Continuing with this year’s theme of heritage railways, on Sunday I visited the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire. First established in 1867, the single track branch line from Keighley to Oxenhope is now a preserved railway, set in the 1950s.
When I bought my advance ticket online a week earlier, the long range weather forecast looked fair, and I decided it would be a perfect opportunity for a day out on the trains. My Day Rover ticket was discounted by 10% of the usual £18.00 on the day, to £16.20, and I received an email voucher to exchange for a ticket on the day. The forecast shifted as the week went on however, and it began to look as though I would be dodging rain showers by the Sunday.
Arriving at Oxenhope (the southernmost terminus of the line) well before 10am, I presented my voucher and picked up my rover ticket for the day. The first service out from Oxenhope was at 10.15, which gave me ample time to explore the exhibition shed, and the platform area with its cafe in an old Mk1 crimson & cream buffet car.
At 10.15 on the dot, our train of BR Mk1 maroon coaches hauled by a Midland 4F 0-6-0 No.43924 departed towards Keighley.
The first station on the line is Haworth, famous for the Brontë Parsonage Museum, and the nearby moorland walks to see the Brontë Waterfalls, Brontë Bridge and Top Withens (the inspiration for ‘Wuthering Heights’). Given the poor weather, I planned on staying with the railway and took some time to explore the attractive station building, with its small shop selling gifts, railway books & videos, and OO gauge model railway items.
The next leg of my station-hopping journey was on the 11.06 from Haworth to Oakworth, in BR Maroon 57ft suburban coaches pulled by 2-6-2T BR Ivatt class 2MT No.41241.
Oakworth is perhaps most famous for featuring in the 1970 film ‘The Railway Children’, and still retains a feel of its Edwardian splendour and how it would have looked between 1905-1914. Beyond the station, you can do a self-guided walk which takes in all the locations from the film.
The next hop was from Oakworth to Ingrow, and I checked the timetable for the next departure which was at 11.54. However, as the KWVR is single-track with only one passing loop near to the Damems request stop, there can only ever be two trains running. It appeared that the train I wanted to take to Ingrow was about to pass through Oakworth in the opposite direction, before returning a little later as the service I wanted.
Keen to maximise my travel time on the trains, I decided that rather than wait at Haworth until the 11.54 northbound, to catch the 11.15 southbound back to the start of the line at Oxenhope again, as it would eventually form the same service anyway! It also gave me a chance to watch the Midland 4F running round the loop at Oxenhope from one end of the train to the other to change direction.
Ingrow station building was actually transported and rebuilt here from nearby Foulridge in Lancashire, as the original station building had been demolished in the 1960s.
Ingrow is home to the two Rail Story Museums, a very short walk from the station building and with admission included in my Day Rover ticket. A nominal admission charge applies for other visitors. The Engine Shed (run by the Bahamas Locomotive Society) is housed in the former Midland Railway goods warehouse and tells the story of the steam locomotive. The Carriage Works (run by the Vintage Carriages Trust) is home to a variety of historic railway carriages, and also has a gift shop with an impressive range of railway books, videos and other railwayana. Guess which film I bought on DVD!
Following my visit to the museums, I caught the 12.48 service to Keighley, the northern terminus of the line. It’s a busy town, with plenty of shops and attractions beyond the station.
Keighley is also the interchange with the main railway network. Platforms 1&2 serve the main line, and a footbridge connects to platforms 3&4 which are used by the KWVR. Platform 4 has been wonderfully restored, with a fully glazed wrought-iron platform canopy. It has featured in many films and TV programmes – the most recent one I spotted was in an episode of ‘Peaky Blinders’ (season 1, Freddie and Ada planning to go away together). Platform 3 is only partially restored, and is used as the run-round loop for locomotives to change ends on the train.
After exploring Keighley station, I took the 13.30 service back to Oxenhope, arriving at 13.55 and just in time for the vintage bus service at 14.10 to Haworth, which was included in my day rover ticket. The bus tour travels along the Worth Valley for a few miles between Oxenhope and Haworth, affording some views of lovely scenery.
Finally, I got onto the 14.35 service with the Mk 1 63ft maroon carriages again from Haworth to Oxenhope, and stayed on this one for a couple of full runs of the line to Keighley and back, finishing the day back at Oxenhope at 16.10.
All in all, an enjoyable day out despite the inclement weather. On the day of my visit, the railway was operating its ‘Blue’ timetable worked by two steam locomotives. Total travel time end-to-end on the line is typically 25 minutes.