Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

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I had a third nights accommodation at Haworth before my weekend in Manchester so I took the opportunity of visiting the next place on my list ... Hebden Bridge. I had briefly passed through this Calder Valley town about nine years earlier on route to Hardcastle Crags for a walk with friends from a Yorkshire walking group. The Pennine Yorkshire town seemed full of character and interested me enough to want to return ... can't believe it took me nine years !!

I was fortunate enough to find and take the title photo and later discover that it was the original Hebden Bridge. Even though I caught this local beauty spot on a quiet midweek day, ...

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One of the locals putting his feet up and enjoying todays peace !

... it  was once a trade route thoroughfare in this part of the Pennine hills and indeed sits as a fulcrum in between the towns of Burnley, Rochdale, Halifax and Bradford.

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LOL
As a result, it it would be no secret that the town developed as an important textile centre and was known as "Trouser town" !

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Roll up your trousers ...  !!!

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The surrounding steep Pennine hills proved a valuable asset in the development of water powered weaving mills ...

Houses on the hill GJC_002208

... and also for developing accommodation for the workers !!

Modern Mill GJC_002165

These days it seems that it is the tourist that brings the trade with every opportunity made available to them ... even under one roof !

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The Rochdale canal running through Hebden Bridge was a lifeline to the textile industry and replaced "the bridge" as a commercial trade route.

                            Canal Chimney GJC_002189

It wasn't without problems or arguments during the 30 years of conception from 1776 as mill owners who could only see past their own nose, ...

                             The canal GJC_002190

... complained that the canal would bring unemployment due to the amount of water required that would otherwise be used to power their mills.

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Just chill out ... it'll happen

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The canal was given Government approval at the third attempt and because of these additional costs, the final civil engineering construction was modified.

Mill & canal lock  GJC_002193


                             Pennine Mill GJC_002195

Other delays were deciding on the route to Manchester eventually became the highest canal summit in Britain at 600 feet (183m).

                            Canal Mill  GJC_002196

Eastwards, the canal officially ends as it joins the River Calder at Sowerby Bridge but the navigable system continues to join the River Aire at Castleford, The River Ouse at Goole (following the man made Knottingley - Goole route) and The River Humber to The North Sea at Grimsby.

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The Cooperative society in Hebden Bridge had the notoriety of being defrauded and going bankrupt during the 1960's. The sizeable building unwisely became a Hotel before being developed into residential apartments.

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Nisa ... the corner shop !
The Co-op store relocated to modern premises on the edge of the town centre leaving the chain store Nisa to quench the money thirst of the problem building !!

                             Cafe seat   GJC_002172

With the failure of the Hotel project and the town ticking over for the locals ... I came across a seat in a cafe in the central hub of the town centre that bears the weight of the people of Hebden Bridge or maybe it represents the occasional tourist spending all their time looking up at all those tall chimneys and buildings...

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There are however sites that some want to keep personal and will guard at all costs ...

Private Mooring  GJC_002181

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, West Yorkshire

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One of the reasons that I stopped in Haworth was not only to visit the Bronte Parsonage but to attend the annual diesel gala on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. This was an opportunity to indulge in one of my transport interests and station architecture that inspired the makers of The Railway Children film.

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The KWVR is a 4 - 5 miles (8km) stretch of preserved railway line in West Yorkshire. The line originally opened in 1867 to serve the textile industry in the area with the transportation of coal to fuel the woollen mills.

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Additionally, its use was to provide an early tourist opportunity to make the Bronte Parsonage more accessible by rail.

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Oxenhope Station

Such were the difficulties of the gradient that in the year before its opening, a test train took two hours to complete the line up to the terminus of Oxenhope and only 13 minutes back down the mainline station of Keighley.

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Many of the branch lines and unprofitable railways of Britain were closed in the 1960's following the infamous Dr Beeching report. The KWVR was one of these victims and closed in 1962.

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A new concept at the time was a railway preservation society that planned to operate the line independently as a heritage railway, their plans came to fruition 6 years later in 1968.

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This business opportunity needed a boost at a time when passenger numbers were low on these branch line railways. The answer came two years later in 1970 with the filming of The Railway Children at Oakworth Station and "the rest they say is history" as visitors increased beyond their wildest dreams !

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Ticket Office, Oakworth

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Haworth station  GJC_002118 - Version 2
Variation on a theme !!
It may seem strange to say that in the very year that the railway re-opened, steam locomotives were withdrawn permanently from the national rail network. The unpopular diesel locomotive, which had been running alongside it for several years came to the fore.

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D6700 ( The first Class 37 in original livery and numbering, preserved by NRM)
Most train drivers began to see the benefits however as they took less time to start in the morning and were relatively cleaner. The diesel gradually gained a following from the newer generation of railfans and such were the choices of types of traction that splinter groups of fans were formed for each locomotive.

Haworth Shed   GJC_001995

Despite the 1960's cuts of Dr Beeching to save the national railway network from financial collapse, the 1970's saw little improvement as the dinosaur type structure carried on eating up the money. By the 1980's, plans were afoot to replace the diesel which was viewed by the company, rightly or wrongly, as ageing and expensive by a newer railbus or multiple unit. Although the cumbersome and difficult to maintain diesel hydraulics were withdrawn in the 1970's, the reality of diesel withdrawals and journey to the scrapyard began in earnest in 1981 when the class 55 Deltic was removed from The East Coast main line, to be replaced by the Inter city 125 which had been running alongside it for five years. In their infancy, diesel preservation groups tried to be one step ahead of the withdrawal game, but as there were numerous examples running to unusual places on the network, the take up was slow. The second half of the 1980's saw an acceleration in pace in the exchange of diesel locomotives for multiple units and for want of a better word ... railbuses !

For many years, the KWVR prided itself on running a steam service for the tourist with an early morning diesel railcar service for shoppers and commuters.

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37075 ( now owned by KWVR ... a bold step that I predict will pay off, solid attraction)

Due to the inception of The Diesel Gala concept by the larger pro-active preserved railways and the opportunity to ride behind the now well loved traction no longer available on the main line, The KWVR had to follow suit as these events became one of the big paydays of the year.

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37264 leaving Keighley ( ex West Highland line locomotive in Large Logo livery)

My theory ... "The more unusual the visiting locomotive, the larger the audience proportional to the financial outlay" !

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The Meeting !
Specialist railway Google hitters will realise that this set was taken on two different occasions, the first on my journey to Manchester and the second only recently as I wanted to sample 37075 for the first time.

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Keighley at the north end of the line is the start and end of the journey where connections can be made to and from the main line.

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Still open !!  GJC_011519
Open for business ... just !!
I struggled a little for material on a walk into town and even though the set wasn't strong enough for its own post in this blog ... I can inform you that it still open for business.

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I don't want to dampen your spirits ....

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...  but if the train arrives ...

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... take the chance ...

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... and avoid ...

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... the exit !!! :-)
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