SKIPTON & DISTRICT RAILWAY SOCIETY
Pateley Bridge, proposed layout of the Skipton Gauge O Group
From the outset, it must be said that this layout is something of a pie in the sky. We shall probably never build it because a small club like ours simply doesn't possess the resources. But we think it's a nice idea and it has remained here for that reason only.
The North Eastern Railway reached Pateley Bridge, the most important town in the Upper Nidd Valley in 1862, with a 14 mile branch from Harrogate. The branch was probably never very busy or prosperous, serving a relatively small population.
Some 45 years later, in 1907, Bradford Corporation opened the Nidd Valley Light Railway from Pateley Bridge to Lofthouse, 6 miles further up Nidderdale, and another 6 miles onwards and upwards to reservoir construction sites near the source of the Nidd on the slopes of Great Whernside. A public passenger service ran from Pateley Bridge to Lofthouse until the end of 1929. With the completion of reservoir construction, the Nidd Valley Light Railway was closed to all traffic and its assets disposed of in 1937. (More on the history of the NVLR can be found in the Lofthouse pages on this website.)
Having built a very successful O gauge exhibition model of Lofthouse NVLR, a group of Society members has long harboured an ambition to follow it with a model of Pateley Bridge, including both the NER and NVLR stations, complete with both railways' goods sheds and loco sheds, the NVLR carriage shed and the exchange sidings between the two railways.
To do this properly to scale would have needed a layout more than 100ft long to represent the 3/4 mile distance from the NER turntable to the NVLR carriage shed, with a fiddle yard at each end. Not many exhibition managers could accommodate that - nor could our clubroom - and we members of the group, varying in age from 50 to 82, might be lucky if more than half of us survived the attempt. So compromise was necessary. In reality, there was 1/4 mile between the NER station and the NVLR station. This 1/4 mile would make a good 30ft long layout in itself. A single line from the North Eastern Station crosses the bottom of Pateley Bridge High Street on the level and in the next 400 yards there were sidings serving a fluorspar wharf, a wood yard, a corn mill, a stone yard with a standard gauge rope-worked incline to quarries high on the north side of the Nidd valley and, finally, the NER/NVLR exchange sidings.
We may save that for a later layout - or we may build it instead of the present proposal. In the meantime, we have evolved a plan that, by missing out this interesting 1/4 mile stretch, shifting the NER and NVLR stations to be right next to each other and using a bit of selective compression, we can get all the essential features into 39ft. It's still a huge project but we plan to build it and exhibit it in stages, just as we did with Lofthouse. Lofthouse started its exhibition career with a scenic length of only 17ft. It later grew to 26ft and finally to 34ft. There were seldom more than 2 people working together on Lofthouse during that time (10+ years). Now we have a group of active modellers waiting to build Pateley Bridge but we doubt if it's within our capacity.
And now a rant.
When we were planning Lofthouse, we had the huge benefit of access to the Bradford Corporation Waterworks archive, which was in the hands of Yorkshire Water, at that time a public utility. Even better, we were able to copy as much of the material as we wished. We had the rating diagram and signalling diagram for Lofthouse station, drawings of the station building and the goods shed and indeed of several of the locos and some of the rolling stock that Bradford Corporation had specially built for the NVLR.
How things change! We have tried to contact the now privatised Yorkshire Water to ask for the same privilege for our research on Pateley Bridge. They have not even given us the courtesy of a reply to our letters. The only telephone numbers they have in the public domain are the ones you use to query your bill or to report leaks.
So, the company is sitting on this valuable resource, denying access to serious researchers. If they won't take the trouble to allow access, they should be compelled to hand the archive to an organisation which will. Either the Bradford Industrial Museum or the Pateley Bridge Museum would be delighted to take it on. Now that Yorkshire Water or Kelda, as they prefer to be known, is a private company, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. I'm reasonably sure that this is not how the Act was intended to work. The privatised water companies, many now in foreign hands, have information which in the past belonged to municipalities. If this ownership were still in place, then the FOI would apply. The privatised water companies and their shareholders have inherited many benefits from their predecessors. It's about time they were compelled to take on the responsibilities which their predecessors had.
Climbs down from soapbox.
However, all was not lost. The Pateley Bridge Museum has a copy of a rating plan that covers exactly the area we want to model, stretching from the NER turntable to the NVLR carriage shed, but unfortunately no means of making a copy of such a large drawing.
Our research has uncovered enough authentic information to allow us to produce a reasonably accurate plan of the area we wish to model. We were allowed to photograph the rating plan by the Pateley Bridge Museum and there is also a useful plan in "Lesser Railways of the Yorkshire Dales - and the dam builders in the age of steam" by Harold Bowtell, Plateway Press, 1991, ISBN 1-871980-09-7, which was fairly obviously prepared from this rating plan.
We used these sources to design a much compressed version of Pateley Bridge NER/NVLR in which the two stations are immediately adjacent, rather than 1/4 mile apart and fits into 39ft of scenic layout. The plan, as it has been developed so far incorporates all the essential features of the two stations and offers very interesting operating possibilities.