Photographic Archives Volunteer Nick has found some intriguing images in a collection covering the Nidd Valley Light Railway.
The National Railway Museum’s photographic archives include a large collection of about 890 images by Humphrey Household (1906-1986), who photographed many types of trains and railways all over the country (and some overseas) from the 1920s. He had a particular interest in minor, narrow-gauge and industrial railways, which feature strongly in his collection.
A series of his images which caught my attention and led me to investigate further depicted the Nidd Valley Light Railway, not only the usual shots of stations and rolling stock, but also some showing the massive engineering project to build the Scar House dam and create the reservoir which to this day still supplies water to Bradford. This post features a selection of his photographs taken in early summer 1928. They are arranged in geographical order from Pateley Bridge northwards to Scar House.
The Nidd Valley Light Railway was originally built in the early 1900s for Bradford Corporation Waterworks Department to carry materials and workers to the construction sites for reservoirs in the Upper Nidd Valley. Public passenger services ran between Pateley Bridge and Lofthouse, and a steep contractors’ railway extended from Lofthouse to Angram Reservoir, which was completed in 1919. Scar House Reservoir was then built below Angram between 1921 and 1936.
Public passenger services ceased in 1929, and the line closed completely in 1937. Today, the area is open to the public for recreational use.
The Nidd Valley Light Railway had its own station in Pateley Bridge, separate from the terminus of the Nidd Valley Railway from Harrogate (built by the North Eastern Railway). The stations were connected by a goods line across Pateley High Street.
A steam railmotor ‘Hill’ was used for public passenger services between Pateley Bridge and Lofthouse.
The first station on the route from Pateley Bridge was at Wath-in-Nidderdale, then the line followed the eastern shore of Gouthwaite reservoir and passed another station at Ramsgill on the way to Lofthouse.
Lofthouse-in-Nidderdale was the terminus of public passenger services.
The line above Lofthouse was originally built as a contractor’s railway for the construction of Angram Reservoir in 1903. It was upgraded after Bradford Corporation decided in 1920 to build Scar House reservoir.
The steep gradient on this section meant that two or more locomotives, sometimes as many as four, were needed to haul heavy goods trains to Scar House.
At Goyden Pot a 180-yard tunnel was built for uphill trains only, to cut off the sharp bend on the original line.
The construction of Scar House reservoir was a major engineering project, and included a purpose-built village for the workers, numbering over 1000 at the peak.
There was a network of railway tracks linking the site in the valley with the quarries and stoneyard on the hillside to the north.
The final two photographs show the stoneyard and Carle Fell quarry above.
Looking into the context and background of this series of photographs has whetted my appetite to visit Upper Nidderdale. The area is in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with plenty of marked walking and cycling routes. This website by John Carey follows the route of the former railway, much of which is accessible, with photographs of surviving station buildings and visible remnants of the trackbed.