Suburban Electric Railway Association      
Located at the COVENTRY ELECTRIC RAILWAY CENTRE, Rowley Road, Baginton, Warwickshire           


The History Zone

The Electric Railways Of The Manchester Area
Part Two

The Manchester South Junction And Altrincham Railway

The line from Manchester London Road Station to Altrincham via Old Trafford, Stretford and Timperly was a prime commuter route. The line, a total of 8.7 miles long, was jointly owned by both the London North Eastern and London Midland & Scottish Railways. After several ideas for electrifying the line went by the wayside a decision was finally made to proceed in 1928. The system chosen was 1500v DC overhead wires, which had been adopted as the standard choice for future UK electrification projects by the Weir report.

The rolling stock for the line was built by Metro-Cammel and was based on the LMS suburban steam hauled compartment stock, similar units had been built by the LMS for the Liverpool-Southport and Watford-Euston services in 1927. The units were of three coach formation with a driving motor brake (DMB) coach, trailer and driving trailer coaches. The last two were un-powered and had nine and eight compartments respectively, the driving trailer had a driving cab at its outer end in place of the extra compartment. The DMB had six compartments and the guards brake and a driving cab, in the area between the guards brake and driving cab was all the electrical contactor equipment with the current collecting pantograph on the roof of this section. Each axle of the DMB was powered by a 328hp GEC traction motor giving a total of 1312hp for the unit. The units had a multiple working facility to enable two units to be coupled in peak periods to make a six car train.

The seating capacity for a three car unit was 228 third class and 40 first class. When new the units were painted in green livery with yellow and black lining.

The first test run by an electric unit along the entire length of the line was made on April 14th 1931. A little under a month later on May 11th the full electric passenger service began. There were three new stations opened to coincide with the commencement of electric services but despite the extra stops the EMUs still made the journey from end to end in 23 minutes as opposed to 27 minutes taken by the previous steam services.

In 1958 work began on electrifying the main line from Manchester London Road (renamed to Manchester Piccadilly) to Crewe at 25kV AC overhead. Included in this scheme was the cutting back of the MSJ&A service to run from Altrincham to Manchester Oxford Road, The Oxford Road-Piccadilly section was converted to 25kV AC and worked by new AC 304 EMUs. This involved considerable rebuilding work at Oxford Road which was completed in August 1960.

The new look Oxford Road station with the MSJ&A DC train on the left and a new 304 AC EMU right.

By 1970 the original MSJ&A trains were 39 years old and in need of replacement, as was much of the overhead equipment. British Railways decided to best integrate the line with it's other electric services in the area it would be converted to 25kV AC overhead and 304 units brought in to work the line. The work was completed in May 1971 and thus on 30th April was the last day of 1500v DC on the route to Altrincham, with the AC EMUs taking over from 3rd of May.

The most startling change to both the Altrincham and Bury routes came in 1991 when both lines were combined with a purpose built city centre tram route to form the Manchester Metrolink. This system uses two car articulated units running from a 750v DC overhead wire supply.

Continue To Part Three