Full steam ahead into the past for Middleton Railway

One of the old engines on Middleton Railway this weekend. Photo courtesy Middleton Railway facebook group

The world’s oldest working railway – a jewel in Leeds’ crown – celebrated 200 years of  steam by drawing in bumper crowds to a special event over the weekend.

Middleton Railway, which runs from its station in Moor Road, Hunslet, through to Middleton Park once pioneered the engines that powered the industrial revolution and established Britain’s place as the foremost economy in the world.

200 years on from the first time the commercial steam locomotive Salamanca trundled down its tracks, the volunteers at the railway held a special weekend with a fleet of engines from different eras on display as well as a host of other events.

A vintage bus ferried enthusiasts from Leeds train station and Leeds bus station to the Middleton Railway, taking in the sights. Organisers w2ere hoping to attract 1,000 people over the two days.

Middleton Railway Trust chariman Andrew Gill said:

“Thanks to all our volunteers and visitors today. We managed what we think is probably our busiest gala day ever with much less rain than expected and actually a reasonable amount of sun.”

Leeds Central Hilary Benn MP tweeted:

“Just been at Middleton Railway 200th anniversary celebrations. Lots of steam, coal, clanking and big crowds …congratulations to Andrew [Gill] and all the team. #leedsjewelinthecrown

Fellow tweeter Rob Greenland said:

“Great day @ #middletonrailway. Rounded off with a vintage bus tour of old industrial #leeds – Holbeck & around – where so many engines built.”

And one commenter on facebook added:

“We’ve been today with the family, had a fantastic time. You’ve all done really well and makes me proud to be a member of such a superb railway. It’s been wonderful to see such an array of engines working along side the Middleton fleet. “

John Blenkinsopp’s Salamanca trundled down its tracks at Middleton some 17 years before  Stephenson’s more famous Rocket, which most people wrongly think was the first steam locomotive in the world. Middleton Railway ferried coal from Middleton’s mines – the last of which closed in 1968 – into the River Aire near the city centre.

The railway has been run by a trust made up of volunteers since they took ownership of the line in the late 60s.