The Leeds - Cross Gates - Wetherby Railway Back to the Main Historical Society page
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The Leeds - Cross Gates - Wetherby Railway

from The Barwicker No.85
Mar. 2007

The Leeds - Wetherby Railway was opened on 1 May 1876, just over 50 years after the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company ran the first passenger trains drawn by steam engines on 27 September 1825.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of 2 May 1876 reported :
"The opening of the Leeds and Wetherby Railway. This branch was opened yesterday when MR CHAMBERLAIN and several other officials of the company went to Wetherby by train. Four passenger trains will run daily."
"The opening of the Leeds and Wetherby Railway. This branch was opened yesterday when MR CHAMBERLAIN and several other officials of the company went to Wetherby by train. Four passenger trains will run daily."
The 19th. century witnessed a revolution in railway engineering; for example the early use of short lengths of cast iron rails on stone blocks being superseded by malleable iron rails, which were five times longer.

In February 1846, the Leeds - York Railway Company gave notice to trustees of the Tadcaster and Halton Dial Turnpike Road of proposals for a railway line from Leeds - Cross Gates to Wetherby, crossing the Seacroft - Scholes/Barwick Road at Stanks, and the Tadcaster (York) Road at Whinmoor. The bridging of the latter raised the road level by some seven feet.

The York Herald, dated 5 May 1866, reported that the Leeds - Wetherby Railway Bill had been put before the Select Committee of the House of Commons for a single line to run from the Leeds and Selby branch, near Cross Gates , to the Church Fenton and Harrogate Branch at Wetherby. - a length of 10 miles 66 chains (10 and 1/4 miles). New capital to be raised was 210,000, with borrowing power of 70,000. The work was to be completed in five years, under penalty. Tenders for the project were invited in November 1871 and seven firms responded with bids varying form 84,255 to 134,522.

Parish Vestry minutes dated May 1875 recorded -

"Proposed Thomas Crosland, seconded by Jonathan Johnson - the purchase money arising from the sale of the land to the North Eastern Railway Company to be deposited in the Consuls".

Proposed by Thos. Robshaw, seconded by Benj. Dickinson, that the Rev. CH Hope and Thos. Crosland be appointed as trustees to invest the above money in the Consuls for the benefit of the ratepayers."

The line was dualled to two tracks in 1902, with a new, re-sited station at Wetherby, allowing NER to run through trains from Harrogate to the west through Leeds.

At a time when steam locomotion had become a reality, new tracks were being constructed by pick and shovel wielding gangs of navvies. (Navvy, derived from 'navigator', a builder of inland canal waterways.) A tough, hard-working breed of a somewhat unruly nature, they were a mixture of English, Scottish and Irish. The overall work force usually included miners, bricklayers, labourers, tunnellers and masons. It was c.1890s before steam-powered excavators came into general use in Britain.

Henry Shippen records in his booklet 'Memories of Old Scholes' that his grandfather was the landlord of the original public house (adjacent to the Barleycorn Inn) at a time when Irishmen, working on the railway frequented his pub. Described as a hefty fellow, Henry Shippen's grandfather was apparently more than capable of dealing with some of his more troublesome Irish customers.

The railway cutting west of Station Road would have been carved out of boulder clay, an impervious sticky material which is usually the remains of glacial activity. Clay was quarried for the products of the Scholes brickworks, at the side of the railway. The yellow clay was not very good for brick making in the Hoffman kiln; underlying blue clay and blue shale were more suitable materials.

The reconstruction of the deck and superstructure of the road bridge, near the station, was undertaken in the 1950s. The overnight sequence of these bridge works attracted an audience of several local residents who 'stayed up', most of the night to observe the floodlit operation.

In 1877, Isaac Chippindale (senior), acquired several acres of Scholes Plain Close on Wood Lane alongside the railway, to develop a brick and tile works, no doubt anticipating the provision of sidings for the transit of goods by rail.

Apparently, safety regulations did not permit this; the need to control the rail points would have been a major factor. In the event, bricks had to be transported to the station by horse and cart, and loaded onto the rail trucks. The heading on the Scholes Brickwork invoices includes the wording:
"On the New Railway midway between Leeds and Wetherby".

Scholes station was sited nearly mile from the village centre, at the time serving a limited population. Passenger numbers were however supplemented by Barwick residents, who used the train as commuter transport until a regular bus service was provided in Barwick in the mid 1900s.

Scholes Station c.1908

Geoff Hartley's article "Stepping out for the Trains" (the 'Barwicker' No.25) describes how he was one of more than 50 people , adults and schoolchildren, making the twice daily walk along Rakehill Road to Scholes station. He extols the pleasant nature of these journeys - the wayside bordered with hawthorn hedges and thickets of flowering shrubbery, seasonal wild flowers carpeting adjacent fields. Fred Thorpe took a more jaundiced view of these daily treks, often being admonished on arrival at school for having muddy shoes and then being detailed for physical training classes.

Scholes station included the station master's house, ticket office, waiting room, a wooden waiting shelter, on the opposite platform, and weigh house. Sidings and a coal staithe provided for the handling of goods and livestock. The railway cottages on Station Road accommodated the platelayer and porter staff, and the gatehouse on Stockheld Lane housed the level-crossing keeper. The station buildings of Scholes, Thorner, Bardsey and Collingham were of similar architectural design, being 'opposite handed' i.e. on differing sides of the track. Forecourts were enhanced by floral gardens and container planting. To encourage standards of maintenance , annual competitions were introduced in 1895 for the best-kept wayside station. Scholes gained a British Rail third prize in 1961 for Best Kept Station (Station Master Mr D.H. Reed); previously NER awarded Thorner First Prize in 1912 and 1913 for Best Kept Wayside Station; stationmaster - Chas. R. Broadwith. (Note: In the original article in The Barwicker the stationmaster's name was printed as Broadworth. We were notified by Mr. Broadwith's daughter, Mrs. Betina Gardner, who lives in Harrogate, of the error. We wish to thank Mrs. Gardner for drawing the error to our attention. The society values accuracy.)

Brief 'archive' records give:

Penda's way Station , with timber platforms, was opened in 1939 to serve the growing residential development in that area. A letter to the 'Skyrack' by Mr H. Harding of Swarcliffe recalls how his mother became station mistress of Penda's Way in 1943. Apparently regular passengers helped her to handle the heavy parcels and to release the baskets of homing pigeons, a task she evidently did not relish. The street party celebrations at the end of the war at Penda's Way were threatened by inclement weather and Mrs Harding 'saved the day' by opening up the down side (to Leeds) station waiting room to accommodate the partying revellers.

The first stationmaster at Scholes was Oliver Outhwaite see amendment who lived in the station house with his wife and eight children. Donald Reed succeeded Walter Greensmith in1961, serving as the last station master until the line closure to passenger traffic in January 1964. Goods traffic closed in April 1964. Mr Reed previously lived at Ilkley, employed for six years as a relief stationmaster, centred at Leeds, and working at a wide variety of locations within the Leeds operating area. Station staff in 1961 comprised two porters/signal men, later reduced to one person. An early c.1910 photo of the station shows a group of 4/5 staff on the railway platform.

Scholes , in common with many former NER stations, had what was known as a 'station coal sale', run by the stationmaster as a private concern, under licence from British Rail, for which an annual fee was paid. Following the line closure Mr Reed remained living in the station house, operating the coal business from the former goods yard until moving to live in Garforth. There he continued in the coal business until his retirement in December 1993.

Tenders were invited for the sale of 3.68 acres of the railway station land in March 1976. There was the benefit of planning permission for a viable commercial development of the station area. and medium term potential for residential development of the balance.

A 1940 LNER timetable schedules 13 trains daily (weekdays) from Scholes to Leeds City Station and 10 in the reverse direction, with stops at Penda's Way, Cross Gates, Osmondthorpe and Marsh Lane. During 1961-63, Newcastle - Liverpool diesel/electric express trains used this route, thus stopping trains were not exclusive users of the branch line. In the late 1940s it was possible to witness the spectacle of two express trains thundering past each other near the station. (Present day 1C225 electric Class 91 trains have a maximum speed of 140mph and weigh 85 tonnes.) 'Lotherton Hall', engine no.6954, one of the 329 locos. named after Halls, was used on the Great Western Railway between 1928 and the 1960s.

For a period a special train termed an autocar, having the engine between two passenger carriages made the midday return journeys from Leeds to Scholes. After waiting a suitable interval the autocar returned to Leeds, thus providing a lunch time commuter service. Many popular day excursions were made from Scholes, especially to coastal resorts including Bridlington, Scarborough, Blackpool and New Brighton.

Initially First , Second and Third Class compartments were provided ; second class was later withdrawn. Early Third Class accommodation was apparently of a primitive nature. A letter to the 'Selby Times', referring to passenger facilities in the 1836/37 period states: " the Leeds and Selby trains consisted of First, Second and Third Class carriages, the latter much like cattle trucks , open and unprotected overhead, with bare drab board seats, either crosswise or lengthwise of the carriage."

The Buffers in the 1980s.
Note the railway carriage used as a dining area.

Diesel engines were introduced on the Wetherby route c.1958, a side effect being the elimination of track side field fires caused by sparks from the steam engines. Fanned by a westerly wind the fires occasionally spread towards the Scholes Primary School and diverting the attention of inmates from their class work.

The Leeds- Wetherby railway, for 88 years, provided a valuable regional public transport service, not least a journey time of 20 minutes between Scholes and Leeds

Scholes station is now 'The Buffers' public house. The railway cottages and Stockhheld Lane gate crossing house are private dwellings and a homestead aptly named 'Beechings' occupies the site of the former Thorner station.

Department of Community Services, Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
D H Reed
Peter Styles


Amendment: In the original publication reproduced here, he was named as "William" Outhwaite. There has been an error in various publications concerning the name of the first station master. In the census of 1881 he is clearly shown as Oliver Outhwaite whereas all other publications name him as William Outhwaite, which we did in our original article. We are grateful to Simon Parker, the great,great grandson of Oliver Outhwaite for drawing our attention to this oft-repeated error.)
See the article on Oliver Outhwaite for further details.

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