All aboard during the golden age of steam

The Flying Scotsman waits to leave Victoria, c1950

The Flying Scotsman waits to leave Victoria, c1950

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THEY were the thundering giants which were absolutely central to life in Sheffield.

Steam trains were once more important here than almost any other city in the UK because of our inland location and the steel industry’s need to shunt huge quantities of metal around town.

Some 800 freight trains travelled on the city’s network every single day during the Fifties. Two stations - the Midland and the Victoria - served thousands of passengers and were the arrival point for everything from livestock to fresh food from around the world.

Now a new book brings to life the true majesty of these transport mammoths. And today The Star brings you these exclusive pictures from the tome.

Railway Memories Sheffield by Stephen Chapman features more than 200 stunning photos stretching from the Thirties to the Nineties but focusing mainly on the golden era of the Fifties and early Sixties.

“In today’s terms, if you think of something like Heathrow Airport, that’s how busy the Sheffield railway lines were by comparison,” says Stephen, 62, who fell in love with trains after seeing Mallard, the world’s fastest steam engine, at Doncaster Station, aged just eight

“The lines would have been absolutely buzzing with trains passing through every couple of minutes.

“Back then the railway touched on almost every aspect of life - and more so in Sheffield than many of the bigger cities because freight here couldn’t be carried by sea or river.”

Trains were the go-to mode of transport for holidaymakers, the Royal Mail and goods of almost any kind.

“Foods, livestock, raw materials and consumer goods would land in Sheffield by train,” notes Stephen, who has written 26 previous books on railways across the UK, including one on Rotherham.

“And the steel industry relied on the network.

“So, for example, when hot metal had to be transported from one foundry to another while it was still hot, you would sometimes have engines leaving whatever freight it was they were carrying to go and transport the metal instead.”

The pictures in the book range from those snapped by enthusiasts to workmen’s shots. They capture the trains up close but, significantly, give a glimpse into how the stations and the city has changed as a whole.

Today, the network is still one of the busiest in the UK but the rise of road transportation and the axing of some lines, such as the Woodhead line between Sheffield and Manchester, has reduced traffic.

“This is a book which train enthusiasts will enjoy,” says Stephen, of Rudston, East Yorkshire. “But I think there’s a general interest too. In a way, this is a social history of Sheffield.”

Railway Memories No. 27: Sheffield by Stephen Chapman is published by Bellcode Books and is available online.

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