 1962

The Vickers VA3 hovercraft draws a big crowd as it prepares to make its maiden crossing from Leasowe to Rhyl, July 1962

As a result, the hovercraft put to sea for only 36 days out of 59. The rest were ruled out by a combination of stormy winds, high seas and engine failures.

It all went disastrously wrong on Sunday September 16 when the VA3 broke free of its moorings and drifted out to sea.

Its lift engine had failed the previous Friday and bad weather had made it impossible to carry out repairs.

Everton leave Lime Street station to play Sheffield Wednesday in the 1966 FA Cup Final at Wembley, May 1966

Everton leave Lime Street station to play Sheffield Wednesday in the 1966 FA Cup Final at Wembley, May 1966

The duty captain, who had remained aboard, managed to fire up the propulsion engines and bring the hovercraft back to the beach.

But the stricken craft broke free again the next day and had to be rescued by the Rhyl lifeboat.

The damage was too great for the service to continue and the project was scrapped.

Grounded! The Royal Daffodil II Mersey ferry is beached at Wallasey after a collision, June 1968

Grounded! The Royal Daffodil II Mersey ferry is beached at Wallasey after a collision, June 1968

While the VA3 drifted out to sea, the opposite fate befell the Royal Daffodil II Mersey ferry in January 1968 – it beached at Wallasey after a collision.

The 609-ton ship had previously run aground in thick fog in September 1967. Sixty passengers were rescued by the New Brighton lifeboat and put ashore at Seacombe.

There were no transport problems for the Beatles when they flew into Speke Airport for the Liverpool premiere of their film A Hard Day’s Night in July 1964.

The Beatles on the plane to Speke airport for the Liverpool premiere of their film A Hard Day’s Night, July 1964

The Beatles on the plane to Speke airport for the Liverpool premiere of their film A Hard Day’s Night, July 1964

Fans mob the Fab Four at Speke airport as they arrive for the premiere of their film A Hard Day’s Night, July 1964

Fans mob the Fab Four at Speke airport as they arrive for the premiere of their film A Hard Day’s Night, July 1964

Liverpool skipper Ron Yeats and his team had a smooth flight too when Aer Lingus presented him with a leprechaun for good luck ahead of his team’s flight to Malmo in September 1967.

It certainly did the trick as Liverpool won the Fairs Cup match against the Swedish side2-0 and took the tie 4-1 on aggregate.

Aer Lingus present Liverpool skipper Ron Yeats with a leprechaun for luck as his team flies out to face Malmo in the Fairs Cup, September 1967

Aer Lingus present Liverpool skipper Ron Yeats with a leprechaun for luck as his team flies out to face Malmo in the Fairs Cup, September 1967

Everton boarded the steam train from Lime Street station to London for their 1966 FA Cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley. The Toffees famously triumphed 3-2.

Everton leave Lime Street station to play Sheffield Wednesday in the 1966 FA Cup Final at Wembley, May 1966

Everton leave Lime Street station to play Sheffield Wednesday in the 1966 FA Cup Final at Wembley, May 1966

Only two years later, the very last main-line passenger train to be hauled by a steam locomotive – the 1T57 Fifteen Guinea special to Carlisle – pulled out of Lime Street on August 11th 1968.

A countrywide steam ban came into force the next day.

End of an era. The last main-line passenger train hauled by a steam locomotive – the 1T57 Fifteen Guinea Special bound for Carlisle – leaves Lime Street station on August 11th 1968

End of an era. The last main-line passenger train hauled by a steam locomotive – the 1T57 Fifteen Guinea Special bound for Carlisle – leaves Lime Street station on August 11th 1968

 

 

Many more favourite photos feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant new book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s – published next month.

Echo readers can pre-order their copy at the bargain price of £9.99 plus £1.99 P&P. Just go to our online shop or ring the order hotline on 01928 503777.

Orders will be dispatched in the week beginning July 9th 2018.

Don’t miss out on the remarkable story of an unforgettable decade!