Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,484 pages of information and 245,913 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Manchester and Leeds Railway

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The Manchester and Leeds Railway was a railway company which opened in 1839, connecting Manchester with Leeds via the North Midland Railway which it joined at Goose Hill Junction, Normanton.


1825 January 5th. Meeting held at the Bridgewater Arms Inn, Manchester with Thomas Worthington in the Chair. 29 members (named) of the Committee. 'Proposed railway from Manchester to Leeds to communicate with Hull and the intermeriate places'. [1] [2]

1836 It was incorporated by Act of Parliament.

1837 An amended Act was obtained in May 1837, and the Directors then began with t obuy land and to let the contracts for the works. Ground was first broken on 18 August 1837.

1839 A second Act authorised the extension from the original Manchester terminus at Lees Street 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.

The railway approached the station by a viaduct, 730 yards long, of 72 arches. The Pennine Range was pierced by the Summit Tunnel, 2860 yards long. In its construction fifteen shafts were sunk, and the work cost £251,000, or £108,000 above the estimate. The contractor gave up to job and sacrificed his bond of £3000 rather than complete it. The well-known Charles-town Curve is situated east of Todmorden. A tunnel, 250 yards long, should have been provided at that point but owing to the treacherous nature of the soil, the line was run round it on curves of 12-chain radius.[3]

1839 The line was opened in three sections; the western end, from Manchester to Littleborough, on July 4th, 1839; the eastern portion, from Hebden Bridge to Normanton, on October 5th, 1840; the central portion from Littleborough to Hebden Bridge, including the Summit Tunnel on March 1st, 1841.[4]

Superintended by George Stephenson, its engineer was Thomas Longridge Gooch, a brother of Daniel Gooch of the GWR. The line climbed out of Manchester with an average gradient of 1 in 260 till it arrived at the summit and a 2,860 yard long tunnel at Littleborough. From there it descended towards Normanton.

In 1840 the line ran from Manchester to Littleborough with stations at Mills Hill, Blue Pits and Rochdale and single fares ranged from 4s to 1s 6d. there were ten trains in each direction except Sunday when four were run.

The four branches opened as follows:[5]

  • From Blue Pits - Castleton - to Heywood, on April 1st, 1841 and extended to Bury on May 5th 1848.
  • Mills Hill - Middleton Junction - to Oldham, Werneth, on March 21st, 1842.
  • North Dean to Halifax on July 8th, 1844.
  • Miles Platting to Ashton on April 15th, 1846.

The line was extended to Mumps Station, Oldham, on November 1st 1847.

c1845 They absorbed the Ashton, Stalybridge and Liverpool Junction Railway

1845 They absorbed the Huddersfield and Sheffield Junction Railway

1846 They absorbed the Liverpool and Bury Railway

1847 The line was the chief constituent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway when it was formed.

September 1838 Newspaper Report [6]

Of the great and important lines of railway communication which a few short years will see radiating from this great metropolis of manufactures (Manchester), perhaps one of the most valuable and important will be that which connects the capital of the cotton with the capital of the woollen manufacture. As the progress of the works on this line — not merely the viaduct of the Manchester terminus, but, we believe, nearly all the heaviest work along the line, including the summit tunnel — is now in so satisfactory, and, indeed, astonishingly forward a state, we cannot, perhaps, select a fitter opportunity for laying before our readers a short sketch of the course and features of this great railway, which is to connect, not only the emporia of manufacture and the marts of trade, but also the two greatest -seaports of the north, Liverpool and Hull— bringing the North Sea and the Irish Sea, the east and west coasts of our island, within a few hour's distance.

‘The line, as may be known, runs in a direction about N.N.E. from Manchester to Hebden-bridge, whence its course is E.S.E. till within a few miles of Wakefield, at a point nearly due south of Leeds, and from which it makes a detour by Wakefield into the North Midland line, which carries it in a north-westerly direction to Leeds. This line, though somewhat tortuous, was preferred by the company to a more direct one surveyed by Mr. Walker, for the reasons that it avoided some unfavourable gradients, and a considerable length of tunnelling, which Mr. Walker's line would have required; that it passed in the neighbourhood of the most valuable mills and factories in the West Riding, and the eastern part of this county ; and that, passing through a densely populated district, it was clearly the most desirable course in a commercial point of view.

‘The Manchester terminus of the line is to be in Lees- street, St. Georges-road, near its junction with Oldham-road; whence the line proceeds in a direction nearly N.E. on a viaduct of 58 arches, and about half a mile in length, at a height varying from 16 to 28 feet — the arches being from 30 to 40 feet span. St. George’s-street, (leading from Oldham-road to St. George's Church), Livesey-street (running from St. Georges-road to Oldham-road), in front of St. Patrick's (catholic) chapel, and the conventual seminary, and Cropper-street (Oldham-road), are respectively crossed by substantial bridges, faced with stone, the arches 42 feet span. This viaduct is succeeded at its terminus in Junction-street, Miles Platting, by an embankment of about 15 feet in height, which extends past Colleyhurst, and nearly to Moston — a distance of about two miles — and there it is suddenly increased to a height of about 50 feet, crossing Moston Brook ; it subsequently falls into an exceedingly heavy cutting, called the Moston cutting, which is precisely similar, in the character of materials and the quantity of excavation, to the Kenyon cutting, on the Liverpool and Manchester line. This cutting extends to a length about two miles, and may be said to be the heaviest work between Manchester and Rochdale. From its further extremity to the summit of the line, near Littleborough, the amount of embankment will far exceed that of excavation, and the additional material required will be obtained by what is termed side-cutting from the adjacent fields. The heaviest embankment will occur in crossing the river Irk, near a place called Mills-hill, and about three quarters of a mile east of Middleton. Here a long double culvert is carried over the Irk, at a height (the rails above the surface of the water) of 65 feet. The embankment does not extend much further. The Rochdale canal is next crossed, for the first time, about a quarter of a mile further, by a cast-iron trussed-beam bridge, with an arch of 75 feet span; the rails being about 20 feet above the surface of the water. Near Slattocks, the canal is crossed a second time by a substantial skew bridge, of brick, with stone facing ; the angle of askew being 30 degrees and the span 40 feet on the square. At Slattocks the railway is to pass under the Rochdale turnpike road, which will be raised about 24 feet, and carried over the railway by a solid bridge of three arches of 30 feet span ; the bridge will be of brick, with stone facing. Thence the railway continues to the Heywood branch canal, which, at that point, is at present carried along on an embankment: the railway will cross it by a cast-iron trussed-beam bridge. Thence the work on the line are of an easy character to the distance of three miles beyond Rochdale. The railway passes over Oldham-road, Rochdale, near the Rochdale Canal Company's station, on a viaduct of 16 arches, at a height of about 15 or 16 feet. Passing thence to the neighbourhood of Littleborough without any particular feature, till it approaches that place, the railway then proceeds thither on an embankment, varying from 25 to 30 feet in height, and passes through Littleborough on a viaduct of six arches. A little distance beyond Littleborough, the line, on its approach to the summit tunnel, is carried along by a cutting of nearly 100 feet at its greatest depth ; the material from which will be used in forming the embankment near Littleborough.

‘The summit tunnel, will, of course, be the heaviest piece of work on the whole line. This tunnel will be about a mile and a half in length, passing completely through the hill at the foot of Blackstone Edge, into the valley of Todmorden. This it does at a singularly low level, being only about 545 feet above the level of the sea, and, consequently, much lower than the level of any of the canals passing through this ridge. To construct this tunnel, eleven shafts are to be sunk at different distances, of about 10 feet diameter, and the longest of them about 100 yards in depth. It should be observed here, however, that the operations of draining, &c, will be very much facilitated by the sloping nature of the ground, which will enable the workmen to avail themselves of side-drifts, by which from 100 to 150 feet in elevation, in raising water, &c., are saved. At one point the tunnel passes under what may be called the peak of a hill, at a depth of about 380 feet ; but, of course, no shaft will be requisite at this point ; the tunnel passing under it owing to its being carried through in a straight line, instead of following the windings of the valley. Indeed the tunnel is not more than 80 feet below the general level of the valley.

‘After leaving the summit tunnel, the line winds along the course of the valley of Todmorden. The work will be very heavy for the first five miles; including two small tunnels, and some heavy embankments and cuttings. In this way the line is carried through Todmorden to Hebden Bridge. The valley, which, during the five miles referred to, is exceedingly narrow and confined (notwithstanding which, however, none of the curves exceed three quarters of a mile in radius) begins to open out near Hebden Bridge, and the works thence to Sowerby Bridge assume a much lighter character. Sowerby Bridge is near Halifax, and probably about thirty miles from Manchester. Near this place there is another tunnel of about five hundred yards in length. Thence the line continues, with an equal proportion of embankment and cutting, for a distance of several miles ; the principal feature in the works below Sowerby Bridge being the crossing of the river Calder by a handsome stone bridge. The remainder of the earth work will be very light. Here we may remark that the stone for the bridge just named, as well as for all the works in the Todmorden valley (in which the masonry is to a greater extent more than the earth-work), will be obtained there, where it can be got in vast abundance, and of the best quality. Indeed, the great plenty of good stone is a very favourable circumstance for the line, both as regards the ballast required for the road on which to bed the blocks, and also the stone blocks for the rails, and the various bridges and other works along the railway. The line pursues its way till, about two miles east of Wakefield, it enters the North Midland line, at a distance of fifty miles from Manchester: there the line proper may be said to terminate— the North Midland proceeding thence to Leeds, a distance of about ten miles further. The arrangement entered into with the North Midland Railway Company, for this purpose, is stated to be a very favourable one ; and we believe the latter are in active operation in forming that portion of their line. From Hebden Bridge the line passes through the following towns and places :— Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge within little more than a mile of Halifax, within three miles of Huddersfield, through Elland, Brighouse, Cooper Bridge, within half a mile of Dewsbury, and through Wakefield, over part of which town it passes on a viaduct of about 20 arches. The North Midland line, quitting the valley of the Calder, runs through part of that of the Aire, to Leeds, where the eastern terminus, so far as the present line is concerned, will probably be somewhere in or near the Wellington-road. From Manchester to the east end of the summit tunnel the planes of the railway, with the exception of a few miles of level, are altogether ascending; from that point towards Leeds, there are descending planes till near the junction with the North Midland Railway, and thence alternately descending and ascending till its terminus at Leeds. The total distance from the Manchester to the Leeds terminus is sixty miles fifty chains, the length in a right line being about thirty-five miles. The nature of the country, and the necessity of passing what has been called England's vertebral chain, have caused this circuitous route to be necessary.

‘We should not do justice to this great undertaking, if we omitted to notice what has been done, mid is now doing, in reference to the proposed branch to Oldham. For this very important branch, the plans have been lodged with the clerks of the peace, and application is to be made to parliament in the next session fur the requisite powers to form that additional line, which, by a comparatively small amount of labour and length of railway, will form the best and most rapid line of communication between Manchester and Oldham, as well as connecting the latter with some of the important towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire. This branch will diverge from the main line at a distance of four miles fifty-two chains, or nearly four and three quarter miles, from Manchester, in the neighbourhood of Birchen Bower, whence it will proceed in nearly a direct line to Oldham ; its length being not quite two miles and a half. From the station in Lees-street Manchester, to the intended station in Ashton-road, Oldham, the distance will be seven miles eight chains; and from Manchester to Mumps, where the branch terminates, it will be seven miles sixty-one chains ; a distance nearly corresponding with that by the present coach road.

‘As to the present state of the works on the line, it is unnecessary for us now to enter into much detail, as the engineer's report, which would be laid before the half-yearly meeting of subscribers on Monday last, will doubtless comprehend all the information that may be sought on this subject. We may, however, state generally, that not only have the contracts been let for all the heavy works on the line, but in most of them very considerable progress has been made. During the last six months, more earth-work has been done than was ever before accomplished on any similar undertaking in the same distance and time ; and the activity with which the company's operations are conducted may be conjectured from the fact, that from Manchester to the summit tunnel, beyond Littleborough, between three and four thousand men are at this moment at work. Indeed , on that portion of the line between Manchester and Littleborough, which, we believe, is intended to be opened next spring, more than two-thirds of the whole amount of work required is already done. We believe it is intended to have the whole line completed "in all 1840."

‘We cannot conclude this hasty notice of the line, without taking a glance at it as forming one grand connecting link in the great chain of railway communication which is rapidly bringing Manchester into closer communication — we might almost say contact — with hitherto distant places. Not only does it connect the eastern and western shores of our inland at the two great out-ports of Liverpool and Hull ; but it forms a junction with the great eastern line of railway from London northward to Scotland, and by its points of contact with the North Midland, with its extension southward towards Birmingham, Derby, and the midland counties; and northward by the York and North Midland line, to York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh ; with the Leeds and Selby line, and its extension to Hull, — it leaves unreached scarcely any important district of the island, hitherto inaccessible by steam-locomotive travelling. When the lines to Leeds, to Birmingham, and the north- western line by Preston and Lancaster to Carlisle, &c., shall be completed, Manchester will then become the great centre of railway communication to all parts of Great Britain.’

June 1839 Newspaper Report [7]


'Yesterday, the directors of the Manchester and Leeds Railway afforded a high treat to their friends, by an invitation to accompany them in an experimental trip on that portion of the line, now nearly completed, between Manchester and Littleborough. For this purpose, two elegant second class carriages, constructed by Mr. Melling, of Chorlton-upon Medlock, were placed on that part of the line near to St. George's Church, where the station was originally intended to be erected. Altogether about fifty gentlemen made the trip. The whole of the contract No. 1, extending to about four miles from Manchester, is in so forward a state, as to admit of carriages to be drawn along it. The No. 2, or Moston contract, is much less advanced, the rails not being permanently laid for a considerable distance. Here it was necessary for the company to walk a mile or a mile and half; and owing to this want of connection between the portions of the line that are completed, the engine could not be attached to the carriages on starting, and had to be drawn byhorses.

'Half-past ten was the time fixed for starting, and on our arriving on the ground, shortly after that hour, the line presented a very animated appearance. number of flags and banners were suspended at intervals, on each side of the line; amongst them we observed two very large and elegant ones, which had been lent by Mr. Melling, for the occasion—one the royal arms, the other the arms of the coach builders' company. Access to the line was afforded by an inclined stage erected on the side next St. George's road; and it being generally known in that neighbourhood that an experimental trip was to take place, a considerable number of people were gathered together near the church.

'Two horses were attached to each of the carriages, and every requisite preliminary being arranged, they drove off precisely eleven minutes before eleven, amidst loud cheering, and waving of hats and handkerchiefs from the bye-standers. The coaches were followed by one of the waggons used on the line, which was fitted up, and a horse attached to it, by Mr. Brogden, the contractor, for the accommodation of himself and a party of friends.

'The carriages proceeded at first very gently, but, after passing the engine-house, the speed was quickened, and the horses trotted briskly along. The line is carried on arches for considerable distance, and then on an embankment, and after it emerges from the smoke of the town, a rather pleasing view opens out on the left-hand, in which the beautiful new church at Cheetham Hill, and the mansions in that neighbourhood, are conspicuous objects. The line passes within a very short distance of Collyhurst Hall; and here a group of spectators were collected, who loudly testified their admiration.

'As we leave Manchester the interest of the scenery increases; and at Miles Platting very extensive landscape is seen on the left. Harpurhey Church and the large white house of Mr. Joseph Lees showed to great advantage. The incline on this part of the railway is 1 in 190, being very gradual rise from Manchester.

'At Newton Heath the line passes close to Mr. Collinson's brewery, but still at a considerable elevation above the ground. Soon after we obtain a sight of Oldham-road, about 200 or 300 yards on the right; and here the people, who seemed quite taken by surprize the sudden appearance of the carriages, ran in crowds towards the line to obtain a nearer view. A bridge of three arches, which has been thrown over the railway where it intersects a private road, was crowded with men, women, and children, who loudly cheered the train passed beneath them. About half mile further we passed under another small bridge, the arch of which had just been completed in time for this trip, as we understood the centring was only removed the previous night. The inclination here becomes rather greater, about 1 in 150, and the line assumes the form of a gentle curve ; the level falls below that of the ground, and there is a bank of 15 to feet high on each side.

'On arriving at Moston the prospect again expands ; the line passes over a very high embankment, and a beautiful valley is spread out on the left. We soon lose the prospect, as the line again passes through a deep excavation, which extends about mile, the height of the banks varying from 15 to 40 feet. The cutting here has not been very heavy, chiefly through marl and sand. Several groups of men were at work on this part of the line, and saluted the company as they passed along. The curve still continuing, it was found necessary to attach other two horses to each of the carriages. A number of horses were standing on one part of the line, and it was amusing to witness the frisking occasioned among them by the passing of the carriages.

'Arrived at the end of the first contract, about four miles from Manchester, we found a number of men busily engaged in different parts of the contract No. 2, which, as we stated above, is in a much less forward state. The carriages proceeded a short way along it, but their further progress was prevented by the unfinished state of one of the bridges across this part of the line from which the centrings could not yet be removed. Here, therefore, the whole of the gentlemen quitted the carriages, and proceeded on foot along the No. 2 contract. The works are here proceeding with great rapidity ; nearly the whole of the excavating has been completed, and some parts the permanent rails are laid; in others the sleepers only are put down; these, and the soft sandy nature of the ground, rendered walking no easy task.

'At Foxdenton the line passes close to the extensive vitriol works of H. Becker, Esq., but at considerable elevation above them; they lie on the right of the line. On the same side we obtain another glimpse of the surrounding country.

'A little further on, we reached the part where tne line is so far completed that it may be travelled on. Here we found two other carriages, second-class, and a third-class, waiting to receive the company, also a large and splendid engine called " Stephenson" which has been constructed by Stephenson and Co. of Newcastle, and cost £15,000. The engine was immediately attached to the carriages, &c, after some little delay, owing to the non-arrival of sundry hampers of eatibles, which the directors had provided for the purpose of enjoying a luncheon at the further end of the line, and which had to be carried along the distance that the company walked, the train was fairly started at exactly eighteen minutes past twelve. We could not ascertain the precise distance of the place of starting from Manchester, but understood it to be about five miles and a half. The train was loudly cheered on its departure by the assembled spectators; some boys at first tried their speed against that of the engines, but they were soon distanced. The cattle in the fields on both sides the line took the alarm, and fled in all directions. We were not a little amused by the astonished look of a patriarchal looking old man and his spouse, who presented themselves at the door of their cottage, not many yards from the line, held up their hands, and seemed" transfixed with amazement.

'In a few minutes, the speed of the train became very great ; and such was the velocity with which we were whirled along, that we could only obtain transient glimpses of the features of the country. The scenery on both sides, especially on the left, possesses great beauty. Middleton, at a distance of half a mile on the left, and the spacious valley between it and the line, have a very pretty effect: Oldham is about the same distance on our right, but is less distinctly seen. We next crossed the Rochdale Canal, amidst great cheering; the bridge over this canal is one of the patent iron bridges, constructed by Messrs. Radford, of the Waterloo Foundry, of this town. For about a mile the road was enlivened by the cheering of the lookers-on, who had come from Middleton, Oldham, and other places, to witness this trial of the new engine. Our attention was especially drawn to some ancient ladies, with red cloaks and hoods, who had clambered up an eminence on the Middleton side of the line, and by their looks, testified great consternation, at these astounding signs ofthe times.

'A short distance further the line again crossed the canal by a stone bridge, near to the place where the Oldham and Middleton station is to be erected. It next passes under the Middleton and Rochdale turnpike road, which has been diverted and raised for the purpose, and is carried over on an elegant bridge of three arches. The bridge was crowded with people. We next come to another of Messrs. Radford's bridges, by which the railway is taken once more across the canal.

'The scene here expands to a great width, and is only momentarily intercepted by a short excavation. On the left is the spacious park and demesne of R. G. Hopwood, Esq., of Hopwood Hall. The hall is hid from view by a slight rise in the ground. The majestic hills in the background delightfully contrast with the fertility and richness of the valley of Holkham, through which the line next passes. After crossing the Roch, and leaving Castleton Hall on the left, we are brought to the outskirts of Rochdale, and obtain a view of the town as we pass along. After crossing the canal once more, the train was stopped near to where the station is erecting, and the passengers alighted at twenty-one minutes before one. The time occupied in performing this distance is, of course, no criterion of the speed which the engine is capable of imparting to the trains.

'A fresh supply of water was taken in here, and a curious device has been had recourse to for obtaining it. Near to the station, the line crosses the Rochdale and Milnrow road, at a great height, probably between thirty and forty feet, a brook runs by the side of this road; and one of the Rochdale fire engines was employed to pump the water from the brook, which was conveyed by piping, up the side of the embankment, into the tender as it stood on the railway. The vessel is capable of containing 1200 gallons of water, and it is filled, by this means, in little more than quarter of an hour.

'At three minutes before one the train left Rochdale, and in twelve minutes from that time, we were set down at the mouth of the tunnel, mile above Littleborough. The scenery along this portion of the line is not inferior to that we have described. The view of Smallbridge valley, with the church and the village, and the hills in the distance, cannot be surpassed in any part of the line; and the suddenness with which it is presented greatly enhances the effect. On the other side, we pass Clegg Hall, and the plantations ; the seat of J. Beswick, Esq., and other mansions. Gale House, and Mr. Windsor's print-works, form a very conspicuous feature on the left, as we pass Littleborough.

'The carriages were stopped at part of the line where the Roach is carried across it an aqueduct, at a height of about 40 feet. The river has here been considerably diverted, and has been made to flow nearer the place where the workmen are engaged tunnelling, for the convenience of having a ready supply of water. The company, having alighted, proceeded to examine the works at the tunnel, which are proceeding with all possible dispatch. To give our readers some idea of the enormous extent of this undertaking, we may state that the tunnel itself will be upwards of 2,800 yards, or about a mile and two-thirds, in length ; and that of the fourteen shafts that have been sunk, some are upwards of 100 yards in depth. The original contractors, we understand, after proceeding to some extent with the work, were compelled to throw up the contract, which they were allowed to do by the company, on making it appear that they had suffered a considerable loss. The contract was, however, re-let the next day, but for £20,000 more.

'A great number of workmen are employed; the work being continued night and day, the men take it in shifts of ten hours each. In some of the shafts, twelve or fourteen men are engaged, in others a greater number. the fourteen shafts now working, one has at present been carried to the depth of 110 yards, another 81, and others above 50.

'The directors and their friends visited two or three of the shafts; and a party of the more venturesome, including Mr. Henry Holdsworth, Mr. George Hall, and Mr. John Smith, caused themselves to be lowered to the bottom of shaft, No. 4, which is 81 yards deep; and on their return, expressed themselves highly satisfied with the progress of the work.

'The inspection being completed, the directors and their friends returned to the place where the carriages were left, and partook of a luncheon in the open carriage, the materials for which were supplied in great profusion from the hampers alluded to above. They then took their places, and the train started for Manchester precisely at three o'clock.

'Nothing required especial notice on the return, except that some delay was caused at Newton Heath, by new engine, constructed by Messrs. Sharpe, Roberts, and Co., being placed on the line, for the purpose of being tried; and, owing to the fuel and other materials not being readiness, it was about seven o'clock before the carriages arrived at the place from which they had started near St. George's Church.

'We are happy to state that not the slightest mischance or accident occurred during the day; and everyone expressed themselves highly delighted with the trip, and satisfied with the progress making the different parts of the line, which, it is understood, will be opened as far as Littleborough, in the course of three weeks or month.'

Extract from a Newspaper Report, July 1839 [8]

'Contract No. 1, or the Manchester Viaduct contract, was executed by Mr. John Brogden. The Viaduct consists of sixty-eight arches, crossing several principal streets and many smaller ones. The arch over Livesey-street is in our opinion the one most worthy of notice: it is an elliptic arch, 42 feet span, built of brick with stone quoins. The whole of the work in the Viaduct does great credit to the contractor, who, in spite of many obstacles, has accomplished this great undertaking within the time specified.

'The Moston Contract, two miles and three quarters in length, was executed by Messrs. Tredwells and Gerard.

'The Chadderton Contract, rather more than two miles, by Messrs. James and George Thornton.

'The Hopwood Contract, four miles and three quarters, by the Mr. John Evans.

'The Rochdale Contract, nearly a mile and a quarter, by Messrs. Thompson and Turner. long to its

'And the Littleborough Contract, nearly three miles and a yeas se af halt; by Messrs. Tredwells and Gerard. che their All these contractors have done their worle with great Cats credit to themselves, and none of the contracts have changed here icandts.

'....The engines already on the railway are six in number, of which three are from the manufactory of Messrs. Robt. Stephenson and Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne, two from that of Messrs. Sharp, Roberts, & Co., of Manchester, end one from that of Mr. Bury, of Liverpool.

'....Passing by Castletown Wall, the property of John Entwistle, Esq., of Foxholes, we came in sight of the town of Rocbdale and the train drew up at the Rochdale station, amidst the chears of the inhabitants, who seemed quite alive to the importance of the occasion. The railway enters the town upon a viaduct, crossing the canal and the Oldham end Rochdale turnpike road by beautiful iron arches, constructed by Messrs. W. and J. Galloway, of Manchester. ....'

The Manchester Terminus

The original terminus for passenger and goods traffic was in Ancoats, bounded by Oldham Road, Lees Street, St. George's Street and Church Street. There was a covered goods depot and an extensive network of sidings. There were few points, marshalling being done by means of numerous small turntables. This facility became Oldham Road goods depot after the passenger terminus moved to Victoria. The complex was upgraded to suit heavier trains, but some of the original buildings survived. The depot remained in use into the 1960s, but everything was subsequently cleared away, except for part of the boundary wall and a length of the approach viaduct (which originally had 58 arches). The area is now occupied by a characterless mix of housing estates, car parks, and warehousing (including a large postal sorting office).

An excellent illustrated history of the site is available online here [9]

Fortunately Manchester City Council have made pre-demolition photographs available online. This 1966 photo shows one of the buildings, still retaining the sign 'Manchester and LeedsRailway Office. Other 1966 photos, for example here, here, here and here, show the internal structure and layout of the railway buildings. More photos here. Search page here.

The passenger terminus was relocated to be closer to the city centre. Reference to Bancks's 1831 map shows that the original location was influenced by the relatively clear access. Extensive property demolition would have been required to move further to the south west. Further to the north east there were just a few houses, and Collyhurst Hall and its gardens.

Notable Bridges

Mills Hill Bridge, Chadderton: This crosses the Rochdale Canal, and was the first of the Radfords and Co bowstring bridges referred to above.

The other Radfords bridge referred to above crossed the Heywood Branch Canal a short distance from its junction with the Rochdale Canal. The bridge was reported to be 'nearly finished' in February 1839 [10]. The bowstring girders were replaced at some point by iron or steel plate girders.

Rochdale Canal, Bridge 68B: This is a heavily-skewed brick and stone bridge across the canal.

Gauxholme No. 2 Viaduct: Crosses the Rochdale Canal at Gauxholme, near Todmorden. Another of the cast iron bowstring bridges. It appears that the ironwork was to have been supplied by Radfords and Co, but in the event Joseph Butler was the producer.

Whiteley Arches, or Whiteley Viaduct, Charlestown, near Hebden Bridge: a masonry viaduct combined with another cast iron bowstring bridge over the Rochdale Canal. View of the viaduct and valley here. The bowstring bridge was replaced in 1939 by a steel plate girder bridge. Photos here [11] show the viaduct before, during and after replacement of the girder bridge. The bowstring girders were very similar to those at Gauxholme.

1840 'MANCHESTER AND LEEDS RAILWAY. TRIP FROM MANCHESTER TO NORMANTON .... The party next came to Charlestown, where there is a diversion of the line to the right of a hill, through which numerous efforts were made to cut the Charlestown Tunnel but the loss of nature of the earth, the whole hill being composed of a moving, sliding, sandy earth, it was found necessary, at least for the present, to abandon the whole work, and the tunnel is now closed. After this short detour, the line comes to the gullett of the valley; the whole of which confined space, previously to the existence of the railway, was occupied by the river, the canal, and the turnpike road. No room being left for the railway, without (to use a Lancashire phrase) "thrutching" one of its neighbours aside, the railway company have here diverted the turnpike road, carrying it by a viaduct over the river, and thus obtained room for the line, which here crosses all the other three communications by a handsome skew bridge, duplicated from the same patterns as the one already described at Gauxholme. ....'[12]. This implies that the iron castings for the bridge were also made by Butler & Co.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Monday, Jan 10, 1825
  2. The Times, Wednesday, Jan 26, 1825
  3. The Engineer 1924/11/07
  4. The Engineer 1924/11/07
  5. The Engineer 1924/11/07
  6. Blackburn Standard - Wednesday 19 September 1838
  7. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 1 June 1839
  8. Leeds Mercury, 6 July 1839
  9. [1] 'A Manchester View website': 'Oldham Road Goods Station' by David Boardman
  10. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 23 February 1839
  11. [2] Pennine Horizons Digital Archive: Whiteley Arches
  12. Leeds Mercury - Saturday 26 December 1840