Manchester and Leeds Railway

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Manchester and Leeds Railway
LocaleLancashire and Yorkshire
Dates of operation4 July 1836 (1836-07-04)–9 July 1847 (1847-07-09)
SuccessorLancashire and Yorkshire Railway
Track gauge4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm)[1]
Manchester & Leeds Railway
miles year
York and North Midland Railway
 to York
North Midland Railway
 to Leeds
51 Normanton 1840
North Midland Railway
 to Derby
48 Wakefield Kirkgate 1840
47 Horbury Junction
46 Horbury Millfield Road
44 Horbury and Ossett 1840
41 Thornhill 1840
Mirfield 1845
36 Cooper Bridge 1840
34 Brighouse for Rastrick 1840
31 Elland 1840
Greetland 1844
28 Sowerby Bridge 1840
26 Luddendenfoot 1840
24 Hebden Bridge 1840
21 Eastwood 1841
20 Todmorden 1841
Walsden 1845
Summit Tunnel
14 Littleborough 1839
Smithy Bridge 1868
11 Rochdale
9 Castleton
6 Mills Hill
Middleton Junction 1842
Newton Heath 1853
Miles Platting 1844
0 Manchester Oldham Road 1839
Manchester Victoria 1844

The Manchester and Leeds Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom which opened in 1839, connecting Manchester with Leeds via the North Midland Railway which it joined at Normanton.

Its route now forms the backbone of the present-day Caldervale Line.


It was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1836, with a second Act in 1839 which authorised the extension from the original Manchester terminus at Oldham Road railway station[2] to join the Liverpool and Manchester Railway when the latter was extended to Hunt's Bank (later called Manchester Victoria). The Act also authorised branches to Oldham and Halifax with a diversion at Kirkthorpe. Superintended by George Stephenson, its engineer was Thomas Longridge Gooch, a brother of Daniel Gooch of the GWR.

The 4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm)[1] line was opened in 1839 as far as Littleborough, and from Normanton to Hebden Bridge in 1840. The final linking section opened on completion of the Summit Tunnel in 1841.

The line became the chief constituent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, which was incorporated in 1847. Several railways had earlier been absorbed by the M&LR:


The line climbs out of Manchester with an average gradient of 1 in 260 (0.38%) until it arrives at the summit, just north of Littleborough, where there is a 2,860-yard (2,620 m) tunnel. From there the line descended towards Normanton. It had to use the North Midland Railway line to run into Leeds, because Parliament had refused to sanction two parallel lines. The rails were in 15-foot (4.6 m) lengths, laid at a gauge of 4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm), on a mixture of stone blocks and, on embankments, wooden sleepers.

The line was not an easy one to build. There were eight tunnels, mostly through very difficult rock, a hundred and sixteen bridges, and long cuttings and embankments. A tunnel at Charlestown, near Hebden Bridge, had to be abandoned following its collapse and the continued instability of the ground. That necessitated a diversion, involving three tight curves of 12 chains (241 m) radius, which were at variance with the 60-chain (1,207 m) norm for the line.[9] Two large bridges were avoided by diverting the course of the River Calder. In 1951, the instability of the retaining wall above the river required a 5 miles per hour (8 km/h) speed limit until repairs were completed in 1953.[10]


The locomotives were provided by local manufacturers, to the six-wheeled Stephenson pattern. Carriages were all four-wheeled. First and Second had three compartments, the latter with wooden shutters instead of glazing. The third class was "Stanhopes," that is, without seats, each divided into four sections by lateral and longitudinal bars. There were also some mixed carriages having a first class centre compartment, with the end ones second class. The average weight of a train would be about 18 long tons (18 t; 20 short tons), with an average speed of about 25 miles per hour (40 km/h), reaching approximately 42 miles per hour (68 km/h) downhill.

The railway was an early user of Edmonson's ticketing system. Tickets were checked en route, the guard presumably having to move from carriage to carriage by means of the external footboard – just as is described in Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.

Accidents and incidents[edit]



  1. ^ a b William Templeton - The Locomotive Engine Popularly Explained - Page 96
  2. ^ Parkinson-Bailey 2000, p. 53.
  3. ^ Scrivenor 1849, pp. 145–156.
  4. ^ Scrivenor 1849, p. 144.
  5. ^ Scrivenor 1849, p. 148.
  6. ^ Scrivenor 1849, p. 149.
  7. ^ Scrivenor 1849, p. 150.
  8. ^ Scrivenor 1849, p. 153.
  9. ^ Whishaw, Francis (1842). The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described and Illustrated (2 ed.). John Weale. pp. 314–315. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  10. ^ Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (June 1954), "Strengthening of River Calder Retaining Wall, N.E.R.", The Railway Magazine, Westminster: Tothill Press, vol. 100 no. 638, pp. 428–429
  11. ^ Hewison 1983, p. 29.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]