2020 is the Middleton Railway's diamond jubilee year, but it is also the year of the coronavirus (COVID-19), and so the railway is not going to be able to open as it had originally planned.
To try to compensate for this, we will be putting up on this page photographs from our archives, showing key aspects of the Middleton Railway over that time.
Middleton Railway - serving the community for 60 years.
Track Work in Dartmouth Yard
Working on the track in Dartmouth Yard, with the aid of the steam crane.
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the Middleton Railway by volunteers and it has been operating every year since. In the early years this operation involved a lot of collaboration with Clayton Son & Co., who allowed the railway to use its Dartmouth Yard, on Garnet Road, as the operating headquarters. This picture illustrates part of this collaboration, in which some of the MRT's volunteers are doing maintenance work on the track in the yard, assisted by the Booth steam crane, which Clayton's had effectively donated to the railway.
The track on which they are working was commonly referred to as the "back road", and was where most of the MRT's stock at that time was stabled. The ex-LMS tool van and brake van had been shunted out onto the adjacent "middle road" to be clear of the track work. We do not have a precise date for the picture, but it may well have been some time in the Spring of 1962. Similarly, we can not definitely identify any of the volunteers, since they all had their backs to the camera, but it is quite likely that the person on the right, in the white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, is Fred Youell, who as well as being the founder chairman was also the civil engineer for the first few years.
Dartmouth Works and the Yard closed in 1983, and the MRT's headquarters moved to the present Moor Road site. The Dartmouth site was re-developed, and there is now almost no indication that the railway was ever here. The steam crane is now a static exhibit at the North end of the Moor Road site. The brake van is nearing the end of a long restoration, and while we had hoped that this might be completed during this anniversary year, we now can not predict whether this will be achieved.
The Newly-Repainted Sentinel
The Sentinel shortly after re-painting.
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the Middleton Railway by volunteers and it has been operating every year since. Its first steam locomotive was Sentinel No. 8837, which had been built in 1933 for the LNER, was withdrawn by British Railways early in the summer of 1961, and was acquired by the railway in September of that year. When it was acquired it was numbered Departmental Locomotive No. 54, and it carried the later version of the BR emblem, consisting of a lion (facing to the right) holding a wheel above a crown.
By the time that the locomotive arrived, its paintwork was beginning to look a bit tired. Also, there may have been some controversy about whether it was appropriate for it to still carry this emblem, now that it was no longer in BR service. Certainly on BR there was some controversy about the use of this version of the emblem in which the lion faced to the right, rather than to the left as originally designed. So, for some or all of these reasons, the decision was taken to repaint the locomotive in plain black, with just the number 54.
This picture was taken soon after it had been repainted. Subsequently the colour print of the picture had become rather battered, and following digitisation it has needed quite a lot of blemish removal. The location of the picture is the Dartmouth Yard of Clayton Son & Co., on Garnet Road, which was the location of the railway's headquarters until the works closed in 1983. The building in the background is their main works building, and the rest of the yard is full of steel stock and components. Judging by the angle, the photograph may well have been taken from over the wall which separated this yard from the neigbouring one of John King & Co. When the works closed the site was re-developed, and there is now almost no indication that the railway was ever here.
The Sentinel in Service
The Sentinel on a goods train crossing Moor Road.
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the Middleton Railway by volunteers and it has been operating every year since. In its first year all operations were handled by the historic diesel, Hunslet Engine Company No 1697, but in September 1961 a second locomotive was acquired, in the form of Sentinel No. 8837. This had been built in 1933 for the LNER, and had been withdrawn by British Railways earlier in the summer, by which time it was numbered Departmental Locomotive No. 54.
Unfortunately, we do not have any photographs of it actually arriving at the railway, and so this is one of the earliest photographs of it operating a train on the railway. It is hauling a goods train over the Moor Road level crossing, consisting of three 16-ton wagons and one 13-ton wagon. These will almost certainly be empty, and on their way to the yard of Robinson & Birdsell Ltd., to be loaded with scrap metal..
Once the Sentinel is back in traffic, which we hope will be later this year, it will be possible to take a fairly similar view, although the trees have grown a lot since this picture was taken, and there would now be our Engine House building in the background. Also, we do not have any 16-ton wagons in our collection. As for the boy in the foreground, who appears to be wearing a boiler suit and so may have been helping with the operation of the train, if anybody has any idea who he is then please do tell us.
Arrival of the Hand Crane
HE 1697 on the train bringing in the hand crane.
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the Middleton Railway by volunteers and it has been operating every year since. In the first few years it mainly operated goods trains, and this picture shows a rather special goods train, which ran on 5th May 1961. The first three wagons behind the locomotive are the set that made up the ex-Midland Railway hand crane, consisting of a match wagon (with a trestle to support the crane jib during travel), the crane itself, and then a runner wagon to provide adequate clearance behind the crane. The picture was taken by Chris Thornburn, who is probably the most long-standing member of the railway.
The locomotive is, of course, the historic diesel, Hunslet Engine Company No 1697, which had been built in 1932, and which is carrying its "John Alcock" name plates in honour of its designer. It is hauling the train up the Balm Road branch, towards Moor Road, and given the date we are fairly sure that the hand crane had just been delivered to the railway, and so was being worked up into Dartmouth Yard. This was an important acquisition, as at that time much of the railway's track was in fairly awful condition and so needed a lot of work doing to improve it. But track components are heavy, and having a crane - even just one that was worked by hand, as this one was - made the work a lot more manageable.
The location is between the Balm Road loop and the Beza Road level crossing, but the picture is looking towards Beza Road, and so away from the Moor End works of Clayton Son & Co. The footbridge over the railway that can be seen in the background to the picture was about where the level crossing for the service road into the City South Retail Park is now.
An Early Goods Train
HE 1697 on a goods train.
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the reopening of the Middleton Railway by volunteers and it has been operating every year since. In the first few years it mainly operated goods trains, and this picture shows a typical goods train from the early 1960s. The train consists of two 16-ton wagons loaded with scrap metal, on their way to Sheffield from the yard of Robinson & Birdsell Ltd., and between them 5 empty plate wagons, which had previously brought steel stock to the Dartmouth Yard of Clayton Son & Co.
The train is on the railway's Balm Road branch, and is being propelled gently down the gradient towards the interchange with British Railways at their Hunslet Down Goods Yard. Propulsion - and, more importantly, braking - is being provided by the historic diesel, Hunslet Engine Company No 1697, which had been built in 1932, and which is carrying its "John Alcock" name plates in honour of its designer.
The background to the picture is provided by the Moor End works of Clayton Son & Co., while the roadway in the foregound is Beza Road. This whole area has now changed almost out of recognition: Beza Road is now a properly made road, while Moor End works has disappeared, and the City South Retail Park built on its site. In modern terms the leading wagon of the train is just approaching the Balm Road Loop level crossing, which at that time was the site of a footbridge across the railway, but this is just off the edge of the picture.
Naming "John Alcock"
John Alcock unveiling the nameplate of HE 1697.
The first locomotive on the preserved Middleton Railway was the historic diesel locomotive, Hunslet Engine Company number 1697, which had been built in 1932. After a varied career this had finished up as a works shunter at the Hunslet Engine Company, and through the good offices of John Alcock, who was the managing director of the company, it was first loaned to the Middleton Railway, and then sold to us at a very favourable price.
In recognition of this the Middleton Railway named the locomotive John Alcock, and this picture shows the naming ceremony. This took place on 27th January 1961, almost certainly in the Dartmouth Yard of Clayton Son & Co. The name plate is being unveiled by John Alcock himself, with Fred Youell standing behind him. The vehicle behind the locomotive is the ex-LMS brake van M158760, which was being handed over to the railway by a representative of British Railways as part of the same ceremony.
Observant readers will notice that in this picture the locomotive is facing in the opposite direction from the picture below. The explanation of this is that at some time in late 1960 it had to go back to Hunslet's works for a few days for maintenance work, and somewhere in the course of this it was turned to face the opposite way round.
The First Trams in 1960
HE 1697, Swansea and Mumbles Car No. 2 and three trams in Dartmouth Yard.
This photo was taken on 16th July 1960, by Keith Terry, and is now in the archive collection of the Tramway Museum Society at Crich. We are grateful to them for permission to use it. It shows our historic diesel locomotive, Hunslet Engine Company number 1697 (built 1932), with the four passenger vehicles which by then were housed in the Dartmouth Yard of Clayton Son & Co., which was the railway's first operational headquarters.
Leeds City Tramways had only closed during the previous year, and so at this time there was almost as much focus on preserving trams as on preserving the Middleton Railway. Consequently, as well as the double deck coach Swansea & Mumbles No 2, the new society had already become home to three trams, which are shown here lined up behind it. In order, they are: Glasgow 1055 (previously Liverpool 869, and restored as this at Crich), Leeds 601 and Leeds 202. Both of the Leeds cars were subsequently damaged so badly by vandals that they had to be scrapped.
Dartmouth Yard, on Garnet Road, continued to be the headquarters of the Middleton Railway Trust until 1983, when Clayton Son & Co. closed their Dartmouth Works. The MRT then transferred its headquarters to its present Moor Road site.
A 1960 Passenger Train
The Swansea and Mumbles Car No. 2, with HE 1697.
This was the train formation that was used for the first week of services during the university Rag Week in June 1960, but with one important difference. For those services the locomotive was at the north (ie downhill) end of the coach, so that it propelled the train up the line, as shown in the picture below. Here, though, the locomotive is at the south (ie uphill) end of the coach, so that it would have been towing the train up the line. For this reason we think that this train was probably a special one, that was run for some group of enthusiasts, but we are not sure which group.
The location where the picture was taken still exists, but it now looks very different. The roadway in the foreground of the picture is the pavement of Burton Road, and the train has just been propelled up to the level crossing across that road. This level crossing still exists, because what had been Burton Road is now the entrance to our Moor Road site. The track was originally our main line towards the centre of Leeds, and it still runs across this roadway (just in front of our coal pile), and (since it now can not go any further) it forms the siding that is in our car park. The big Saxby and Farmer level crossing gatepost, which is on the left of the picture, has now been re-erected at the north end of the car park, just beyond the end of this siding.
The building that was behind the coach was one of a row of houses that were known as Carr Moor Side: they were all demolished in around 1970, during the preparations for the construction of the motorway (then the M1, but now the M621). If you were standing in this location now, looking in the same direction, then behind the train would be our main workshop building. Also, the track on which the train is standing no longer runs in a straight line: it bends to the right, between the workshops and the Engine House building (which is in a position where its north-west corner would be just on the left of the picture, a bit behind the gatepost). The track then curves back again round behind our platform, to rejoin its original alignment at the south end of our Moor Road yard.
The Original 1960 Passenger Train
The Swansea and Mumbles Car No. 2, with HE 1697, during the university Rag Week.
This picture shows one of the Middleton Railway's original passenger trains, following its preservation. These were run during the university Rag Week in 1960, starting on Monday 20th June. At this time the locomotive HE 1697 was still on loan to the railway, while the Swansea and Mumbles coach No. 2 had only arrived at the railway at the end of the previous week, as a train consisting of three separate wagon-loads, and had been re-assembled during the weekend. (Note that, while it might look like a tram, it was actually a double-decked coach, with railway wheels rather than tramway wheels.)
The photograph was almost certainly taken from the footpath which ran almost parallel to the railway. This had previously been the trackbed of what was technically the Middleton Light Railway: in other words, the Leeds City Tramways line which ran up through Middleton Woods to Middleton, and then continued round and down Belle Isle Road back towards the centre of town. This footpath still exists, although it is now a lot more overgrown, and the view towards the railway is now obscured by the hedges that were planted starting in the 1980s, to provide a form of fencing that would be more vandal-proof.
The land behind the train has changed sufficiently, partly as a result of the construction of the motorway (originally the M1, but now the M621), that it is difficult to tell precisely how far up the line the picture was taken. Our guess is that it was somewhere just south of where the Dartmouth Branch now joins the passenger line, having been re-aligned as part of the construction work for the motorway.
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