The Development of the Railway in Stainforth.

By Peter Dumville
Photographs A. Covell


It must have been an exciting experience for the inhabitants of Stainforth in 1855 to observe a single track railway line being constructed alongside their canal side homes. At this time the workers of Stainforth were predominantly engaged in farming and water activities, they must have wondered what effect this new form of transport to them would have on their future way of life.

The line was built by the South Yorkshire Railway Company and originally operated from Doncaster to Thorne. The company owned the land on which it ran i.e. close to the River and canal which meant the railway line contained numerous bends and they presumed it did not need the approval of Parliament for construction. The main purpose of the new railway would be to transport coal from the South Yorkshire area to Thorne from where the coal could be shipped to Hull and other ports. Previously, water transport had conveyed most of the coal but this form of transport had proved to be slow and uncertain. The construction of the railway seemed largely uneventful except the company wanted to build a fixed bridge at Stainforth rather than a draw bridge which would have been contrary to an Act of Parliament which required all bridges below Doncaster to be draw bridges so that vessels did not have to lower their masts. The company, obviously, wanted to build a fixed bridge because a draw bridge would cost a lot more and also a person would have to be continually employed to attend to it. Doncaster Council in their capacity as part proprietors of the River Don and conservators of the interests of Doncaster took a leading role in making sure a draw bridge was eventually built at Stainforth. There had to be quite extensive work done in the vicinity of the Stainforth river and canal bridges before the railway line could be built because the two bridges were very close together. Eventually, the railway line ran through arches next to the canal bridge.

View from East Bank 2006

The line was opened for freight traffic on December 11 1855 but it wasn't until July 1 1856 that the 1st passenger train travelled from Doncaster to Thorne via Stainforth. Every weekday there were 2 passenger trains each way with stations at Barnby Dun, Bramwith and Stainforth. The 1st Sunday passenger train started in 1860.The railway station at Stainforth was situated on the East Bank close to an established Public House which became known as the Station Hotel.

This simple railway line was not to last long because in the early 1860's there was a great rush to link West and South Yorkshire directly to the River Humber primarily to transport freight but also passengers. In 1866 the original railway line was abandoned and a more direct, straighter line from Doncaster to Thorne was opened by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway company. A double railway line was built so that much more freight could be transported but it also meant the new railway station at Stainforth which was now situated next to the present railway bridge was much further away from its original site and indeed was very close to the Stainforth/Hatfield boundary hence the new name for the station was Stainforth and Hatfield. Joining the Doncaster-Thorne railway at Stainforth at this time was a spur to Adwick junction which enabled West Riding traffic a link to Grimsby. The arches which trains ran through at Stainforth bridge were rebuilt after a Parliamentary Bill in 1873.

In 1913 as the demand for rail traffic increased the Great Central Railway company decided to quadruple the lines from Doncaster to Thorne. This also included constructing new sidings and depot for Hatfield Main Colliery, building the present railway bridge at Stainforth which took the place of the original level crossing and relocating Stainforth and Hatfield station to its present position. By 1931 a railway link had been laid from Hatfield Main Colliery to the Stainforth and Keadby canal, up to 8,000 tons of coal a week were transported by this method away from the pit. Further expansion at Stainforth occurred in 1938 when the L.N.E.R. announced a £50,000 major improvement scheme in anticipation of additional traffic expected when Scunthorpe's new four million pounds steelworks extension was completed. Eight new sidings were to be put down on the up side of the line and nine sidings on the down side. These sidings could accommodate 700 wagons. The loading dock was also extended.

In 1969 the Pay on the train system was introduced on the Doncaster- Cleethorpes line and afterwards the Hull trains adopted a similar procedure. The station buildings became costly to repair and the number of passengers using the station gradually reduced therefore in 1980 most of the station buildings including the signal box but not the booking office or station footbridge were demolished to be replaced by bus style shelters. The signals and points were now to be operated from Doncaster.

Stainforth station 2006

A quite extraordinary situation arose in 1992 when Stainforth and Hatfield station was renamed Hatfield and Stainforth. On enquiring why this had happened the Strategic Rail Authority stated it was done following requests from regular users who were eager to see Hatfield being given prominence. Interestingly, the station and railway line is actually within the Stainforth boundary, certainly not Hatfield! and so pressure is being applied on the relevant authorities to change the name back to it's proper historical and geographical title!!

By 1999/2000 the production of coal at Hatfield Main Colliery was diminishing and because road transport was becoming more popular there was little use for the railway sidings therefore Industrial units were built in their place. More recently in 2002 a large amount of money and 4 months work enabled the original station footbridge to be replaced with an excellent modern footbridge and the platforms were reduced in width. For many years Stainforth railway station has not been particularly popular with travellers because of its isolated position. Would yet another move to a more user friendly site i.e. back to its 1866 location encourage more passengers to use Stainforth railway station?

Many thanks to Peter for contributing this excellent article!




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