Conisbrough & Denaby Main
Heritage Group
South Yorkshire Railways

The existing transport  facilities, rail, road and water helped determine the position of the  Denaby and Cadeby Main Collieries .
Anyone taking a stroll on the North side of the river where the Earth Centre was situated cannot fail to notice the cuttings, bridges and tunnels in the side of the valley to the north of the present railway line which was the first to be laid in the mid 1800’s.  These show the position of old lines that were constructed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but were demolished in the 20th century.  The Dearne Valley Railway, the upper, connects with the viaduct; the South Yorkshire Junction Railway, the middle, went through a tunnel (filled in but still evident),before heading north.  The lower line is the existing line running from Sheffield going through another tunnel before crossing the river on its way to Doncaster.
All these railways were primarily built to transport coal from local pits but passenger transport was soon added.  Throughout the country there was a network of railways that linked with one another allowing coal to be transported all over.  However, the operators of the other lines charged competitors who wanted to use them, which resulted in amalgamations to reduce the costs of construction and share the profits.  Much later in the 20th century all these railway companies were taken over as they were nationalised and some of the smaller branch lines were closed as a result of the  Beeching Reports in 1963 and 1965.
One other railway passed through our area, the Hull & Barnsley and Great Central Joint Committee Railway.  This passed through the south side of Conisbrough adjacent to Stringer’s Nursery and the Waste Disposal Site also predominantly built for the transport of minerals.

South Yorkshire & Goole Railway
This was the lower of the three lines, closest to the river and consisted of a double tracked line.  The first section to be constructed was between Swinton and Doncaster, starting in 1847 and completed 1849 and ran between Sheffield/Barnsley and Keadby.  A short tunnel (Foulsyke Tunnel) had to be dug through the limestone to the east of Conisbrough, then the line crossed the River Don over the Rainbow Bridge with stations at Hexthorpe before reaching Doncaster.  
The line was connected to the Great Northern Railway in Doncaster and to the Midland Railway at Swinton to connect with Sheffield.  In 1850 the company amalgamated with its canal interests, the River Dun Company, forming the South Yorkshire Railway and River Dun Company but it was more generally known as the South Yorkshire Railway.
 In 1855 the line was extended to Keadby where the coal could be exported and connected to the North Eastern Railway in Thorne for Goole and Hull.  Passenger services were also added.
The Denaby and Cadeby Collieries were built close to this line. There was also enough land for a large area of railway sidings, for the storage of coal wagons.
This line was absorbed by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (nicknamed Money Sunk and Lost Railway by shareholders and Mainly Slow and Late by rail users) in 1864 and eventually became the Great Central before the nationalisation of the industry.

South Yorkshire Junction Railway

This line was a single track constructed in 1894, higher up the side of the valley, commencing at Denaby and joining the Hull and Barnsley Railway at Wrangbrook Junction.  The Hull & Barnsley was built by the colliery owners to transport their coal direct to Hull Docks avoiding the high costs of using the NER.  However the Hull Docks had a partnership with the NER, they were also old and not suitable for large vessels.  The Dock owners were unwilling to upgrade their facilities so the H & BR decided to build the Alexander Docks, further to the East and their own passenger terminus at Canon Street.  Coal could be transported from both Collieries on this line as well as the SY & GR.  There was also a spur to serve Brodsworth Colliery.
Passenger services From Denaby to Carlton were added.  Denaby had a small wooden station which was accessed by a tunnel under the Sheffield Doncaster line and had a wooden shed for the locomotive.  The locomotive shed was destroyed by fire some time later.  Another station was built at Sprotborough.

The Dearne Valley Railway

This line opened in 1902 and was operated by Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway to transport coal from Edlington Colliery to Wakefield.  This was originally designed as a double track line but most of it was single track.  To cross the river the viaduct had to be constructed and was cut into the side of the valley at a higher level than the other lines.  An extension to the line in Edlington to Bessacarr joined up with other railways for passenger services on a push pull engine with single carriage.
Denaby Halt, on Denaby Ings in the vicinity of the Cadeby Road, was the only local station for the line, a good 3.5 miles from Denaby.  Denaby soldiers demobbed in WW1 were dropped off on this station by mistake and had the long walk home.

The Hull & Barnsley and Great Central Joint Committee Railway
This was constructed as a double tracked line and was the last railway to be laid in our area to carry coal from four mines that already had an alternative rail outlet.  But as this relied on using North Eastern Railway, an expensive route as already mentioned, a new line was built to connect with the H & B railway at Aire Junction.  This line, 21 miles long, was commenced in 1911, completed in 1916 and connected up with other systems at Braithwell Junction.  New stations were built at Snaith & Pollington, Sykehouse, Thorpe–in–Balne, York Rd Doncaster and Warmsworth but passenger services never really took off for various reasons.  The platform at Warmsworth was only just over 12” wide and there were nigh on 70 steps from the road to get to it, it was on the outskirts of the village that had existing cheap tram services.  Sykehouse was remote but had bus services to another rail station in Moss.  Snaith and Pollington was built closer to Pollington which had a good road and already had a station using another line.  Thorpe in Balne was a small hamlet which was never developed further.

Newspaper Cuttings
1st April 1848
South Yorkshire Railway - we understand this Company commenced their line a few days since at Levitt Hagg.  This is the most difficult portion of the line there being a cutting of more than seventy feet deep to make and extending a considerable length.

28th July 1849
The permanent rails are laid from Swinton to Conisbrough and we are assured that the line will certainly be ready for opening by September to accommodate the traffic of Race Week.   A locomotive engine will be employed on the line at Levitt Hagg in a fortnight.

Doncaster Gazette
24th August 1849  
With regard to the South Yorkshire Railway the spirit of earnestness in the completion of the works to which we have before alluded continues to manifest itself more and more.  On every portion of the line from Conisbrough to Doncaster numerous workmen are actively employed without any loss of time and nothing appears to be disregarded that is calculated to facilitate the labours of their progress. It is true that greater difficulties present themselves to be encountered than pertain to the Great Northern Contract.   These however are being steadily and effectively overcome.  The bridge at Conisbrough, the Tunnel under Foulsyke Wood, and the approaches thereto, Butterbusk Bridge (Rainbow Bridge) which is of great height and of immense span the huge stone embankment in the face of the cliff at Levitt Hagg, the enormous gulley three quarters of a mile in length through Warmsworth Field the embankment from thence toward Don Cottage and other matters in the direction of Doncaster which however are of easier accomplishment.   But much will depend on the state of the weather. Nevertheless so long as after careful inspection of the whole line it is found to be in such a state as to warrant an immediate application to the Government Board announcing the intention of working the line at the intended time, there are sufficient reasons to arrive at the conclusion that both lines will be brought into operations at the period of the forthcoming races.   

7th September 1849
South Yorkshire Railway
Great speculation prevails as to the probability as to this line being ready for opening  by the time specified - 10th September. The cutting between Levitt Hagg and Warmsworth will be completed without any difficulty.  The bridges at Butterbusk and Conisbrough have been greatly forwarded within the last few days and the large tubes at the latter have been got into the bed plates and the platform for the rails is already commenced.  There is to be a road across the bridge in the early part of next week.  The bridge at Butterbusk that is of a different construction is not in so forward a state, two of the three sections of the arch are however are completed with the longitudinal girders at the top and the wood is all prepared for laying on the top.  The plate laying is being most rapidly proceeded with at several points on the line and the progress which is made in one day is astonishing.   A double line is laid for a considerable part of the whole distance and a single line is laid at intervals which will greatly facilitate the completion of the whole plate laying. -  Doncaster Chronicle.   
This part of the line eventually opened on 10th November 1849.

The remains of Sprotborough Station
The single track line passed through Cadeby Colliery to Denaby Station.
Bridge carrying the public footpath from the Kings Ferry up Constitution Hill.
Same view after the removal of the line
Railway Company Repair Yard

In 1850 a newspaper item refers to Castle Iron Works at Conisbro’ and in a Trade Directory of 1867 there is mention that the South Yorkshire Railway Company has an establishment in Conisbrough for repairing machinery.  In 1880 another directory mentions a Railway Wheel and Axle Manufacturers, known as Atlas Wheel Works.  Later known as the Railway Repair Yard it was situated between the Station Hotel and the railway.  Access to it was down a track, long forgotten, known as Foundry Lane which led from Station Road to the river.  We do know that the iron work for Rainbow Bridge was worked here with the bridge being put together in sections before being loaded onto barges and taken downriver to where it was being erected on the Railway.
At some point the business was taken over by Messrs Baker and Burnett.  Mr Burnett lived in one of the houses known as Railway Cottages, later to be known as Station Cottages, with his wife and five children.  He is described in the census as the manager of a Railway Wheel Works and employing fifty-three men and originally from Lancashire.

Some of the buildings were taken over by Mr Herbert Downing from where he operated his Hay and Straw business moving to Burcroft House in 1903.