The former Great Northern Railway routes linking Bradford, Halifax and Keighley via Queensbury were early casualties of the post war service cuts imposed by the British Transport Commission in its vain attempt to streamline the network and balance the books.
Within a year of nationalisation in 1948, the “Queensbury Lines,” as this network has become popularly known, had been identified as high on maintenance costs and low on passenger revenue.
The writing was on the wall but services continued until May 1955 when all 11 intermediate stations lost their passenger trains. The more lucrative goods services continued for a few more years at some of the local depots before they too finally succumbed.
The demise of the Queensbury Lines came too early for the advent of mainstream colour photography. Colour film was expensive and the few local railway photographers who could afford to use it tended to concentrate on more glamorous main line locations.
However, diligent research over a period of more than 40 years has unearthed enough material to illustrate the last remaining vestiges of the Queensbury Lines network in colour for the first time, albeit that most of the images show a railway system in its last throes of existence before being swept away.
The Halifax, Thornton & Keighley Railway was the final part of the network to be completed. It provided a direct route between Halifax and Keighley by extending the earlier Halifax & Ovenden Railway to Queensbury where it joined the Bradford & Thornton Railway at a new triangular junction. The B&TR was covered in Great Northern Outpost Volume 1, published in 2016.
This new companion volume provides full colour coverage of the Halifax, Thornton and Keighley Railway for the first time. The Halifax & Ovenden and the Halifax High Level Railway, a later addition to the local network, are also featured. Much of the information presented in the book and the vast majority of the images have never been published previously.
The authors have both had a lifelong interest in the spectacularly engineered Queensbury Lines system which was characterised by fearsome gradients, deep cuttings, tunnels and superb viaducts.
Railway historian and former journalist Alan Whitaker – author of several previous books and numerous magazine articles about railways in the Bradford area – is the son of the last Station Master on the Queensbury Lines and he grew up in the Station House at Thornton.
This has given him a unique perspective on what happened during the last years of railway services on the Queensbury Lines as he was actually there to witness it all.
Co-author Jan Rapacz, a Chartered Engineer, grew up close to the line at Great Horton while it was still operational and has spent many years researching the history of the local network. His particular interest is in the promotion, planning, engineering and construction of the lines.
Both authors have been instrumental in initiating and promoting the Great Northern Railway Trail which includes a section of the former railway from Wilsden to Cullingworth featured in this volume.