The Railways

Clayton and Queensbury Lines


During the late 1860's a group of businessmen, notably Fosters of Queensbury, privately sponsored a scheme for a railway line between Bradford and Thornton via Clayton and Queensbury. Henry Nelson a Leeds solicitor drafted a bill for submission to Parliament during the 1870 session. The bill was passed and sanctioned as the" Bradford and Thornton Railway Act". Interest was shown by The Great Northern and the Midland Railway Companies. Realising the possibility of linking the new scheme with the Halifax / Ovenden line via a tunnel under Queensbury, the Great Northern took up the contract in 1871. The contractors for the line were Messrs Benson and Woodiwiss who had been involved in building the Settle Carlisle line. Work started in 1874. The line from Bradford Exchange travelled via St Dunstans, Manchester Road, (prematurely closed in 1926), Horton Park, Gt Horton, Clayton, Queensbury to Thornton. The line to Keighley had been abandoned at this point in time, due to engineering difficulties. Great Horton had an impressive goods yard and parcel depot, requiring several trains a day. From Great Horton the line passed through a cutting and on to an impressive embankment near Pasture Lane, 950 yds long and 62 ft at its greatest depth, and so on to Clayton Station. The small central platformed station, opened for goods on the 9th July 1877 and for passengers on the 14th October 1878. It had a goods yard, used for sorting Bradford, Halifax and Keighley freight. The line then passed under Station Rd and entered the Clayton tunnel en-route to Queensbury. (see Queensbury Station) The line continued to Thornton via the massive High Birks embankment. Subsidence was a big problem in constructing this 900ft long, 104ft high embankment, which contained 250,000 cubic yards of tipped material. The final part of the line was the Thornton Viaduct, crossing the Pinch Beck valley. Twenty arches, 300 yds long and 120 ft from the valley floor The piers were sunk 25ft underground and the span of each arch was 40ft. The first passenger train from Bradford to Thornton ran on the 14th October 1878. The last passenger train was on 23rd May 1955.
For more information on the Bradford-Halifax-Keighley railways visit the web site lost railways.

Clayton Tunnel Tragedy


An dreadful accident on the 5th November 1874, claimed the lives of two workers. There is a memorial stone in St Johns church yard with the following inscription.
In affectionate remembrance of Thomas Coates aged 20 years and William Elliott aged 27 years, who departed this life on the 5th November 1874. Both killed at No 1 shaft Clayton Tunnel, caused by the neglect of the man in charge of the engine. Take warning of our sudden death, make ready to follow us into the earth, we tell you, watch and pray.
THE INQUEST held at The Royal Hotel. Clayton.
The inquest heard that shafts had been sunk into the tunnel to expedite the work. Over the mouth of the shafts had been erected a timber scaffolding. On the top of this was a head gear and a pulley, four feet in diameter, over which a rope was passed. The rope was attached to an engine some 10yds from the mouth of the shaft. A large tub was attached to the other end of the rope which was used to lower and raise workmen and rubble. The tub rested on a trolley which could be run back, when raising and lowering of the tub was required. At six o,clock in the morning, foreman Henry Hickman gave orders for the day shift to go down and relieve the night shift. Accordingly, four men climbed into the tub, but before the tub could be lowered the tub had to be raised a little to enable the trolley to be moved. The engine man was ordered to raise the tub, the trolley was moved, and the order was given to lower, but either by mistake or carelessness the engine gears had not been engaged in the lowering position. Instead of lowering, it drew the tub over the headgear and backwards over the pulley. Thomas Coates was thrown out of the tub and fell 110ft to his death at the bottom of the shaft. The other three men fell 45 ft to the ground and were seriously injured. William Elliott died the following day in the Bradford Royal Infimary, the others survived. Work was suspended for the day. William Francis Taylor and Edward Kates were the engineers on duty, and were changing shifts at the time, which may have had a bearing on the accident. There is no word of what punishment if any was inflicted on these men.
For information on Clayton Tunnel as it is now visit web site forgotten relics.

Queenbury Station


QUEENSBURY TRIANGLE c1945 Construction of Queensbury Station was originally delayed due to financial constraints, when it was first opened it was just a set of wooden platforms. The station was situated at the head of a valley (Hole Bottom), 400ft below the township of Queensbury which was 1150 ft above sea level and access was only by way of a dimly lit footpath. Plans for an inclined tramway were discussed but later abandoned. The Great Nothern decided to construct a road at a cost of £3000. After this a new station was constructed and opened in1890, unique in the fact that it was triangular and had six platforms. Another unique feature was a wagon track which past under the rail lines, which was used to convey coal from a near by pit in Hole Bottom. In July 1878 the link to Halifax was completed with the opening of the Queensbury tunnel. The tunnel was 2501 yds long and almost a quarter of a mile under the village of Queensbury. It was the longest tunnel on the Great Nothern rail system and took nearly 4 years to complete. Further Reading Railways (File 13) C.H.G Archive The Queensbury Lines Alan Whitaker and Bob Cryer C.H.G Archive Bygone Clayton J Brookes C.H.G Archive COMPILED FROM WORK RESEARCHED BY JESSE HAINSWORTH 2001

Clayton Goods Yard

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Clayton Goods Yard c 1930

Clayton Station

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c 1950. Train seen entering station from the direction of Queensbury.Oak Mills can be seen in the background.

Thornton Viaduct

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Thornton Viaduct c 1960

Post Card

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Shows City Of Bradford train passing Julius Whiteheads

Goods Train

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c1950 Goods train standing on Bradford bound platform

Clayton Station c 1950

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Queensbury Station

The construction of this local line began in 1866 and proved a· very costly job. Cuttings in some sections had to be blasted through solid rock, and at Halifax a stone main road bridge was demolished and replaced by the present iron bridge.  The main junction was at Queensbury station, the platforms of which were arranged in triangular formation. Often three trains arrived there together, allowing passengers to change for either Bradford, Halifax or Keighley. At Queensbury is one of the deepest tunnels in England, 430 feet below the surface at its deepest point. It is 1 1/2 miles long and so straight that it is possible to see right through it. Queensbury itself stands on top of the hill the tunnel cuts through, part of it about 1,000 feet above sea level.  Apart from its unusual platform arrangement Queensbury station has a sheer drop of over 50 feet behind one platform. When seen from this side it has rather a Swiss appearance, fostered perhaps by the massive timber supports on the steep hillside. As a change from tunnels, the Keighley line beyond Queensbury provided passengers with some wonderful open views from Thornton Viaduct

Closure of Thornton Station

ONE of the last stopping trains to Keighley on closure day for the E.R. Bradford-Keighley-Halifax line steamed into Thornton station. Stationmaster Mr. B. G. Whitaker hurried out of his office with a headboard he'd made himself and the train became aptly named The Economist. There were a few other trains before the closure of the line, but none of them stopped at Thornton and Mr. Whitaker wanted to share in the farewell ceremonies.  Despite appeals, the line was closed to passenger traffic on 21st May last, the Transport Commission stating that it had been running at a loss for many years. Though too few people appeared to have been buying tickets for normal travelling, Mr. Whitaker had scores of applications for tickets as souvenirs when ·the closure of the line was announced. They came by post from all over the country and of course Mr. Whitaker sent all the souvenir tickets asked and paid for.