National Coal Mining Museum for England, Caphouse Colliery
Friday 26th October 2018
Report by PAS & WJG
Kev Adlam kindly arranged special running on the 2' 6 " gauge, 480yd railway here to follow Kirklees. This was beyond the call of duty as he was unfortunately unable to attend either fixture himself. It had been made clear to all participants that due to the non-waterproof battery electric traction (a 1989 Clayton) operation was weather dependant, as with its public running. Fortunately the weather was kind.
On a normal day they keep going until the battery is flat which is usually before the Museum closing time, but special arrangements had been made for our fully booked party of 40 running two trips.
Mining here dates from at least 1793 and in the 1980s Caphouse Colliery was thought to have the oldest working mine shaft in the country (although it had been enlarged and deepened over the years). There was an interesting complex private mineral line, also serving other collieries, to the Barnsley branch of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway and the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Calder Grove/British Oak Staithes with two rope worked inclines and double reversals.
Road transport took over entirely at Caphouse and two nearby collieries in the 1920s as this line was hopelessly uneconomic to work. Coal reserves were exhausted by Oct 1985 when the colliery closed. The 45 acre Mining Museum then opened in 1988, it is possible to go on an underground tour but the former cable tramway, which had not operated for some years, has now gone. Public opening at this interesting site is daily 10.00-17.00 (not 1 Jan & 24-26 Dec); online booking is advised for underground tours. Train rides 10.00-15.00: weekends from (2018 dates) 31 Mar until end of Sep and Oct half term.
A dozen or so participants who had not been on the previous visit to the Kirklees Light Railway turned up in good time, had a look around the shed, chatted to the friendly staff, searched the stock (mostly in vain) for building plates and other identification and then gathered at the 'Road Train' station for a prompt start. Unfortunately there were not enough present to fill the first run which required 20, so they waited for the first arrivals from Clayton West. That event overran slightly (it is always difficult to predict how long these events will take and Kirklees had kindly increased the party size significantly and even provided a lovely cream tea and hot drinks for 47 people just as they were about to leave!).
Once there were enough on board, the ex-mine train the trip could start. This took the form of a cautious quarter mile run to the other end (Caphouse Colliery station, by the Visitor Centre), a quick reversal and a return trip, this time to Hope Pit station, again a quarter mile, on the other arm of the 'Y' formation. Unfortunately it was not possible for participants to return to their starting point by train as propelling loaded trains is prohibited on that steeply graded and curving branch (as applies to public running). Even then not everyone had arrived from Clayton West, but once everyone had made it the second trip for 20 repeated that made by the first group. By then most on the first trip had left, the majority Outwood bound for the 16.59 train to Leeds and our Mark Haggas Evening West Yorkshire Service Train Tracker (never a dull moment). Others went home or to wherever they were staying.
This was an excellent and most enjoyable supplement to the Kirklees fixture on a day and at a time when the railway would not otherwise have run. It was appreciated by many members who had travelled so far to the area for the weekend, some taking a day off work specially. In all the excitement a few did not collect their souvenir tickets (thanks to Jim Sellens for designing and producing them); an SAE to your BLN Editor will secure one, there is no need to go cap in hand... The interesting Museum (free admission) is well worth a visit itself but do allow a whole day for it - see website for details!