The Line

Brief History

The origins of the Clayton West branch are owed to the railway politics of the mid 1800's. The original proposal was to create a branch from the new Huddersfield and Sheffield junction railway (H&SJR) to Darton near Barnsley. The line was to be known as the Darfield Branch, why it is unclear as Darton would have appeaed a more suitable target and it is possible that the names were simply confused. This scheme would have involved a large ammount of civil engineering including a tunnel of over a mile in length and a long high viaduct, however it was rejected by the house of commons. Other railway companies started casting their eyes over the lucrative South Yorkshire coal field traffic and were promoting alternative routes. The London and North Western Railway (LNWR) proposed to build a branch from their mainline from Leeds through Deighton to Kirkburton.. therebye making a move towards the Barnsley coal field. The Midland railway (MR) then proposed to extend the LNWR route to join its own branch at Barnsley. The LNWR disaproved of this idea and in the end th MR built its own line to Huddersfield, which was even less to the liking of the LNWR. In the end the two companies came to a compromise which involved mutual running powers and a joint station at Kirkburton. This scheme was passed by the house of commons but fell foul of the house of Lords. Yet another mutual agreement was reached this time between the MR and the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (L&YR). This gave the MR running powers over H&SJR, and the LNWR in due course completed its line only as far as Kirkburton. THE MR never used the running powers over the H&SJR but the L&YR was eventually forced to honour one of the conditions which was to build the Clayton West Branch as earlier promised. By the time that the L&YR's West Riding Branches act of 1866 was passed, no fewer than 28 seperate proposals were put forward for a railway to or through Clayton West. The L&YR's line was to be single, but in view of the proposals for an extension to Barnsley powers were aquired to take extra land should the branch require doubling. Costs for the three and a half mile branch were estimated at £75,000, but contracts were not awarded for some considerable time, thus indicating the L&YR's reluctance to commence the work. Parliment had specified that the branch must be completed by 1871, however, the first sod was not cut until 27th November 1872. The sod was cut at Skelmanthorpe in atrocious weather conditions, unfortunately the construction of the line was terribly slow and the L&YR had to repeatedly request extensions of time from parliment. One reason for the slow progress was the death of the contractor in 1876. Another was the hard rock found during the boreing of the 511 yard Shelley Woodhouse Tunnel. In 1877 an act gave the L&YR until 1st August 1879 to complete the line and in the end the company made this deadline with only two days to spare, as Board of Trade Sanction was given on the 30th July 1879. Major Marindin inspected the line and declared it ready to use, except for faults in the tunnel construction and the lack of a turntable at Clayton West. The tunnel problem was resolved with the provision of extra brickwork and the turntable seemed to be conveniantly forgotten. When the first trains began to run on the 1st September 1879, the Clayton West Branch was the last to be opened by the L&YR. Hopes of an extension to Barnsley stayed alive for some time, but the powers which had been aquired were allowed to lapse in 1899.

The Clayton West Branch started at Clayton West Junction on the H&SJR and ran to Clayton West with just one intermediate station at Skelmanthorpe, here it served the local mine, as well as Park Mill Colliery at Clayton West. Skelmanthorpe yard was closed to goods traffic on 1st June 1964 although a private siding to serve the colliery remained. The station was reduced to an unstaffed halt on 9th October 1966 before the buildings were demolished to leave just an open fronted shelter. Clayton West was not closed to general goods traffic until September 1970 and, as at Skelmanthorpe the yard was used as a private siding for Park Mill colliery. The Clayton West branch was the only branch from the H&SJR to survive the Beeching act mainly because of the continuing heavy coal traffic.In the last years the line was subsidised by West Yorkshire County Council but with the decline in the coal industry and the uncertain future of the H&SJR passenger traffic on the line ceased on 22nd January 1983 and the branch closed completely in October of that year, with the track being lifted duraing 1986.

The story does not end here though, Brian Taylor who lived within a mile of the line and who had built a miniature railway in Shibden Park Halifax, turned his thoughts to a larger project. Following negotiations with Kirklees Council, arrangements were made to lease the trackbed. In February 1989, an application was made for a light railway order which was granted on the 27th September 1991 by Major Peter Olver. The Kirklees Light Railway had laid the first section of 15" gauge track from Clayton West to a new Halt "Cuckoos Nest" which gave it a line of approximately 1 mile in length. On Boxing Day 1992 the line was extended to Skelmanthorpe which was to remain the lines Western terminus for four years whilst the railway consolidated. Eventually following a European RECHAR grant work on the remaining trackbed begun. This was considerably overgrown and much time was spent clearing before any track could be laid. This was also the case at Shelley station, where a new turntable was also intsalled. Today the line continues to develop and one proposal for the future has been to build an interchange station with the H&SJR.