Howden Civic Society

Help protect and improve our town

Hull and Barnsley Railway


The beginnings of the railway

The Hull and Barnsley Railway is another example of an underdog which did not quite make its way in the world. At the time of its inception, it was one of the last major independent railways in the country. Its development was the consequence of a reaction to the monopoly of Hull which the North Eastern Railway, and the Hull Dock Company, had over the movement of merchandise, with which they had inadequately coped.

The Hull, Barnsley and West Riding Junction Railway and Dock Company was formed at a meeting held on the 28th May 1879 at the Royal Station Hotel in Hull. Plans for such a railway had been under discussion since 1845.

Its construction was much more problematic than the NER’s Selby to Hull line which had already taken the easy route to Hull along the Humber foreshore. The Hull and Barnsley had to find a route through the Wolds. However, as far as Howden was concerned, South Howden station on the Hull and Barnsley line, being on the northern edge of the town, was far more convenient for passengers than the North Howden station on the NER, being situated over a mile north of the town. (Railway Memories No.12)hbr_poster.jpg

Purpose of the railway

The line was intended to enable the transportation of coal from the south and west Yorkshire pits to a new dock at Hull. On return journeys, trains carried vast amounts of timber, especially pit props.

Goods services started on 20th July 1885 and passenger traffic a week later.There was no opening ceremony to mark the start of passenger services but stations en route were gaily decorated with flags and flowers. The Goole Weekly Times recorded that at Howden 200 people assembled to greet the first train which arrived at 7.12 a.m. The floral decorations were lent by Lt. Col. Saltmarshe and Mr C.H. Shaw, whose head gardener, Bearpark, was responsible for the arrangements. (The Hull and Barnsley Railway. Vol.1.).

South Howden Station

Howden at the turn of the century had a population of only 1,986 but it was, nevertheless, the largest place served by the company between Hull and the mining districts of South Yorkshire. The town was advertised as one of the tourist attractions along the line.

Howden station was grander in design than the majority of the Hull and Barnsley’s low level stations, being ranked as a Class A property. It was regarded by the Company as the most important halt on the route. Stationmasters associated with Howden in the pre-grouping years included George Brindle, Alfred Knaggs and James Pearson. (The Train now Standing). There was also a large goods yard for the traffic from this rich agricultural district, and two signal boxes were provided, one at each end of the goods yard.howden east signalbox.jpg

Howden station was approximately 24 miles west of the line’s terminus at Cannon Street Hull and about the same distance from its South Yorkshire terminus at Cudworth (the line never actually reached Barnsley).

Class A stations (only Howden and South Cave) were conceived on a much grander scale than the others. They were said to have been built in the English Queen Anne revival style (The main buildings were on the Up side (towards London) and had twin gables, with pierced barge boards and half timbering. These housed the stationmaster and were linked by the booking, parcels and ticket offices and general waiting room to another gabled portion, where the ladies’ rooms were located. It was intended to provide a kitchen and refreshment room adjoining the latter, but they were never in fact built. At the opposite end was a flat projection which contained a yard, porters’ room, store and lavatories. (The Hull and Barnsley Railway. Vol.2.).

Each year prizes were awarded by LNER for the best kept station and gardens. In 1946 Howden was awarded the Special Class prize.

Passenger Services

Passenger services were a more minor activity of the line. Howden, rather too far from Hull to provide much commuter traffic, was nevertheless the most important intermediate station on the line. Known as Howden Station until 1922, when all the railways were amalgamated into four regions, its name was changed to South Howden to avoid confusion in the new LNER timetable and ticketing systems.

Passenger services between South Howden and Cudworth ceased in 1932 although the good services remained throughout the line. Expansion in the West Riding by the Hull and Barnsley line led to a great increase in the amount of mineral traffic it handled. In spite of optimistic forecasts in its prospectus, the Hull and Barnsley never found passenger traffic remunerative.

Tickets could be bought and connections made to anywhere in the British Isles. The journey to Hull took one hour. In the 1940s there were five passenger trains a day and eight on a Saturday, to Hull and return. The cost of a workmans’ ticket was 1s-6p (seven and a half pence). Parcels were received by passenger trains and sent by passenger train to be sorted in Hull for all parts of the country. The timetable for July 1955 showed eight services to and from Howden and Hull each weekday.

Goods Services

South Howden station had one of the largest loading docks on the line and was an extremely busy place in the 1940s. At any one time there could be as many as 45 wagons in the yard empty, loaded or in the process of being loaded or unloaded. Corn, hay, straw, sugar beet and at times cattle were loaded or unloaded for farmers. Bibbys of Liverpool, cattle food merchants, had a store in the yard as did ICI fertilizers and Earls Cement. The station had a line set aside for coal merchants. Most nurseries in Howden at that time would have a truck of coke delivered for their greenhouse boilers. Howden Gas Works would also receive 2-3 trucks of fine coal a week. This was taken by Walter Oldman with his horse and rully to the Gas Works (where the newest Police Station now is). Four of five wagons a day came from South Bank Middlesborough with fertilizers for Andertons Fertilizers, Howdendyke. Engineering parts and large pieces of equipment were delivered for Glew Brothers who were suppliers of agricultural implements in Howden.

The end of the line

After 1932 patterns of travelling were changing and the line was facing competition and the growth of private motoring. An enquiry by NE Region of British Rail in 1954 showed that large savings would result from the withdrawal of passenger services on the line. The proposals were approved by the York Area Transport Users Consultative Committee and services planned to withdraw on 25th April 1955 but deferred to 30th July 1955. After this date only a few seaside or football specials ran, also trips to Hull Fair.

The last passenger train left Hull at 8.30 p.m. on 30th July. The return at 10.00 p.m. from Howden passed off very quietly, with few railway enthusiasts and no newspaper reporters to be seen. Through mineral workings continued until 29th November 1958. A “pick-up” freight ran until 6th April 1959 after which date the section through Howden was closed completely. On closure an omnibus service was operated by the east Yorkshire Motor Services Ltd. (Keith Nolan 1997)


In 1969 discussions were held about the disposal of the station and goods yard. British Rail wanted to keep the line for future operational use. In a letter dated 8th September 1969, British Rail still held the land 10 years after the line’s closure. A plan was made showing a proposal to convert the line into a motorway dated 19th August 1960. This was considered by the Minister of Transport as it was intended to link the A1 to Boothferry Road east of Howden.

The railway bridge on Station Road was demolished in the spring of 1978 so the area could be redeveloped.

Eventually the land was sold and the station and goods yard replaced with a housing estate. The names of the roads were derived from stations and structures on the old Hull and Barnsley railway with the main through road named after the Chief Engineer, Shelford.

Hull and Barnsley Railway Exhibition

In order to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the final closure of the South Howden station, Howden Civic Society mounted an exhibition of memorabilia and photos in Howden’s Shire Hall on 20-22nd April 2019. The exhibition showed aspects of the line within Howdenshire i.e. from the Ouse Bridge near Barmby-on-the-Marsh to Newport in the east.

A total of 324 people visited the exhibition and also heard a presentation by the Hull and Barnsley Railway Stock Fund.

A working model of the station in n gauge was constructed by Alwyn Pulleyn and shown at the exhibition. A video showing what it was like moving around the station was also produced by Alwyn and can be seen on the following link


Information about the line and Howden Station has been obtained from the following publications, which are all in the possession of Howden Civic Society:

1. My Airship Flights 1915-1930. Captain George Meager A.F.C. William Kimber & Co Ltd. 1970

2. Railway Rambles on the Hull and Barnsley Railway. C.T. Goode. 1985

3. Railway Memories No. 12. The Hull and Barnsley Railway. Compiled by Stephen Chapman. Bellcode Books. 1999

4. The Train Now Standing. Vol.1. Life and Times of the Hull and Barnsley Railway. A Pictorial Miscellany. Ted Dodsworth. Hutton Press. 1990.

5. The Hull and Barnsley Railway. G.D. Parkes. The Oakwood Press. 1959.

6. The Beginnings of the East Yorkshire Railways. K.A. Macmahon revised by Baron F. Duckham. East Yorkshire Local History Society. 1953 revised 1974.

7. Building the Hull and Barnsley Railway. Hull and Barnsley Railway 100. A Hull City Museum publication. 1885-1985. Hull City Museums Bulletin No.17

8. Locomotives of the Hull and Barnsley Railway. Ron Prattley. Historical Model Railway Society. 1997.

9. The Hull and Barnsley Railway. Vol. 1. Edited by K. Hoole. David and Charles, Newton Abbot. 1972.

10. The Hull and Barnsley Railway. Vol.2. Edited by B. Hinchliffe. Turntable Publications. Sheffield. 1980.

Other sources of information and links

Disused Stations site record for South Howden station

Maps of the line can be seen at

dating from 1890 and 1910.

Railway Signalling 1950-56

Memories of South Howden Station 1944-48

General Repairs and Maintenance of the Hull and Barnsley Line. 1944-50s

A typical day in the station yard at South Howden 1946-48.

All the above were written by Reg Wright and published in Howden Matters.

Photos can be purchased from 53A Models in Hull at

Hull City Museums have a collection of objects associated with the railway in the Streetlife Museum of Transport, together with two large photograph albums dating from 1882, showing the construction of the line.

Interviews with Clive Martin, Neville Lapish, Tom Somers, Stephen Cowley.

PhD dissertation by Keith Nolan

Hull and Barnsley Railway Stock Fund maintains the surviving examples of rolling stock. Details can be found at