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
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.
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.