The Pastdiamond jubilee logo

The Middleton Railway in Leeds was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1758 to deliver coal to the centre of Leeds and has operated every year since then, making it the oldest continually operating railway in the World.

In 1812, thanks to the genius of John Blenkinsop and the skill and ingenuity of Leeds engineer Matthew Murray, the Middleton Railway became the first railway in the world to successfully employ steam power.

The pioneering role of the Middleton Railway resulted in Leeds becoming one of the major centres of locomotive building in the UK and laid the foundations for Leeds holding its pre-eminent position as a major research and development centre and home of a wide range of high tech industries.

In 1960 the Middleton Railway became the first volunteer run standard gauge heritage railway in the world – yet another first in its long history - and it is now run by the Middleton Railway Trust Limited.

Matthew Murray as Forward

Matthew Murray representing MW 1690 Forward at our "Last Coals to Leeds" event, which comemmorated 50 years since the closure of Middleton Broom Pit [Picture © Tony Cowling, 2018]

The Present

Today the Middleton Railway continues to serve the people of Leeds by commemorating the pioneering role of Leeds and the Railway in developing Britain’s and the World’s railway systems, by preserving in working order steam and diesel locomotives typical of the products of the major Leeds locomotive builders and by offering the people of Leeds the opportunity to see and travel behind these historic machines as they work between the Railway’s operational base at Moor Road in South Leeds and Middleton Park.

The Railway, still operated entirely by volunteers, plays an active role in the life of Leeds, drawing volunteers, young and old, from all over Leeds and surrounding areas and specifically training young volunteers in the skills needed to operate and maintain its historic collection of locomotives and waggons.

Train with new party coach

Our recently-converted party coach, in a train headed by Matthew Murray. [Picture © John Goacher, 2018]

The Future Need

The year 2020 is the Middleton Railway Trust’s Diamond Jubilee year. A number of projects were being considered for launch this year and there were other major projects which were to be brought to a conclusion. These projects include:

  • the construction of a fourth coach on a newly purchased chassis,
  • preparations to expand the Railway’s museum, by creating a new gallery to better display the Railway’s collection of small exhibits,
  • the restoration of Conway, the largest steam locomotive in the Railway’s collection (built by Kitson of Kitson College fame),
  • casting a new cylinder block for Matthew Murray, so that this historic, Leeds built, locomotive can steam on past its 150th birthday, and
  • completing the restoration of ‘No. 6’ - a locomotive which has not run for nearly fifty years.

These various projects will involve young volunteers and will help to train them to become the custodians of the Middleton Railway’s heritage in the future.

Covid-19 has affected the Middleton Railway like many other charitable bodies. The Railway will survive Covid-19, as it has survived many cataclysmic events in its long life, but survival will come at a price – the rundown of the Railway’s financial reserves, which may mean that many of the above projects will have to be deferred or even cancelled.

Conway in the Engine House

Conway in the Engine House, awaiting the completion of its cosmetic restoration [Picture © Tony Cowling, 2020]

The Appeal

To enable the Railway to continue with these and other projects, the Middleton Railway Trust is launching a new appeal ‘Safeguarding the Future’ to help the Trust overcome the damaging effects of Covid-19. If you wish to make a donation to this appeal, then there are four ways in which you can do so:

  • online;
  • via our donation form;
  • by telephone; or
  • in person at our shop (once that is open again).

Details of these are as follows.

Online donations are handled for us by PayPal: please click the button below to go to their page for donations to us.

Via our donation form: this can be accessed by clicking here (and will open in a new browser tab or window). When you have completed this, then please return it to us either in person, or by post to: The Station, Moor Road, Hunslet, Leeds, LS10 2JQ.

By telephone: we can take the details by telephone (0113 271 0320), and can accept payment by credit or debit card. (We accept most payment cards, except American Express & Diners Card, but only for payments of more than £5.)

In person at our shop: once this is open again, then more information about the appeal will be available in the shop, and our shop staff will be happy to help you with the details.

Gift Aid

If you are a taxpayer then you can use Gift Aid to increase the value of any donation that you make, at no extra cost to you. You will need to complete a Gift Aid declaration, which can be accessed by clicking here (and will open in a new browser tab or window). If you are able to complete this and return it to us, either with a donation form or after making a donation in any of the other ways listed above, we can then claim back the standard rate income tax that you have already paid on the amount of your donation - and this does not cost you a penny! Indeed, if you have to pay income tax at higher rate and have to complete a tax return, then including the details of donations that you have made under Gift Aid will reduce the amount of higher-rate tax that you have to pay.

Our Thanks

The Trust recognises that these are very challenging times for many people and that there are many other Charities seeking the support of the public. The Trust will be very grateful for all contributions to this Appeal and will make sure that these contributions are used wisely to help the Railway continue to serve the people of Leeds.

No. 6 in Dartmouth Yard in 1974

No. 6 in Dartmouth yard in 1974 [Picture © Charles Milner, 1974]

The start of our train services for this year has been deferred until the beginning of August: watch this space for more details.

Meanwhile, why not look at the archive images that we are posting?

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