Holmfirth Branch Line
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), which opened up the possibility of a branch line to Holmfirth. The H&SJR was authorised by an Act of Parliament in June 1845.
Following the initial announcement of the H&SJR, two separate schemes were proposed in 1845 that would have included building a new line to connect to the H&SJR at a junction southwards of Honley: the Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield & South Staffordshire Direct Railway and the Great Northern & Southern Direct Railway. Both of these schemes proposed running their lines though Holmfirth and Holmbridge, and then southwards on to Woodhead and beyond. As with many schemes proposed in the mid-1840s (a period referred to as "Railway Mania") both were overly ambitious and quickly collapsed. However, it seems the proposals may have encouraged the H&SJR to ensure they built the branch line to Holmfirth to block future schemes and the Bill for the "Holmfirth Branch Extension" to run as far as "a point about one hundred yards north of the New Church at Holme Bridge" was passed by Parliament in the summer of 1847. The proposed cost of the extension was £56,000.
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 form the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) in July 1847.
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 cutting 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".
Opening and Operation
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 Intelligencer 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.
In June 1851 a bell "which can be heard over the principal part of Holmfirth" was installed at the station and was "rung eight minutes before the departure of each train".
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. The fact that Bentley & Shaw Ltd. were permitted to construct the Railway Inn (later known as the Victoria) on a site that would have blocked any onward line suggests that the railway company had little intention — if any — of ever building the extension. Instead, the extension may have simply been proposed in order to restrict other railway companies from constructing a competing line in the Upper Holme Valley.
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 Brockholes Junction to Holmfirth, the main named features of the line were:
The route from Brockholes Junction to the terminus station at Holmfirth is shown below, including sidings:
Notes and References
- The powers to construct a branch line to Holmfirth ("1 mile and 70 chains in length") were included in the submitted Bill to Parliament.
- Also referred to as the "Manchester and Leeds Railway Act, No. 2, 1847".
- The Bill passed the second reading stage in February 1847 and was passed the committee phase by the start of June.
- Return of Applications by Railway Companies for Extension of Time for Purchase of Lands, or Completion of Works, 1847-48 Parliamentary Session.
- "Railway Intelligence" in Manchester Courier (13/Mar/1847).
- "Railways" in Manchester Courier (09/Sep/1848).
- Mary had four known sons: Jonathan, Joseph, William and Edward.
- "Holmfirth" in Leeds Intelligencer (28/Oct/1848).
- "Holmfirth" in Leeds Intelligencer (24/Feb/1849).
- "Fall of a Viaduct" in Leeds Intelligencer (24/Feb/1849).
- "Holmfirth" in Leeds Intelligencer (21/Jul/1849). The article implies that work on building the station at Holmfirth had yet to commence.
- "Holmfirth" in Leeds Intelligencer (08/Jun/1850).
- "Holmfirth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (08/Jun/1850).
- "Holmfirth: Passengers' Bell" in Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Jun/1851).
- Leeds Intelligencer (15/Nov/1851).
- "Holmfirth and Holmbridge Railway" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (01/May/1852).