John Speller's Web Pages Woodhead Tunnel

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The Woodhead Tunnel was the major engineering work on the Manchester to Sheffield railway. This was originally named the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway. It subsequently developed into the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway, and eventually into the Great Central. When the tunnel opened in 1845 the twin bores were each 3 miles and 13 yards long, making the tunnel a mile longer than even Brunel's Box Tunnel of four years before. The project was begun by Charles Vignoles (1793-1875), but after enormous losses, both financial and human, including the loss of 26 lives which made the tunnel a national scandal, Vignoles was sacked. Joseph Locke (1805-1860) took over and the tunnel was successfully completed, with most subsequent loss of life being due to the cholera epidemic rather than poor safety.

After the Grouping the LNER added an additional two-track bore ("Tunnel No. 3") to the Woodhead Tunnel and began electrification, completed after nationalization by British Railways. The choking conditions for enginemen inside the tunnel were one of the factors that brought about the electrification. In an act of almost unparalleled stupidity the Beeching Report caused the Great Central Manchester to Sheffield line to be closed. A video of the last day of working may be seen here. This led to such congestion between Manchester and Sheffield that in the twenty-first century serious consideration is being given to completely rebuilding the line at horrendous cost.
Joseph Locke (1805-1860)
Two Parker Class "2" (LNER Class "D-7") 4-4-0s entering Woodhead Tunnel with a Manchester express in 1904
Woodhead Tunnel in around 1910, with an express double-headed by two Parker Class "2" (LNER Class "D-7") 4-4-0s with Robinson tenders entering the tunnel, and another headed by Robinson Class "8" (LNER Class "C-4") Atlantic No. 264 emerging from it.
Sheffield express emerging from Woodhead Tunnel in the early 1920s behind a Robinson "Sir Sam Fay" Class 4-6-0
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