Minutes: 9th February 1996 - The Presidential Address: Mr Tim Wells: "The Middleton Railway"

Meeting held in the Alex Jacobson Room, St Catharine's College (Lent Term No.2)

18. Minutes

The minutes of the meeting held on Friday 24th January were approved after clarification of the passage dealing with tramway closures.

19. The Presidential Address: Mr Tim Wells: "The Middleton Railway"

The President began his talk by giving something of the history of the Middleton Railway. It was built by a pit-owner in order for his coal to reach Leads cheaply. This objective was achieved in 1758. In 1808, John Blenkinsop appeared on the scene and patented a rack and pinion system for the line. By 1812, steam traction had begun. That year also marked the first incidence of vandalism on the line. In 1835, the age of the steam locomotives meant that horse traction was reinstated until 1865, when steam traction resumed.

A hundred years later, the colliery was in decline. In 1958 the Colliery switched much of its traffic to road use. In 1959 the Leeds University Railway Society were looking for a small railway to run, and they took over part of the Middleton Railway, on condition that they continued to allow freight to reach the few remaining rail-connected industries on the line. They also offered short passenger rides, for which travellers were required to sign an indemnity certificate. A collection of preserved locomotives and trams was started, but after some vandalism to trams much of the collection moved to the new tramway museum in Derbyshire.

(At this point Mr Wells' talk was briefly interrupted by misbehaviour by the projector screen.)

The pit closed in 1968, and in 1970 the Middleton Railway bought the remainder of the line.

Mr Wells the gave a description of the line's operation as a preserved railway today. A new locomotive shed was completed last year, and there are plans to extend the line into Middleton Woods. The railway's locomotive fleet included some unusual examples. Number 385 was built in Germany to a Newcastle design for the Danish State railways, and "Sweet Pea", a reliable yard shunter, boasts a starting handle. Mr Wells also showed slides of not just Thomas the Tank Engine (who belongs to the East Lancashire Railway) but also Bertie the Bus (who belongs to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway) as well.

Mr Wells answered a number of questions, after which the Secretary gave a vote of thanks.

20. Announcements

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