The Midland Railway Branch

On the 1st of October 1869 the Midland Railway opened a short branch line from just north of its Killamarsh Station to two collieries at Norwood. The single-track, freight-only line was 1 ½ miles in length and accessed both pits via short spurs on the southern side of the line. The first colliery was Norwood (Holbrook No. 2), 70 chains (7/8 of a mile) from the main line junction. Here also some years later a second short spur led off the original and gave access to Ellison and Mitchell’s Works, later to become the Yorkshire Tar Distillers plant. 49 chains further along at the point where track terminated beyond the Mansfield Road Bridge was West Kiveton Colliery which now, like its near neighbour, is just a distant memory.

Nine years after the branch saw its first traffic a two-mile extension was laid giving the Midland Railway access to Kiveton Park Colliery and in doing so doubled the length of the line. 300 yards beyond West Kiveton Pit a tunnel from driven through the ridge blocking the route to Kiveton. 300 yards long, it was only one tenth the length of the Norwood Canal Tunnel alongside which it ran, or should I say runs, for despite decades of disuse both are still down there. At its eastern extremity the railway tunnel passed beneath Coal Pit Lane before opening out into a cutting beyond which Kiveton Park Colliery came into view.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the gradient between Killamarsh and the tunnel was severe and demanded the very best from the driver ad fireman of the locomotive, particularly in adverse weather conditions. Even with a banking engine working flat out at the rear there was no guarantee that the train would make it to the top of the incline. Descending the bank would often pose even more problems. Despite pinning down some of the wagon brakes prior to the descent, all too often trains would slip on the greasy rails and gather speed towards the Junction. Fortunately, such a situation was catered for by the signalman at Killamarsh. On being informed that a loaded coal train had left one of the pits, he would set his signals on the up main line to danger and thus stop trains entering the block. He would then set the points to allow the coal train straight onto the main line. To warn the signalman of a runaway, the driver would continuously blow the locomotive’s whistle.

Through its 100-year life the branch was hardly a hive of activity and the only surprise is that it survived for so long. Most of the Kiveton Park coal traffic left the pit and went to its destination via the Great Central route. After the closure of West Kiveton and Norwood, only the Yorkshire Tar Distillers traffic and the occasional train from Kiveton Park made use of the branch. As with the branch line’s opening, its closure came in two phases. The little-used section from Yorkshire Tar Distillers to Kiveton was closed to all traffic on May 19th 1961 and the by then disused Killamarsh to Yorkshire Tar Distillers fragment was officially withdrawn on November 15th 1972.