Laurie and Betty Ward

An unidentified “Black Five” passes through in the 1950s. Photo Colin Cowell.

In the 1930s the passenger service through Woodlesford wasn’t as frequent as it is today although the basic pattern was roughly the same. One service ran to Pontefract and Knottingley via Castleford Cutsyke and the other went through Altofts and Normanton and on to Cudworth and Sheffield.

The route via Wakefield Kirkgate and Barnsley came into operation when Diesel Multiple Units were introduced in 1958. The current half hourly service, with a reverse at what was once Castleford Central, was only introduced in the 1980s.

From the amalgamation of 120 railways in 1923 until they were nationalised in 1948 the trains through Woodlesford were operated under the banner of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, one of the so called “Big Four” companies.

Despite the change of name though, in the 1930s the two local services were still much as they had been before the amalgamation, with the Pontefract trains crewed by men from the old Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, known affectionately as the “Lanky”, and the Sheffield trains running to the traditions of the Midland Railway Company.

In those days some trains even ran as far as Doncaster via Askern and there was at least one train a day stopping at all stations as far as Derby along the route of the original North Midland Railway which opened in 1840.

Before the war for much of the morning and afternoon there were no stopping trains at all but what you could rely on was a personal and friendly service from the station staff.

If you were a regular passenger and you were late the porter was often willing to collude with the driver and guard to keep a train waiting for you as you ran across the station yard towards the platform. That’s the memory of Laurie Ward from Swillington who for a period used to go regularly with his mother to Leeds Infirmary to visit his father who’d suffered a serious accident at a local pit.

Laurie also recalled farmers calling at the station to pick up supplies and cattle which had been consigned to them. Laurie’s wife Betty, whose maiden name was Hope, grew up in the Dewsbury Road area of Leeds where her father managed a coal merchants.

As children both of them went on excursions on summer evenings to the coast and Laurie remembered packed trains running directly from Woodlesford with passengers from all the local villages. Click on the link below to hear Laurie and Betty’s memories recorded in 2006 when he was 84 and she was 85.

Laurie and Betty Ward