Penistone Viaduct

Penistone Viaduct is curved railway viaduct which carries the Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway (now known as the Penistone Line) over Sheffield Road (B6462) and the River Don.

The stone viaduct consists of 29 arches and is on a curve of 40 chains radius.[1] It was formally opened on 1 July 1850.


On Sunday 26 February 1871, the first class carriage of the 8:30pm from Huddersfield to Penistone derailed and overturned just after the train had crossed over the viaduct. Fortunately the carriage was empty at the time and no-one was injured.[2]

It was not unusual for the train from Huddersfield to be held on the viaduct until a platform became available at Penistone Station and this sometimes led to passengers who lived to the north of the viaduct alighting and walking back along the viaduct, much to the annoyance of the railway company staff. On the evening of Tuesday 9 September 1884, a short-sighted young man named Elliott Hawkyard apparently made the mistake of assuming that the train had pulled into the station and stepped out of the carriage onto the viaduct's parapet, believing it to be the platform. Unfortunately he then took a second step and fell to his death.[3]

On the evening of Sunday 27 December 1914, a local farmer was walking across the viaduct when he "heard groans in the valley 80 or 90 feet below". A search was made of the valley below and 21-year-old gas fitter George Edward Wood (son of Abraham Wood of Bridge Street, Penistone) was found badly injured, having deliberately jumped from the viaduct in a suicide attempt. The Huddersfield Examiner reported that "his head and features were so terribly injured that he was unrecognisable, and it was only by his clothing and boots that his father identified him".[4] Amazingly, Wood survived and later joined the Royal Engineers Corps in November 1915 although he was later discharged in July 1916 due to being "no longer physically fit for War Service".[5]

In January 1916, a crack was discovered in the parapet wall at the southern end of the viaduct. The foundations underneath were examined but no obvious cause for the crack was discovered and temporary repairs were carried out. Just after 4pm on 3 February, an engine from Huddersfield was shunting onto the viaduct when the two-man crew saw the track ahead of them begin to bend downwards. Driver George Lockwood and his fireman[6] quickly jumped from the engine and ran back towards the station. Within seconds, a portion of the viaduct had collapsed, leaving the engine suspended across the gap on the sagging rails before it too plunged 80 feet into the valley below. Had the accident occurred 20 minutes later, the train would have been full of children from Penistone Grammar School.

Following the collapse, a gap of around 30 yards was left in the viaduct. Until repairs could be made, a temporary motor service operated between Penistone and Denby Dale but this was apparently soon withdrawn.[7] Penistone Grammar School then arranged for a waggonette to run between the two stations to transport students.[8]

To shorten the distant people had to travel by road, a temporary wooden station named Barnsley Road Halt was opened at the northern end of the viaduct.[9] When the viaduct reopened, Penistone Grammer School were unsuccessful in their attempt to have the halt turned into a permanent station.

The task of dismantling the fallen engine was undertaken by Walter Paterson of the L&YR's Horwich Works.[10] According to some sources, the chimney of the engine was taken to Brockholes Station where it was used as a plant pot.

During the repairs to the viaduct an accident occurred on 19 March which caused the death of joiner's labourer Edmund Peel (aged 46) of Oakenshaw, Bradford. Whilst raising equipment onto the viaduct using a chain and block, a section of the damaged arch fell and knocked Peel unconscious. He was taken to Huddersfield Infirmary but later died. A verdict of "accidental death" was recorded at the inquest.[11]

The viaduct was reportedly reopened to traffic in August 1916.[12]

Historic England Listing

  • Grade II
  • first listed 27 April 1988
  • listing entry number 1286798

Penistone Railway Viaduct on Penistone and Denby Dale line. Railway viaduct. 1885. Rock-faced stone. Curved on plan. 28 round arches on 2-stage piers and an additional arch over the road at the south end. String course at base of parapet.

Further Reading


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Notes and References

  1. "Opening of the Line of Railway from Huddersfield to Holmfirth and Penistone" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Jul/1850).
  2. "Railway Accident on the Penistone Branch" in Huddersfield Chronicle (04/Mar/1871).
  3. "Shocking Fatal Accident at Penistone" in Huddersfield Chronicle (13/Sep/1884).
  4. "Penistone Man's Terrible Fall" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (29/Dec/1914). It was stated that Wood's was in ill-health at the time and suffered head pains, apparently caused by being "stuck on the head with a cricket ball".
  5. From his service records, it appears that there was a problem with Wood's knee, perhaps linked to the earlier fall from the viaduct.
  6. The fireman's name was only given as "Butler" and both men were from Mirfield.
  7. "The Accident to Penistone Viaduct" in Yorkshire Post (04/Feb/1916) and "The Penistone Disaster" in Leeds Mercury (07/Feb/1916).
  8. "The Viaduct Mishap" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (11/Feb/1916).
  9. "When Penistone Viaduct Collapsed" in Leeds Mercury (05/Feb/1938).
  10. "A Penistone Memory: Retirement of an L.M.S. Official" in Yorkshire Evening Post (28/Dec/1939).
  11. "Fatal Fall of Stone" in Leeds Mercury (30/Mar/1916).
  12. "Town Council" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (16/Aug/1916).