IT is 90 years ago this month since the former railway line from Shipley and Windhill station closed to passengers.

The former Great Northern Railway Companies line linked Shipley and Windhill station with Bradford Exchange, by way of a circuitous, heavily graded route climbing out of the Aire valley serving the intermediate stations of Thackley, Idle and Eccleshill.

The GNR arrived after other companies had become well established in West Yorkshire. Many of their routes were heavily engineered and reliant on tunnels and grand viaducts, with the line to Halifax and Keighley via Queensbury a typical example.

At the time, circa 1860, the Shipley, Idle and Eccleshill conurbation was growing and although initially a line was promoted by smaller separate companies (Bradford, Eccleshill and Idle, and the Idle and Shipley Railway) and the Great Northern Railway stepped in. The line opened to passengers in 1875 and closed on the first day of February 1931. As a passenger route it soon found it was difficult to compete with the tramway (later trolley bus) and closure was inevitable. After closure to regular passenger trains the line was singled with control from the Laisterdyke East signal box by electric token. By 1957 there were still seven daily freights, mainly conveying coal from Wakefield collieries.

By this time however the GNR had become absorbed into the LNER (London & North Eastern Railway) upon the grouping of railway companies into the ‘Big four’ in 1923. It stayed that way until the LNER was absorbed into British Railways in 1948.

There was the odd charter or excursion over the line and freight lingered until 1968 when the Windhill goods yard closed.

There was also famously a football special over the line. On January 9 1954 when Bradford Park Avenue faced Manchester City in the third round of the FA Cup, a special train took fans to Horton Park station.

It is the human story of any railway line that’s always fascinating and in my extensive collection of documents and memorabilia from the line I can give a snapshot of what went on in a world so different to today. Here are two stories.

John Braithwaite was the first stationmaster at Shipley & Windhill but his GN career started at Doncaster station, then two-years-old. He was born in 1835 at Balby where his father kept the Old Swan Inn, a HQ for stagecoaches between Doncaster and Sheffield.

Mr Braithwaite started as an engine cleaner in the locomotive department but soon progressed to signalman. He moved to Welwyn where he received a gratuity from GN directors for stopping an express which somehow passed his signal box minus a wheel! He moved to New Barnet where he noticed a locomotive pass with a defect - a serious accident would have occurred had he not been so alert.

Serious accidents seemed to follow him around. At Welwyn a train of empty coal wagons broke down inside the tunnel. A second train following was wrecked and before any steps could be taken to prevent further destruction, a third train ran into the tunnel. Two men were killed and a furnace blazed for hours in the tunnel. By the time Mr Braithwaite arrived as first stationmaster at Shipley & Windhill, he might well have been hoping for a quieter life. But there were several cases of trains running away on the steeply graded Idle line, resulting in at least two incidents where they ran through the wall at the terminal station. A sand drag was installed later to prevent such incidents.

When he retired Mr Braithwaite had over 50 years railway service and went to live near Sheffield.

George Moulds was born on June 8, 1880 at Old Somersby, Lincolnshire. He came from a large farming family but with not enough work to sustain everyone he joined the GNR in December 1902.

On September 1, 1903 he was sent to Great Ponton in Lincolnshire and later took up posts around the system including Grantham, Claypole as crossing keeper, and Thornton. He moved to Shipley and Windhill as a signalman. On February 11 1903 his thumb was crushed and he was unable to work until April 7, receiving 32 shillings from the Railway Casualty Fund. He married an Old Somersby girl, Betsy Hewitt Harrison, in December 1903, completing an eventful year, and they had six sons. He lived in Carr Lane, Windhill, from where in retirement he could see trains on the Aire Valley route.

Shipley and Windhill station saw later use as a church, a scooter showroom, a printers and latterly by a decking manufacturer. The T&A recently reported on a proposed redevelopment of the building, which will hopefully see the former station rejuvenated and continue as an historical landmark in the area.