By Geoff Courtney
Silver jubilee celebrations on the Derwent Valley Light Railway over the August 27-28 Bank Holiday weekend included the renaming of a 1962 diesel shunter, the unveiling of a restored pump trolley that had operated on the line before being abandoned in a ditch, and a welcome for a former platelayer on the line and a mother and son whose lives were inextricably linked with the railway in its operational days.
The half-mile railway is in Murton Park, near York city centre, and is based on part of the former Derwent Valley Light Railway that ran for 15 miles from York Layerthorpe to Cliffe Common near Selby. The line opened in 1913 to handle mainly agricultural traffic and defied absorption in the 1923 Grouping and nationalisation in 1948 by remaining in private hands.
When the final stretch, from Layerthorpe to Dunnington, was closed in 1981, the line had achieved recognition as being one of the country’s last privately-run standard gauge railways.
Its history in preservation can be traced back to the Great Yorkshire Railway Preservation Society that was formed in 1980 and based at the former Starbeck depot (50D) in Harrogate, then owned by Octavius Atkinson steelworks.
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