The tracks of our years
It is 50 years since Dr Beeching swung his axe on Britain’s rail network signalling the end of train travel in the Spen Valley.
Since the last train trundled along Spen’s tracks, the area has often been referred to as the ‘Missing Link’ with rail passengers now having to travel to stations at Mirfield, Batley, Dewsbury or Brighouse.
This week we thought readers might like a glimpse back to the glory days of steam travel with these pictures from Norman Ellis’s Images of England - Spen Valley book.
Our first photograph shows the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway station at Heckmondwike around 1887. The Tudor-style building has low platforms and numerous posters on the walls. A year after this picture was taken a new station was built and the old one became goods offices.
The L&YR was the first of two companies to construct a line through the Spen Valley.
It opened in 1848 and ran from the Manchester and Leeds Railway at Mirfield to Low Moor and then to Bradford. The Spen Valley Greenway follows its route today.
Three of its stations were in Spen – at Heckmondwike, Liversedge and Cleckheaton. The Cleckheaton station was also completely rebuilt in the 1880s and a new station was built at Liversedge a decade later.
The photograph of the Liversedge station was taken around 1906 and shows part-glazed canopies abutting on to the local sandstone buildings. Beyond the signal cabin – with a wool, grain and general warehouse to its left – the lines start to fan out towards loading stages.
The last photograph shows the Cleckheaton L&YR station around 1904 which had an island platform, buildings down the centre and a ridge-and-furrow canopy with deep valances.
There was also an underpass leading to Railway Street. The station is now the site of Tesco.
In 1900 the London & North Western Railway opened a second line in Spen – what is now the Spen Valley Ringway – with stations at Heckmondwike, Liversedge, Gomersal and Cleckheaton. Known officially as the Heaton Lodge & Wortley Railway, it was dubbed the Leeds New Line, and was closed to passengers in 1953.
The L&YR closed to passengers in 1965, though freight trains did run for several more years.