Film ID: YFA 1007 Video of YFA 1007 My Farewell to the Sheffield Manchester Electrics Congreves MY FAREWELL TO THE SHEFFIELD MANCHESTER ELECTRICS - CONGREVES 1970 Visitor TabsDescription This is a film which shows the last journey by passenger train along the now closed route from Sheffield Victoria Station to Manchester. The film begins showing the overhead electric cables and then a train quickly passing over the camera, followed by the title: ‘My Farewell To The Sheffield Manchester Electrics’. The film then shows some buildings and a sign for Sheffield Victoria Railway Station, followed by the inside of the Station (though it is very dark). Propped up on the outside of a moving passenger train, the camera shows the train departing. The train is then shown from the side of the track passing by. It is being pulled by a diesel engine even though electric cable runs overhead. The route shows the Wicker arches, Neepsend, and Five Arches viaduct. Two tall chimneys are in the background, and from a moving train it passes cooling towers and sidings with coal wagons. Then, from high above on the hillside at Owlerton, a train is shown passing. The film shows inside the signal box at Wadsley Bridge with the track diagram, and a diesel pulled passenger train passing the box, followed by a class 76 electric. From the camera on the moving train the film shows the train passing Penistone Station, on to Dunford Bridge Station, into Woodhead Tunnel and leaving the Tunnel at Woodhead Station. Having left the tunnel the train passes reservoirs and the surrounding wintry countryside. It also passes over a viaduct, Crowden Signalbox, the sidings at Dinting, Mottram and Broadbottom Stations, and through Godley Junction, before the film comes to an end. Context This film was made by Arnold Congreves, a self-employed auto-electrician from Sheffield. Given his profession it was probably only natural that Arnold would be interested in both railway and tram engines. His enthusiasm for the railway led him to go with his wife and daughter, one bitterly cold Sunday in January 1970, on the return journey of the last passenger train to travel on the Sheffield to Manchester line. Not a prolific filmmaker, nevertheless, Arnold has left us this memorial to a significant event in Yorkshire railway history. This being the day when the Woodhead line closed to passengers in 1970 means that the film can be very precisely dated, the 4th January 1970 when the last passenger train set off. The line closed to passengers and the Victoria Station closed the following day. The story of the very last passenger train on the line is recounted on the Woodhead Site (see References). Here it states that, “the final train was scheduled to be the 21:20 from Manchester, but due to a derailment at Valehouse, was sent via the Hope Valley route. The enthusiasts who had gathered were incensed at this and promptly arranged an impromptu sit-in in the station manager’s office. The result was that he arranged for a special service, departing at 23:10. The locomotive chosen for this task was 26054, formerly 'Pluto'. The train reversed at Hadfield and ran wrong line to Torside. It eventually arrived at Sheffield at 00:44 on 5th January 1970, and as from that time Sheffield Victoria and Dunford Bridge stations closed.” As early as 1813 canal engineer William Chapman proposed a tramway between Sheffield and Manchester. The obvious barrier was the Pennines, and various suggestions were made for overcoming this. Eventually a new company was formed in 1836, The Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyme and Manchester Railway. This commissioned Charles Vignoles and Joseph Locke as engineers; the latter born just down the road from Sheffield Victoria Station in Attercliffe. Both were major railway engineers of the day, at the height of railway construction, but Vignoles didn’t stay. Locke was also responsible for the Liverpool Manchester line and that between Lancaster and Carlisle. Work on the line began in 1838 and it opened on completion of the Woodhead tunnel on 22nd December 1845, with Victoria Station opening in September 1851. Many different electrification systems have existed, some using overhead cables and others a third rail; starting early in the twentieth century. The idea of electrifying the Sheffield to Manchester line was mooted as early as 1923, and the line became the first mainline in the UK to be electrified, starting in 1936. It was the only one to be electrified at 1,500V DC. This had been adopted as the standard in 1928, but by the 1950s it was becoming obsolete, and so on completion the Government switched to25 kV AC overhead, now responsible for about two thirds of the electrified lines. It did, however, have the advantage of being able to use regenerative braking. After nationalisation the electrification of the line came in four stages. The first being between Wath and Penistone, becoming energised in February 1952; the second, between Manchester and Penistone, in June 1954; the third, between Penistone and Sheffield Victoria, in September 1954; and the fourth, between Sheffield Victoria and Rotherwood, in January 1955. This brought a much greater saving in time for coal trains than it did for passenger trains. Having only recently been heavily invested in, the line escaped the major closures proposed in the Beeching report, The Reshaping of British Railways, which came out in March 1963. In fact the line was proposed for major redevelopment in the less well known second Beeching Report of February 1965, The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes. But there were rumours that British Rail were looking to close it in 1964, and passenger services were reduced. Although the Labour Party promised not to implement the Beeching Report before the election of 1964, they duly did so once in Government. They backtracked to some extent when Barbara Castle, the Transport Minister, introduced the 1968 Transport Act which allowed for the subsidisation of some unprofitable lines. This did not, however, save the Sheffield to Manchester line. There were two lines between Sheffield and Manchester – the other being the Hope Valley Line, serving more local communities – and British Rail had already announced its intention to withdraw passenger services from the Woodhead route as from 5th June 1967. Despite an outcry, a subsequent public enquiry came down in favour of BR. A service between Sheffield and Penistone continued to operate by diesel. The line itself remained open for goods traffic until 1981. The last service train to travel the route ran in the early hours of Saturday 18th July, 1981, a return Harwich ferry train, passing Woodhead at approximately 5.00am (the Woodhead Site provides a detailed history). The whole policy underlying the Beeching report has been criticised for being fundamentally misconceived, assuming that passengers and traffic would travel to the nearest railway stations by road and then go by rail. This certainly seems like an odd assumption in hindsight: once on the road, why not stay on it? The results being to cut the feeder lines to the main routes. See also the Contexts for 8 o’clock Special (1962) and A Sentimental Journey (1965). But the line was certainly losing both passenger and freight traffic during the 1960s. Undoubtedly one of the main features of the line is the Woodhead Tunnel, linking Yorkshire and Derbyshire. There are in fact three tunnels. The first opening in 1845; at the time one of the world's longest railway tunnels at just over 3 miles. It was a huge undertaking, with George Stevenson claiming it couldn’t be done; and it had claimed the lives of 26 navvies by the time it opened in 1845. The second tunnel was completed in 1853; and the third, with double tracks, completed in 1953 and opened in 1954. This is the one that was to be used by the electrified line, for which it was purposely built. The other two Victorian tunnels were declared unfit for railway use, and were instead used to lay electric cable. A proposal to use the 1953 tunnel for similar use, to replace the old cables, was opposed by many groups, including Yorkshire Forward, who believed that it should remain available to any future railway line. However, they were unsuccessful in their campaign and the National Grid began laying the cables in February 2008. The Class 76 electric locomotive, EM1, seen in the film, was specifically designed for this line, powered by 1.5kV DC. These are known as Bo-Bo’s, as they consist of two independent bogies with four wheels each. They usually pulled freight trains. It was designed by the famous steam engine designer Sir Nigel Gresley, who designed, among many others, the record breaking Flying Scotsman and Mallard. The first prototype, although made in 1941, wasn’t tested out properly until 1947 when it was loaned out to the Netherlands (which had the same electrification system) to aid their post-war reconstruction. So, with the closure of the final section of line in 1986, all but one of the Class 76s were scrapped (the remaining one now in York Railway Museum). They were followed by the Class 77, EM2, Co-Co locomotives – with two six-wheeled bogies – which usually pulled passenger trains. But these, of which only seven were built, had already been withdrawn by September 1968 (ending up the Netherlands). On closure some of the stations seen in the film closed too, such as Dunford Bridge Station. Some, like Neepsend, had closed much earlier; whilst others, like Broadbottom Station, have remained opened. Not so Victoria Station, which has now disappeared completely, leaving just the track bed. Like many other abandoned railway lines, the route itself is being made good use of for walking and cycling. For photos of the old route see the excellent websites in the References. There are plans to try to re-open part of the line from Deepcar to Sheffield, through the Don Valley Railway project. (With special thanks to Frank Dean) References Woodhead Railway and its Electrification The Woodhead Site Railway Image gallery for the Woodhead line Don Valley Railway project Disused Stations: Sheffield Victoria Station The LNER Encyclopedia Further Information Alan Whitehouse, An Illustrated History of the Woodhead Route, Oxford Publishing Company, 2010.