John Speller's Web Pages Manchester Sheffield Wath Electrification

John Speller's Web Pages - Great Central Railway

Manchester Sheffield Wath Electrification Great Central Horizontal Menu Great Central Horizontal Menu
Partly in response to the horrendously smokey conditions in the Woodhead Tunnel, and partly as a pilot scheme, the Manchester to Sheffield line seemed an ideal candidate for electrification. Although the idea was mooted by the Great Central Railway even before the Grouping, it was not until the late 1930s that the London & North Eastern Railway began to undertake the scheme. The electrification was undertaken of the 1,500 V DC overhead system, standard in the Low Countries, and which had already been used by the LNER on the Newport to Shildon line. Two classes of locomotive, the Bo-Bo Class "EM1" for mixed traffic work and the Co-Co Class "EM2" for express passenger work were designed. These were built at the former Great Central Railway works at Gorton, Manchester. The prototype locomotive "Tommy" was sent to the Netherlands for trials in 1947. Work was largely suspended during World War II. After nationalization the work proceeded under the auspices of British Railways. The first section, between Wath and Penistone came into use on 2 February 1952, followed by Penistone to Manchester on 30 May 1954, and Penistone to Sheffield on 20 September 1954. The final section between Sheffield and Rotherwood was opened on 3 January 1955. The Beeching Plan recommended the retention of the Great Central line and the closure of the parallel Midland Railway route. However, when political pressure made it impossible to class the Midland line, British Railways made a swift and arbitrary decision to close the Great Central line instead, retaining the less satisfactory route and wasting the millions that had been spent on the new Woodhead Tunnel and the electrification scheme. Passenger service, except for a few emu's, was withdrawn on 5 January 1970, with freight following on 17 July 1981, and the last emu's in 1984. Videos of the line in operation may be viewed here, here and here.

A simulated trip from Manchester to Sheffield may be seen here.

Map of the Manchester Sheffield Wath electrification. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Inaugural Manchester Sheffield express on 20 September 1954 behind prototype "EM2" Class Co-Co locomotive No. 27000
The prototype "EM1" Class Bo-Bo locomotive No. 6000 (originally No. 6701), "Tommy," designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in 1941.
Electric and diesel at Sheffield Victoria in September 1969. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
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