The first Diesel Multiple Units, or DMUs, of the nationalised British Railways started to run in the West Riding between Leeds Central station, Bradford Exchange and Harrogate in 1954. Their operating efficiency and success at attracting passengers was quickly realised and under the Modernisation Plan of 1955 the fleet was rapidly increased with many types of carriages from different manufacturers.
One reason for their success was that passengers, especially young railway enthusiasts, could sit behind the driver and watch where the train was going!
A DMU service through Woodlesford was introduced in March 1958. Most of the trains ran on a new route between Leeds City and Barnsley Exchange via Altofts and Whitwood, Normanton, Wakefield Kirkgate and Darton. Up to that time, to reach Leeds, Barnsley passengers had to take a branch train from Court House station a short distance to the Midland main line at Cudworth where they had to change. To reach Wakefield Kirkgate passengers from Woodlesford had to change at Normanton.
Also in 1958 DMUs were introduced on the old Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, the “Lanky”, through Woodlesford to Castleford Cutsyke, Pontefract Monkhill and Knottingley. This service was limited with only three or four trains each way during the morning and evening rush hours. A single steam hauled train continued to run on this line on Saturday lunchtimes with more carriages to cater for shoppers and football fans.
After the new DMUs were brought in a report in The Railway Observer said they were attracting “much traffic to the railway.” On 7 April 1958 both the 1.33pm and the 2.30pm departures from Barnsley to Leeds carried about 200 passengers and, in an era before the introduction of “Pay Trains”, the DMUs were delayed by large numbers of passengers buying tickets at the booking office.
The Leeds – Barnsley DMU service was the most successful of its kind in the country. The British Transport Commission reported that gross receipts had jumped from £8,300 in the last year of steam operation to £42,100 in the first year of the new trains, an increase of 413 per cent.
In April 1960, after a new spur was opened at Quarry Junction at Barnsley, the DMUs were extended to Sheffield Midland via Wombwell, Elsecar and Hoyland, Chapletown and Brightside, a service which survives to this day. Several of the stations, like Altofts and Attercliffe Road, have been closed although a new station has been opened at Meadowhall.