Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway

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Coordinates: 53°58′30″N 1°59′28″W / 53.975°N 1.991°W / 53.975; -1.991

Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
Embsay station
Locale Embsay, North Yorkshire, England
Terminus Embsay
Commercial operations
Name Skipton to Ilkley Line
Built by Midland Railway
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated by Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
Stations 3
Length 4 miles (6 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened 1888
Closed 1965
Preservation history
1968 Railway Preservation Society formed
1979 Embsay railway station re-opened
1981 Railway line re-opens officially
1982 DMU special operated skipton to embsay (prior to embsay JCT removal)
1986 Embsay railway station (then footbridgeless) appeared in Yorkshire Television sitcom In Loving Memory.
1987 Holywell Halt opens
1988 Embsay railway station celebrated 100 years of the station itself.
1991 Heritage line re-opens to and Stoneacre opens.
1995 Price & Ownership for Bolton Abbey extension project agreed.
1997 Trains return to Bolton Abbey
1998 Bolton Abbey railway station re-opens officially.
1999 Heritage Railway awarded in National Railway Heritage Awards.
2011 E&BASR Granted by Heritage Lottery Fund to and for electric autocar restoration
Headquarters Embsay
Embsay & Bolton Abbey
Steam Railway
Leeds to Morecambe Line
Airedale Line
Yorkshire Dales Railway
Bow Bridge sidings
Holywell Halt
UK road A59.PNG
Stoneacre Loop
Bolton Abbey
Wharfedale Line

The Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway (E&BASR) is a heritage railway in North Yorkshire, England, formed in 1979 and opened in 1981.

The preserved railway was part of the former Midland Railway route from Skipton to Ilkley which was closed down by British Railways in 1965 over 15 years before the reopening of part of the line.

The E&BASR currently runs for a total distance of 4 miles (6 km) from Embsay via Draughton Sidings, Holywell and Stoneacre Loop to Bolton Abbey station and carries around 100,000 passengers a year.[1]

The long-term objectives of the railway are extensions of the line in both directions, eastwards to the West Yorkshire village of Addingham and southwest towards the North Yorkshire market town of Skipton.[2][3]


The rolling stock on the line consists of 20 ex-industrial locomotives, the oldest of which was built in 1908, three diesel-multiple units, and ten other diesel locomotives. The railway holds annual galas including the popular Diesel Gala and the Harvest of Steam.

Embsay railway station was built in 1888. Bolton Abbey village is named after a nearby ruined 12th century priory, belonging to the Dukes of Devonshire.

The route was formerly part of the Midland Railway line that connected Skipton and Ilkley via Addingham. The line was shut down by British Railways in 1965 and was left to fall in disrepair. Around 14 years after closure, a group of volunteers put forward a plan in 1979 to reopen the line as a preservation route. This plan went ahead and Embsay railway station was refurbished throughout the second half of the 1970s and reopened in 1981.

To the west of Embsay station, a run-around loop for locomotives was built near the site of the former Embsay Junction, which was disconnected when the line closed.

By 1987 further extensions brought the line to a newly constructed halt at Holywell and later to Stoneacre Loop. Bolton Abbey railway station finally reopened in 1998, bringing the current total of over 4 miles in length.

Expansion plans[edit]

Extension to Addingham and Ilkley[edit]

As the original line stretched from the North Yorkshire market town of Skipton to the West Yorkshire spa town of Ilkley, there was talk of extending the re-opened track to cover the original extent prior to its closure by British Railways in 1965.

Taking the line to Addingham and re-opening Addingham is often mentioned as a potential project but the line's owners have stated that they intend to consolidate the current route instead.[4]

An extension to Addingham would be a huge project, and would involve a near-doubling of the line's current length. Previous extensions have been built in small sections over a long period of time, so a re-opening of the line to Addingham would be many years off.

However Sustrans are interested in converting the route into a cycle path, but would provide formation space for a single track allowing any extension to be built.[5]

The Addingham extension could start off as an extension to a possible halt Wharfe Riverside located near the hamlet of Bolton Bridge[clarification needed]), before Addingham could be considered officially.

The embankment supporting Addingham railway station, goods yard and depot was removed and replaced in the 1980s with a housing development, with the bridge and abutments over the main road demolished at around the same time.

There are plans to rebuild one of the bridge abutments at the end of the surviving embankment to the north as part of the Addingham Project which also involves constructing a replica LMS style station, goods yard and depot on the extra land next to and at the edge of the embankment.

These would be over the main road from the now defunct former station and goods depot. Funds would need to be collected for 10 to 15 years before any project of this extent could be realised.

Much of the route between Addingham and Ilkley has been re-developed since abandonment. Cuttings have been filled in and Ilkley viaduct was demolished in 1973, six years before the E&BSR re-opened.

The Skipton platforms at Ilkley station now form the station's car park, and there has been significant building development in Ilkley town centre on the former trackbed. Therefore, it is unlikely that this section will be reinstated as preserving the whole line between Ilkley and Skipton was considered too expensive.

Connection to Skipton station[edit]

There is currently no link between the Heritage line and the Network Rail branch line to Swinden Quarry (the former Yorkshire Dales Railway), the points at this site having been dismantled. Re-instating this link would allow trains to serve Skipton station, and would potentially offer greater access to the railway.[6]

The platforms at Skipton (5 & 6) that served the Ilkley route were made redundant in 1965. If this link were reinstated these platforms would require a rebuild as they have been disused for a very long time.

In 1982 there were plans to extend the line to Skipton, as a special DMU service was running at the time.[citation needed] Because British Rail still used the section between the two stations for its operations to Swinden Quarry (this section of the old branch line to Grassington was and is still part of the rail network), plans were dropped, stating that operating as far as Skipton whilst sharing the line with the goods operation was too problematic.

Network Rail has carried out a survey for the reinstatement of the connecting points between the Heritage line at Embsay and the freight line to Rylstone, and the reinstatement of the two platforms 5 and 6 at Skipton. The cost has been estimated to be between £1.1  million and £2.6 million.[6] If funding is made available, then the line could be extended.[7] JMP Consulting has been commissioned to develop a business case for the project[6]

Media appearances[edit]

In 1986 Embsay railway station which had no footbridge at that time appeared in an episode of the final series of the Yorkshire Television sitcom In Loving Memory as the fictional Oldshaw railway station, in which Ernie Hadfield (Colin Farrell) accidentally led the group on a short cut over the track, resulting in a coffin becoming stuck on the trackbed, which is then crushed by an oncoming train, carrying the deceased from the coffin in front.

The railway was also the filming location of an episode of Emmerdale (also a Yorkshire Television programme). In the episode, Embsay station was made to look like the fictional Hotten station. Many of the shows's well-known characters were at the filming. The episode was filmed in December 2004.[8]

The railway has also appeared on the BBC Television documentary programme (Great British Railway Journeys) presented by Michael Portillo.

The route of the E&BASR[edit]

The line runs through the countryside of the Yorkshire Dales in the county council area of North Yorkshire.

The railway has helped and supported the surrounding area (and local economy) to regenerate and provide brand new attractions, boosting both trade and tourism.

  • Skipton platforms 5 & 6 (proposed). One of two long-term objectives (since 2000), the proposed northern terminus of the line to interchange with Northern train services on the nearby Airedale Line.
Haw Bank Tunnel. The 220yd long railway tunnel, located en-route between Skipton station and Embsay Junction.
Embsay Junction. Located close to Embsay station and connects to the Rylstone line (section of the former Grassington Branch).
  • Embsay. Re-opened in 1981, restored to its former LMS condition. The current terminus of the line. Facilities include booking office, waiting room, toilets and souvenir shop.
  • Draughton (proposed). In the old days of the Midland (later LMS) Railway, there were once plans to build a little halt called Draughton, at the siding, "marking where it was to be built but never had".
  • Holywell. Opened in 1987 to view Craven Fault.
Stoneacre. Run-round loop en-route along the line.
  • Bolton Abbey. Current terminus of the line. Facilities include booking office, waiting room, toilets, a souvenir shop and tearoom
  • Addingham (proposed). One of two long-term objectives. The original railway station and goods site have long since been demolished and redeveloped, although the trackbed between Bolton Abbey and Addingham still exists.

Steam Locomotives[edit]

The railway has a large collection of industrial steam engines, mixing between Austerity tanks to industrials and even locos of the big four.

Operational Steam Locomotives[edit]

  • RSH 0-6-0ST No. 47 Moorbarrow built in 1955.
  • Hunslet 16 0-6-0ST Beatrice No. 2705 built in 1945. Returned to steam in 2012 after a long overhaul.
  • GWR 5600 Class 0-6-2T No. 5643 built in 1925. Owned by the Furness Railway Trust and on loan from the Ribble Steam Railway.
  • Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST No. 68005 Norman built in 1943. On loan from Southern Locomotives Limited at the Swanage Railway.

Locos under overhaul or restoration[edit]

  • Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST No 22 built in 1952. the frames are complete, the boiler is undergoing work the new firebox is ready for fitting. A new tank has also been made.
  • Peckett 0-4-0ST No 1159 "Annie" built in 1908. Undergoing overhaul, frames rewheeled new axle boxes and horn guides fabricated and fitted. Boiler back at Embsay.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No S112 "Revenge". built in 1942. Undergoing overhaul, the chassis have been completed and boiler work has now started, there is no completion date as of yet.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No 3715 S121 "Primrose" built in 1952. Under overhaul. The boiler has had a new firebox fitted but the frames require more work than previously thought not much happening recently.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No 1208 "Illingworth" built in 1916. frames re-wheeled and motion refitted. Boiler work underway.


  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No 1 "N.C.B. Monckton No.1" built in 1953. Withdrawn 2009, requires new inner firebox.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No 1450 "Thomas" built in 1922. Awaiting overhaul, withdrawn August 2010.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T No 140 built in 1948. Withdrawn in 2008.
  • Yorkshire Engine Company 0-4-0ST No 1 "York" built in 1949. Out of use. New owner has been found and work is to start soon.
  • RSH 0-4-0ST No 2. Awaiting major restoration but there are plans for it to have one once work has been completed on other locomotives first.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No 69 built in 1953. Possible candidate for overhaul decent boiler but mechanically poor.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No S134 "Wheldale" built in 1944. Stored on static display at Bolton Abbey Station.
  • Sentinel 0-4-0 No 7232 "Ann" built in 1927. Stored on static display at Bolton Abbey Station.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No 8 "Warspite" built in 1952. Stored awaiting overhaul.
  • Hunslet 0-6-0ST No 1440 "Airedale" built in 1923. Stored awaiting restoration. A new bunker has already been constructed.

Off site[edit]

  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No 5 "Slough Estates" built in 1939. At Scunthorpe for restoration. Once overhauled it will return to Embsay.

Diesel Locomotives[edit]

Operational Diesel Locomotives[edit]

  • Ruston & Hornsby 4wDM No 887. Operating and sometimes shunts at Embsay.
  • Andrew Barclay 0-4-0DM No 2 "Meaford". Operational and a regular shunter at Embsay.
  • Vulcan Drewry Class 04 0-6-0 No D2203. Operational and a regular shunter at Embsay.
  • BR 0-6-0 Class 08 No 08773. Green . Operational and a regular shunter at Embsay.
  • BR A1A-A1A Class 31 No 31119. Operational and in use on diesel services.
  • BR Class 37 37294 has left storage in Crewe and is now at the railway where it will be assessed and then repainted which has now been completed. Operational.

Undergoing repair, overhaul or restoration[edit]

  • Fowler 0-4-0 No 4100003 "H.W. Robinson. Is having a gearbox replacement and bodywork overhaul.
  • BR 0-6-0 Class 14 No D9513. Nearing the end of a major overhaul. Now back in traffic working as a standby engine.
  • BR 0-6-0 British Rail Class 08 No 08054. br blue. Recently arrived from Swinden Quarry and donated by Tarmac. Requires engine work.


  • Fowler 0-4-0 No 4200003. Requires extensive restoration, presently stored at Bolton Abbey, work will start once No. 36 is complete.
  • Baguley Drewry 4w "The Bug/Clockwork Orange". Requires an engine and bodywork replacement, one day it will be restored.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 No 36

Vintage carriages[edit]

    • MR Corridor Third No 238 built in 1922. The coach body is being restored and new bogies have arrived which are waiting to be fitted, planned to be restored to LMS condition eventually.
    • MR Corridor Third No 241 built in 1922. Awaiting restoration, planned to be made available for service asap.
    • ECJS Clerestory (Body:now on Gresley) No 189. Built in 1894. The oldest dining car in existence, currently away at Doncaster for its riding height to be corrected.
    • GER 6w Family Saloon No 8 built in 1877. Currently awaiting restoration, the railway currently has the body and the underframe at the moment, in good condition so it won't have to wait much longer for its restoration to start, planned to be restored to its original teak livery.
    • GER 6w Saloon No 14 built in 1899. Body rebuilt in 2004 and restored to original teak livery, used regularly on the Stately Trains and carries passengers.
    • GER 6w Family Saloon No 37 built in 1897. Operational and used regularly on the Stately Train services, was repainted into teak livery in 2005.
    • GNSR 6w Saloon No 34 built in 1896. Operational and used regularly on the Stately Train services, painted in red and white livery, the only Scottish coach operating in England.
    • LYR Directors Saloon No 1 built in 1906. Is used regularly on normal passenger trains and Stately Trains. Currently visiting the National Railway Museum For 1 year for use on their demonstration line.
    • LNWR Directors Saloon No 1318, built in 1913. Currently being restored, is finished externally and work on the interior is progressing, due back into traffic for the steam gala.
    • LSWR Queen Victoria's Saloon No ? built in 18??. Awaiting restoration which is due to start once all the current projects are finished.



  1. ^ "Steam railway with a future". Craven Herald. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway chiefs put case for Skipton rail link to ministers.". Craven Herald. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Embsay Railway's bid to re-establish link to Skipton is still on track". Ilkley Gazette. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway History
  5. ^ Bolton Abbey to Addingham
  6. ^ a b c "Formal study planned for Bolton Abbey-Skipton link". Rail (647). 30 June 2010. p. 15. 
  7. ^ Today's Railways. No. 86.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Emmerdale filming pictures

External links[edit]