The Formation of the Railway Company
A group of men met at the Rose and Crown at Penistone on the 14th October 1836. They had decided to form a railway company. They were investing their money in this company expecting to make a great profit. They had heard of the outstanding success and profits of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. It was hoped that passenger trains of four or five carriages with about twenty passengers in each, would travel between Sheffield and Manchester in about two and a half hours. It was a journey which a horse and cart took two days to accomplish. At the Rose and Crown, they heard the reports of Charles Vignoles and Joseph Lock, two engineers who put forward their ideas about where the railway track should run. They chose Charles Vignoles.
In 1838 Lord Wharncliffe arrived by carriage from Wortley Hall and cut out the first sod at Woodhead.
The S.A. & M. (Sheffield Ashton under Lyne & Manchester) Company had many difficulties during the construction of the line. The cost was much greater than they had thought it would be, and the Directors were soon at loggerheads with their Engineer-in-Chief, Vignoles. He was replaced by Joseph Lock who had been educated at Barnsley Grammar School and who had been an apprentice to Robert Stephenson. But troubles continued for the Company. Lord Wharncliffe resigned, shareholders bitterly criticized the rate of progress, and the Secretary was sentenced to life imprisonment for embezzling nearly £800. The greatest trouble of all was the difficult construction of the Woodhead Tunnel which is a story in itself. Trains first began running on the Lancashire side, being able to reach Glossop from Manchester by Christmas 1842, and to reach Woodhead by August 1844.
The first Penistone Railway Station
A firm called Miller and Blackie got the contract for the Penistone stretch of the line, for which they were paid £39,000. In the spring of 1845 the Railway Company accepted the tender of Miler and Blackie to build Penistone station for £387. It was on the site of the present goods yard. The first trains for the public ran on the line from Sheffield to Dunford Bridge, through Deep Carr, Wortley and Penistone on the 14th July 1845. The smart and comfortable carriages were very much admired by the reporter of the “Sheffield Iris” newspaper.
The first accident occurred in October. A careless drover from Penistone Market let a cow stray on the line and a train returning from Dunford Bridge was completely derailed. The guard was severely injured and the cow was killed on the spot. Thankfully, the passengers were no more than badly shaken.
At long last, in the snow of December 1845, more than seven years after the first ground had been broken the line was completed by the opening of the Woodhead Tunnel. General Pasley, the Government Inspector of Railways, inspected the completed works. A wagon bearing six men with torches, which were held to the roof and sides, went before the General through the tunnel.
General Pasley declared it was one of the finest pieces of engineering he had ever seen.
Times of Trains and fares in 1846.
In 1846 seven passenger trains per weekday passed through Penistone Station on the way to Manchester. Their times at Penistone were 7.48 a.m., 9.25, 11. 41, 1,48p.m. 3.41, 5.25 and 7.48.
There were three trains on Sunday at 9.48 a.m. 2.48 p.m. and 5.48 p.m.
To Sheffield, there were seven trains a day on weekdays at 9.30 a.m. 11.15, 1.30 p.m. 3.30, 5.0, 7.30 and 9.15.
There were three trains on Sunday at 11.45 a.m. 4.30 p.m. and 7.15 p.m.
A first class fare from Penistone to Manchester was 5/6 and a third class fare, 2/4. A first class fare from Penistone to Sheffield was 2/9 and a third class fare 1/6. Passengers caught smoking were liable to a fine of £2.
A fast train in 1846, going to Manchester with few stops, took an hour; the normal journey, about 1hr. 20mins. A train to Sheffield with no stops took 25 mins; the normal journey with stops about ¾ hr.
Like every station of the S.A. & M. Penistone was in the charge of a clerk whose duty it was to start each train with the 5lb bell provided, after the guard had blown his whistle. Staff uniforms were of dark green cloth with red edging. The clerk’s wages were £60 per annum. Each station also had a railway policeman paid about 20/- per week one of his duties was to use the crude hand signal lamps showing red (for stop), green (for caution) and white (for all clear).
The guards on the trains got 24/- per week, the green uniform with red edging, and a splendid glazed hat with the title and arms of the S.A & M. Painted on the front of the hat. Ticket collectors (24/- per week) were given double-breasted frock coats with red edging.
A station clock and two or three street type lamps were a feature at each station but there was only a refreshment room at Woodhead station.
Engines and Carriages
Most of the locomotives used in the early days of the S.A. & M. were built by Sharp Roberts and Co. of Manchester and used coke for fuel. The engines and their tenders were dark green. The S.A & M repair workshops were in the care of Richard Peacock, a Yorkshireman, who had been taken to see the newly opened Stockton and Darlington Railway when he had been five years old. He had joined the S.A & M. as “Engine driver no.1” in 1841.
Later he was to found a famous locomotive building company, The carriages of the S.A. & M. were described as being painted a light claret colour Three inch letters carried the legend “SHEFFIELD, ASHTON – UNDER – LYNE & MANCHESTER “ and the doors of first and second class carriages displayed the S.A & M. Coat of arms which was made up of the three shields of the three town. The first class carriages accommodated six persons in each of three compartments from the roof of which a lamp was suspended.
The M.S. & L. Company
On the 1st January 1847 the Sheffield, Ashton under Lyne and Manchester Railway Company became the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company. Amalgamating with some Lincolnshire companies under the chairmanship of Lord Yarborough. The railway was still called “the Sheffield “by local people and Victorian schoolboys joked that the M.S & L was the “Muck, Sludge and lightening “ railway. In 1850 the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway opened a junction line from Huddersfield to Penistone and constructed the first Penistone viaduct. In the mid-fifties steam coal began to be used instead of coke for fuel and the first carriages with varnished teak exteriors like those of the Great Northern Railway were adopted. Engine driving still demanded toughness. There was scanty protection from the weather for the engine crews and as late as 1862 they were working an average of twelve hours a day. In 1865 Penistone was highly favoured being given a decorative drinking fountain of red marble, with water spurting through a brass lion’s head. Only imported terminal stations gained these fountains at that time.
The second Railway Station at Penistone
The famous chairman of the M.S. & L. Edward Watkin, decided in 1869 that a completely new station should be built at Penistone near the Huddersfield junction. An agreement was reached with the L & Y (Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway) and a tender of £9,200 submitted by Weatherley and Rymer for construction of the station was accepted in 1871. The new Penistone station was opened on the 1st February 1874, the old station being given over to goods traffic.
Under Edward Watkin the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway was an ambitious company and completed a route south from Sheffield via Nottingham and Leicester. It eventually achieved an entry into London at Marylebone and became one of the great trunk railways – much to the annoyance of those already established. Thus it came about that there was another change of title in 1897 and the M.S & L. Adopted the name of Great Central Railway.
Plans for the electrification of the Woodhead Penistone Line 1938
The directors of the L.N.E.R. have now approved details of the scheme for the electrification of the line between Manchester and Sheffield which was scheduled to be carried out under the Government Assisted Scheme. The distinguishing feature of this electrification is that all classes of traffic will be electrically-hauled, and this will be the first example of a completely electric service in Britain. The principal circumstances which led the L.N.E.R. to adopt electrification for this particular route were the heavy traffic, the exceptional geographical features of the route, and its favourable position in regard to power supply.
The sections of line to be electrified include Manchester (London Road Station); and Barnsley Junction (Penistone) to Wath via Worsboro’.
The electrification is to be carried out on the 1,500-volt d.c. system. The overhead equipment will be of the cross-girder type, with supporting structures set at an average distance of 220ft. apart. Power will be supplied by electricity undertaking belonging to the Electrical Distribution of Yorks., Ltd., and the Manchester and Sheffield Corporations.
Engines of passenger trains will be changed from electric to steam and vice versa at Woodhouse (in new change-over sidings), Sheffield (Victoria passenger station), Penistone (passenger station),Godley (passenger station), Guide Bridge (passenger station), and Manchester Central (passenger station).
Forty-one vacuum-fitted 40-ton brake vans will be used to provide adequate braking power for the electric locomotives when hauling heavy coal trains over the down grade from Dunford Bridge in the direction of Manchester.
Under electric traction it is hoped to accelerate the average start-to-stop speeds of the trains over the Manchester-Sheffield route by 25 to 40 per cent., as indicated below.
Type of train Existing steam service m.p.h Proposed electric service m.p.h
Express passenger 40 50
Slow through passenger 25 35
Express braked freight 28 40
Ordinary freight 28 25
Heavy freight and mineral 15 22
The more efficient operation of traffic through the double Woodhead tunnel was one of the strongest incentives to electrification.
The tunnels each convey a single line of railway, one used in the up direction and the other in the down, and they are 3 miles long. They are situated between Woodhead and Dunford Bridge and owing to the higher speed at which trains will pass through them the line capacity will be greatly increased. Up to the present the capacity of the tunnel in the up direction has been approximately four trains of all descriptions an hour (partly owing to the length and upgrade and partly to the smoke nuisance), and it is this fact which has determined the traffic density over the whole line between Sheffield and Manchester. Under electrification it is considered that it will be possible to increase the capacity of this tunnel by 25 per cent., and a further benefit will ensure by reason of the longer life of the rails in the tunnel. Owing to the present atmospheric conditions, the life of the standard 95lb. rail is limited to 3-33/4 years as compared with a normal life in the open of 15-17 years. The electrification of the tunnels will materially reduce the rate of corrosion, but owing to the wet nature of the various strata through which the tunnels are pierced this will not be eliminated. However, it is estimated that the rails will last from 5 to 6 years, or 33 to 50 per cent. Longer than under existing conditions.
Some of the heaviest locomotive work on the L.N.E.R. is at present performed ever the Manchester-Sheffield line. Coal trains from Wath concentrating yard with a trailing weight in excess of 1,000 tons are worked at present up the 1 in 40 gradient approaching West Silkstone junction by four steam locomotives, two in front and two behind. Under electrification the banking of these trains will continue. A trailing load of 250 tons is normal for passenger trains, but during the summer season and at holiday times this weight is increased to approximately 350 tons. The electric locomotives to be constructed for express passenger service will be designed to deal with trains of this size
The electrical equipment will include 12 rectifier sub-stations having a total installed capacity of 40,000 kw. At the time the announcement was made of the list of works submitted for Government Assistance it was estimated that the cost of the Manchester-Sheffield conversion would be £2, 5000,000 and this figure is approximately correct.
The Penistone Line Remembered
In the early 1950’s the Woodhead route was electrified (the first route in Britain) and all seemed rosy for the local railway’s future. A new electric shed was erected at Darnall to house the new EM1 and EM2 electric locomotives.
The electrification was by overhead wires and the locomotives had two pantographs to collect current to power the traction motors. When running downhill, these superb engines could re-generate power and put electricity back into the overhead wire, which would then power a train coming up the hill so making it economic to run.
The EM1 had four traction motors on four axles (also known as Bo-Bo’s) and were for freight operations and the EM2 have six traction motors on six axles (also known as Co-Co’s) They were for the passenger services and revolutionised railway operations and the way ahead did seem to have been found.
Today it all lies derelict and all the EM1’s have been scrapped. The EM2’s were sent to Holland and could still be working there.
The Bo-Bo’s took 750 tons of coal up to Dunford Bridge at 30mph. whilst the tiny 2-8-0 steamers slogged up at 15mph with 700 tons. The Co-Co passenger locos developing over 2500hp glided over the rails between Sheffield & Manchester. In later years the Bo-Bo’s coupled to work together in multiples hauled 1498 tons of coal over Woodhead at 45mph.
Such wonderful progress has sadly gone. The Co-Co’s went to Holland in 1969 and the Bo-Bo’s soldiered on till the end of the Woodhead route 1981.
The expresses of 1955 over Woodhead would make a mockery of today’s Sheffield-Manchester service and the lorries still struggle on roads that cannot cope. One breath of snow and the Woodhead road shivers silently, alongside the silent redundant railway.
( The British Rail Class 76, also known as Class EM1 (Electric mixed traffic 1) Bo-Bo designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for use on the Woodhead line. 26020 is on display at the National Railway Museum York)
(This item reproduced with kind permission of the Penistone Archive Journal)
Tanks for the memory
A tank ramp was built in early 1943 and situated on the railway sidings off Green Road, Penistone. The photograph was taken in 1985, and in the present day the ramp is badly overgrown. It has been cleared and is trying to be maintained by the Archive Group
It was built in early 1943 and served one specific purpose, that being, to off load or load tanks. The British tanks were probably from Newton Chambers Works, near Chapletown, the works made over 1000 ‘Churchill’ tanks. The Army was responsible for the loading work and one of the army Land Masters who were in charge of the operations was Dennis Healy, he later became Chancellor of the Exchequer in Sir Harold Wilson’s Government.
The tanks were driven to the moors at Langsett there they were tested and the drivers were trained to fire at moving targets. The targets were made from wood and covered in canvas in a rough tank shape with plenty of bricks to keep them stable. The bricks were mainly made in Barnsley and were reported to be very hard. A coat of camouflage paint finished the target tank, which was towed on a trolley along rails. The target range was made of concrete in a triangular shape with a bunker observation post at the top right hand corner; firing took place on the second leg.
American ‘Sherman’ tanks were also tested here as well as other tanks, artillery guns and armoured cars. The local moors were also used in rehearsal and preparation for the Battle of Normandy and in 1944 for D Day.
If you leave Penistone by Mortimer Road over Cranberry Crossroads and down Gilbert Hill the triangular route can be seen across on Langsett Moor.
On Barnside above Upper Midhope are the ruins of an abandoned WW2 tank service area, which was part of a large camp. After gunnery practice the tanks were driven over a long pit to be washed or serviced. The site, running behind a wall, is overgrown with many self-set trees growing out of it.