The Railway in Tadcaster

The “Coming of the Railway” described the planning and construction of the railway and the changes at Harrogate that changed into a main line.  This continues the story of the railway in Tadcaster up to its ultimate closure in 1966.

The line opened as a branch to Harrogate in 1848 and became a through line in 1862.

Gradients on the line were fairly gentle until the line reached Spofforth, but from Spofforth to Crimple was a fairly steep climb.

In 1876, a line was opened from Cross Gates to Wetherby.  This allowed trains from Church Fenton to travel to Harrogate or to Leeds.  In 1902 a connection was added at Wetherby allowing trains from Leeds and Cross Gates to travel to Harrogate.

1892 map showing Tower Brewery and branch to the mill

Tadcaster Tower Brewery from Wetherby Road.

Tadcaster Tower Brewery from Wetherby Road.

In 1883, Tower Brewery was constructed alongside the line on what was to have been the triangle formed by the unbuilt York-Tadcaster and York-Wetherby lines.  This added to the goods traffic on the line.  In 1888, part of the Tadcaster – York line was brought back to life as a siding serving the corn mill beside the weir, using the viaduct over the river.

The increase in traffic made it necessary to widen Skew Bridge, the bridge over Leeds Road, to carry three tracks in 1889.  This made it possible to carry out shunting in the yard without blocking the main line.

Some of the services on the line were operated by Steam Autocars, shown in the picture above.  In these trains the driver could either drive the train from the locomotive or from the front of the coach, controlling the locomotive through geared drives.  These first appeared at Tadcaster in 1907.

A view of the goods yard of Tadcaster railway station

A view of the goods yard of Tadcaster railway station

This view of the station yard in 1907 shows that there was a lot of goods traffic.  Beer was the main product leaving the town.  Barrels can be seen on some wagons.  Coal was brought into the town.

Tadcaster Timetable 1911

In 1911, Tadcaster saw 22 trains stopping, 11 in each direction.

Until the 1920s, Tadcaster was selling 30,000 tickets per year and 60,000 tons of freight was dealt with at Tadcaster.

By 1932, passenger traffic had reduced a little with only 9 trains stopping at Tadcaster in each direction.  This dropped to 7 each way by 1937.

War time

Plan of Thorp Arch Royal Ordnance Factory

The war led to the construction of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Thorp Arch, opening in 1942.  This was built alongside the line and had a circular railway going round the outside of the site, with 3 stations at which those working at the factory could join or leave trains.  Workers travelled daily from as far afield as Leeds, Knaresborough, Harrogate, Doncaster, Hull, Selby and Normanton.  This circular line finally closed in 1958.  After the Second World War, the factory continue to produce the munitions for use in the Korean War.

In addition to the passengers using the line, the munitions factory generated much freight traffic.


Diesel Multiple Unit at Tadcaster level crossing 1960

Diesel Multiple Unit at Tadcaster 1960

After the war, passenger traffic fell off more rapidly with only 3 trains stopping at Tadcaster in each direction daily.

From the 1940s through to 1959, a train brought scholars to the Grammar School daily from Scholes, Collingham and Wetherby in the morning and took them home at night.

Throughout the 1950s, there was still a lot of freight traffic with trains from the south travelling via Church Fenton, Tadcaster, Harrogate, Ripon, and Northallerton to avoid the then bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line.

The sight of the Queen of Scots Pullman passing through the station was a fairly regular occurrence if there were diversions or delays on the system.

The last train over the viaduct to the mill ran in 1955 after which this line was lifted.


Ticket for last train

By 1961, Tadcaster only had one train departing from Tadcaster each day.  This ran to Wetherby.  There was no corresponding train in the opposite direction, so there was little incentive to use the line.

Closure came in two stages.  The line was one of the first “Beeching” cuts.  The last passenger train ran on Saturday 4th January 1964.

Freight train at Tadcaster 14/5/1964



Freight continued for almost three more years.  There was a freight train most weekdays that travelled from Church Fenton to Wetherby and back, dropping and picking up wagons at each station.

Newton Kyme closed to freight in July 1964.  Thorp Arch followed on 10 August 1964.  Wetherby finally closed to all traffic on 4 April 1966.  The line from Tadcaster to Wetherby was pulled up and the level crossing at Tadcaster removed.

Freight at Tadcaster continued for 8 months but the last official freight train left on 29th November 1966.

Skew Bridge under demolition September 1967

On Sunday 1st October 1967, the landmark of Skew Bridge was finally demolished.  It had a headroom of 15 feet over the central part of the arch.  Road accidents involving lorries trying to keep to the centre on the arch were common, as well as having to extricate lorries stuck under the bridge.

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