Published 03 July 2013
The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway has adopted a five-year £750,000 strategic development plan. The development priorities, viewed as securing the long-term operational and commercial future of the heritage line from Keighley (with its main line connection) to Oxenhope, incorporate a central element based on the likelihood of the K&WVR and National Railway Museum entering into a formal partnership which will see the creation of an NRM out-station at Oxenhope.
The NRM raised the possibility of developing a relationship with the K&WVR several years ago. Talks have continued and the concept has been worked into the heritage line’s own vision for the future. This was outlined to the current acting NRM director, Paul Kirkham, during a recent tour of the line.
The national railway collection is far bigger than can be accommodated and displayed in the flagship York museum. The NRM has an out-station, Locomotion, at Shildon to increase the amount of the collection which can be made accessible to the public and has long said it was interested in further such ‘out-station’ partnerships – provided the funding was raised independently of NRM/Science Museum resources.
At the beginning of this year proposals to develop such a facility were announced by the Great Central Railway in partnership with Leicester City Council and the NRM with plans envisaging a £10million museum adjacent to the GCR’s Leicester North station. The GCR, with its substantial section of double track, presents a main line in preservation.
In contrast to the GCR’s preservation of a section of main line, the K&WVR is quite different, being a branch line which has been preserved over its entire original five mile length. This presents an obvious opportunity to tell a different story which can be brought to life in proper context. Moreover, in contrast to the planned expenditure on development at the GCR, the K&WVR/NRM partnership does not envisage major new construction to accommodate national collection exhibits.
The K&WVR’s vision centres on reconfiguring its facilities at Haworth (the centre of its motive power facilities) and its Oxenhope terminus.
The initial focus at Oxenhope is to reorganise the site. There are plans to cover the siding beside the exhibition shed and make it operational with the present works facilities to concentrate on the railway’s core operational fleet of carriages and wagons. Other organisations presently based at Oxenhope (e.g. the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Trust) may need to relocate, but they will remain K&WVR-based with the railway currently in talks with such partner organisations aimed at establishing mutually acceptable long-term agreements.
Crucially most, possibly all, locomotives currently stored in the existing exhibition shed at Oxenhope will be relocated to Haworth. This move will release space to enable the building to become a new visitor attraction housing and interpreting exhibits from the national collection – the new out-station. The exhibition shed will not be rebuilt, but treated as a ‘blank canvass’ to be refurbished and upgraded with the help of NRM display expertise.
Most of the K&WVR’s planned new construction will be focused on an expansion of the facilities at its Haworth site. The existing (‘new’) shed will be extended to cover the two roads presently in the car park and a new third road, with the extension probably including a viewing gallery. This development aims to produce a locomotive-focused visitor attraction in its own right with the space to accommodate and display locos currently stored at Oxenhope – and in the process freeing space for the planned new NRM displays at the latter location.
Other plans for Haworth include covering the wheel drop area and provision of hard standing to relocate heavy machinery from the old goods shed.
The five-year plan has other elements including developing a new catering facility at Oxenhope and refurbishing the interior of the water tower at Keighley. The water tower project, initiated by young K&WVR volunteers, envisages creation of an education/meeting room and a model railway. For the time being, the DMU/railbus fleet will remain based at Haworth although other options (Oxenhope and possibly Keighley) are being explored for the future which include the ambition of providing covered storage and maintenance facilities.
These plans have been developed following changes in the governance of the K&WVR progressed in recent years. Outside funding will be needed to supplement the K&WVR’s own resources hence creation of a Financial Controller post (filled in May), establishment of fundraising targets and appointment of project leaders.
Written by Cliff Thomas