Tracking down history of local railways

TRAIN enthusiasts will be chuffed to bits with a new book which delves into the history of local railway lines that no longer exist.

And the stations of Batley and Birstall are included in historian Gordon Suggitt's Lost Railways of South and West Yorkshire.

Gordon, who was born and raised in Bridlington, has researched the area to bring to life the history of the region's railways – the reason for their construction and for their closure.

The Great Northern Railway (GNR) line which ran from Batley to Bradford is one of the lines featured in the book.

The Bradford, Wakefield and Leeds Railway had opened a line running from Wakefield to Leeds in 1857 and they began the construction of the line at the Wakefield end, reaching Ossett in April 1864 and Batley eight months later.

The Leeds, Bradford and Halifax Junction Railway (LB&HJR), which had built a direct line through Adwalton in 1856-7, began extending south from there to Upper Batley in 1863 and Batley the following year.

GNR absorbed both companies in 1865.

GNR had its own platforms at Batley station, which was built by London and North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1848. The line also had a station at Upper Batley and one was added at Howden Clough in 1866.

The line lasted just over a century – passenger services were withdrawn in September 1964.

Very little remains and most of the line has disappeared completely, although the Batley-Beeston section has the most remnants, including the sealed off 658-yard Soothill Tunnel.

Birstall Town station was on the Leeds New Line, built by LNWR.

Construction for the 14-mile line began in 1895, and originally the Birstall Town station was called Upper 'Birstal', its name was changed in 1935.

The station closed to passengers in 1951.

There was also a line built by LB&HJR from Batley to a terminus at Birstall, which opened in September 1852.

Initial services, known locally as 'Birstall Coddy' of five weekday trains to and from Dewsbury.

In 1872 an intermediate station opened at Carlinghow and by 1899 there were 15 weekday trains, with two extra on Saturdays.

But then the Leeds New Line opened a station at Birstall and by 1905 there were electric trams running nearby.

By 1910 services were down to four a day and finished completely as a 'temporary' wartime measure at the end of 1916, although the route was used for freight for another 46 years.

Around half a mile of the former route is still accessible to the public.

* Lost Railways of South and West Yorkshire by Gordon Suggitt is published by Countryside Books and is available from booksellers or direct from the publishers at www.countrysidebooks.co.uk, priced 10.99.