The Wensleydale Railway is a heritage railway in Wensleydale and Lower Swaledale in North Yorkshire, England. The line runs 22 miles (35 km) between Northallerton West station, about a fifteen-minute walk from Northallerton station on the East Coast Main Line, and Redmire.
Occasional freight services and excursions travel the full length of the line, and regular passenger services operate between Northallerton West and Redmire, a distance of 22 miles (35 km), comparable in length to the West Somerset Railway. The line formerly ran from Northallerton to Garsdale on the Settle-Carlisle Railway, but the track between Redmire and Garsdale has been lifted and several bridges and viaducts demolished.
On 26 June 1846, an Act of Parliament authorised the Great North of England Railway and its successor the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway to build a line between Northallerton and Bedale. The 5 1⁄2-mile (8.9 km) section between Northallerton and Leeming Lane opened on 6 March 1848. The section between Leeming Bar and Bedale that was authorised by the Act was not built.
The Bedale and Leyburn Railway, financed by local landowners, was a 11 1⁄2-mile (18.5 km) extension between Leeming Bar and Leyburn that was authorised on 4 August 1853; the section between Leeming Bar and Bedale station opened on 1 February 1855 and the remainder on 28 November 1855 for goods and minerals and 19 May 1856 for passengers. The York, Newcastle and Berwick had become a founder member of the North Eastern Railway (NER) on 31 July 1854, and the Bedale and Leyburn was absorbed into this larger company in 1859.
The Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle Junction Railway had been proposed in the mid-1840s railway mania to link Settle, Hawes and Askrigg, and in 1846 the Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne Junction Railway was given permission for a main line from Elslack, on the Leeds and Bradford Railway, to Scorton on the Richmond branch of the Great North of England Railway, and a branch line to Hawes, but this scheme failed.
In the late 1860s, several competing railways proposed to serve the agricultural land around Hawes. Eventually, an Act of Parliament raised by the Midland Railway that mostly related to the Settle and Carlisle line but included a branch off this line between Garsdale and Hawes was authorised on 16 July 1866. An Act of Parliament raised by the North Eastern Railway for a railway between Leyburn and Hawes was authorised on 4 July 1870. The section of this railway between Leyburn and Askrigg opened on 1 February 1877; the section between Askrigg and Hawes was opened for goods on 1 June 1878; the Hawes branch of the Settle and Carlisle line was opened for goods on 1 August 1878; the sections between Askrigg and Hawes and between Hawes and Garsdale were both opened for passengers on 1 October 1878.
At this point, there was a through route between Northallerton and Garsdale.
The line remained a single track branch line transporting milk and stone; the passenger service over the full length of the line finished on 26 April 1954. One passenger train each way was operated between Garsdale and Hawes until 14 March 1959 at which point this part of the line closed to all traffic. On 27 April 1964, the line between Redmire and Hawes closed completely. The track west of Redmire was lifted and many bridges on this section of the line were demolished in 1965. With the exception of goods trains serving the quarry near Redmire until 1992, freight traffic on the line ceased in 1982. Some excursion tours ran to Redmire in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
The Wensleydale Railway Association (WRA) was formed in 1990 with the main aim of restoring passenger services. When British Rail decided to try to sell the line between Northallerton and Redmire following cessation of the quarry trains to Redmire, the WRA decided to take a more proactive role and aimed to operate passenger services itself. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had an interest in using the line between Northallerton and Redmire to transport armoured vehicles to/from Catterick Garrison. The MoD paid for repairs and restoration of the line and the installation of loading facilities at Redmire, and did not object to WRC taking over the line. A trial train ran in November 1993 and full MoD operations started in July 1996. These military transport trains continue to this day.
In 2000 WRA formed a separate operating company, the Wensleydale Railway plc (WRC), and issued a share offer to raise funds. £1.2 million was raised through this method. Railtrack agreed to lease the line between Northallerton and Redmire to WRC and a 99-year lease was signed in 2003. Passenger services restarted on 4 July 2003 with the stations at Leeming Bar and Leyburn being reopened. In 2004, the stations at Bedale, Finghall and Redmire were reopened and in 2014, a station was built at Northallerton West. Then in 2010 a passing loop was opened at the site of the former Constable Burton station, which enabled the railway to introduce a 2-train service when required. In 2016 it was reported that the railway carries over 50,000 people a year and that for every £1 spent on the railway, £4 is spent at one of the towns or villages on the route.
The company's longer-term aim is to reopen the 18 miles (29 km) of line west from Redmire via Castle Bolton, Aysgarth, Askrigg, Bainbridge, Hawes and Mossdale to join up with the Settle-Carlisle Railway Route at Garsdale.
The Wensleydale Railway plc is responsible for the operation, maintenance and development of the railway line and passenger services. The company has a mixture of employed and volunteer staff.
The Wensleydale Railway Association (Trust) Ltd is a membership organisation and a registered charity that supports the development of the railway through fund raising, volunteer working, providing training and supporting work on heritage structures such as Scruton Station and Bedale signalbox.Steam locomotives
Other steam locomotives that have visited the Wensleydale Railway have been: Standard 4 Tank No. 80105, King Arthur class No. 30777 Sir Lamiel, 56xx class No. 5643, Class A4 No. 4464 Bittern, Class K4 No. 61994 The Great Marquess and Class K1 No. 62005.Diesel locomotives
Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs)
BR Class 101 unit 51210+53746, 101678 (awaiting restoration)
BR Class 101 unit 50256+56343 (undergoing repair)
BR Class 108 unit 51572+56274 (awaiting restoration)
BR Class 117 cars 51400+59509 (in Service) and 59500 (stored)
BR Class 121 unit 121032, 55032 (in service)
BREL Experimental Railbus, LEV 1 RDB975874 (awaiting repair)
BR Class 117 DMBS 51353 is owned by the Leeming Bar Residents Association, and is being converted into a static community centre.
Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs)
BR Class 422 buffet coach 69335, ex-unit 2209 (static buffet)