Railway Times (13/Jul/1839) - Manchester and Leeds Railway: Partial Opening

The following is a transcription of a historic article and may contain occasional errors.


We have already noticed the opening of this line from Manchester to Littleborough on the 3rd inst., and now give further details of that interesting event abridged from the Manchester Guardian of Saturday last. —

On Wednesday last, this line was publicly opened with some form, by the Directors and a very numerous party of ladies and gentlemen, including the civil authorities both of the borough and township of Manchester, various county and borough magistrates, the military authorities and principal officers of the military now in garrison here, and a number of the Shareholders in the line, both from this town and neighbourhood, and from Yorkshire, including various gentlemen from Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, &c. The Directors invited the Directors of the following railways to be present on this occasion:— The Liverpool and Manchester, the Grand Junction, the Manchester and Birmingham, the Manchester and Sheffield, the York and North Midland, the North Midland, the Leeds and Selby, and the Hull and Selby. They also invited the county and borough magistrates, the Warden and Fellows of the Collegiate Church (who, however, had another engagement), the Mayor and Aldermen of Manchester, the Boroughreeves and Constables of Manchester and Salford, &c. Of the Directors of the line, twelve in number, three were unavoidably absent; the other nine gentlemen were in attendance at the St. George’s-road station as hosts, to receive their numerous guests as they arrived. The Directors present were James Wood, Esq., Chairman of the Board; Henry Houldsworth, Esq., Deputy-chairman; Robert Gill, Esq., Managing Director; Thos. Broadbent, Esq.; John Brooks, Esq.; John Burton, Esq.; Hen. Forth, Esq.; James Heald, Esq.; and John Smith, Esq. There were also in attendance the following gentlemen, officially connected with the line:— Mr. George Stephenson, Principal Engineer; Mr. Gooch, Acting Engineer; Mr. J. B. Brackenbury, Law-clerk; Mr. Jellicorse, Secretary; Captain Laws, R. N., Superintendent of the Line; and the staff of engineers, surveyors, &c.

There were two trains, for the conveyance of the Directors and their numerous visitors. The first consisted of eleven carriages drawn by two engines, in the following order: — The Stephenson engine, then a tender, and behind it the Kenyon engine; both of these engines being supplied from the manufactory of Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Co., Newcastle-on-Tyne. Then came a mixed carriage, No. 93, which, as we have before noticed, is a convenient vehicle, the two end compartments being second-class, and the middle one first-class, — so that it will obviate the necessity, at times, of put ting two additional carriages to a train to accommodate a few passengers of different classes. The next was No. 109, a first-class carriage, which is fully equal to those on any line, in point of comfort and convenience. Then came a third-class carriage, which is quite open, like a deep boat, without roof or seats; and we believe it is intended to meet the wants of the humbler classes, who have hitherto been but little able to afford the cost of travelling by any public conveyance; and the rate proposed by the Directors, we believe, will be about a penny per mile. Then followed carriages No. 111, first-class; No. 95, second; No. 108, first; then a third-class carriage, in which, and on the roof-seats of the adjoining carriages, we noticed a number of officers of the 86th and 79th regiments; No. 101, first-class; No. 92, second; No. 102, first; and the train closed with a third-class carriage, quite filled with the band of the 80th regiment. The carriages were decorated for the occasion with a number of small flags and banners, on most of which were inscribed some such loyal sentiment as “Queen Victoria — God bless her!” “Long live the Queen,” &c. Others were inscribed “Peach and concord,” and with various other sentiments avoiding all of a party character. The second train consisted of about an equal number of carriages, and was drawn by the engines Stanley (made by Messrs. Robert Stephenson & Co.) and Lancaster (from the words of Messrs. Sharp, Roberts & Co.). Besides these, the Company here two other engines on the line; the Junction (made by Messrs. Sharp, Roberta, and Co.) and another, making six altogether; of which, three are of the manufacture of Messrs. Robert Stephenson and Co.; two of that of Messrs. Sharp, Roberts, & Co., and one from the works of Mr. Bury, of Liverpool. The number of carriages, of the three classes, at present on the line, is about forty.

Previously to 11 o’clock, the Company began to arrive; those in carriages chiefly going by Oldham Road and St. George’s Street, up to the door of the station-house, which is on terra firma. Here they were set down, and passed through the Company’s booking-offices, and up a flight of stairs to the line, which is here about 28 feet above the level of the streets, over which it is carried on a viaduct of 58 arches, and about half a mile in length. The ladies and gentlemen going by the trains having taken their seats, the first train started at 22 minutes after 12 o’clock, and was followed in about 10 minutes afterwards by the second train. We shall, however, confine our description to the progress of the first train, the starting and stopping of which appeared to be regulated by the bugle of the conductor. As the line was much crowded, the steam-whistles of both engines were put into requisition with very good effect, though their shrill shrieks were not perhaps calculated to soothe the nerves of any very nervous lady, if any such there were in the gay party. There was no effort or attempt to go at any considerable speed, the object of the Directors being rather to enable the Company to see the nature of the line, and the pleasing country through which it passes, than to whisk them along at a rapid rate. Consequently, the rate of travelling was not more than about three minutes per mile, or twenty miles an hour. We noticed that already the sides of the Moston cutting were covered in many places with verdure, and that the several bridges on the first two or three contracts nearest the Manchester terminus had been brought to completion since the 1st ult., when some of them were in an unfinished state. In front of a smithy, by the side of the line, at Newton Heath, a temporary wooden stage had been erected and decorated with flags. This was crowded by men, women, and children, apparently workmen and labourers on the line and their families, who received the passing trains with hearty cheers. The first train slackened speed in passing the vitriol works of Messrs. Hannibal, Becker, and Co., at Foxdenton; and, at the village, n great number of people were collected to witness its progress, and they, as elsewhere, cheered the progress of the locomotives along their new domain. The three miles from the second to the fifth milepost were traversed in about 8½ minutes; and the Mill’s Hill station, distant 5½ miles from Manchester, was reached at 22 minutes before one o’clock, or in about 16 minutes from starting. As the train approached the station, the conductor’s bugle commenced playing “God save the Queen;” the fine band of the 86th took up the strain of the national anthem, and the tram reached the station amidst the cheers of a concourse of people, drawn to this point both from Oldham and Middleton. The turnpike road, connecting these places, passes under the railway at this station, and it has recently been very much improved, especially between the railway and Middleton, which is distant about a mile from the line. On the side next Oldham, distant about two miles and a quarter, it appears to be under going those repairs which are necessary to put it in a fit state for the increased traffic consequent on the opening of the line. After a stay here of about four minutes, the train again started, the monitory shrieks of the steam whistle being very efficacious in clearing the line, doing in this way as much service as two or three policemen. After leaving Mill’s Hill, crossing the Irk, on an embankment and double culvert, and the Rochdale Canal at Three Pits, in rising the incline towards its bridge over the Heywood Branch Canal, where the heaviest gradients occur, being from 1 in 152 to 1 in 130, the speed of the train sensibly slackened (four minutes and a half being occupied in traversing one mile), and at length, after a few expiring snorts of the engine, it came to a dead stop about seven miles and a half from Manchester. On inquiry, we ascertained that this stoppage was caused by the following circumstance:— It was not until the morning of Wednesday that clean water could be obtained front the tanks on the line, and, owing to this cause, one of the pumps of the engine, Kenyon, conveying water from the tank in the tender to the engine boiler, became choked with mud; consequently, the supply of water to the boiler was too small, and, therefore, (partly the result of the stoppage at Mill’s Hill, for which the engineer was not previously prepared) it became necessary to draw the fire, all the water having been let out of the boiler. The engine consequently became wholly useless, and the power of the Stephenson engine, which elsewhere would have been quite sufficient to draw the train, failed on the steepest part of the incline, and there was necessarily a stoppage, about a quarter of a mile from the bridge, at the summit of the incline. Here the greater portion of the passengers (with the exception of the ladies) left the train, in order to lighten the labour of the single engine, and the nearly empty train began again to move forward, the conductor’s bugle playing, — “Oh, dear, what can the matter be?” and the gentlemen passengers walking towards the bridge, beyond which the line is nearly on the level. At this moment, however, the second train, which had left the station ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after the first, came in sight, and many of the passengers resumed their seats. The train having come up, its engines were joined to the end of the first train; and, with the aid of the Stephenson engine at the head of the whole, the train again started on its way, after a delay of nearly three quarters of an hour, about seventeen minutes after one o’clock. The united train went along at a steady pace, reaching the tenth mile-post at 28½ minutes past one o’clock, and in half a minute more the Rochdale station, where the concourse of people was very great, and the cheering of the crowds on and, around the line, aided by bands of music, &c, showed the cordial greeting with which the people of Rochdale were disposed to welcome so beneficial a communication with the great centre and capital of the cotton manufacture. The station-house here is quite finished, except the interior fittings, about which we noticed workmen busily employed. On the roof were hoisted a number of flags in honour of the day, and others were displayed from various buildings on and near the line. Here the disabled engine, Kenyon, was conveyed by the Stephenson, from the line of rails on which the train stood, to a siding, for the purpose of immediate repairs. The other three engines, or rather their tenders, took in coke and water; the latter being supplied by a canvas hose from a cast-iron pump, the arm of which, by means of its axis, and balance weight, was swung round so as to extend over the rails to the tank of the tender. A neat, substantial brick edifice is erected a little beyond the station-house, on the west side of the line, for the purposes of an engine-house. After a stay here, rather exceeding a quarter of an hour, during which the company inspected the works of the station, the long, united train again started at twelve minutes to two o’clock, and entered on the fine open country between Rochdale and Littleborough, where the prospect is extensive, bounded only by the York shire Hills. Just beyond the eleventh mile-post, which was reached about ten minutes before two o’clock, we noticed a foot-path, which had been severed by the line, connected by means of a wooden foot-bridge, carried over the line at a good height, the approaches to which were not made by inclines, but the foot-path continued on the level to the side of the railway, and the bridge was reached at each end by a strong wooden stair. The speed was here considerably increased, and the twelfth mile was accomplished in about two minutes and a quarter. About two minutes before two o’clock the train passed through the station-house, nearly opposite the church at Littleborough; and the company noticed, with no little apparent satisfaction, two long ranges of sideboards loaded with all the materials of a substantial collation. The train did not stop here, but proceeded, about a mile further, to the entrance of a noble stone arch, shaped out of the rock, having on the pediment above what would he the key-stone of an ordinary arch, the armorial bearings of the towns of Manchester and Leeds, carved in relief, and blazoned per pale, on the same shield, with <he date 1839. This point, between fifteen and sixteen miles from Manchester, was reached about four minutes after two o'clock; and the company left the carriages, some wending their way beneath the arch, and along the deep cutting in the rock towards the first shaft sunk for the summit tunnel; others immediately retracing their slept along the line to Littleborough, where the company were invited to partake of the collation provided by the Directors, at three o'clock. The engines and carriages returned to Rochdale, where the Kenyan having undergone an examination of the pump, which was cleared of mud, joined them; and all being supplied with coke and water, they returned to Littleborough, to convey the company back to Manchester.

Precisely (at three o'clock the numerous guests, probably about 550 in number, sat down to a very handsome cold collation, provided for them by the Directors, in the Littleborough station house. James Wood, Esq., Chairman of the Directors, presided. The healths of the Directors, of Mr. Stephenson, and other gentlemen were drunk with much enthusiasm, and many excellent speeches delivered, but our space will not allow of our entering into details.