How Haworth got its railway

What follows is the taken from the Introduction to David Pearson’s paper “How did Haworth get its railway.” You can download the full article as a .pdf file.

“Most branch line studies are written by lay historians and have a standard format. They usually follow the story of the conception, building, operation and often, the demise, frequently concentrating on operations and rolling stock. And, despite academics' interest generally in railway financing very few studies seem to have been made of the motives for building a branch line, the fund-raising and the financial realities of the railway as a business. In short, who built it, why they built it, how they paid for it and what they went through to achieve that end. It is this that I seek to address in this dissertation, based on one railway of particular interest to the writer, the very ordinary, Keighley & Worth Valley.


“Apart from the authors' own interests, I suspect that one of the reasons for concentrating on this geographical area is that there is a wealth of material available from a range of diverse sources. Beyond the North Eastern, few other railways kept such meticulous records and even the LNER ceased to do this in 1934. But one Railway which did maintain comprehensive historical records was the Midland, which for almost sixty years, operated, then leased and finally owned the Keighley & Worth Valley. Even here, in what appears to be a potentially rich seam to mine, there is much disappointment. Although the Midland Minute books provide some information, it is obvious that the KWVR was so insignificant a part of the system that the directors devoted a minimum of time to it. What seemed to the local owning company matters of huge import, are dismissed by the MR Board in a couple of lines. Even the decision to buy the line is covered in a short paragraph. If nothing else, this puts the significance of this 5 mile branch line into a contemporary perspective.

“The purpose of this dissertation is to establish why the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway was built, who built it and how this was achieved. The justification is that it has rarely been done before. In his monumental study of the development of the British railway system, Jack Simmons provides ideas on the motivations for building branch lines and some points on profitability, but there are very few case studies to test his hypothesis. This study goes some way to confirming his findings.

“I have found it difficult to arrive at a date when it could be said that the aims of the local promoters had been ‘achieved’ and I rather doubt that they had thought of what might now be referred to as an ‘exit strategy’ from the results of their enterprise. It might be said that an obvious point of that achievement was when the railway opened, but that point is not enough. The promoters carried on with paying the bills and addressing arguments that arose from the building for many years afterwards. So the simple opening of the line to traffic was merely a significant milestone in their labours, but certainly not the conclusion that they had at first envisaged. There was a very definite and carefully arrived at ‘vision’ of what they were seeking to achieve and the opening certainly accomplished this. But once work had started on the building, the ‘vision’ sprouted unwanted shoots, almost without constraint beyond the control of the local board into a wide range of financial and legal wrangles. These frequently had little obvious association with the ownership of a minor branch line.

“Once the railway had been opened, much of the directors' efforts appear to have been focussed in roughly equal parts towards placating the few (but very few) serious tormentors of the Railway by means of financial settlements, and persuading the Midland to buy out their company’s interests. The study of those difficulties and their solutions will form the later part of this work. As these difficulties were only really solved when the Midland bought out the local interests, I feel that the day of the sale is really the point at which the local promoters could be said to have ‘achieved’ their original ends.

“So an obvious and natural breaking off point is when the local company sold the branch to the Midland Railway. The local company had a constant struggle to build and then manage the railway, the latter jointly with the Midland. It seems appropriate that my research should cover the story of efforts by local people to bring a Railway to their valley, how they did this and paid for it and then how they rid themselves of what they had done when they found that there was rather more to the project than building a railway and waiting for the proceeds to role in. In particular, as most of their problems centred upon money or their company’s lack of it, this subject is where I shall concentrate my efforts…”