Pool-in-Wharfedale Railway


“The Yorkshire historian, Henry Schroeder recorded that on the morning of Thursday 12th Sept. 1844, a train of 240 carriages drawn and propelled by nine powerful engines took 6,600 passengers from Leeds to Hull and back at a reduced fare of two shillings, third class. Such was the boom in the publics like of trains and cheap one day tickets.”

Prospects for the building of the Thirsk-Leeds line were discussed in May 1845 along with the possibility of a branch line to Pool and Otley. By October 1845 the Thirsk-Leeds line was well underway. After the completion of the “Wharfdale” Viaduct and Bramhope Tunnel (northern portal Grade 2 listed) it opened on 10th July 1849. The construction involved 2300 men, 400 horses and cost 23 lives.

Although the projected plans for a Wharfedale branch line from Arthington through to Pool, Otley and villages to the north had been considered in 1845, they had been dispelled as it was considered to be “useless to the northern villages.” The Ordinance Survey map of 1847 already showed the intended route through Pool. This eventual proposal did not meet the approval of some landowners who would have to sell their land to the North Eastern Railway Company. One objection was the nearness of the route to their residences which would cause noise and pollution.

Other arguments also had to be resolved:

In 1852 Fawkes issued a circular to 250 residents of Otley asking them to object to the railway project as it would do “me and my property great injury and entirely defeat the object which I have had in view in spending so much upon the improvement and ornament of Caley Hall…”

“Public opinion was keenly though not evenly divided on the advisability of having a railway running through the valley at all. Mr. Jeremiah Garnett of Wharfeside, Otley, took a very active part supporting the proposal and he was backed up by a large number of Wharfedale residents.

Mr. Francis Hawksworth Fawkes. Squire of Farnley and owner of Caley Hall was for a long time very actively opposed to the venture and these two gentlemen carried on a “pamphlet battle” before Mr. Fawkes finally but reluctantly agreed to the railway passing through his land.

Caley high sided bridge over railway

He imposed certain conditions, for example the railway was to be out of sight in a cutting as it passed Caley Hall while the bridge carrying the road to Caley Hall from the main road (Otley/Pool) was to be four yards wide and its walls not less than six feet high so that horses passing over the bridge may not be “exposed to be frightened by trains.” Further, Mr. Fawkes was to be at liberty to plant trees on such parts of the embankment in return for land surrendered to the North Eastern Railway Company. The document from the Fawkes’ records not only lays down conditions to be complied with by the Railway Company but also insists that the rights then existing should be maintained. The Court Roll maps show the rights of way of the time and the steps taken to ensure these rights are to be seen today.” “The coming of the Railway 1865” by E.T. Cowling & David Nealey

Eventually agreement was made but the line to pass Caley Hall was to be more than 160 yards away and the railway cutting to be 20 feet deep. The Fawkes estate’s financial gain for this part of the line was £2,500, excluding compensation to tenants which was made separately by the railway company.

The North Eastern Railway required building consent from all land owners along the route. On 1st December 1860 a letter was received by John Pullein, Lord of the Manor of Pool, requesting that he agree to either “assent, dissent or be neuter”, to its building through the “township of Poole”, their report was to be sent to Parliament.

Arthington/Pool Junction

Work on the line finally began in 1863. The Wharfedale branch line joined the Leeds/Thirsk line at Arthington where a triangle was constructed, known as the Arthington Triangle, with a signal box at each of the three points. The original station at Arthington, then named “Pool”, was constructed in 1865 alongside the A659. This served both the Leeds-Thirsk line and the branch line. During 1876 however it was replaced by a new station built at the junction of the two lines. Plans to update the station were drawn in Dec.1895

According to a map made of wall tiles in York National Railway Museum dated c.1900, the station at Pool was called “Leathley/Pool” later becoming known as Pool. The name was again changed in 1927 to Pool-in-Wharfedale. The station had two entrances. One was directly from Old Pool Bank, just below the bridge, another was off Pool Bank New Road immediately above the Pool-in-Wharfedale Waterworks land. The stone entrance pillars are still visible, adjacent to a garden on Willow Court.

Evidence that the station at Arthington was originally named Pool is also shown on a poster in Otley Museum advertising a “Grand Pleasure Excursion” organised by the Otley Mechanics Institution leaving Pool Station during Otley Feast on 7th Aug 1849, which was before the branch line to Pool village was built. Amusingly,

the poster also goes on to say “To dispel monotony and render the trip perfectly agreeable the excellent Rural Band of F. H. Fawkes, Esq. has been engaged for the occasion and will play several favourite airs throughout the day.”

The Wharfedale Branch line was first used on 1st Feb 1865 when a train left Wellington Street, Leeds at 7.a.m. reaching Arthington at 7.26 and Otley at 7.38. At that time there were six trains a day moving in each direction.

As part of a Parliamentary Bill for the construction of the Wharfedale line, the population for Pool(e) was given as 363, with Bramhope 350, Arthington 336 and Otley 3445. No doubt due to the coming of the railway Pool’s population soon began to rise as, after the 363 recorded in 1846, 1891 records 554 and by 1921 it was 844. By the late 19th century large houses began to be built on Arthington Lane, Pool Bank New oad and Otley Road. These were built mainly by wool and other merchants from Leeds, Bradford and Otley who now found commuting much easier. In 1891 there were 108 dwellings in the village.

A Very Busy Station

The movement of stone and bricks from Pool Bank Quarries, goods to and from Whiteley’s mill, Midgley’s coal yard, Royal mail, wood, farmers’ milk churns, farm animals, grain and, on several occasions circus animals, WW2 tanks and armaments together with civilian passengers, all made for a very active station.

Pool-in-Wharfedale Station (arrows indicate stone dressing shed)

A connecting quarry rail line was opened in 1880 by Benjamin Whitaker & Son, owners of Pool Bank Quarries. This ran to the south side of the station. Stone and bricks were brought down in wagons or bogies, from the quarries, using a rail and pulley system, then loaded into railway goods wagons to be transported all over the world. A small hut stood on the south side of the station used by stonemasons from the quarry.

Wharfedale Observer “1st Oct. 1880 Accident at Benjamin Whitaker and Sons’ Quarry. Wagon came down at a furious rate when the wire rope was not attached correctly. Several masons and railway servants were at work and were naturally alarmed. Fortunately no one was hurt.”

The north side of the station was developed into a busy coal siding, used by Robert Midgley & Son, Pool’s coal merchant and haulage contractor, whose family traded from early 1900 until 1998.

All the coal used in the village was carted from Pool Station and during the working of the quarry thousands of tons of stone and bricks left the station.” (Holmes Whiteley)

Pressboard bound for Russia – 1932

Trains were loaded with board, some destined for Russia, made by local paper manufacturer of B.S.&W. Whiteley Ltd. Rags were transported to the paper mill. There was also a large hand operated crane on the north side of the station yard, used for handling goods.

Whiteleys Paper Mill c. 1895

Although the railway had arrived in 1865 allowing goods to be despatched to customers by rail, an inventory for 1895 showed transport would still be necessary from Whiteleys paper mill to the station.

The inventory included:

  • 1 horse £25.0.0. l foal l ½ years old. 1 wagon £11.0.0. l cart and fittings, set of cart gear, set of harnesses, nearly new £4.0.0. saddle and bridle.

For a business trip to Belfast by William L. Whiteley the expenses were detailed as

  • Leeds (presumably from Pool) 1s.8d. Leeds to Belfast £1.1.0d. and £1.1.0d. return

The delivery of letters and parcels was much earlier in the morning than it is now. We had a delivery by 6.30 a.m. The letters came to Pool by an early train and were sorted at Pool Post Office. The collection of letters for many years was only once a day and these were put on a train leaving Pool for Leeds about 7.00 p.m. Sunday there was no delivery but one collection. This was by Royal Mail Van, horse drawn. It used to start from Addingham collecting mail bags from Ilkley, Burley, Otley and Pool putting them on a train at Arthington about 8.30p.m. In

those days the driver of the Mail Van would give a lift to respectable travellers who happened to be on the road. The local preachers often used this mode of transport to get back to the west end of the circuit, that is if the parson’s chariot had not been able to pick them up.” Extract from “Recollections of My Native Village” by Holmes Whiteley,

In August 1919 “instructions were given regarding an Ilkley-Arthington Sunday evening train cancellation, which evidently only ran during the summer months, and until further notice the mail had to be conveyed by motor van”. (Postal History of Upper Wharfedale – Ronald Ward)

A lorry, heavily laden with jute bags, in the yard of Pool Paper Mills – B. & S. & W. Whiteley Ltd

To avoid the transportation of pulp by canal into Leeds then by lorry to the paper mill, Whiteley’s made an abortive attempt to get a branch line laid direct to the mill.

Until the 1920’s all pressboards were manufactured using jute after which wood pulp was used.

The station was well used by passengers too. In fact by the early 1900’s an extra passenger train to Leeds was warranted, starting from Pool. On the 30th June 1929 a special train starting from Pool was used when all workers and their families from Whiteley’s mill were taken to an exhibition in Newcastle.

“At one time there would be about 40 contract holders, the price of the yearly contract being varied according to the number of pass holders in one family.

There was a rather serious accident on one occasion many years ago when too much force was given to some trucks while shunting, the result being that the trucks knocked down the buffers and came to rest in the station master’s office.”

Holmes Whiteley

A tomb stone in St. Wilfrid’s churchyard reads, “Joseph Beaumont of Pool Station born 1840 died 1875”. The reason for his death is not mentioned. He was known to be living in Pool in 1871 and had previously been employed as a railway clerk in Leeds. John Cousin was porter at the time.

A magnificent tombstone, donated by James Bray, is to the memory of the 23 men who died during the construction of Bramhope Tunnel and is in Otley Parish Church yard.

Tombstone donated by James Bray located in Otley

“Friday lst January 1897. A little frost during the night and a nice bracing air and a pleasant drive to Otley. Called to register a birth at the workhouse and took the 11 train to Pool and registered a birth there. Back to Otley by 12.23 train.”

Extracts from “Timble Man, Diaries of a Dalesman” – by Ronald Harker, Hendon Publishing

“March 27th. 1900. Drove to Otley and took 10.59 train to Leeds and went to Mr. Beever’s office to sign contract for farm buildings at Pool Hall. Contract £750….nearly £100 higher than the next highest tender. No doubt we stand well in reputation for making good work, otherwise we should not have got the job….”

Extracts from “Timble Man, Diaries of a Dalesman” – by Ronald Harker, Hendon Publishing

In October 1905 Pool station was awarded first prize by the North Eastern Railway Company for the Best Kept Wayside Station. Again in the mid 1930’s the station received third prize in the L.N.E.R. Best Kept Station competition for the North-Eastern area. The station master was A. H. Wildon, his staff George Bradley and Arthur Sayner.

Awarded Best Kept Station – 1936

Invitations were issued for the stone laying ceremony of the Pool Methodist Chapel which took place in 1908. It stated that the North Eastern Railway Company “have kindly consented to stop the new Harrogate Autocar Train, leaving Otley 2.24 p.m. at Pool, on this occasion.” A steam auto-car service, new to this part of the country, had been introduced in 1906 to relieve the over-crowded rail passenger service between Leeds and Pool-in-Wharfedale.

On July 6th 1923 return first class saloon ticket No. 1213 was issued by the North Eastern Railway at York. Thirtyfour children and nine adults were booked from Pool to Bridlington for members of Pool Methodist Sunday School to take place on the 14th July

Pumping water from the station to a tank at the top end of Sandy Lobby to supply the cottages with fresh water, was a daily morning task for railway workers. The water came from the pump house situated next to the signal cabin on the station.

Plan of station drawn by the late Bob Amos
Original station sign.
Drawing of the station by the late Bob Amos. (Permission to print from the Amos family)

Some Early Memories

  • In the early 1920’s an old railway carriage was left abandoned on some spare ground at the entrance to Holmes Farm (Hall Farm). “The local children rigged up some seats and used it as a cinema. Fosters who kept North View Stores, (now converted cottages on Main Street) were considered to have plenty of money owning motor bikes and a cini camera. This was used to play old films, such as Charlie Chaplin.” (Freddie Midgley.)
  • There were only horse drawn carts or bikes. The milk floats from the Leathley and Stainburn farms used to come cantering through the village to catch the 6.30 a.m. train for Leeds. The poor horses being lathered in sweat. (Bernard Mitchell. b.1898)
  • The local boys would collect apples from the orchard which is now Parklands. They were given to the engine drivers in return for a ride to Arthington on the footplate of the train. (Keith Lupton from tales told by his father, born c.1890).
  • Early in the 1920’s a wood wagon, pulled by six horses, would regularly come down from Leathley to unload logs at the railway station. The local children loved it, as the driver would give a lift on the back of the dray from Pool Bridge to the bottom of Old Pool Bank. “At this point we had to get off to allow the horses to pull their heavy load up the hill. Even then they would strain with the weight. For years the right hand wall of Old Pool Bank had a score mark, where the logs had scraped when turning the corner into the station.” (Freddie Midgley).
  • In 1930 wood wagons were still using the station “I recall how I used to see big long horse drawn wagons, with wooden wheels, loaded up with big long tree trunks coming along Arthington Lane. There would be six or eight horses in a team, drawing each wagon and I think there were two men to each team. The horses hauled the wagons up the Bank to the station yard. They used to stop for a breather near the wood yard (Kayes on Arthington Lane, now The Beeches) and again near the White House at the bottom of Old Pool Bank, before the final pull up into the station yards. As kids we used to follow them. The horses were very big and strong.” (Kendal Newby.)
  • Railwaymen who worked in Arthington tunnel wore mole skin suits to keep them warm, they would often emerge with icicles hanging from their helmets! A fire would be lit under the ventilation shafts to melt any hanging icicles which might damage the trains as they passed through the tunnel. The men also made sure that their trouser bottoms were tied with string to prevent rats from running up their legs! (Mrs. Webster whose father and grandfather worked in the tunnel and lived at Arthington.)
  • Mrs. Holmes, the local farmer’s wife lived at Hall Farm, Pool (now named Pool Hall Mews). Before her marriage she had lived near Leathley where her family farmed. Milk churns had to be delivered to Pool station. If the train was seen coming along the hillside from Otley they knew they would be too late, so would catch up with the train at Arthington. At one time they had cattle transported to Pool from Scotland. (Dorothy Homes)
  • On several occasions the circus arrived by train into Pool Station. One day during the 1930’s the animals, including elephants walked down Main Street. Billy Webster’s father was a keen gardener. He and other villagers were delighted to see the plentiful supply of good manure! (Billy Webster)
Childs Ticket issued in 1965 

The Uses of the Station during WW2

The station was a hive of activity during the Second World War. New tanks and stores arrived from Leeds armament factories to be stored at Riffa Camp and Farnley Military Camp. A special ramp was built on the night in 1941, killing Joseph Bateson, a Leeds tannery owner whilst returning home to Fairlea, (now White Croft)

Arthington Lane. His chauffeur driven Rolls Royce was in collision with a tank which was without lights because of wartime blackout restrictions. It had turned into the station when the car ran into the rear of the tank.

Otley Bridge was not considered strong enough to take this heavy traffic so Pool Bridge and Pool Station were used. When a particularly heavy piece of equipment was moved to the Camps it was unloaded at Arthington Station and driven across the river at Arthington’s ancient Castley Ford. At one time a large movement of tanks rumbled through the village which were thought to be en-route for the Normandy Landing. About a week prior to all this activity the base camp at Farnely was at different times visited by King George, Winston Churchill and Viscount Montgomery.

Police help was requested when, in March 1942 military traffic through the village had increased to such an extent it had become a danger to children crossing the road to school.

Wartime Memories

  • During WW2 the king and queen are believed to have slept in two royal carriages which were parked overnight in Pool-in-Wharfedale station. The station had a very heavy military patrol all that night. The station and track to Arthington was always patrolled by the military during the war. (Bill. Rider)
  • One of the outhouses of the White House, Old Pool Bank, was used as a bakehouse for the military. The signal box at Arthington Junction was always immaculate inside. No one was allowed to touch the shining brass controls. Even the signalmen used dusters when operating the signals. There was a small “Range” where dinner was cooked. It was always cleaned and blackleaded. There were carpets on the floor. During the war fuel was scarce. As the train went by, if asked, the engine driver would throw a shovelful of coal in the direction of the signal box. (Various)
  • The station and the line to Arthington were always heavily guarded. There was a narrow field between the station and Avenue des Hirondelles where the army regularly patrolled.
  • Six strong horses were used to move felled trees from an area above Pool railway bridge. They wore long protective boots on their legs. Each evening these were removed and hung on trees – “strange to see”. (Bill Rider)
  • A bomb was dropped at Arthington, possibly aiming for the railway viaduct. No one was injured as it landed in a field and killed the odd cow. Initially residents of Arthington used the railway arch leading into Creskeld Hall field as an air-raid shelter. After the bomb dropped it was decided perhaps this was not the safest place to be.

There is a turret on the north end of Bramhope tunnel which at one time was the home of railway people. This was renovated by the War Department and used by a security guard. (Mrs. Webster.)

Entrance to Bramhope Tunnel

End of the Line

The last permanent Station Master was Norman Plummer from Pannal after which various relief personnel took over.

Station garden

Joe Sutton, the final occupant of the station master’s house, was a keen gardener. When the station building was finally demolished in 1974, during the building of the small housing development of Willow Court, villagers took away his prize roses where they continued to bloom for many years.

In 1894 the timetable for passenger trains from Leeds to Ilkley were published in the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer. In January they ran from Leeds stopping at Holbeck, Headingley, Horsforth, Arthington, Pool, Otley, Burley, Ben Rhydding and Ilkley. The first train left Leeds at 7.55am arriving in Pool at 8.27am with the last train leaving Leeds at 9.05p.m. arriving at Pool at 9.40pm. Seven trains ran daily in each direction.

By 1962 there were just five passenger diesel trains running through Pool-in-Wharfedale on week-days only on the Leeds – Ilkley line. Three of the trains ran from Leeds to Pool with only two from Pool to Leeds. The journey to Leeds City however did only take 22 minutes!

Tickets issued for the last passenger train from Arthington to Otley, through Pool-in-Wharfedale station
Last train leaving Pool-in-Wharfedale station

The last passenger train on the Arthington to Ilkley line left on 20th March 1965. Pool station continued to handle goods traffic until it was completely closed on 5th July 1965 – exactly one hundred years from opening. Regular freight trains used the line, mainly carrying chemicals from Lancashire and to I.C.I. at Teesside. The railway lines were taken up in May 1966 with sections of the land sold off piecemeal. That part passing through Whiteley’s properties was sold in 1967. As plans were still being considered for a Pool by-pass David and John Whiteley, who were involved in local government, insisted on a minute being included. This allowed resale to the highway authorities if it were required for a by-pass route. (David Whiteley Memoirs & John Whiteley Railway Closure.)

John Whiteley, Chairman of the Ripon Division of the Liberal Association, Otley Branch and grandson of one of the founders of B.S.& W. Whiteley Ltd. campaigned very strongly to keep the line open. When it became apparent this would not happen and seeing the increase in road traffic, he requested the railway land be made available for a Pool by-pass.

The importance of this possibility resulted in a question being asked in Parliament on 30th March 1965 by Sir Malcolm Stoddart-Scott M.P. of Creskeld Hall, Arthington. On the 29th April 1965 a letter was received from the Ministry of Transport acknowledging that the railway land in the Wharfe valley could be converted into a road and would write again as soon as possible. A letter eventually confirming this “consideration” was being made was sent on 17th Jan. 1966. A postcard from the Ministry of Transport dated 26th Jan. 1966 in response to a further letter was received by John Whiteley which stated the matter was “receiving attention.” Nothing more was ever heard.

After the closure, an area of land including the station, was sold by William Whiteley as building land. Whilst preparing this site for Willow Court, a king pin weighing eight tons was unearthed. This was possibly part of the crane which had been used at the station.

The Railway at Pool Hits the News

Halifax Guardian in 1847.“Pool Feast was this year signalised by a disturbance of rather alarming character.

The neighbourhood, it appears, is inundated with navvies employed on the Leeds and Thirsk railway, now in course of construction. A young man named William Mounsey of Otley went with his dulcimer to the Half Moon Inn where a number of these semi-barbarians were assembled for the purpose of having a dance.

Mounsey played for while, but not receiving adequate remuneration for his services, left the house and went to the White Hart Inn. There, meeting with a fiddler, they played to a select party of villagers, among whom were Messrs Thomas Bray and Milthorp.

At a late hour, the house was attacked by a number of navvies who had come to demand back their musician and a scuffle ensued, several of the dancing party being severely treated. Mr. Bray escaped under a bed but, being discovered, was dragged forth in a brutal manner.

The constable, with the assistance of several of the dancers, attempted to clear the house. This was effected, but not before several of them had suffered rough treatment, Mr. Milthorp narrowly escaping strangulation.

Whilst this was going on, Mr. Ackerby, the landlord, rather injudiciously fired some small shot out of the window, hitting but not injuring some of the riotous gang.

First throwing a stone through a panel of the door, the rioters broke it open with a crowbar and, after breaking doors and windows in all directions, ransacked the house in search of the landlord, whom they threatened to murder. Mr. Ackerby retreated into the spirit vault, where he was locked in by his servant.

The rioters, baffled in their search, went into the dairy and cellar, where they amused themselves by dashing bowls of milk, bread, meat, etc. upon the floor, and trampling them.

Mr. Akerby’s servant, fearing for his master’s confinement and rushing from the house, he buried himself in a stack of hay, not far distant. The landlady had a narrow escape. One of the villains attempted to plunge a knife into her breast, but the deadly weapon slipped on one side, passing through the sleeve of her dress.

The report adds: “We are glad to find that four of the villains were secured. They were brought up at Otley the following day, heavily ironed and being taken before F. Bilham, Esq. on the charge of riot and assault, were by him committed to take their trial at the next Wakefield sessions. Seven of the gang made their escape and have not yet been apprehended.”

Wharfedale & Airedale Observer. 13th June 1883. “Miraculous Escape.

Whilst a party of excursionists 15 or 16 in number from Leeds were proceeding round the sharp curve on the Pool Road, nearly opposite the White Hart Hotel, Pool on Sunday last, a waggonette in which they were riding was capsized by the sudden turn and the occupants precipitated into the middle of the road. Beyond the fright and a few bruises the party escaped unhurt but had to return home by train.”

Compiled from various news reports of the day

“The three and a half ton foundation stone for the Wharfdale Viaduct was laid on 30th March 1846 accompanied by the sound of cannons and two bands. One band headed by a large procession, left Pool, to be joined by another from Bramhope. Dignitaries of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway and many thousands of people from the Aire and Wharfe valleys attended the ceremony which took place at Castley. Later directors and friends enjoyed the hospitality of Mrs. Beanland at The White Hart Inn, Pool, whilst workmen, who had been given a day’s holiday, were fed and presented with twelve large barrels of ale, a gift from the contractor James Bray. Mr. Bray considered all the stone removed from Bramhope tunnel was of good quality and was expected to provide stone to build nearly all the viaducts, bridges and masonry work along the line. The last arch was keyed in during July 1848 with the final “topping stone” laid in December 1848.

Taken from a news cutting of Nov. 1845 during the building of Arthington viaduct and tunnel. “We found that many of these men abstained from the use of strong liquors and that the persons who pursue this temperate course go through their work well, enjoy as good health and have more the appearance of long life than those who spend a considerable part of their wages in beer and spirits. The wages of workmen employed in this kind of labour vary from 20s. to 24s. a week and the persons employed as miners will earn 6s. a day.”

My thanks are given to the many friends who have related their memories. I think you will agree they have helped to bring to life this lost amenity.

As indicated in the narrative, the technical information has been assembled from various sources including Otley Museum, Neville Gladstone – Pullein Papers, “The Fawkes Family and their Estates in Wharfedale 1819-1936” by Marion Sharples. Some of the additional information included has again been given by colleagues. Several photos. are reproduced by kind permission of Neil Midgley, John Whiteley, Norman Sutton, John Hardcastle & the drawing of the station & layout by the late Bob Amos.