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Middleton Railway - 50 years of change.

Discussion in 'Heritage Railways & Centres in the UK' started by ahardy, Jun 24, 2010.

  1. ahardy

    ahardy Member

    Mar 20, 2007
    Likes Received:
    The story of preservation at the Middleton Railway is a remarkable one. The railway made preservation history by becoming the first standard gauge line to be run by volunteers. In late 1959 Leeds University Union Railway Society were looking for somewhere to build and run a small railway. Several options were discussed until eventually the Middleton Railway was decided upon. After discussions with the owners, the Society moved into Claytons Yard and took over the Northern part of the recently vacated Middleton Railway. The students and lecturers, led by Fred Youell, undertook track repairs and maintenance between lessons. Further negotiations took place and soon the lines first locomotive arrived on loan from the Hunslet Engine Company at the Middleton Railway, a small ex LMS Hunslet diesel that was later bought by the society and named “John Alcock” in honour of its designer. More items or rolling stock arrived at the railway, including several trams and railcars. This included a Swansea and Mumbles vehicle. This and the Hunslet diesel became the first standard gauge passenger train to be operated by volunteers. 50 years ago this week, the annual Leeds University “Rag Week” took place, and the railway offered rides for a small donation. During the course of the week over 7000 people were carried.


    However, passenger trains were not to be a regular feature, as in September 1960 regular freight services began, moving goods in and out of the various works along the line down to the British Rail interchange at Balm Road. Unfortunately John Alcock failed and the Railway arranged to borrow a BR Class 04 D2323 for a short time to operate their trains, probably becoming the first railway to hire in a visiting locomotive! With repairs complete the Hunslet was returned to service and the BR locomotive left. The railway started to acquire other locomotives and it was only a matter of time until steam locomotives started to arrive on the line.


    The students continued to run the railway, many coming down before, during and after lectures to keep the freight moving and valuable income coming in for the railway. Open days in Claytons Yard were a regular event with locomotives displayed for the public and enthusiasts to see. Tours were also run for enthusiast groups wishing to travel on the railway.


    With the decline of freight, the railway had to think ahead an look at regular passenger operation. When this first started, it consisted of nothing more than an open wagon and brakevan propelled towards what is now Middleton Park, via the re-connected Southern end of the line that British Rail had now vacated with the closure of the colliery at Broom Pit.


    One threat to the line was the building of the M1 motorway tunnel, after a level crossing and flagmen were suggested the builders eventually agreed to a tunnel built over the railway to carry the motorway.


    Times moved on and the railway was forced to move from Claytons Yard to the current Moor Road site. Here a shed and station was built, and its first proper passenger carriage constructed, followed by a second similar vehicle.


    In more recent times the railway has had other bridges built over the line. During the construction period of one of these bridges, the railway made the decision to rebuild its Moor Road site with the help of Lottery money. In 2007 the Engine House was officially opened.


    The railway still continues to grow and has just had a very successful 50th anniversary gala.

    Current projects include the restoration of NER H Class 1310 (LNER Y7)
    see: http://www.middletonrailway.org.uk/index.htm and click on Y7 workshop diary.

    And future events include a Manchester Ship Canal themed gala with several visiting engines, see: www.msc-gala.moonfruit.com

    If you are interested in the history of the first standard gauge preserved railway, the Middleton Railway Trust has just published a new book celebrating the last 50 years. This 80 page book contains 160 mostly colour and mostly unpublished images showing the changes and challenges the railway has faced, its people and its rolling stock. Available from the Middleton Railway shop for £8.50 or is available by mail order for £10 (including postage) by writing to – Middleton Railway (Book), The Station, Moor Road, Hunslet, Leeds, LS 10 2JQ. You can also order a copy by telephoning our information line on 0845 680 1758 (only 9am until 9pm please!) and having your card details ready!


    If you have never visited the railway before, why not do so during our 50th anniversary year, and if you have, why not make a repeat visit and see the changes. You will always be greeted with a warm welcome.

    Trains run every weekend and August Wednesdays. For more information please see: http://www.middletonrailway.org.uk/index.htm

    Many thanks

    Andrew Hardy
    Traffic Manager
    Middleton Railway

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