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Yorkshire Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, West Yorkshire

Do you remember the iconic film of “The Railway Children” with Jenny Agutter – well this was where it was filmed…

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The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is a delightful short branch line running through some splendid West Yorkshire scenery from Keighley to Oxenhope.

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Stations have been beautifully restored to what they might have looked like in in the 1950s with the red and cream paint of the Midland Railway, gas lamps and coal fires in the winter months. There are fire buckets, porter’s trolleys, milk churns, VR post boxes and enamel advertising signs. It is popular with film makes and TV producers.

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The single track branch line opened in 1867, funded by wealthy mill owners. This was part of the great wool weaving area of West Yorkshire and there were many mills along the valley. The first mills were powered with water power but as demand increased, this was replaced by steam power. The railway brought coal to the mills and took away the finished woven fabric. The mills are no longer working, Many have been demolished but a few buildings still remain.

The branch closed in 1962, part of the Beecham cuts. Passenger numbers were dwindling and there was little freight traffic. There was extensive local opposition to the closure, lead by the MP for Keighley, Bob Cryer. A Preservation Society was soon formed with plans to buy the line, lease access to Keighley Station and operate a regular public service. Diesel railcars were purchased to operate a daily passenger service, a diesel locomotive to work goods trains and several steam locomotives and carriages to operate a tourist service. Many of the buildings had been left derelict and vandalised and had to be rebuilt.

Trains began running again in 1968. 1970 was a significant moment in the history of the newly reopened railway as Oakworth Station featured in the film of the Railway Children. Passenger numbers increased rapidly. The line was single track and could only operate one train in service. A passing loop was built at Damens to allow two trains to run.

The railway is as popular as ever with both locals who use it to Keighley, as well as visitors. It is also renowned among beer lovers as the only heritage railway in the world to offer real ale on board its trains. Many staff are volunteers.

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The railway climbs 320’ from Keighley to Oxenhope with an average gradient of 1 in 56. This means locos have to work hard. The profile has been copied from the Lost Railways of West Yorkshire website for the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

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Starting from Keighley, the town is soon left behind as the line winds up through the Worth Valley to Haworth and the terminus at Oxenhope. The derelict mill buildings remind you this was once a thriving wool area. The line follows the river through pastures yellow with buttercups with the bare hillsides beyond.

It is a leisurely run with a 20 minute layover at both Keighley and Oxenhope - time to get out, have a quick cup of tea, look in the shop and watch the loco run round.

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The stations are manned and volunteers keep the gardens looking nice.

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The trip is pure nostalgia. Haworth Station has copies of the iconic Railway posters from the 40s and 50s advertising the delights of the British Countryside.


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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Most people begin their journey at either Keighley or Haworth.

KEIGHLEY STATION is owned by Network Rail who use platforms 1 and 2. The Keighley and Worth Valley railway lease platforms 3 and 4 and are reached across the original wooden footbridge.

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The difference between the two is very marked with the original glass canopy being retained along with the original waiting room., and ticket office. A small kiosk serves drinks and snacks.

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The station box was brought from Shipley Bingley junction and reassembled here. The original signal box was to the south, around the curve. The original water tower can still be at the south end of platform 4. The turntable at the end of platform 3 came from Garsdale on the Settle and Carlisle line in 1990, replacing one that was removed many years ago.

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The train pulls steeply out of Keighley Station with the remains of mill buildings and terraces of workers cottages and the massive Timothy Taylor Brewery.

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The settlement is soon left behind as the loco steams up the wooded Worth Valley. Plenty of curves give photo opportunities of the loco at work.

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The first station is INGROW WEST. The original buildings had been vandalised beyond repair and when the railway reopened in 1967, this was operated as an unmanned halt. Money was raised to purchase the closed station building from Foulbridge on the Skipton to Colne line, which was reassembled here.

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The Museum of Rail Travel is in the old goods yard. There is just enough material to keep the attention but so much that you go into overload.There is an entry charge unless you have an all day rover ticket, when entry is free. The museum is a joint operation between the Bahamas Locomotive Society and the Vintage Carriages Trust.

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The Bahamas Locomotive Society was originally set up to purchase the former LMS Jubilee Class loco number 45596, ‘Bahamas’. For many years it was based in Dinting Railway Centre before moving into the old goods warehouse and engine shed at Ingrow West Station. This has been turned into a workshop and Museum, telling the story of the locomotive as well as its operation and maintenance. It also has information about the people who worked on the railway and their duties. Cranes and rolling stock can be seen in the yard outside.

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The loco was a static exhibit until Heritage Lottery Fund money was secured to return it to working order. The Society also cares for other small locos. The coach in the goods loading bay has been turned into a learning centre.

The Vintage Carriage Trust occupies the large building modern building at the end of the yard.

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Many of the railways Victorian and Edwardian carriages are displayed here and it is probably the most extensive collection of historic railway carriages in the country as well as many artefacts of rail travel. There is a taped commentary explaining how to fire the small loco, Lord Mayor, which is popular with gricers of all ages.

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Coaches display how travelling has changed over the years and the difference between first and third class. At the far end is the workshop and visitors can watch restoration work. There is a small shop too.

Immediately beyond Ingrow West station is the 150 yard long Ingrow tunnel. Digging out the tunnel caused a huge crack in the Wesley Place methodist Chapel above the tunnel and it was in danger of collapse. The railway had to pay £35.. in compensation to rebuild the chapel, which almost bankrupt it even before the first train ran.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
The line now climbs up through the steeply wooded Worth Valley to the tiny halt at DAMENS.

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Damens is the smallest station on the line and typical of a small request halt.

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The platform is only one carriage long.There is a small crossing here, giving access to the houses at the top of the hill. This was originally controlled by a ground frame in the house opposite which was the home of the crossing keeper. The crossing is now controlled by a volunteer signal man. The signal box at Damens was rescued from Earby, again on the the Skipton and Colne line when it was about to close. The booking office and waiting room were originally the checker’s office from Keighley Good shed, and have been rebuilt here.

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The passing loop is a short distance beyond Damens and has its own signal box, which is standard Midland Railway design and typical of the thousands of boxes that once existed. A double signal controls entry to the passing loop.

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Tokens are exchanged here.

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Beyond Damens, the line continues to climb up the Worth Valley. The valley is wider here and there are fewer trees.

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OAKWORTH STATION with its goods yard and shed was made famous by the film of the Railway Children, and is typical of what a small station would have looked like 100 years ago, with ticket and parcel office and waiting room. The huge safe is still in the ticket office, as are the racks of tickets and the station clock. The token machine and bell are still in use. The station is still lit by gas lamps and in fact didn’t have an electric supply until it was needed for the security system. The station originally had a passing loop for goods traffic and signal box, but this closed in the mid 1950s. It still has its weigh bridge and hand operated crane.

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The station is still manned as the level crossing at the end of the station has to be opened manually. There is more settlement appearing on the hillsides.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
The railway crosses the River Worth on a stone bridge which replaced a wooden trestle viaduct across a mill dam. Just beyond is Mytholmes Tunnel.

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The railway now leaves the river and follows the Bridgehouse Beck for the rest of the trip. The remains of Mill buildings and chimneys can be seen.

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HAWORTH is the largest station on the line and is the administrative centre for the railway.

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It is typical of a Midland Railway station. It retains its original booking office, although the waiting room is now the shop. The platform has been extended to cope with longer trains.

To the south of the station is the coal yard and an extensive goods yard. The large stone buildings were originally the goods shed used to serve the local mills along the river. They are now the base of the Railway’s locomotive department, providing undercover accommodation for the locos and also the workshops. Locomotives can often be seen here

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A footbridge links the station with Haworth town and the Bronte Parsonage.

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There is a lot of attractive new development on the edge of Haworth.

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The town is soon left behind and the line follows the Bridgehouse Beck through increasingly open countryside.

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OXENHOPE STATION was originally a busy terminus with goods sheds and coal sidings with over 20 mills in the area. It became unstaffed in 1955.

The modern carriage sheds are on the approach to the station.

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The original booking office is now the shop and the booking office is now in the old waiting room. An old buffet car serves as the station cafe.

The goods shed has been extended and is now used for restoration and maintenance of carriages and goods vehicles. Part of this referred to the Exhibition shed, now houses locomotives which are out of service as well as the more historic coaches.Admired from ground level they remind the visitor just how big even small tank engines were.

Passengers have 20 minutes at Oxenhope while the loco runs round the train and may fill up with water.

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