150 years of the ‘New Road’ railway: the HS2 of its day!

Steve Brown celebrates the 150th anniversary of the railway line between Chesterfield and Sheffield – the HS2 of its day!

THE proposed route of the new high-speed railway between London, the Midlands and the north (HS2) continues to provoke controversy, even in these troubled times. On the leg between the Midlands and Yorkshire, the current proposal sees the city of Sheffield bypassed by the main high-speed line with the trains serving it using existing railway tracks from a point north of Chesterfield and rejoining the new route somewhere between Rotherham and Doncaster. The construction of this most modern of railways, therefore, still has to acknowledge the difficult topographical situation of Sheffield, surrounded by – and built on the slopes of – seven hills on the eastern edge of the Pennines. The city was in exactly the same position 150 years ago when it was finally linked directly by rail to the south in 1870 by the Midland Railway Company’s construction of the so-called ‘New Road’ line, built through the hilly country to the north of Chesterfield and piercing the ring of hills around the city to reach the Sheaf valley and the southern fringes of Sheffield. It is a glowing testament to its lasting importance that the backers of HS2 now see it as the route for its sleek new trains 150 years later…

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