Leeds Northern Railway

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Bramhope Tunnel

The Leeds Northern Railway (LNR) was an English railway company that built and opened a line from Leeds to Stockton via Harrogate. In 1845 the Leeds & Thirsk Railway received permission for a line from Leeds to Thirsk, part of which opened in 1848, but problems building the Bramhope Tunnel delayed the service operating into Leeds until 1849.

The Leeds & Thirsk had changed its name to the Leeds Northern Railway before it opened a line to Stockton, formed an alliance with the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway and became involved in a price war with the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway (YN&BR). A merger of the YN&BR with the LNR and the nearby York & North Midland Railway was proposed, eventually accepted by LNR shareholders, and by Royal Assent on 31 July 1854 the three companies merged to become the North Eastern Railway.

Today, sections of the former Leeds Northern Railway line are used as part of the Harrogate line between Leeds and Harrogate, and the Northallerton to Stockton line.

Leeds & Thirsk Railway[edit]

Leeds Northern Railway
 ca. 1854 
Stockton and Hartlepool Railway
North Stockton
Stockton & Darlington Railway
to Middlesbrough
Viaduct over
River Tees
760 yd 
695 m 
West Rounton Gates
Northallerton Town
Great North of England Railway
to Darlington
Newby Wiske
Great North of England Railway
to York
Thirsk Town
Wormald Green
Nidd Bridge
East & West Yorkshire
Junction Railway
York & North Midland Railway
Bramhope Tunnel
3761 yd 
3439 m 
Leeds Wellington Street

In 1845 the provisional committee of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway submitted a private bill to Parliament seeking permission to build a railway, the same year as the Great North of England Railway (GNER) presented a competing bill for a line to Leeds from a junction with its line at Pilmoor. The GNER withdrew its bill after it was leased by the Newcastle & Darlington Junction Railway, then under the control of the railway financier George Hudson. The Leeds and Thirsk Railway Act received Royal Assent on 21 July 1845 and construction started on 20 October 1845.[1]

Mineral traffic was first carried between Ripon and Thirsk on 5 January 1848, and this section was officially opened on 31 May with public services starting on the following day. The section between Weeton and Wormald Green opened on 1 September and this was connected with the line at Ripon on 13 September.[2] Harrogate was served by a station at Starbeck (initially called Harrogate) in the Crimple Valley. The York & North Midland Railway had opened its Harrogate station in the centre of town at Brunswick, which was accessed via the Crimple Viaduct that the Leeds and Thirsk line passed under. Although the station at Brunswick was more convenient, the Leeds & Thirsk offered a shorter journey to Leeds from Starbeck.[3]

Extension to Leeds was delayed by problems during the construction of the 3,761-yard (3.439 km) long Bramhope tunnel. Large quantities of water had to be pumped out and there was a high number of fatalities amongst the men building the tunnel; a model of the northern portal as been placed as their memorial in Otley churchyard. The railway opened throughout on 9 July 1849 when three trains carried 2000 shareholders from Leeds to Thirsk and back. In Leeds a temporary terminus opened on Wellington Street, before services were accommodated at Leeds Central and then at the Midland Railway's Wellington station.[4][5]

Extension to Stockton[edit]

The Leeds & Thirsk presented a bill in 1845–46 for a line from Wath (later Melmerby) to join the Stockton & Hartlepool Railway at Billingham. However, under pressure from Hudson the route was changed so that the GNER would be used between Thirsk and Northallerton and this Act received Royal Assent on 16 July 1846. The Leeds and Thirsk returned later for permission for a direct line from Melmerby to Northallerton and this was approved on 22 July 1848.[6] The Leeds & Thirsk Railway received permission to change its name to the Leeds Northern Railway on 3 July 1851.[7][a]

The East & West Yorkshire Junction Railway (E&WYJR) began construction of a line from York to Knaresborough in 1847, opening to a temporary station at Hay Park Lane on 30 October 1848 before being taken over by the York & North Midland on 1 July 1851.[8] A Leeds Northern branch from Harrogate (now Starbeck) opened to Knaresborough on 4 August 1851,[9] and this was also served by the York & North Midland after completion of the E&WYJR viaduct over the River Nidd on 1 October 1851.[8]

North of the line between Leeds and Stockton passed under the York, Newcastle & Berwick line, the bridge having had to be built without interfering with the train service above.[10] At Yarm a 760 yards (690 m) viaduct, designed by Thomas Grainger and John Bourne of Edinburgh, was built across the River Tees.[11] The line was opened formally on 15 May 1852 and public traffic started on 2 June 1852. The Leeds Northern opened their own station a 12-mile (0.80 km) south of a junction with the Stockton to Hartlepool line; after the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway[b] diverted its services through this station in 1853 it was renamed North Stockton.[13] A joint station with the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) opened at Eaglescliffe on 25 January 1853. After crossing to the south of the station, the railways each had two tracks running through the station and a single island platform was built between them and one side used by S&DR trains, the other by the Leeds Northern. Rather than allow trains to approach the platform line from either direction, the Board of Trade inspecting officer ruled that trains approaching on a line without a platform must first pass through and then reverse into the platform line.[14]

North Eastern Railway[edit]

In 1852, after the Leeds Northern Railway had reached Stockton and made an alliance with the West Hartlepool Harbour & Railway, a price war broke out with the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway (YN&BR), the fare for 238 miles (383 km) between Leeds and Newcastle dropping to two shillings.[c] T.E. Harrison, who had become General Manager and Engineer of the YN&BR, looked at merger of the YN&BR with Leeds Northern and York & North Midland as the answer. With a proposal that the shares of the three companies remain separate, replaced by Berwick Capital Stock, York Capital Stock and Leeds Capital Stock, and dividends paid from pooled revenue, the agreement of the three boards was reached in November 1852. The deal was rejected by the shareholders of the Leeds Northern, who felt their seven per cent share of revenue too low; joint operation was agreed instead of a full merger and Harrison appointed General Manager. The benefits of this joint working allowed Harrison to raise the offer to the Leeds Northern shareholders and by Royal Assent on 31 July 1854 the three companies merged and became the North Eastern Railway; with 703  (1,131 km) route miles of line, becoming the largest railway company in the country.[16]

A curve connecting the line with the former GNER line at Northallerton was opened on 1 January 1856, and until 1901 Harrogate to Stockton trains were diverted via Thirsk and Northallerton, the line via Pickhill be operated as a branch.[17] The former Leeds Northern station at Northallerton closed that year.[18] The former Leeds Northern and York & North Midland lines in Harrogate were connected, the permission being given by an Act on 8 August 1859. The station at Brunswick was replaced by the current Harrogate railway station on a new line that branched from the Y&NMR line in town to the former Leeds Northern line north of Starbeck. Another new line, connecting from north of Pannal station to end of Crimple Viaduct, gave the former Leeds Northern line access to this station.[3]

As a result of the Railways Act 1921, on 1 January 1923 the North Eastern Railway became part of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). Britain's railways were nationalised on 1 January 1948 and the former York, Newcastle & Berwick lines were placed under the control of British Railways.[19]


Railways in Harrogate
Line to Northallerton
closed to passengers 1967
Hornbeam Park
opened 1992
to York
Crimple Viaduct
Line to Church Fenton
closed to passengers 1964
to Leeds

Today, the Harrogate line follows the former Leeds & Thirsk line from Leeds to Pannal and then joining the former Y&NMR line over the Crimple Viaduct. Services pass over the link between the 1882 Harrogate station and Starbeck station before taking the branch to Knaresborough and the E&WJR to York.[20]

The direct line between Pannal and Starbeck closed in 1951 and that between Melmerby and Thirsk closed in 1959.[21] The former Y&NMR line to Church Fenton closed on 6 January 1964 to passengers[22] and the Leeds Northern line from Starbeck to Northallerton closed to passengers in 1967, though a limited number of goods trains used this line to Ripon until 1969.[23] Hornbeam Park railway station opened in Harrogate in 1992.[24]

The line from Northallerton to Stockton is still open, and is used by passenger services from Middlesbrough and Saltburn to Manchester Airport and Darlington, as well as services between London King's Cross and Sunderland. Eighteen freight trains a day use the route to travel between the East Coast Main Line and Teesside and Tyneside.[25]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Sources differ on the date of this name change – Awdry (1990, p. 143) states 3 July 1851 whereas Tomlinson (1915, p. 511) states 8 August 1851, but Allen (1974, p. 100) says this happened in 1849.
  2. ^ The Hartlepool Harbour & Railway had been formed in 1853 by the merger of the Stockton & Hartlepool and Clarence railways.[12]
  3. ^ Two shillings in 1852 was worth about the same as £9.48 today.[15]


  1. ^ Hoole 1974, p. 100.
  2. ^ Hoole 1974, p. 101.
  3. ^ a b Hoole 1974, p. 104.
  4. ^ Hoole 1974, p. 101–102.
  5. ^ Allen 1974, p. 92.
  6. ^ Hoole 1974, pp. 100–101.
  7. ^ The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George Eyre and Andrew Strahan. 1851. p. 844. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Allen 1974, p. 100.
  9. ^ Awdry 1990, p. 143.
  10. ^ Allen 1974, p. 103.
  11. ^ Barlow, Rob (30 October 2008). "Yarm Viaduct". BBC. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  12. ^ Tomlinson 1915, p. 778.
  13. ^ Hoole 1974, p. 144.
  14. ^ Hoole 1974, pp. 126–127.
  15. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  16. ^ Allen 1974, pp. 105–107.
  17. ^ Allen 1974, p. 105.
  18. ^ Cobb 2006, p. 423–424.
  19. ^ Hedges 1981, pp. 88, 113–114.
  20. ^ Network Rail 2012, pp. 39–41.
  21. ^ Hoole 1974, p. 104–105.
  22. ^ Cobb 2006, p. 441.
  23. ^ Hoole 1974, p. 106.
  24. ^ Cobb 2006, p. 411.
  25. ^ Network Rail 2012, pp. 60–62.


External links[edit]