Wensleydale Railway

Coordinates: 54°17′35″N 1°44′53″W / 54.293°N 1.748°W / 54.293; -1.748

The Wensleydale Railway is a heritage railway in Wensleydale and Lower Swaledale in North Yorkshire, England. The line runs 22 miles (35 km) between Northallerton West station, about a fifteen-minute walk from Northallerton station on the East Coast Main Line, and Redmire.

Wensleydale Railway
LocaleNorth Yorkshire
Commercial operations
NameWensleydale Railway
Original gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated byWensleydale Railway plc
Length22 miles (35 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Openedbetween 1848 & 1878
Closed to passengers1954
Preservation history
HeadquartersLeeming Bar
Wensleydale Railway

East Coast Main Line

Northallerton National Rail
Northallerton West
Leeming Bar
Constable Burton
Appersett Viaduct
108 yards (99 m)
Mossdale Head Tunnel
245 yards (224 m)
Garsdale National Rail

Settle–Carlisle line

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 have been 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 5 12-mile (8.9 km) 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 11 12-mile (18.5 km) 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 (NER) on 31 July 1854,[8] and the Bedale and Leyburn was absorbed into this larger company in 1859.[9]

Share of the Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne Junction Railway Company, issued 1. August 1846

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 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 railway station in 2005

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 proactive role and aimed to operate passenger services itself. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) 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 (29 km) 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 (4.8 km)), 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] The sale of Aysgarth Station and trackbed to a private individual in 2017 allowed the release of funds,[37] and the short term plan is to extend some 0.75 miles (1.21 km) to a brand new station serving Castle Bolton. This has been costed at £2 million and is listed in a five-year plan.[38] In order to achieve this, the missing bridge that used to span Apedale Beck to the west of Redmire station will need to be replaced. There was a plan to do so utilising a redundant bridge from the Catterick branch line that was removed during the A1 to A1(M) upgrade in 2015 and stored in Redmire Station car park.[39] However the bridge was subsequently found to be unsuitable and it has been cut up and removed.

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).[40]

Upper Wensleydale RailwayEdit

In late 2019/early 2020, a separate company was formed to campaign to reinstate the line between Hawes and Garsdale. The groups' objective is to have a timetabled year-round service run by a train operating company, rather than a heritage service.[41] This scheme was shortlisted for funding in the second round of the government's Reverse Beeching Fund, in June 2020.[42]

Company structureEdit

The ex Great Eastern Railway signal box at Leeming Bar. This was formerly the signal box at North Wootton[43]

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[44] 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  
No. 92219 Class 9F Awaiting restoration. N/A Private Owner. 1959  

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 & S160 class No. 5197.[citation needed]

Diesel locomotives
Number & Name Description Current Status Livery Owner Date Built Photograph
No. 03144 (D2144) Class 03 Operational BR Rail blue Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) 1960  
No. 20166 (D8166) Class 20 Operational. HNRC orange. Harry Needle Railroad Company 1966  
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  
No. 31454 Class 31 Undergoing Overhaul Intercity Private owner[45]
No. 37250 (D6950) Class 37 Operational[46] Dutch civil engineers Private Owner. 1964  
No. 37503 (D6717)

(Formerly 37017)

Class 37 Undergoing Overhaul[47] EWS Maroon/Gold Harry Needle Railroad Company 1961  
No. 37674 (D6869, 37169) Class 37 Operational Railfreight Red Stripe Private owner. 1963  
No. 47785 Fiona Castle Class 47 Awaiting overhaul. EWS Maroon/Gold. Private owner. 1965  
No. 60086 Class 60 Awaiting overhaul EWS Two tone grey Private owner[48]
No. 60050 Class 60 Awaiting Overhaul EW&S Maroon Private owner[48]
144004 and 144016 at Bedale
  • 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 (out of service, damaged by a tree during storm Denis 21/2/20)
    • BREL Experimental Railbus, LEV 1 RDB975874 (awaiting repair)
    • BR Class 117 DMBS 51353 is owned by the Leeming Bar Residents Association, and has been converted into a static community centre
    • BR Class 142 No. 142028[49]
    • BR Class 142 No. 142035[49]
    • BR Class 142 No. 142041[49]
    • BR Class 142 No. 142060[49]
    • BR Class 144 Nos. 144004 and 144016 (temporarily stored at the railway, awaiting onward transport by road to the Aln Valley Railway)[50]
    • BR Class 144 No. 144020 (awaiting activation)[50]
  • Electric Multiple Units (EMUs)
    • BR Class 422 buffet coach 69335, ex-unit 2209 (static buffet/ticket shop)



  1. ^ Jenkins 1993, pp. 8–9.
  2. ^ Tomlinson 1915, pp. 492–493.
  3. ^ a b c 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" (PDF). London Gazette. 12 May 1846.
  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. ^ a b 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". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 124 no. 931. London: IPC Transport Press. pp. 527–529. ISSN 0033-8923.
  28. ^ "Wensleydale Railway Association celebrates milestone anniversary". The Westmorland Gazette. 21 May 2015. 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. ^ a b "Wensleydale Railway » About us". Wensleydalerail.com. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  33. ^ Minting, Stuart. "Investigation launched after woman seriously hurt after car hit by train near Northallerton". The Northern Echo. Newsquest (North East) Ltd. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  34. ^ "Current Projects". Wensleydale Railway. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  35. ^ Gleeson, Janet (18 November 2016). "Heritage line unveils its station restoration plan". Darlington & Stockton Times (46–2016). p. 3. ISSN 2040-3933.
  36. ^ Flanagan, Emily (21 April 2017). "Hopes for extending railway line". Darlington & Stockton Times (2017–16). p. 1. ISSN 2040-3933.
  37. ^ "Station sale plans spark fears for the future of Wensleydale Railway". The Northern Echo. 25 August 2017.
  38. ^ Sedgwick, Phillip (17 January 2020). "Developments outlined for future of heritage railway". Darlington & Stockton Times (03–2020). p. 3. ISSN 2516-5348.
  39. ^ Willis, Joe (19 October 2015). "Wensleydale Railway buy bridge to allow Aysgarth link". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  40. ^ "The case for expanding the rail network" (PDF). Campaign for Better Transport. p. 42. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  41. ^ Sedgwick, Phillip (28 February 2020). "Group aims to reopen Hawes to Garside [sic] railway". Darlington & Stockton Times (09–2020). p. 7. ISSN 2516-5348.
  42. ^ Newton, Grace (30 June 2020). "Government announce Yorkshire rail schemes that could receive 'reverse Beeching' funding". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  43. ^ Jones, Ben (April 2019). "New hope for Hertford East branch signal boxes". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 165 no. 1, 417. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 90. ISSN 0033-8923.
  44. ^ Charity Commission. WENSLEYDALE RAILWAY ASSOCIATION (TRUST) LIMITED, registered charity no. 1088324.
  45. ^ Nicholson, Peter (June 2020). "Wensleydale adds a Brush Type 2 to fleet". Railway Magazine. Vol. 166 no. 1, 431. Horncastle: Morton's Media. p. 70. ISSN 0033-8923.
  46. ^ Chapman, Hannah, ed. (14 June 2019). "Comment & Opinion". Darlington & Stockton Times (24–2019). p. 21. ISSN 2516-5348.
  47. ^ Dunn, Pip (August 2020). "What's happening to...". Railways Illustrated. Vol. 18 no. 8. Stamford: Key Publishing. p. 25. ISSN 1479-2230.
  48. ^ a b Russell, David (April 2020). "Wensleydale takes delivery of Class 60s". Rail Express. No. 287. Horncastle: Morton's Media. p. 76. ISSN 1362-234X.
  49. ^ a b c d Nicholson, Peter (July 2020). "Two more 'Pacers' at Wensleydale". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 166 no. 1, 432. Horncastle: Mortons Media. p. 70. ISSN 0033-8923.
  50. ^ a b Clinnick, Richard (21 October 2020). "Porterbrook Pacers heading home". Rail Magazine. No. 916. Peterborough: Bauer Media. p. 27. ISSN 0953-4563.


External linksEdit