Woodhead #2

Woodhead #2

Part two of a special feature on the Woodhead line. Here we see the electrified 1500v dc line in its heyday, after its closure in 1984 and during demolition of the route. The closure and demolition was controversial at the time – and still is today – because the Woodhead route would have afforded a fast rail link across the Pennines between Manchester and Sheffield.

Information board at the Woodhead portal. Source: Twitter

Sheffield Victoria with classic Woodhead route train hauled by an EM2. Source: Twitter

‘Tommy’ at Torside 1963. Source: Twitter

Staff at Reddish depot late 1960s. Source: Twitter

A report I have from 1973 details the lack of work for the line (interesting as it was originally it was ‘saved’ by Beeching because of expectations it would be able to carry more freight.) Wath and Mottram Yards had become less used and although the merry go rounds were still a substantial traffic on the Woodhead route these block trains did not need the marshalling yards specially built for the MSW. It is recorded Tinsley Yard (at that time) had barely any work.

Emerging from the tunnel 1980. Source: Twitter

Skirting the reservoirs in Longendale, April 1981. There was once four tracks, BR whittled it down to three, two, one, and then none. Source: Twitter

It was accepted the 1500dc system was antiquated, especially as so soon after the MSW had been opened that the Lancaster-Heysham line had been converted to 25KV AC and this became the new standard for Britain’s railways. It meant BR was absolutely resolute and insisted Woodhead had to go.

BR said that sending trains via Woodhead was a totally inefficient operation. It also claimed the Woodhead line was not worth modernising in any way or form and that the Diggle route between Manchester and Sheffield was a better option. Ironically the Diggle route is at capacity now, it hasn’t even been electrified – and there are NO alternatives!

The impending closure of the line caused the visit of many enthusiasts’ trains, all wanting to sample this famous line before it shut for good. There were many enthusiast and special trains up and down the line and eventually BR put a stop to these! Representations made to the BR Chairman of the time Sir Peter Parker eventually got the embargo on specials lifted.

Until recently there was considerable hope the Woodhead route could be reopened. However National Grid have now moved all their electrical cabling and equipment from the old tunnels into the new tunnel. As well as that they have laid a road through the railway tunnel itself to provide easier access to its equipment. This pretty well means there is no hope now for a reinvigorated rail route through the Pennines.

Pair of Class 76’s running light through Woodhead station having just emerged from the tunnel. July 1975. Source: Twitter.

Pictures of the line at Woodhead – when it was in operation.

The tunnel in its last months. The 1954 plaque can still be seen on the left side of the portal. Source: Twitter

The demolition train arrives at Torside, 1983. Source: Twitter

37024 (now 37714) was the last locomotive to traverse the tunnel. Its seen here on 4th May 1986 with its track demolition train. Source: Twitter

13th May 1986. The connection between east and west side trackage is severed inside the Woodhead tunnel. Source: Twitter

As the track is severed in the tunnel, the inevitable writing appears on the wall… Source: Twitter

The last lot of track being lifted progressively westwards from Woodhead. May 1987. Source: Twitter

The last bit of Woodhead track at Hadfield. August 1989. Source: Twitter.

Continued in part three.