Railway heritage

Built in the second half of the 19th century, the Queensbury lines were an audacious undertaking for railway engineers who defied the landscape and drove the railway through hill and dale to connect small but important Pennine mill towns in the Halifax, Bradford and Keighley triangle. It became known as the Alpine route because of its stunning scenery and awesome sequence of Tunnels and Viaducts. The line between Queensbury and Cullingworth is regarded by railway historians as the pinnacle of Victorian railway engineering and construction. It is hoped that this project will protect what remains of the railway infrastructure and allow Bradford District to celebrate this important heritage through interpretation signing and information maps.

Passenger services were withdrawn in 1955 and the line finally closed to freight in 1965. Land sales were made to local businesses and farm owners from the 1960s.

A number of structures remain in public ownership (Rail Property Ltd). References to inspection reports are given in good faith and as an indication of general condition only. Cursory visual inspections are made annually. The reports referred to are the last reports placed on Rail Property files. In many cases however, subsequent inspections have been made but not yet documented on the companyÕs file. All other remaining railway structures are in private ownership.


Cullingworth Viaduct - A multi arched stone viaduct spanning Manywells Beck, Haworth Road (B6144) and Manywells Brow (B6429). Functionally redundant but sculpturally important to the character of the town.

The viaduct carried the railway over nine arches passing directly through the town.

The last annual inspection report from First Engineering (3.11.00) concludes "no action this time". A major examination was made in February 1996 by Technitube using industrial roped access methods. No major defects (ie danger to the public defects) were identified although the survey drew attention to mortar erosion, salt deposits, and minor masonry displacement. The parapet height is recorded as 1.5m including a 220cm coping.


Hewenden Viaduct - Grade II listed. Dramatically located some 270 metres above sea level, crossing Hewenden Beck on 16 masonry piers. The viaduct is approximately 312 metres long, built on a curved plan rising 38 metres above the beck. It has a gradient of 1.2% down towards Cullingworth and is constructed of Rough Rock Gritstone from Manywell Heights quarry (south of the viaduct) with brick arch barrels.

Contractors: Benton and Woodiwiss. Date: 1880/1.

The last annual inspection report from First Engineering (3.2.99) concludes "viaduct in fair condition". A major examination was made in May 1991 by consulting engineers, Messrs Blackett-Ord & Nash for British Rail Property Board. Recommendations included deck waterproofing, repairs to drainage outlets, additional tie bars to each of 10 arches, mortar and brickwork repairs. Total estimated cost including contingencies and fees: £266,750. See note in INFORMATION section.


Woodnook Bridge (No 46) - A single span masonry bridge over the private road to Glen House. The last annual inspection report from First Engineering (6.9.00) concludes "bridge in fair condition".


Whalley Lane Bridge (No 45) - A single span masonry bridge over a public road. The last inspection report from First Engineering (7.9.00) concludes "bridge in fair condition".


Well Heads Tunnel (Bridge No 41A) - Constructed 1878-1881 with straight side walls and vaulted roof in stone and brick. There are brick refuges staggered along the tunnel sidewalls and no air shafts. The rails have been removed. The width at base is approx 7m. Its built length was 662yds but according to a Jarvis Rail report (11.3.98) "the portal at the Denholme end has been removed and this possibly accounts for the tunnel being truncated by approx 40yds".

The stone portal at the Thornton end remains and has been filled in with brick walling. Access is through a padlocked doorway. At the Denholme end the opening is filled with earth, debris and rubbish leaving only a small gap at the top to gain entry.

Recent reports (from 1998) indicate that water was trapped inside the tunnel at both ends, root growth was causing coping stone "rotation" on the Thornton portal, and there was inevitable brick spalling and perished mortar joints. A report by Donaldson Associates in February 1998 concluded that the tunnel was generally in fair condition. See note in INFORMATION section.


Thornton Viaduct, Alderscholes Lane - Grade II listed, "one of a spectacular series c1876-78. A finely proportioned structure of sandstone 'brick' with 20 arches in slender tapering piers supporting the bed of the former railway. Very thin ashlar strings; capping piers at spring of arches; flat band below the parapet. The viaduct makes a most impressive contribution to the landscape of the valley below Thornton." (from Listed Buildings descriptive text).

Twenty barrel vaulted arches carried the railway triumphantly over the steeply sided Pinch Beck valley into Thornton station (now the site of Thornton Primary School). The last annual inspection report from First Engineering (6.9.00) concludes the viaduct is generally in good condition. A major examination was carried out by Technotube Ltd using industrial roped access methods in March 1996. Defects noted included spalling brickwork, salt deposits, minor masonry fractures, mortar gaps, some masonry gaps in the parapet walls, open drain covers, and corrosion to metal lintels in arch chambers. The parapet height is recorded as 1.5m including a 260cm coping. See note in INFORMATION section.


Headley Lane Bridge (No 35) - An iron girder bridge filled in during 1969.


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