PART 11 RAILWAYS AFTER 1850 Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Barwicker No 27 September 1992

The virtual closure of the Leeds & Selby and its reopening in 1850 following George Hudson's Maxwell-like fall from grace were described in the first part of this article. It was four years after this that the North Eastern Railway (NER) came into being, created by an amalgamation of the York & North Midland, the Leeds Northern, and the York Newcastle & Berwick railways.

The reopening of the Leeds-Selby line had meant that traffic from Leeds to York was once again going via Cross Gates and Garforth, entailing its being switched from the old Leeds & Selby tracks to the York & North Midland line (and vice versa) at Milford Junction. Although a more direct route than had been the case in the days of the Railway King the arrangement never was conducive to the free flow of traffic, and things were to improve greatly when the North Eastern Railway opened the present connecting line between Micklefield and Church Fenton in 1869.

The North Eastern Railway opened the branch between Cross Gates and Wetherby in 1876. This, the first railway facility actually to pass well within the parish boundary, did give Barwick- in-Elmet the somewhat outlying station at Scholes, but in the early 1880s there was to be another railway scheme (not this time emanating from the North Eastern Railway) which, had it come to fruition, would have given the parish a main-line station within a stone's throw of the very village centre.

In 1879 Parliament had authorised the building of the Church Fenton, Cawood & Wistow Railway and in 1882 the future extension of this proposed line through Selby to a junction at Drax with the Hull and Barnsley. These were the proposals that brought about the further scheme, for the grandly named Leeds, Church Fenton and Hull Junction Railway (LCF&HJ).

The plans deposited at Westminster and Wakefield show the railway starting at a new station to be built in Harewood Street, Leeds, close to the site of the present Kirkgate Market. From there the line was to run north-east via Sheeepscar towards Roundhay, curving eastwards just below Roundhay Park. The site of what is now Leeds Ring Road would be crossed near Seacroft windmill, the railway then bridging the Cross Gates - Wetherby branch of the North Eastern Railway at Stanks and immediately afterwards obliquely crossing Leeds Road some 700 yards below the future site of the Coronation Tree. From there the surveyed line ran south of and roughly parallel to Barwick Road, crossing Taylor Lane, Long Lane and Richmondfield Lane, then curved north-eastwards closely skirting Barwick village, to enter the valley of the Cock via a bridge under Aberford Road close to where it is joined by Shoulder of Mutton Lane.

The line then followed the valley to Aberford, where the turnpike road would need to be raised eight feet to enable the rails to pass under, then continued on through Lead, Saxton and Scarthingwell to terminate at Church Fenton with a junction with the proposed Church Fenton, Cawood & Wistow, over whose future metals passengers and goods would be conveyed on towards Hull. That was the proposal, and how keenly Barwickers must have scanned the plans, sections and other documentation relating to the line's route through the parish that the promoters would, by law, have deposited with the Parish Clerk. The sites of intermediate stations had not yet been determined so parishioners could but surmise where Barwick's future station buildings and Sidings would be. The most likely location was in the fields between Long Lane and Richmondfield Lane. Would the New Inn in due course have been renamed the 'Station Hotel' one wonders?

Railways in the Barwick area after 1850, projected schemes shown with broken lines. That for Church Fenton & Scholes is conjectural, the line never having been surveyed. But it was not to be. The necessary Bill, which was scheduled to come before Parliament in the session of 1663, was not presented. In that same year the Church Fenton, Cawood & Wistow did apply for and receive a further Act to form a future junction with the North Eastern Railway, but then when it came to actually building their railway the directors found it impossible to raise the necessary capital. Ultimately their grand scheme had to be abandoned, and with it any hopes for the Leeds, Church Fenton & Hull.

But this was not the only proposal for a railway down the Cock valley. In the agricultural districts north of Selby a sense of lost opportunity lingered following the demise of the Church Fenton, Cawood 81 Wistow, leading to the promotion - and in this case the actual completion - of a much more modest enterprise, the Cawood, Wistow 81 Selby Light Railway. This minor line opened to the public in February 1696 and there can be little doubt that it was this that led to a revival of railway hopes in Barwick later that same year.

At the October 1696 meeting of the Barwick Parish Council it was resolved that ' ... this Council make enquiries as to the need of a light railway from Church Fenton to Scholes'. The idea was picked up with interest at Saxton, whence in April 1699 the following letter was sent to each parish that would be affected: At a Parish Council Meeting held April 16th. a discussion took place with regard to the advantage, the construction of a Light Railway from Church Fenton to Scholes Station, would be to the parishes of Saxton-cum-Scarthingwell, Lead Hall, Hazlewood, Lotherton-cum-Aberford, Aberford and Barwick-in-Elmet. It was resolved that the Councils of the aforesaid parishes be communicated with, in order to solicit the views of each, respecting a concerted action being taken to promote a scheme for effecting the object in view.

This letter was of course received back at Barwick, where in July it was agreed 'that the matter shall have due consideration from this Council and that the Clerk write to that effect'. Then Barwick considered the matter once more in September, when the minutes record: '. . . the Council were disposed to view the scheme favourably. They however had no details of a scheme before them and they suggested that Saxton Council should write to the various Parish Councils interested to send delegates to a meeting to be held at some convenient time and place to discuss the matter.' Thus Barwick-1n-Elmet, with whom the scheme had originated, now lobbed the ball firmly back into Saxton's court.

In November 1899 two members of Saxton Parish Council were elected to approach the Agent for the Lotherton and Parlington estates to discuss the matter, but after that the minute books are silent. Had the Church Fenton & Scholes line (CF&S) been built the light railway would, like the moderately successful Cawood, Wistow & Selby, have been a local facility in carrying agricultural produce and would have provided a useful passenger link for the villages; yet of real local interest there was none. To Saxton's letter, apart from Barwick-in-Elmet, none of the parishes written to even bothered to reply.

There is no precise date but it was evidently not long after the re-opening of the Leeds & Selby in 1850 that the Gascoignes reinstated the passenger service on the Aberford Fly Line (AR). Trains ran in the morning from Aberford to Garforth and returned in the evening on the two Leeds market days, Tuesday and Saturday, and a horse remained the motive power until Garforth Colliery purchased its first locomotive in 1870. This was given the Latin name Mulciber, synonymous with that of Vulcan the blacksmith god, and when the second engine was purchased in 1871 it was named Ignifer meaning 'bearer of fire'. Both were 0-4-0 saddle-tanks built at the Boyne Engine Works of Messrs Manning Warble of Jack Lane, Hunslet. Both locomotives were primarily purchased for coal shunting duties between the Isabella and Sisters pits and the main line at Garforth, their work on the Fly Line being secondary. As in the days of their equine predecessor , the evening train of Highflier and any coal chaldrons bound for the depot trundled down to Aberford solely under the power of gravity.

The need for rail communication evidently increased for in or shortly after 1881 Colonel F.C.T Gascoigne - after taking counsel's opinion as to whether it was legal for him to be running a railway at all! - acceded to the Aberfordians' wishes and inaugurated a Monday to Saturday service. A second-hand railway coach was purchased and with this the old days of freewheeling down to Aberford had to end, trains thereafter being steam-hauled in both directions. The coach had four compartments, one first- and three third-class, one of the latter designated a 'smoker'.

The colliery's third locomotive, Empress, was purchased in 1897, named in honour of Queen Victoria whose diamond jubilee it was that year.

With its tracks running in sight of the deer park and through the leafy glades of the Parlington estate the Fly Line was a railway of considerable charm, and few have evoked the spirit of the line more clearly than Mrs R Rayner, writing to the author in the late 1960s when his full length book on the line was in preparation:
'As a child of 7-9 years, my parents took me on at least two occasions, maybe three, on this train. Part of the day was spent at a Hay Day Festival, I don't think this was in Aberford - maybe in Barwick, but the high light to me was the ride. It was always beautiful weather and even now, when our local bus has to move close to the side of the road to let another vehicle have room to pass, and the branches of the trees brush against the windows, I am immediately taken back to the rides on that wonderful railway where it was always Spring.'

Hanning Wardle 0-4-0 Empress on the Aberford Railway c.1921.

Like many another rural line the Aberford Railway was to succumb to the motor-bus competition that proliferated in the years following the Great War. In December 1923 a 'Red and White' bus service began operating between Aberford and Leeds, followed shortly after by a rival 'Blue' service, and in March 1924 the Fly Line ceased to run.

The Aberford Railway continues in the recollections of the old, and talking with them it is clear how much the Fly Line became, latterly at least the focus for a day out as much as a means of transport. The line was in its heyday in the days of the plate camera and it lasted right into the period of the box Brownie; yet where are they now, those old photographs, one wonders? The present writer, contemplating a second edition of the history of the line, continues to hope that more hitherto unpublished material may yet turn up.


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