The Engineer (03/Mar/1916) - Collapse of the Penistone Viaduct

The following is a transcription of a historic journal article and may contain occasional errors.


Collapse of the Penistone Viaduct.

A curious failure of the Penistone Viaduct occurred on the 3rd of the month. This viaduct, which spans the valley of the Don and which was built sixty-seven years ago, is on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company's line to Bradford via Huddersfield from the Great Central Railway Company's main line station at Penistone. It is one of the longest railway viaducts in this country, and it commences about 30 yards from Penistone Station. It consists of a series of stone arches supported on stone piers, which vary in height from 60ft. to 80ft., is about 30ft. wide and carries a double line of rails. About a fortnight before the accident, a slight crack was observed in a parapet wall and a careful examination was made of the foundations, which, however, failed to disclose any subsidence or other defect. Accordingly the ordinary traffic was continued, though with caution, and the repair of the crack was put in hand. Just after 4 p.m. on the afternoon of the 3rd inst. a passenger train from Huddersfield had run into Penistone over the viaduct. Immediately afterwards an engine commenced shunting operations, and some eight minutes after the Huddersfield train had passed and just as the engine was engaged in backing a number of wagons into the station, some onlookers observed that the rails were sagging and that a hollow had been formed in the permanent way. A warning shout caused the driver and firemen to jump from the engine and reach safety, and then, without any further warning, two arches of the viaduct collapsed and fell into the valley below. For a short time the engine remained hanging on the edge of the break, and then it, too, crashed down, but the coupling between it and the wagon next to it broke so that no other vehicle was taken along with it. It was a most fortunate thing that nobody was killed. Had the collapse taken place when the passenger train was on the viaduct there must have been very serious loss of life.