A SMALL team of determined volunteers is looking at the realistic prospect for reinstating a working railway between Hawes and Garsdale.

Formed following a public meeting in 2018, the group – named the Upper Wensleydale Railway – aims to reopen the connection to the main Settle to Carlisle Railway.

Originally opened in October 1878, Hawes to Garsdale was the only branch line of the Midland Railway on the Settle and Carlisle. At Hawes, it formed an end-on junction with the North Eastern Railway’s branch line from Northallerton, providing a connection between the east and west coast lines.

Scheduled passenger services ceased in 1959, resuming for a few days in the severe winter of 1962/63 when snow made local roads impassable.

The line was finally closed in April 1964 and subsequently dismantled.

The project to reinstate a working railway is being led by chair Andrew Longworth as well as Tony Smare and determined campaigner Ruth Annison.

They explain that the Upper Wensleydale Railway’s ambition is separate from the heritage line which operates between Leeming and Redmire. They are fully sportive of the hertitage line’s work and are members of its association.

“We are not looking to run the railway ourselves but for a train operator to run a public service,” said Mr Longworth.

“It would primarily be for tourism, but it would also serve the local community. There is a massive catchment area of people who like to visit the Upper Dales and beyond.

“We have received some donations which helps with our expenses.”

To make the group’s ambition a reality, nearly six miles of track would have to be relaid. As the land was sold off, it will need to be returned to railway ownership. The group is helped in this by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority which has protected the land from development.

J M W Turner sketched in the area – once considered one of the UK’s most scenic stretches of line – in 1816.

At present the project is at the scoping stage and will require wide consultation with communities, businesses, local authorities and government agencies on the implications for reinstating the railway before it progresses.

They team from Upper Wensleydale Railway has already spoken with representatives of the YDNP and NYCC.

Tony Smare who, like the chair has a background in engineering, doesn’t deny there is much work ahead.

“The line has a tunnel, two viaducts and 35 bridges with three gaps where new crossings would be needed,” he said. “It helps that Settle to Carlisle is not a high speed main line.”

Ruth Annison is no stranger to campaigning for better transport links. She was an integral part of the successful fight to keep the Settle Carlisle Railway open in 1989.

She said: “Our intention is to get charitable status. We are optimistic about the future – I want to see this railway re-opened as there would be so many benefits.”

The Upper Wensleydale Railway is looking for volunteers and supporters.

For more information, please contact the group via its website – https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/QGEWCjZwws7B0GGtWc4jQ.