Dec 2021 – Yorkshire Walk Report – Silverwood Colliery line

WALK DATE: 11th December 2021

Twenty-one Railway Ramblers had planned to join us for the 2021 Yorkshire Branch Christmas walk along the Silverwood Colliery line at Thrybergh, near Rotherham, though two were on “sick parade” on the day, and four more opted only to join us for lunch. This walk took us along the most recently-closed railway that we have explored, as it was operational until the demise of the mine in 1994, hence concrete sleepers were much in evidence. The furthest extent of our walk took us to the impressive bowstring girder bridge over which the railway crossed the River Don, and along a private-land stretch by permission, which is used as a training course for trials bike riders who on the day were making good use of the testing terrain.

Mining and railway disasters usually result in improved safety regulations, and the colliery played its own part. On 3rd February 1966, miners starting their shift went down the pit to board the “Paddy Mail”. It was normal practice for the ‘man-rider’ to be followed by a second train which carried equipment. On this day the second train suddenly ran out of control and caught up with the ‘man-riding’ train, hitting it hard in the rear. Ten men lost their lives and a further 29 miners were injured.

The tragic accident featured in the local and national press, and much of the coverage gave prominence to Sister Adsetts, a member of the Silverwood medical team who treated the injured as they were brought from the wreckage, working alongside the Rotherham Mines Rescue team. The unusual feature of a woman coming out from the pit led to headlines such as “The Angel with the Dirty Face”.

The accident happened about one and a half miles from the pit bottom. When the locomotives and the vehicles were removed to the underground workshops for testing, the brakes proved to be in full working order, so could not have contributed to the disaster, and in the report of the accident by the Mines Inspectorate, the main recommendation was that a train carrying materials must never follow a man-riding train, and the rules on underground train operation were re-written.

Queen Elizabeth II visited the mine in July 1975 and mined a lump of coal herself, no doubt suitable attired for the occasion!

We were favoured with fine, mild weather for the duration of our walk, the promised heavy rain only materialising just as we reached The Lord Raresby pub for our festive three-course meal (with Christmas crackers containing party hats and the traditional terrible jokes of course)  in a very welcome warm and convivial atmosphere.

Jane Ellis