The Chesterfield to Sheffield Railway Line.
Initially there was no railway between Chesterfield and Sheffield, the main or Midland Line completed in about 1840 running from Derby through Chesterfield and Rotherham to Leeds, therefore there was no railway through the Dronfield and Unstone area and therefore the rich coalfield was not fully exploited. The area contained heavy gradients and as such railway engineers did not consider the route as financially viable to build and also as a result of George Stephenson's comment that his engines were incapable of making these steep grades, other routes to Sheffield from Chesterfield were considered but rejected.
Collieries did exist in Dronfield and Unstone prior to the railway's arrival but production was kept artificially low because it was costing 5 shillings per ton to cart it to Sheffield by horse and cart, 200 tons of coal produced each day at a colliery could be transported without a railway but any more production could not be removed from the pit head.
Looking Towards Dronfield from Unstone Station Site.
The economic benefits of having a railway nearby were:
•Coal transported at 1/5th the current price. Railways charge 1 shilling per ton to Sheffield.
•Cheaper local coal, local prices kept artificially high to compensate for costs of limited production.
•Expansion of the colliery output by up to 400% at existing collieries although the upper seams nearing exhaustion anyway.
•Newer and bigger collieries employing more men. Exploiting the lower seams with more up to date plant and machinery.
In November 1863 plans had been drawn up and deposited to construct a railway of thirteen and a half miles long from Chesterfield at Lockoford or Tapton Junction through Sheepbridge, along the Drone Valley, through the Bradway tunnel and Dore and Totley station site to Heeley and into Sheffield. Branch lines were proposed from Sheepbridge to a branch line for the minerals of the Dunston and Barlow collieries. (Monkwood). And one on the east side of the Drone Valley to Unstone and Dronfield. (Unstone Branch onto the Dronfield and Unstone Branch).
The Railway Bill was passed by both houses and received Royal Assent on July 25th 1864 a year later to the day work started on the line in several places. The line opened officially on February 1st 1870.
In February 1864 it had been agreed to link the Unstone collieries to the new line, five years later three new collieries had started and more were expected, the loop from Unstone to Dronfield was completed a few months after the main line was completed.
As a direct result of the railway the population of the area of Unstone, Dronfield and Coal Aston had increased dramatically between the census's of 1861 and 1881 by nearly doubling in size. The population of Unstone had the most dramatic rise from under 1,000 to over 2,300 people.
From 1868 onwards the railway led to a dramatic expansion and development of the exposed coalfield in the area.