‘THE empty expanse of Great Horton looking towards Clayton with the platforms bereft of footbridge, waiting rooms and the ornate glass and iron awning which was a distinctive feature of the station…’

One of thousands of railway stations axed by the Government in its 1954 Modernisation Plan, Great Horton had an extensive goods yard, while its passenger services were well used. Its main purpose was the transportation of parcels and woollen bales, requiring several trains every day.

The derelict station is among those featured in a book documenting the Bradford and Thornton Railway, part of the former Great Northern lines linking Bradford, Halifax and Keighley.

The ‘Queensbury Lines’ as this network became popularly known, was one of the early victims of the national cull.

Authors and railway enthusiasts Alan Whitaker, whose father served as station master at Thornton, and Jan Rapacz who has childhood memories of the line, having grown up at Great Horton, have spent years sourcing colour photographs of stations and track from the Bradford and Thornton Railway.

Taken both in its heyday and following its demise, their book offers an, often sad, glimpse into the past.

Queensbury’s original station was opened for passengers in April 1879 and was served by trains between Bradford and Thornton, which had been introduced six months earlier. Services through Queensbury Tunnel to and from Halifax began running in December 1879.

Many images show impressive steam engines powering their way around the network, including the magnificent sight of an engine crossing Thornton Viaduct.

After the regular services ended in 1955, a handful of excursion trains operated. The last of these ran in September of that year. British Railways then used the line for driver training on new Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) being introduced in West Yorkshire.

Special rail tours covering numerous branch lines were run during the period of closure. On Sunday September 6 the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society ran a tour from Bradford Exchange to Thornton, the return trip reversing at Horton Junction and travelling across the City Road branch - the first time for more than 70 years that a passenger train had visited this section of track.

Goods trains on the Bradford & Thornton started to run between 1876 and April 1878, with passenger services being introduced six months later when the new terminus at Thornton was finally ready for use, the book’s introduction explains. The line from Halifax to Queensbury was opened for traffic in 1879 with the extension through to Keighley being completed five years later.

The principal motivation to build the Queensbury Lines network was to move freight and it continued to carry large tonnages until the late 1940s when increasing competition from road hauliers began a decline in traffic.

There was a revival for a few years in the later 1950s and early 60s, the book states, when new and lucrative contracts were secured to carry large quantities of timber, livestock feeds and pre-cast concrete beams manufactured by a local firm.

But further development was not supported by the regional railway hierarchy.

After a brief heyday in the 1890s, passenger revenue was seriously eroded by tram and, later, bus competition.

Photographs reveal sad scenes of abandonment, with shabby stations and signal boxes standing alone beside disused track.

There’s one of the once pristine and award-winning Thornton Station, which stood decaying for eight years after closure to passengers in May 1955. It was demolished completely in July 1963.

The book contains evocative photographs of the once smart station, its paintwork peeling and shabby, on a winter’s day. Great Horton signal box also makes a sorry sight.

*Great Northern Outpost Volume 1: The Bradford & Thornton Railway is published by Willowherb Publishing, priced £19.95. W: willowherbpublishing.co.uk