Wensleydale Railway

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Wensleydale Railway


BR standard class 4 tank No 80105 on the Wensleydale Railway 4 August 2007.jpg
Gauge: Standard
Grid reference: SE155900
Location: 54°18’21"N, 1°45’45"W
No. of stations: 7
Track: 22 miles
Headquarters: Leeming Bar
Operated by: Wensleydale Railway plc

The Wensleydale Railway is a heritage railway running in Wensleydale and Lower Swaledale, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The line runs 22 miles between Northallerton West station, about a fifteen-minute walk from Northallerton station on the East Coast Main Line, and Redmire.

Regular passenger services operate between Leeming Bar and Redmire, while occasional freight services and excursions travel the full length of the line.

The line formerly ran from Northallerton to Garsdale on the Settle-Carlisle Railway, but the track between Redmire and Garsdale has been lifted and several bridges and viaducts demolished.


On 26 June 1846, an Act of Parliament authorised the Great North of England Railway and its successor the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway to build a line between Northallerton and Bedale.[1] The 5½-mile section between Northallerton and Leeming Lane opened on 6 March 1848.[2][3] The section between Leeming Bar and Bedale that was authorised by the Act was not built.[4]

The Bedale and Leyburn Railway, financed by local landowners, was an 11½-mile extension between Leeming Bar and Leyburn that was authorised on 4 August 1853; the section between Leeming Bar and Bedale station opened on 1 February 1855 and the remainder on 28 November 1855 for goods and minerals and 19 May 1856 for passengers.[5][3][6][7] The York, Newcastle and Berwick had become a founder member of the North Eastern Railway on 31 July 1854,[8] and the Bedale and Leyburn was absorbed into this larger company in 1859.[9]

The Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne Junction Railway had been proposed in the mid-1840s railway mania to link Settle, Hawes and Askrigg,[10] and in 1846 the Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne Junction Railway was given permission for a main line from Elslack, on the Leeds and Bradford Railway, to Scorton on the Richmond branch of the Great North of England Railway, and a branch line to Hawes,[11][12] but this scheme failed.[13]

In the late 1860s, several competing railways proposed to serve the agricultural land around Hawes.[14] Eventually, an Act of Parliament raised by the Midland Railway that mostly related to the Settle and Carlisle line but included a branch off this line between Garsdale and Hawes was authorised on 16 July 1866.[15][16] An Act of Parliament raised by the North Eastern Railway for a railway between Leyburn and Hawes was authorised on 4 July 1870.[17] The section of this railway between Leyburn and Askrigg opened on 1 February 1877; the section between Askrigg and Hawes was opened for goods on 1 June 1878; the Hawes branch of the Settle and Carlisle line was opened for goods on 1 August 1878; the sections between Askrigg and Hawes and between Hawes and Garsdale were both opened for passengers on 1 October 1878.[3][18][19][20]

At this point, there was a through route between Northallerton and Garsdale.


The line in Wensleydale remained a single track branch line transporting milk and stone; the passenger service over the full length of the line finished on 26 April 1954.[21][22] One passenger train each way was operated between Garsdale and Hawes until 14 March 1959 at which point this part of the line closed to all traffic.[23] On 27 April 1964, the line between Redmire and Hawes closed completely.[23] The track west of Redmire was lifted and many bridges on this section of the line were demolished in 1965.[24] With the exception of goods trains serving the quarry near Redmire until 1992, freight traffic on the line ceased in 1982.[25] Some excursion tours ran to Redmire in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s[26] particularly the Dalesrail services in 1977 which prompted interest in a renewed passenger service on the line.[27]


Diesel multiple unit at Leyburn

The Wensleydale Railway Association (WRA) was formed in 1990 with the main aim of restoring passenger services.[28] When British Rail decided to try to sell the line between Northallerton and Redmire following cessation of the quarry trains to Redmire, the WRA decided to take a more active role and aimed to operate passenger services itself. The Ministry of Defence had an interest in using the line between Northallerton and Redmire to transport armoured vehicles to/from Catterick Garrison. The MoD paid for repairs and restoration of the line and the installation of loading facilities at Redmire, and did not object to WRC taking over the line. A trial train ran in November 1993 and full MoD operations started in July 1996.[29] These military transport trains continue to this day.[30]

In 2000 WRA formed a separate operating company, the Wensleydale Railway plc (WRC), and issued a share offer to raise funds. £1.2 million was raised through this method. Railtrack agreed to lease the line between Northallerton and Redmire to WRC and a 99-year lease was signed in 2003. Passenger services restarted on 4 July 2003[31] with the stations at Leeming Bar and Leyburn being reopened. In 2004, the stations at Bedale, Finghall and Redmire were reopened. In 2010 a passing loop was opened at the site of the former Constable Burton station, which enabled the railway to introduce a 2-train service when required.

In 2014, Scruton station was reopened and a new station built at Northallerton West, enabling passenger services to be extended east of Leeming Bar,[32] but this section was closed to passengers again in August 2016 following a collision between a train and a car at a level crossing near Yafforth.[33] It is hoped to recommence services at a future date once work to upgrade level crossing equipment is complete.[34]

In 2016 it was reported that the railway carries over 50,000 people a year and that for every £1 spent on the railway, £4 is spent at one of the towns or villages on the route.[35]

The company's longer-term aim is to reopen the 18 miles of line west from Redmire via Castle Bolton, Aysgarth, Askrigg, Bainbridge, Hawes and Mossdale to join up with the Settle-Carlisle Railway Route at Garsdale.[32] A study commissioned by the railway indicated that an initial extension to Aysgarth from Redmire (3 miles), would generate an extra income of £3.1 million into the local economy with an additional £500,000 in ticket sales for the railway.[36] However this is threatened by the sale of Aysgarth Station and trackbed to a private individual.[37]

In January 2019, Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line which was listed as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments).[38]

Company structure

The ex Great Eastern Railway signal box at Leeming Bar

The Wensleydale Railway plc is responsible for the operation, maintenance and development of the railway line and passenger services. The company has a mixture of employed and volunteer staff.

The Wensleydale Railway Association (Trust) Ltd is a membership organisation and a registered charity[39] that supports the development of the railway through fund raising, volunteer working, providing training and supporting work on heritage structures such as Scruton Station and Bedale signal box.


Steam locomotives
Number & Name Description History & Current Status Livery Owner(s) Date Photograph
No. 69023 Joem Class J72 Withdrawn For Overhaul. BR Apple Green North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group. 1951 Steam Locomotive 69023 (7074556801).jpg
No. 92219 Class 9F Awaiting restoration. N/A Private Owner. 1959 92219 at Swanwick 1.jpg

Other steam locomotives that visited the Wensleydale Railway have been: Standard 4 Tank No. 80105, 56xx Class No. 5643, King Arthur Class No. 30777 Sir Lamiel, Class A4 No. 4464 Bittern, Class K4 No. 61994 The Great Marquess, Class K1 No. 62005, Hudswell Clarke No. 20 Jennifer, Merchant Navy Class No. 35018 British India Line, Class J27 No. 65894, Class A1 No. 60163 Tornado & Class 8F No. 48151.

Diesel locomotives
Number & Name Description Current Status Livery Owner Date Built Photograph
No. 03144 (D2144) Class 03 Awaiting Repair. BR Rail blue Ministry of Defence 1960 Leeming Bar railway station MMB 01 03144.jpg
No. 20166 (D8166) Class 20 Operational. HNRC orange. Harry Needle Railroad Company 1966 Leyburn railway station MMB 04 20166.jpg
No. 20169 (D8169) Class 20 Awaiting overhaul. BR Green Private Owner. 1966
No. 25313 (D7663) Class 25 Awaiting Repair. BR Rail Blue. Harry Needle Railroad Company 1964 Shunting at St. Albans - geograph.org.uk - 1063798.jpg
No. 37146 (D6846) Class 37 Awaiting Overhaul Dutch Civil Engineers Colas Rail 1963
No. 37250 (D6950) Class 37 Operational[40] Dutch civil engineers Private Owner. 1964 37250 & 37682 Leeming Bar.jpg
No. 37674 (D6869, 37169) Class 37 Operational Railfreight Red Stripe Private owner. 1963 37674, Leeming Bar.jpg
No. 47715 Haymarket (previously Poseidon) Class 47 Operational Network SouthEast. Harry Needle Railroad Company 1966 47715 Haymarket at Leeming Bar.jpg
No. 47785 Fiona Castle Class 47 Awaiting overhaul. EWS Maroon/Gold. Private owner. 1965 47785 Leeming Bar.jpg
  • Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs)
    • BR Class 101 unit 51210+53746, 101678 (awaiting restoration)
    • BR Class 101 unit 50256+56343 (undergoing repair)
    • BR Class 108 unit 51572+56274 (awaiting restoration)
    • BR Class 117 cars 51400+59509 (in Service) and 59500 (stored)
    • BR Class 121 unit 121032, 55032 (in service)
    • BREL Experimental Railbus, LEV 1 RDB975874 (awaiting repair)
    • BR Class 117 DMBS 51353 is owned by the Leeming Bar Residents Association, and is being converted into a static community centre.
  • Electric Multiple Units (EMUs)
    • BR Class 422 buffet coach 69335, ex-unit 2209 (static buffet)

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Wensleydale Railway)


  1. Jenkins 1993, pp. 8–9.
  2. Tomlinson 1915, pp. 492–493.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Hoole 1974, p. 110.
  4. Jenkins 1993, p. 9.
  5. Jenkins 1993, pp. 22–23.
  6. Tomlinson 1915, pp. 522, 555.
  7. Butt 1995, pp. 30, 142.
  8. Tomlinson 1915, pp. 525–526.
  9. Tomlinson 1915, p. 778.
  10. Tomlinson 1915, p. 468.
  11. "Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle-upon-Tyne Junction Railway". London Gazette. 12 May 1846. http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/20604/pages/1802/page.pdf. 
  12. Tomlinson 1915, p. 480.
  13. Suggitt, Gordon (2005). Lost railways of North and East Yorkshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-85306-918-5. 
  14. Tomlinson 1915, p. 616.
  15. Tomlinson 1915, p. 618.
  16. Jenkins 1993, pp. 29–30.
  17. Jenkins 1993, p. 31.
  18. Butt 1995, p. 116.
  19. Tomlinson 1915, pp. 682–683.
  20. Jenkins 1993, pp. 35–36.
  21. Hoole 1974, pp. 110–111.
  22. Jenkins 1993, p. 171.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Jenkins 1993, p. 174.
  24. Hallas 2002, p. 83.
  25. Jenkins 1993, p. 179.
  26. Jenkins 1993, pp. 177–179.
  27. Redhead, Brian (November 1978). Dalesrail Excursion. 124. London: IPC Transport Press. 527-529. 
  28. "Wensleydale Railway Association celebrates milestone anniversary" (in en). The Westmorland Gazette. 21 May 2015. http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/12963923.Wensleydale_Railway_Association_celebrates_milestone_anniversary/. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  29. Hallas 2002, p. 89.
  30. Pickering 2019, p. 40.
  31. Sharpe, Brian (2016). "LNER heritage lines". LNER Steam Revival. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-909128-63-7. 
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Wensleydale Railway » About us". Wensleydalerail.com. http://www.wensleydalerail.com/about-us2. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  33. Minting, Stuart. "Investigation launched after woman seriously hurt after car hit by train near Northallerton". Newsquest (North East) Ltd. http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/14660324.UPDATED__Investigation_launched_after_woman_seriously_hurt_after_car_hit_by_train/. Retrieved 3 April 2018. 
  34. "Current Projects". https://www.wensleydalerail.com/current-projects/. Retrieved 3 April 2018. 
  35. Gleeson, Janet (18 November 2016). "Heritage line unveils its station restoration plan". Darlington & Stockton Times (46-2016): p. 3. SSN 2040-3933. 
  36. Flanagan, Emily (21 April 2017). "Hopes for extending railway line". Darlington & Stockton Times (2017-16): p. 1. SSN 2040-3933. 
  37. "Station sale plans spark fears for the future of Wensleydale Railway". 25 August 2017. http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/15496139.Station_sale_plans_spark_fears_for_the_future_of_Wensleydale_Railway/. 
  38. "The case for expanding the rail network" (PDF). Campaign for Better Transport. p. 42. https://bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-files/case-for-expanding-rail-network.pdf. Retrieved 22 April 2019. 
  39. Wensleydale Railway Association (Trust) Limited - Registered Charity no. 1088324 at the Charity Commission
  40. "Comment & Opinion". Darlington & Stockton Times (24-2019): p. 21. 14 June 2019. SSN 2516-5348. 
  • Butt, R.V.J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-508-1. 
  • Hallas, Christine (2002). The Wensleydale Railway. The Amadeus Press Limited. ISBN 0-9539740-7-3. 
  • Hoole, K. (1974). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume IV The North East. David & Charles. ISBN 0715364391. 
  • Jenkins, Stanley C. (1993). The Wensleydale Branch. Alpha Print (Oxon) Ltd. ISBN 0 85361 437 7. 
  • Pickering, Graeme (July 2019). The Wensleydale Railway. 165. Horncastle: Mortons Media. 
  • William Weaver Tomlinson (1915). The North Eastern Railway: Its rise and development. Andrew Reid and Company. OCLC 504251788. //archive.org/details/northeasternrail00tomlrich.