The Wensleydale Railway

Four days down, one to go, and my progress now had to be northward towards home. I had made a start on that by driving from Holt to Doncaster the night before, and I set out in the morning to head north again. However (not by chance!) my route passed right over the Wensleydale Railway at Leeming Bar, and I set out with plenty of time to catch the first train from there.

For a preserved railway, the Wensleydale is a bit different to the others I had visited on my holiday. For a start, it came about through local people wanting BR to re-instate a passenger service on a 22 mile freight-only line in the 1980s and early 1990s, and when that fell through they got their service by setting up their own railway which currently runs over 16 miles of the line. While they got the line more or less intact, they have subsidised the maintenence and development of the line in the past with freight services for the MOD, and have a rather different looking stocklist to older-established preserved railways as they have no steam locomotives of their own, and thus have to hire then in to attract tourists in the summer, with much use of diesels.

Some of this I knew in general from magazines before I went there, but there's no substitute for seeing things with my own eyes, and aided by good weather my day at the Wensleydale was a really good end to my holiday!

1. The signs in the car park. But I wasn't quite ready to go up onto the platform yet...


2. I took a picture of the station building, which the Wensleydale aren't using and thus presumably don't own...


3. ...and then a picture from the same place of the goods shed (which is their engine-shed) and a couple of coach ends.


4. Swinging round shows the view from the car park of the station yard at Leeming Bar, with a Class 03. a Class 20, and a JCB 3CIII visible.


5. Of course I moved closer and here is a picture of 03144, albeit with the visible side in shade.


6. I then used the zoom to take a picture of 20121, whose paint job and cab sides have clearly seen better days.


7. More zoom and the line clearly includes a Class 14 and another Class 20. More on those later!


8. Being a plant preservationist myself, I wasn't going to ignore the JCB 3CIII either, so here is a picture of AAO626T. With a flat front tyre, it is clearly restricted right now to back arm coal-loading activities, but I did hope that they would fix the tyre soon, as a 3CIII is a most useful machine for other activities and it wouldn't cost much.


9. Another view of AAO626T.


10. Onto the platform at Leeming Bar and here is the view in the Northallerton direction. The Wensleydale do not yet run services in that direction, but the line is intact all the way and gives them their main-line connection.


11. A closer view shows a parked industrial shunter with a small inspection trolley in front of it. The coaches beyond the level -crossing are parked there in lieu of a coach siding, and will be used later in the day.


12. Nice-looking MK2 coaches, but these ones are going nowhere for the foreseeable future as they are substituing for a station building!


13. More MK2 coaches, this time operational and waiting to form the first train of the day. Unlike older railways, the Wenleydale seem quite happy to paint some of their coaching stock in liveries of their own, but that isn't a problem when the paint job is as good as this and the livery well-chosen.


14. I walked up to the end of the platform for a look and as I did so 20121 was started. Shortly afterwards, it shunted the line-up I had seen from the car park into the good yard headshunt. However before it got far I was filming and this first image capture from that show Deltic 55019 and an almost unrecognisable 25313, which is obviously having a major cab re-build.


15. Next past my camcorder was 20166, which was the other one I had seen from the car park.


16. Not long after, the Class 14 was pushed past me and turned out to be D9516.


17. After a maroon coach came by, 20121 cames past me. The corroded cab and the faded BR blue paint job can be seen even better in this shot, but it seems to be in full working order!


18. And once 20121 had finished its shunt, I got a picture of it end-on using some zoom. The contents of the other station headshunt can be seen in the distance, the highlights being two more Class 47s and a DMU car propped up at one end!


19. So far I haven't even mentioned the motive power for my trip up the line, although to be fair I was distracted by the shunt movement seen in the last few pictures. So here is a picture prior to departure of 47715 on my train.


20. And a view on the other side, with a Wensleydale round crest on the cabside of 47715.


21. Departing Leeming Bar, with a view of the goods yard and the goods shed (=engine shed :-) A steam locomotive can be seen with smoke coming out of the chimney, but not too clearly at this distance.


22. My turn to pass 20121!


23. Not long after, I got a better chance to film 55019, although we were going fast enough by now to make this a less than perfect picture!


24. However we slowed down a bit quite quickly as there is a level-crossing a short distance outside the station area.


25. Not long after we reached Bedale station which has the twin virtues(?) of being on a tight bend and having a level-crossing just beyond!


26. After stopping in the station and waiting for the level-crossing gates to be closed against road traffic...


27. ...we continued on. In many ways the trip behind 47715 took me back three decades to when I toured the north of Scotland by rail, mostly on lines very like this one...


28. ...and often behind a Sulzer-powered locomotive too! Mind you, this one is a bit bigger and isn't in BR Blue.


29. One other odd thing about the Wensleydale Railway is that all their stations have a single platform and the trains pass at loops between stations. And after travelling some more, we got to a loop that is, operationally at least, the half-way point of the journey...


30. ...and waited. This loop is apparently at a place called Constable Burton, but I didn't know that at the time!


31. We didn't have to wait too long as the train we were due to pass came into sight and turned out to be a DMU.


32. The timetable indicated that the DMU had started from Leyburn earlier, had gone to the far end of the line, and was now heading for Leeming Bar, as the destination suggests.


33. However the DMU didn't just clatter on through, as it was necessary for it to stop to swop section tokens (or whatever equivalent the Wensleydale uses instead).


34. It set off again, and it can now just be seen that the Wensleydale seem to have painted this DMU in BR Blue. However the truth was more interesting than that - more on that later!


35. I've avoided indentifying this DMU as a Class 101 in the last few captions, despite it apparently being obvious, since it turned out that it was a bit of a hybrid! In order to make up a three-car DMU, the centre car from another type (probably a Class 117) is in the middle of a 2-car Class 101. This sort of thing was not unknown in BR days, with some depots more prone to this sort of thing than others, but it makes good sense in preservation since all surviving Class 101s lost their centre cars long before being preserved.


36. The reverse view of the DMU heading down the loop. The ends and the side closest to me had no insignia and really good paintwork suggesting that they had been newly re-painted.


37. I kept filming until the DMU went out of sight...


38. ...and then got on with filming the train I was on as it eased out of Constable Burton loop. First a view of 47715...


39. ...and also the reverse view of the train still in the loop.


40. Once out of the loop 47715 accelerated up to line speed heading for Leyburn...


41. Running a service over 16 miles adds up to a lot of pw work, but the Wensleydale seem to be coping with that as the track is well-ballasted and quite level, as can be seen in this picture.


42. And the line goes on! It felt more like being on a railtour whose ticket sales had falled short than a preserved line! (Fun either way! :-)


43. Approaching Leyburn station


44. Entering the platform at Leyburn.


45. A better view of the platform at Leyburn showing the blank wall of what I would guess was once the station goods shed.


46. Further up the platform is the station building itself, which in this case is 'open for business'!


47. However nice the station at Leyburn, it is still just another stop on the line operationally, and here is a view of 47715 heading onward again.


48. Beyond Leyburn the line has some very straight stretches. This one doesn't look level, but this view is very foreshortened and the track is fine when you're actually on the train!


49. Another straight stretch. Redmire can't be much further, surely?


50. And it wasn't. Here is a view of the round loop there as 47715 approached the station platform.


51. Journeys end!


52. Of course 47715 soon detached from the train...


53. ...headed past the sidings that have previously been used for MOD traffic...


54. ...down to the (current) end of the line...


55. ...back along the rounding loop..


56. ...and past me!


57. At this point I hopped back on the train and got filming again. As you do. Or as I do anyway!


58. A zoom view of 47715 approaching the Leyburn end of the Redmire loop.


59. While 47715 was reversing at the neck of the loop, I moved to the other end of the train and took a picture of the nearest thing the Wensleydale has to a station building - another MK2 coach on a separate piece of track. However it wasn't open for business that day and might still be a 'work in progress'.


60. Back to 47715, which was still rounding...


61. ..but which soon came towards the platform...


62. re-attach to the train.


63. On the way to Leyburn I was chatting to the staff on the train, so my next pictures are of 47715 ready to leave Leyburn...


64. ...departing...


65. ...and leaving me behind! I had decided to have lunch at Leyburn and catch the next train, which would pass 47715 at Constable Burton giving me more than enough time.


66. And I was ready and waiting when ex-GWR steam locomotive 5613 came into sight...


67. ...approached the platform...


68. ...came into the station...


69. ...and right up to the end of the platform.


70. On the other side of the line is evidence of what a primarily diesel line has to do to support seasonal steam operation - a newly installed water tank! It's a far cry from the huge structure I saw at Settle station on day 1, but fit for purpose, as the saying goes.


71. 5643 ready to depart.


72. On the way to Redmire behind 5643.


73. More fresh ballast! (I do hope they get a volume discount!)


74. A view I didn't get the first time I went past that day was of the Wensley level-crossing...


75. ... and of the former Wensley station. Presumably, like most of the station buildings along the line, it is not owned by the railway, but it would be nice to think that someday this station could be re-opened even as a small request stop.


76. On and on and on. This line is comparable in length to the Severn Valley Railway, but has a more local feel to it. I compared it earlier to the long single-track routes north of Inverness and the comparison is a fair one since they felt like that when I first travelled over them three decades ago.


77. Nearing Redmire again...


78. ...and here is a view of 5643 about to enter the station area.


79. And we've stopped!


80. 5643 heads off to round it's train...


81. ...and looks better with some zoom.


82. 5643 goes almost out od sight up at the end of the line...


83. ...but soon heads back along the loop...


84. ...and speeds past me like 47715 before it!


85. 5643 reversing at the station throat...


86. ...heading back to the train in the platform...


87. ...and approaching its train more slowly.


88. Coupled on...


89. and ready to go!


90. 5643 departing Redmire as viewed from the back of the train.


91. 5643 between Redmire and Leyburn.


92. Arriving at Leyburn


93. In Leyburn station again, for the third and last time that day.


94. 5643 between Leyburn and Constable Burton.


95. Unsurprisingly, 47715 was waiting for us to pass at Constable Burton loop.


96. A better view of 47715 at Constable Burton loop.


97. And the reverse view of the back of the MK2 coach set at Constable Burton loop.


98. A station I managed not to even notice on the way up behind 47715 was Finghall. It isn't very big, but I can't explain why! But it doesn't matter since I got this picture on the way back!


99. Between Finghall and Bedale.


100. There is a passing loop outside Bedale, but it doesn't appear to be needed for the current timetable. Useful to have though.


101. I was filming on the opposite side of the train when I passed Bedale the first time, so I missed filming the work being carried out on the signal-box there. Impressive, and obviously a working signal-box here will be an great improvement.


102. Bedale station has a short goods dock as a continuation of the station platform, which is something I haven't seen elsewhere. I don't expect that putting that back will be a very high priority for the Wensleydale but I do hope they keep it on the list, albeit near the bottom. I like a station with character!


103. A view of Bedale station platform.


104. 5643 departs from Bedale.


105. Arriving back at Leeming Bar I got a view of a wagon...


106. ...and 47540 in one of the station headshunts.


107. Moving to the other side I was only just in time to get another slightly blurred picture of 55019.


108. Further in I got a better view of the goods yard & loco shed area than I got on departure. In the earlier picture 5643 was visible, but in this picture ex-SR 30777 can be seen, which was the other steam locomotive used on the Wensleydale in the summer of 2011.


109. Also parked in the yard was the DMU I had filmed at Constable Burton. It doesn't look too stange from this angle...


110. but a squarer view shows that the re-paint has so far been to the ends and one side only. However this side has been rubbed down so clearly the re-paint is a 'work in progress'! :-)


111. A view of a wagon and the 'station building' coaches on the disconnected track at the back of the station platform. It's a pity they can't be moved, but the Wensleydale probably can't spare the pointwork and for the time being they don't need to be moved anyway.


112. Typically I took another picture of the parked stock in the two station headshunts, and as it came out well enough I couldn't leave it out!


113. I also took this picture of the nice signal-box at Leeming Bar. The Wensleydale doesn't have signals yet, but clearly they are 'on the list'!


114. Meanwhile 5643 had detached from the coaches...


115. ...shunted out of the platform...


116. ...out onto the level-crossing...


117. ...and ran through the loop to round its train.


118. One thing I missed when I first arrived was this Bedford road-rail lorry. I often tend to think of the 1980s as recent, but this lorry is actually about a quarter of a century old and is very worthy of preservation!


119. My last picture is taken from the level-crossing at the end of the station platform. 5643 has heading off for a second round-trip to Redmire, and it is time for me to re-join the A1, with the long drive home still to do... :-)


Click Here To Return To Jeff's Photo Album - A Great Escape!


These pages are owned and maintained by Jeffray Wotherspoon. The storage space for these pages is provided by the University Of Stirling, but it is in no way responsible for the contents of these pages. Please email me at if you have any questions, comments, problems etc.