Leeds and Selby Railway

Leeds and Selby Railway

Milford York Junction
The Leeds and Selby Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom which opened in 1834 between Leeds and Selby.


For a number of years the manufacturers in Leeds had become increasingly dissatisfied with the route to the North Sea ports via the Aire and Calder Navigation. Not only were the charges high, there were problems with the water supply in summer. In 1814 this led to a discussion in the local newspaper of the merits of a steam locomotive railway similar to the Middleton Colliery Railway. However such railways were generally seen as supplementing the canal network, and there was little public interest.

During the following decade, the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway attracted the attention of investors nationally to the idea of building railways as an alternative to canals. A new scheme was floated to connect Leeds with a port on the River Humber at Selby which would shorten the journey by eight miles and avoid nine locks. The route also had the advantage of passing close by a number of quarries and coal mines.

Although much of the land already belonged to the directors, it was necessary to raise funds for construction by public subscription, and the line received Parliamentary Assent in 1830.


Although the terrain was relatively gentle compared to that traversed by later railways, the minimal gradients required by engineers at that time resulted in the construction of a total of six and a half miles of embankments and cuttings, the longest being 1½ miles. There was one tunnel of convert|700|yd, and forty three bridges, all being wide enough to allow future expansion to four tracks.

The rails used (similar to those used on the Liverpool and Manchester) were convert|15|ft|m|sing=on lengths, T shaped, of convert|35|lb|abbr=on to the yard, spaced at 4 foot 8½ inches, and set on stone blocks or timber sleepers, laid either diagonally or longitudinally with lateral iron ties. Not all the stone used was of satisfactory quality and some of the blocks had to be replaced. By 1845 heavier rails, at convert|42|lb|abbr=on per yard began to be used.


The line opened to passengers on 22 September, 1834 from a station at Marsh Lane in Leeds. None of the stations had platforms although they were provided with well-proportioned buildings. At Leeds there was a separate goods depot and a repair shop.

The original station at Selby was very large for the time, having by 1845 a three bay trainshed capable of housing 98 carriages and wagons. Trains would pass through the station to a jetty by the waterside where passengers would alight the train and walk across the road to the connecting boat on the river. This site was just behind the current station site. Selby station was the first railway station to be built in Yorkshire, a fact commemorated by a plaque on the original building.

The original engines were of the lightweight four-wheeled "Bury" type, built by Fenton, Murray and Jackson of Holbeck, Leeds and Kirtley & Co. of Warrington. There were first and second class carriages, tickets of different colours being used for different stations.


This was one of the first railways and its directors had no experience of managing such a venture. It did not prosper as it should have done. [Whishaw, F, (1840) "The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland" London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co.] In 1839, George Hudson's York and North Midland Railway opened, terminating with a branch to the Leeds and Selby line. The following year the York and North Midland Railway extended to meet the North Midland Railway at Normanton and Hudson bought a lease on the Leeds and Selby to avoid competition into Leeds, buying it outright in 1844.

The Y&NMR became part of the new North Eastern Railway in 1854 and of the London and North Eastern Railway in 1923.

Popular culture

In the song "Poor Paddy" by The Pogues, this railway is mentioned in the verse for 1843:"In eighteen hundred and forty three, I broke my shovel across me knee; I went to work for the company, on the Leeds and Selby Railway".


* [http://www.lner.info/article/selby/selby.shtml The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) Encyclopedia]

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