The Fellsman By ARG Flickr

Steam Railways in the Yorkshire Dales

People love steam railways

People love steam railways, young or old. I don’t need to ask why because I love them to. The smells, the noise, the hissing steam, the sheer size and power of the massive engines, the warmth, privacy and cosiness of compartments. Not to mention the nostalgia among the older generations, harkening back to slower, easier, less-stressed times. And children can step back in time letting imaginations run wild.

All stuff that modern diesel or electric engines don’t do for you. They provide fast, efficient, comfortable transport. Steam engines provide a whole experience, pulling on the emotions and pounding your senses.

Private steam railways abound

There are privately owned steam railways all over the country and the Yorkshire Dales is no exception. They continue to be loved by locals and visitors alike, drawing people of all ages who want to enjoy the unique experience steam trains deliver. If you are in the Dales, you’ve got a great choice:

It started with cuts – the Beeching Axe

The UK’s rail network was drastically cut in the 1960s when the then Chairman of British Rail, Dr Beeching, produced two reports on the future of the railways in this country. To stem huge financial losses, 4,000 miles of line were closed by 1966 and another 2,000 miles by the end of the 1960s, along with thousands of stations.

The closures were controversial and sparked huge protests from local communities and enthusiasts. Many of these enthusiasts were determined to revive and continue the lines along with the steam engines that ran along them. So began the creation of private steam railways running along the lines Beeching’s cuts closed. There are now a large number of these throughout the country … and the Yorkshire Dales has it’s fair share. All are open to the public and offer regular services throughout the year along with specials for Easter, Christmas and on other holidays.

Steam Railways in the Yorkshire Dales

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway

Steam train at Haworth by David Dixon

Steam train at Haworth

Photo by David Dixon1

The line on which ‘The Railway Children’ was filmed and which has featured in many other movies and TV programmes. Cutting through the heart of Brontë Country you’ll enjoy a landscape which inspired authors Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

In addition to the normal daily schedule, the railway also organises special events throughout the year. Examples include the ‘Cream Teas with Old Gentlemen’ event, special Dining Trains, Fish and chip suppers, Steam Gala’s , an annual Beer & Music Festival and Santa Specials at Christmas.

More information: Visit The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway website

Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway

Embsay face engine by Dr Neil Clifton

A ‘face engine’ at Embsay Station

Photo by Dr Neil Clifton2

A volunteer-run Heritage Railway with running costs entirely met by enthusiasts and earnings. The Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway services run over part of the former Skipton-Ilkley line, closed in 1965 and rebuilt by the volunteers. The volunteers are hoping to extend the line to Skipton at some point.

Normal services run every Sunday in the winter and more regularly during the summer. Events include Easter Egg Specials, Strawberry specials, fish and chip specials, a 1940s weekend, Halloween Specials and, of course, Santa Specials at Christmas.

More information: Visit Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway website

The Fellsman – Steam trains on the Settle to Carlisle railway

The Fellsman train by ARG_Flickr

The Fellsman steam train

Photo by ARG_Flickr3

Not a steam railway as such, but steam trains that run along on the Settle to Carlisle line. This year, 2015, will be its 7th season. The train runs on Wednesdays and the Settle to Carlisle line is one of the UK’s most lovely railway journeys right through the Yorkshire Dales. You will enjoy magnificent scenery, cross huge viaducts, including the famous, 24-arch Ribblehead Viaduct which had such a human cost while being built, travel through tunnels and along dramatic valleys. After a 2 hour stop in Carlisle, the Fellsman returns along the same route.

More information: Visit Fellsman website

Wensleydale Railway

The Wensleydale Railway lost its passenger services in 1954 followed by almost half its route mileage by the early 1960s. The line carried on carrying limestone to the smelters on Teesside until 1992 when it shut apart from occasional use by the Ministry of Defence. The Wensleydale Railway Association eventually was able to take a 100 year lease on the 22 miles of line from Northallerton to Redmire.

The line reopened to passenger traffic in 2003 and more sections have been added since then with plans for even more in the future.

Specials include a Resident’s Day, a Teddy Bear’s Picnic, jazz evenings, a beer festival, literary events and, of course, a Santa Special.

More information: Visit Wensleydale Railway website


The North Yorkshire Moors Railway

18 miles of railway running through the North York Moors National Park. Voted Best Visitor Attraction winner 2007 & 2009 by the Moors & Coast Tourism Partnership, in addition to the normal services, a Pullman dining service operates at evenings and weekends throughout the year

More information: Visit North Yorks Moors Railway website

So there is plenty of steam engine action to choose from wherever you are in the Yorkshire Dales, and plenty of events to make the journey extra special. Relax, sink into nostalgia, and let your senses explode.

1 Photo by David Dixon
2 Photo by Dr Neil Clifton
3 Photo by ARG_Flickr
All photos licences for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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