The Manchester & Leeds Railway was sanctioned by Parliament in 1836 as a railway commencing at Manchester and terminating at Normanton, from where trains would reach Leeds via the North Midland Railway. Although Leeds is only 35 miles from Manchester, the hilly nature of the surrounding terrain meant that the company engineers adopted a circuitous route through Rochdale, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and the sinuous and steep-sided Calder Valley. The `Calder Valley' line was opened between Manchester and Littleborough on 3 July 1839, and further sections were brought into use on 5 October 1840 and 3 January 1841. The railway was completed throughout on 1 March 1841.
The completed railway was heavily engineered, the Summit Tunnel between Littleborough and Walsden being the longest in the world at the time of its construction. This highly scenic line still forms part of an important rail link between Manchester and Leeds, although trains now travel on a shorter route via Halifax and Bradford. The eastern half of the route also forms part of separate Trans-Pennine route via Todmorden, Burnley and Blackburn.
Stanley C. Jenkins, who was educated at Witney Grammar School, the University of Lancaster and the University of Leicester, has written over 20 books and some 750 articles on local, transport and regional history. Having worked as an English Language teacher at Oxford Air Training School for several years, he returned to Leicester University to retrain as a museum curator in 1986, and was subsequently employed by English Heritage as the Regional Curator for South Western England. He is Curatorial Advisor to the Witney & District Museum, and is also working as a curator for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, which is at present building a military museum at Woodstock. Martin Loader has been interested in railways since the late 1960s, but only starting taking photographs seriously with the acquisition of his first 'proper' camera in 1978.