Travelling to Leeds

North Eastern Railway train at Leeds New Station in the early years of the 20th century.

The North Midland Railway’s grand opening was on 30 June 1840 with a regular service from Leeds Hunslet Lane station to Derby through Woodlesford starting the following day. To reach Sheffield passengers had to change at a station at Masbrough to the west of Rotherham. Also on 1 July 1840 the Hull and Selby Railway opened and the York and North Midland Railway, which had opened as far as South Milford in May 1939, was finally completed and reached Normanton via a junction at Altofts. It was now possible to travel by to train via Derby to London from Leeds, York, and Hull.

Initially in 1840 there were five North Midland passenger trains a day, Monday to Saturday, in each direction between Leeds and Derby. Four stopped at Woodlesford. To Leeds there were at 9.06 am, 12.36 am, 3.51 pm, (the non-stop train passed through at about 6.30 pm) and 11.06pm. On Sundays they were at 9.06 am, 6.6 pm and 10.6 pm. It took 24 minutes to reach Leeds.

From Leeds trains arrived at Woodlesford at 7.01 am, 8.16 am, (non stop passed through at about 9.45 am), 1.01 pm, 5.01 pm. On Sundays the times were 8.31 am, 1.46 pm, 4.45 pm. The journey from Leeds took 16 minutes.

First and second class carriages were attached to all trains. On weekdays third class carriages were only by the 9.06 am and the 11.06 pm to Leeds and the 8.16 am and 5.01 pm from Leeds. Third class was available on all the Sunday trains. Passengers travelling “third class” were actually carried in open trucks or “waggons” without seats which were also used for goods traffic.

North Midland Railway timetable from 1840.

The Manchester and Leeds Railway, also designed by George Stephenson, had planned to build their line parallel to the North Midland from Normanton but parliament said they should use the North Midland track through Methley and Woodlesford to Leeds. Through trains from Manchester to Leeds started on 1 March 1841 after work was finished on Summit Tunnel between Littleborough and Todmorden.

A Monday to Saturday service of trains had been running between Hebden Bridge and Leeds through Normanton hauled by North Midland locomotives since Monday 5 October 1840. At first there were three trains a day in each direction but it’s not clear if they stopped at Woodlesford. The passing times at Woodlesford for Leeds would have been approximately 9.30 am, 1.09 pm, 4.46 pm. From Leeds at 8.0 am, 10.15 am, 3.15 pm. Before the tunnel was completed passengers were taken by horse drawn carriages from Hebden Bridge to Littleborough for the 13 mile onward journey to Manchester on the first part of the line which opened in July 1839.

A curve between Methley Junction and Whitwood Junction on the York and North Midland opened on 27 July 1840.

A few months later all trains from York and Selby started running through Woodlesford to Leeds Hunslet Lane from 9 November 1840 when George Hudson took full control of the Leeds and Selby Railway. To Leeds the trains passed through Woodlesford abut 9.0 am, 12.30 am, 4 pm and 6 pm. From Leeds the times were about 8.15 am, 11.45 am, 3.15 pm and 6.15 pm. As well as carriages from York they also had carriages for Selby and Hull which were detached at Milford Junction near South Milford.

An announcement of the first trains between Hebden Bridge and Leeds from the Manchester Courier on Saturday 3 October 1840.

Freight from York to Leeds Marsh Lane continued via the Leeds and Selby line until July 1848 when it too was transferred to run via Methley and Woodlesford. Local passenger traffic between Leeds and Milford was reinstated in 1850 but through traffic continued via Woodlesford until 1 April 1869 when the line between Micklefield and Church Fenton was opened at the same time as Leeds New station and a viaduct across the city centre.

By 1843 there were five North Midland trains from Woodlesford to Leeds with one passing through non stop. From Leeds there were five trains with one running without stopping. On weekdays there were eight Manchester and Leeds trains in each direction passing through, with four on Sundays from Manchester and three from Leeds. There were four York and North Midland weekday trains to Leeds with carriages from York, Selby, Hull and Darlington. There were five trains in the opposite direction starting from Leeds. On Sunday there were two trains to Leeds and three from Leeds.

One of the early excursions through Woodlesford was on 12 September 1844 when 6,600 people travelled from Leeds to Hull in 240 carriages marshalled in four trains drawn by a total of ten engines.


An extract from the Midland Railway’s “distance diagram” from Woodlesford to Stourton showing signal boxes and sidings connected to the mainline in 1918. The distance, eg. 190 miles and 2 chains for Woodlesford station, is the distance by the shortest route from St. Pancras passenger station in London. A chain is 22 yards.