Barrow Hill Roundhouse – Doorstep days out!

img_4643-v2I’ve heard of Barrow Hill Roundhouse, I know it has something to do with trains and hosts a Real (or Rail) Ale festival but apart from that I haven’t thought much about it.

A Roundhouse is used for servicing and storing locomotives and turning locomotives around – it’s a large shed with a giant turntable in the centre.

What I hadn’t realised is:

  • Barrow Hill is a unique heritage site, being the last operational roundhouse engine shed in Great Britain.
  • It’s only 6 or 7 miles away, which as days out go, is pretty close by
  • And… it’s hosting a visit from Flying Scotsman, and the Flying Scotsman’s sister engine Tornado over the weekend of the 22, 23 and 24 September… even for someone who doesn’t know much about trains, I’ve heard of Flying Scotsman and my interest is piqued.

The visits by these world famous engines are all part of the Grand Opening Gala, to celebrate the completion of the £1.2 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) restoration project – which started back in 2016.

If you know your locomotives, the star icons of steam, on loan from the National Railway Museum, are also know as; A3 60103 “Flying Scotsman” and A1 60163 “Tornadroundhouse-mapo” – known as the East Coast racehorse for its ability to reach 100mph.  And this will be the first visit to the Roundhouse by “Flying Scotsman” since 1974.  The event will give you the opportunity to get up close to the locomotives against the unique and authentic backdrop of the Roundhouse. Ticket entry to the event will include a train ride behind these locos.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has made possible a project called “Moving Forward” which has undertaken essential renovation work to the Roundhouse, retaining the unique working atmosphere, and will see this attraction really step up its tourism game by providing a new major exhibition, cafe, shop and visitor entrance, plus space for corporate events and local groups.

For more details about the events, tickets and times visit www.barrowhill.org.

Railways, trains and steam trains in particular had a massive impact on our nation’s ability to develop as a world leader and are a passion for many people.

History: Barrow Hill

The original station, ‘Staveley’, opened in 1841, replaced by a new station in 1888.

The new station was renamed ‘Barrow Hill and Stavely Works’ in 1900, the station later renamed a third time as ‘Barrow Hill’ in 1951 and eventually closing in 1954.

In 1865 an engine shed was built near the station with a capacity for four engines.

1866 the Midland Railway signed an agreement with Staveley Works to purchase and operate the works internal private railway for 100 years known as the ‘100 year agreement’.

A vast increase in traffic created a need for more locomotives and a much larger shed – the result was the present Roundhouse, a unique example of 19th century railway architecture and the last surviving operational roundhouse engine shed in Great Britain.

Construction commenced in July 1869 and was completed in November 1870 at a cost of £16,445 4s 9d.  It comprises 24 roads of which the longest is 80 feet, the shortest 60 feet.

From 1870 it was in continuous use until it closed its doors in 1991, a working life of 121 years.

In 1989 Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society was established to save the Roundhouse from demolition.

It took two years for the Society to have the Roundhouse and its associated buildings Grade 2 Listed by the Department of the Environment.

Next they needed to purchase the building from the British Rail Property Board, this took another three years, by which time the site and buildings had been heavily vandalised.

Refurbishment took several years, funded from Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, The Transport Trust, North Derbyshire Training and Enterprise Council, European Regional Development Fund and the Government SRB Fund.

Following many months of work by dedicated volunteers the site was cleared of vegetation, stolen track replaced and the site made secure. A major clean-up commenced and remarkably the 24 roads around the turntable were still in situ and intact.

In July 1998 the engine shed opened its doors to the public who were treated to four steam engines inside the shed.  It opened up again on the weekend of 12-13th December 1998 hosting a whole range of engines for enthusiasts.

On Saturday the 16th of January 1999 Barrow Hill Roundhouse notched up another gear in preservation when 8F number 48773 paid a visit along with its support coach 99405.

It has been open regularly to the public over the last few years and played host to a wide range of important engines, but after its closure in Decemberdown-the-line 2016. It’s exciting to know that the weekend of 22, 23, and 24 September will give visitors, old and new, the chance to be part of the next chapter of the Roundhouse story…

If you’re not around for the gala weekend, put Barrow Hill on the ‘to do’ list as it’s a unique place of local and national interest and with the HLF improvements is a great place to learn of Chesterfield’s importance in the railway history of Great Britain.

Down The Line

Working alongside the Heritage project Kevin Fegan has written a community play directed by Carole Copeland that will be performed at the Roundhouse.

Unfortunately you may read this after the performances which are live at the Roundhouse on 21,22 and 23 September and will feature the NRM’s Flying Scotsman and Tornado.

The show will involve a cast of actors and hundreds of local people, a community choir, Ireland Colliery Brass Band and the audience will be an integral part of the play as they follow the drama in and around the Roundhouse building.


Words: Paul Chapman
Pictures: Barrowhill.org

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