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Engines Must Not Enter The Potato Siding

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Which is the seemingly cryptic title of a 1969 BBC documentary about railways in the north of England, and in which the Woodhead plays quite a part.

I thought there was already a link on here to this film on YouTube, but I can't find it. It is now available on the BBC iPlayer, but hurry if you want to see it. It is only available until 1st January 2038 :o:blink:.


"First transmitted in 1969, this film looks at a handful of the 280,000 railwaymen who work in Britain, especially the men who worked on the former Midland and Great Central routes, as they reflect on their changing industry.

Inside Sheffield Railway Men's Club former steam locomotive crew discuss the transition from steam to electric and diesel engines, and heatedly debate their respective merits.

Meanwhile on the Manchester-Sheffield line a former steam locomotive driver remembers what it was like to go through the Woodhead Tunnel, where driver and fireman had to crouch down to avoid the fumes and get breathable air. Signalman Michael Gatonby reveals life inside the signal box, one of the loneliest and busiest jobs on the railway line."

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Unitedite Returns

In many respects, this is an iconic film, that portrays just how extensive the railway network was around Sheffield and which remained for the most part, very much intact, until the decimation that followed the closure of much of the steel making and coal mining industry of South Yorkshire.

I've seen the Youtube posting before, but the quality of BBC iplayer one is much better, as one might expect.

Thank you for posting the link.

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  • 3 years later...
Peter Hall

I notice that a number of threads exist with regard to the Woodhead route.  This though is probably the most appropriate to ask this question.

Elsewhere on a railway forum there has been some discussion about Football excursion trains 'Footexs' to Wadsley  Bridge  routed via Woodhead after the regular Sheffield - Woodhead - Manchester service ceased.  That is the era that started just after 'Engines Must Not Enter the Potato Siding' was first broadcast..

It was concluded such trains were routed via Woodhead Tunnnel on at least six occasions, possibly seven, before closure in 1981.  I can provide more details if anyone is interested.

All these footexs used diesel locomotives through the tunnel as did the weekend passenger diversions off the Hope Valley.

Something that could not be answered though was exactly what the arrangement was with train 1E66 01:12 Manchester Piccadilly- Cleethorpes (newspaper & parcels train) between January 1970 and May 1973.  From May 1973 it was diverted to run via the Hope Valley.  The train was routed via Woodhead to Penistone then via Barnsley, Mexborough and Doncaster.   A locomotive change took place at Penistone,  Class 31/37 ex Wath-upon-Dearne working forward, but mystery surrounds the locomotive that worked it as far as Penistone. 

In earlier years it had been steam/diesel to Guide Bridge and then electric to Penistone.  This peculiar arrangement was due to it departing from the higher numbered platforms at Manchester Piccadilly which had access for the vans of newspapers hot off the Manchester presses but not electrified at 1500V DC..

The question that no one has been able to answer is what was the arrangement from 1970-1973.  Was it still diesel to Guide Bridge and electric forward to Penistone or was it a LMR Diesel (40?) throughout from Manchester Piccadilly to Penistone?  The answer may be contained in the working timetable for the route if anyone has one.

Interestingly during this period the empty vans returned through Woodhead tunnel as a  lunchtime Nunnery sidings to Ardwick sidings which was reputedly diesel hauled.  Again this should be confirmed by the working timetable or possibly photographs.  From 1973 this train  via the Hope Valley and was regularly a  Class 40 from May 1974.  During its first year (5/73-5/74) I believe it was a Class 25 but no photographs have emerged to confirm this.   If both 1E66 and the empties were diesel hauled through the tunnel then it is possible the same locomotive was used for both, again the working timetable might help.     

Anyone able to help?  .   










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