Wensleydale ditches public transport goal for heritage

THE controversial sale of the Wensleydale Railway’s Aysgarth station has been accompanied by a major about-turn in the line’s short, medium and long-term strategies.

The overall aspirations of the Wensleydale Railway Association when it was formed 28 years ago, to restore ‘real’ community passenger services and eventually rebuild the entire 40-mile trans-Pennine route linking Garsdale on the Settle and Carlisle Line to Northallerton on the East Coast Main Line are being edited down or discarded in favour of the running of a self-sufficient heritage railway over a far more financially feasible “bite sized” distance.

A major first step in the Wensleydale Railway’s new ‘heritage first’ strategy has been the completion of an undercover steam/diesel/carriage servicing and maintenance facility at Leeming Bar, essential to attract privately-owned steam and diesel locomotives to the line. Discussions are now taking place with steam owners. WR

The move is a diametric contrast to the direction of the Swanage Railway, which as reported in News, pages 28 and 29, has just received the Heritage Railway Association’s Peter Manisty Award for Excellence for its reinstatement of ‘real’ public services between Swanage and the main line at Wareham after 45 years.

The £400,000 sale of the currently-isolated Aysgarth station, yet to be connected to the operational heritage railway, to a “wealthy railway-focused individual” who is supportive of the line, was recently completed.

The buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he will restore the station buildings, lay track and bring in locomotives and rolling stock of his own, in the first instance as a “hobby railway.” However, it is understood that he is to work with the railway in linking up with it so that heritage services can run to Aysgarth, a beauty spot famed for its waterfalls.

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