The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway is a 5-mile-long (8 km) branch line that served mills and villages in the Worth Valley and is now a heritage railway line in West Yorkshire, England. It runs from Keighley to Oxenhope. It connects to the national rail network at Keighley railway station.
In 1861, John McLandsborough, a civil engineer, visited Haworth to pay tribute to Charlotte Brontë but was surprised to find that it was not served by a railway. He proposed a branch running from the Midland Railway's station at Keighley to Oxenhope. The line would serve three small towns and 15 mills along its length.
A meeting of local gentlemen were told that the line would cost £36,000 to build (equivalent to £3,080,000 in 2016). A total of 3,134 shares worth £10 each were issued at this meeting, along with the election of directors, bankers, solicitors and engineers. J McLandsborough, the original proposer of the line (who dealt predominantly with water and sewerage engineering, but had experience of building the Otley and Ilkley Railway) was appointed acting engineer; whilst J. S. Crossley of the Midland Railway was appointed consultant engineer.
The railway was built as single track but with a trackbed wide enough to allow upgrading to double track for expansion. Although the work was estimated to take approximately one year, delays including buying land for the line, a cow eating the plans near Oakworth and engineering problems meant the work took nearly two years to complete. In particular the southern tunnel to Ingrow West had quicksand oozing through bore holes that required additional piles to be driven down to the bedrock to support and stabilise the tunnel. Unfortunately the work damaged the foundation to the Wesley Place Methodist Church resulting in the church receiving £1,980 from the railway company.
Tracklaying was completed in 1866, having started at each end and joined in the middle. The line was tested with a locomotive from Ilkley, which took nearly two hours to get from Keighley to Oxenhope, but just 13 minutes to get back. Before opening, violent storms struck the line in November of that year.
The opening ceremony was held on Saturday 13 April 1867. Unfortunately, the train got stuck on Keighley bank and again between Oakworth and Haworth, necessitating splitting it before carrying on with the journey. Finally, on 15 April 1867, public passenger services on the Worth Valley commenced.
The line was operated by the Midland Railway, who owned most of the rail network in the area, and was eventually bought by the Midland in part due to interest from the rival railway company, the Great Northern. Upon sale of the railway, the mill owners made a profit, which was unusual for many lines of that type, as (for strategic reasons) the Midland wanted to prevent the GN from taking over its territory. After becoming part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in 1923 during Grouping, ownership passed to British Railways (BR) following nationalisation in 1948.
On 6 November 1892 the deviation line between Haworth and Oakworth through Mytholmes Tunnel was opened and the original route abandoned. The deviation was built as a condition of the buy out of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway by the Midland Railway. The need for the deviation was to avoid a large wooden trestle viaduct that crossed a mill pond, as the locals believed the viaduct was unsafe, and supposedly many alighted at Oakworth and continued on foot to Haworth to avoid crossing the viaduct. The original design for the deviation was to skirt the mill pond then through a cutting to rejoin the original formation. However, during construction the material in the cutting proved to be unstable, resulting in the construction of the short Mytholmes Tunnel. The original trestle viaduct can be seen in a picture hanging in the booking hall of Oakworth station.
British Railways operated the last scheduled passenger train on Saturday 30 December 1961 and with no Sunday service the passenger service was deemed withdrawn from Monday 1 January 1962. Freight trains continued to run to Oxenhope until 18 June 1962. On 23 June 1962 the new formed Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society chartered a special passenger train which ran from Bradford to Oxenhope and return. After this train the section between Oxenhope and Ingrow Junction was completely closed.
A preservation society was formed in 1962 of rail enthusiasts and local people which bought the line from BR and reopened it on 29 June 1968 as a heritage railway. The first train to leave Keighley for Oxenhope on that date was the only train to operate anywhere on the network due to a national train strike. The line is now a major tourist attraction operated by 500+ volunteers and roughly 10 paid staff it carries more than 100,000 passengers a year.
The KWVR is currently one of only three UK preserved railways which operates a complete branch line in its original form, the other two being the heritage Ecclesbourne Valley Railway in Wirksworth, Derbyshire and the Swanage Railway, in Dorset.
On 10 July 2008, the Duke of Kent visited the railway following the 40th anniversary of its reopening. While at the railway, the Duke travelled on a specially prepared "Royal Train", consisting of tank locomotive 41241, an LMS Class 2MT, pulling a single carriage, The Old Gentleman's Saloon, as featured in The Railway Children, which is a former North Eastern Railway directors Saloon. While visiting, the Duke travelled in the carriage and on the locomotive footplate.
On weekends - in particular Saturday mornings, local residents who live in Oxenhope, Haworth, Oakworth and Ingrow catch the early morning diesel service to Keighley, returning later on steam hauled services. During the weekday outside of the summer months, locals instead use the local bus services.
As a privately owned heritage railway, the line does not specifically serve commuters; however, a study by Ove Arup & Partners funded by Metro looked at the feasibility of a daily commuter service between Oxenhope and Keighley in 2009. After the first stage of the study was released, Metro stated concerns about a lack of funding and available rolling stock, meaning that services are unlikely to run in the short to medium term.
Another study undertaken in 2011 on behalf of the Worth Valley Joint Transport Committee found that running up to four commuter trains each way in the morning and evening is feasible.
KWVR has a large collection of both steam and diesel locomotives, as well as supporting carriages and other rolling stock. The railway has amassed a large collection of Vintage Carriages over the years. Some are used to carry passengers on specially selected open days.
The railway owns three rail mounted cranes: a 10T Grafton steam P-Way crane, a 15T Taylor Hubbard diesel P-Way Crane and an ex LMS 45T steam breakdown crane. In addition, the affiliated Bahamas Locomotive Society owns a steam breakdown crane, based at Ingrow. Currently the 15T Taylor Hubbard crane and the 10T Grafton steam P-Way crane are in traffic, the latter now in apple green. Furthermore, there are a variety of wagons used by the civil engineering department, largely at either Oakworth or Ingrow West.
In the 1960s (shortly before the preserved line re-opened), a ITV advertisement on chocolate cookie biscuits, featuring Ronnie Corbett, was filmed along the line and at Mytholmes Tunnel (between Oakworth and Haworth). A steam train carries (at the front end) out of the tunnel a shocked Corbett holding onto the handrail of the engine. The locomotive used was Pug 51218.
In 1970 the line was featured in the British drama film The Railway Children. The line was one of only a few heritage railways in the UK and was the only one at the time which had a tunnel (this was one of the most important locations needed for the film). The tunnel used is a lot shorter in reality than it appears in the film, for which a temporary extension to the tunnel was made using canvas covers. Locomotives that were chosen for the film included a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T no 31 Hamburg, GWR 5700 0-6-0PT no 5775, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 0-6-0 no 957 & GNR N2 0-6-2T no 1744. Railway locations used in the film included Mytholmes Tunnel near Haworth, the location for the paper chase scene was also shot at Mytholmes, as well as the one in which the children wave the girls' petticoats in the air to warn the train about a landslide. The landslide sequence itself was filmed in a cutting on the Oakworth side of Mytholmes Tunnel and the fields of long grass where the children waved to the trains are situated on the Haworth side of the tunnel.
In 1976, The KWVR and Haworth railway station appeared in the premier episode of a Granada TV sitcom called Yanks Go Home (set in 1942), in which a group of US Army Air Force pilots arrive by train and alight at the station (Haworth) and are stationed in a small Northern town in Lancashire, North-West of England, during the Second World War.
In 1979, an episode of the long-running UK TV sitcom Last of the Summer Wine was filmed partly along the Worth Valley route, in which the three main characters Compo, Foggy and Clegg visit and then to attempt to stop a runaway steam train having pulled the brake on purpose (and then only to drive upwards and downwards). The locomotive used was Pannier 5775 in its London Transport guise as L89.
In 2014, Keighley station was featured extensively in the feature-film 'Testament of Youth', as were the interiors of some of the railway's vintage coaches.
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