Learn about how our station has grown and evolved over the years with this potted history of Billingsley Central.
1910 – 1960
The station first opened at the turn of the century in 1910 by the Midland Railway to serve as an alternative calling point to Sheffield Station, which was becoming much busier than expected and struggling with the increasing number of passengers requiring a rail service. Much of the station architecture was based heavily on the design of Sheffield, including the distinctive arches to the front entrance – now the main concourse, designed by Chief Company Architect Charles Trubshaw. This also led to the town itself expanding as people moved to what was to become one of the larger transport hubs in the area.
The station was built just south of Sheffield, and north of Chesterfield and Dronfield on the ‘New Line’ where Sheffield was built 40 years previously. However, unlike the quiet opening ceremony that Sheffield Station had, Billingsley was opened with more grandeur. Some of the Railway Company’s finest locomotives and stock were dressed for the occasion and 1000 Class 4-4-0 number ‘1025’ was given the honour of ‘cutting the ribbon’ as it pulled into Platform 1. The town Mayor was also present, along with the Director of the Midland Railway. Passengers who came to the occasion were granted complimentary rides up and down the platform and given a commemorative ticket to mark the occasion.
The station also comprised of an island platform and a final platform across the way, all interconnected via a covered footbridge. These platforms still exist today, although they have since been extended to accommodate HST services that run commuters to the Capital.
As the station passed into the ownership of the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) after the Railways Act in 1921, the station was shortly to undergo some platform changes that still stand to today. Platform 1 had two bay platforms incorporated into the ‘North End’ of Platform 1 to serve smaller shuttle services to the neighbouring towns and stations, some of which long-since closed thanks to the infamous Beeching Axe.
Like its sister station, Billingsley also suffered some wartime damage during the Second World War, losing the ends of what were then Platforms 3 and 4 (now Platforms 5 and 6) and part of the roof covering them. These were rebuilt after the war, although the damaged roof was never fully restored and so was cut shorter and replaced with more simple awnings.
1960 – 2002
As British Railways continued its aim of modernising the network, the station began to see more and more diesels replace the now aging steam locomotives that served the station so well over its life. Class 45 and 46 ‘Peak’ diesels now served the line as well as the odd DMU for smaller services. This was met with much sadness amongst the locals who didn’t want to see their beloved engines replaced by ‘lifeless boxes’. These ‘lifeless boxes’ however proved to be the lifeline of this station as during the controversial cuts by Dr Beeching in 1963, Billingsley was marked for closure due to its proximity to Sheffield. Billingsley was described by Beeching as “surplus to requirements and no longer necessary”. However, a bitter dispute between the ever-growing town forced an overturn which saw Billingsley Central saved and thrive into the busy station you see today.
1984 saw the first timetabled appearances of the much-loved High Speed Train – the HST – at Billingsley as it was introduced by British Rail to serve the Midland Mainline. This was a breath of fresh air for commuters as journey times to London were slashed and commuters could sit back and enjoy a level of luxury not seen on a train for decades. To this day, Billingsley still has fast express services to St Pancras International, although these services are also shared by a fleet of Class 222 Meridians. A final set of platform changes were made in 1989 as two more bay platforms were built into what is now Platform 6, and the platform extended to allow for other trains to use the other side – now Platform 7 due to a further increase in passenger traffic, a testament to those who fought to keep the station open in the 60’s.
2002 – Present
2002 saw Midland Mainline being the main Train Operating Company (TOC) of the station, and major changes were made to the station to improve its appearance for passengers. The station front which was beginning to look rather tired was given a thorough sandblasting, and like Sheffield, the concourse roof was replaced with much more modern glass panels – giving the station concourse a brighter and airier appearance. The front arches were also filled with glass to keep the wind and rain out – something British Rail felt was unnecessary it would appear.
2007 saw the TOC in charge change to the current operator East Midlands Trains as Midland Mainline and parts of the Central Trains network combined. East Midlands Trains also brought about a multi-million pound investment in improving and updating its waiting rooms to the island Platforms 4 and 5, as well as the platforms beyond. The footbridge was also updated in a similar style to that of the concourse updates Midland Mainline brought about – giving the bridge larger lifts, an all glass side and roof and brushed metal underside. A First Class lounge was added to the South side of the concourse too mid-July in 2012.
Billingsley Central is still very much a busy station, and provides locals with access to routes across the country and beyond as terminal services stop right next to the Eurostar platforms in London St Pancras International.