Meltham branch

(Photos: Butternab & Netherton tunnels © Julie Knowles
Butternab cutting © Four by Three
Meltham Station abutment & Healey House Tunnel © Urban Outlaw)

The Lancashire & Yorkshire's 3½-mile branch to Meltham was authorised by an Act of Parliament in June 1861, with construction getting underway three years later. Landslips made this a protracted business - the first goods train did not run until August 1868 - and the line was breached within weeks, delaying its opening to passenger traffic until the following July. The single-track branch boasted three intermediate stations - Woodfield, Netherton and Healey House - although the former only survived for one month in the summer of 1874!

The track diverged from the Huddersfield-Penistone line just south of Lockwood Station, passing through woodland before reaching Beaumont Park. Two tunnels then escorted the line through the hilly section into Netherton.

Butternab Tunnel's northern portal is reached via a long approach cutting with retaining walls. It boasts a distinctive design, one that is mirrored at its southern end and at Netherton. Curving to the west, the 256-yard bore is lined in engineering brick and has frequent refuges in both walls. A dwelling has been built on the trackbed close to the southern entrance - that end of the tunnel having been converted to accommodate the householder's cinema room!

At Netherton, the line entered another tunnel - this one is straight and a little longer at 333 yards. Its eastern section has vertical sidewalls but the profile soon changes to a pronounced horseshoe shape. Netherton Station and goods yard were immediately beyond the west portal. The site is now occupied by farm buildings.

The line then clung to the side of the Hall Dike valley on its approach to Healey House. A yard was provided east of the station, close to Crosland Hall. On leaving the platform, Meltham-bound trains then entered the 30-yard Healey House Tunnel.

Cuttings and embankments carried the remainder of the branch into Meltham, crossing the main Huddersfield road (B6108) on a skew bridge which was removed shortly after closure. Meltham's extensive goods yard was at a lower level than the station and reached via a junction around one-third of a mile further east. The station itself had a single platform and a footbridge providing access into the town centre.

The route's passenger service was cut on 23rd May 1949 but goods trains continued to serve local businesses until April 1965.

The engine shed at Meltham was partly demolished in 1903 and removed completely in the early Fifties. A supermarket and car park now occupy the station site whilst housing has consumed the former goods yard. Around three-quarters of a mile of trackbed has been secured as a footpath known as the Meltham Greenway. The local council aspires to further extensions but these are complicated by development on the alignment and landowner issues, not to mention funding.

(UrbanOutlaw's photos are used under this Creative Commons licence.)

Click on this icon for more of Julie's tunnel shots (Fotopic)
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Nov 10

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