The Holmfirth Branch Line was constructed by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Company (L&YR) and opened on 1 July 1850.
After the completion of the Manchester & Leeds Railway (M&LR) in 1841, which passed three miles to the north of Huddersfield, a number of potential schemes were proposed and debated with the aim of bringing one or more railway lines into the town. Amongst these was a scheme to connect southwards through to Penistone or Barnsley — formalised as the Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway (H&SJR) — although it was not until November 1844 that a cheaper route along the Kirkburton valley was rejected in favour of a line along the Holme Valley to connect to the station at Penistone on the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway (SA&MR).
The H&SJR was authorised by an Act of Parliament in June 1845 and included a branch line to Holmfirth. On 27 July 1846, the line was amalgamated into the Manchester & Leeds Railway Company (M&LR). In turn, the M&LR was one of three companies which amalgamated to from the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) in July 1847.
In March 1847, civil engineer John Hawkshaw reported to the company directors that "working drawings of the Holmfirth branch were nearly ready" and that work would commence shortly. At that time, the intention had been to extend the branch line as far as Holmbridge with the potential to connect onwards through to Bamford or Glossop.
The only major construction on the branch line was the curved Mytholmbridge Viaduct. This had initially been planned as a stone viaduct, but the L&YR elected to save costs by constructing a timber viaduct.
In August 1848, Hawkshaw presented the following status report:
Holmfirth Branch. Around one-third of the excavations are executed. The foundations of the timber viaduct are put in, and a considerable portion of the timber is on the ground. Five of the road bridges are completed and two more remain to be built. The laying of the permanent way has been commenced.
In October 1848, two navvies were involved in a "frightful accident" at at ctting near Berry Banks (situated between Thongsbridge and Holmfirth). As stone was being manually winched up from the cutting, the crane overbalanced and the two men operating it "were precipitated a depth of some yards" onto the stones below. One of the men was the son of widow Mary Hirst of Rattle Row, Wooldale, and the other was an unnamed navvy lodging at "John Crossland's of Gully, Holmfirth". Although badly bruised and injured, the Leeds Intelligencer reported that "with due care, both cases may escape fatal termination".
On 17 February 1849, a middle-aged stone mason named Hill of Netherthong was working on the stone pier of Mytholmbridge Viaduct when he accidentally fell around nine yards down an incline. He sustained "a severe fracture of the thigh, a broken arm, and a dislocated shoulder" but newspaper reports suggested that it was expected he would survive following treatment at Huddersfield Infirmary.
At around 12:30pm on Monday 19 February 1849, a "tremendous" gust of wind caused the collapse of around three-quarters of the wooden viaduct:
Many of the colossal upright timber-pieces composing the structure were snapt in twain as if they had been mere match-wood; and indeed the whole wreck told forcibly the terrific power of that mighty though invisible agent which had produced the but too visible devastation.
Fortunately, the collapse took place whilst "all the workmen had left the place for dinner, and thus not one individual was personally injured!" However, the timber viaduct was quickly rebuilt in time for the running of a test engine along the entire branch line in July 1849.
The line was formally inspected by the Board on Trade on the afternoon Tuesday 4 June 1850 and "pronounced safe". The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that "the very handsome station house [at Holmfirth] is nearly complete".
The local press initially announced that the branch line would open on Monday 24 June 1850, but instead it took place a week later on 1 July. The Leeds Intelligener" reported:
The occasion created a general holiday, and much enjoyment was the result. At short intervals during the day, merry peals were rung upon the Holmfirth church bells. A respectable and numerous body of gentlemen, accompanied by a band of music, made an excursion to Huddersfield, then from thence to Penistone; returning in the evening to a public dinner got up at the White Hart Inn, Holmfirth.
The L&YR formally abandoned the "Holmfirth Branch Extension" to Holmbridge in November 1851. However, mill owners met at the New Inn in April 1852 to discuss plans for opposing the abandonment of the scheme.
Concerns about the safety of Mytholmbridge Viaduct led to work beginning in 1864 on constructing a replacement 13-arch stone viaduct alongside the existing timber one. Unfortunately this collapsed during construction on Sunday 3 December 1865, damaging the timber viaduct beyond repair. The branch line remained closed until a new stone viaduct was completed and opened on 11 March 1867.
The line closed to passenger services on 31 October 1959 and to freight traffic on 28 April 1965.
The track was dismantled in 1966.
From Brock Holes Junction to Holmfirth, the main named features of the line were:
The approximate route from Brock Holes Junction to the terminus station at Holmfirth is shown below: