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Wath concentration yard & the "Wath Daisies"
Posted: 28/02/2004 00:57:12

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Coal traffic

Reception sidings
Reception sidings

The Great Central being a predominantly freight carrying enterprise necessarily took steps to deal with the voluminous and congesting coal traffic generated in its region in the early years of the 20th century. Following a tour of the US and Canada by officers of the G.C.R. it was announced in October 1905 that Britain's first 'hump' marshalling yard similar to that of the Pennsylvania Railroad at Altoona would be built to solve logistical problems in the South Yorkshire coal-field.

Wath-upon-Dearne at the centre of the South Yorkshire coalfields and surrounded by 45 collieries was to be the location of the largest of an eventual five gravitational wagon sorting yards on the system – those at Worksop, Dunford, Warsop, Annesley and Wath itself.

Shunting operations

Overall view
Overall view

The large marshalling yard at Wath enabled sorting of wagons by gravity in both western and eastern directions at a centralised location rather than at the pits.

Built by the contractors Logan and Hemingway, who also tendered successfully for the contract to build the London Extension section between Annesley and East Leake, the extensive yard was opened in 1907. An overall total of 36 miles of sidings gives an impression of the magnitude of size of the finished yard.

Route indication
Route indication

Both ‘humps’ or summits over which wagons were pushed dealt with either incoming western or eastern traffic and had a network of reception and sorting sidings in which the compressed air operated points were controlled by a signal-box.

After a train load of wagons had been pushed over the ‘hump’ sections of the inward bound train fell down a decreasing gradient from 1:40 to level into their relevent sorting sidings, ready to form outward bound trains.

Potential capacity at Wath yard was estimated at a staggering 5,000 wagons every 24 hours and provided employment for 35 men in eight hour shifts.


An estimation of the scale of operations possible at Wath yard may be seen in the associated map. A larger version of this map of Wath yard is available (237k in size).

Wath yard itself was closed in the 1980s when the G.C.R. "Woodhead route" mainline between Manchester and Sheffield was subjected to closure along with most of the collieries in the area.

The 'hump' shunting locomotives

Class 8H 0-8-4T "Wath Daisy" shunter
Class 8H 0-8-4T "Wath Daisy" shunter

In response to developments at Wath, John G. Robinson (Chief Mechanical Engineer of the G.C.R.) produced four of the heaviest and most powerful 3-cylinder 0-8-4T tank locomotives in Britain.

The "Wath Daisies", otherwise known as Class 8H were built by Beyer Peacock of Manchester in 1907-08 at a total cost of £4,625 each.

The class had a long working life extending, with various attempts at modification, into the 1950s. When first produced they inspired the North Eastern Railway to build similar 3-cylinder 4-8-0T shunting engines. The last of the class was also destined to star at the Franco-British Exhibition at Earl's Court in 1908 as an exemplary feat of engineering yet could not be spared on the day.

None of the class have survived into preservation.

Class 8H side elevation
Class 8H side elevation

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  Chris Tolley's website
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Content:  further details of this 1903 timetable may be found at Chris Tolley's site.

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