South Yorkshire stations – Penistone

On a dull April day, Wednesday 19th, I visited another railway station in South Yorkshire, in the former steel town of Penistone. Penistone is just west of Barnsley. I caught the direct train from Burton on Trent to Sheffield, then had a short wait there for a train on the Penistone Line which runs between Sheffield and Huddersfield.

Penistone railway station was originally opened in 1845, but the present station was opened in 1874 at a different location. It was formerly a large junction station with six platforms, but the closure of the Woodhead Line to passengers in 1970 reduced its size to just two platforms. Access between platforms is via a barrow crossing, which didn’t fill me with confidence. It is not a busy line, so it is safe enough to cross if you look both ways first.

The line which closed in 1970, the Woodhead Line, now forms part of the Trans Pennine walking trail. It was electrified in 1954, and the building which controlled the electricity supply to the line still stands adjacent to Penistone station, and it is now privately owned.

The exit from the station leads straight onto the Trans Pennine trail. I had found during my preparation for the trip that there was an old railway turntable just to the south of the station, so I went to have a look at it.


A helpful sign near the turntable says that it is unknown when it was built, but it was used to turn locomotives around until the 1980s. Two men could turn locomotives weighing over 100 tons. It is probably possible to go down into the pit, but I couldn’t see an easy way out, so I didn’t bother.

Close to the turntable is a World War II tank ramp, used for loading and unloading tanks onto trains. It was built in 1943.

Tank ramp

I walked back down the footpath, past the station again, to the town centre. In 1862, a steel works was built in the previously quiet market town and was bought by Charles Cammell two years later. The town became a centre for steel production using the Bessemer smelting process. In 1903, Cammell’s company merged with Laird Bros. to form the famous Cammell Laird shipbuilding company. In 1930, the Penistone steel works was closed, plunging the town into an economic crisis, it being the main employer in the area. It was re-opened in 1935 by David Brown & Sons, and continued production until it was closed and demolished in 1960. The site of the works is now mostly occupied by housing.

At the centre of the town is Saint John the Baptist church, a Grade I listed building. The tower was thought to have been built in the year 1500. Within the church yard is a sensory garden, with an obelisk created by local school children in 2004 and mill stones set into the ground giving information on Penistone’s history.

After stopping off at the Co-op for some food, I headed south of Penistone and out into the countryside. I walked on some quiet country lanes, although the silence was occasionally broken by a scrap merchant bellowing in the town asking for “any scrap iron”.

There were a fair few dog walkers out and about, and the occasional car driving past. I walked past a field full of sheep and lambs, a couple of which stared at me as I walked past.

As much as I was enjoying the countryside (despite the staring sheep), it was time to head back to the town. I took a steep downhill path to the Pen-Den Dale Trail path, which runs between Penistone and Denby Dale.

My next port of call was Watermeadows Park, a large open space through which the River Don flows. It also has spectacular views of the 29 arch Penistone railway viaduct.

Penistone viaduct opened in July 1850. In 1914, groans were heard by a local man from the bottom of the viaduct. After a search, a man called George Edward Wood was found badly injured, having attempted to take his own life. Miraculously, he survived the fall and later joined the Royal Engineers Corps, although he was later discharged as not “physically fit for War Service”.

On 3rd February 1916, part of the viaduct collapsed when a train was shunting into the station. The train’s driver and fireman both escaped before the locomotive plunged into the valley below. If the accident had happened twenty minutes later, the train would have been full of schoolchildren from Penistone Grammar school. Repairs were carried out, and the viaduct reopened in August 1916.

It was while I was admiring the viaduct that I checked my phone for the next train home. It had been cancelled, meaning that I had almost two hours to wait to travel back to Burton on Trent, during the evening rush hour. Luckily, the sun had come out, so I worked on my tan while waiting for the train at Penistone station. Also, there were information boards on the station and the nearby Trans Pennine Trail pathway, so they kept me occupied for a short while. To add insult to injury, the train from Sheffield to Burton had only four coaches instead of the regular nine, so I was crammed into the vestibule like a sardine. Apart from that, it was a good day.

Thanks very much for reading. You can see more photos from this trip on the blog’s Facebook page, and also on Instagram. All the links you need are here.


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