The Yorkshire rail system has, like most regions, gone through a number of changes; proliferation, amalgamation, consolidation and, finally a new expansion. Having seen the success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and, in 1833, Acts of Parliament for lines to London from Lancashire – the Grand Junction and the London and Birmingham, the manufacturers of Yorkshire realised that they would be at a commercial disadvantage.
George Hudson, who was brought up in a farming community and started life as a draper's assistant in York until in 1827, when he was 27 years old, he inherited £30,000. He had no former interest in railways, but seeing them as a profitable investment arranged a public meeting in 1833 to discuss building a line from York to Leeds. While the route was being planned, the North Midland Railway was formed in 1835 to build a line from Derby to Leeds. This would connect with the Midland Counties Railway at Derby and therefore, via the London & Birmingham Railway, provide rail access to London. Later that year at a public meeting in York, the York & North Midlands Railway was formed to build a railway line to a junction with the North Midland Railway near Normanton. George Stephenson was appointed engineer for the line, a private bill was presented to Parliament seeking permission to build the railway and Royal Assent was given on 21 June 1836 to the Act that confirmed Hudson as chairman. The line opened the 14.5 miles (23.3 km) to the Leeds & Selby Railway, with a ceremony on 29 May 1839. After breakfast in York, a train with a steam locomotive at the front and back conveyed the guests in eighteen carriages to South Milford; the train then returned on a dinner in York.
The Leeds and Selby Railway was an early British railway company and first mainline railway within Yorkshire. It was opened in 1834. As built, the line ran west/east between two termini, Marsh Lane station, Leeds and Selby railway station. The company was leased and then acquired by the York and North Midland Railway in 1840 and 1844; the line remained in use through the subsequent NER, LNER, BR and post-privatisation periods. Use of the line was expanded through junction connections to new railways, most built in the late 19th century; a junction with the York and North Midland Railway in 1839; an end on junction at Selby to Hull (Hull and Selby Railway, 1840); a through route into Leeds and westward (Leeds viaduct extension, 1869); a shortened route to York (Micklefield to Church Fenton, 1869); a line to Wetherby (Cross Gates to Wetherby Line, 1876, closed 1964); a line to Castleford (Garforth to Castleford Line, 1878, closed 1969) and a line avoiding Selby for Goole (Selby to Goole Line, 1910, closed 1964) as well as a number of minor and industrial lines and sidings.
The Middleton Railway is the world's oldest continuously working public railway. It was founded in 1758 and is now a heritage railway, run by volunteers from The Middleton Railway Trust Ltd. since 1960. The railway operates passenger services at weekends and on public holidays over approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) of track between its headquarters at Moor Road, Hunslet, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England and Park Halt on the outskirts of Middleton Park.
Coal has been worked in Middleton since the 13th century, from bell pits, gin pits and later "day level" or adits. Anne Leigh, heiress to the Middleton Estates, married Ralph Brandling from Felling near Gateshead on the River Tyne. They lived in Gosforth and left running of the Middleton pits to agents. Charles Brandling was their successor. In 1754, Richard Humble, from Tyneside, was his agent. Brandling was in competition with the Fentons in Rothwell who were able to transport coal into Leeds by river, putting the Middleton pits at considerable disadvantage. Humble's solution was to build waggonways which were common in his native north east. The first waggonway in 1755 crossed Brandling land and that of friendly neighbours to riverside staithes. In 1757 he began to build a waggonway towards Leeds, and to ensure its permanence Brandling sought ratification in an Act of Parliament, (31 Geo.2, c.xxii, 9 June 1758) the first authorising the building of a railway. "An ACT for Establishing Agreement made between Charles Brandling, Esquire, and other Persons, Proprietors of Lands, for laying down a Waggon-Way in order for the better supplying the Town and Neighbourhood of Leeds in the County of York, with Coals."
Around 1799 the wooden tracks began to be replaced with superior iron edge rails to a gauge of 4 ft 1 in. Cheap Middleton coal gradually enabled Leeds to become a centre of the many developing industries which used coal as a source of heat, e.g. for pottery, brick and glass making, metal working, and brewing, or as a source of power for mill and factory engines. In 1812 the Middleton Railway became the first commercial railway to use steam locomotives successfully. John Blenkinsop, the colliery's viewer, or manager, had decided that an engine light enough not to break the cast iron track would not have sufficient adhesion, bearing in mind the heavy load of coal wagons and the steep track gradient. Accordingly, he relaid the track on one side with a toothed rail, which he patented in 1811 (the first rack railway), and approached Matthew Murray of Fenton, Murray and Wood, in Holbeck, to design a locomotive with a pinion which would mesh with it. Murray's design was based on Richard Trevithick's Catch me who can, adapted to use Blenkinsop's rack and pinion system, and probably was called Salamanca. This 1812 locomotive was the first to use two cylinders. These drove the pinions through cranks which were at right angles, so that the engine would start wherever it came to rest.
The Airedale line is one of the rail services in the West Yorkshire Metro area centred on West Yorkshire in northern England. The service is operated by Northern, on the route connecting Leeds and Bradford with Skipton. Some services along the line continue to Morecambe or Carlisle. The route covered by the service was historically part of the Midland Railway. The first section, between Leeds and Bradford (Forster Square station), was opened by the Leeds and Bradford Railway on 1 July 1846. A number of the intermediate stations were closed in March 1965 (as a result of the Beeching Axe), however the line and its major stations remained open. Some of the closed stations, such as Saltaire, were re-opened during the 1980s. In 1994 under Regional Railways, the line was electrified at 25 kV AC overhead between Leeds and Skipton, and new British Rail Class 333 trains were introduced in the early 2000s. Investment in the line has seen passenger numbers grow, and now overcrowding on trains is a problem. New stock and longer trains are to be introduced by the new Northern Rail franchisee Arriva Rail North by December 2018 to tackle this issue.
The Calder Valley line (also previously known as the Caldervale line) is a railway route in Northern England between the cities of Leeds and Manchester as well as the seaside resort of Blackpool. Before the 1923 Grouping the first section of the line (Leeds–Bradford) was owned by the Great Northern Railway (GNR); and the entire remainder by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L & YR), apart from the final section of the branch leading into Huddersfield, which was owned by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). For the section between Halifax and Burnley the line uses the valley of the River Calder, which in fact comprises two separate valleys with rivers of the same name, that of West Yorkshire and the Lancashire River Calder thus giving the services their name; it also follows the Rochdale Canal from Todmorden into Manchester. Since the route crosses the Pennines, there are many tunnels to negotiate en route.
Trains continue up the Calder valley to Burnley and Blackburn; it also runs parallel with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Burnley. The section from Todmorden to Burnley (often called the Copy Pit line) was opened by the Manchester and Leeds Railway (later L & YR) on 12 November 1849. The East Lancashire Railway (later L & YR) built the Burnley to Preston line, Burnley to Accrington 18 September 1848, Accrington to Blackburn 19 June 1848, and the Blackburn to Preston section on 1 June 1846. Improvements to the line are proposed as part of Network Rail's Northern Hub plans, which would allow for more frequent services on the line. Some services via Bradford would also be extended to Chester, Crewe, Liverpool and Manchester Airport. The Chester and Liverpool services have since been incorporated into the Northern franchise agreement, these will start in December 2017 under the "Northern Connect" brand and will be operated by new 100 mph Class 195 diesel trains by December 2019. In 2018, the Manchester Airport trains will follow once the Ordsall Curve is completed. Low Moor station, between Bradford Interchange and Halifax, is due to be re-opened in May 2017. A business case is being developed to re-open Elland station between Halifax and Brighouse.