First time I have ever visited Woodhead and the Longdendale Pass.
Yesterday saw myself and fellow photographers Gavin Fuller and Ellie Dunne head up to Longdendale Pass in the Northern Peak district to visit the main part of the now closed Woodhead railway line. We had planned to generally get a feel for the location and explore several points of interest which can be found on a previous blog post here: First exploration of Woodhead tomorrow.
Firstly, to set the scene, I had decided that seeing the route in the winter period would give some context to the struggle of those men who built the line over one-hundred years ago. The pass is indeed a brutal and unforgiving landscape. The exposed moorland sheltered only by the menacing hills that rise out of the wet, soggy ground, towering high above the valley make for a terrifying place to live. In the summer this valley must be a beautiful place to see, when its dried out, bright and open but in winter the fog obscures most of the view creating a sense of isolation. It would be a terrifyingly silent place if it was not for the busy A628 road that follows the northern banks of the deep reservoirs that separate the sides of the valley.
As for the railway, very little remains. The famous Woodhead tunnels stand proud at the eastern end of the pass, with the platforms of the former Woodhead station still awaiting the next train that will never arrive. The track bed remains as a moderately well maintained cycle path which offers a few indicators of what was once there such as discarded sleepers and
metal work. Although the setting of the sun didn't allow us time to walk much of it, we hope to return again when the sun is more on our side. The former Crowden station, which closed well before the rest of the line in 1957, merely a few years after initial electrification in 1954, has nothing left of it bar a few old walls. (See below, Top Image: Station Site in January 2018, Bottom Image: A mixed freight train passes the same site in July 1980, Image courtesy of the East Bank Model Railway Club)
There were several visual markers that struck me as interesting during our time there, I'm not yet sure how these can be worked into the project but that will come as I have more content to work with. One of these markers was the National Grid's power lines which follow much of the original route of the railway line, creating a visual reference to distance as well as altitude as it progress through the valley. The National Grid and their infrastructure are very much the lasting remnants of this lost world as well as its replacement. Their pylons have existed alongside the line since the opening of the new Woodhead tunnel in 1954, the cables themselves then occupied the older Victorian portals, while the railway continued through the 54' portal. During my initial edit I saw that these cables and pylons feature in many of the photographs I took that day as well as appearing in many achieve images I am appropriating for this project. I believe they could be used as a visual link between the old and new, a kind of time traveling element present within the images, linking them altogether. This is very early days but I believe, time traveling power cables could make for an interesting narrative link.
Plans are being created to return once again to this area with a special concentration on the Hadfield/Glassop areas and beyond the Woodhead tunnels toward Penistone and Sheffield. Keep watching this blog and/or join my mailing list for more updates about this project as it progresses. If you have any interest or experience with this route or would simply like to know more, please feel free to contact me here: General Enquiries. Further details about this project can be found here: 1500 Volts DC.
All photographs on this post are the Copyrighted property of Alistair David Grimley with All Rights Reserved unless stated otherwise. All other images are copyrighted to their retrospective owners/organisations.