Woodhead 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 1954 and closed east of Hadfield in 1981.

The Manchester to Glossop section is still in operation and there are freight trains between Sheffield and Deepcar. 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.


The route from Manchester to Sheffield was 41.5 miles with stops at Manchester, Guide Bridge, Newton, Godley Junction, Mottram, Glossop and Dinting, Glossop Central, Hadfield, Crowden, Woodhead, Dunford Bridge, Hazlehead Bridge, Penistone, Wortley, Deepcar, Oughty Bridge, Wadsley Bridge, Neepsend and Sheffield. [Bradshaw's July 1922 Railway Guide] Services still run from Manchester to Glossop and Hadfield. [cite web|url=http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/system/galleries/download/print_maps/liverpool.pdf|title=Liverpool.pdf|publihser=Network Rail|accessdate=2008-01-26] The section from Deepcar to Sheffield is currently used for freight. The route can be seen on this [http://railways-of-britain.com/Woodhead.html railway map] and on this [http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&om=0&msa=0&msid=107279255646165449244.000444a7fa54cbcf2b857&ll=53.466796,-1.654816&spn=0.370326,1.083527&t=p&z=10 Google overlay map] .



The line opened in 1845. It was built by the Sheffield, Ashton-Under-Lyne and Manchester Railway [cite web|url=http://railways-of-britain.com/Woodhead.html|title=The Woodhead Route|work=Railways of Britain|accessdate=2008-01-27] 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 (later the Great Central Railway (GCR)). Ownership passed to LNER in 1923, and finally to British Railways 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.


*"See also Manchester-Sheffield-Wath electric railway"‎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. [cite book | last=Johnson | first=E M | title=Woodhead, The Electric Railway | publisher=Foxline | location=Stockport | year=2001 | isbn=1870119819 | pages=p15]

World War II prevented progress on electrification, but the plans were restarted immediately after the war—but now 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. [cite book | last=Johnson | first=E M | title=Woodhead, The Electric Railway | publisher=Foxline | location=Stockport | year=2001 | isbn=1870119819 | pages=pp83-98]

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 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. [cite book | last=Johnson | first=E M | title=Woodhead, The Electric Railway | publisher=Foxline | location=Stockport | year=2001 | isbn=1870119819 | pages=pp21-31]


Having seen major investment in the 1950s the line was controversally 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 standard. 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 been adapted as the Longdendale Trail for hikers and cyclists.

Possibly closure of Woodhead 3

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, [ [http://resources.peakdistrict.gov.uk/ctte/planning/reports/2007/070713Item6-8.pdf "PDNPA Planning Committee Report, 13 July 2007"] ] in September 2007 The Government declined to intervene in the matter. [ [http://resources.peakdistrict.gov.uk/ctte/planning/reports/2007/070928Item6-4.pdf "PDNPA Planning Committee Report, 28 September 2007"] ]

The surviving sections

*"See also: Manchester-Glossop Line"

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 2006) 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. Traffic is sparse and usually at night or early morning.

Proposals for the future

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. [cite web|url=http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1976/jun/23/m67-peak-district-national-park#S5CV0913P0-04105
title= HOUSE OF COMMONS Wednesday 23rd June 1976 - M67 (Peak District National Park)|work=Hansard Prototype|date=1976-06-24|accessdate=2008-01-25
] Only a short section of this motorway within Manchester, now known as the M67 motorway, has been built.

In 1999 Central Railways proposed using the Wooodhead tunnel as part of an ambitious scheme to connect Liverpool to London. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199899/ldhansrd/vo990310/text/90310-07.htm|title=Lords Hansard text for 10 Mar 1999 (190310-07)|publisher=Parliament|date=1999-03-10|accessdate=2008-01-26]

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 [cite web|url=http://www.spits.org.uk/Business%20Plan/APPENDIX%20D.htm|title=TRANS-PENNINE RAIL UPGRADE|publisher=South Pennines Integrated Transport Strategy|accessdate=2008-01-26] provided evidence to a transport select committee identified interest from bidders for the Transpennine rail franchise in reopening the Woodhead route. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmtran/782/782ap09.htm|title=Memorandum by Transpennine Rail Group (REN 08)|publisher=Parliament|accessdate=2008-01-26] (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. [cite web|url=http://www.gmpta.gov.uk/uploads/agendas/1/83/Reports/Item%2007.%20TransPennine%20Rail%20Group.pdf|title=TransPennine Rail Group - REPORT OF: STRATEGY DIRECTOR OF GMPTE|date=2007-04-17|publisher=Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority|accessdate=2007-01-26] )

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. [cite web|url=http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmselect/cmtran/782/782ap47.htm|title=Memorandum by the Greater Manchester Branch of the Institute of Logistics and Transport (REN 40)|publisher=Parliament|date=2003-07-11|accessdate=2008-01-25]

In 2006 Translink are proposing to open the tunnel and the route for rail freight. [cite web|url=http://www.translinkuk.com/solution.htm|title=The Translink Solution|publisher=Translink|accessdate=2008-01-26] 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"). [cite web|url=http://www.saveswallowswood.org.uk/LO_impacts07.shtml|title=Line Orders, published 8th February 2007 :: Scheme Impacts|publisher=Save Swallows Wood|accessdate=2008-01-26]

There are also plans to restore the route from Deepcar to Sheffield as a Double Tracked heritage line called the Don Valley Line, to link up with the Sheffield Supertram at Nunnery.

ee also

*Longdendale: A valley through which the line passes
*Longdendale Bypass: A current road scheme though Longdendale.
*M67 motorway: Details of proposed 1960's motorway scheme that would have used part of the route
*Peak District: The route passes through the national park
*Woodhead Tunnel: A tunnel on the Woodhead line
*TransPennine Express: The current train operator between Manchester and Sheffield
*Hope Valley Line: The currently route used by the Transpennine Express between Manchester and Sheffield.
*Longdendale Trail: A footpath that follows part of the route of the Woodhead Line
*Don Valley Railway A proposal to open the section from Deepcar to Nunnery Junction, just east of Sheffield City Centre


External links

* [http://www.thewoodheadsite.org.uk The woodheadsite - has good history section]
* [http://www.leytransport.i12.com/diag.htm Route diagram] British Transport Commission,1954
* [http://www.donvalleyrailway.org The Don Valley Railway Line]
* [http://www.translinkuk.com Another recent (2006) reopening proposal, this time as a 'Rolling Highway' for HGV traffic]
* [http://www.michaelpead.co.uk/photography/rail/woodhead.shtml Michael Pead :: Photos of the Woodhead Route]
* [http://www.thesectionalappendix.co.uk/MIDDBWM01.html British Railways in 1960, Woodhead to Manchester]
* [http://www.flickr.com/photos/cookephotography/sets/72157600404108471/ Woodhead Revisited]

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