I got up early this Sunday warm morning (19th May) and walked down to the Middleton Railway. A 15 Minute walk from my flat. The Middleton Railway (in Hunslet) was firstbuilt as a colliery railway in 1758. To carry coal to the Staithes near the River Aire. Last year, on 24th June 2012 the railway celebrated the 200th anniversary of the world’s first revenue earning steam locomotive to run here .
Today, the railway carries enthusiasts and families on Saturdays (diesel) and Sundays (Steam) on a short journey 15 minutes to Park Halt. With many special fun days. Visit their website for more information.
The visit brought back memories of when I was a small child, on holidays getting the steam train from Leeds to Otley. We then carried our cases up Otley Chevin where our parents had a caravan. We often stayed the whole of the 6 weeks school holiday. My dad, who was working, had to travel back to Leeds every Monday morning leaving our Mum to look after us all, Dad returning Friday evening for another weekend at the Caravan. Sometimes we would travel in Dad’s car to the caravan, but it was not as much fun as going by train apart from carrying our suitcase up the Chevin.
I went many years ago to Middleton Railway for a steam fair and how things have changed. You can no longer walk onto the platform (without charge) you now go through the cafe and shop area to the ticket office where I paid £5.00 for a train ride to Park Halt, access to the train sheds and of course the platform.
I counted 17 trains in the sheds and many exhibits. All having a brief description of the engines. A couple of the engines had steps to the cockpit where small children can go in. There’s a sign saying watch out for oil and dirt; don’t get it on your clothes.
I waited on the platform for the first train of the day at 11am. There were many parents already there. Surprisingly more Mums with children rather than Dads. Maybe they were at home cooking the breakfast for there families’ return. Small children were making choo choo noises, so I’m sure they have been here before.
The station master told us to get onto the train as it was now leaving; we all got on board for the short journey to Park Halt.
The train passed a few rusting trains at the side of the track, and a few boilers with the same fate. Maybe they have all been stripped of parts to keep all the other engines in working order. To the delight of the children the train went through a tunnel & small children where making choo choo noises again. The train continued on its way past South Leeds Academy, John Charles Centre for Sport and South Leeds Stadium, home of the mighty Hunslet Hawks Rugby Team.
Park Halt is better than I can remember, last time getting off the train into a pile of mud, during spring visits. Now a proper concrete base, seating which looks like renovated train sleepers and plenty of waste bins, for all your drinks and rubbish.
I took the time to ask the Station Master whether the plans to run trains to the new café in the park would ever get the go ahead; he said that the council won’t pay for extra track etc. So that plan is on hold for the moment, it would have been a great idea, more revenue for the café & the Railway. I know at the moment the café does not open on a Saturday, but I’m sure this could change if the plans to run the trains there would also change. I also understand that a more powerful train would be needed to get up the inclines to the café.
Many of the passengers took the opportunity to have a walk in the woods and catch a later train back to Moor Road. I declined this opportunity, having done this many times before and got back onto the train 10 minutes after arriving, back to Moor Road where I started my journey.
As I left the platform into the sheds there was a guy in old costume ready to give a talk on Steam Trains.
Not bad a couple of hours for a lovely Sunday Morning. I’m sure I will be back again.
This article was written by Kenneth Ingram using our Community Reporters website