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Woodhead Electric Railway

Discussion in 'Suggestions' started by Railfan722, May 12, 2019.

  1. Railfan722

    Railfan722 Well-Known Member

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    The Woodhead Line is a classic route, and is available for almost every train simulator on the market, and with good reason too - it's a classic route with plenty of operating potential for almost any era.

    The route for TSW would ideally be set in or just before 1970, as it would allow for the last passenger services over the line to be modelled while still retaining BR Corporate Blue for the rolling stock, allowing swapping of stock with routes such as the Northern Trans-Pennine.

    History
    The original line over Woodhead Pass was completed in 1845 by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway to connect the cities of Manchester and Sheffield. The rail line replaced an eight-day trip by canal or a two day trip by horse and cart. The terminus in Manchester was finished in 1842, and track was laid up to the top of the pass by 1844 with a station fittingly called Woodhead. On the other side of the pass, the route was operational between Sheffield and Dunford Bridge in the early part of 1845. The crowning achievement of engineering of the route, the three-mile long Woodhead Tunnel, was opened along with the first trains between Manchester and Sheffield on 22 December 1845.

    From the very first day, the line faced the problem of having very steep gradients - this was further exacerbated when the extension to Wath was opened with a 1:40 climb over the Wombwell Bank that was not helped in part by colliery subsidence as the years marched on. The Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway merged with several other companies in the area to form the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway in 1847. In 1897, the MS&LR changed its name to coincide with the opening of their new extension to London to a now-famous name, the Great Central Railway. As the first years of the 20th century arrived with increased levels of traffic, it was decided that steam was not powerful enough to work the pass alone and plans were drawn up to electrify part of the route in the manner that the New Haven Railroad had done in the US just a few years prior. However, these plans were quickly scuttled with the onset of the First World War.

    In 1921, Parliament passed the Railways Act of 1921, which amalgamated the hundreds of British railway companies into just 4 - the Southern Railway, the Great Western Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish, and the London and North Eastern. The Woodhead Pass line fell into the LNER's jurisdiction and in 1923, they assumed full control of it. the LNER found the same operating problems as the GCR, and they too drew up plans to electrify, though with a system based on the Dutch electric railways. The government made funding for the project available during the midst of the Great Depression to provide a source of work, and by 1936 the first of the electric gantries had gone up in Manchester. By 1939, the masts had reached the western portal of the tunnel.

    While the infrastructure work was being carried out, another problem had to be tackled - what would the LNER use under their newly laid wires? In 1941, LNER No. 6701 rolled out of the Doncaster Works, built to a design of Sir Nigel Gresley. In 1947, the locomotive was sent to assist a war-stricken Netherlands where it earned the nickname "Tommy" from it's drivers there - when it was sent back in 1952, the name was officially applied to it and it was reclassified as "EM1".

    After the Second World War, the UK decided to nationalise its railways under one company - British Railways. In 1948, BR decided to invest in the Woodhead Route threefold - not only would they continue the LNER electrification, they would dig a new, third tunnel under Woodhead Pass with two tracks to replace the two single-track tunnels from the MS&LR era and a new tunnel in Thurgoland to solve clearance issues. Electric facilities were built in Wath, Reddish, and Darnall. At the Gorton Works in Manchester, 57 EM1 locomotives were built for mixed traffic use and 7 EM2 locomotives were built for express passenger use. As the project was running over budget, the electrification's scope was narrowed and the Cheshire Lines Committee electrification was abandoned completely. All trains that were to travel beyond Manchester London Road would have to switch to steam and later diesel at Guide Bridge.

    Finally, on 2 February 1952, the electric power was switched on between Wath and Penistone. The new Woodhead Tunnel opened on 30 May 1954 and the section down to Manchester was energised on 14 June of that year. Finally, after almost 40 years, the system was officially opened on 20 September 1954 with the first train running from Sheffield to Manchester under the power electricity in a much-publicised event that day. On 3 January 1955, the final section was opened from Sheffield to the Rotherwood Exchange sidings where freight was handed to or from electric locomotives. In 1965, the final addition was made to the system - a short branch to the new Tinsley Marshalling Yard and Tinsley TMD where the Sheffield allocation of EM1s and EM2s was stored.

    Dr. Beeching recommended in his The Reshaping of British Railways that there only be one route open to passengers across the Pennines, and his choice was the Woodhead route owing to it's relatively modern nature. In an odd twist of fate, however, public opposition to the closing of the alternate Hope Valley Line meant that against the recommendations of the Beeching report the Woodhead Line would close to passengers. This was compounded by the fact that the Woodhead's terminus in Sheffield, Sheffield Victoria, was slated for closure - the high cost of electrifying a link into Sheffield Midland also played against the line. On 5 January 1970, the last scheduled passenger service ran through the tunnel, leaving only a diesel service between Penistone and Sheffield and an electric service run by the Class 506 between Manchester and Hadfield. The EM2s, now reclassified as Class 77, were sold to Nederlandse Spoorwegen, but by 1985 they had been withdrawn from that duty as well.

    New hope was given to the uncertain future of the line in 1971 when the massive Fiddler's Ferry Power Station in Warrington was opened. British Rail's new Merry-go-Round (MGR) trains that ran directly from the mine to power station increased traffic on the line significantly. Unfortunately, many coal mines in South Yorkshire began to close in the late 1970s, and by 1980 very little traffic was left on the Woodhead route with much of it being sent down the Hope Valley Line instead. Finally, on 18 July 1981, the very last train ran, and with it closed the most modern route in the country when it was opened.

    Today, very little is left. The line between Manchester and Hadfield has been converted to 25 Kv AC from the original 1.5 Kv DC and is served by Northern's Class 323. The track between Hadfield and Penistone has been lifted, and the Woodhead Tunnel now carries electric cable instead of electric trains. Northern operate a service between Huddersfield and Sheffield Midland over the old Woodhead metals. The Wath extension and marshalling yard are completely closed with little to no chance of reopening. Memorabilia such as posters and other signage fetch a high price at auction these days as the line has achieved somewhat of a cult following, and it's not hard to say that it's a shame such a modern mainline was closed so early.

    The Route in Train Sim World
    In-game, I think a reasonable section to see with the current length routes we are getting would be the 41 miles between Manchester and Sheffield in around 1970, or sometime just before. As previously stated, this would allow cross-over of stock from NTP in the form of all three units (45, 47, 101) showing up across the route. You would also get the most out of the route as passenger service east of Hadfield was still very much a thing until very early 1970.

    Between Manchester and Sheffield there were 22 stations, which were, from west to east:
    Manchester London Road (Later Piccadilly)
    Ardwick
    Ashburys
    Gorton
    Fairfield
    Newton for Hyde
    Godley Junction
    Hattersley
    Broadbottom
    Mottram Staff Halt
    (Not for revenue use)
    Dinting
    Glossop
    Hadfield
    Crowden
    Woodhead
    Dunford
    Hazlehead Bridge
    Penistone
    Wortley
    Deepcar
    Oughty Bridge
    Wadsley Bridge
    Neepsend
    Sheffield Victoria


    Rolling Stock
    Set in 1969, the route would have the opportunity to have some interesting stock, both freight and passenger, as well as locomotives. Let's start with those first

    Locomotives
    British Rail Class 76
    seventysix.jpg
    56 locomotives were built to Sir Nigel Gresley's designs at the Gorton Works in suburban Manchester between 1950 and 1953. They typically ran in pairs, and had an innovative 'Clearcall' system that sent messages between lead and banking locomotives via the overhead wire. All but 1 was scrapped when the Woodhead electrification ended.
    British Rail Class 506
    506.jpg

    8 three-car units were built in anticipation of the electrification in 1950 to an LNER from 1938. They were the first rolling stock in the UK to have sliding rather than slam doors. A typical formation was a Driving Motor Brake Third (the one with the pantograph), Trailer Composite, and a Driving Trailer Third. 7 units were cut up in April 1985, with one being set aside for preservation - this deteriorated and today only the cab of the Motor Brake remains.
    British Rail Class 08
    08.jpg

    The Class 08 fared a far better fate than the Woodhead Electrics owing to the fact it was used system-wide. Built between 1953 and 1962, 996 were built making them the most numerous class of British locomotive. 100 still remain in active service with another 60 having been preserved. Since it was used for mainly shunting, it has a top speed of either 15 or 20 mph and a 350 hp engine. It's less powerful but faster cousin, the 09, has a top speed of 29 miles per hour.

    Wagons
    21 Ton HOP
    HOP.jpg
    The 21 ton HOP wagons were built in 1949 to LNER designs - over 1,200 of them were produced, making them a common sight in the north of England. They were not equipped with air or vacuum brakes.
    BDO Bolster D
    bdobolsterb.jpg
    These were used for hauling steel and were built to LMS designs at the Derby Works from 1949 to 1958, during which time around 1,600 were produced. They, like the HOP wagons, were unfitted.

    Coaching Stock
    British Rail Mark I
    Because the forums will only let me attach five images, I can't show a picture of Mark I stock. However, you probably know what it looks like being a staple of the British mainline for almost 40 years. Built at BR's workshops and private industry from 1951 to 1963, but multiple unit designs based on it were built into the 1970s. These could probably be pulled from WSR and have a few variants included, and of course BR Corporate Blue.

    Final Thoughts
    The Woodhead Pass line offers a variety of service choices from a variety of eras, and at a very minimum if the route were made for TSW I'd like to see the line from Manchester to Sheffield with the Rotherwood Exchange Sidings, Tinsley Marshalling Yard, and the branch to Reddish Electric Depot. I would also like to see the 14-mile branch to Wath as this is where most coal traffic originated. What do you think? Is there anything you'd like to see out of this route if it were made? Pop your thoughts down below - there's a good chance I'll edit this as ideas come in.
     
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  2. Railfan722

    Railfan722 Well-Known Member

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    Here are some historical photographs of some of the major freight destinations on the route
    Mottram Yard, c. 1972
    mottram.jpg

    There is not a wealth of information about Mottram. It was built in 1936 by the LNER to act as a central distribution centre for rail traffic in the Manchester area, and as built was a hump yard with pneumatically controlled switches. Most BR era photos show it as being a flat yard, though. The reception sidings remained into the 70s, and the whole thing closed in 1981 with the Woodhead Line.
    Wath Marshalling Yard, c. 1980
    wath.jpg
    To save on costs, only the northern half of the yard was electrified - electric locomotives arriving into the yard usually had to be towed back to the wires by the shunter in the yard. Following the closure of Woodhead, the hump and all track in the yard was lifted in 1988.
    Tinsley Marshalling Yard, around 1980
    tinsley.jpg
    Note the Class 13 in the photo - these were rebuilt Class 08s that were coupled with a single driving cab to push trains over the hump at Tinsley. 3 were built, and all were scrapped in the mid-80s when the hump was levelled. Also note the position-light signal in the left.
     
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  3. Railfan722

    Railfan722 Well-Known Member

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    Today, very little is left of these yards.
    Mottram
    mottram today.jpg
    Mottram has been completely reclaimed by nature. The line on the right is Northern's Glossop Line which uses the original LNER gantries re-energised to 25 Kv AC.

    Tinsley
    tinsley today.jpg

    Tinsley is still in use (somewhat). The yard was drastically scaled down in the 80s and 90s, and very little of it remained. In 2007, what little was left was lifted and the new Sheffield International Rail Freight Terminal and has two warehouses for transloading.

    There are few to no pictures that I can find of Wath, and a look on Google maps shows that it is now part of both a shopping centre and a nature preserve.
     
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  4. NoddyMac

    NoddyMac Member

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    That could be an interesting addition to TSW!
     
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  5. Rail Master

    Rail Master Active Member

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    Yes! Finally a good suggestion to DTG make!
     
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  6. Dave Mel

    Dave Mel Well-Known Member

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    i asked for this route months ago and someone from DTG said this route is already made in TS"""". mind you i asked on a DTG stream. so probably that not an official request. i did put it on the forum somewhere.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2019
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  7. raildan

    raildan Well-Known Member

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    Not only is it a route in TS, it's 2 routes in TS set in 2 separate eras.

    Personally, I'd love to see this in TSW anyway, but in original BR black, as that's an era of British Rail we haven't seen before and probably won't for a while as steam is still a long ways off.
     
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  8. Dave Mel

    Dave Mel Well-Known Member

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    i used to go trainspotting on there and travelled it quite a few times being born and bred in the Manchester area. i would love to see it brought to TSW. Its a tragedy this line had to shut down, i remember the steam trains that run on it and the class 76 locos and i also think i saw my first 08 on there.
     
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  9. Railfan722

    Railfan722 Well-Known Member

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    I was originally going to suggest BR black for the route, but there were two things that made me switch to early BR blue - one, as you said, is the problem of steam - you can't have a 1950s or early 60s route without steam in the UK. Secondly, the major reason for the late 60s proposal was for the Tinsley Marshalling Yard which I think would provide a lot of operational interest what with the hump and all. I'm not entirely sure how AI service mode wagons would handle a hump, but I suppose we're not the ones who would have to figure that out.
     
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  10. UnlimitedMagic

    UnlimitedMagic Well-Known Member

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    I saw the abandoned part of the part in a documentary called abandoned railways Something like that
     
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  11. zappatime

    zappatime New Member

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    Woodhead would be a fantastic addition to TSW2, I thought the TS version captured the feel of the route really well and as you say crossover of locos from Trans-Pennine would be added value for the route; if steam ever does come along it would also be viable to update the route for that era in BR black days; gets my vote!
     

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