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The Middleton Steam Railway is the world's oldest continuously working railway. It was founded in 1758 and is now a heritage railway run by volunteers from The Middleton Railway Trust Ltd. since 1960.

The railway operates passenger services at weekends and on public holidays over approximately of track between its headquarters at Moor Road, Hunsletmarker, Leedsmarker, West Yorkshire, Englandmarker and Park Halt on the outskirts of Middleton Parkmarker.


Coal has been worked in Middletonmarker since the 13th century, from bell pits, gin pits and later "day level" or adits. Anne Leigh, heiress to the Middleton Estates married Ralph Brandling from Fellingmarker near Gatesheadmarker on the River Tyne. They lived in Gosforth and left running of the Middleton pits to agents. Charles Brandling was their successor. In 1754 Richard Humble, from Tyneside, was his agent. Brandling was in competition with the Fentons in Rothwell who were able to transport coal into Leeds by river putting the Middleton pits at considerable disadvantage. Humble's solution was to build waggonways which were common in his native north east. The first waggonway in 1755 crossed Brandling land and that of friendly neighbours to riverside staithes.

In 1757 he began to build a waggonway towards Leeds and to ensure its permanence Brandling sought ratification in an Act of Parliament, (31 Geo.2, c.xxii, 9th June 1758) the first authorising the building of a railway.

The Middleton Railway, the first railway to be granted powers by Act of Parliament, carried coal cheaply from the Middletonmarker pits to Casson Close, Leeds (near Meadow Lane, close to the River Aire). Not all the land belonged to Brandling and the Act gave him power to obtain wayleave. Otherwise the line was privately financed and operated, initially as a waggonway using horse-drawn vehicles called corves. Around 1807 the wooden tracks began to be replaced with superior iron edge rails to a gauge of .

Introduction of steam

In 1812 the Middleton Steam Railway became the first commercial railway to successfully use steam locomotives. John Blenkinsop the colliery's viewer, or manager, had decided that an engine light enough not to break the cast iron track would not have sufficient adhesion, bearing in mind the heavy load of coal wagons and the steep track gradient. Accordingly he relaid the track on one side with a toothed rail, which he patented in 1811 (the first rack railway), and approached Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood, in Holbeckmarker, to design a locomotive with a pinion which would mesh with it. Murray's design was based on Richard Trevithick's Catch me who can, adapted to use Blenkinsop's rack and pinion system, and was called Salamanca. This 1812 locomotive was the first to use two cylinders. These drove the pinions through cranks which were at right angles, so that the engine would start wherever it came to rest.

The line thus entered the history books, in 1812, for it was first to operate successfully, and with three more locos built later, remained in use for another twenty years. In 1881 the railway was converted to standard gauge.


The engine shed museum.
Photo: Ian Kirk

In June 1960, the Middleton Steam Railway became the first standard-gauge railway to be taken over and operated by unpaid volunteers. Passenger services were initially operated for only one week, using an ex Swansea and Mumbles Railway double deck tram (the largest in Britain seating 106 passengers). However, the volunteers of the Middleton Railway operated a freight service until 1983.

Regular operation of passenger services began in 1969.

The Middleton Steam Railway is home to a representative selection of locomotives built in the Jack Lane, Hunsletmarker area by the famous Leeds manufacturers of John Fowler & Co., Hudswell Clarke, Hunslet Engine Company, Kitson & Co. and Manning Wardle. The locomotives include "Sir Berkeley", which was featured in the 1968 BBC TV version of "The Railway Children". The locomotive is owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust of Ingrowmarker near Keighleymarker.

Park Halt

Motive Power

Operational Steam Locomotives

  • Manning Wardle L Class 0-6-0ST no. 1210 Sir Berkeley. Recently returned to traffic after a boiler replacement but now used on passenger trains at Middleton, boiler ticket expires in 2017. In May 2008 the locomotive visited the National Railway Museummarker in York and hauled two bogie passenger coaches over the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend. This locomotive is on loan from the Vintage Carriages Trust, at Ingrow Railway Centremarker, on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
  • Hunslet Engine Company 0-6-0ST 2387 Brookes No.1. Returned to traffic in early 2007 after overhaul, boiler ticket expires in 2009.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T M.S.C. 67 (works number 1369 of 1921). Returned to traffic in 2002, after its pistons were re-bored. The boiler inspection ticket (Certification) expires in 2012.

Steam Locomotives undergoing light work

Steam Locomotives Undergoing Overhaul or Restoration

  • Hunslet 0-4-0ST No 1493. Undergoing restoration to operational condition, the frames have their wheels and are being painted before the motion goes on.
  • Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST No 6 "Swanscombe". Undergoing restoration to working order, the frames have been re-wheeled and painted and the cab has been fitted to the frames and is being painted, the final motion parts are being fitted and work on the saddle tank, smokebox and boiler will start afterwards.
  • Manning Wardle 0-4-0ST No. 14. In the final stages of overhaul, wheels fitted under the frames and boiler being retubed.
  • Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST no. 1601 Matthew Murray. Returned to traffic in 2001, boiler ticket expires in 2011.but due to problems the loco was withdrawn early

Stored Steam Locomotives

  • NER LNER Class Y7 0-4-0T No. 1310. Was withdrawn in 2001 and is presently dismantled in the yard, funds coming in for overhaul.
  • Bagnall 0-4-0ST No. 2702. Stored outside in the elements.
  • Borrows 0-4-0WT No. 53 Windle. Currently being given a protective coat of paint. Planned to be overhauled in the not too distant future.
  • Peckett and Sons 0-4-0ST No. 2003 John Blenkinsop. Stored awaiting overhaul but should be one of the next to be returned to working order.
  • Sentinel 4wVBT No. 68153. Stored dismantled in the yard.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0ST No. 1309.
  • Chemnitz 0-4-0WT 385, ex DSB.
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0ST No. 1882 Mirvale.
  • Cockerill 0-4-0VBT 1625.
  • Peckett and Sons 0-4-0ST No. 2103.
  • Kitson 0-6-0ST 5469 ex Northamptonshire Ironstone Railway.

Operational Diesel Locomotives

Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0DM 631 Carroll
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0DM 577 Mary
  • Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0DM 631 Carroll
  • Brush/Beyer Peacock 0-4-0DE 91
  • Thomas Hill 0-4-0DH 138C
  • 5003 Peckett 0-4-0DM Austins No. 1
  • Hunslet 0-6-0DM 1697 John Alcock
  • Hunslet 0-4-0DM 1786 Courage

Non-Operational Diesel Locomotives

Non-Operational Electric Locomotives

  • 420452 Greenwood and Batley Coke Oven locomotive built 1979

Operational Diesel Inspection Vehicle

  • DB998901 Drewry car


  1. History of the Middleton Railway Leeds Sixth Edition (1990), p.3.
  2. Middleton Railway - Locomotives
  3. Rollingstock
  4. Rollingstock
  5. Rollingstock
  6. Problems
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  21. Dirsel
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