Woodhead Line

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Woodhead Line
Class 76 locomotives 76033 and 76031 at Woodhead on 24th March 1981.jpeg
Class 76 locos, about to enter Woodhead Tunnel in 1981.
Overview
Type Main Line
System National Rail Network
Status Partially open
Locale South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire
Termini Sheffield: Rotherwood Sidings / Wath
Manchester: London Road (1845-1960)
Piccadilly (1960-70)
Services 3
Operation
Opening 1845
Closed 1970 (passengers) and 1981 (goods)
Technical
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification 1,500 V DC
Manchester–Sheffield–Wath electric
railway, incorporating the Woodhead Line
Manchester Piccadilly
Liverpool and Preston lines
Crewe, Stafford, Buxton lines
Ardwick
Huddersfield Line
Ashburys
Hope Valley Line
via Brinnington
Gorton
Reddish Depot
Fallowfield Loop railway line
Fairfield
M60
Stockport to Stalybridge Line
Guide Bridge
Huddersfield Line
Dewsnap sidings
Hope Valley Line
Flowery Field
Newton for Hyde
M67
Godley
Godley East
Godley Junction
(Hope Valley Line)
Hattersley
Broadbottom
Etherow viaduct
Dinting viaduct
Dinting
Glossop
Hadfield
Crowden
Woodhead
Woodhead Tunnel
Dunford Bridge
Hepworth Iron and Steel
Hazlehead Bridge
Penistone Goods
To Huddersfield (Penistone Line)
Penistone
Barnsley Jct.
Oxspring viaduct
Oxspring tunnel
To Barnsley (Penistone Line)
Silkstone tunnel 2
Silkstone tunnel 1
Wentworth Silkstone colliery
M1
Swaithe viaduct
Wombwell Main exchange sidings
South Yorkshire Railway
Wombwell Main Junction
Aldham Junction
Wombwell Central
Elsecar Junction
Wath Marshalling Yard and Depot
Wath Central
Rumtickle Viaduct
Thurgoland Tunnel
Wortley
Stocksbridge steel works
Deepcar
Oughty Bridge
Wadsley Bridge
Neepsend
Sheffield Victoria
Midland Main Line
Nunnery and
Woodburn junctions
to Great Central Railway
Tinsley Yard
Darnall
Rotherwood Sidings
Sheffield to Lincoln Line

The Woodhead Line was a railway line linking Sheffield, Penistone and Manchester in the north of England. A key feature of the route is the passage under the high moorlands of the northern Peak District through the Woodhead Tunnels. The line was electrified in 1953 and closed between Hadfield and Penistone in 1981.

The Manchester to Glossop/Hadfield section is still in operation; east of the Pennines the vicinity of Penistone and the Sheffield to Deepcar section are still open, although the latter is freight-only. The track has been lifted on other sections and much of the trackbed is now part of the Trans-Pennine Trail and National Cycle Route 62. The Woodhead Line has achieved a cult status with collectors of railway memorabilia.

Route[edit]

The route from Manchester to Sheffield was 41.5 miles with stops at Manchester, Gorton, Guide Bridge, Newton, Godley Junction, Mottram, Glossop and Dinting, Glossop Central, Hadfield, Crowden, Woodhead, Dunford Bridge, Hazlehead Bridge, Penistone, Wortley, Deepcar, Oughtibridge, Wadsley Bridge, Neepsend and Sheffield.[1] Services still run from Manchester to Glossop and Hadfield.[2] The section from Deepcar to Sheffield is currently used for freight. The route can be seen on this Google overlay map.

History[edit]

The line in 1951 prior to electrification. Looking westwards from above Woodhead Tunnel. Woodhead station is visible in the foreground

Construction[edit]

Freight train near West Silkstone Junction in 1950

The line opened in 1845. It was built by the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway[3] with Joseph Locke as its engineer. In 1847 the railway merged with the Sheffield and Lincolnshire Junction Railway, the Great Grimsby and Sheffield Junction Railway, and the Grimsby Docks Company to form the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, which changed its name to the Great Central Railway (GCR) in 1897.[4] Ownership passed to the LNER in 1923, and finally to British Railways Eastern Region in 1948.

The original eastern terminus of the line was at Bridgehouses station. By the time of the creation of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1847 the station at Bridgehouses had been outgrown. A 1 km extension including the Wicker Arches viaduct, engineered by John Fowler, was constructed to the new Sheffield Victoria Station, which opened in 1851.

Both goods and passenger traffic was very heavy and some sections of the line were therefore quadrupled.

Electrification[edit]

Electric locomotives at Penistone station in 1954

Electrification was first mooted by the Great Central Railway owing to the difficulties of operating heavy steam-hauled coal trains on the Penistone-Wath section (the Worsborough branch), a line with steep gradients and several tunnels. Definitive plans were drawn up by the LNER in 1936; many of the gantries for the catenary (electric wires) were erected before World War II.[5]

World War II prevented progress on electrification, but the plans were restarted immediately after the war—however this time with plans for a new double-track Woodhead Tunnel. This (third) Woodhead Tunnel was constructed to replace the twin single-bore Victorian tunnels which had been damaged by years of smoke from steam engines.[6] A second Thurgoland Tunnel was also required, as the existing tunnel had inadequate clearance for twin electrified lines.

The Manchester–Sheffield–Wath electrification project was finally completed in 1955 using overhead wires energised at 1,500 volts direct current. Whilst this was tried and tested technology (and is still standard in the Netherlands), the comparatively low voltage meant that a large number of electricity substations and heavy cabling would be required. (It also made regenerative braking by transfer of power from descending to ascending trains in the same section of line comparatively straightforward). The main contractor for the electrification work was Bruce Peebles & Co, Edinburgh. Following technological developments (especially in France) 1.5 kV DC was soon superseded by the later network standard of 25 kV AC. This left the Woodhead Line as the only main line in the UK with 1.5 kV DC electrification.

New electric locomotives for the line were constructed at Gorton locomotive works, Manchester. These were the EM1/Class 76 for freight trains (and some passenger duties) and EM2/Class 77 locomotives for express passenger trains. Given the steep gradients on the line, the locomotives were able to use regenerative braking on their descent from Woodhead. Rheostatic braking was also later added. Additionally, Class 506 electric multiple units were built for suburban services between Manchester, Glossop and Hadfield.[7] A new depot at Reddish on the Fallowfield Loop line, was built in 1954 to maintain the new rolling stock.

Closure[edit]

The Longdendale Trail, on the former trackbed between Hadfield and Woodhead

Having seen major investment in the 1950s the line was controversially closed to passenger traffic on 5 January 1970 when it was clear that the alternative Hope Valley Line through Edale would be required to remain open for social and network reasons and could handle all Manchester–Sheffield passenger traffic. The Class 77 locomotives for passenger traffic were sold to the Netherlands Railways, where 1500 V DC electrification was the standard (and remains so). By the late 1970s, a large part of the remaining freight traffic consisted of coal trains from Yorkshire to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station near Widnes—which required a change to diesel haulage for the final part of the journey.

By the 1980s a combination of alternative available routes, an absence of passenger traffic since 1970, a downturn in coal traffic across the Pennines and a need to eventually upgrade or replace the (non-standard) electrical supply systems and Class 76 locomotives resulted in the line's closure east of Hadfield. The last train operated on 17 July 1981 and the line was mothballed.

The tracks were lifted in the mid-1980s ending short-term hopes of reopening. Almost the entire line east of Hadfield has now been lifted (apart from a few short sections shared with other lines, notably at Penistone). The trackbed between Hadfield and the Woodhead Tunnel has currently been adapted as the Longdendale Trail for hikers and cyclists.

Possible closure of Woodhead 3[edit]

Main article: Woodhead Tunnel

In 2007, National Grid, the present owners of the tunnels, proposed to relocate electricity cables from the Victorian to the 1953 tunnel sometime in 2008. This would mean that it would not be possible to use the new tunnel for railway traffic in future. Although the Peak District National Park and other relevant local bodies provided many reasons why the tunnel should remain open,[8] in September 2007 The Government declined to intervene in the matter.[9]

The surviving sections[edit]

The suburban passenger service between Manchester, Glossop and Hadfield remains in service, but the electricity supply was converted to standard 25kV AC overhead in December 1984. The Class 506 EMUs were then withdrawn and replaced by Class 303 EMUs from the Glasgow area. The service is now operated (as of 2013) by Class 323 EMUs.

The Huddersfield line platforms at Penistone station remain open, used by the Huddersfield-Sheffield diesel-operated local trains, which traverse the line the short distance between the former Huddersfield Junction and Barnsley Junction.

There is just one other part of the line open to traffic, albeit freight, and that is the single line from Woodburn Junction, on the Sheffield to Lincoln Line, to Deepcar to serve the Corus steel works at Stocksbridge. Currently, there is a single return trip per evening, Monday to Friday, from Aldwarke steelworks in Rotherham to the Stocksbridge site.

Proposals for the future[edit]

The Woodhead Line has, unusually for an electric route, managed to achieve a cult status with collectors of railway memorabilia (perhaps because of a feeling that the closure of a modern electric railway was a mistake, given that the alternative routes were (are) not electrified). The original poster of the 'modern' route, published in 1955 by British Railways Board and entitled 'Britain's First All-Electric Main Line', fetches high prices at auction, and is still available in reproduction.

In 1967 it was proposed that parts of the route and the Woodhead Tunnel be used as part of a new Manchester to Sheffield motorway.[10] Only a short section of this motorway within Manchester, now known as the M67 motorway, has been built.

In 1999 Central Railway proposed using the Woodhead tunnel as part of an ambitious scheme to connect Liverpool to London.[11]

In 2002 the Trans-pennine Rail Group, a broadly based group of County Councils, Unitary Authorities, Passenger Transport Executives (PTE) and the Peak District National Park Authority[12] provided evidence to a transport select committee identified interest from bidders for the Transpennine rail franchise in reopening the Woodhead route.[13] (in 2007 the Transpennine Rail Group was wound up as its work was now being done by the Northern Way and the North West Rail Campaign).[14]

In 2003 the Greater Manchester Branch of the Institute of Logistics and Transport presented evidence to a Parliamentary Select committee mentioning Arriva's interest in opening the Woodhead Line and Tunnel as part of their bid for the Transpennine rail franchise.[15]

In 2006 Translink are proposing to open the tunnel and the route for rail freight.[16] This proposal is favoured by some groups opposing the construction of the Longdendale Bypass, a controversial £180m bypass for Mottram in Longdendale, Hollingworth and Tintwistle (which is officially known as the A57/A628 Mottram-in-Longdendale, Hollingworth & Tintwistle Bypass).[17]

There are also plans to restore the route from Deepcar to Sheffield as a Double Tracked heritage line called the Don Valley Railway, to link up with the Sheffield Supertram at Nunnery Junction called "Sheffield Don Valley". Don Valley Railway Ltd, Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive are looking at reopening the line to passenger services between Sheffield and Stocksbridge. Stations would be constructed at Stocksbridge, Deepcar, Wharncliffe Side and Oughtibridge with a Sheffield City centre terminus near to the Nunnery Square Supertram stop. The project could cost £4.3 million at a minimum.[18]

On 18 January 2012 during a debate on the proposed Northern Hub (formerly known as the Manchester Rail Hub), Theresa Villiers, the Minister for Rail and Aviation, said "The hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge has again called for the reopening of the Woodhead route. I have to say that was not one that was prioritised as part of the Northern Hub because of the capacity that is still available on the Hope Valley line."[19]

Railworks Version[edit]

The Woodhead Line is available to purchase on Steam for the train simulation game Railworks. Included are the Class 76 electric locos, and the 8F Steam locos.[citation needed]

The line in popular culture[edit]

ITV's Coronation Street character Roy Cropper is building a 00 gauge 1960s-era model layout of the line in the flat above his "Roy's Rolls" Cafe. Although mentioned previously, the layout - as yet incomplete - first featured in episode 8345, first aired on 17 March, 2014, when the line's class 76 and class 77 locos were mentioned.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bradshaw's July 1922 Railway Guide
  2. ^ "Liverpool.pdf" (PDF). Network Rail. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  3. ^ "The Woodhead Route". Railways of Britain. Retrieved 2008-01-27. 
  4. ^ Awdry 1990, p. 133
  5. ^ Johnson, E M (2001). Woodhead, The Electric Railway. Stockport: Foxline. p. 15. ISBN 1-870119-81-9. 
  6. ^ Johnson, E M (2001). Woodhead, The Electric Railway. Stockport: Foxline. pp. 83–98. ISBN 1-870119-81-9. 
  7. ^ Johnson, E M (2001). Woodhead, The Electric Railway. Stockport: Foxline. pp. 21–31. ISBN 1-870119-81-9. 
  8. ^ "PDNPA Planning Committee Report, 13 July 2007"
  9. ^ "PDNPA Planning Committee Report, 28 September 2007"
  10. ^ "HOUSE OF COMMONS Wednesday 23rd June 1976 – M67 (Peak District National Park)". Hansard Prototype. 1976-06-24. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  11. ^ "Lords Hansard text for 10 March 1999 (190310-07)". Parliament. 1999-03-10. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  12. ^ "TRANS-PENNINE RAIL UPGRADE". South Pennines Integrated Transport Strategy. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  13. ^ "Memorandum by Transpennine Rail Group (REN 08)". Parliament. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  14. ^ "TransPennine Rail Group – REPORT OF: STRATEGY DIRECTOR OF GMPTE" (PDF). Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority. 2007-04-17. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  15. ^ "Memorandum by the Greater Manchester Branch of the Institute of Logistics and Transport (REN 40)". Parliament. 2003-07-11. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  16. ^ "The Translink Solution". Translink. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  17. ^ "Line Orders, published 8th February 2007 :: Scheme Impacts". Save Swallows Wood. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  18. ^ [Rail Magazine, Issue 650, 11 to 24 August 2010, Page 20] Stocksbridge re-opening feasible? Rail Magazine
  19. ^ "Northern Rail Hub debate". They work for you. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012. 
  20. ^ ITV Player (accessed 17 March 2014)

External links[edit]