Now known as the Penistone Line, the Huddersfield & Sheffield Junction Railway (H&SJR) is a 13½ mile-long line initially constructed by the company of the same name to link Huddersfield to the station at Penistone on the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway (SA&MR).
The H&SJR was authorised by an Act of Parliament in June 1845. The initial capital was £400,000 issued in 8,000 shares and the company’s director was Joseph Armitage of Milnsbridge House (Huddersfield). Charles H. Jones (who later became the first Mayor of Huddersfield) was the vice-chairman.
Two routes had been considered, but in November 1844 the cheaper route passing through the Kirkburton Valley was rejected in favour of a route through the Holmfirth Valley, with a branch line at Brockholes to serve Holmfirth.
The first sod of the railway was cut on the afternoon of Friday 29 August 1845 at Penistone by the Right Hon. Lord Wharncliffe, Lord President of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. Lord Wharncliffe had previously cut the first sod of the Woodhead Tunnel on 1 October 1838.
Shortly before construction on the line had even begun, the Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield, and South Staffordshire Direct Railway had announced a route that would have seemingly involved them seeking running powers over the Penistone to Huddersfield line. However, this speculative scheme which hoped to raise up to £2,000,000 later described in the press as a “bubble” was abandoned within weeks.
There are 9 viaducts on the Penistone Line, mentioned below in engineering features. A shortage of reasonably priced local stone led to the Denby Dale Viaduct being constructed from timber although this was eventually replaced by a stone viaduct in 1880.
On 27 July 1846, the line was amalgamated into the Manchester & Leeds Railway Company (M&LR), which later became the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) in July 1847.
Together with the Holmfirth Branch Line, the H&SJR was formally opened on 1 July 1850. The first train to Penistone was so overloaded with carriages and passengers that the engine came to a standstill in Thurstonland Tunnel. After splitting the carriages into two separate sections, the engine was able to take the first section through to Penistone Station before returning to collect the stranded passengers in the second section.
The Meltham Branch Line, which joined the main line at Meltham Junction near Lockwood Viaduct, was built between 1864 and 1869, opening to passenger services on 5 July 1869.
The Clayton West Branch Line, which joined the main line at Clayton West Junction (east of Shepley), was opened on 29 July 1879.