08:40.

Today’s the first of two where much of England is expected to suffer from unprecedented heatwaves. Schools and businesses are shutting up shop and people are being advised not to travel. Many railway companies are running emergency timetables and reduced services. So, what’s it going to be like?

I’m abandoning the relative cool of the Calder Valley to find out by heading into Manchester for a few hours, documenting what I find and explore one outpost of that cities railways which will have a very visible change because of the heat – but more of that later…

Right now I’m on a busy 3-car Class 195 working the 08:23 Sowerby Bridge to Chester service. Northern have knocked out the Wigan North Western trains which has left us with just this hourly service to Manchester.

Despite the fact the temperature was still in the 20s the unit’s air-conditioning was struggling already – even though this is a modern train. I hate to think how the old BR built class 158s are coping. Their a/c has always had a reputation for unreliability.

Even though the journey was a tad warm we got to Manchester without issue. Victoria station was quieter than usual but that was hardly surprising as so many services had been cancelled due to the weather.

I didn’t hang around as I’d other plans. Instead I enjoyed a leisurely stroll across to Piccadilly, arriving just in time to connect with one of the trains that were the reason for my visit.

Due to the expected high temperatures electric trains on the Manchester, Glossop and Hadfield triangle had been replaced by two pairs of Class 150 DMUs. The reason for that is the overhead equipment on these lines is ancient! The route was originally to be electrified by the London and North Eastern Railway but the advent of World War Two stopped the project. It was completed by British Railways in the mid 1950s using 1,500 volts DC. This lasted until after closure of the Woodhead line and the demise of the old Class 506 units that plied the route. The line was then converted to the standard 25kv AC but most of the original kit was kept. This included the triple wire system where the contact wire is slung from a secondary support wire. Also, unlike modern systems, there’s no mechanism (such a weights or torsion springs) to keep the wires at the correct height in the heat. This used to be a problem on the Great Eastern Main Line where it wasn’t unknown for the wires to drop so much they almost touch the rails!

The solution here has been to turn the overhead lines off and run diesel instead – a rare sight.

13:20.

Having got the pictures around Glossop and Dinting I wanted I decided to quit whilst I was ahead as temperatures were rising. I made one last stop at Broadbottom then caught a train to Piccadilly. Talk about serendipity! A few minutes after arriving it was a nounced all services to from Piccadilly were suspended due to overhead line damage! The only exception being Buxton line trains.

I’m now making my way back to Victoria to head home before any more disasters befall the network…

14:00.

I never thought I’d appreciate the stygian gloom of Manchester Victoria’s through platforms, entombed underneath the arena, but on a sweltering day like this they’re just the ticket! I’m waiting for the 14:04 to Blackburn as it’ll get me the right side of the Pennines as far as Todmorden, so if anything else breaks I have other options for getting home. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start editing pictures en-route.

14:50.

Getting the train to Todmorden was a good choice. The pair of 150s were quiet so I had time and space to get some editing done in order to upload pictures later. Now I’m basking whilst waiting for my late running connection – but at least it’s running! The heat’s certainly building and I’m looking forward to getting home and having a shower. Carrying my camera bag in this weather certainly gives you a workout!

17:00.

Despite delays to my train due to the heat I made it home without further incident, although the walk back home made me appreciate the sun’s intensity – it was hot! I was so grateful for the breeze that struck me as crested the hill to begin dropping down to home and the Calder valley. Now I’ve had chance to have a shower and cool down here’s some pictures from today.

150110 brings up the rear of 2G49, the 1014 Hadfield to Manchester Piccadilly as it crosses the Dinting viaduct. The age of much of the overhead wires on these lines is evident in the picture.
150143 and 150146 cross the Dinting viaduct whilst working 2G50, the 1044 Hadfield to Manchester Piccadilly.
Seen from below 150110 and 150123 approach Dinting station whilst working 2G11, the 1103 Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield.
150110 and 150123 call at Dinting station with 2G52, the 1144 Hadfield to Manchester Piccadilly.
A Network Rail engineer checks the temperature of rails at Manchester Piccadilly this afternoon. Before he could slap any speed restrictions on all services were brought to a halt for another reason – the overhead wires!

UPDATE (17:45).

From the cool of my office I’ve just been checking real time train info and whilst it seems that Manchester Piccadilly did reopen all Hadfield services have been cancelled since 1330. I had a lucky escape! The wires sagged too far at Gorton, meaning all Northern and TPE services via Guide Bridge were either cancelled or diverted to other routes. You’ll be able to find a larger selection of pictures in this gallery from tomorrow (Tuesday) as I’m not tempting fate two days in a row – tomorrow I’m staying at home…

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