The first railway line between Manchester and Sheffield was constructed between 1839 and 1845 on the south side of the reservoir chain by 1,500 navvies of whom many died and most suffered illness. The three mile long double Woodhead Tunnel was, for a time, the longest tunnel in the country. It was replaced by a single, larger tunnel in 1954. The railway line ceased to be economical, and in 1970, the passenger service ceased, followed in 1981 by the freight service.
The trackbed was taken up, and the Longdendale Trail was constructed. It is now part of the Trans Pennine Trail which, in its turn, is part of the 2000 mile long European walking route E8, from Liverpool to Istanbul.
There are plans afoot to re-open the railway and to re-route the Longdendale Trail parallel to the railway.