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Spen Valley Line

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spen Valley Line
Remains of a railway bridge over Mirfield Cut - - 790692.jpg
Remains of a railway bridge over Mirfield Cut
Other name(s)Mirfield and Low Moor railway
TerminiLow Moor
Opened18 July 1848 (1848-07-18) (Mirfield to Low Moor)
1 June 1869 (1869-06-01) (Heckmondwike to Thornhill)
OwnerLancashire & Yorkshire Railway
London & North Western Railway
London Midland and Scottish Railway
British Railways
Line length7 miles (11 km) (Mirfield to Low Moor)
2.5 miles (4 km) (Heckmondwike to Thornhill)
7.25 miles (12 km)Thornhill to Low Moor
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge

The Spen Valley Line (also known as the Mirfield and Low Moor railway)[1] was a railway that connected Mirfield with Low Moor through the Spen Valley in West Yorkshire, England. Opened up by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1847, with full opening to Low Moor in 1848, the line served a busy industrial and textile area (known as the Heavy Woollen District (HWD)) and allowed a connection for trains between Huddersfield and Bradford. The line was absorbed by the London & North Western Railway, the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) (on grouping) and British Railways on Nationalisation. A separate link between Heckmondwike Central and Thornhill that opened later and was known as the Ravensthorpe Branch, allowed through running to Wakefield and beyond. The line was closed down to passengers in 1965 with freight continuing sporadically until 1981. A Spur onto the former Leeds New Line from the Ravensthorpe Branch kept the very southern end open until the late 1980s. The majority of the route is now the Spen Valley Greenway cycle path.


The railway was first proposed by the West Riding Union Railway (WRUR), who submitted a bill to parliament in 1846 to build 45 miles (72 km) of railways around the south west of Bradford connecting with Halifax, Huddersfield and Mirfield.[2] The WRUR was absorbed by the Manchester & Leeds Railway, who in turn became a constituent of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway a year later. The railway's initial section between Mirfield and Cleckheaton Central opened in 1847, with full opening to Low Moor in July 1848.[2] However, it would be two years before through running was achieved from Low Moor into Bradford, so Low Moor acted as the northern terminus; delays in tunnelling under the hill at Bowling meant that the section to Bradford Exchange did not open until May 1850.[note 1][3]

The distance of the line extended to almost 7 miles (11 km) between the two points[4] with a small 2.5-mile (4 km) spur extending from Heckmondwike to Thornhill that had one intermediate station at Ravensthorpe.[5][6][note 2] This was part of the original WRUR bill passed in August 1846, but abandoned by the L&Y on grounds of cost. Because of the need to reverse at Mirfield to head towards the Wakefield direction, the 1846 plan for the line between Heckmondwike and Thornhill was re-submitted to parliament and approved. The line opened to traffic in June 1869.[7]

The line was double track throughout[8] with a triangular junction in the Low Moor area to allow trains to access the line west to Halifax. The topography of the line was fairly flat with the steepest gradient being a 1 in 100 north of Heckmondwike and the line only required two tunnels.[2] The spur between Heckmondwike and Thornhill cut 25 minutes from the journey time between Bradford and Wakefield and also reduced the congestion at Mirfield station. The spur line had a twelve-arch viaduct across the River Calder just east of Ravensthorpe Lower station.[5][note 3][9] The west facing curve at the northern end of the line was built by the Lancashire & Yorkshire railway in 1893 after an agreement in 1882 with the Great Northern Railway about the sharing of running powers. The L&Y used the agreement to prevent the GNR building a line through the Spen Valley which would have duplicated their route. The 1882 agreement provided the L&Y with access to GNR lines in the Wakefield and Pudsey areas. The GNR were, in return, afforded the ability to run trains from the Doncaster and Wakefield areas to Halifax either via Brighouse or Cleckheaton.[10]

The line lost its local passenger services in July 1965 and despite Low Moor being on a line that would stay open serving trains between Halifax and Bradford, it too closed completely.[note 4][11][12] In the 1980s, the West Riding Transport Museum, had intended to electrify the line between Low Moor and Heckmondwike to 1,500 volt Direct Current. This was so they could run a newly acquired Class 506 EMU on the line.[13] The course of the line is now a cycle and footpath named the Spen Valley Greenway. There have been proposals for the railway to re-open to provide a separate service from Bradford to Huddersfield or Wakefield,[14][15] however, the greenway that occupies the trackbed was dug up by Yorkshire Water in two stages during 2011 when a pipeline was installed.[16] This was preferable to crossing roads and other means of communications but has also meant that the prospect of re-opening the line to rail traffic is diminished as the cost of moving the pipeline was estimated at £15 million in 2011.[17]


From north west to south east;

The stations at Cleckheaton, Liversedge Heckmondwike and Northorpe opened in July 1848. Cleckheaton, Liversedge and Heckmondwike were later renamed in 1924 each having the suffix Central appended to their names to avoid confusion with Cleckheaton Spen, Liversedge Spen and Heckmondwike Spen stations on the Leeds New Line. Bairstow, writing in the Manchester and Leeds Railway, states that in the case of Cleckheaton, the term central was very appropriate for the Spen Valley Line station as the one on the Leeds New Line was quite far from the town.[18][19] Similarly, Northorpe and Ravensthorpe were renamed in 1924 by the LMS to avoid confusion with other stations in the same locations.[20]

Spen Valley Light Railway

In 1901, Parliamentary approval was granted to the Spen Valley Light Railway for the construction of nearly 19 miles (31 km) in the Spen Valley between Dewsbury, Cleckheaton, Thornhill and Heckmondwike.[21][22][23] This was actually a tramway and a subsidiary company was formed under the name Yorkshire Woollen District (YWD) to run trams on the network.[24]


A museum dedicated to the experience of passenger transport in West Yorkshire was built on the site of Low Moor station in 1995. It also had a small section of line that used the former trackbed of the Spen Valley Railway which the museum used to run trams up and down on. The museum failed to attract the visitor numbers that it had hoped for and closed down in 1997, just two years after opening.[25][26]

Spen Valley Greenway

Old Railway Tunnel
Old Railway Tunnel

In 1998, Sustrans acquired the trackbed and converted it into a greenway for people on foot or on pushbike.[27] The greenway is equally maintained by Sustrans and Kirklees Council, who between them, have tarmacked the route.[28] The greenway runs for 7 miles (11 km) on the former trackbed but the length of the route between Dewsbury and Low Moor extends to 8 miles (13 km) and is estimated to carry over 200,000 non-motorised journeys per year.[29][30] In 2007, the route won first prize for mobility in the European Greenway Awards.[31] The greenway has access to Low Moor railway station at its northern end as well as alternative routes into Bradford,[32] and at the southern end it connects into the Calder Valley Greenway.[33] It is part of National Cycle Route number 66 which runs between Manchester and Hull,[34] and has been furnished with a flock of metal Swaledale Sheep and a ring of metal hoops that the walker or biker goes under whilst navigating the route.[35][36][37]


  1. ^ Passengers to and from Bradford had to connect to Low Moor via an omnibus; the opening of the station at Bradford Exchange (known as Bradford L & Y in its early days) was reportedly met with "welcome relief" by passengers interchanging between the two destinations.
  2. ^ Trains Illustrated became Modern Railways in 1962.
  3. ^ The line was furnished with a new bridge in the early 1970s across the M62 motorway, though by then, it had closed to passengers.
  4. ^ Low Moor reopened to passengers in April 2017


  1. ^ Historic England. "Mirfield and Low Moor Railway (1373579)". PastScape. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Batty 1989, p. 25.
  3. ^ Batty 1989, p. 26.
  4. ^ "Mirfield to Low Moor (Cleckheaton Branch) 1847 - 1965". Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b Batty 1989, p. 65.
  6. ^ Ross, A M (May 1957). "Rail Tour of the West Riding I - A history of the Leeds & Bradford Lines". Trains Illustrated. Vol. 10 no. 104. p. 205.
  7. ^ Batty 1989, pp. 55–65.
  8. ^ Horsfall, Bill (2014). London Midland & Scottish; Britain's Greatest Railway. Bloomington: AuthorHouse UK. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-4969-8179-0.
  9. ^ Suggitt 2007, p. 66.
  10. ^ Bairstow, Martin (1999). The Great Northern Railway in the West Riding. Farsley: Bairstow. p. 71. ISBN 1-871944-19-8.
  11. ^ Body, Geoffrey (1989). Railways of the Eastern Region Volume 2: Northern Operating Area. Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens. p. 110. ISBN 1-85260-072-1.
  12. ^ "New £10.8m railway station opens in Bradford". BBC News. 2 April 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  13. ^ Slater, John, ed. (March 1985). "506 Saved". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 131 no. 1, 007. Surrey: Transport Press. p. 145. ISSN 0033-8923.
  14. ^ "OLD SPEN RAIL LINE COULD BE REOPENED". Spenborough Guardian. 17 April 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Light at the end of the tunnel?". The Yorkshire Post. 17 April 2003. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Greenway scheme wins top 'Oscar'". Batley & Birstall News. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  17. ^ "Low Moor railway station row". Spenborough Guardian. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  18. ^ Bairstow, Martin (1990). The Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester Railway; the Standedge Line (2 ed.). Halifax: Bairstow. p. 55. ISBN 1-871944-02-3.
  19. ^ Burgess, Neil (2014). The Lost Railways of Yorkshire's West Riding. Catrine: Stenlake. p. 68. ISBN 9781840336573.
  20. ^ Butt, R V J (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations. Yeovil: Patrick Stephens. p. 117. ISBN 1-85260-508-1.
  21. ^ Bosley, Peter (1990). Light railways in England and Wales. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 185. ISBN 9780719017582.
  22. ^ "Spen Valley Light Railway (Extensions),". Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  23. ^ "Spen Valley Light Railway, The Light Railways Act 1896, order of the Light Railway Commissioners authorising the construction of light railways from Ravensthorpe to Cleckheaton in the West Riding of the county of York". Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Nostalgia on Tuesday: Rise of the tram". The Yorkshire Post. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  25. ^ "The Low Moor Tramway Light Railway Order 1995". Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  26. ^ Cormack, John (March 1996). "Light Rail News - Trams Back at Bradford". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 142 no. 1, 139. London: IPC. p. 14. ISSN 0033-8923.
  27. ^ Clifford, Sally (18 March 2013). "A Green-Way to travel". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  28. ^ "Old lines never die…they just get recycled". 28 October 2015. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  29. ^ Hammond, Richard; Smith, Jeremy (2010). Great escapes : 500 unforgettable travel experiences. London: Rough Guides. p. 11. ISBN 978-1-84836-905-4.
  30. ^ "Greenway's final phase officially opened". Spenborough Guardian. 14 September 2007. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  31. ^ "Saddle up and join the chain gang". The Yorkshire Post. 26 December 2007. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  32. ^ "Forty years after rail station shut - new one is set to open". The Yorkshire Post. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  33. ^ "Spen Greenway". Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  34. ^ "Greenway cyclists". Spenborough Guardian. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  35. ^ Barron, Heather (16 February 2017). "Train treks: 6 walks and cycle routes along disused railway lines in the north". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  36. ^ "Discover the region's natural treasures on two wheels". Yorkshire Evening Post. 14 March 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  37. ^ "Scrap-metal sheep line cycle route". BBC News. 3 March 2003. Retrieved 10 September 2018.


  • Batty, Stephen (1989). Rail Centres: Leeds/Bradford. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1821-9.
  • Suggitt, Gordon (2007). Lost Railways of South & West Yorkshire. Newbury: Countryside Books. ISBN 978-1-84674-043-5.

External links

This page was last edited on 1 January 2019, at 23:24
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