Village Life Then and Now: Stations and Steam Trains

The Station on a Market Day 1905

Writing this post has been slightly disrupted, firstly by weather and then by the death of one of my photography heroes. However, I’m working hard to find inspiration, in spite of not making it over the hills on Friday to interview someone who might have made my work a little easier. Although a lot of lesser used rail routes and (mostly) rural stations were closed in the mid twentieth century, particularly, a lot of villages still have quite reasonable rail links. I use the station that’s theoretically in walking distance from my house for day trips, rather than start journeys with a trip into town and embark at the main station, but my real affection is for the station at the bottom of my parents’ village (definitely within walking distance, although I will admit to accepting lifts in bad weather or when I have a lot of luggage).

View Along the Manchester Line Platform in 1905

The station dates from 1893-4, according to its Wikipedia entry, although my earliest archive photos date from 1905. It serves the Hope Valley Line, which links Sheffield to Manchester – with a few stopping services starting in Norwich and finishing up in Liverpool – and is mostly timetabled to suit commuters, shoppers and weekend visitors these days, although it seems to have been popular with a wide cross-section of the population in earlier times.

Almost the Same View in 2015

Up until the end of the 1960s, the station was staffed, with the Station Master’s house on the Sheffield line side of the tracks, and the main station building located on the opposite side, built into the bridge carrying the main road over the railway. The house was bought by the last Station Master and still stands, but the station building was demolished in the late 1970s, and I don’t really remember it. A comparison of the 1905 and 2015 views along the platform gives the impression that the waiting rooms then were in pretty much the same position as the far less pretty passenger shelters that are there now.

A Steam Train Passes Through in 1955

It also seems that the station had toilets (for Gentlemen at any rate) at least some of the time that it was fully staffed, and the two platform buildings survived into the middle of the 1950s, if not later, looking at other photos. Again, my memory is slightly hazy on this point. I remember different passenger shelters to the current pair, but need more visual references before I can properly describe them.

A Passenger Train at Birchinlee Station

The line has always been used extensively for freight as well as for passengers, and during the building of the dams at Derwent, Howden and Ladybower a branch line was built (twice, over the same route) to transport stone from local quarries to the construction site. The route of the branch line is now a bridleway, which I’ve ridden and walked many times in my life, including some slightly unorthodox scrambles up the banking that used to support a bridge across a minor road. I don’t have any photos of the route as it is today, but I do have one of an engine and coaches arriving at Birchinlee, presumably to take Tin Town residents on an excursion.

A Steam Train Passes Through in 2015

Steam trains still use the Hope Valley line, and a small network of enthusiasts inform each other by word of mouth (telephone or face-to-face) when one is expected. I managed to catch one on film in May 2015 (they don’t stop, hence the slightly wonky angle) and the train I photographed at York in July 2016 (mentioned in my November post) also passed through, and was photographed in action there by Dad and his friends. Once we get into spring, I’ll be out and about a little more and should be able to bring you more details of the various heritage railways discussed in November.

Finally, RIP Tony Snowdon: a man who paid at least as much attention to his ordinary and disadvantaged photographic subjects as to the rich, famous, and royal posers he was possibly better known for. He did camp up rather well too when the occasion demanded.

This post brought to you while listening to David Bowie tribute radio shows on catch-up.


  1. Great collection of pictures and memories, thank you.

    That said… that shelter’s clearly not a patch on the old buildings! I imagine it’s a matter of cheap replacement when a brick building gets too tumbledown, but the current crop of plastic greenhouses on stations always feel like somewhere they must be stamped with “Technically A Shelter As Defined By Law”.

    This all prompted me to look on google street view for the abandoned train line I used to walk along when I was young. Sadly what you can see of it is all tarmac’ed over and reshaped 😥


    • Glad you like!

      Next time I’m up that way, I must check out the abandoned line I used to cycle along from my house in County Durham to Beamish (I had museum membership partly so I could visit the sweet shop). The route had a nice selection of cow sculptures made out of JCB parts, although I suspect those have rusted away by now.


  2. I always enjoy reading your posts, Stevie, because they’re about England. As I might have said in the past, my sister lives in the U.K., so a part of my brain and heart reside there as well. My spouse and I have had occasion to ride the train during our visits. We’ve taken a train from London’s King Cross Station to Stevenage and one from St. Neots back to London. Two years ago we rode from Weybridge in Surrey to London’s Waterloo Station. While on that ride we could see the building that houses England’s MI-6 service. Here in the States we’ve heard a bit about a former MI-6 agent’s connection to some very interesting info. about the President Elect. Thanks for sharing your research about the British train system. Brilliant!


  3. Glad you appreciate it all!

    I’m very familiar with Kings Cross and Waterloo, although I don’t get down to London as often as I used to.

    The spy thing is very interesting. It gets harder and harder to make stuff up, because real life is too far-fetched.


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