Manchester and Leeds Railway

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.

Manchester and Leeds Railway
LocaleLancashire and Yorkshire
Dates of operation4 July 1836–9 July 1847
SuccessorLancashire and Yorkshire Railway
Track gauge4 ft 9 in (1,448 mm)[1]


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



  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 18 June 2018.
  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.


  • Hewison, Christian H. (1983), Locomotive Boiler Explosions, Newton Abbot: David & Charles, ISBN 0 7153 8305 1
  • Parkinson-Bailey, John (2000), Manchester: An Architectural History, Manchester University Press, ISBN 0-7190-5606-3
  • Scrivenor, Harry (1849), The Railways of the United Kingdom, Smith, Elder, and co.
  • Wells, Jeffrey (2000), The Eleven Towns Railway: The Story of the Manchester and Leeds Main Line, Railway and Canal Historical Society, ISBN 0-901461-21-0
  • Whishaw, F, (1842) The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland London: John Wheale repub Clinker, C.R. ed (1969) Whishaw's Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Newton Abbot: David and Charles

Further reading

External links

Ashton, Stalybridge and Liverpool Junction Railway

The Ashton, Stalybridge & Liverpool Junction Railway (AS&LJR), was formed in 1844 and was taken over by the Manchester and Leeds Railway in 1847.

Cooper Bridge railway station

Cooper Bridge was a railway station built by the Manchester and Leeds Railway to serve the town of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, England.

Darton railway station

Darton railway station is a railway station in Darton, in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England. Train services are provided by Northern.

The station was opened by the Manchester and Leeds Railway on 1 January 1850.The railway station is in South Yorkshire but West Yorkshire Metro tickets are also valid to and from this station. The reason for this is that the West-South Yorkshire boundary historically ran between the village and its main source of employment, Woolley Colliery.The car park at the station was recently reported by the local police force as having the highest incidence of vehicle break-ins in the Barnsley area, but the installation of CCTV is hoped to address this problem.

Elland railway station

Elland railway station served the town of Elland in West Yorkshire, England until 1962.

Greetland railway station

Greetland railway station was a railway station that served the village of Greetland in West Yorkshire, England.

Healey, Ossett

Healey is a small village and industrial district on the east bank of the River Calder in the southwestern outskirts of Ossett, near Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England. It developed during the industrial revolution when three cloth and fulling mills were built.

The railway sidings at Healey Mills are located to the east of the village, south of Ossett and west of Horbury between Wakefield Kirkgate railway station and Mirfield railway station on the former Manchester and Leeds Railway. The sidings were redeveloped as part of the British Rail Modernisation Plan as a hump marshalling yard.

Heywood railway station

Heywood railway station serves the town of Heywood in Greater Manchester, England. The original station was opened in 1841 (by the Manchester and Leeds Railway). It was resited in 1848 when the line was extended to Bury. It closed on 5 October 1970. It re-opened on 6 September 2003 as an extension of the East Lancashire Railway from Bury Bolton Street. The boundary between the ELR and the national rail network is located a short distance east of the station, at Hopwood.

£300 million had been pledged to link Heywood back to the National Rail Network in 2009, which would have seen services direct to Manchester via Castleton, but this scheme was subsequently shelved due to lack of funding. The ELR still has ambitions to run trains through to Castleton though to allow direct interchange with National Rail services there. This would form part of a larger scheme to regenerate the area and create additional tourist attractions such as a proposed Heywood Culture Park.

The original station was situated immediately opposite the terminal wharf of the Heywood Branch Canal. The East Lancashire Railway station is situated slightly further to the east, nearer to the former Heywood railway wagon works.

James Fenton (engineer)

James Fenton (1815–1863) was a Scottish engineer.

He was engineer (1841–45) on the Manchester and Leeds Railway, and Leeds and Thirsk Railway (1845–46), In 1846 he formed Fenton, Craven and Company (later as E. B. Wilson and Company) at the Railway Foundry, Leeds, UK, and in 1851 joined the Low Moor Company in Bradford, as consulting engineer.

John Viret Gooch

John Viret Gooch (29 June 1812 – 8 June 1900) was the locomotive superintendent of the London and South Western Railway from 1841 to 1850. Born at Bedlington, Northumberland, John Viret Gooch (brother of Daniel Gooch)

was the son of John and Anna (born Longridge).

Leeds and York Railway

The Leeds and York Railway was a proposed railway line, promoted in the mid 1840s, intended to connect York and Leeds. The line lost a significant promoter, the Manchester and Leeds Railway in 1845/6 as a result of a non-competition arrangement between that company, and the York and North Midland Railway.

The York and North Midland Railway had successfully promoted a rival line in the same session of parliament, and obtained an act for its construction in 1846. The Tadcaster Viaduct had been completed by 1848 when the Y&NMR decided to abandon construction of the line. The line was not completed.

Littleborough railway station

Littleborough railway station serves the small town of Littleborough in the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England.

It lies on the Caldervale Line 13¾ miles (22 km) north of Manchester Victoria towards Halifax, Bradford Interchange and Leeds.

This is the last station on the Caldervale Line in the Greater Manchester area. It was one of the original Manchester and Leeds Railway station sites and for the first year of operation following its opening in July 1839, it was the temporary terminus of the line from Manchester (the section on through the Summit Tunnel towards Mirfield not being completed until 1841). It did so again for some eight months after the December 1984 Summit Tunnel fire - passengers transferring between the trains to/from Manchester and a rail-replacement bus service onwards to Todmorden until repairs to the tunnel could be completed and the line reopened.

Luddendenfoot railway station

Luddendenfoot railway station served the village of Luddendenfoot in West Yorkshire, England, from 1840 until 1962.

Manchester Oldham Road railway station

Manchester Oldham Road was a railway station built on the Manchester and Leeds Railway (M&LR) in Miles Platting, Greater Manchester. Built in 1839 and opened on 3 July, it was the Manchester terminus for the railway.

Manchester and Bolton Railway

The Manchester and Bolton Railway was a railway in the historic county of Lancashire, England, connecting Salford to Bolton. It was built by the proprietors of the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Navigation and Railway Company who had in 1831 converted from a canal company. The 10-mile (16 km) long railway was originally to have built upon most of the line of the canal, but it was eventually built alongside the Salford and Bolton arms of the canal. The Act of Parliament also allowed the construction of a connection to Bury, but technical constraints meant that it was never built.

The railway required significant earthworks, including a 295-yard (270 m) tunnel. The railway termini were at Salford railway station and Trinity Street station in Bolton. The railway was opened in 1838 to passenger and freight services. In 1841 it was extended to Preston, and in 1844 to Victoria railway station in Manchester. It amalgamated with the Manchester and Leeds Railway in 1846.

The railway is in use today as part of the Manchester to Preston Line, although some of the original stations are no longer in use.

Middleton Junction railway station

Middleton Junction railway station was on the Caldervale Line, from 1842 until closure on 3 January 1966. It was located at Lane End in Chadderton, a former hamlet which later adopted the place-name Middleton Junction after the area expanded after the opening of the railway. It was opened on 31 March 1842 by the Manchester and Leeds Railway, whose chief engineer was George Stephenson, as part of the branch to Oldham Werneth. The station was originally called Oldham Junction but by August 1842 it was known as Middleton Station, changing its name to Middleton Junction some ten years later.

The line was notable for a stretch of steep 1 in 27 gradient called the Werneth Incline. On 12 August 1914 a goods and coal depot was opened at Chadderton. This was at the end of a 1,097-yard (1 km) long line which branched off the Oldham line approximately 400 yards (370 m) from Middleton Junction at Chadderton Junction. The line from Chadderton Junction to Oldham was closed to passengers in 1958 and completely on 7 January 1963 but the Chadderton goods and coal depot remained open and in use until 1988 (the track was eventually lifted in September 1991).A branch line from Middleton Junction to Middleton was opened on 5 January 1857, closing to passengers on 7 September 1964 (as a result of the Beeching Axe) and completely on 11 October 1965.

Miles Platting railway station

Miles Platting railway station served the district of Miles Platting in Manchester from 1844 until closure on 27 May 1995. The station was opened on 1 January 1844 by the Manchester and Leeds Railway; after amalgamating with other railways, this became the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1847. The station was situated at the junction of the lines to Stalybridge (opened 1846) and Rochdale (opened 1839), and had platforms on both routes. Little trace remains of the station today, as the platforms were removed and the buildings demolished after closure. However, a length of platform awning has been re-erected at Ramsbottom station on the preserved East Lancs Railway.

Ravensthorpe railway station

Ravensthorpe railway station serves the Ravensthorpe suburb of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, England. It is situated on the Huddersfield line between Leeds and Manchester, 8 miles (13 km) north east of Huddersfield.

The station is managed by Northern, although all services are currently provided by TransPennine Express.

Ravensthorpe station is adjacent to Thornhill LNW (London North Western) Junction, where a line branches to Wakefield Kirkgate. There are plans to extend the station by building new platforms on this line, which was built by the former Manchester and Leeds Railway.

Summit Tunnel

Summit Tunnel in England is one of the world's oldest railway tunnels. It was constructed between 1838 and 1841 by the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company to provide a direct line between Leeds and Manchester. When built, Summit Tunnel was the longest railway tunnel in the world.

The tunnel, between Littleborough and Walsden near Todmorden, was bored beneath the Pennines, a natural obstruction to most forms of traffic. The tunnel is just over 1.6 miles (2.6 km) long and carries two standard-gauge tracks in a single horseshoe-shaped tube, approximately 24 feet (7.2 m) wide and 22 feet (6.6 m) high. Summit Tunnel was designed by Thomas Longridge Gooch, assisted by Barnard Dickinson. Progress on its construction was slower than anticipated, largely because excavation was more difficult than anticipated. On 1 March 1841, Summit Tunnel was opened by Sir John Frederick Sigismund Smith; it had cost of £251,000 and 41 workers had died.

On 20 December 1984, the Summit Tunnel fire occurred. No lives were lost and five months later, the tunnel reopened after repairs. The tunnel has remained in continuous use with little interruption since it opened.

Thomas Longridge Gooch

Thomas Longridge Gooch (1 November 1808 – 23 November 1882) was civil engineer of the Manchester and Leeds Railway from 1831 to 1844.

Manchester & Leeds Railway
51 Normanton
48 Wakefield Kirkgate
47 Horbury Junction
46 Horbury Millfield Road
44 Horbury and Ossett
41 Thornhill
36 Cooper Bridge
34 Brighouse for Rastrick
31 Elland
28 Sowerby Bridge
26 Luddendenfoot
24 Hebden Bridge
21 Eastwood
20 Todmorden
Summit Tunnel
14 Littleborough
Smithy Bridge
11 Rochdale
9 Castleton
6 Mills Hill
Middleton Junction
Newton Heath
Miles Platting
0 Manchester Oldham Road
Manchester Victoria

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