Between Chesterfield and Rotherham there are two railway lines, one that conveys both passenger and freight services via Sheffield and one that avoids the Steel City and now carries only freight via the north-east Derbyshire village of Barrow Hill. That village is also home to a piece of Britain’s railway history, Barrow Hill Roundhouse, the last surviving railway roundhouse in the United Kingdom with an operational turntable.
The roundhouse was originally opened as Staveley Roundhouse and as built to a standard Midland Railway square shed design in 1870 with a central turntable under cover. British Railways renamed the roundhouse in 1948 as Barrow Hill to avoid confusion with the nearby ex-Great Central locomotive shed. Barrow Hill continued in operational service until 9th February 1991 when the final four locomotives (two class 56s and two class 20s) left for Worksop.
The roundhouse became a Grade II listed within a few weeks of its closure and in 1996 ownership of it and the adjacent yard was transferred from British Railways to Chesterfield Borough Council. With funding provided by a number of public bodies, the site was refurbished by the Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society and reopened to the public in July 1998.
Barrow Hill Roundhouse is now home to around 30 preserved steam, diesel and electric locomotives, which are displayed in various states of repair and restoration. The site, the mainline and the connection between the two are all unelectrified and so the handful of electric locomotives are shunted using diesels if required. The collection of locomotives ranges from small steam powered tank engines and diesel shunters, to larger locomotives that used to haul express services across the country.
Along with the main roundhouse, there is also and additional workshop on the site, home to the Deltic Preservation Society and their three class 55s: Tulyar; Royal Highland Fusilier; and Alycidon. The latter is mainline certified and could regularly be found on rail tours until a failure in March 2019 saw it recovered to Barrow Hill for repairs.
With a connection to the mainline network and multiple sidings onsite, Barrow Hill is also used as storage for mainline locomotives and units. During my visit there was a large collection of HNRC Class 20s, along with a pair of East Midlands Railway class 156s parked up outside the roundhouse, along with the AC Locomotive Group’s class 89 ‘Badger’ which is based at the roundhouse.
In addition to the locomotive collection there is also the former Pinxton Signal box. Relocated from the Nottinghamshire village after closure, it has since been refurbished and fitted out as per a typical day during its last year of use in 2007. There is also the former water tower of the roundhouse still in situ, whilst the former offices around the building now tell the story of the railways in the area along with hosting the roundhouse’s shop. A newer extension is home to the café which sells excellent sausage cobs.
The Barrow Hill Roundhouse is open every weekend from the start of March until mid-December from 1000-1600 with last entry at 1515. Entry costs just £5 for adults and £3 for children, whilst a family ticket is £14 for 2 adults and 3 children. I’d certainly recommend visiting the Barrow Hill Roundhouse and its excellent, wide ranging collection. I spent about three hours on the site, and felt I’d covered most things so its great for a half-day out if you’re in the area.