Diesel Multiple Units

This photo is believed to have been taken at Leeds City North on 3 March 1958 when a demonstration run was made ahead of the new DMU service between Leeds and Barnsley. Normanton M.P. Albert Roberts is seen shaking the hand of the driver who is believed to have been N. Barrat. Others in the special party included H.A. Short, General Manager, North Eastern Region; Councillor M.S. Fitzpatrick, Mayor of Wakefield; R. B. Temple, Traffic Manager, Eastern Region, Sheffield; and Councillor S. Tubb, Mayor of Barnsley.

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. 

Signalman Bill Tiffany took this photo of a Class 108 Diesel Multiple Unit on its way to Leeds as it passed Waterloo signal box in the early 1960s.

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.

A handbill advertising the new DMU service in 1958.

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. 

Railway enthusiast Bill Halliday captured a Sheffield bound DMU at the junction of the branch to Water Haigh colliery. It was taken about 1970 when the pit was being demolished. The unit is of the same type as the one photographed by Bill Tiffany but by this time they were carrying the “new” British Rail all blue livery with yellow fronts instead of the distinctive “whiskers”. The brewery is clearly visible in the background and the signals indicate that Woodlesford signal box was still open. Bill lived in Rothwell and remembers a campaign by local accountant George Lunn to keep the line open. He also remembers a ladder which was delivered by the station lorry and which for many years still had the destination “Woodlesford” stencilled on its side!
This shot of a Leeds bound three car “Calder Valley” Class 110 DMU was taken by Robert Himsworth at about the same time as the photo above in the period after the station staff had been withdrawn but before the old “Up” platform waiting room was demolished. The brewery tower is just visible on the left.
E53601 and E54192 arriving at Woodlesford with train 2G06, the 1105 Sheffield to Leeds via Barnsley on 1st February 1987. Photo by Keith Long, a relief signalman who worked at Stourton and Stourton New signal boxes between 1975 and 1981. The large stone block is the balancing weight from the old hand operated crane. It’s standing next to what looks like a chimney pot from the demolished station building.
A Metro-Camell Class 101 unit at Woodlesford in the colours of the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.