Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway


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.

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.

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 the nearby 12th century Bolton 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.

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.

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.

Reports suggest 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.

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&BASR 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.

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.

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. If funding is made available, then the line could be extended. JMP Consulting has been commissioned to develop a business case for the project

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 tennis team uniforms.

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 well-known characters from the show were at the filming. The episode was filmed in December 2004.

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

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

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

The railway has a large collection of industrial steam engines and Austerity tanks and also some locos from the Big Four (British railway companies).

Embsay Station, showing ticket office and waiting room

Embsay Station Building

Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST ‘Norman’ in disguise as NCB No. 69 runs round the train at Bolton Abbey

Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0ST ‘Norman’ in disguise as NCB No. 69 takes on water from the water tower at Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey Station Building

Class 20.189 at Bolton Abbey. 14 October 2006.