Northern Rail Class 150 at Stockport railway station
|Rolling stock||Class 142 (north of Hazel Grove only), Class 150, Class 156|
|Line length||19 miles (31 km)|
|Number of tracks||2|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV 50 Hz AC (north of Hazel Grove only)|
|Operating speed||up to 100mph|
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It has its origins with the Stockport, Disley and Whaley Bridge Railway, which the LNWR built to connect with the Cromford and High Peak Railway at Whaley Bridge. In 1863, it built an extension from Whaley Bridge, via Chapel en le Frith to Buxton. This forestalled the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway's plans for the area, and also the Midland Railway's attempts to reach Manchester.
The latter two railways were forced to combine forces in a line following the LNWR, but north of it, through New Mills (part of what is now known as the Hope Valley line), branching at Millers Dale. As a result, Buxton, one of the largest towns in the Peak, never achieved main line status.
The LNWR had offered the use of the line but, with its climb through Dove Holes, the Midland did not consider it useful for express trains, saying that it went up a steep hill merely for the sake of going down. The LNWR may have saved costs in construction but it proved difficult to operate, even with the powerful locomotives they had been forced to introduce for their lines north of Manchester. In later days, a seventeen-mile stretch was operated using banking engines, the longest such section on the British railway system. In 1957 there was a serious accident at Chapel-en-le-Frith in which driver John Axon, who died at his post attempting to control a runaway goods train, received the George Cross medal.
The Beeching cuts threatened closure but the line was reprieved at a hearing in 1964. In its 1964 accounts, British Rail counted the cost of the reprieve at £133,000 (£2.4m at 2014 prices) in a full year, plus £44,000 which could have been saved if freight was also withdrawn.
The line was electrified, at 25 kV AC overhead, between Manchester and Hazel Grove in 1981. Colour light signalling, controlled from LNWR built boxes at Edgeley Junction and Hazel Grove, covers the line as far as Norbury crossing, which itself has a small hut controlling two semaphore signals in the Middlewood area. Farther south, signalling is mostly semaphore and is controlled from boxes at Furness Vale, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Buxton.
Over the section between Edgeley Junction and Hazel Grove there are four trains per hour in each direction, more frequently at peak hours. The Manchester to Buxton service runs hourly, combining with an hourly (daytime only) Manchester Piccadilly to Hazel Grove service to give Davenport, Woodsmoor and Hazel Grove stations a half-hourly off peak service to and from Manchester. The latter service now runs to & from Blackpool North via Bolton, replacing the former hourly service between Buxton and Blackpool North that ran until December 2008. Only one Blackpool North-Buxton service still operates, but most of those from Hazel Grove were extended through from Preston in October 2015 to replace the service from Liverpool Lime Street that had gone over to electric operation.
South of Hazel Grove, the off-peak pattern is hourly. The hourly Liverpool to Norwich East Midlands Trains & Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes TransPennine Express services run over the Edgeley to Hazel Grove section but only one EMT service calls at Hazel Grove on weekday mornings, all others being non-stop between Stockport and Sheffield.
Due to steep gradients on this line, Class 142 and Class 153 DMUs are banned from the section of line between Hazel Grove and Buxton. Therefore, services to Buxton are worked by Class 150 and Class 156 DMUs. Also Class 158 DMUs were once blocked from operating on the line to Buxton due to the possibility of the large roof-mounted air vents striking low bridges on the route. Piccadilly to Hazel Grove services used Class 323 electric multiple units up until 2008; one service a day continued to operate on the line from December 2008 until December 2014 but since then all services have been diesel worked. From 8 October 1956, services on the Buxton branch were in the hands of Class 104 diesel units based at Buxton depot, though some remained steam worked for longer (for example, the 8.20am train to Manchester switched to diesel on 17 June 1957).
Passenger information systems have been installed at Davenport, Hazel Grove and New Mills Newtown.
At Edgeley Junction the 19 miles (31 km) branch leaves the West Coast Main Line 0.5 miles (0.80 km) south of Stockport and curves sharply east. At the end of the curve a spur (opened to goods on 12 December 1883 and to passengers on 1 July 1884) linked it to Cheadle LNW railway station and the Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway until the 1960s.
Just beyond Hazel Grove, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from Edgeley Junction, a 1986 (originally planned in 1933) junction links the line with the Hope Valley Line through Disley Tunnel. The line then climbs at 1 in 60 for 3.25 miles (5.23 km) to Disley. At Middlewood there was a junction (from 26 May 1885 to 1954) to allow trains to run between Buxton and Macclesfield via the Macclesfield, Bollington and Marple Railway. East of that junction the line passes in a short tunnel under the Macclesfield Canal. 1 mile (1.6 km) east it runs in a cutting across the edge of Lyme Park, home of Thomas Legh, first Chairman of the Stockport, Disley and Whaley Bridge Railway.
Just east of Disley station the line runs through another short tunnel into the Goyt valley, which it gently drops down to Furness Vale, running close to and parallel to the Hope Valley Line, Peak Forest Canal and A6. At Whaley Bridge the line joined the Cromford and High Peak Railway, the link to Shallcross Yard remaining until January 1965.
Here the line leaves the Goyt valley to climb 6 miles (9.7 km) at 1 in 60 or 1 in 58 to Dove Holes. The line runs near Combs Reservoir, through the 110 yards (100 m) Barmoor Clough Tunnel, beside the former Peak Forest Tramway, descends 2 miles (3.2 km) (mostly at 1 in 66), passes the site of Fairfield Halt (a platform on the up side only, 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from Buxton, closed in September 1939) and the junctions to the Ashbourne and Midland lines.
- Rail Engineer article - Derailed: The complicity dividend
- Bank of England inflation calculator
- Modern Railways July 1965 p. 373 The BRB's annual report and accounts - BR deficit cut by £13m in 1964
- David Heys diesel multiple units - with photos
- Railway Magazine September 1957 p. 627 - photo of 8.20am steam train on 13 June and 8.22am diesel on 17 June
- Railway Magazine June 1963 pp. 375-384 Buxton Centenary
- Whaley Bridge railway history with map
- Pixton, B., (2000) North Midland: Portrait of a Famous Route, Cheltenham: Runpast Publishing
- Bentley, C., (1997) British Railways Operating History: Volume one, The Peak District, Carnarvon: XPress Publishing.
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Route map: Google