A long-forgotten railway siding, dating back to the 19th century, has been discovered in Huddersfield, as the TransPennine Route Upgrade gains traction.

The siding at Hillhouse – used for harbouring off-duty trains – was unearthed while teams studied maps from 1850 to help inform a multi-billion-pound rail upgrade set to transform the region.

It is thought that the siding, which composed of train sheds and railway turntables, was used to house and maintain trains, as well as transport cattle, coal and other materials across the UK when the line formed part of the Manchester & Huddersfield Railway.

Over the last three months, Network Rail has been carefully uncovering the historic site, near Alder Street, to ready the route for twice as many tracks in the future. This will unlock the ambitions of the TransPennine Route Upgrade, making way for faster, more frequent trains running along a greener, electrified railway.

A programme of survey work was carried out with support from the Archaeological Services WYAS. The results confirmed that the foundations of the old sidings were buried just below the surface, spurring the specialists to bring the area back to how it would have looked over 172 years ago.

Hannah Lomas, principal programme sponsor at Network Rail, said: “This is an amazing insight into what the siding would have looked like over a century ago. Understanding the history and makeup of the railway along the TransPennine route is key to delivering a better, more reliable railway capable of running faster, more frequent trains in the future.

“Working closely with ASWYAS has allowed us to carefully excavate the site at a much faster speed while also providing useful information about the origin of the materials used and how the sidings helped transport goods around the UK.”

Delicately extracted samples of the brick and mortar will now help the team of experts to learn as much as they can about the site.

Kevin Moon, project manager at ASWYAS, said: “As part of the planned development of Hillhouse Sidings, ASWYAS investigated the remains of the mid-19th century railway sidings underlying the modern industrial buildings on the site. 

“During the project, the team of archaeologists uncovered two train turntables and a series of brick-built engine sheds, providing valuable information on the early development of the railway system in Huddersfield.”