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Manchester and Birmingham Railway

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The Manchester and Birmingham Railway was built between Manchester and Crewe. Its locomotive works was at Longsight.

After the building of the Grand Junction Railway and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, investors began to look for other routes south of Manchester. From 1835, the GJR was considering a branch to the Potteries, while the Manchester and Cheshire Junction Railway was planning a line from Manchester to Crewe with branches outwards.

Meanwhile George Stephenson was investigating a line from Manchester and Stockport to the Potteries, which developed into a proposal for a Manchester South Union Railway. Also involved were proposals for competing lines through the Trent valley to Rugby.

1837 After two years of proposals and counter-proposals, what emerged was a scheme to run from a junction from the GJR at Chebsey, with branches to Macclesfield and Crewe, into Manchester Store Street, which received Parliamentary authorisation in 1837. There were plans to take the line to Rugby, but for a number of reasons, including lack of finance, they were put in abeyance.

1839 Report (extract): 'T. Gooch, Esq., the engineer, read the following report:—
No. 1, or Fairfield Contract. — The heaviest work on this contract is the cast iron oblique bridge (of 128 feet 9 inches) over Fairfield-street. The masonry of one abutment is in a forward state, and the rate of progress is such as to ensure both being ready for the erection of the arch in the middle next month, when the castings are also expected to be ready, and the founder has undertaken to have the iron work erected by the end of this year.
No. 2, or Chancery-lane District.— Only sixteen of the arches in this contract remain to be turned, which will be accomplished in six weeks. This contract does not include any work demanding extraordinary exertions.
No. 3, or Hyde-road Contract.— This contract consists chiefly of fifty-two arches of thirty-six feet span, sixteen of which are turned. Of the remainder, four have the centres fixed ready for turning, twenty-four are ready for the imposts, which are in the ground, the piers for the remaining six are commenced, and are about half built. The number of centres in use, and hands employed, will enable the contractors to complete one arch daily : the whole, therefore, will require but six weeks, unless delayed by unfavourable weather.
No. 4, or Heaton Norris Contract.- The excavation at Heaton and its corresponding embankment, are the only heavy works, and they are in a forward state. On the 13th of last month, the embankment from Heaton Norris to the Hyde road, required but 50,000 cubic yards to complete it. This work has advanced consistently within its completion by November next, as stated in our last report. At the same date, there remained in the Heaton Norris cutting, 112,800 cubic yards. The bridges under the line are nearly completed, except that which crosses the Stockport road ; this is an oblique cast iron bridge, each from the patterns made for the Hyde road bridge : the iron work of both is in the same state of forwardness. The erection of the bridge over the line has just commenced, and will doubtless proceed with the energy necessary to bring the whole to completion in the specified time.
No. 5, or Stockport Viaduct Contract.— This contract is proceeding satisfactorily and consistently with its completion in proper time.
No. 6, or Congleton Viaduct Contract.— Eight millions of bricks have been made. This quantity will be sufficient to carry on the work until tho return of the brick-making season. The contractor is erecting his machinery, and the first stone is expected to laid in or about a fortnight. All the contracts are in such a state as to warrant the confident expectation of the line being opened within the prescribed limit.'[1]

1840 A section between Heaton Norris and a temporary station at Travis Street in Manchester was opened first in 1840 carrying nearly two thousand passengers in the first tenty weeks. However there still remained to be built an enormous 22 arch viaduct over the River Mersey at Stockport.

In 1840 the line ran from Manchester to Stockport with thirteen trains a day in each direction and five on Sundays. The single fare ranged from 1s 3d to 6d.

One of the remarkable engineering features in Manchester was a cast iron bridge of considerable skew, crossing Fairfield Street to take the railway into London Road Station. Its angle of skew was 24.5 degrees, and its span was 128 ft 9 inches, despite the fact that the square span of the street was only 48 ft. 1909 photograph of this impressive bridge here[2]. In fact the cast iron bridge may still be there - with the arches encased in concrete. See last photo here[3]. The bridge had six iron ribs, with a total weight of 540 tons. 'So very correctly has the masonry and iron work been executed to the plan and specification, that on fixing the last segment of the first rib, it was found to fit so correctly that it was found impossible to introduce a sixpence between the joints, i.e. before the screws that connect the two adjoining segments were tightened. In attempting, however, to fix the last segment in the first rib, before referred to, at noon on the previous day, it was found to be fully 3-8 ths of an inch too long, caused, as it was afterwards proved, by expansion arising from the the heat of the sun — for on the following morning early, and before the sun's rays could have any decided effect on the iron, it was found to fit its destined place with the utmost possible precision. _— Liverpool Mercury.'[4]. The Master mason was a Mr. Pattison.

Also thought worthy of comment in 1840 were 'eccentric switches' patented by Ellis and Noton.[5]

1841 the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, which was to share Store Street, also began running into Travis Street. Store Street finally opened in 1842 and later became known as London Road. (It became Piccadilly in 1960). Services were extended to Sandbach but entry to Crewe, where it would use GJR metals to Birmingham, proved more difficult. In the end it was agreed that the GJR would work the trains south of Crewe, while the M&B would work them into Manchester.

Enough locomotives, all 2-2-2, had been ordered from Robert Stephenson and Co and Sharp, Roberts and Co to work the whole distance, but John Ramsbottom, their Locomotive Superintendent, managed to sell four of them on to the South Eastern Railway. Although the company's finances remained weak, it built a number of short branches, and, although a minor player, its position made it a crucial part in revived plans for the Trent and Churnet valleys, which involved the London and Birmingham Railway with which they would compete.

1846 Eventually the complex relationship between the M&BR, the GJR and the L&BR was resolved by their merger in 1846 to form the London and North Western Railway.

The long-awaited Trent Valley Railway opened in 1847. The Manchester and Birmingham had put other plans forward, including a line from Rugby to the Midland Railway at Syston near Leicester, authorised in 1846 and the Coventry and Nuneaton Railway.

Also in 1846 the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway had been authorised, supported strongly by the M&BR and the Midland, joining the latter's line to London. In the event it only reached Rowsley due to financial difficulties, but the merger was a considerable embarrassment to the Midland, since the LNWR was naturally opposed to a competing line to the capital.

1846 It was merged into the London and North Western Railway

1842 REPORT[6]

'FURTHER OPENING OF THE MANCHESTER AND BIRMINGHAM RAILWAY.

'The second portion of this line, twenty-one miles in length, from Stockport to Sandbach, was opened to the public on Tuesday. The remaining distance to Crewe, four and a half miles, is expected to be opened early next month, as soon as the company can make arrangements for conveying the whole of the goods traffic along the line. On Monday, General Pasley, the government inspector of railways (having succeeded Sir Frederick Smith in that office), proceeded along the whole of the line in a special train, preparatory to the public opening. We understand that he expressed the highest satisfaction at the completeness of the works, and their general solidity and strength. Indeed he is said to have observed, that he had seen nothing to surpass it, and but one line to approach it, viz., the South-eastern line. He also added, "I thought the South-eastern line perfect until I saw this."

'On Tuesday, the company started three trains daily each way between Manchester and Sandbach; those from Manchester at half-past seven o'clock morning, half-past one afternoon, and half-past six evening; those from Sandbach at eight o'clock morning, eleven forenoon, and five afternoon. On Sundays there will be but two trains each way, viz., from Manchester eight morning, and six evening ; and from Sandbach eight morning, and half-past seven evening. All the trains stop at the intermediate stations between Manchester and Sandbach, of which there are seven, exclusive of Stockport, viz., Rushford. Cheadle, Handford, Wilmslow, Alderley, Chelford, and Holmes Chapel. Chelford is the station for Macclesfield, and a coach runs thence to the town, a distance of seven miles from the station. The journey by railway and coach is nearly an hour shorter than by coach from Manchester.

'The first train started from the station, London-road, on Tuesday morning, nominally half-past seven; but, from some little arrangements requisite to be completed, it wanted but 20 minutes of eight o'clock when the start was made. The train, consisting of one carriage of each the three classes, was drawn by the No. 9 engine, manufactured Messrs. Sharp, Roberts, and Co., of this town.

'The new station, which will now be permanently used both by this line and the Sheffield Company, is erected on a viaduct of sixteen arches, 238 feet long, 34 feet span, rising to the height of 30 feet above London-road. These arches are fitted up as warehouses for the parties who have arranged with the company for the conveyance of merchandise along the line.

'The approach to the passenger station is by an easy incline from Ducie-street. Facing the approach, at the top of the incline, is a beautiful stone building, in the Italian style of architecture, which forms the prominent feature of the station, and appropriated to the engines required for the immediate traffic of the line. Turning to the left, the visitor approaches a range of buildings 500 feet long, containing the booking offices, waiting rooms, parcel offices, &c, which are particularly spacious and convenient; over these, and connected by a corridor extending the whole length, are the proprietors' meeting rooms, directors' and treasurer's rooms, manager's and engineer's rooms, and the offices for the various clerks of the company. Passing through the booking offices, he will arrive on a platform for passengers on departure. This is 500 feet in length and 12 feet wide, the platform floor being laid with asphalte: this platform, together with the two departure lines of rails, is covered with a light iron roof 480 feet long, and 34 feet span. On the opposite side of the station the platform for the arrival lines, 312 feet long, 12 feet wide, beyond which again is a spacious area for carriages waiting the arrival of passengers. This is paved with wooden blocks, presenting a square surface, each block subdivided by two cross grooves into four small squares; this being done, we presume, to give the horses' feet a firmer hold. Between the platforms are six lines of rails connected with three rows of turntables; four of these lines of rails are connected with a turn table, thirty feet in diameter, so arranged as to turn the engine and tender at once, without disconnecting them. This part of the station is covered with an iron roof, 212 feet long, in two spans of 52 feet 6 inches, and 34 feet respectively. In addition to the approach from Ducie-street, there is a double staircase, of peculiar construction, for the accommodation of passengers, so arranged that persons arriving ascend by one flight of steps, the entrance to which is in London-road ; whilst those departing descend by a separate flight of steps into Store-street.

'On the north-eastern side of the wall bounding the passenger station, is the station appropriated to merchandise, which is conveyed to and from the vaults below by means of an ingenious hoisting apparatus, worked by a steam-engine of thirty horses' power; the chimney for which an ornamental column of brick and stone, rising to the height of 100 feet above Store-street. This very extensive structure, containing nearly twenty three million bricks, 100,000 cubic feet of stone, and 800 tons of cast iron, has been erected by Mr. George Clarke Pauling, and was commenced on the 12th of June, 1841. The extraordinary rapidity, and the workmanlike manner in which the whole has been executed, has excited general admiration.

'The train reached the Sandbach Station at six minutes before nine o'clock, being about an hour and a quarter for the 26¼ miles from Manchester, including some delays, and the stoppages at eight stations. The general features of the line may be briefly stated.—

'Seven viaducts carry it over as many valleys and streams ; it has several lofty embankments; but its cuttings are not nearly so deep those of several other lines in this part of the kindom. The gradients generally are favourable, the heaviest on the line being one of 20 feet per mile (1 in 264), for length of 95 chains, near Wheelock, and another of the same incline near the Holmes Chapel Station, for a length of 40 chains. These are much lighter than the Sutton incline on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The curves are generally good, and it has for several great lengths as straight a line as any ancient Roman road. For instance, a person standing in the centre of the line the Sandbach Station, and looking along it towards Manchester, will find it straight as far as the range of his vision will carry his observation ; but, as it passes under a succession of brick bridges, it looks interminable till the distance closes the view. There are several other points on the line where the same thing may be noticed. The slopes are worthy of observation. They have been well tried, and have so far stood well; nowhere did we perceive the least slipping ; and we understand that, being made many places in the Cheshire marl, the slope of two to one was invariably adopted, instead of the general proportion of one and a half to one ; and hence their stability. The stations are generally neat, plain, brick edifices, upon stone-faced platforms.

'The features of the country through which the line passes, are its pleasing landscapes, its wooded vales, and streams, with almost every eminence crowned by some goodly mansion, or ancient hall; and the blue hills skirting the distant horizon in every extensive prospect. In these respects, the railway will doubtless become a favourite medium for country excursions of our busy community, in seasons of holiday relaxation and employment, such as that of our approaching annual Whitsuntide races.

'Early next month, when the line is opened throughout, there will be 24 engines upon it, the greater part of them made by Messrs Sharp, Roberts, and Company, of this town, and the remainder by Messrs. Stephenson. They have all 14-inch cylinders, with 18-inch stroke; and are consequently more powerful than those on many lines; the engines on the Grand Junction Line having only 13-inch cylinders. They are all provided with a peculiar steam whistle, the contrivance of Mr. G. W. Buck, the company's engineer, in order that, in the night-time, or during a dense fog, the approaching engine or train may be distinguished from those of the Manchester and Sheffield Railway Company, which run on the line from Chancery-lane, Ardwick, to the Manchester Station. Instead of the long shriek of the old steam-whistle (which, however, is used and preferred in broad daylight), the new whistle emits a number of shrill jerks in quick succession, something like a monster boatswain's whistle.

'By the thorough opening, the company expect to have 42 first-class carriages, 24 second-class, and 24 third-class, upon the line; principally made Messrs. Bramah and Fox, of the London Works, near Birmingham ; some being made also by Mr. Melling of this town, and a few by Messrs. Mather and Chantler. Engines, tenders, carriages, waggons and the coaches running in connection with the line, are all painted a deep blue (the royal navy blue), the colour also adopted by the company for the dress of the guards and policemen.

'The erections at Crewe, both on this line and the Grand Junction Railway, mark the importance which both companies attach to this station. On the Manchester and Birmingham line there is an engine-house to contain six loco-motives, and another small engine-house with large water tank over it. Far below runs the Coppenhall Brook, the course of which has been made straight, and the old bed is being formed into reservoir, whence water will be lifted by an engine pump into the tank. Connected with this tank is an ingenious water crane, for supplying the tender with water, the invention of Mr. G. W. Buck, the company's engineer, and the workmanship of Messrs Ireland and Longdin, of Ancoats in this town. Instead of requiring to be swung out, it projects over the railway, at a height out of the way of any carriage root or loaded waggon; the hose, which has an elbow joint, being folded under the fixed part of the tube. The stoker can reach this; and all he has to do is pull it down from its clasp, while the man on duty at the tank turns the tap, and the stream runs at once into the tender's tank. When the tap is stopped, a counter-balance weight fixed to the crane, near the elbow joint, comes into play, and by its descent folds and lifts up the hose, and replaces it in the clasp.

'The coke-house stands upon a platform, so as to enable the men to put coke on the tender without a ladder. A little further, on the same (the west) side of the line, perhaps 150 yards from the Grand Junction Line, stands the Crewe Station-house of the Manchester and Birmingham Line. The booking offices are at the end next the Grand Junction Line; the centre of the building is a bar, with kitchen behind, and opening on one side into the ladies' refreshment-room, on the other to the gentlemen's ; and, by this arrangement of the building, promptitude and attention will, it is expected, be secured. This provision for the accommodation of passengers, at the Crewe Station, the more necessary, as passengers, going to or coming from Chester, may have to wait a short time there for the arriving trains. Behind this station-house is a wide carriage-drive, leading to the Crewe Hotel, on the Grand Junction Line. The Manchester and Birmingham Company have made this road on land purchased by them of Lord Crewe for the purpose ; and it will doubtless be a great convenience for the transference of vehicles from one line to the other. At Crewe the Grand Junction Company are concentrating their stock of engines, as they are about to remove thither the depots from both Manchester and Liverpool. They are erecting, between their own line and the Chester and Crewe Line, a spacious building for an engine-house, &c. Here, too, they propose to erect a number of cottages for their workmen, and also a church ; so that the Crewe Station, on which few years ago there was not a building to be seen, will probably become a little town a few years hence.

'Since Tuesday, the trains have regularly run each way, and hitherto the arrangements have proved to be of the most satisfactory nature.'


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 7 September 1839
  2. [1] Manchester Local Image Collection, Railway Bridges, L and N W Railway Co, Bridge over Fairfield Street, Manchester - south west elevation, Manchester, 1909, image m66768
  3. [2] 108 arches to Ardwick: the view from below - blog by Paul Dobraszczyk
  4. The Scotsman - Saturday 14 March 1840
  5. Manchester Times - Saturday 6 June 1840
  6. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 14 May 1842
  • [3] Wikipedia
  • Bradshaw’s Railway Companion 1840