This was the last Huddersfield branch line to be built, connecting with the Penistone line near Shepley and Shelley station. It opened September 1st, 1879. There is a tunnel 611 yards long at Skelmanthorpe. The line was wide enough for a double track, but it was never required.
The website http://www.kirkleeslightrailway.com includes ‘With two thriving communities each with a colliery to serve, the railway soon proved its worth. Aside from regular goods and passenger trains the line was also used for excursion trains for workers to travel to places further afield.
Coal traffic was the backbone of the railway and ensured that it survived Dr Beeching’s modernisation plan of the 1960s which saw many similar lines closed.’
It did close in 1983.
Since October 1991 it’s the Kirklees Light Railway. The website explains this development
‘Around this time Brian & Doreen Taylor had established a miniature railway at Shibden Park in Halifax. This had become a great success and continues to please many visitors to the park today. Brian however wanted to get his teeth into something bigger and began a search for somewhere to build a 15 inch gauge railway.
Attention finally fell on the line to Clayton West which had lain dormant for only a short time. After negotiations, and with support from Kirklees Council, a Light Railway Order was applied for and this was granted in September 1991, one of the last to be made under the 1896 Light Railway Act.
During this time the Taylors had been busy, with assistance of a small team of paid and voluntary staff, constructing the railway. This opened in stages, firstly to Cuckoo’s Nest in October 1991, Skelmanthorpe in December 1992 and finally Shelley in May 1997, the latter being completed with assistance from the European Union’s coalfield regeneration schemes.
In the early 2000s Brian and Doreen decided that they wished to take life a little easier and retire. The railway was acquired in 2006 by Stately Albion, a family owned company that specialises in the manufacture of park and leisure homes. With 6 locomotives, 12 coaches, a new engine shed and station building at Clayton West the Taylors had laid solid foundations. Since purchasing the line Stately Albion have made many improvements these include new carriages, two large play areas and a new tearoom and picnic area at Shelley.’
We took Jenson. He was frightened to start with, but soon came round. The trip is 25 minutes each way and overlooks farmland with livestock. There are two stations, Skelmanthorpe and Cuckoo’s Nest, but no one got on or off. Seems a well organised set up.