DCSIMG

Miniature Leeds railway on the move

END OF THE LINE: Volunteer Gerald Barker.

END OF THE LINE: Volunteer Gerald Barker.

  • by Jonathan Brown
 

Thousands of people have taken memorable trips on a piece of meandering train track that was once the pride and joy of a late Leeds engineer.

The Abbey Light Railway, which ran from Kirkstall Abbey to Bridge Road, in Kirkstall, was the realisation of a childhood dream for Peter Lowe, who lectured in engineering at what is now Leeds Technology College.

But after the 77-year-old’s death in October, the quarter-mile narrow gauge railway closed and after a failed bid from volunteers to keep it going, the railway was sold.

Everything from the track, sleepers, railway bridge, turntable and shed are being dismantled before the railway’s 12 locomotives are taken down to the Welsh Highland Railway, in Porthmadog, on Friday.

Peter’s widow Jean, 77, from Cookridge, told the YEP: “It holds fond memories for me, it was Peter’s dream and we all fell in with it.”

She said the family’s “hands were tied” at having to sell the railway as it needed a lot of work and the insurance was up for renewal.

The railway, opened in 1976, used to run on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays all year.

Gerald Barker, 60, who has volunteered at the railway for 27 years, said: “It was an incredible experience, the chap who ran the railway was a wonderful guy and an excellent engineer.

“It was the camaraderie and meeting people from all walks of life that I enjoyed.”

He said the volunteers were initially told the railway would reopen in the spring but that never materialised.

Small teams of seven or eight volunteers have looked after the track ever since it opened.

FACTFILE

The Abbey Light Railway was set up in 1976 by engineer and railway enthusiast Peter Lowe.

The railway line, from Bridge Road to Kirkstall Abbey, was built from scratch by a dedicated group of volunteers.

The all-year round services on Sundays and bank holiday Mondays climaxed at the annual Kirkstall Festival, which takes place every summer.

A collection of 12 vintage, ex-industrial and military diesel, petrol and electric locomotives used to run on the line.

Ambitious plans to extend the railway emerged from Kirkstall Abbey to the Leeds Industrial Museum, at Armley Mills, in 2006, but it never materialised.

 

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