Railways were big business in the Spen Valley for over a century. Travel to all parts of the UK was possible, powered by steam almost to the end.
Spen Valley entered the railway age when this route up the west side of the valley was opened in 1848 (see map on centre pages). It connected Low Moor, Cleckheaton, Liversedge and Heckmondwike with the Leeds line at Mirfield. In 1869 a branch from Heckmondwike to the Wakefield line via Ravensthorpe was added.
Constructed by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Co. the Heckmondwike station and goods yard (no. 1 on centre spread map) was at Railway Street and is now occupied by housing. A station and yard at Liversedge off Halifax Road (2) is now a small business park. Part of the cobbled yard there and a platform building remain.
The large goods yard at Cleckheaton (3) was next to the station, now occupied by Tesco. At Moorend there were two sidings; one to deliver coal to the council’s gasworks and the other to Ellison’s Tar Distillers.
Accidents were few. But in 1882 carriages being shunted at Low Moor broke loose and didn’t stop until Cooper Bridge – 10 miles away. And on 22nd June 1928 several goods wagons were shunted off Westgate bridge, Cleckheaton, falling onto a butcher’s shop below. Mercifully no-one was injured.
The last passenger train was the service from Bradford on 12 June 1965 arriving at Cleckheaton at 11.21 pm. The station closed to freight traffic four years later.
In 1971 the disused station at Cleckheaton was stolen in its entirety by a demolition contractor who took three weeks to carry everything away. It is said that the police in all innocence stopped the traffic to allow long vehicles to exit Tofts Road.
The track was initially retained in the hope of establishing a tramway down Spen Valley in the 1980s. But when this idea was abandoned the track was lifted. Now there are fresh ideas about relaying the track.
Spen Line/ Leeds New Line
To relieve congestion on the Huddersfield – Leeds line the London & North Western Railway Co. decided to build a separate line from Heaton Lodge near Mirfield, to Leeds, with stations at Heckmondwike (4), Liversedge (5), Cleckheaton (6) and Gomersal (7). This line crossed over the Cleckheaton line near Smithies Lane, Heckmondwike and followed the east side of the valley. It was opened in 1900.
Due to lack of space at the station off High Street the Heckmondwike goods yard was built at Walkley Lane, now occupied by Huws Gray (formerly Wilbys) builders merchant. There was a siding into the adjacent chemical works.
Urban growth had made the Leeds Line a challenge to build through Heckmondwike where 126 houses stood in the way of a planned deep cutting. All residents were re-housed within 1 mile, with Eighty Houses built for displaced families at Church Street (at a cost of £20,267 10s 0d).
Liversedge Station was accessed from Listing Lane and the goods yard from Leeds Road.
A house by the name of “The Royds” which stood at the top of what is now Royds Park was dismantled and rebuilt in Whitechapel Road, Scholes. In a nice twist, the location is now occupied by Spen’s only rail track, the Royds Park Miniature Railway.
The cobbled viaduct running from Bradford Road, Cleckheaton to the Leeds New Line station at Spen Lane was built for pedestrian access from the town centre. This survives. In 1952 during his general election campaign Winston Churchill slept in a carriage in the station siding.
Cleckheaton (Spen) is now used for warehousing. The goods yard and station at Gomersal is occupied by Summerbridge Crescent.
Leeds New Line services ceased in 1965. But Charrington Hargreaves had a rail supplied oil depot at Liversedge goods yard. To maintain access a rail link was constructed at Heckmondwike Smithies Lane to transfer oil trains from the Ravensthorpe – Low Moor line. When the depot closed in 1986 the track was taken up. Thornleigh Drive was built there.
The Ravensthorpe-Low Moor track bed is now the Greenway. The Leeds New Line section from Walkley Lane to Cleckheaton is also identified as a cycleway called the Ringway but has still to cross Spen Lane and connect into Cleckheaton.