Keighly and Worth Valley 40th birthday

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Ivatt Class 2MT 2-6-2T 41241 hauls the inaugural train on Saturday 27 June 1968, photo K&WVR

(click to see picture in original context)

The 1960s were not a good time for Britain’s railways: hundreds of branch lines were abandoned; thousands of miles of railway were ripped up; many stations and goods yards were closed. The railway line running along the Worth Valley in West Yorkshire might have ended up as just another unofficial footpath, if not for the efforts of the local community. At the end of 1961, faced with the closure of their railway link to the outside world, the local people of the Worth Valley decided to take over the line and run it themselves.

Within a year of the line closing, they called a meeting in the Temperance Hall in Keighley and set up the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society. It is perhaps a sign of how little support they received from officialdom that it took 6 years from that meeting to the running of the inaugural train. Despite the naysayers who poured scorn on the idea of unpaid volunteers running the railway, six years of fund-raising, campaigning, acquiring and restoring redundant equipment from all over the country succeeded in bringing the railway back to life.

On Saturday 27 June 1968 the then Mayor of Keighley, Alderman J.H. Waterworth, despatched the Reopening Special from Keighley station to Oxenhope to be greeted by the Whitworth Vale and Healey Band playing the Top Ten hit of the day, Cliff Richard’s Congratulations. Now, more than five million passengers later, the Railway and its rescuers are celebrating 40 years of success. Today, the Keighly and Worth Valley Railway has a world wide reputation as one of Britain’s finest heritage railways. Not only does the K&WVR run steam hauled trains for tourists, the railway also runs a diesel hauled local community service, thus fulfilling a pledge made by the original promoters of the railway’s rescue.

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