High Royds Hospital Railway

The Electric TrainThe Electric TrainElectric loco on the branch line.Branch railway june 1897 This area was the terminus for the railway. Weighing office on the left behind which was the upholsterer's shop, above the upholsterer's was the male clothing shop, behind the camera both upstairs and down was the bakehouse. On the right under the glass roof is the back door to the general stores. The black and yellow beams are part of the gantry used to hoist supplies from the train. It is believed that the rails of the old railway line are still in situ covered by asphalt.Hospital railwayMental Hospital Railway siding 1929Railway Siding,  Minute 411Old railway bridge prior to 1951Railway bridge September 2007Railway Bridge November 2008 Armley mills similar trainArmley mills similar trainArmley mills similar trainArmley mills similar trainOld railway line below the bridge

Hospital Railway

1801    Census – population West Riding 576,000

1845      Act of Parliament required the construction of  CountyAsylums

1875      Railway comes to Menston, increasing the local Population

1885      Construction began on the Pauper Lunatic Asylum, railway entered site to carry building materials.

The HighRoyds Hospital Railway

1883 saw the building of a single track branch connecting the Menston Asylum as it was then known,to the Midland Railway at a point between the bridges at Cooper’s Lane and Buckle Lane south of  Menston Station.

A trailing connection was made with the down main line. This was worked by a three lever ground frame which stood on an elevated wooden platform, called a ‘Stage’ by the Midland Railway. The frame worked protecting home and distant signals as well as the points. The signal levers were normally back in the frame with the signals in the clear position. They had to be pulled to place the signals at danger-the opposite way round to usual practice. The frame was padlocked and the key kept in Guiseley Box.

A siding ran alongside the down main line. Loaded wagons were left there for collection by the Hospital locomotive. The branch proper ran for about Vi. mile, the gradient in some parts being quite steep against a Hospital bound train. After a short cutting the line passed under the mainBradford Roadthrough a short tunnel then ran over flat open ground to the Hospital

Yard. The branch was gated off at the junction.

Although the Asylum property began at the gate, Midland engines worked on the siding which was maintained by Midland permanent way staff at the expense of the West Riding Asylum Board.

Beyond the tunnel where the land flattened out, there was a single loop siding on the north side of the line serving the Asylum’s extensive market gardens. Wagons of fertiliser, lime etc. were off loaded here.

The line divided at the junction of  Menston Drive and Laundry Drive, one arm going straight on to the engine shed and the other curving round to the main hospital buildings. Where the line crossed roads and paved areas, it was set in tarmac or in stone setts. From the curved siding a spur led back into the boiler house. This track was above the coal hoppers so that, when the side flaps of the wagons were let down, most of the coal fell in-io the hoppers. The remainder had to be shovelled by male patients to be fed by elevators and mechanical stokers into the fireboxes.

The engine shed was a wooden building in a small cutting which ended behind the buffers. Inside the shed were railed galleries from which repairs could be undertaken to the upper part of the steam locomotive and to the take-off gear of the later electric locomotive. The curved line led past an unloading platform for stores which needed to be kept under cover and then over a weighbridge whose office was built onto the upholsterer’s shop. The upholsterer was responsible for weighing and taring off every wagon. From here the line continued a few more yards under a gantry attached to the bakery until it reached the buffers. A hoist inside the gantry hauled bags of flour direct out of the wagons through a self closing double flap trap door.

The first locomotive was a small tank engine but this had inadequate power and was prone to slipping on the gradient up from the main line. In 1897 the line was electrified. A small loco was purchased with a trolley arm ending in a roller bar which took current from overhead wires. These were suspended from tramway type metal poles painted with Szerelmey’s Iron Paint in purple, chocolate and bronze green. In order to make the track into a continuous circuit, the rail joints were bridged with expandable copper bonds. The locomotive carried a crew of two: a driver and a trolley man who also operated the points. No frogs were required at the overhead wire junctions as the width of the trolley roller could accommodate these. Power was supplied by a horizontal steam engine which drove a 110 volt dc generator. A twin engine generated power for the laundry next door to the engine house.

The first electric locomotive was very weak, capable of hauling only one loaded wagon at a time up from the main line. It usually returned with no more than two empty wagons. This played havoc with the hand operated ratchet brakes. The brake blocks which needed frequent replacement were of cast iron supplied by Ghyllroyd Foundry at Guiseley.

Branch Bailway – Motive Power. 1897

The Sub-Committee reported that having very carefully considered the question of the utilization of the Branch railway from the Asylum to the junction with the Midland Railway system, they had come to a unanimous conclusion in favour of such renovations and improvements being effected  will enable the line to be regularly used for the purposes of the Asylum, by means of electric traction.


That electric traction be adopted as the motive power on the Asylum Branch railway, at the estimated cost of £1,580, to be defrayed out of the Out-County Patients’ Fund.


That the tender of Messrs. John Fowler & Company to provide the electric motor, overhead wires, switches, poles, gearing, and other accessories at the sum of  £1,080, part of the above sum of £1,530, be accepted with the proviso that in place of pine or other wooden poles the poles supplied shall be of iron to carry the trolley wire18 feetabove the level of the rails, and that the Contractors guarantee an efficiency of 95 per cent. of the motor upon trial: and that the other works consisting of renewal and repairs to the present permanent way, new sidings, and erection of Engine Shed, included in the estimate, be carried out by the West Riding Surveyor at an estimated cost of£450.

By 1924, this locomotive had been replaced by a 30 hp one from English Electric. This had a gun metal grooved pulley at the end of its trolley arm instead of the roller and the overhead had to be modified. Frogs had to be purchased for the wire junctions. At first the trolley man had to change the trolley from wire to wire but later self operating frogs were installed. After the long coal strike of 1926, the Asylum Board decided to hold larger coal stocks. An open sided coal store was built alongside the line opposite the boiler house.

In the mid 1930s, the Board declined to meet an LMS demand for expenditure on the points and sidings adjoining the main line. As most supplies to the Hospital were then being brought in by road, the line was closed but not taken up. The electric loco-motive remained in its shed until the outbreak of war

in 1939 when the railway reopened because of the shortage of road fuel. The question of expensive repairs was conveniently shelved. The line closed again in 1951. This time it was dismantled and sold for scrap.

The cutting has now been filled in but its course can be traced by the fences on each side. Near the main line the trackbed of the siding is overgrown by trees but two sets of gate posts remain. A small stone bridge which carried the line over a stream here is in a decrepit state, the parapets having collapsed. The tunnel under the main road remains and suggestions have been put forward on several occasions that it be converted into a pedestrian subway. Nothing has ever been done until early 2008 when it was filled in as part of a new traffic scheme.

Fw Smith and Martin Bairstow Authors Of “The  Otley And Ilkley Joint Railway”

Local Memories

“They built their own private railway from the quarry to ferry the stone – you can still see the remains of the railway bridge onLeeds Roadat one of the bends before reaching the Dyneley Arms.

High Royds farm covered 630 acres of land and eleven men were farming them. Certain patients were allowed to help and they lived in a building near Holme Farm. There were cowmen and ploughmen, pigmen and stockmen, horsemen and stablemen and they all worked on different areas of High Royds. The pigs and milk were at Holme Farm, rearing stock at Norcroft, older stock at Odda ands dried off cows at Thorpe until they came into milk again. They used to buy Ayreshire Heifers, two year olds, they would come down fromScotlandto the railway station in Menston and would be unloaded and walked up Cleasby Road along to Holme Farm.

The hospital did have its own railway which came off a spur from the main line and under the tunnel that goes under the main road, but cows couldn’t come that way because there wasn’t an unloading place for them to get off. “

Suicide of E. E. Bage  – A Patient

The Medical Superintendent reported that Eliza Ellen Bage, admitted on 26th March 1908, and chargeable to Bramley Union, had escaped from the asylum on the evening of the 20th November 1908, and was found dead on the railway near Guiseley next morning, having been decapitated  by a train. The patient was an inmate of Sick Ward No 16 and a Suicidal Card had been issued and was in force with regard to the patient. Although every enquiry had been made by the Superintendent from the Charge