Dronfield Railway Station was opened on February 1st, 1870, exactly 150 years ago, when the new ‘direct line’ between Chesterfield and Sheffield via Bradway Tunnel was opened, thus avoiding a lengthy ‘detour’ via Beighton. To celebrate this landmark 150th anniversary, the volunteers of Friends of Dronfield Station (FoDS) have mounted an exhibition in the two waiting shelters describing, with photographs, the history of the station. Housed in six poster cases, the exhibition outlines the early beginnings of rail transport in Dronfield up to the present day, covering the early days when the station served the local steel industry, through two world wars, the closure of the station in 1967, its reopening in 1981, privatisation during the 1990s and the more recent successful campaign led by FoDS to restore an hourly service.
The opening of the station on 1st February 1870 was accompanied by a brass band and the ringing of the church bells (as in 2020). It was a huge event for the town as, given the limited road transport of that time, everything for commerce, industry and domestic life in Dronfield including, food, livestock raw materials were routed through the goods yard at the station. For a time, the station was the hub of the local rhubarb trade. George Poplar the original station master was consequently a very important official.
Although the transport of rails produced by Cammel Wilson for a ten year period from 1872 was relatively short when the firm moved its operations to Cumbria, the town (and the station) recovered as the coal mines continued to thrive during the end of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century, and light industry along the Callywhite Lane industrial estate grew. These developments provided the need for more goods traffic on the railway.
During the two world wars the station was no doubt the scene of many a tearful goodbye or welcome as local servicemen and women left Dronfield to join the war effort. Post war with the increasing emphasis on road transport rail fell out of fashion and many lines became unprofitable. In 1967 Dronfield station was closed, initially to passengers, and subsequently to goods traffic.
The closure looked like the end of Dronfield’s connection with rail transport, but the British weather came to the rescue. Following the severe winter of 1979 when the snow prevented local people driving out of town, British Rail saw the need to reopen the station in 1981. Privatisation of the rail industry during the 1990s led to a steep decline in services calling at Dronfield and following rumours of another closure the Dronfield Station Action Group (DSAG) was formed in 2006 to campaign for the restoration of decent rail services from Dronfield. This was successful with an hourly service being introduced in 2008 with more improvements in subsequent years. The DSAG morphed into the Friends of Dronfield Station (FoDS) whose volunteers maintain the station and its garden and continue to make the case for more service improvements.
The exhibition which records the detailed history of the station will remain until the autumn when the poster cases will return to their usual role of displaying artwork from schools in Dronfield and the surrounding villages