All steamed up for a wallow in railway nostalgia

There are few more quintessentially English sights than a steam train winding its way along the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway through the stunning Yorkshire countryside.
PIC: Tony JohnsonPIC: Tony Johnson
PIC: Tony Johnson

The scene is largely unchanged from more than half a century ago when a steady stream of trains ran along the Skipton to Ilkley line each day. The gentle chug, however, stopped in 1965.

It was sacrificed as a result of the Beeching Act, which condemned more than 5,000 miles of Britain’s railway to closure, including this North Yorkshire stretch, which had carried locomotives along its tracks for 77 years.

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When British Railways pulled out, a group of determined volunteers set about ensuring that it didn’t fall into disrepair. Their efforts, together with a serious amount of man hours, proved fruitful and in 1981 the line between Bolton Abbey and Embsay was reopened as a heritage railway.

Today, visitors can ride the preserved four mile section of the track, wallowing in a little nostalgia en route. While some are content to sit back and relax, for rail enthusiasts there is a chance to inspect the line’s ex-industrial locomotives, the oldest of which was built in 1908.

From the ever popular Diesel Gala to the annual Harvest of Steam festival, the railway has a packed programme of events which all help to raise much needed money for their next project.

The volunteers currently have their eye on reopening the line to the west of Skipton. The easy bit is the track, which is already in existence, but the group must negotiate permission to run trains on part of the national network, as well as making sure their locomotives pass the relevant tests required.

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Before any passengers can jump aboard, they will also need to rebuild two platforms at Skipton’s station, which will be a test for the small army of volunteers. However, they have already shown that they are not put off by a little hard work and having already featured on BBC’s Great British Railway Journeys, there may yet be a return visit from self-confessed rail enthusiast Michael Portillo.

Tech details: Nikon D3s 70-200mm lens 500th @ f11, 400ISO