Constructed by the Manchester & Leeds Railway Company (M&LR) between 1836 and 1841, the Manchester & Leeds Railway was the first railway line to link Lancashire to Yorkshire.
To overcome the challenge of crossing the Pennines, the line climbed northwards from Manchester through Rochdale to Littleborough where the 1.6 mile long Summit Tunnel linked the line to Walsden, Todmorden, and the Upper Colne Valley. From there, the line continued through Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Cooper Bridge and Horbury to join the existing North Midland Railway line at Normanton to reach Leeds.
The choice of route meant that the line bypassed Oldham, Halifax, Huddersfield and Bradford, although the initial Act of Parliament authorised the building of branch lines to Oldham and Halifax.
The company had also given an undertaking to construct a branch line from Cooper Bridge to Huddersfield after the the backers of the Huddersfield & Leeds Railway had withdrawn their competing scheme in early 1836. However, their proposal for a low-level line along the Colne Valley limited the potential for connecting to other routes and received little support at meetings held in Huddersfield in 1844. Instead, the high-level line proposed by the Huddersfield & Manchester Railway & Canal Company was viewed more favourably and was approved by Parliament in April 1845.
The M&LR was amalgamated into the newly formed Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company (L&YR) on 9 July 1876, along with:
By the 1880s, the line was known as the L&YR Manchester & Normanton Line.
The route of the M&LR line from Victoria Station in Manchester to Normanton Station, along with the AS&LJR branch to Stalybridge which joined the main line at Miles Platting Junction, is shown below: