The Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway- heritage Lines

The Embsay and Bolton Abbey railway is a four mile long heritage line near Skipton in Yorkshire. It was once a part of the Midland line to Ilkley. The original line closed in 1965 and the track was lifted. Gradually, the heritage line was reinstated as far as Bolton Abbey. That was in the early 1990’s. Here, a replica wooden station was built.

Image, Emsbay & Bolton Abbey RaiIway

The Skipton to Ilkley line, history and construction

Ilkley had been rail connected since 1865 when the line from Otley was built. That was by the North Eastern Railway. Various schemes for a line from Skipton were proposed as part of larger schemes. Consequently none of them were built. However an agreement was reached, in 1881, that the Midland Railway would build a line from Skipton, via Embsay and Addingham, to the existing N.E. station at Ilkley.

Bridge number 8, in Skipton shortly after construction. D Binns collection

Survey’s took place from 1882 and Construction began in 1885. There were two large structures needed in Ilkley, a Girder bridge over Brook street and a viaduct. Consequently, there was some concern about the visual impact of these, but construction went ahead. The decking was complete in time for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, in 1887.

Brook Street bridge, Ilkley, Picclick

The first train to Skipton ran in 1888. Consequently, trains ran until 1965 when most of the line was lifted. Ilkley viaduct was demolished in 1973. The Grassington branch remains to this day. Another survivor was the track from Embsay, which was retained for quarry traffic. However the points were eventually lifted and the preserved line no longer has a connection to the rest of the network.

The severed network connection and the line to Embsay, Google Earth

The line today

The current line runs from just short of the Grassington branch to Embsay station and then on to a halt at Hollywell. The line then continues to the reconstructed station at Bolton Abbey.

Possible extensions

There has been much speculation about reinstating the points on the Grassington branch and running trains down to Skipton. The Ilkley platforms still exist but would need extensive. work. Notably the cost has been estimated at £2 million.

Towards Ilkley the track bed is mostly clear until the outskirts of Addingham. Lob Ghyl viaduct is still intact and a new station at Adingham has been proposed.

Lob Ghyl viaduct ,T J Blackwell

Current Locomotives and rolling stock

The railway has a large collection of Industrial steam engines.

Beatrice is a Hunslet 0-6-0 (2705) and was built in 1945. She became a colliery engine at The Ackton Hall Colliery Co. at Featherstone near Pontefract. Notably the green livery dates from this period. Beatrice was sold into preservation in 1976 and has been active on the railway since 1982.

Embsay & Bolton Abbey awaiting the arrival of Julian Smith (MP) for a visit to the railway. 20/3/15 Photographed during 90% eclipse totality

Rolling stock consists of MK I British Rail coaches that have been restored to the original maroon livery.

More on Heritage lines.