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The line currently runs 22 miles (35 km) between Northallerton on the East Coast Main Line and Redmire. This makes the line the third longest preserved standard gauge railway in Great Britain.
Occasional freight services and excursions travel the full length of the line, however regular passenger services currently only operate between Leeming Bar and Redmire, a distance of 17.5 miles (28 km).
There are plans to provide regular services between Leeming Bar and Northallerton and to re-open the section between Redmire and Garsdale (though the latter would require much restoration and is likely to be done in stages). This would recreate 40 miles (64 km) of track between Northallerton and Garsdale and make it the largest private railway in Europe.
The original line between Northallerton and Garsdale was opened in stages: Northallerton to Leeming Bar (in 1848); Leeming Bar to Bedale (in 1855); Bedale to Leyburn (in 1855 for freight traffic and in 1856 for passenger traffic); Leyburn to Askrigg (in 1877); Askrigg to Hawes and Garsdale to Hawes (both in 1878). The section from Northallerton to Hawes became part of the North Eastern Railway and the section from Hawes to Garsdale became part of the Midland Railway.
The line between Northallerton and Hawes closed to passengers in 1954 and the line between Hawes and Garsdale closed to all traffic in 1959. The line between Redmire and Hawes was closed completely in 1964 and subsequently lifted. However, some Dalesrail excursion trains ran between Redmire and York in the 1970s and occasional charter trains ran to Redmire.
With the exception of goods trains serving the quarry near Redmire, freight traffic on the remaining portion of line ceased in 1982. Goods trains to Redmire ceased in 1992.
At this point, the future of the remaining line looked very bleak. However, the Wensleydale Railway Association (WRA) was formed in 1990 with the main aim of restoring passenger services. 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 proactive role and aimed to operate passenger services itself.
A surprising but positive development was the Ministry of Defence (MoD) indicating an interest in using the line between Northallerton and Redmire to transport armoured vehicles to/from Catterick Garrison. This plan went ahead with the MoD paying for repairs and restoration of the line and the installation of loading facilities at Redmire, and in addition the MoD did not object to WRC taking over the line. These military transport trains continue to this day.
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 with the stations at Leeming Bar and Leyburn being reopened. In 2004 the stations at Bedale, Finghall and Redmire were also reopened and Scruton is scheduled to re-open in 2013 (co-inciding with the 10th anniversary of the preserved line's re-opening).
List of stations and halts
- Northallerton West: future (new temporary platform) and eastern terminus of the line allowing interchange with rail services on the East Coast Main Line
- Ainderby: closed
- Swale Riverside: proposed new halt located halfway between Ainderby and Scruton and a few metres from the railway bridge crossing the River Swale
- Scruton: currently being restored to use and and expected to re-open in Spring 2013
- Leeming Bar: current eastern terminus of the line until Scruton station re-opens
- Bedale: restored to use
- Crakehall: closed
- Jervaulx: closed
- Finghall: restored to use; request stop
- Spennithorne: closed
- Constable Burton: closed and demolished
- Leyburn: restored to use
- Wensley: closed
- Redmire: restored to use and current western terminus of the line.
- Castle Bolton: proposed new halt serving the nearby Bolton Castle
- Aysgarth: serving nearby Aysgarth Falls; the site has been restored and the station building is currently (as of December 2011) a holiday cottage
- Askrigg: requires huge restoration
- Bainbridge: proposed new halt
- Hawes: currently part of the Dales Countryside Museum
- Mossdale: proposed new halt located between the tunnel of the same name and Garsdale railway station
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 Ltd is a membership organisation that supports the development of the railway through fundraising and volunteer working.
The Wensleydale Railway Trust is a charity that provides training and supports work on heritage structures.
The WR aims to provide public transport in Wensleydale as well as being a visitor attraction.
There are three or four passenger trains a day in each direction between Leeming Bar and Redmire. In addition there are occasional charter trains and feature events.
Dales & District operate a bus service numbered 73 running every 30 minutes between Leeming Bar and Northallerton railway stations and vice versa.
Future plans and expansions
In the short-to-medium term, the Wensleydale Railway's aim is to extend passenger train services eastwards from Leeming Bar via Scruton, "Swale Riverside" and Ainderby to Northallerton railway station to provide interchange with the National Rail network on the East Coast Main Line, respectively.
However this will require agreement with Network Rail regarding access to the station, creation of a new (possibly bay) platform and reinstatement of the South Curve (trains currently have to reverse in a siding north of Northallerton in order to traverse to/from the East Coast Main Line).
The South Curve provided a direct link from the Wensleydale Railway into Northallerton but has been closed for many years.
The Wensleydale Railway's longer term aim is to reopen the line west from Redmire via Castle Bolton, Carperby & Swinithwaite, Aysgarth, Thornton Rust, Askrigg, Bainbridge, Hawes and Cotterdale to join up with the Settle-Carlisle Railway Route at Garsdale.
|Number & Name||Description||History & Current Status||Livery||Owner(s)||Date||Photograph|
|No. D2144 (03144) Western Waggoner||Class 03||Operational.||Rail blue||MoD.||1960||~|
|No. 37250||Class 37||Operational.||Transrail.||Private Owner.||1964||~|
|No. 25313||Class 25||Under Repair.||BR Rail Blue.||Privately Owned.||1964||~|
|No. 20166 (D8166) River Fowey||Class 20||Operational.||BR Green.||Harry Needle Railroad Company||1966||~|
|No. 20121||Class 20||Operational||BR Blue||HNRC||~|
|No. 47715 Poseidon||Class 47||Operational.||FM Rail.||Wensleydale Diesel Traction Group.||1966||~|
|No. 47703 Saint Mungo||Class 47||Under Repair.||FM Rail.||Harry Needle Railroad Company||1967||~|
|No. D9516||Class 14||Operational.||BR Green.||Private Owner||1964||~|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Wensleydale Railway|
- Wensleydale Railway Association website
- Wensleydale Railway plc website
- Wensleydale Diesel Traction Group website