Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, West Yorkshire

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 !

It may seem strange to say that in the very year that the railway re-opened, steam locomotives were withdrawn permanently from the national rail network.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.

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.

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.

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.

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" !

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.

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.

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.


  1. I really love the look of that old ticket office.

  2. Great post. Hate the thought of wimpy railbuses replacing steam and diesel. I'm not sure why railroad stuff is so fascinating, but it is. I think I told you that my dog was nearly named after the train at Harper's Ferry, WV. Anyway, wish i could have been there for the gala. Those are wonderful photos. P.S. The 'Gentlemen' sign with the three buckets under is really hilarious. Tell the anemic girls to eat more beef. lol

  3. A great set of photos to accompany the interesting history.

    Thank You.

  4. I love trains of all types, so this was a fun read. So was that advertisement for Virol.

  5. What a wellkept station! I like especially that's full of flowers!


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