Leeds nostalgia: Station with ‘rhubarb special’ came full circle

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In the concluding part of his look at the history of Bramley Railway Station, Denis Angood tells how the station fell foul of Beeching’s cuts and how, years later, it was revived…

he rise of trams was like the coming of the The passenger loss showed in the reduction of carriages from ten to five.

Whether it was the advent of the tramway system or the solvency of the railway the area prospered and building continued apace.

Station Parade, providing numerous shops to complement the corner shops of the Baths and Bramleys was completed along with the stations extending northwards towards the Rosemonts, Warrels and Henleys, giving the residents the option of shopping on Stanningley Road or Town Street

There was virtually no development south of the station but this was soon to change as land to the north became less available. Another factor in the equation was the movement of people out of the city as transport was easy, cheap and accessible. Bramley especially in the area of the station proved popular as it gave the choice of a quick journey into the city by train or a stop start journey with Leeds City Transport and as Leeds city centre began to become more commercial so the transport systems flourished.

In the station area extra facilities were provided for in the shape of a water tower, this being possible with the construction of the reservoir at the top of Beecroft Hill by Leeds Corporation.

The goods area was enhanced to provide more flexibility with regard to the advancement of motor transport. The coal depot was serviced by a number of companies as seen in advertisements in the Bramley Almanac, but eventually ended up in the hands of James Wood and Sons, until the demise of the station and the enforcement of smokeless zones.

Some of the goods were carried in the guards van, items such as live chickens among others, which were deposited on the platform and left for the station lads to pick up and deliver to the consignee.

A good many excursions also left Bramley on public holidays taking people to the east and west coasts, Blackpool and Scarborough being just two of the popular destinations.

The Great War then intervened in any further developments and little local history is written about this time, most of it about those who went to war and never returned, some of whom worked at Bramley Station.

After the war and the regrouping of the railways in 1923 little was altered except for the timetable, this due to the fact that fewer trains stopped at Bramley as passenger levels dropped, especially through the daytime.

Another factor may have been the improved service being offered by Leeds City Transport and their trams.

As the years passed I spent many a happy hour on Bramley station, sometimes getting underfoot but generally making myself useful, remember the fire, it was still burning and I used to feed coal when necessary

I became a dab hand at making tea, collecting tickets, slamming carriage doors, helping in the ticket office and occasionally ringing the bell to acknowledge the signalman in his box.

Jean Parker was the station master who I and my parents got to know as my father used the station every day to travel to and from work. The most evocative memory of those days is of standing on the footbridge whilst the steam engine passed underneath, the smell of smoke and steam and the blast of hot air - utter heaven to a young boy (and heaven to a lot of big boys today if they get the chance).

My father passed away and Bramley Station lost some of its magic for me. The magic was also disappearing for others as buses began to monopolise public transport, better designs providing more comfort, larger more powerful engines and most importantly flexibility to meet demand.

Buses are not limited to tracks and were ideal to serve the new developments on the outskirts of the city. Debates began about the financial state of British Railways as the whole system was now called after Nationalisation. This being so because they were now accountable to the whole nation and not just the shareholders of the big four (LMS, LNER,GWR, and SR).

Eventually the system came under the scrutiny of Dr Beeching and his axe fell rightly or wrongly upon many lines and stations.

One presumes his arguments held with the politicians, as there was no doubt that the railways as a whole were haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate and the fate of Bramley station was sealed.

In one sense Bramley was luckier than a lot of other places in that the line remained between Leeds and Bradford and it was just the intermediate stations the suffered demise. So it was in July 1966 Bramley Station closed its doors, the goods yard and coal yard survived for a few years but eventually the buildings were razed, the goods lines removed, the ground cleared and new fencing erected to protect the railway. The powers that be then began building a station called New Pudsey which became one of the first ‘park and ride’ stations.

Leeds City Transport disappeared under local government reorganisation with the West Yorkshire Transport Authority being created, which in turn became the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.

This new body had the remit to report on the provision of public transport in West Yorkshire and in its wisdom decided that there was a need for another station or stations on the Leeds Bradford line.

Several sites were discussed but the only place deemed suitable was Bramley. So history turned full circle and 129 years after the first train ran Bramley reopened, not a s a station but more as a passenger halt.

Passenger traffic has increased significantly over the years (as many as 50 alighting at Bramley off one train in the peak hour) with both foot and park and ride passengers increasing. Access to the ‘up’ platform remains the same as it used to be, through a gate from the level area but access to the ‘down’ platform is via a pathway to the south of the station below the still standing bridges.

No ticket office means tickets are either pre-purchased or paid for on the train.

Not many expresses used the line, but there was The Devonian, which ran from Bradford Exchange to Paignton in Devon up to the 1960s - this train did not call at Leeds but used the Wortley curve to join the London line at Copley Hill.

The Intercity 125 ran every day for a few years from Bradford to Kings Cross calling at Leeds, the driver swapped ends in Leeds. Even less frequent were the main line engines or Pacifics as their weight restricted them over some of the local lines, although I did once see a Gresley A4 pass through Bramley, a most uncommon occurrence.

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