Wath marshalling yard

Wath marshalling yard, also known as Wath concentration yard, was a large railway marshalling yard specifically designed for the concentration of coal traffic. It was set at the heart of the South Yorkshire Coalfield, at Wath-upon-Dearne, approximately halfway between Barnsley and Doncaster, in the United Kingdom. It opened in 1907 and closed in 1988.

Wath marshalling yard
Wath Railway Depot and Yards
Coordinates53°30′36″N 1°21′15″W / 53.510°N 1.3542°WCoordinates: 53°30′36″N 1°21′15″W / 53.510°N 1.3542°W
Grid referenceSE428017
Disused railway stations in the United Kingdom
Closed railway stations in Britain


The idea of a yard for the concentration of coal traffic developed following a visit by the Great Central Railway's General Manager, Sam Fay (later Sir Sam Fay) to the United States. It was built by Logan and Hemingway, a contractor regularly used by the Great Central Railway and the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway before them, and opened in August 1907.[1]

At this time a significant amount of rail-borne coal traffic was wagon-load. Customers would order coal direct from individual collieries, which would utilise the railways to deliver the coal in the colliery's own four-wheel wagons that usually carried between 12 and 16 tons of coal. These customers could be anything from a domestic coal merchant ordering a single wagon of coal to be delivered to a station goods yard for local delivery, up to rail-connected industry that would consume many thousands of tons of coal a month. All this generated a very complex pattern of rail traffic from the 45 collieries that were working within a ten-mile radius of Wath.

The purpose of the yard was to make this traffic more efficient by concentrating the marshalling of the wagons of coal from the local collieries in a central position. Coal wagons were "tripped" in local trains from each colliery to the yard, then sorted into longer distance trains which would deliver to a marshalling yard near the customer, from where the wagons would again be re-sorted into new local "trip" trains that delivered the wagons to their individual destinations. Throughout its lifetime, the yard handled loaded and empty coal and coke wagons almost to the exclusion of other traffic.[1]

Many trains were sent over the Woodhead Line to a yard at Mottram, near Manchester, where they were divided for distribution throughout the North-West. Another major destination for the coal traffic was the steam trawler bunkering sidings at New Clee, near Grimsby, and after 1912 export coal was sent via the new dock facilities at Immingham.

The temporary nationalisation of the coal industry during the hostilities of World War 2, leading to full nationalisation in 1947, led to an end to the system of individual collieries selling direct to individual end customers, however different collieries produced different grades of coal, and domestic and industrial customers were still dotted at many locations throughout the country, and so Wath Yard was still needed to efficiently manage the coal traffic flows from the area. This was so much so, that in the early 1950s, the yard became one of the eastern ends of the Manchester-Sheffield-Wath electric railway, over the Woodhead route. A prime justification of this scheme was the heavy coal flows from Wath up the steep grades over the Pennines.

By the 1970s, the energy requirements of Britain's households and industry had changed. The Clean Air Act and North Sea gas meant that the number of domestic users of coal was dwindling, industry was now powered by electricity, and the centralisation of the power industry under the Central Electricity Generating Board meant that power was generated in a new fleet of large power stations rather small municipal generators. The remaining coal traffic was block-train rather than wagon-load and consequently did not require much marshalling: the coming of Merry-go-round trains for coal that travelled from colliery or dock to power station in a continuous cycle further reduced this need.

In 1981 the Woodhead route and the associated electrification system closed. Wath Yard was busy with coal trains for a few more years, but the impending closure of many of the remaining local collieries after the 1984-85 miners' strike resulted in a sudden decline. The western exit to Wombwell and Barnsley was lifted in 1986. The yard finally closed and was lifted in 1988 with the closure of the last of the local collieries.

The whole site of the yard was cleared in stages in the mid-1990s and is now an area of office, light industry and residential developments set around a lake which forms the Old Moor Wetland Centre RSPB reserve. When visiting today it is very difficult to detect that the area was once a large and busy railway marshalling yard.

The yard

The yard was set to the south of the main line from Doncaster and Barnsley. It was built on the 'hump' principle, where trains were uncoupled and then propelled over a hump, allowing the wagons to run by gravity into sidings to await collection. However unlike later hump yards it was built without automatic retarders to slow the rolling wagons down. Instead the yard employed human runners who chased the rolling wagons to pin down their hand brakes and control their movement through the sidings. This was a particularly hazardous occupation.[1]

With a total length of over 1¼ miles, between Wath Central railway station and Elsecar Junction, and with over 36 miles of track this was two yards in one: Eastbound traffic was received in 8 reception sidings feeding 31 departure sidings and controlled by "B" Box, whilst for westbound traffic there was a fan of 9 reception sidings, again feeding 31 departure sidings and controlled by "A" Box. The western entry/exit to the yard was under the control of Elsecar Junction signal box whilst the eastern end was controlled by Moor Road signal box, with additional control from the Wath Central signal box, which controlled the main lines through the yard and was situated by the station. The yard could handle as many as 5,000 wagons per day.[1]

The locomotive depot

Initially the yard did not have major locomotive stabling facilities: locomotives were provided by Mexborough shed. With the coming of the electrification a two-road engine shed was built to the North of the yard adjacent to the Moor Lane Bridge to stable the new electric locomotives. In 1963 the replacement of steam with diesel locomotives on the non-electrified lines in the area resulted in the closure of Mexborough shed: a small diesel depot was built on the site of the old turntable in the centre of Wath yard, although diesel locomotives were also stabled at the electric locomotive shed. This shed closed in 1983, after then a shunter was provided as a trip from Tinsley until closure. After closure of the depot and yard, the locomotive shed was for a few years the home of a toxic waste processing company, which resulted in a local protest movement being formed.[2]

In a lane off Moor Road to the south of the yard was the 'power house', along with the Yard Master's and Inspectors Offices and the Yard Master's House. At the time of opening the points within the yard, controlled by "A" and "B" boxes, were controlled by electro-pneumatic power, this being extended to control points on the main line and signals. The compressed air was supplied from the 'power house' through a network of pipes running throughout the yard.

Special locomotives

Mexborough Locomotive Shed geograph-2613735-by-Ben-Brooksbank
GCR Class 8H in 1949

To operate the yard special, powerful, locomotives were needed and the GCR developed a large, three-cylinder, 0-8-4T tank locomotive, four of which were built by Beyer Peacock & Company, at Gorton Foundry, being delivered in December 1907 and January 1908. On delivery these were numbered 1170-1173, which in 1923 became L.N.E.R. 6170-6173. They were known as Wath Daisies, GCR Class 8H (LNER Class S1).[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Wath concentration yard & the "Wath Daisies"". GCR Rolling Stock Trust. Archived from the original on 25 October 2007. Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  2. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 13 June 1991". Retrieved 22 March 2008.
Dearne Valley

The Dearne Valley is an area of South Yorkshire, England, along the River Dearne. It encompasses the towns of Wombwell, Wath-upon-Dearne, Swinton, Conisbrough and Mexborough, the large villages of Ardsley, Bolton on Dearne, Goldthorpe, Thurnscoe, Darfield, Stairfoot and Brampton Bierlow, and many other smaller villages and hamlets.

In 1995 the area became a regeneration area, as it had suffered much from the sudden decline of the deep coal mining industry in the 1980s. In the 2011 census the ONS-identified Barnsley/Dearne Valley built-up area had a population of 223,281, however this region includes Barnsley and certain other smaller towns and villages that might not historically have considered themselves a part of the Dearne Valley.

Doncaster Avoiding Line

The Doncaster Avoiding Line is a railway line, which as its title suggests, avoids the town of Doncaster and routes goods traffic, principally coal and steel, away from the main line station where it would have to cross from the Sheffield line to the Hull or Cleethorpes lines and cause a bottleneck.

The line was passed in an Act of Parliament in 1903 but work did not commence until 5 years later. Built mostly on embankment it opened in 1910. It was brought into use following the opening of Wath marshalling yard in 1907, and in preparation for the opening of Immingham Dock in 1912.

The Doncaster Avoiding Line runs from Bentley Junction on the Doncaster to Hull/Cleethorpes line to Hexthorpe Junction on the Doncaster to Sheffield line. It is double track throughout with Bentley Junction being a 'flyover' junction and Hexthorpe Junction a 'flat' junction. The only junction in between was Sprotborough Junction, opened in 1916, where connections were made with the Hull and Barnsley and Great Central Joint Railway. These were two sets of 'double cross-overs' with the signal box between.

The line was worked under permissive block regulations, but these were suspended when passenger trains were to work over the line and absolute block substituted. There was a rising gradient towards Hexthorpe Junction which if trains were heavy and had been stood in the queue from Sprotborough Junction a banking locomotive was provided. This came from Mexborough depot and was usually a J11, N5 or L3 but sometimes a G.C."Fish" engine which was on shed at the time. This locomotive also was used on the "Top Yard" to York Road goods and when it was away from its post Doncaster's passenger pilot locomotive would deputise if required

The line is still open and fulfils its original purpose, even more important today with faster trains on the East Coast Main Line in both freight and passenger.


Elsecar (listen) is a village in the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, England. Like many villages in the area, it was for many years a colliery village until the widespread pit closures during the 1980s. Elsecar is near the town of Hoyland and the villages of Jump and Wentworth. Elsecar is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of Hoyland, 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Barnsley and 8 miles (13 km) north-east of Sheffield. The village falls within the Barnsley MBC Ward of Hoyland Milton.

Elsecar is unique as a name. It is thought to derive from the Old English personal name of Aelfsige (mentioned in Cartulary of Nostell Priory, 1259–66) and the Old Norse word kjarr, used to denote a marsh or brushwood.

GCR Class 8H

The Great Central Railway Class 8H (LNER Class S1) was a class of 0-8-4T steam tank locomotives designed by John G. Robinson for hump shunting at Wath marshalling yard.

Great Central Railway

The Great Central Railway in England came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897, anticipating the opening in 1899 of its London Extension. On 1 January 1923, the company was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway.

LNER Class P1

The London and North Eastern Railway Class P1 Mineral 2-8-2 Mikado was a class of two steam locomotives designed by Nigel Gresley. They were two of the most powerful freight locomotives ever designed for a British railway. It was initially intended they be a more powerful 2-10-0 version of the earlier Class O2 2-8-0s. The design was submitted in August 1923, for use between Peterborough and London, and also between Immingham and Wath marshalling yard. The power was quoted as being 25% more than the O2.

Manchester–Sheffield–Wath electric railway

The Manchester–Sheffield–Wath electric railway was an electrification scheme on British railways. The route featured long ascents on both sides of the Pennines with the long Woodhead Tunnel at its central summit close to the Woodhead pass. This led to the route being called the Woodhead Line.

Mexborough engine shed

Mexborough engine shed was an engine shed in Swinton, in South Yorkshire, England. It was built by the Great Central Railway and opened in 1875. The shed was built slightly to the west of the current Mexborough station on land between the River Don and the River Don Navigation. It had 15 dead end roads, and could handle about 150 steam locomotives, mainly for use on freight trains. The London and North Eastern Railway operated the shed from 1923. In 1948, on the formation of British Railways Eastern Region, Mexborough bore the shed code 36B, then 41F from 1958. It closed in February 1964.

Most of the locomotives stabled at Mexborough were used for hauling coal trains. The coal originated from the many collieries in the South Yorkshire coalfield and wagons of coal were despatched to locations all over the country. However, the main destinations were the industries and power stations in Lancashire. With the opening of the Wath marshalling yard in 1907, Mexborough supplied locomotives for collecting wagons from the collieries, for re-marshalling of the wagons at Wath and for hauling coal trains across the steeply-graded "Woodhead" route across the Pennines into Lancashire. In the 1920s, the depot was the stabling point for what was then the most powerful locomotive in the UK, the London & North Eastern Railway's Class U1 Garratt. It was used for banking heavy coal trains up the Worsborough incline on the Woodhead route.In the 1950s, the route from Wath to Manchester was electrified. Consequently, the demand for the steam locomotives from the Mexborough depot reduced. The electric locomotives were stabled at Wath rather than Mexborough. Even the steam shunting engines for the marshalling work at Wath yard were replaced by diesel shunters in 1957. The use of steam locomotives for collecting coal from local collieries was also phased out and the depot closed in 1964. The site of Mexborough depot is now occupied by units in an industrial estate off of Meadow Way in Swinton.

In its heyday, the depot had its own football team, Mexborough Locomotive Works F.C..

Penistone Line

The Penistone Line is operated by Northern in the West Yorkshire Metro/ Travel South Yorkshire area of northern England. It connects Huddersfield and Sheffield via Penistone and Barnsley, serving many rural communities. Metrocards (Zone 5) can be used for travel between Huddersfield and Denby Dale and intermediate stations.

RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor

RSPB Dearne Valley Old Moor is an 89-hectare (220-acre) wetlands nature reserve in the Dearne Valley near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It lies on the junction of the A633 and A6195 roads and is bordered by the Trans Pennine Trail long-distance path. Following the end of coal mining locally, the Dearne Valley had become a derelict post-industrial area, and the removal of soil to cover an adjacent polluted site enabled the creation of the wetlands at Old Moor.

Old Moor is managed to benefit bitterns, breeding waders such as lapwings, redshanks and avocets, and wintering golden plovers. A calling male little bittern was present in the summers of 2015 and 2016. Passerine birds include a small colony of tree sparrows and good numbers of willow tits, thriving here despite a steep decline elsewhere in the UK.

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council created the reserve, which opened in 1998, but the RSPB took over management of the site in 2003 and developed it further, with funding from several sources including the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The reserve, along with others nearby, forms part of a landscape-scale project to create wildlife habitat in the Dearne Valley. It is an 'Urban Gateway' site with facilities intended to attract visitors, particularly families. In 2018, the reserve had about 100,000 visits. The reserve may benefit in the future from new habitat creation beyond the reserve and improved accessibility, although there is also a potential threat to the reserve from climate change and flooding.

Wath upon Dearne

Wath upon Dearne (also known as Wath-on-Dearne or simply Wath ) is a small town on the south side of the Dearne Valley in the historic county of the West Riding of Yorkshire and the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England, lying 5 miles (8 km) north of Rotherham, almost midway between Barnsley and Doncaster. It had a population of 11,816 at the 2011 census. It is twinned with Saint-Jean-de-Bournay, in France.

Woodhead line

The Woodhead line was a railway line linking Sheffield, Penistone and Manchester in the north of England. A key feature of the route is the passage under the high moorlands of the northern Peak District through the Woodhead Tunnels. The line was electrified in 1953 and closed between Hadfield and Penistone in 1981.

The Manchester to Glossop/Hadfield section is still in operation; east of the Pennines the vicinity of Penistone and the Sheffield to Deepcar section are still open, although the latter is goods-only. The track has been lifted on other sections and much of the trackbed is now part of the Trans-Pennine Trail and National Cycle Route 62. The Woodhead line has achieved a cult status with collectors of railway memorabilia.

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