Construction reports

Halifax, Thornton and Keighley Railway

Workmen have begun to sink one of the shafts of the great tunnel which will pass below Queensbury in connection with the Halifax branch of the Halifax, Thornton and Keighley Railway, described in the scheme as No.3. This portion of the line is nearly two and a half miles long, and commencing at Netherton by a junction with the Halifax and Ovenden Railway (1864), will pass first through a heavy open cutting 1000 yards long and from 7 to 20 yards deep, entailing 361,500 cubic yards of excavation, curving to the right a quarter of a mile, to the left a quarter of a mile, and again to the right 100 yards to about 50 feet within the tunnel, the gradient being 1 in 50. This cutting also entails a diversion of about 150 yards of road between Netherton and Holdsworth; and a diversion of Strines Beck for about a quarter of a mile, the beck crossing the line by a conduit 40 feet above the rails.

The tunnel will commence about 200 yards below Strines Farm, and will proceed in a straight line to near the junction at Hole Bottom, its total length being 2500 yards, or nearly a mile and a half, with a rise of 1 in 100. The tunnel will be driven by eight shafts, about 300 yards apart, No.1 shaft being a short distance below Strines, whence the centre line passes through land belonging to Major Stocks, by an old coal-pit and a small cottage occupied by William Cliff; crossing the Ambler Thorn and Keighley Road about twenty yards to the right of Round Hill Chapel; and Moor Close Lane a little further on, about the same distance to the right of the house of Mary Lightowler, near to which No.3 shaft is situated. No.4 shaft is in the hollow immediately behind Ford, the line passing thence over land belonging to the trustees of the late Richard Hodgson, and Messrs John Foster & Sons, till it reaches No.5 shaft, in the field of Mr Samuel Pollard. It then crosses Fleet Lane, and goes on through two fields belonging to Mr David Akroyd at Hill Top and across Kitchen Lane to No.6 shaft, which is in a field belonging to Mr Joseph Waugh, of Queensbury. Thence it advances over the quarries of Messrs Thomas Kendall and Charles Denham at Reddelf, across the Brighouse and Denholme Road a short distance above Small Page Row (at the top of Queensbury), to the quarry of Mr John Dearden, at the edge of which No.7 shaft is to be sunk. It proceeds forwards through the houses occupied by Henry Greenwood and Enoch Crossland at Sharket Head, and terminates in a small plantation about a quarter of a mile below, on land of Messrs John Foster & Sons, at Hole Bottom, near to which spot No.8 shaft is already being proceeded with. The shafts vary in depth from 39 yards to 140, the deepest shaft being No.6 at Hill Top, where the hard bed of coal is the supposed level of the tunnel.

The line will proceed from the mouth of the tunnel to where it forks at the junction by an open cutting 120 yards long, entailing 35,000 cubic yards of excavation. The east fork of the junction will be an embankment 180 yards long and a cutting of the same length with 15,500 cubic yards of excavation, the curve being 15 chains radius. The west fork will consist of 310 yards of embankment, 62ft deep, with a curve of 13 chains radius.

This great tunnel will employ an army of 1000 miners and navvies in driving, and will take two years to complete. The contractors are Messrs Benton and Woodiwiss, of Manchester and Derby, who are also the contractors for the Settle and Carlisle Railway, the heaviest line ever started in this country. Mr R E Cooper is the resident engineer, and the head offices are now in the course of erection near the station at Netherton.

Monday 15th June 1874: Bradford Observer

The great tunnel below Queensbury

The works of the great tunnel which is being driven below Queensbury in connection with the new line for the Great Northern Railway between Bradford, Halifax and Keighley, have now so far been proceeded with that it is possible to give some account of the difficulties to be overcome and the magnitude of the undertaking. The whole of this part of the line from Holmfield Station to Hole Bottom is about 2¼ miles long. The contractors, Messrs Benton and Woodiwiss, have erected their offices and workshops at Holmfield, at the Halifax end, where they manufacture their own trucks and waggons; and the greater part of the plant required in the construction of the line.

The first cutting is 1,000 yards long, of which about 300 yards has been completed to the proper level and one-fifth of the quantity of earth removed. At this portion, a single alteration was found in the nature of the strata, an almost perpendicular face of coarse grained sandstone being met with, out of which the bridge at Netherton has been built. A large quantity of stone has also been met with a little further on, which will be employed in lining the sides of the tunnel.

The work at this stage has been considerably lightened by the construction of an incline and the purchase of five acres of spoil ground on Folly Hall Farm, but means of which the earth from the cutting has been readily deposited, and locomotives and a 25-horse stationary engine made available for its removal.

A large flow of water, known as the Strines Beck, which passed right down the centre of the cutting, was the greatest obstacle encountered here by causing constant flooding and overflow, and requiring frequent diversion. A conduit has now been completed, consisting of a 9-inch brick invert, with stone side-walls and a bottom of concrete and puddle, entailing 4,000 yards of masonry and 7,000 yards of earth work, the water being conveyed across the line by a stone arch springing from the rock at the top of the cutting, and 30 feet above the level of the rails.

For the purpose of distributing their material and removing earth etc, the contractors have constructed an incline from end to end of the line, the steepest gradient of which is 1 in 3 for about 300 yards at Strines, where it is worked by a 25 horse power stationary engine, the trucks being drawn up by means of one inch best steel wire ropes from one engine to another at the top of the shafts. The incline at Hole Bottom on the Bradford side is a self-acting one, the full trucks in going down pulling up the empty ones.

The tunnel itself is being driven by means of eight shafts, five of which are provided with a 14 horse power engine by Fowler, of Leeds, to work the pumps as well as the winding gear. Owing to the immense quantity of water that has been met with, a temporary pumping and draining shaft has been sunk near Strines, at the Netherton end, where a pair of 7-inch pumps are at work, making 30 strokes a minute, and can barely contend with the inflow of water. This shaft has been sunk to the bottom, and one length, or about 7 yards, of the arch of the tunnel nearly completed. A heading has also been driven towards No.1 shaft for about forty yards through solid rock consisting of coarse white sandstone or millstone grit.

No.1 shaft, which is about 44 yards deep, has also reached the bottom, and one length, consisting of seven yards of the tunnel, completed, the headings being continued towards the drainage shaft and towards No.2, and a 9-inch pump is kept continually at work to draw off the water.

At No.2 shaft, considerable difficulty was also encountered from the influx of water and black damp from the workings of an old coal pit, that have now been passed by, and the shaft sunk to within twenty yards of the bottom of the tunnel, where it will be 113 yards deep.

No.3 shaft, the depth of which is to be 130 yards, has been sunk to a depth of 90 yards, where the influx of water has caused the suspension of the work during the last nine weeks, and necessitated the introduction of 12-inch pumps and the use of an extra engine, which will arrive shortly.

Similar difficulties with the water have also been encountered at the remaining shafts, and pumps are being introduced at Nos. 4 and 5, while at No.6 so much water found its way from the neighbouring quarries at Hill Top, that a heading was driven 120 yards through on to the face of the hill to carry it away, and at No.8 progress was interrupted until a hole had been bored, three inches in diameter, down into the coal-rag, thirty yards below the bottom of the tunnel, in order to get effectually rid of it. The cutting at Hole Bottom, 70 feet deep, has also been pushed to near the beginning of the tunnel and a heading continued about 30 yards further on.

To keep back the surface water in the shafts, each has been lined with a 6-inch brick lining and cement concrete, about 50 or 60 yards down, or to within a few yards of the depth of the present workings, and the 12-inch pumps employed, five in number, will lift about 63,000 gallons of water per hour. Great scarcity of water exists in the village of Queensbury during the present summer, and suggestions have been made in the Local Board for utilising what is being pumped from the shafts. The water itself is of excellent quality, and a statement has been made that from No.5 shaft alone, during the next year or two, the whole of Queensbury could be supplied.

Very conspicuous objects in the landscape along the line of the tunnel are four observatories, on which a transit instrument is from time to time fixed for ranging the centre of the tunnel.

There are now employed about fourteen horses and six hundred men, including two hundred miners, for whose accommodation a large number of cottages have been purchased in various parts of the district, and a block of forty-four cottages is in course of erection at Hill Top.

During the progress of the work neither expense nor trouble have been spared by the contractors in order to push it on rapidly and overcome the great difficulties that have been met with, and Mr John Shaw, the manager of this portion, combines the suaviter and fortiter necessary for inspiring energy into the large body of workmen employed for carrying it out.

Saturday 5th June 1875: Halifax Courier

The following article results from the same organised visit as the previous one and consequently repeats a great deal of the information. However some additional details are included which makes it worthy of reproduction.

Progress of the works - the Halifax and Thornton section

A portion of this section from Halifax to Ovenden was completed and opened for goods traffic about ten months ago. The part, however, extending from Ovenden to the junction at Hole Bottom, a distance of two and a quarter miles, was not let until May 1874, when the contract was placed in the hands of Messrs Benton and Woodiwiss, who are also engaged in making the Bradford and Thornton section of the railway.

The works in this contract commence just beyond the Ovenden goods station, where an iron bridge has been made to carry the road from Little Moor to Holme Field Mill over the line. From this point a cutting is being made in the direction of Strines, which, when completed, will be 1000 yards long, the depth from twenty to sixty feet, and the gradient being 1 in 50. In this cutting alone there will be over 300,000 cubic yards of excavation. The making of the cutting has so far proved no easy task as the rock is present at a very short distance from the surface. There is also a thin bed of shale, but the rock greatly predominates. One peculiarity in this cutting is the situation of these beds of sandstone rock, which, in some places, are almost vertical. Over one part of the cutting a substantial stone bridge has been erected to carry the Holdsworth Road, which has been slightly diverted, across the line. The Strines Beck, which formerly ran through the middle of the cutting, has been diverted by some distance to the right. It is then carried across the cutting by means of a substantial stone aqueduct, which, at present is not quite completed. The total length of this diversion is about 500 yards. At the end of the cutting, to the right, a large piece of “spoil ground”, about 5½ acres in extent, has been purchased, so that the surplus excavation may there be deposited.

The Queensbury Tunnel here commences. A “drainage” shaft 20 yards deep has been sunk at this end of the cutting, and the “heading” of the tunnel begun at this depth. Further up the hill, near Strines, No.1 shaft has been bored to a depth of 44 yards, at the bottom of which a small section of the tunnel proper, about 7 yards long, has been completed. The bottom of this shaft is about 120 yards distant from the “drainage” shaft. No.2 shaft, which occurs higher up the hill, at this place exceedingly steep, is about 280 yards beyond No.1, and when completed will be 113 yards in depth. At the present time this shaft has been sunk to about ninety yards. The three shafts are each nine feet in diameter, and are being bricked as the sinking progresses. No.3 shaft has been commenced a little to the left of Ford, and 340 yards distant from No.2. About eighty-nine yards of this shaft has been sunk, but when finished its depth will be 130 yards. An extraordinary quantity of water has recently been met with, which has seriously retarded the working at this point. In order to overcome the obstacle two powerful 12in pumps are being fixed, and an extra engine to work the pumps has been obtained. Shaft No.4, which will be about 124 yards deep, has been commenced near Fleet Lane, a short distance to the right of Lower Fleet. About sixty yards have already been sunk. Large quantities of water have been met with in this working, and pumps similar to those at No.3 are being fixed. The bottom of this shaft will be about 423 yards distant from No.3. No.5, which is the deepest shaft, has been commenced in the vicinity of Chapel Lane, between Queensbury and Bagby, and excavated to a depth of 58 yards. This shaft is about 450 yards distant in a straight line from No.4, and when sunk to the required depth will be no less than 137 yards below the surface. From this point the hill gradually begins to descend, so that the depth of shaft No.6, which is being sunk at Sharket Head, 450 yards from No.5, will only be about 114 yards. The working of this shaft is at present in abeyance on account of the water, which cannot be got rid of until a pump similar to those about to the employed at Nos. 3 and 4 has been fixed. The Hill Top Quarries are situated just above Sharket Head, and as No.6 had to be sunk for a considerable distance through the debris from the workings a very large quantity of water made its way through the “made ground” into this shaft, and for some time proved a serious obstacle; but ultimately a “drift-way”, 4 feet square, and 120 yards long, was made, extending from a point 23 yards down the shaft in a straight line to the hill side, where it comes out into the daylight. By this means a great deal of the water has been drained away. Up to the present time this shaft has been sunk to a depth of 46 yards. Shaft No.7 will not be sunk on account of the positions of the shafts having been altered from the original plans. Its position as shown on those plans, was near the place where No.6 has since been made. Some idea of the rapid descent of the hill beyond this point may be formed from the fact that shaft No.8, the bottom of which will not be more than 300 yards distant, in a straight line, from No.6, will only be 46 yards deep. At present the shaft has been sunk about 25 yards.

The strata through which the shafts have been sunk are what are known as the “coal measures”, and in the “drainage” and No.1 shafts, where the level of the proposed tunnel has been reached, there is a bed of hard, coarse-grained sandstone, or millstone grit, which, it is probable, will continue for a considerable distance up the line of the intended tunnel. The small section of masonry completed at the bottom of No.1 shaft has been built of stone taken from the large cutting near Ovenden. The blasting is performed by means of gunpower and dynamite. We understand a man had several fingers blown off a few days since by the explosion of a dynamite cartridge at one of the shafts.

The tunnel when completed will be 2500 yards long, 26ft wide and 21ft from the rail level to the top, with a uniform gradient of 1 in 100. A temporary tramway has been laid from Ovenden Station over the hill, running past each shaft and down the other side to Hole Bottom, by means of which the large quantities of material used in the construction of the works are deposited where required. At No.1 shaft there is a winding engine of 25 horse power, with a strong steel-wire rope about 400 yards in length. By this means waggons can be drawn up the steep incline from the cutting below. For some distance this incline has the extraordinary gradient of 1 in 3. A similar apparatus exists at all the other shafts (excepting Nos. 6 and 8, where it is not quite completed) so that supplies of coal, stones etc are by these means sent from the Ovenden cutting to all the shafts and places where they are required.

The tunnel will terminate about 133 yards from shaft No.8, where a cutting 100 yards long and 70 feet deep is being made. At the end of this cutting the line branches off to the right and left, joining the Bradford and Thornton section in Hole Bottom. Immediately before this fork, a shallow embankment occurs, about 150 yards long. The “west fork”, which joins the Bradford and Thornton section in the direction of the latter place, will consist of an embankment about 350 yards in length, and varying from 63ft to 6ft in height. The embankment will contain about 62,000 yards of filling, which will be obtained from the cutting at this end of the tunnel.

Several houses at Bridle Stile that stood in the way of this embankment have been purchased by the Great Northern Railway Company and pulled down. A coal tramway has been for some time in existence between Hole Bottom coal pit and Queensbury, and crosses the direction of the “right fork” a little before the junction of the latter with the Bradford and Thornton section. In order to carry the “right fork” over the tramway, an iron girder bridge is about to be constructed, at a very acute angle, and about 70 feet in length.

The whole length of line from a little beyond Ovenden Station to the junction at Hole Bottom is about 2¼ miles. The Ovenden end of this contract is 643 feet above the level of the sea. From this point the line gradually rises, until the Queensbury mouth of the tunnel is reached, which is the highest part of the section. Here the elevation is 786 feet, giving a total rise from Ovenden of 143 feet. From the mouth of the tunnel to the junction at Hole Bottom the line descends about 10 feet. The number of men employed on this section is between 600 and 700, of whom about 200 are miners. The number of horses engaged on the line is only fourteen, the work of moving the ballast waggons about being principally one by two small locomotive engines. Besides these, there are six 14 horse power, semi-portable steam engines at work, and a steam crane has been fixed at the “drainage” shaft.

The making of the line has now been going on about a year, and it is expected that it will take a further term of at least three years before the works will be completed. The amount of the contract is about £190,000. This is a much larger sum per mile than the cost of the Bradford and Thornton section, but this can hardly be wondered at when the difficulties to be surmounted in the latter contract are taken into account. Mr Shaw is the manager for this section of the line.

Saturday 5th June 1875: Bradford Observer

Queensbury Tunnel

Another important step towards the completion of the tunnel under Queensbury was reached last Saturday morning. Nearly 12 months since, the contractors deemed it more expedient to bore No.3 shaft to the depth it was intended to go, and wait the approach of the heading from No.2 to take away the enormous quantity of water which flowed into it, than to continue sinking at such a great expense. Since then the shaft has been unused, but last Saturday morning the workings from No.2 touched the borings of the shaft and let off the water - an event which was immediately announced by flying colours from the head gear.

Saturday 24th March 1877: Halifax Courier

The tunnel

Last Monday the heading from No.4 shaft effected a junction with the heading coming from No.3, so that there is now a way through the tunnel more than half way. The event was signalised by a colour flying from the head gear at No.4 shaft.

Saturday 1st September 1877: Halifax Courier

The tunnel

A most important step in the construction of this difficult work was effected last Monday evening, when the bottom heading coming from No.4 shaft, and driven by a patent drill machine and gang of Welsh miners, met the heading from the open end of the tunnel at Hole Bottom. A short time since a junction was effected with the heading coming from the other end, so that there is a now a way through the whole length of the tunnel. This removes one of the greatest difficulties the contractors have had to contend with, viz water; besides introducing a current of fresh air, the want of which has been most seriously felt. The event was announced by a prolonged whistle on the powerful burner. In the morning flags were flying from the head-gear, and everybody seemed to know that a road through Queensbury hill had at last been made.

Saturday 6th October 1877: Halifax Courier

Halifax, Thornton and Keighley Railway

The line bearing this title is one that is being carried out by the Great Northern Railway Company, and is an extension of the existing Halifax and Ovenden Railway, a line which jointly belongs to the Great Northern and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Companies.

It may be interesting to some of our readers if we give a general sketch of the line and the extensive works which are being executed upon it, as exemplifying the difficulties which have been surmounted in constructing railways in the Yorkshire district. The new line commences at Holmfield Station (terminus of the Halifax and Ovenden Railway), and runs in a north-easterly direction under the Queensbury Hill; arriving at the north side of this hill at a place called Hole Bottom, it joins the Bradford and Thornton Railway (another new and important branch of the Great Northern system now being constructed in this district). The Halifax, Thornton and Keighley Railway has been in active progress for several years, and although the line is but a short one, the natural features of the country render the works upon it of the heaviest description.

The first part of the line runs through a cutting nearly three-quarters of a mile in length, and averaging about 40ft in depth throughout. It is almost entirely composed of sandstone rock, a large proportion of it being millstone grit. This cutting is extremely interesting from a geological point of view, the strata is thrown up and contorted in a most remarkable manner, and it is surprising to see within a few yards of each other large masses of rock twisted and convulsed in such eccentric and opposing angles. This cutting is now well advanced, but it has required immense labour and untiring energy on the part of all concerned to have made anything like an expeditious headway in so hard a formation.

At the north end of this cutting, at a depth of 60ft below the surface, the line enters what is generally known as the Queensbury Tunnel. It is 2,500 yards long, and has six ventilation shafts, all of which are sunk, and have been used in the drawing up the excavated material from the tunnel, and lowering down stone, bricks, mortar, and such things necessary for the construction. These six shafts vary in depth from 135ft to 390ft. It was originally intended to have two other shafts, which would have been 414ft and 342ft deep respectively; but after indefatigable exertions in battling with the immense influx of water, it was determined to abandon them. This was done when they had both been sunk about half way. The contractors have been greatly harassed in all their sinking operations by the water, and on several occasions during wet weather it has well nigh proved too much for the ample pumping provision that has been made.

The strata through which the shafts pass are what are known as “coal measures”, and in them are found the Halifax hard bed coal, varying from 2 feet to 2 feet 3 inches in thickness; and the Halifax soft bed, about 20 yards below, varying from 1 foot 6 inches to 1 foot 8 inches in thickness. Only one of these beds is reached by the tunnel, and it is found about the middle and north end of the tunnel.

At the same time that the shafts are being sunk it is usual to commence at each end of the tunnel a driftway, about 10 feet square, termed the heading. This is driven at all possible speed, and as the shafts one after another reach the tunnel level they in turn form points from which the heading is pushed forward, until nearly all these sections of heading become joined together, and the hill is pierced through. This was the result in the Queensbury Tunnel on the 4th of this month. On that day the last shots were fired, which blew away the remaining rock that barred the free passage from one face of the tunnel to the other. This will greatly facilitate and expedite the remainder of the work that has yet to be accomplished, as it allows the water to gravitate away without pumping, and enables the work to be advanced at a greater number of points.

In addition to the heading through the hill, more than half the length of the full-sized tunnel has been lined and completed, and next year will see the whole finished. The old method of driving or excavating the heading of a tunnel was entirely by manual labour, but manual labour of all kinds is now reduced as far as possible to mechanical agency. It is a matter of paramount importance to companies, as well as contractors, that machinery should be devised and adopted that would take the place of the excavator or miner. This has now been accomplished.

America has produced a machine called the “steam navvy”, most ingenious and effective in its working, but which can only be used in soft material, such as clay and soft shales, and in open railway cuttings, docks, canals etc. For hard shales and rock and for driving tunnel headings, a machine of entirely different form and principles is required. This has generally assumed the form of a drill, and a great number of machines of this description have been invented, some of which have been very serviceable. Several kinds have been tried in the Queensbury Tunnel but from various reasons have not proved successful. Major Beaumont, of the Royal Engineers, and chairman of the Diamond Rock Boring Company, has at last invested a machine which bids fair to play a prominent part in the future history of tunnels. This machine is also on the drill principle, compressed air being the motive power, and has been working very successfully in the Queensbury Tunnel since July, but is now removed, as the heading is completed. The rate of progress attainable is from three to five times that of manual labour. As the machine is only adapted to hard material, it follows that its rate of progress over manual labour is inversely proportioned to the hardness of the material in which it works.

Saturday 13th October 1877: Leeds Mercury

The tunnel

This great and difficult undertaking, which has been in progress for more than four years, is at last finished, at least so far as the excavation and walling of the tunnel itself goes. The last brick was inserted last Saturday morning by the inspector, Mr Albrighton, who has had the supervision of this portion of the line since its commencement, and the event was signalised by colours flying from the head gear of No.4 shaft. There still remains the completion of the drain through the tunnel to take away the immense amount of water which the contractors have had to contend with in the prosecution of their arduous work, and the laying down of the remainder of the permanent way, a great portion of which is already laid. Many serious and fatal accidents have taken place during its construction, some of them it is to be feared due to sheer carelessness.

Over the hill there are evidences of an approaching end. The central shaft is still used for the purpose of conveying the men to and from their work. The head gearing of the other shafts have been taken down, and quantities of stone, brick, old iron etc, strewn along the tramway, are being gradually removed.

Although there is every appearance of the line being shortly opened, no signs of a station for Queensbury are yet visible, and the inhabitants are beginning to anxiously inquire whether the railway company really intend to make any provision for this village. Among the various projects put forward as likely to meet the requirements of the case, the one that seems to gain the most general approval so far as goods traffic is concerned is that of a tramway by means of which the goods may be drawn up and lowered down the goods station to be virtually on the hill top. Another alternative is to construct a road at the least possible gradient, but whatever course may be adopted it is certainly the general and strongly expressed desire of the villagers that some means should be taken to make the new line more accessible to this village.

Saturday 13th July 1878: Halifax Courier

Board of Trade inspection

With reference to Railway No.3 of the Halifax Thornton and Keighley Railway and its westerly fork, the former joins end on with the Halifax and Ovenden Railway at Holmfield Station and runs hence for 2 miles 22 chains when it forms a junction with the Bradford and Thornton Railway at Queensbury. The fork is 16 chains long and is for the purpose of enabling traffic to be worked direct between Bradford and Halifax. Both lines are double and the permanent way is of the same description as that of the Bradford and Thornton Railway. The steepest gradient has an inclination of 1 in 50 and the sharpest curve a radius of 13 chains.

There are 2 bridges under the line and 3 over it. These are of short span and variously composed either entirely of masonry or of masonry abutments with wrought iron girder tops. There is also one large masonry culvert and a lined tunnel 2,500 yards long and 26 feet wide. These works appear to have been all substantially constructed, to be standing well and to have sufficient theoretical and practical strength.

No recesses have been provided either in this tunnel or in those on the Bradford and Thornton line, the engineer arguing that in consequence of the unusual width of these tunnels (26ft instead of 25ft) they are unnecessary. I should have preferred recesses and would call the engineer’s attention to the desirability of constructing them in future tunnels.

The line is fenced with a dry wall coped in mortar.

There is a long rock cutting through Rag and Millstone Grit from 50 to 70 feet deep which the stormy nature of the weather prevented my thoroughly examining and which I shall have to carefully inspect on a future occasion.

There is no station on the line.

Queensbury Junction South is the only Signal Cabin and here the point and signal levers have been concentrated and properly interlocked. An additional distant signal should be provided in the tunnel before the traffic is run from Halifax to Thornton.

For the present it is intended that the traffic shall be worked only between Bradford and Halifax over the Halifax and Ovenden line and as the latter is not yet ready for opening I must report that by reason of the incompleteness of the work (viz. the want of a terminal station) the Halifax Thornton and Keighley Railway and its westerly fork cannot be opened for passenger traffic without danger to the public.

Friday 11th October 1878: Major General C S Hutchinson

Opening of the Bradford and Thornton Railway

For nearly two years the line for goods between Thornton and Bradford has been open, and a large and increasing business has already been established in heavy goods and minerals, and on Monday the passenger traffic was also opened. Perhaps no line in the kingdom of a similar length has had to encounter so many difficulties in engineering and construction as this comparatively short, but important line.

After leaving the Exchange Station, and running a short length on an independent and newly-formed line, with the Great Northern line on our left and the Lancashire and Yorkshire on our right, we plunge into a tunnel under the last-named line, and next reach the station in Manchester Road. Passing on in the direction of Park Road, we shoot through another tunnel 318 yards long, and having emerged from this dark cavern we find that a branch line has been cut to the station at City Road, alias Thornton Road Station.

The main line to Thornton then goes onward past the lower end of Horton Park, and onwards under Great Horton Road until we reach Great Horton Station. Soon after leaving this place we encounter a deep cutting, and then a long line of embankment until we reach Pasture Lane. The embankment is 950 feet in length, and in some parts 62 feet in depth. Then Clayton Station is reached, the third on the short line, and there we find another deep cutting leading into a tunnel 1,056 yards in length; and on emerging from this we enter a broad ravine called Hole Bottom, where the Halifax portion of the line, diverging from that to Thornton, passes on under the high hill on which the still rising town of Queensbury is built, while that to the village or rising little town of Thornton goes on the right, and here we meet with some of the most difficult engineering on the whole line.

Turning for a moment to the Queensbury Tunnel, we may say that it is 430 feet below the surface, and is 2,500 yards, or nearly a mile and a half in length. Reverting again to the Thornton branch, we meet with the Birks stupendous embankment, 900 feet in length and 104 high. Then almost immediately adjoining this embankment is the Pinchbeck Viaduct, and this stupendous structure, without doubt one of the finest of the kind in the kingdom, is 900 feet in length, 104 feet from the natural surface, independent of the additional height of the parapet wall. The viaduct is composed of twenty arches, each of 40 feet span. We next reach the Thornton Station, and the line is continued forward to Wellheads, where, for the present, it terminates in a deep cutting running into the hill dividing Thornton from Denholme, but eventually it is intended to proceed with it by way of Doe Park and Cullingworth Gate towards Keighley.

The length of rails laid down on the Bradford and Thornton line is 6¼ miles, the distance between the two by the old cart road being 4 miles. The stations along the line are not only ample in point of accommodation, but are more than usually ambitious as regards their architectural form. Endeavours have been made to do away as much as possible with level crossings, and this has been fully accomplished at the Manchester Road, Clayton and Thornton Stations. At Horton there are both up and down platforms, instead of a central one. The booking offices at Manchester Road Station are not only neat buildings, but outside there is an ornamental verandah covered with glass, and also space for a cabstand. To what is called the “island platform” below, descent is made by a covered staircase, and the platform itself, 400 feet in length, is concreted, and is as solid as flags. The waiting rooms, which are wood, are situated in this part. There are three approaches to the station yard - one from Manchester Road and two from Newby Street. The passenger station at Great Horton is approached by a new road branching from Browhill, and all the buildings are stone. The goods department is ample in size, and includes a substantial stone warehouse, 152 by 51 feet, and all other necessary accommodation. The Clayton Station is also approached by a new road, and from this a wrought iron covered bridge is constructed, 100 feet in length, stretching both other the main line and sidings, and from this we descend by a covered staircase to the platform, where, also, there are several waiting rooms, constructed of wood. The station at Thornton is similar in construction to that at Clayton, the platform being approached by an iron bridge, 50 feet long, from Thornton Road. The waiting rooms are ample in size, and, like all the others, admirably fitted up. It is estimated that the cost of the four stations alone will be upwards of £60,000.

Turning back to Bradford, we must briefly look at the City Road portion of the line. The goods yard alone covers an area of twenty-five acres. The stabling contains stands and all the latest fittings for thirty-eight horses; and attached are out-buildings for storage purposes, and a large yard with drinking troughs. The goods station, for extent and arrangements of every kind, is considered one of the finest and most complete erections in the kingdom, being externally 350 feet long and 118 feet wide. West of the yard is the stone wharf, with carriage landing 450 feet long, supplied with heavy cranes etc, and there is also a high loading dock 40 feet in length, the whole yard being enclosed by a strong and lofty wall.

The line, we may state, was commenced in 1874, and the approximate estimated cost so far is about £750,000, independent, of course, of the continuation of the lines to Halifax on the one side and Keighley on the other. Mr J Fraser CE, the engineer for the Great Northern Company, and Mr H J Fraser, resident engineer, have designed, and the latter superintended the works. The architect of the stations has been Mr J B Fraser, of Leeds. Messrs Benton and Woodiwiss of Derby and Manchester, have been the contractors, and their managers Messrs J and W Woodiwiss.

The construction of few, if any lines of a similar length in this country, has been attended with a heavier list of accidents, and several of them fatal; and it has not been without reason that we, frequently in the columns of the Leeds Times, have found occasion to call it “the slaughtering line”.

We have but brief space to speak of the opening of the passenger traffic on Monday morning. Without doubt, the affair was extremely novel to many, and the crowds collected at every station on the line, as the “steam steed” approached, snorting as it went, and drawing forth loud and enthusiastic cheers, all proved the deep interest taken in it by the inhabitants of the various districts through which it passed. The first train left the Exchange Station at 7.45am, and as it moved away fog signals were discharged, and similar signals were laid down at all the stations, and when at last the train reached proud Thornton, excessive were the manifestations of pleasure on every side.

The same morning the Halifax section was opened for goods traffic, a train having been despatched there from this town at seven o’clock, the new line this affording the Great Northern Company independent access to Halifax.

Saturday 19th October 1878: Leeds Times

Content reproduced courtesy of Forgotten Relics website


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