History of lost Dronfield railway line revealed in walk along its route

Dronfield railway enthusiasts walked the route of a long-lost line as part of 150th anniversary celebrations of the town’s station.

Sunday, 5th September 2021, 10:00 am

Members of the Friends of Dronfield Station (FoDS) were led on a five-mile walk along the route of the dismantled Unstone branch line by Graham Gill and Peter Carr from the Dronfield Footpaths and Bridleways Society.

The walk was part of anniversary celebrations postponed from last year because of the pandemic.

Starting out from Dronfield Railway Station, the group had a four-and-a-half hour gentle stroll with many stops to provide highly informative descriptions of, and some visits to, various historical industrial sites, said a spokesman for the friends group.

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Starting off at Mill Lane, the group were shown the site of Dronfield’s old gasworks as well as buildings which 100 years ago housed the post office and several pubs.

Moving on to Callywhite Lane, where in 1872 the huge Wilson Cammell works produced railway tracks for export all over the world, the walk followed the old railway track into the woods where the group were shown the entrances to some of the 40 or so abandoned mines.

The walk also passed houses and cottages for managers and workers as well as the remains of engine sheds and loading banks. The group were shown examples of local industrial heritage which still existed over a century since they were last used. This included the numerous beehive coking ovens that turned coal into coke for transport to, and use in, the Bessemer steel-making processes in Sheffield.

A spokesman for the friends group said: “Nearly all the route passed through delightful woodland, making it startling to realise that in its heyday, the present-day landscape of trees and dense undergrowth was almost entirely absent from these hitherto heavily-industrialised locations.

"One of the most astounding sights was the revelation of the Unstone viaduct – its seven 50ft high arches emerging out of the surrounding woodland. When travelling by train it is difficult to appreciate, but from the ground the viaduct is a highly impressive example of Victorian railway engineering.

"The group then passed beneath it and down along the River Drone and under the main line again to reach the site of Unstone Station (closed 1951), before making its way back to Dronfield, tired but mentally invigorated!”

Much that would not normally be visible was seen as the group had organised access to private land and even those things on public land were revealed as to their true nature with detailed description of their use and purpose, said the spokesman.

Walk organiser Michael Muntus thanked the guides for a truly entertaining time. Thanks were also made to Doctors Tony and Jill Bethell for their hospitality at Ramshaw Lodge – originally a mine manager’s house - which contained within its grounds a stretch of the railway line and the entrance to an abandoned drift mine, dated 1863.

Graham and Peter also acknowledged Pynot Publishing’s book On the Track of Unstone’s Past by Jane Marson for providing much useful information.