The latest section of The Great Northern Trail along the disused railway line at Queensbury will be officially opened on Wednesday at 12.30pm with a short ceremony at the bottom of Station Road. When further sections of the GNT open, it will be possible to walk, cycle or horse ride from the site of Queensbury station to Cullingworth, passing through glorious countryside and a slice of railway history. MARK NEALE looks back at the making of the line

On the famous Settle-Carlisle line there is a station which purports to serve Dent, but a tortuous 4-mile walk is needed before the village is reached. During that walk you will have dropped 1,150 feet from the station clinging to the valley wall.

It's rumoured that a visitor asked a stoical local why the station had been built so far from Dent and recieved a typically blunt Northern Dales reply: "Happen they needed it near't railway lines".

I don't know if the same question-and-answer session was ever played out nearer to home in Queensbury but it could well have been. The station at Queensbury was located 400ft below the village and reaching it required a mile-long walk down the steep Station Road.

The railway which served Queensbury was born out of the ongoing fierce competition between rival companies to increase their systems. As the Midland, and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway companies had already reached Halifax and Keighley from Bradford via the valley routes, the Great Northern Railway company's only option was to go over the hills, creating "the Alpine route".

It was to be an ambitious project requiring major engineering features such as impressive viaducts, wonderful tunnels, and large embankments. Operation required skilful crews to lift the trains up the steep inclines, and to deal with the often inclement weather. It is doubtful if it ever paid for itself, and by the time of closure was losing £48,000 a year.

The Fosters at Queensbury were experiencing boom times and as their industry and the village expanded, they felt the need to promote a railway to serve the area, and indeed were represented on the board of the railway company.

An extract from William Foster's diary for Friday, February 17, 1865 reads: "Office at 9.45, Dinner at 3.15, back 4, Seymour Clark up from engineers about making new railway, Bd to Queensby"

It's possible that like Dent, the people of Queensbury may have been disappointed with what they actually ended up with, and certainly the distance from the population was an ongoing source of angst.

There are records of ongoing discussion between the Queensbury hierarchy and the Great Northern Railway company, and although several methods of bringing the people nearer to the railway were mooted, in the end the GNR simply sited two gas lamps in Station Road to ease their passengers' route to the station. It was a token gesture at customer care!

The more elborate schemes of a tramway, and even a two-mile branch line to a terminal station which would have been sited opposite Fosters mill, came to nothing. That is apart from two stone buttresses which even today stand either side of Station Road, showing that somebody was serious about such a scheme.

The station actually lies within the Clayton boundary, and all of the railway within the Queensbury border was in tunnel, giving Queensbury a legitimate claim that it had the only totally underground railway in the country.

Not even London can claim that, for some of their underground trains actually run on the surface. Coincidentally there is a station on the London Underground network called Queensbury.

Queensbury was not quite unique, but was certainly unusual in having platforms on all three sides of a triangle. At the time of opening, only Ambergate in Derbyshire shared this feature. In relatively recent times Shipley joined this elusive club when platforms were built on the North curve.

A service linking Bradford, Halifax and Keighley was maintained, and often three trains stood in each of the platforms at Queensbury, making a quite remarkable sight.

Schoolchildren seemed to have made good use of the station at Queensbury, joined by children from Clayton who changed trains on their way to Thornton Grammar School.

It would seem that a welcoming fire was kept in all six waiting rooms during the winter months, and one ex-pupil told me of one of their schoolmates becoming badly burned by a red hot poker in one of the fires. Remarkably, during recent work on uncovering part of the platform, we found the old fireplace from the waiting room that the children had used all those years ago.

The same person told me that a popular pastime during the train journey from Queensbury to Thornton was to tear pages from their schoolbooks, make paper planes, and launch them from the carriage window as they crossed Thornton viaduct.

Another former pupil told me that she was made to come home for dinner, requiring four journeys up and down Station Road each day, to save a halfpenny.

Sometimes I go down to the triangle, and when it's quiet except for the birdsong, with the rabbits scurrying to and fro, it's still possible to hear the late afternoon train pull in from Thornton. The doors bang, there is a quick flurry of children's excited voices, the whistle blows, and the train leaves for Bradford. Then it's quiet again.

Just like it has been since May, 1955.